The Plastic Hippo

May 5, 2011

On the road

Filed under: Politics,Walsall — theplastichippo @ 1:30 am

On this election day, Thursday 5 May 2011, regular readers of this humble blog might have gained the impression that the author regards the majority of politicians, be they local, national or global, as being something less than paragons of virtue.

Being incapable of constructing a coherent political argument of his own and finding the antics of the main and fringe political parties repulsive, the hippo has been content to bray from the sidelines, hurling bile and invective into the ether much to the chagrin of those unfortunate to come into contact with these loathsome rants. But, so calamitous is the state of our nation, borough and future, the hippo decided to take to the streets.

Even given the churlish proclivities of political organisations, there are still some MPs and councillors, both incumbent and aspiring, who are good people and take the responsibility of elected representation seriously. Others, and this is true of all parties, would rather try to climb the greasy pole of power and embrace publicity rather than accountability. In the week leading up to today’s election, the nasty water horse dragged his lazy carcass out of Hatherton Lake and delivered election leaflets door-to-door for some of the good people.

The political affiliations of these candidates is immaterial and the party being peddled is of no significance. Actually doing something other than simply voting was and is, the motivation and as far as the local election is concerned, something better change. The rich boys in Westminster can fight it out amongst themselves.

Thus, loaded down with leaflets, a billy can of tea and sackfuls of apprehension, the latest political foot soldier set off for unfamiliar parts of Walsall armed only with rehearsed responses to possible aggression and an honest opinion on local issues. Hardly one of the epic road trips undertaken by Jack Kerouac but, as it turned out, just as informative.

With the sun shining, previously unseen corners of this town could only be enjoyed on foot. Over several days, delightful green spaces, beautifully kept gardens and immaculate houses large and small offered an insight into the very nature of this town. The sense of community was palpable. Driving through those areas, or even passing on the bus will never be the same again.

There is, though, a downside to being a delivery boy. Letterboxes, toilets, gravel and dogs. The industrial strength, double-brush letterbox draught excluder is the work of the devil. Designed to keep birds out of jet engines and jet engines inside wind tunnels, these devices serve to crumple and shred anything inserted before it hits the mat. Some of these finger choppers had accompanying stickers requesting that all mail should be fully inserted in the interests of crime prevention. Fair point, but when affixed to a full glass panel front door displaying a weeks worth pile of free papers, pizza leaflets, kebab shop offers and the final demand for council tax payments that can be seen from space, the sticker seems, at best, superfluous. Some residents wish to measure the efficiency of delivery by placing large tubs of cacti directly in front of their letterboxes. Some had no letterboxes at all.

By noon on the first day, the tea from the billy can necessitated a visit to the little hippos room. The paucity of public urinals in Walsall came as something of a shock. Once you realise that you are just feet away from someone’s downstairs loo, the image of a dripping tap is difficult to shift and the only course of action was to visit a local hostelry for relief. Upon reflection, ordering a pint of best bitter was probably not a good idea.

Back on the beat, long gravel drives became the object of loathing. Razor sharp shards of Wales cut into already tender feet and although they may look pretty from an incoming BMW, gravel drives test the training shoe makers art.

But, by far and away the most frightening aspect of being a political postman is man’s best friend. Having to spend 45 seconds shredding a leaflet into an industrial strength, double-brush letterbox draught excluder gives enough notice to attack Pekingese and Rottweilers to inform them that finger is on the lunch menu. Some households displayed “beware of the dog” notices and they tended to be peaceful and had nice letterboxes. Others issued no warnings and the worst was the silent approach of something so huge that it seemed that Cerberus was about to burst out of Hades. Mercifully, this monster had only one head and the door frame just about held out. If only the beat poet had been there. Quick Jack Kerouac, give the dog a bone, this old hippo is rolling home.

These self-induced hardships are, however, nothing compared to the humanity of the people encountered. From double garaged twin gated mansions to tiny ex-council housing stock with a sad looking horse tethered in the front garden and the shell of a rusting Ford Mondeo on bricks, the good folks of Walsall acknowledged a sweaty, foot-sore hippo with a smile, humour and great courtesy. There was not a trace of the feared aggression or even a hint of suspicion. The people of Walsall are wonderful and they deserve a local administration that will serve them and defend them against the national attack dogs and the impending madness.

Knackered, the hippo submerges back into the water, uplifted by the experience. But next time, candidates, would it be easier to send the electorate an e-mail of a text?



  1. Here’s my list of new laws to be introduced in the first term of a Piper administration!

    Comment by Bob Piper — May 5, 2011 @ 6:46 am | Reply

  2. They might be a nice bunch on the whole, but my experience (as an ‘official’) on polling day suggests that about 90% of our good people didn’t have an effing clue what they were being asked to vote for.
    Most of them could cope with putting an X next to a name, but they did not have even a glimmer of an idea of what the referendum was about.
    I think that level of ignorance of the political process fully deserves the councillors it gets.
    I am very depressed.

    Comment by martin — May 8, 2011 @ 9:29 pm | Reply

  3. He he! Dick Worrall was lucky to meet the dog at the gate on her way home from a walk when he was delivering leaflets recently. If she’d been the other side of the door he may well have needed (a) stitches (b) a public convenience. In the spirit of your piece though, she has no favourites; she hates any bugger coming near HER front door. If people have the effrontery to shove something through the letterbox, it’s fair game to her. I think I’ll find myself explaining this when I come to sell my car and have to produce the log book.

    Comment by kate Goodall — April 27, 2012 @ 8:21 pm | Reply

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