Joe Moran writes about a book called What’s That Over There?, a travel guide for the English motorway system:
I hadn’t come across Noel’s book before but it forms part of a long if sporadic tradition of motorway sightseeing. Margaret Baker’s 1968 handbook Discovering M1 was the first ever ‘glove-compartment guide to the motorway and the places of interest that can be seen from it,’ written for car passengers and ‘arranged for easy assimilation at around 60mph’. It valiantly listed visual highlights like the radio aerials at Daventry, the granite rocks of Charnwood Forest and the medieval ridge-and-furrow fields near Crick. The vogue for motorway sightseeing enjoyed a brief revival more recently with the motorway sights guides written by Mike Jackson, a director of location shots for Antiques Roadshow, who got the idea for them while driving round the country with its then presenter, Michael Aspel. Jackson spent months travelling up and down the motorways, writing about landmarks like the Penrith factory where they make the dough balls for Domino’s pizzas and the globular salt barn on the M5 in Worcestershire known locally as the ‘Christmas pudding’.
According to Jackson’s M5 sights guide, it costs £1m a year to maintain a Moto service station, which means that each square metre of toilet area costs £2350 a year – and that’s at 2005 prices. Since the service stations are obliged by law to supply free toilets 24/7, you might think about this figure the next time you pause over the price of a Ginsters pasty in the service station shop. I am also indebted to Jackson for the information that traffic police on the M5 are rumoured to play a game called ‘motorway snooker’, which involves stopping a red car for speeding, then looking for another colour equivalent to the colours of snooker balls (ideally a black car, worth seven points) then another red, and so on until the highest break wins.
I think I’ve just figured out my summer vacation.
This entry was posted on Thursday, May 27th, 2010 at 8:40 am and is filed under Traffic Culture. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.