23 May

Now I like farms, I eat food every day, I find it necessary to keep me from falling over and dying.  What I don’t like though, is getting held up for ages every morning and night by a fleet of agricultural machinery.

I’ve lived pretty much all of my life in rural or semi-rural locations and it has always been the same.  Slow moving traffic on major trunk roads due to bloody tractors and crop sprayers every rush hour.  They sit there in their air-conditioned, super comfy Tonka toys, bopping away to the Wurzells or something on the stereo, totally oblivious to the enormous serpent following them.  I’m sure that the Highway Code states that they should pull over if the queue behind them is in excess of six.  What they don’t seem to understand is that means six vehicles, not six miles of traffic!  Sometimes you may get a courteous one who will try to help as much as possible by putting the very edge of his near side wheel slightly closer to the side of the road.  Yeah thanks for that, those extra three inches that you’ve just allowed me will be really helpful.  I’ll be far enough over when I hit the oncoming truck, as I pass you, to just lose my right arm and leg perhaps.  Much better than a full frontal impact, I’m sure you would agree.

Of course the drivers following old grass stalk chewer often don’t help the situation either.  How frustrating is it when you finally see a clear stretch of road ahead, you are six cars back and you fully expect the car immediately behind the chunky tyred machine to dive out and squirt past him, bringing you one step closer to freedom. No such luck, he has a little peek and starts to make a move, then his bottle goes and he pulls back in.  The car behind then has a look and thinks “can I take them both?”  Then he bottles it too.  After a few seconds the first car is feeling silly, “there was enough time” he says and moves over for another peek.  Now the second car is hanging out again too, telepathically willing him to go for it.  Then by the time they’ve dithered for a while there is an oncoming vehicle on the horizon, still enough time to make it but it’s the perfect excuse to abort the manoeuvre completely.

Then there are the others who seem to think that touching the back of the tractor with their front bumper and straddling the white line for miles is the answer.  Every little straight sees him start to “go for it” but he’s no braver than the “ditherer” and dives back in to resume his attempt to mate a Mondeo with a Massey Ferguson!  Of course while you are watching this display ahead, you become totally engrossed and shouting instructions as if you were watching televised football.  Then the inevitable happens, you glance into your door mirror and spot him.  Twenty cars back and he pops out of the queue, where’s he gonna go, he’s never gonna make it to the front.  Of course we are British, famed for our orderly queues and woe betide he who dares to challenge that!  You immediately move closer to the car in front of you, bugger safe stopping distances, he’s not getting in here!  As he passes, you blast your horn and flick him “the vees.”  A truck comes the opposite way, our hero has suddenly turned to zero, you scream at the cars in front not to let him in (or at least to wait a few seconds, just to ensure that he has actually s**t himself as 40tonnes gets closer and closer!)  In reality, you don’t really want him to crash because then you would be stuck for even longer and it is bound to be the innocent beggar coming the other way that comes off worst.

At last you see a field gate ahead and if you are lucky the tractor  starts to give you a little orange wink of apology as he prepares to turn in.  Then relief turns to utter dismay as he pauses and casually waves his mate out of the field and onto the road in front of him!  “Do you have no sense of compassion, man?”  The whole process starts again and it’s finally your turn to take point, immediately behind the mud spitting tyres and smell of farmyard.  You come to clear stretch of road, you move out and have a peek, you can’t bottle it, you have to commit and go.  Bum twitching, you pull out and floor it, alongside him now, one hand on the wheel the other on the horn/shaking imaginary coffee beans at him.  He is totally oblivious, just getting to the chorus of “I’ve Got a Brand New Combine Harvester” and dreaming about the new pair of wellies he’s gonna treat himself to on payday!

Now I’m not stupid, despite what those of you who know me might say and I appreciate that these vehicles do need to move around.  Why during rush hour though?  You speak to any farm worker and he’ll be only too keen to tell you the he starts at 5am and doesn’t finish until 7pm.  So why the hell can’t you just plant some seeds or brand some cattle or something for and hour at each end of the day.  Park up the tractors and play cards, read that crumpled and dubiously crispy copy of Razzle that’s tucked behind the seat.  Do anything, just don’t drive on the roads while other normal vehicles (those actually capable of driving at the national speed limit) try to get to work or back home to pick up the kids…please!

Rant over!  I will just add that I do genuinely understand the need for farm traffic, especially as I choose to live a bit out in the sticks, it’s inevitable.  Why can’t there be some government legislation to minimise the impact on commuter traffic.  Aside from the inconvenience caused, there is an environmental issue too as all of those cars are forced to run at slow and often inconsistent speeds for miles at a time, pushing up fuel consumption and emissions.  It wouldn’t take much, a ban between 8-9:30 am and 4:30-6pm would cover most of the problem without impacting too much on the activities of the farms.

Maybe the newly appointed Baron Prescott of Kingston-upon-Hull could embrace it as one of the environmental issues that he was forced to accept a peerage in order to campaign for? (That’s another post altogether ;-))




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