Chinese Puzzle at The Crossroads (24 January 1975)
I am obliged to my friends, Leslie Stevens and Ron Staniford, for their laudable attempt to put me right out about the centuries and quarter-centuries. I understand their argument, of course, having used it myself in 1950 and possibly also in 1925, when I, too, considered myself a sharp-witted lad.
I now think differently, however. I think that “AD” began during a period that can best be described as the year 0 – from which all else follows. Certain it is that, rightly or wrongly, the bells will ring for the next new century at the beginning of the year 2000, not 2001; and who am I to gainsay the popular conception?
Incidentally, the matchsticks were used to prop my eyes open and not as an abacus . . .
And now to other matters.
An event occurred at the year-end which must not be allowed to pass unnoticed. This was the retirement of Mr Jim White, of Tattenhoe Lane, Bletchley, after 47 years in the clerical department of the LBC. Apart from his work and also apart from his notable contribution to the success of the firm’s sports and social club, he is known far and wide as a player and administrator of the game of bowls.
Tributes were paid to him at a presentation dinner. To these I now add my own and hope he will enjoy many more years as “hard on the track of the little white jack he merrily goes a-bowling.”
I notice that good progress is now being made with Bletchley ‘s defences against the motor car. A further rash of double yellow lines and white stripes bespatters the area. There is a Chinese puzzle at the Water Eaton crossroads which tempts half the traffic to use Chestnut Crescent instead. Mystic bollards have been installed at the Shoulder of Mutton crossroads. Whaddon Way traffic is to be forbidden to turn right onto the Watling Street.
Soon, all that will be needed to complete the job will be large notices at strategic points announcing “Abandon hope all ye that enter here.”
But never mind. We on the west can still use Winslow . . .
Talking about roads, we are now so used to the route of the M1, we little realise is might well have taken some other line.
The Abercrombie Report of 1944 – from which the special development of this district as part of a general London dispersal scheme originally sprang – contained various new road proposals.
One of these was for what was called a Birmingham radial all-motor road, passing through North Bucks at a point midway between Bletchley and Buckingham.
The proposal held until 1947. Then the Minister of Town and Country Planning issued a memorandum on the report. In it, the Minister provisionally accepted a plan for 40,000 population at Bletchley, among other similar plans elsewhere. He also placed the road much further east in its initial stages, making it pass between Hemel Hempstead and St Albans and then between Dunstable and Luton.
The Gazette commented: “The line of this route – though not shown in detail outside the Greater London radius – would appear to bring it very close indeed to Bletchley; and that, with the expansion of Bletchley in view, may well be the intention.”
Evidently the Gazette expected the road to proceed in a continuous curve to Birmingham, the idea of a new general north road with a branch to Birmingham not having been publicly mooted at that time. But there seems no doubt that the initial stages of the M1 had their origin in the revised Birmingham motors-only road proposal of 1947.
When the M1 came into being its greatest effect on Bletchley was to reduce A5 traffic to a trickle of its former proportions. The positioning of the new city, however, owes a very great deal to it, and it is interesting to speculate where, if at all, the city would have been placed if the motorway had passed between Bletchley and Buckingham instead.