Songs of the fast lane from the motorway minstrels

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The Independent Online
PEOPLE often say no new folk songs are being written any more, but that's because they look for them in the wrong places. They're not out in the country pubs or villages these days - they're being created in places such as Britain's motorway system. I've been collecting motorway ballads for years now, taking them down at service areas, but I came across one the other day that was new to me: a romantic ballad called simply 'Petrol Pump Girl'.

I've fallen in love with a girl who sells petrol,

She sits at a till that says 'Pumps 1-9'

And if I can possibiy buy enough fuel,

That motorway salesgirl will one day be mine]

Whenever I give her my Access so shyly

And she smiles at me back and says, 'Anything else?'

I want to shout, 'Yes] I would like to go dancing

And swirl you around till we hear wedding bells]'

But all I can say is, 'A packet of wine gums,

And receipt for VAT purposes, please.'

And she holds up the company's petrol gift vouchers

And says, like an angel, 'Do you take these?'

Oh why can I not throw all caution aside?

Why must I always sit on the fence?

Why do I never just tell her I love her?

Why do I always say: 'Please, where's the gents?'

I've fallen in love with a girl who takes plastic

The loveliest girl that I've ever seen,

Whom I first met when serving pumps 1-9,

But has now been promoted to 10-18.

And I buy so much petrol and fags and sweeties

That I fear by the time I've captured her heart

I'll be fat and skint and reek of tobacco

And be selling my car through Exchange and Mart.

I've fallen in love with a girl who sells petrol

But I fear that to her I'm a face in the queue,

Just another man smiling and jingling his car keys

And asking directions to go to the loo . . .

Rather touching, that one, with a slight dying Larkinesque fall at the end. Love songs are quite common on the motorway - all that lonely solo driving. What is much less common is any regional allegiance ('Petrol Pump Girl' contains no hint of where in Britain she works), so I was delighted to come across a West Country motorway ballad the other day which fair throbs with devotion to Somerset:

Oh, she's the queen

of Taunton Deane,

Prettiest girl I've ever seen]

My heart's ablaze

When she wipes the trays

And clears away the last baked bean.

I've been to Newport Pagnell

And visited Michael Wood,

South Mimms, Aust and Gordano,

And all of them were good.

But there's no one there

Who can compare

With my angel in blue jeans -

That bit of heaven

En route to Devon

Who works at Taunton Deane]

Membury and Chieveley

Leigh Delamere and Fleet

All of them are lovely,

But there's one that's got them beat

'Cos if you've never been

To Taunton Deane

You've never seen my motorway queen]

She's taken my tray

And my heart away

And wiped them both so shiny clean]

But every time I ventured north

It took me further away

From a little girl in Somerset

Who holds my heart in sway]

So get your gasoline

At Taunton Deane

And see the pretty little girl I mean]

She's five foot two

With eyes of blue

My queen of motorway cuisine]

Before I leave this fascinating subject, I am delighted to say that the other day I came across a few more verses of what is perhaps the greatest of all motorway songs, 'The Ballad of the Middle Laner':

Oh, I'm a middle laner,

I love the middle lane]

I simply won't move over

In sunshine or in rain.

I go right down the middle

From Edinburgh to Staines

And refuse to even contemplate

The other two empty lanes.

So you may flash your headlights

Or audibly complain

But I will never move over

It goes against the grain.

Oh, I'm a middle laner,

I'll stay there till I die

And when they take me away in a hearse

Down the middle lane I'll fly]

(All this and more in my forthcoming collection, The Golden Treasury of Motorway Verse.)

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