Virginia Barton

3 November 2017: End of the Road


3 November 2017


Under the road might be a more accurate title.

When the Ancestor moved in with us all those years ago, she travelled in style (of course) by ambulance, and I hitched a lift with the furniture the day before. I sat in the cab with the removal man, Auntie Zizi’s precious sticks and chattels creaking behind us.

His name escapes me but the lorry driver was loquacious. Bowling down the M40 he told me he had worked as a labourer on the motorway’s construction in the Sixties. He must have noticed Auntie Zizi’s box of precious volumes because he asked if I knew that old books were used among other detritus as filler with the rubble? No I did not.

What an appalling fate for those carefully crafted words! Those piles of “Remainders” selling for £1 a copy in the bargain bookshops! Those pages of toil, or simply those unwanted gifts dumped in the recycle bin.

I’ve never forgotten this particular bit of trivia and wonder if it’s really true. If so, it’s degrading.


There’s a point: apart from those heavy shiny ones, books are biodegradable. Perhaps they account for sinkholes. 146,000 copies of a Government Paper degrading simultaneously could easily cause a sinkhole.

Here’s a silly game: what to chuck in with the rubble under a motorway? Now that’s a game I can’t possibly play in public but you can in your anonymity!

(The Travels in the Interior of Africa by Mungo Park? Certainly not.)






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