In a conversation I had with a colleague, it came to light that the British have another reason to be proud of their national heritage. As you may know, they were the nation that invented the queue. they take to the queue as ducks take to water, and queueticette is installed in their youth from the cradle. Not content with that, the British graduated in the 70s from simple linear queues to more complicated non-linear arrangements. It is arguable that modern operating systems would never had reached their current degree of multi-processing capabilities were it not for the British obsession for queueing.
We’re talking about the magic roundabout in Swindon. I have gone through the magic roundabout twice. Both times I went in accidentally and with trepidation, and came out elated and enthused. Perhaps that is the essence of many pieces of post-war British town planning. East Dumbarton is another example – I went in thinking I would get knifed and came out overjoyed about the fact that I didn’t.
I’m not sure such roundabouts would get built these days. The 70s in Britain were a time of regrowth and increased confidence, when we ‘never had it so good’. Filled with confidence, people knew it was OK to experiment and try new things – drugs, free-sex, rock-n-roll, roundabouts, whatever! Nowadays, such experimentation would never get off of the drawing-board. Not because of traffic flow analysis but because of the weaselly bean-counting tossers who are the secret police enforcing the modern day tyranny of the nanny-state. These people enforce a Maoist level of austerity on the British public in the name of ‘Health and Safety’, they are insurance brokers and health and safety officers.
FACT:You can’t have hanging baskets in public spaces any more, because they might fall on people’s heads!
FACT: A hanging basket has never actually fallen on anyones head in the UK. The premium increase is not founded on any actuarial analysis, therefore it must be based on a desire to remove hanging baskets from town centres.
CONCLUSION: Insurance Brokers and H&SE officers are effecting social change in a way that is gradual and hidden from view, and in a way that is profoundly negative.
In Britain we like to criticise the American’s for their litigious culture that turns ordinary professionals into timid cowards for fear of punitive legal measures. We have no reason to be conceited though – we are equally held to ransom by the insurance profession. They don’t take us to court, they raise our premiums. It deadens the spirit to even think about what levels of crawleyage have been perpetrated in the name of H&S.
Anyway, rant over. Hats off to the town planners of Swindon who had the courage to strike out against the lowest common denominator, to forge a path to the non-linear via the nirvana of roundabout confusion! The Swindon magic roundabout is a mandala, a traffic koan, a map charting the path to enlightenment and heaven on the highway of life.