If there's one thing that really gets up my nose, it's Pointless Pepper

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The Independent Online

Questions, questions ... As I drive into what I loosely call work every morning I see the same bit of graffiti. It's just off the M40 before you get to the M25 and it spans the length of an entire fence, it must be almost a hundred feet long. It simply says, "Why do I do this every day?" Someone, somewhere, is clearly proud of this bit of amateur philosophy. It was painted over about six months ago only to be restored to its full glory the very next day. I have to admit that it comes near the end of my daily commute and it does make me question the point of it all. For a start I know that just half a mile ahead is a traffic jam that will keep me in the car for another 45 minutes on a stretch of road that I could do in 10 in normal traffic.

There is other graffiti along the fence but none of it is quite as pertinent. Someone wrote "Blair is shit" a couple of years ago, and this was changed firstly to "Blair is ...", with the last word rubbed out, only for someone to plug the gap with the word "peas". So it reads "Blair is peas" and I can neither agree nor disagree so it's not much use.

But I do think about the "Why do I do this every day?" issue. If I can quote the late comedian Bill Hicks for the second time in a couple of weeks, it's probably so that "I don't become a waffle house waitress". I go in to make some bucks to pay my bills so that I don't have to learn to play the didgeridoo and busk for coppers in Cirencester town centre. If the question was changed to "Why do I do this every two years", then I'd know that we were talking about supporting the English football team and I would have to agree wholeheartedly.

Maybe it's about my biggest bug-bear: Pointless Pepper. Nearly every day I am offered the weird white, tasteless pepper that seems to be available everywhere but no one actually likes. Every restaurant, café and eaterie has this rubbish on the table and yet has anyone ever actually asked for it? This is what keeps me up late at night tossing and turning in my family-sized waterbed. I love black pepper, the kind you grind in a quality pepper mill unless you are in one of those restaurants where they assume control of the pepper mill and don't allow you to do it yourself. (I've never quite understood why they do this. I've been told that it's because people nick pepper mills so they don't trust you not to stuff one into your bag. If that's the case then they might as well feed you on paper plates and chain the cutlery to the table like the bottle opener at a student party.) My theory is that restaurant owners are paid vast amounts by Pointless Pepper producers to push their loathsome product in place of the gorgeous black variety. I know that it's not a big deal and that I shouldn't be thinking about all this. After all, what about the infamous M Khan of the "M Khan is bent" graffiti that used to adorn a bridge over the M1? That would have been worth worrying about. In fact, that would have been worth painting over if I were M Khan.

I'm waffling on but it's the driving that does it. My daily companions are graffiti and inane phone-in DJs and they are driving me to the edge of madness. At least England's defeat by Portugal will put a stop to the biggest road hazard: the bloody England flags that people put on their cars are lethal. The things that hold them up are about as secure as Tim Henman's place in Wimbledon. They keep snapping off and flying into my windscreen causing me to swerve across the motorway trying to dislodge them. Much as I support the England football fans' "rape and pillage tour" across the Iberian peninsula, I refuse to die for the flag.

Maybe I should take a break from driving in and take the train. That would be infinitely preferable. For a mere £200 a week I could sit on the floor of a crowded corridor and look at Swindon. I need a holiday.