By “The Photographer’s Assistant”
Flashes of steel, juddering and shivering, pointing west, are on the horizon. If you stand very still at a safe distance you will hear the roar and almost feel that juddering progress. The heat will shimmer and engulf you. It is awesome, something terrifying and beyond control and it is passing through Dartmoor fringes, the modern touching and singeing the old ways.
For eight to ten weeks, the A30 and behind it, the M5 will become the magnificent and amazing Atlantic Highway delivering a large proportion of the British population to the Western Coast of England. It will totally transform the area. It will bring other ways, other culture to our countryside.
The photographer became totally involved in this great flow when making a casual visit to a relative. Normally, we admit, we avoid it all and wait for it to pass. We sit out the great flow self righteously in our garden. The photographer decided he was right to avoid it all after an Australian threatened to “ punch his lights out“ on a narrow lane.
We were very taken with the highway experience though. We were like a native people who suddenly come upon chocolate or whisky. We loved it. There were hatched sports cars, a sort of Top Gear chocolate selection, Ferraris, Porsches, Aston Martins and some we had only seen on TV.
There were huge gleaming trucks of the American sort, all steel and chrome and metal piping, just glinting in the sun, shining at speed. There were small vans, vulnerable and about to breath their last, with just one last camping trip left in them.
There were pasty vans returning to the factory, where demand is booming.
There were cars, past their prime, with students on board, cars overwhelmed with pillows and folding seats stuffed right up to the ceiling.Who wants to go home to mum and dad when you can travel the Great Highway and use a dangerously old surf board and be a dude who sleeps on the beach.
There were frail elderly people, who would be enlivened by a walk along the edge of the sea. There were people who could stay at posh Atlantic hotels and dream of California, and people who really couldn’t afford to go but were going anyway.
Sometimes, they have to stop on the way. They have travelled from Liverpool, or Scotland, or some other vast distance away. They need the loo, a bar of sweet chocolate, the F.T. or; heaven forbid, they ring the office.
We natives are overwhelmed. We never knew such shorts and clothing existed, or that people could drape themselves around a mate at such a strange angle or that a child could have such fun rolling down the hill at the service station. For a moment all of human life is here, but then it all vanishes. The purpose is to get to the sea, whatever else is going on, its the main and only purpose.
All sorts of transport, all sorts of people ride the Great Highway. I have been to California, an extravagant trip with the photographer. I can absolutely tell you that the great Western Coast will be very much like it. There will be beautiful cliffs and wonderful never ending beaches.The beauty of the blue sea will really take your breath away and you will have had the most amazing experience amongst your fellow citizens on the way.
Keep looking out to infinity for there on the other side of this vast and magnificent sea will be the great United States of America, where some of our ancestors intrepidly set off to, all that time ago. They too were seeking something awesome. We all have to give in. We are drawn to the West whenever we get the chance, so a great big vote of thanks to the Great Atlantic Highway, which will take you there.