I had to drive to Exeter today for the third time this week. Anyone familiar with North Devon will know that we are cut off from the rest of the county (and indeed, the world) because we have no decent roads or rail network. The closest resemblance to a major road is the North Devon Link Road (A361) running between Barnstaple and Tiverton. This is a single carriage highway with occasional stretches of overtaking lane on the steeper hills. The maximum speed limit is 60mph, in fact that is the maximum speed limit in the whole region.
The views along the road are stunning: farmland, Exmoor and open country with only the occasional house; I used to wonder at the fact that I was being paid to drive up and down it in my working days. However, it is one of the most dangerous roads in Devon with a high number of accidents. Those who planned the road in the late 1980s did not imagine that easing access to the coast would encourage more visitors to the area. Well, they are not paid to use imagination, are they? So, they condemned us to long tail-backs behind tractors, caravans and ancient camper vans and frustrated drivers take dreadful risks in trying to overtake them.
Outside the holiday season, we may lose the caravans but the tractors are ever present as are the Glumphs. I first encountered Glumphs around 1970. They were middle-age men who wore flat caps (sometimes trilby hats), smoked pipes and drove Austin A40 cars.
If the speed limit was 30mph, the Glumph would drive at 25. As he approached a section of road where one might safely overtake, he would put his foot down to prevent you from passing and then slow down again when the opportunity had been lost. He always used hand signals as well as indicators and usually his car would be fitted with brown nylon seat covers.
This morning, I drove behind the modern Glumph. This creature drives a Nissan at 32mph in a 40mph limit and 52mph on the Link Road. He drives close to the crown of the road to prevent overtaking, speeds up on the short stretches of dual carriageway so that he can stay ahead and brakes sharply when the lanes merge into one again.
My murderous feelings towards the Glumph blocking my progress this morning were assuaged somewhat when Sounds of the Sixties came on the radio. Singing along with The Dennisons (Walkin' the dog), Joanne and the Streamliners (Frankfurter Sandwiches) and The Sandpipers (Guantanamera) took me right back to those days when I used to follow the old A40 Glumphs in my first car - this beloved Ford Anglia.