The day I bought my first pair of proper Wellies was an exciting day. Ok, albeit being from a general well-known DIY store, but new Wellies they were nonetheless. I could say gumboots, but it wouldn’t have the same charm.
We’d been planning a trip to Wales, and I thought the visit (in the heart of the summer) required Wellies – you know, for sploshing around mud puddles in etc. Perfect excuse.
So I trundled back home, with a pair of spotted Wellies in the car, a bag of prawn-flavoured chips (because that’s what they are), and a new pair of secateurs to attack the Willow tree in the front garden that had decided it was growing a Belieber mop. I was nonchalant in my own little world, driving up the main road, when I spotted three High Vis bodies standing outside of the pharmacy. Arms folded. Stern Look upon faces. One with a notebook. They didn’t look like the law, but who was I to know. Instinctively I check my speedometer and notice that I’d been travelling slightly over the 20mph zone, and my foot extends to the brake pedal and casually slow down. Not making eye-contact as I pass, I make my way home.
Whilst crumbling my last Peppermint Crisp over the tart I’ve just made, I think about the High Vis brigade that I had just noticed and recall an advert for a community speed watch campaign that was being launched in our town. Living in the quiet countryside, where the largest criminal activity is perhaps a garden shed that has been broken into, or a drunken brawl that ended up with a blue eye and a sore head (I jest), I’ve become almost distant from the constant reminder of The Law, no matter the capacity thereof.
I look out of my lounge window and I see 2 school-kids walk by, a little lady on a motorised scooter, and a man with his dishevelled Springer Spaniel, and I feel miles away from the people selling their wares on street corners and robots (because that’s what they are), and beggars at the highway off-ramp intersections. I feel miles away from guys earning their keep by looking after my parked car, and feel stupid at the countless times that I felt irritated by their directing my reversing out of a parking bay, while I knew perfectly well how to drive! Ironically, I find myself suggesting exactly the same when I look at the way some people drive and park in the countryside. I hypocritically add, “One thing they could do with here, were some car-watch guys to help these people park”.
My beaded artwork of the African women hanging up their washing, hangs on the wall in my lounge. And I remember meeting Oscar on the corner of the N2 and Somerset West’s Victoria Road, where he was hard at work with this creation – and his fingertips bleeding from the countless time the wire had pierced his rugged skin. And I remember buying this massive work of art, while knowing that my flat was already packed up and ready to ship – and not knowing how I’d get this to the UK.
But here it hangs. And suddenly, it dawns on me that the High Vis Beliebers, fulfilling their role of traffic speed management, are no different to Oscar, nor to the tannie that bakes pancakes outside of the Bonnievale Spar on a Saturday morning. They’re merely doing their bit for their families and for their community, regardless of how it may appear to anyone else.
And suddenly, I feel very small, and so I put on some Johnny Clegg.