Basingstoke & Deane Council (civic motto “We Go Round and Round”) is currently enmeshed in European Court proceedings with one of its citizens a Mr Ricky Purvis of Ken Barlow Crescent. Mr Purvis has claimed the full cost of a new set (not remoulds) of Michelin GX 555 tyres for his Peugot 504 to compensate him for the unequal wear imposed on his tyres by Basingstoke’s roundabouts or “Traffic Management Schemes” as the Council’s Chief Executive Paul Poltroon cannily calls them. The Council have never in the course of the lengthy proceedings (Mr Purvis was the proud owner of a Morris Minor when the case first went to court) explicitly admitted that there are any roundabouts in Basingstoke at all. Small beer as litigation goes you may think but if the European Court’s decision goes against the council all of us who live within the Basingstoke Ring Road will be able to put in for a new set of tyres. The sadly misguided people of Milton Keynes, who claim to have more roundabouts than Basingstoke, are watching the case with interest.
Alert readers will have noticed that Mr Purvis lives in Ken Barlow Crescent which is part of the ‘UK Gold’ estate to the east of the town centre. The naming of streets in an area of explosive development like Basingstoke must be a problem for the local authority. Some poor soul in a dingy office deep in the Town Hall has to come up with an unending list of uncontroversial street names. We have our fair share of ‘Oakdene Ways’, Myrtle Closes’ and so on. Presumably after years churning out anodyne dross like this the unfortunate council officers responsible finally crack and are discreetly removed to the Judith Chalmers Home for Bewildered Civic Officers on the Aldershot Road. In the 19th and early 20th centuries British military triumphs were the thing, Alma Gardens, Inkerman Terrace, and Omdurman Avenue were very acceptable despite the fact that they celebrated the slaughter of countless foreigners. The works of Charles Dickens have proved fruitful for London planners. The East End boasts a Podsnap Tower, a Jarndyce Court and a Uriah Heep Business Centre. But sadly history is history and no one in Basingstoke gives a fig for Dickens or the Empire. So the naming of new developments and streets after soap characters, pop groups, TV chefs and the like makes perfect sense. Nothing too contemporary in case the personality/character concerned turns out to have feet of clay, but surely our council were safe in their selection of ‘Ken Barlow’ for Mr Purvis’s crescent, whereas Britney Spears Close would be as rash as Jeffrey Archer Way.
I rather misled readers when I said that no one in Basingstoke gave a fig for the Empire because in Little Tebbit, a bungalow a few doors down the hill from my house, there lives a Mr Herbert Oswald, who certainly does give a great deal more than a fig for the Empire. In fact Mr Oswald, who is a sprightly 80 year old has cheerfully admitted that in his youth he was a member of the League of Empire Loyalists. In pre-Monty Python ‘Silly Party’ days this far right party used to make up the numbers at By-Elections normally represented by wild blimpish figures with foam flecked lips or demure twinset ladies with genocidal tendencies. Herbert has happy memories of heckling ‘lefties’ like Harold Macmillan and Selwyn Lloyd at Conservative Party Conferences which certainly sound more lively than the heavily stage managed affairs that we have today. Herbert’s main obsession, that the world would be a better place if Britain were to recolonise the areas of the globe that were once pink in the atlas, is unshakeable but I have tried to reason with him on the subject of the metric system which he firmly believes has been imposed on us by a group of French speaking Devil worshippers in Brussels. I am not as old as Herbert but I too was brought up at a time when the radii of railway curves were calculated in chains and I too had a red exercise book which carried on its back cover conversion tables showing the relationship (or lack of it) between all those rods, poles, perches ounces, gills etc. By the time I left school not a mention had been made of the metric system but I, in my professional life, just got on with it as it slowly filtered into our lives. And what a great system it is, where units of length, capacity and weight are all linked. 1 litre of water weighs 1 Kg, a cubic metre of water weighs a 1000kg or a metric ton etc etc. Herbert however is beyond reason on this but does have some suggestions for the “blimmin’ half-wits that name the roads after homos and socialists” When I asked him for his suggestions for the new estates blooming to the north of us he came up with Dyer Rd. I was about to say that I didn’t realise that he was a Newcastle supporter and that while Kieran Dyer was good I didn’t think that he had done enough in an England shirt to justify the naming of even a cul-de-sac after him when I realised that Herbert was thinking of General Dyer the Butcher of Amritsar. Ian Smith Avenue and Mosley Drive quickly followed and I left hastily before my nomination of a Mandelson Giratory drove him to apoplexy.