Trip, trap, trip, trap with tolls and trolls
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…