Moaning Islanders need to see reality

By Charlotte Hofton

Friday, March 14, 2014



I WHOLE heartedly endorse the letter in last week’s CP, which had D. Wilson, of Newport, urging us to cease "the current stream of invective being put the way of Island Roads".

Referring to "the unquenchable thirst Islanders have for a good moan", our correspondent cites "perfectly believable reports of [Island Road] staff being sworn, spat and driven at by irate idiots".

Crucially, D. Wilson also points out that highways PFI funding has allowed "every stretch of publicly-owned highway to be brought up to scratch and maintained in top condition for years to come".

As is the case with Wightlink, ever since this contract was finalised, we seem to have embraced Island Roads as a punchbag to be vilified whenever its name comes up.

The financial mechanics of PFI is a labyrinth which, I suspect, very few people could explain with any real knowledge or insight. I certainly can’t. I have occasionally tried to fathom the mathematics involved but remain unqualified to comment with any authority on whether our PFI contract was a good thing.

The fact remains, however, we signed up for it and are committed to having our highways resurfaced by Island Roads.

It has now been working through one of the worst winters on record and I am full of admiration every time I see the workers in the most atrocious conditions, plugging away on their Herculean task.

As far as I can see, they work hard, do their very best to keep the traffic flowing, have constantly to undertake tasks that are both arduous and boring (would you like to stand for hours on end in the pouring rain with a Stop/Go sign and have motorists raising two fingers at you as they pass?), and work at horribly unsocial hours so as to cause minimum disruption during the day.

Last month, in one of the worst spells of our winter weather, I drove past a gang of Island Roads workmen working by floodlight shortly before midnight. It was freezing cold, the rain was bucketing down but their patch of road was a hive of activity as they laboured away with admirable teamwork to get everything fixed before morning. Perhaps those moaners tucked up in their cosy beds might reflect on this.

And it’s not just on the roads they’re doing their best under trying conditions. When you telephone them, you get swiftly connected to a member of staff and, in my experience, they are helpful and informative.

Can’t always be easy when, as one Island Roads spokeswoman told me, people are ringing up to complain the repaired roads are too smooth and they’d like the bumps and humps back.

Of course things will sometimes go wrong. Island Roads will make mistakes.

The extent of the operation is colossal and it would be very surprising if there weren’t the odd glitch. And if it’s justified, we can get cross with them.

But knee-jerk reaction is simply thoughtless, while abusive behaviour, in whatever form, is inexcusable.

I may make this number one in a series of things Islanders love to kick around, with or without justification. Next time, Wightlink. And if that goes according to plan, number three will be me.

It’s time to recharge my supply of fairy dust

A butterfly-styled sandwich sounds just the thing for cheering us all up, so as soon as The Enchanted Manor, Niton, re-opens for spring, let us skip down to this haven of happiness, whose owner, Maggie Hilton, has reached the South East UK finals for the British sandwich designer of the year competition.

I have on a number of occasions been lucky enough to experience the Hilton touch, when Maggie and her husband, Ric, have very kindly shown me their unique style of hospitality.

I have always returned home a changed person, wanting nothing more in life than to weave daisy chains and sprinkle fairy dust all over the Island.

Unfortunately, what with one thing and another, the effect has somewhat worn off since my last visit, so I am delighted to learn the hotel is launching "bread and butterfly high teas" in the spring.

I am particularly looking forward to Maggie’s butterfly-styled sandwich, which will undoubtedly have me playing peekaboo with the pixies once more.

Coincidentally, sandwiches are also in the news after Maj Gen James Cowan banned them from an officers’ mess because soldiers were eating them with their hands.

"A gentleman or lady uses a knife and fork," he said, also advising that to hold either like a pen was "unacceptable".

This may or may not be what the Army regards as a joke (deeply worrying either way) but in any case, the dilemma won’t arise at the Enchanted Manor.

I shall be eating my butterfly-styled sandwich, not with anything so crude as a knife and fork, and certainly not with my hands, but with a teensy trident fashioned from mermaids’ tresses and golden shards of sunbeams.

And I shan’t hold it like a pen. I shall hold it very daintily between the tips of my fingers, as though Fairy Tinkerbell had alighted on my hand.

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