Monday, 27 June 2011

Norbert Dentressangle

Since leaving the army in 1996, most of the work I’ve done has meant me spending quite a lot of time schlepping up and down the motorways, on my own, in a car.

I get bored after a bit.

The radio can only take me so far. If it’s on, something will eventually get played that I don’t like or I might inadvertently hear a microsecond of Chris Moyles and have to change channel. My radio’s search function will then transport me to the nearest local station which will be doing a forty five minute programme about someone spotting an albino crow. After hearing a couple of eye-witness interviews, I’ll have to switch it off.

That leaves me in a dangerous place. Alone with my own thoughts.

I usually spend a while blowing imaginary lottery winnings, but the vast majority of the time is filled with noticing stuff that has no real importance or interest. Things like:

• Norbert Dentressangle is a really, really good name.
• More than 50% of caravans are getting towed by drivers with facial hair.
• As you travel south out of Glasgow on the M8, the ‘8’ at the half mile marker of Junction 8 has been stuck on upside down.
• Coventry’s inner ring road is the nearest most of us will come to the experience of riding a fairground Wall of Death.
• There’s a big brown heritage sign at the roundabout at the start of the A14 that says “Secret Bunker.”

See, neither use nor ornament. I imagine that everyone who clocks up a lot of mileage discovers pointless shite like this, but it passes the time.

There is one thing that I notice on motorways that continues to confuse and worry me, though.

A lot of articulated lorries seem to have custom spray jobs on their cabs. That’s unremarkable, I know, but an unsettlingly large percentage of this cab art implies some connection between HGV drivers and Native American culture. I would love to know what the link is. Every time I drive past an image of Geronimo looking wistfully back down the M6, immortalised in Halford’s finest, I have a look to see who’s driving. It’s never one of his descendants, sat there in full battledress, hoping he’s going to get to the B and Q in Carlisle in time for the battle. It’s always the standard behemoth in a hi-viz jacket, eating a Ginsters and picking his nose.

Try as I might, and I do, I can’t put the two things together. Did Sitting Bull live in his mam’s tepee till he was 50 and have a dangerously high cholesterol level? Before the Industrial Revolution, did the lorry drivers roam free across the nation, before being persecuted, then eventually chivvied and chased into a specified reservation area near Hartlepool? I had a quick look round the internet for a smoking gun that would provide clarity on the subject. Unsurprisingly, there was nothing in the Cherokee account of the Trail of Tears that said,

“And lo, it came to pass, that my squaw did say that I was cluttering up the tepee and must travel north to find gainful employment with the tribe headed by Chief Eddie Stobart and his son, Loves a Full English. My heart cried for the old ways, but times had moved on for us and I was forced to change my name from Soars Like an Eagle to Delivers Predominantly to Homebase.”
If I ever see one of these trucks at the services, I’ll ask the question of the driver. I fully expect the response to be a snack of no nutritional value being dropped to the floor, followed by a thousand yard stare and a tearful account of the years of pain, accompanied by ghostly drumming and the whirr of a fiddled tachograph.

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