It’s that time of year again. Bits of straw stuck under the windscreen wiper blades and in the radiator grill. Broken branches in the middle of country roads. Snaking convoys of crawling commuters, each led by a tractor hauling a block of straw bales the size of a continent.
Now, I understand that farmers have to get the harvest in. But do they understand that the rest of West Lothian has to get to work, get home from work, catch trains and planes? Thousands of other road users are trying to take kids to school and keep hospital appointments.
Is the transportation of bales of hay on wheezing, crawling tractors with their daft wee flashing yellow light – but no brake lights or indicators – really so crucial? So crucial that it has to be done during rush hour? Surely not.
I was once caught in the Livingston to Edinburgh A71 commute. Trapped behind a tractor and trailer – a trailer so long it could have carried a couple of end-to-end oil rigs – that trundled its way from the Lizzie Bryce Roundabout in Livingston to Sighthill in Edinburgh. It travelled the entire distance at a speed of between 5 and 10 mph. No exaggeration.
Of course, it was morning rush hour so nobody could overtake on account of the ridiculous length of the trailer and the heavy traffic streaming in the opposite direction. And not once, not once mark you, did the driver pull over to let the traffic disperse on that entire journey.
That crawling queue stretched from Livingston to Edinburgh. But, hey, the farmer had somewhere to go – so stuff the rest of us. The only conclusion is that he, and the rest of his colleagues that insist on taking their crawling machinery onto the road at rush hour, must either be stupid, doing it on purpose, or thoughtless. You decide.
This has long appealed to me: finding out their view on the subject by driving into their fields and then crawling along at 1mph in front of their combine harvesters mile after mile while they are trying to get on with their work.
Okay, so my Volvo and I might end up crushed inside a hay bale. But at least I’d have made my point.