What the Romans can do for us (please)

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Regular readers will know that I am an avid collector of motorway ballads, those pieces of folk verse you sometimes pick up from motorway travellers. Here is an interesting ballad I was told recently by an elderly Cockney I bumped into while sheltering from a rainstorm at the Newport Pagnell petrol pumps.

Regular readers will know that I am an avid collector of motorway ballads, those pieces of folk verse you sometimes pick up from motorway travellers. Here is an interesting ballad I was told recently by an elderly Cockney I bumped into while sheltering from a rainstorm at the Newport Pagnell petrol pumps.

When the Romans came to Britain
And tried to get around
They saw there was no network
Of transport to be found.
And when they asked the Britons
Just how they got to roam,
The Britons said: "We don't, mate!
We'd rather stay at home!"
Because the ancient Britons
Just never went away
And didn't like to travel
Or go on holiday,
(Or if they really wanted
To go from A to B,
They found it was much quicker
To travel there by sea.)
"All right, you 'orrible savages,"
The Romans promptly said,
"We'll build some proper roadways
To get from A to Z!"
And that was how the Romans,
Who knew a thing or two,
Brought in a traffic policy
To benefit me and you.
They built a motorway system
As good as the very best
With a fast lane for their soldiers
And a slow lane for the rest.
They built roads straight and narrow
They built roads everywhere
(Except to Wales and Scotland,
'Cos who wants to go there?)
But then one day the Romans
Buggered off back home
'Cos all their men were needed
To defend the city of Rome,
And left the roads behind them
Which they had carefully built,
To go to rack and ruin,
And turn to mud and silt.
'Cos the Angles and the Saxons
Were all uncivilised brutes
Who couldn't give a raspberry
For Roman roads and routes.
And King Arthur (if 'e existed)
Was just as bad as they,
For he spent all his time on battles
And none on the royal highway.
Then came the Middle Ages,
When Gothic art was king,
With Durham and with Canterbury,
And Windsor and everything.
Yes, they could build their castles,
Their abbeys and such stuff,
But the roads that joined the cities
Were rough as rough as rough.
They made their towers from granite,
They made their roads from mud.
Their buildings were immortal,
Their roads a load of crud.
And now, millennia later,
It's all got far, far worse.
With the M's all full of gridlock,
And the lanes full of 4-by-4s.
And they make congestion charges
And bypasses by the score
And all that seems to 'appen
Is it gets much worse than before.
But I have been to Italy
And seen their autostrada,
Sweeping up from Sicily
To Como and to Garda,
Yes, the secret of building lovely roads,
The modern Romans know,
To go with their Ferraris
And their Alfa Romeo,
So what I say is, go to Rome
And ask them to come back,
To get our roadways working again
And give our lot the sack!

Comments