Lines written on the hard shoulder of the A1(M) . . .

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TODAY HAS apparently been named as National Poetry Day. I don't know who has named it National Poetry Day, but I never need much excuse to return to my much-loved subject of folk verse, and this is as good as any.

Regular readers will know that I have been collecting modern motoring verse for a long time, and that my forthcoming Golden Treasury of Motorway Ballads represents the cream of the poems I have been collecting at motorway service stations for many a long year.

The other day, however, I came across a long ballad which I had never encountered before, told to me by a despondent-

looking hitch-hiker whom I picked up on the A1(M), and here is as much of it as I have room for.

The Ballad Of The RAC

I met a man

At Taunton Deane

Who had a

pleasant smile

He winked at me

And said 'Hello'

And we talked a little while.

And then he said,

'How would you like

To join the RAC?'

I thought about it

For a bit

And it seemed all right to me.

So I filled the form

And paid the sub

And that's how I enrolled

'Well done]' he said,

As he took my cash,

'You are now inside the fold]'

And then I met

Another man

who worked at Michael Wood

And had a most

Engaging grin,

And told me that I should

Join up at once

With the RAC

And I hadn't the heart to say

That I had already

Joined the club

Earlier that day.

So I gave my name

And signed his form

And shook him by the hand

And he told me they

Would come and help

Anywhere in the land.

'If you break down,

Or crash, just dial

This number written here.

And quick as a flash,

If not before,

Our patrolman will appear]'

I didn't go out

In the car again

For another week or two

And then I took

The family out

For a weekend drive to Looe.

The children sat

In the back and drank

Their cans of fizzy drink,

And begged me to stop,

And when I said no,

They kicked up such a stink]

Till, as we drove

Along the motorway,

My wife turned to me and said,

'We'd better pull up

As soon as we can

At the services up ahead.'

Reluctantly I did

As I was told

And parked the car and sat.

While the rest of the family

Went inside,

I pulled down the brim of my


But the RAC man

Who lingered there

Was not to be deterred;

He wandered over

To my car and spoke,

And this is what I heard:

'Good morning, sir,

And may I ask

If you have ever thought

Of joining up

With the RAC?

If not, I think you ought.'

And I looked at his noble,

Trusting face

And thought how it would be

If he told his wife,

With a tear, of the man

Who spurned the RAC,

And before my folk

Came back to the car

I'm afraid to say I had

Joined up again

(In a different name)

And now, if I can add,

I've joined the outfit

Twenty-two times,

Or maybe twenty-three,

And all because

I can't resist

The smile of the RAC]

The ballad goes on for another 90 verses, relating how the narrator finally breaks down in his car and phones for assistance. Tragically, the RAC computer links all his memberships together via his car registration number and sends no fewer than 25 patrolmen to deal with him. He is subsequently courtmartialled for wasting club time and drummed out of the RAC.