High noon in the Badlands. Small white empty clouds float motionless in a steel-blue sky. A harsh sun beats down on a dried-out gulch. Not even the tumbleweed stirs as the long hand of the town clock ticks, ticks, ticks towards 12.
A curtain twitches and a face appears briefly at the window, casts a worried glance towards town, then vanishes. The curtain flicks back and the dusty street is still once more. They’re coming. And they mean business.
Actually, if you believe anything you’ve read in the last 80 words or so, you’re the victim of what is known in the trade as journalistic licence. It’s time for a reality check.
We’re not in the Badlands of South Dakota: we’re in leafy Weston Village, Bath on Sunday lunchtime. It’s not a baking hot day: it’s about average for the middle of September. And it’s not even high noon: it’s one in the afternoon. Although strictly speaking it would be midday if we were on GMT and not BST. Let’s not lose track, though...
Because last Sunday, they were definitely coming, and they certainly did mean business.
“They” in this case meaning the road re-surfacers.
Ever since the cold snap last winter, our road has suffered from a bad case of the potholes. Driving down the hill has subjected the Dixonmobile (and every other vehicle) to the suburban equivalent of a spin round the tank training grounds on Salisbury Plain.
Suspensions have twanged, shock absorbers have boinged, passengers have bounced and unrestrained parcels have flown through windows every time a car went by.
But all the time, the promise has been there: “One day,” the handouts from the council have assured us, “we’ll come and mend your road.”
So at last the contractors arrived. All the parked cars mysteriously vanished (except for one), and a sweeper lorry trundled up and down clearing away the early autumn leaves while purposeful looking blokes in reflective jackets taped over the ironwork.
And everyone on the street came out to have a look. The excitement was palpable, we all had a chat, and waves of community spirit drifted upwards into the September air.
At last the big moment arrived and a gigantic machine started spreading the micro-asphalt.
(Which, for the non-technically-minded, is a combination of aggregate and bitumen emulsion that restores skid resistance quickly and with minimal disruption to the carriageway user. Or so it says in this leaflet. What it doesn’t say is how to get the bits off your carpet.)
First the machine did our side. Then it did the middle. And then it went away, along with the road-sweeper and all the yellow jackets.
An eerie hush descended and we all started to wonder: whose was that car at the bottom of the hill? Would the asphalteers ever come back and finish what they’d started?
Of course they did, on Monday, and we now have a lovely new road.
It may not be the wild, wild west. But it certainly livened up Weston.