Put your foot down and close your eyes

PUBLISHED: 10:33 26 June 2006 | UPDATED: 11:05 22 October 2010

The revamped Thickthorn roundabout, at the junction of the A11 and the Norwich southern bypass, has received a major accolade from the UEA's School of Penguins, Chess and Road Surfacing.

The revamped Thickthorn roundabout, at the junction of the A11 and the Norwich southern bypass, has received a major accolade from the UEA's School of Penguins, Chess and Road Surfacing.

Professor Ian “Sam” Aufmerksam announced yesterday that the brave new roundabout was “without doubt a huge step forward” in road safety and “pretty much on a par with the justly famous Hardwick roundabout at King's Lynn”.

Those leaving Norfolk by the western back door, as Lynn is sometimes known, were for years familiar with the frisson of excitement as they emerged at the other side of the Hardwick roundabout, having negotiated it successfully against all the odds.

“All the key elements of the Hardwick have been absorbed at Thickthorn,” said Prof Aufmerksam excitedly. “There is the surprise of having to change lanes when you least expect it, the nagging doubts about which lane you should actually be in, the pointless traffic lights, and the sudden convergence of narrow lanes which may or may not be an illusion.

“If you were to go round Thickthorn with your eyes shut - which is probably your best bet - you would be convinced you were at King's Lynn. You could almost say that Thickthorn was the Hardwick reborn - or reloaded!”

He admitted that the dual carriageway flyover at Thickthorn was a bit disappointing compared with the exciting single-carriageway one at King's Lynn, but he hoped this could be rectified at some point in the future. He pointed out that many dual carriageways were in fact being downgraded, with cross-hatching, cones and laughable speed limits making them little different from single-carriageways.

“It can only get better,” he said. “I just hope whoever designs it gets the knighthood he or she deserves - or at least a private room in hospital.”

t A leaked document obtained by this page reveals that, in an exciting breakthrough in children's services, Norfolk County Council has decided to claw back from schools money that has been allocated to teaching.

According to the document, a lot of time is being wasted in setting up classes of children and giving them lessons.

This is described as a “gross waste, when we could be questioning them closely to see if they're happy, sorting out their family life, prescribing a correct diet and stopping them indulging in dangerous activities like playing”.

Spokesman Len “Kissme” Hardy, a former comet chaser and whole food chef from Hindolveston, said that many people were under the illusion that schools should teach children academic things, like maths.

“Children know best what they need to learn,” he said. “They can pick most of it up from television. We need to give them life skills, so that they can reduce their carbon footprints, drive extremely slowly and drop litter more selectively.

“We especially want them to spend money as soon as they've got it. You can get into an awful lot of trouble by saving for the future.”

t Following news that the Greater Manchester speed camera partnership has been slammed by the Advertising Standards Authority for publishing a booklet containing inaccurate information and denigrating legitimate critics, the Pondhenge Speed Camera Partnership, based somewhere in North Norfolk, has received an award for a totally accurate leaflet about its activities.

“We thought it was about time we came clean,” said PSCP chief executive the Rev Nicholas Reppscumbastwick, a radical cleric.

“The cameras were a fantastic deal financially, and there didn't seem any harm in getting people to slow down. Admittedly hardly any accidents are caused just by people exceeding the speed limit, but if there were, they would obviously cost the NHS something, though we don't know what.”

The leaflet, entitled We Know Where You Live, admits that 90 per cent of accidents are caused by driver error, and motorists are not entitled to a fair trial. “Where would we be if they could get a fair trial?” asked Mr Reppscumbastwick.

The leaflet suggests that drivers pay close attention to what they are doing, avoid making eye contact with passengers and, preferably, stay awake.

But it falls short of changing its basic tactics. “If you exceed the speed limit for any reason we shall do our best to catch you,” it says. “It's what we do.”

t Unlike readers of a more nervous disposition, I do occasionally buy things on the Internet. As a rule I have no problems, but the other week I ran into the kind of computer response that almost convinces you that the world of website designers has been infiltrated by aliens, or possibly great crested newts.

I attempted to buy someone a present. All the gaps were filled in successfully, including my credit card details, and I pressed “Submit”.

There was a short, not very exciting pause, and then the following message appeared, in red: "Problem communicating with bank during authorisation.”

This, of course, is exactly what you want to see. It is also undoubtedly one of the more memorably useless messages I have ever received from a computer in English.

It might tell me what had happened, but I didn't need to know that. What I needed to know was what I should do next.

Wait? Try again? Reboot? Make a cup of tea? Call my bank? Call their bank? Play Minesweeper? Throw something?

In the end I decided to abort, but then I thought … maybe I had bought something by mistake? Or not bought something by mistake?

I contacted the company whose website it was, and luckily, my e-mail was received by a human being, who could not have been more efficient. Shortly afterwards, the owner of the company e-mailed me to apologise. That's what I call service. I knew what to do next.

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