A random post: I was listening to the Beatles Blue album in the car on Friday – the first time in years – and by chance my route to the M1 took me along Abbey Road, past the famous recording studios, and across the even more famous zebra crossing. I like seeing the crowds of tourists either side waiting to cross in synchronised groups of four, no-one quite sure if the rules of pedestrian crossings are active here or suspended in some kind of nostalgia-museum bubble. It’s a lovely blur of reality and hyper-reality; a magical time-capsule that can’t separate itself from the ordinariness of a London street.
As I drove across I was halfway through the track “A Day in the Life”, wondering about that line ‘four thousand holes in Blackburn Lancashire’. The memory would have passed, but I came across this report from the BBC today saying that because of the cold weather there are now 1.5 million potholes in Britain waiting to be repaired. And last year alone local government filled in 970,000 holes.
Institution of Civil Engineers vice-president Geoff French said the thaw could bring little respite, with drivers having to cope with increasing numbers of potholes. The continuous cycle of freezing and thawing – particularly on roads where long-term maintenance had been neglected – could break up road surfaces, he said. “Water gets into cracks in the road surface, it then freezes and expands the crack. Then more water gets in, it freezes because of the weather cycle we’re in and it steadily gets worse.”
This mind-boggling statistic led me back to John Lennon. Here is Terence Hollingworth’s account of the derrivation of the lyrics:
It was John Lennon’s idea to write this song by combining ideas taken from the newspapers. He and Paul scanned the Daily Mail for Jan 17th. 1967 and their eye caught the following short article: “There are 4000 holes in the road in Blackburn Lancashire, one twenty-sixth of a hole per person, according to a council survey. If Blackburn is typical then there are over two million holes in Britain’s roads and 300 000 in London.” There was no connection between this and another piece about the Albert Hall; it was just their imagination that made the link.
There are loads of other explanations and hypotheses about the Lancashire holes, as well as what it takes to fill the Albert Hall, on this same page. This is not meant to be a deep post (yesterday’s quotations from Umberto Eco will suffice for a few days), but you can find some references here to British culture, the meaning of holes, and the Tibetan Book of the Dead…