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Opinion: let's get pensioners to (voluntarily) fix potholes

Have we stumbled upon a solution to a nationwide epidemic?

Published: 21 Aug 2023

Seismic motoring news from my home county of Cornwall, where this month a pothole filling vigilante pensioner hit the headlines, thus giving me the happy chance to use the phrase ‘pothole filling vigilante pensioner’.

Here’s the story. In the (very) small, (very) quiet country town of Lostwithiel, there was a pothole. A massive pothole. Fifteen feet across and more than a foot deep, some say. Early this year, the locals told the council of this pothole. The council closed the road. But the council did not fix the pothole.

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So, after several months of roady closey but no pothole fixy, an incognito local pensioner took it upon himself to fill the chasm himself, and at his own expense. “I spent seven hours and £1,000 hiring the equipment, and buying materials,” he informed the Daily Mail, on condition of anonymity.

A generous, public minded gesture, you might think. The council was less impressed. It responded by reclosing the road, publicly reprimanding the undercover road mending retiree, and urging the local community to turn him in.

The council’s beef, it seems, is that the work wasn’t carried out professionally. But surely a hole filled with concrete, however imperfectly, is still better than a hole filled with... nothing?

Lostwithiel’s bitumen Batman isn’t the only OAP in the freelance pothole patching game. Rod Stewart (77, extraordinary hair) was last year photographed picking up the shovel to fix the craters on his local street. Tarmac tidying pensioners: they’re everywhere!

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And here’s the point. The authorities shouldn’t be battling this epidemic. They should be embracing it. We have an ever increasing number of potholes. We have an ever increasing number of pensioners. Pensioners want to contribute to society. Society hates potholes. Let’s hit up this supply with this demand!

To be clear, I’m not thinking, like, national service. Forcing nanas into gruelling roadwork is the sort of policy even Vlad Putin might consider a bit punchy. But how about a proper, voluntary, nationwide scheme: training, high-vis jackets, industrial quantities of Rich Tea biscuits?

Great way for our often isolated older generation to get out the house and in conversation with the youth. Possibly conversations that begin with, “Grampy Joe, is that our cat under all that wet concrete?” and end with a bawling child, but still, a chat’s a chat.

And, if you think about it, there are many synergies between pensioners and pothole workers. Both enjoy a sturdy fleece jacket. Neither like to rush through a project. Both drink a lot of tea. And what is a ride-on road roller if not a heavy duty mobility scooter?

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Forget Dad’s Army. It’s time for Grandad’s (Road Maintenance) Army: fixing our nation’s generational divide, and crappy roads, one pothole at a time.

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