The doorbell rings. Kenny answers the door and is faced by a wild-looking Billy on his doorstep saying, “Yes? What do you want?”.
“What do you mean, what do I want? What do you want?”, Kenny stammers.
“I don’t want anything”, Billy says. “It’s you who opened the door. Listen pal, I haven’t got all day, For the last time, what do you want?”
“Nothing,” says Kenny.
“Well then why don’t you clear off… before I call a constable”, roars Billy. “Go on, on yer bike”.
Watch what happens next.
Today this happened to me – or a version of it.
In a crowded café in Ledbury, I met two fellow town councillors to discuss traffic management issues. Being old hands, it was explained to me at great length by one of them how difficult it is to get anything done about traffic. It’s all been tried before I was assured. The wheels of highways management turn very slowly. Without money, nothing can be achieved – and there isn’t any left. It’s dangerous to raise public expectations in case they are dashed. The topic has been under discussion for years, decades in fact. It’s all very well talking about the need for a traffic management plan (as I have suggested to Ledbury Town Council), but there have been so many attempts over the years. And nothing, not a thing has come of them. Many people – clever people (code for cleverer people than you) have tried… Tragically, on the subject of one traffic bottleneck, Knapp Lane, residents campaigning on this issue have spent so long on it, that they have actually passed away with old age.
I sat and listened carefully, making the odd suggestion. Perhaps a 20mph speed limit in parts of town? No, way too difficult, huge bureaucracy. Better road markings, particularly for speed limits? Nope, there’s no money. Initiatives to stop HGVs using the town centre? It’ll never happen – needs the police involved and we all know what that means. Reconfigured junctions? Don’t be silly.
Dispirited, I said at last, ‘so if there’s really nothing we can do about traffic, there doesn’t seem much point in even talking about it…?’ At this, the other councillor sprang into life. ‘How negative you are,’ he said vehemently. ‘You are being so defeatist’.
What? Having been lectured for a good fifteen minutes on the absolute impossibility of achieving anything constructive to alleviate our traffic problems, it was a bewildering experience to be now cast as the Cassandra. ‘No on the contrary’, I spluttered, ‘I am genuinely trying to do something positive.’
‘No you’re not’, he snapped, ‘you’re being very negative – and aggressive’.
I should probably have played along for a bit longer to garner further comedy material, but indignation got the better of me and I reached for my coat…
The old hands in Ledbury Town Council have indeed tried lots of things over the years, and many of their efforts, by their own admission, haven’t worked. But woe betide anyone new coming along and trying a fresh approach. Expect to get swatted.
This is why I have come to the conclusion that until May, when we have a new intake of bright, optimistic, lively and energetic councillors, there really isn’t much to be gained by fighting them. Grumpy, frustrated and had enough, the has-beens have had their day. Best let evolution take its course.
Oh I must dash, the doorbell is ringing again. That’ll be me being negative.