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A Man of Few Words - by Swan Morrison

Adopt an Artefact

Dear Manager of the Roads and Highways Department,

Last year you wrote to all residents of this borough explaining that funding available for maintenance of roads, drainage etc. was insufficient to meet requirements due to financial cutbacks. You proposed the idea of ‘Adopt an Artefact’ whereby members of the public, such as myself, could adopt a section of road or sewer or perhaps an associated item such as a drain cover or traffic bollard.

I and many of my fellow senior citizens, anxious to help our community, stepped forward. I know my neighbour, Mrs Smith, has taken great pride in the paving slab she adopted - often inspecting and cleaning it. Mr Henderson, who lives across the road, has approached his road sign with great conscientiousness. I gather this extended to him taking appropriate measurements and informing you that it was, in fact, five miles to Watford and not six, as erroneously stated on the sign.

Regretfully, few of us read the small print of your eighty-four page adoption agreement in the detail with which, perhaps, we should have done. In particular in relation to the financial implications of adoption.

We understood that our initial outlay of one hundred pounds covered the cost of the photographs of ourselves next to our adopted artefact, our signed adoption certificates and a contribution to maintenance. Rather few of us, at the time, had grasped that we were personally responsible for ongoing maintenance costs. Initially, this was not a major problem to myself, as my adopted traffic lights required little more than a bulb every couple of months at a cost of around five pounds.

Mr Henderson was the first to identify a major difficulty with the scheme. Delighted as he was to see his sign replaced with one accurately reflecting the distance to Watford, he was greatly distressed to receive an invoice for 1,243.84 for the manufacture and erection of the new sign.

No one, of course, could have predicted that Mrs Ransome’s daughter would have jilted Mr Andrew’s son and the lad would have, as a result, consumed ten pints of lager and a bottle of Southern Comfort. Even less could one have predicted that Mr Evans would have left his JCB outside the pub with the keys in the ignition. The fact remains, however, that along with the other significant demolition undertaken that night, my traffic lights were crushed beyond repair.

It was thoughtful of your contractor to take the trouble to retain the damaged lights, pole and surrounding tarmac and return them to me as my property. As I live in a small, first floor, pensioner’s flat, however, these remains are now occupying much of my living space. Also the replacement cost of 8,724.41 represented my life savings, so I must now face an uncertain future surrounded by just photographs and mementoes of my family - and of course the remains of the traffic lights. I, therefore, give notice that I wish to withdraw from your Adopt an Artefact scheme.

Yours sincerely,

Alfred Wetherby.