Here's a toast to the fast lane, but only in apple juice

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The Independent Online
AS REGULAR readers will know, one of my passions is collecting modern folk songs deriving from that most modern of ambiences, the motorway.

Very often these motorway ballads are anonymous and traditional, such as the endless verses about drivers who cling to the middle lane, but occasionally you encounter a song in which a really personal note is sounded. There was, I thought, a very private fantasy contained in this delightful folk song, passed on to me recently by a petrol pump attendant on the A1(M):

One day I rose before the dawn

While frost was still upon the lawn

I put an extra jersey on

(The temperature was minus one)

Then jumped into my Ford Granada

And revved her up till, full of ardour,

Off we sped towards old Purley

And hit the motorway so early

That we were alone on the M25

It could have been our private drive]

While other motorists were abed

Me and my Ford Granada sped

Down that enchanted silver road

Where normally the traffic slowed.

I tell you, pushing 95

At 4 am, we came alive]

I hurtled down the outer lane

In not so much a car as a plane

Cleared for take-off, in the dawn,

Straining hard to be airborne,

Just me and my trusty Ford Granada

Taking off like Douglas Bader]

For a while I seemed to fly,

Streaking round the London sky,

Racing round the great blue yonder,

Shooting down a helpless Honda,

Getting Fiats in my sights,

Downing Saabs in open fights,

Knocking out a wounded Lada

With my mighty Ford Granada]

Dawn raid done, and hungry now,

I started looking for some chow

And ended up at old South Mimms,

Downing bacon, eggs and Pimms . . .

This last note is pure wishful thinking, of course, as for some odd reason alcohol is never sold (so far as I know) at motorway service areas. In France and Germany and all civilised countries you can get it, but not here. Indeed, I once met a crusty old gent not unlike Kingsley Amis who, after much prompting, pieced together from memory this verse, the only motorway drinking song I have ever come across:

You can't get a drink on the motorway]

'I'm sorry, Sir,' they always say,

'We'd like to serve you with a drink,

But if we did, there'd be a stink;

It is against the law, you see . . .'

Well, no, I don't, for the life of me]

I do not see why we are banned

From standing up there, glass in hand,

In our local motorway bar,

Toasting every passing car

They'll serve you bloody apple juice,

But apple juice is no bloody use]

And they'll sell you water in a bottle

Which won't do a hell of a lot for your

throttle.

They'll serve you tea as black as ink

But what you can't get is a bloody drink]

Why must the bloody nanny state

Always think it can dictate

Just when we drink, and where and

what?

And why the hell can't I have a tot

At the Scratchwood stop as I go home

Or en route to Luton aerodrome?

If you can have pubs on roads called 'A'

Why can't we drink on the motorway?

All right, so drunken driving's sinful

But why can't the passenger have a skinful?

All this, and more, will appear in my forthcoming volume, 'The Golden Treasury of Motorway Verse'.

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