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.)





  • Coal-Filled Wellies says on: November 3, 2017 at 6:33 am


    Harry Potter. All three hundred and eighty two volumes.

  • Nadine says on: November 3, 2017 at 9:26 am


    What a horror. I don’t believe it…

  • Jack L says on: November 3, 2017 at 11:47 am


    Mills & Boon sell 200 million paperbacks a year. Those ought to build a few motorways…

  • Mary says on: November 4, 2017 at 10:11 am


    I’d say all Richard Dawkins… but then again, it does feel a bit like book burning censorship and I think I’d rather motorways were built using plastic reconstituted into small nuggets (apparently this is a thing).

    Feels less Fire and Brimstone somehow.

    • Ginny says on: November 4, 2017 at 3:18 pm


      Oh golly – where to start? With you on plastic, Mary, specially if it’s trawled out of the sea. Plastic waste collected from Britain’s seas is up by 150% on last year. Never read a Dawkins; it’s too late now; not mad about Philip Pulman though.

      The Mills and Boon figure appals – not for its content so much as for the trees felled. Oh the poor old planet! What price climate change?

      If Harry Potter, what about Enid Blyton? I don’t think I could bear to see her enormous output under the M60 extension.

      It seems you won’t have to worry too much, Nadine, not if the tiny plastic nuggets Mary mentions are for real.

      Well that’s a relief! Gin

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