Tuesday, August 09, 2005


The Morality Tale Of The Underpass; Or, A Not Terribly Interesting Story About Why You Should Never Trust A Politician Further Than You Can Spit Them

The town where I live, Stourbridge, is a rather dull provincial town. It has one claim to fame, which is that the first train was built there, or a part of it was, or at any rate somebody from Stourbridge might have attended the event, because the Scouts wear a picture of said train on their shirts.

The town has existed for years, but in 1968, in a move so sadly typical of the degenerative brain-wasting disease that affected municipal planners of the time, a ring road was built. It was completely unnecessary, and built too tight, so that it literally strangled the town.

After designing the road, which is three lanes wide, it was decided people needed a place to cross. The sensible option would have been bridges, but this was the late sixties, and in provincial places like Stourbridge, developers were only just discovering the amazing properties of concrete, so they sunk three underpasses beneath the road. These were predictably dark, dank and horrible, and have been ever since. In one, a space for a shop was built, which was occupied by a sweet shop for a while. In retrospect, the owners must realise that the possibility of people willingly stopping in a dark underpass that smells of urine, while unsavoury characters stroll past with their hands in their pockets, simply in order to buy a pear drop, was one of the daftest ideas of the century. So it went bust.

A couple of years back, in another of the underpasses, an old woman was mugged at night, and I believe she was assaulted as well. The cry went up: Something Must Be Done. So, in the old sweet shop, the police set up a station, the idea being to monitor what was going on, and to give people a port of call if they needed help.

This station was, briefly, mildly famous. It was the first underground police station in Britain, and at its inception, last year, Michael Howard came and officially opened it, giving a speech about heralding a 'new era of community policing', or some such drivel. Everyone was hopeful, crime would be down, the old people would be safe, the students from the local college would have to go further along to spit out their chewing gum.

That was about fourteen months ago. It lasted around three months. Today, it is permanently abandoned.

Surprise, surprise.

It seems like just the place to sell drugs, or at least needles and syringes. Can you recommend an estate agent?

It would be a pity to let prime real estate languish.
Can't argue with that at all. I believe the rozzers are selling the land now, actually, so bid quickly!

Needles and syringes would, in reality, be a public service, since everyone who goes down there now just uses old needles. You'd slash new cases of HIV here in a few days.

Prime real estate, indeed!
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