Of potholes and politics

People involved in British politics swear that politicians get elected (and unelected) mostly over potholes and garbage pickup, although it isn’t called garbage in Britain it’s called, um, something else. Not trash. And not dust, although the thing you put it in a dustbin, or a bin for short.

Okay, I googled it: It’s called rubbish, which is also what you’d call a team someone else supports.

Calling a team that is a great way to start a fight if you’re in a pub and it’s getting late and everyone’s well oiled. Just in case you need to know.

But I’m off topic again, aren’t I?

If, as someone famous once said, all politics are local, the residents of Steeple Aston in Oxfordshire are at the heart of political life. They’re worked up about their potholes. The council—that’s what you call local government, for those of you who need a translation—has been ducking the pothole issue, residents say, so in mid-May, after a rain had filled the potholes nicely, they floated a mass of rubber ducks on them. And called the BBC, which put some nifty photos online. I’m sure there’s a way to post them, but I have no idea what it is. You’ll just have to follow the link.

Relevant but fake photo: This is–as you may have figured out–a rubber duck. Or a plastic one but they’re called rubber ducks, so let’s not argue. We were getting on so well. The point is, it’s not in a pothole, it’s in a bowl in our back yard.

The Poke calls it the most British protest ever. I’m not sure what makes it so British, although duck races are a big thing at fundraisers and village fetes around here.

Fete, by the way, is pronounced fate. No, don’t ask me. I don’t understand it either. Besides, we’re talking about rubber ducks and it’s rude to interrupt.

For years, Wild Thing and I saw signs along the roads announcing duck races and for years we meant to go to one and didn’t. Then we found out they involved rubber ducks, not real ones, so now Wild Thing wants to raise a duck and show up with it tucked under her arm, saying, “I’ll thank you to enter my duck in the race.”

If it ever happens, I promise to post pictures, but I’m not sure a duckling and a cat are a good long-term combination.

Anyway, the only other reason I can think of for this being the most British protest ever is that the sense of humor has a particularly British tinge—dry, in spite of all that rain—but even so the claim seems a bit overdone in a country known for understatement. So maybe that should be “A moderately British protest.”

The BBC read through the county council’s website and quotes it as saying that any pothole the “depth of a coke can or the size of a dinner plate on a quiet carriageway” may need urgent attention.

If the ducks haven’t gotten them filled by now, I suggest that the residents follow up with a picnic—Coke cans, dinner plates, and whatever Oxfordshire offers as a substitute for the Cornish pasty.

You’ll find additional inspired ways to celebrate potholes in a second post on the Poke.

91 thoughts on “Of potholes and politics

  1. If filling potholes on quiet carriageways with rubber duckies whenever said potholes can be said to have “reached the the size of a dinner plate” ain’t the Most Moderately British protest EVER, well then I just don’t know what the world is coming to…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I must admit I’ve never seen a rubber duck race, although I believe they are quite similar to playing Pooh Sticks. (I just had to explain that reference to my husband before he thought my childhood utterly deprived or depraved). I adore the idea of Wild Thing showing up to one with a real duck, but have to admit to some curiosity as to how one trains a duck to race?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oops, my reply got lost somehow. Let’s start over. It took me a while, after I moved here, to figure out–well, not what Pooh sticks was but that it’s a recognized thing here. Your husband’s not the only American who has no idea what you’re talking about. And now I’ll go look for the rest of my reply, which had to do with training a duck. I probably attached it to someone else’s comment, so I’m now exploring irrelevant replies.


      • Okay–the comment disappeared somewhere. Let’s try again. I have no idea how you train a duck to race–and neither does Wild Thing. As long as we keep this all in the threatening-to-do-it stage, we don’t need to know.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. A picnic? That’s the way to go. I might copy the Oxfordshire crowd as the potholes on the Isle of Wight are worse than in Crete. Riding my mobility scooter up to the village and down again is taking my life in my hands, which are not good at the best of times. The scooter’s a sturdy thing but there are times when I think it’s going to fall onto its side. I’m shaken and bruised rather than stirred. Ah, the joys of life!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I have seen, bet on and lost money at a rubber duck race. Of course it was for charity, so…

    Since I worked with an British consultant for years, on systems development efforts where I had to share my code with him, I was well aware that the term you were looking for was “rubbish” :-)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Instead of expanding my vocabulary, moving here seems to have diminished it. Where I should have two word for somethings, I have this whirlpool of possibilities, none of which is (most of the time) quite right.

      Or maybe that’s age, not my semi-bilinguality.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for the comment over at my space. WordPress has sent me into a bit of a pothole for now. I can’t seem to scatter “likes” as I visit, but I like your posts anyway! :D But I think I can still make you show up in my “Posts I like” column from the iPad (where I avoid typing anything with the silly keypad).
    Oh WordPress! you couldn’t have picked a worse time to do this to me!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. You understand that you’re playing to my weakness. Or obsession. (Collector of rubber duckies here). Now I have to think of a way to launch a rubber ducky demo. there are innumerable water issues here needing & getting resistance. But I can’t give up my collection so I’ll have to buy a raft of duckies and float them on some body of water imperiled. How to make an impact on Lake Superior?

    Liked by 2 people

    • For this to work, I think you’ll have to start with a smaller body of water. Maybe the fountain in front of–oops, that was the old Minneapolis downtown library, wasn’t it? I don’t know if the new one has a fountain. And I have no idea what you’d be protesting. Maybe the lack of a fountain? Would that work? A carton of ducks on dry pavement?


