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  • Ben Thomas

Road Surfacing

One step outside my front door and I’m greeted by a symphonic onslaught of loud drills, electric jackhammers, and heavy machinery. The road outside our house is finally being surfaced. We’ve been here three months with nothing. A red-bricked pattern for a short stretch of roughly fifty metres. Populated by highway maintenance men, our road has transformed from a dusty, unfinished - albeit peaceful - track. Now its noisy and chaotic. Irritating my eyes, dirt flies around the air, thrown about by power tools and strong winds. Building materials overpower my nose. Flooding my ears, the cockney-inspired chatter of builders and the rattle of their discarded energy-drink cans.


They’ve been working on this brief section of road for over two weeks. I assumed when they began would finish promptly. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The noise and irritation have been more than a cameo.


One of my neighbours stands outside watching the scene – he’s an average height, dark haired chap. I believe Number Seven is home to a newly-wed couple with their first child – a young girl who can’t be older than five. They’ve been here longer than we have, but I don’t know the exact length of their spell. I walk over to him – maintaining the two-metre distance we have all become accustomed to – and gesture at the roadworks whilst shaking my head.


Due to the noise I must exclaim loudly, “They’re taking their time over this aren’t they?”


He chuckles, rolls his eyes and responds, “I used to live in over in The Netherlands. I remember in one night they replaced a whole road. Just like that.” He clicks his fingers. “A whole stretch of a motorway resurfaced in just a few hours”.


“I’m not surprised.” I reply. “My mother’s side are Dutch, and I’ve regularly heard how organised they are in comparison to us. Public transport, building - they do it all better.” I smile, noting the coincidence of this.


My neighbour smiles and asks me where my mother’s family originate from. I describe to him how they’re from 's-Hertogenbosch – known as Den Bosch, but a handful of them have moved to Utrecht over the last couple of decades. He tells me he lived in Rotterdam for a couple of years.


“They would have had this done in a day!” He repeats.


I laugh and agree before saying goodbye and beginning today’s walk. My neighbour turns back to his house and starts to water his flowerbeds, whilst still watching the concrete circus going on around him. Perhaps the longevity of the work instead of its noise and its interruption is the real reason it has become so irritating.

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