Trip, trap, trip, trap with tolls and trolls

Harefield Gazette - - OPINION -

I WAS due to meet up with friends at a Premier Inn in Sut­ton Cold­field; that evening we planned to eat at the pub next door – a Siz­zling Steak.

Af­ter a busy week I wasn’t sure I could siz­zle, and didn’t want steak, but if I could get my head down for 40 winks be­fore we all met up, I was con­fi­dent it would all work out well.

On the M6, singing loudly with Adele while eat­ing a ba­nana and keep­ing one eye on the loom­ing rain clouds; I clearly wasn’t pay­ing enough at­ten­tion and ended up (thanks, Sat­nav) on the dreaded Toll Road.

I had been vaguely aware that most of the traf­fic in front of me had turned off at the pre­vi­ous junc­tion, but had as­sumed there must be a big event on at the NEC.

Trapped on the toll road’s beau­ti­fully man­i­cured sur­face, with only a taxi in the dis­tance, I felt I was in a Stephen King story. Have you seen Duel, where a lone mo­torist is stalked by an ap­par­ently driver­less tanker truck?

Then the story of Billy Goats Gruff came to mind. Re­mem­ber the hideous crea­ture who de­manded pressies from them be­fore they could cross his bridge?

Be­fore I could scare my­self with any more lit­er­ary ref­er­ences, I ar­rived at a kiosk where the notice said I had to pay £4. There wasn’t a sin­gle hu­man be­ing, an­i­mal or ro­bot to greet me, but I quickly worked out that I could chuck the money into a metal mouth which swal­lowed it up.

More of a Troll road than a toll road …

Tales from an old Hack, about 20 years in jour­nal­ism and re­cent foray into books, was the sub­ject of my talk to the Univer­sity of the Third Age (South Hilling­don).

Asked by one mem­ber about the orig­i­nal mean­ing of hack, I could only say it wasn’t a par­tic­u­larly at­trac­tive term for a journo.

Mr Google ex­plains that it orig­i­nally re­ferred to writ­ers who could churn out any­thing, for money and at short notice.

Terry Pratch­ett, told he’d done well for a for­mer hack – al­lud­ing to his be­gin­nings on a news­pa­per – replied proudly: “I’m still a hack.”

Noth­ing stands still, and in re­cent years Pri­vate Eye has re­claimed the term ‘hack’ and ‘hack­ette’ to de­scribe male and fe­male news­pa­per writ­ers.

And trolls have moved on to cor­rupt so­cial net­works…

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