Wednesday, July 23, 2014

We'll dig up the road!!!

Aside from Daddy Pig, who, according to my wife, is modeled on me (I can’t imagine why: he eats too much, is convinced he’s an expert at everything, and is always losing his glasses), my daughter’s favourite character in the Peppa Pig cartoon series is Mr Bull. 

He’s a builder with a huge voice and a giant digger and, whenever anyone encounters a problem, like a burst water main or a problem with the traffic lights, he magically shows up and bellows: “We’ll dig up the roooaaad!!!”

At which point all the characters shout “Hooray”. 

Whenever we pass roadworks on the way to school, which is every morning, Izzy and I holler it out of the window at confused workmen, and then collapse in fits of laughter. 

We live on a hill, close to quite a busy road. One day, during the recent dry weather, I noticed a bubble of water emerging from the tarmac just outside our garden wall. 

A few days later, cracks appeared in the surface, and a little stream began flowing down our lane. One of the consequences was that we acquired a useful source of free irrigation for our roses but, as it grew in strength, it began threatening the foundations of our garden wall. So I rang the water company. 

Within an hour, a man arrived with a clipboard, and then, just before sunset, a team came with computers and listening equipment. At midnight, we saw them out of the bedroom window, standing around our leak and drinking cups of coffee. In the morning, we waved them goodbye, and they told us another team would be arriving to fix it – they’d be done by nightfall, they promised. 

That’s when Mr Bull drove up on board an enormous JCB. He was huge and shirtless, a mountainous roll of flab covering his shorts, so that at first glance he looked like a giant naked baby sitting aloft in his cabin. 

He didn’t even smile when Izzy shouted out “We’ll dig up the rooaaaaaddd!!!” possibly because of the noise from his digger, or more likely because he was distracted by the enormous sandwich he was chomping as he deftly manipulated the controls of his machine with one hand and his knee. This man had clearly dug a lot of holes in his time. And eaten quite a few sandwiches, too. 

That afternoon, when Izzy came back from school, we inspected Mr Bull’s hole. It was very deep, and there were brand new pipes, a new valve, and a new metal thing that goes in the road. It must have cost several annual water rates. Beside it were four workmen scratching their heads. They were staring at the bottom of their hole, where there was a pool of running water, and above it a little waterfall coming from lower down the hill. 

“It’s a mystery,” they said in unison. 

“I didn’t know water could flow uphill,” I observed innocently. 

“That’s why it’s a mystery,” said their leader, with just a hint of aggression. He was clearly very cross with our leak. 

A lorry arrived with earth, and another team came with tarmac, and they had just finished patching the hole when Mr Bull turned up and dug another one further along the lane. More pipes were added, and more heads were scratched. 

“Must be in the main street. We’ll dig up the road,” they told us, without a hint of irony. Izzy and I looked at each other and silently shouted Hooray. 

They brought barriers and traffic lights, and completely cut off our house from the rest of the world, so that the dustmen couldn’t collect our rubbish, and the postman had to wade through the stream to reach us. 

That was three weeks ago. Mr Bull has dug four more holes so far. Meanwhile, BBC radio is warning commuters of severe delays because of “emergency” road works. 
Meanwhile our leak is still quietly flowing uphill through the tarmac. 

I wondered if it might be a spring, and if so, would we have the right to bottle it. We could call it Mystery Water, and on the label we’d have a picture of a bull and a very large sandwich.

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