  7. Mention potholes to anyone in England (and probably the rest of the UK) and they’ll happily tell you that their town/village has the worst potholes anywhere and that the council never does anything about it. If they do do anything they used cheap and shoddy materials and the potholes are back when winter comes. I won’t do that. I’ll just say that fete is pronounced fate because it came to us from the French, and your back yard is a garden, but you know that.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Minnesota (thinks it) has the worst potholes in the world because its freeze-thaw cycle digs deep into every paved surface. The Minneapolis paper once ran a contest where people nominated the worst pothole. The winners, I think, were judged not on how bad the actual pothole was but on how good the nomination was. One of the winners, and my favorite, said the pothole she nominated was so deep she went into labor when she hit it. And she wasn’t pregnant.

      I thought fete was pronounced fett in French. In fact, I think it is. So I always assumed the British pronounce it fate just to mess with the French.

      Liked by 2 people

      • We have a reputation of being bad at languages to maintain.

        I love the pothole nomination. I hit one on a back road to Winchester once at speed. If I hadn’t hit it quite fast, I think I would still be trying to get out of it.

        I think one of the reasons potholes annoy us is that we don’t really have a climate that should produce them to the extent that it seems to.

        Liked by 1 person

        • My wild and irresponsible guess would be that it’s all the water that does it. Around here, the roads are part of the drainage system, and water’s a quietly powerful force.

          But going back to the pronunciation of fete: reputation maintained.

          Liked by 2 people

  8. What? Rubber ducks are now made of plastic, not rubber? Wow! That’s really shocked me! (Not.)
    Who was it started the ‘not’ trend (that’s probably gone out of favour now)? Wayne’s World?
    Local councils are the pits in themselves… that’s probably why they don’t do anything about potholes (we have an equally useless council where I live) – they ARE potholes.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Y’know, I just assumed they’re made of plastic. So I just came back from checking, and according the Great Google, they can be made of plastic or rubber. So you can be half shocked and I can be half wrong. Not to mention half right.

      I hate to defend local councils, but given the budget cuts they’re dealing with, it’s amazing they’re doing anything at all anymore. So count that as a kind of half defense–right up there with being half wrong on the rubber ducks.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. The annual village shindig where I last lived in England…flower show, dog show, produce stall, races for the kids…used to be known as the Fete Worse Than Death. Appropriately for the organisers who would have needed to win all the booze on the bottle stall to aid their recovery.
    When I was a Rural District Councillor …in the days when Rural District Councils existed… potholes would be brought to the attention of the roadman who would then be allotted a load of what was known as hoggin from the council stores. He would then encourage those affected to use it to fill up the hole.
    There is a South African politician who built his career on potholes. If you had a pothole, you went to see his mother and for a certain consideration the pothole would be filled in…he was thus originally known as Pothole Malema. These days he and his party members elected to the national legislature wear boiler suits to the chamber and are regularly thrown out for doing so.
    Potholes in Costa Rica are marked by putting branches in them…large or small according to size of pothole. Eventually they will be filled in by which time other holes and branches will have appeared but, not being on the official list, will not be filled in at the same time..

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hey, Luke, I see yours is a new blog, so forgive me if I offer some advice: 1) You won’t find out what people think if you don’t set your blog up to allow comments. Or even a Like button. 2) Randomly saying “check out my blog” on someone else’s blog (unless they’re hosting a link exchange of some sort) isn’t a great way to promote your blog.


        • I’m not the best person to advise you, but if you’re using WordPress you’ll find what you need somewhere in Settings, which is itself in the Admin section. Try Discussion and I think it’ll let you set the blog up for comments. I can’t remember where the Like button is, but it would be worth working your way through all the Admin headings and see what you find there. If you need help (and again if you’re using WP) you might want to try its forum and its tutorials.

          Liked by 1 person

  10. I’ve heard of rubber duck races, just never seen one XD And maybe if the potholes don’t get filled in time you could even sail some paper boats on it. Maybe even decorating your own favourite pothole, who knows.

    Liked by 2 people

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    • Believe me, friend, I know it, and outside of this blog I’m a political activist and do what I can–which is never enough. The blog’s a bit of light entertainment, with the occasional serious thread running through. We need to keep ourselves sane if we’re going to be any use to anyone else.


          • I love absurd humor. 🤡 I believe humor developed as a survival mechanism to help people overcome fear, thus “nervous laughter”. If so, black humor is the most natural humor. 🖤 I have trolled mass-murdering billionaires 💩 with a heart full of joy. 😃 Stare Death in the face and joke, because you don’t want to take your eyes off that sneaky bastard, that’s when the joke’s on you. 🙈💀

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              • I used to be a pacifist. Then I was kidnapped by the government, tortured, and caged for months without ever being found guilty of anything. Then it happened again. And again. A few more times after that, I figured enough was enough.

                Liked by 1 person

              • American cops stop people for no apparent reason and if people show any sign of standing up for their rights the cops sometimes make bogus charges like “resisting” (resisting unlawful orders, resisting slavery) or “interfering” (being in public around an officer who is commiting a crime), but when being tortured/interrogated, I picked up on a few clues that they had been surveilling me (#PardonSnowden), so many of these stops are not as random as they appear and often coincide with being censored. It’s actually very common, but it doesn’t get much press, because many victims are not all that intelligent. I got a few really bad cases of it, because I’m free press and piss off genocidal billionaires all day every day. …but I’m interesting, occasionally funny, and my concerns are undeniably justifiable, so they let me live.

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  15. Pingback: Of potholes and politics – SEO

    • Well, when the banks were collapsing, I was part of a small group that brought cake to local banks because the tellers hadn’t gotten multi-million-pound bonuses. It was a lot of fun, it was great theater, but unfortunately the banks were in such a panic about demonstrators that they decided we were trying to poison them and threw the cake out.

      What a waste.

      Liked by 1 person

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