Potholes, progress and prescience

Four Henley streets are glistening with new tar

The road was a smooth river of new tar shining straight and wide in the headlights, bordered by neatly placed curbstones that curved smoothly around to meet the battered, tattered and patched tar of the Avenue.

Did you know Henley on Klip has four new stretches of tar that would do justice to the most upmarket of suburbs?

It did take a long time – months at our count – months of banner tape and yellow Lego blocks, mud, dust and very slow progress.

Next, hopefully, are new signposts so we can rejoice in our next generation of oddly named streets. I think the renovated beauties are Abingdon, Sanford, Speen and St Andrew’s.

Next up, I was told when querying a surveyor digging a hole in Rugby Road, are the dirt roads around Millbrook – Taplow, Rugby, a bit of Shiplake and St Patrick’s.

Already Rugby can celebrate two of the highest roadhumps in the world; they even beat the monsters that curb traffic (to a hesitant bump, ouch) in Iffley Street. Rugby even has a speed sign – 30km only. I can’t imagine trying to go any faster on that rutted dirt road.

That said, I shall be sad when I can no longer track hoofprints, footprints, doggy paws and plover claws along my favourite stretch of dirt by the giant pines fringing the paddocks of Millbrook. On the other side new houses are going up at speed, but the cows still plod along the path by the mielielands and at the right time of day the air is heavy with hundreds of birds wheeling in immense precision-flying formations.

The only other major dirt road left is Eaton on the other side of the river. I’m told that’s a provincial road, so I don’t suppose the tar will touch it any time soon.

Progress is inevitable. If I lived in the mud and dust I would probably welcome it. As it is, I cherish the fact that we don’t have any streetlights on our street. You can see the stars.

One of the refurbished roads, Sanford I think, leads to the new retirement village near Off the Rails. It is also going up very fast; smart, high-tech, eco homes in convivial circles that will be off the grid from the start, a haven of light in the darkness of Eskom.

There is something to be said for that. We learnt in the world-class African city of Johannesburg always to have an emergency cupboard of gas lamps, solar lamps, candles and torches handy. The outages there lasted two or three days at times. Here, so far, the worst has been the loadshedding hours and the loud incessant drone of the neighbour’s generator.

The day will come, though. Every time I drive up Ewelme and turn into Wargrave North I gaze measuringly at the worn poles laden with transformers that lean more and more with every gale. The leaning tower of Pisa is nothing to it; that, I’m told, is unlikely to fall over in my lifetime. I’m not so sure about these!

Dear Henley. The good, the bad and the wobbly. You have to love it!