The great traffic-calming industry was in its infancy. Malcolm was attending a Haringey Labour do. Among the gathering was the late, great Naomi Sargant. Malcolm recalls her scabrous delight that a raised pedestrian crossing was sign-posted as a “humped zebra”.
Now, many years later, the whole of North London is bespeckled with traffic pinches, chicanes, road humps, bus lanes, mini-roundabouts, pavements with attitude problems that affect strange excursions into the carriageways. One does not have to descend into the twattery and prattishness of a Brian Coleman reasonably to wonder whether the disease can go any further.
Yet, here comes a flyer inviting Malcolm to a community meeting. Normally, nothing would stop him cavorting at such an occasion. Imagine the unlimited delights of and evening spent in the company of the local bourgeois in a draughty hall. It makes root-canal work seem a soft option.
Sadly, Malcolm will be out of the country.
Since Malcolm and his family moved to Redfellow Hovel, local traffic has increased exponentially. 5 a.m. is a wakeful contest between the TNT lorries (bringing the good news from Murdoch to the world) and the early 747s coming in over the Pole. At any time of the day or night the Metropolitan Police scream by, hee-hawing their way to an emergency or a tea-break. The Fire Brigade thunder up the hill in tandem.
Cars, driven by the young fuelled by alcohol, regularly loose it and pile into the front garden of the house on the bend. Once it was a young diplomat’s son, accompanied by two hysterical girls, so drunk he could only crawl when he dumped the car.
So what’s wrong with “traffic calming”?
In itself, very little. But a little goes a long way.
Why is it necessary to have seventeen humps on a half-mile road? When they’ve moved the pavement, reduced the parking spaces, it’s only a matter of time before parking charges follow. There’s a severe learning experience for those who have used the road for years, and suddenly encounter a new obstacle.
Then there is the thought that most of the homes in Malcolm’s street were built before twentieth-century building regulations. Many have quite shallow foundations, and are founded on London clay. Subsidence is either a past horror or a continuing fear. Add in the vibration from heavy trucks hitting humps, and …
What Malcolm expects is a heavily-engineered proposal: pavements realigned, multiple humps, major budget items. Jobs for the boys.
In fact, a couple of mini-roundabouts at the two debouching streets would suffice more than adequately.
Or even a complaisant zebra, all passion spent.
Oh, and another happy memory of Naomi Sargant. When her husband, Andrew McIntosh was ennobled, she reverted to her maiden name. Malcolm likes to think that was a good socialist transcending the example of Lord Passfield and Mrs Sidney Webb.