Blind to the problem


Well, that’s the dissertation finished and handed in. I’d like to add to that anecdote – a few bells perhaps, couple of whistles, some go-faster stripes – to imbue it with a greater sense of occasion, but I can’t. There’s absolutely nothing interesting to say about finishing a big project beyond ‘I finished it’, with the option of an appended ‘yay’. The only mildly interesting thing is that I’ve been working on the bastard for three months and finally came up with a title about nine minutes before I sent it. Whoosh.

On Monday afternoon, taking a break from the tiny spare room that has been my home forfeelslikeever, I went for a long walk. My, it was breezy. Found myself rounding a right-angled bend on a path I’ve never tried, a pretty little stretch by the Wandle, before being pulled up short by a mass of ivy supporting two splintery looking branches at poke-yer-eye-out height. I was pondering the situation and had just concluded that the wind had snapped the trunk of a birch tree on the opposite bank, when I was roused by a squawk and a swear emitted by a startled cyclist who had just avoided shish-kebabing his eyes on the trunk. Off he pedalled, throwing muttered curses apparently in my direction – yes, it was me, DayGloMan. I am a  mythical Celtic warrior out on a fag break and it was I who snapped that tree to use as a toothpick. Moron.

Anyway, I was near the council’s head office and in no great rush to get home, so I went off to report it. You know what’s coming next, don’t you? Sent to the 5th floor: Environment. I was sent into Cubicle 1 while the man on reception said he’d find someone to speak to me. A minute later, the man from reception seemed to have changed jobs. He spoke to me. Told him about the shish-kebaby-eye thing… concerned… obstruction… nasty accident… couldn’t in all conscience etc. He looked at the phone, made a noise and left, returning a little later with a vast wodge of paper towel and a bottle of Dettox. After an inordinate time cleaning the receiver (only the ear bit though, not the mouthpiece. Why?) he said it’s not Environment, and rang Health and Safety. Not their job either. Try Trees. Nope, that’s not our department.

This threw me. It’s a tree that’s come down, half into the river, other half poised to blind a cyclist. How is a tree not Trees’ job? He said if it was beside a river, that’s Environment. Ah, good. Wait, aren’t I in Environment already? Fifth floor, yes? No. It’s a different part of Environment you need, and you’ll have to Google to get the number.

At last! My turn to say no! No, I’m not Googling anyone. No I’m not going to try any more. No this isn’t my responsibility. I HAVE REPORTED THIS POTENTIALLY LETHAL HAZARD TO THE COUNCIL. YOU ARE THE COUNCIL AND I AM IN YOUR FUCKING HEAD OFFICE. I didn’t say the second part, obviously. If he had a thing about mucky phones I didn’t want to risk mucky language.

So I went home.

Conscience twitching all the way, temper subsiding fast, I made a nice cup of tea and relented, settling down for a trawl through the cul de sacs of the council website and eventually found the cycling department. Emailed them (ha! In writing! Checkmate!) about the obstruction, skewered cyclists etc and got a charming and helpful answer. Pat Langley and his team were off to inspect the site first thing. Pat even rang to let me know what they’d done. Lovely man.

But this long-winded story is simply to get me to this point. As I was scrolling down the A-Z of council services (I’d long since given up on any logical navigation) I happened on the aitches. Housing housing housing, as you would expect, rents, rights, evictions, etc. Until the last entry. ‘Hypnotism (regulation)’. Really? No, really? Good to know: Wandsworth might be cavalier about decapitated taxpayers, but by Christ it takes a dim view of charlatan showmen.


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