Written by Laura Lexx

Misc

An Ode to a Road: The M25

Continuing her mission to cover Standard Issue in Tarmac, Laura Lexx puts the M25 firmly in her full beam.

Stuck in traffic

Illustration by Louise Boulter.

I once met a woman who lived in Greenwich and who had never heard of the M25. At the time I thought, “Whoa! How weird!”

Eleven years of driving later and I think she might just have been the luckiest woman in the world.

Most motorways are roaring strips of angry, speeding tarmac and blurred vistas; the M25 is a place for quiet contemplation and relaxation, as you inevitably sit comfortably for a few hours in the middle of your journey. It’s really hard to see why the M25 isn’t brilliant; who would have thought that making every major motorway in the country flow in and out of one circular road surrounding the biggest city on the island wouldn’t work?

I live in Brighton and travel anywhere I’m told to on any given day. This means I use the M25 for 99 per cent of my journeys, except for that shadowy place up top between the M1 and the M11. I never go there; I heard they have hyenas and pagans and stuff.

The M25 has none of the majesty of its motorway brethren; it’s a perfunctory sprawl of problems and self-importance. The best views, in my humble opinion, can be found on the clockwise route between about Junction 6 and Junction 2 where the hills and the trees almost make you feel less like crying.

The shape of the M25 makes it a perfect metaphor for life: expensive, cyclical and everyone else is guaranteed to have a better car than you.

The M25 can be divided into two main traffic jams; the anticlockwise Dartford issue that usually stretches from junction 2 to 31a, and the clockwise fuckpit that is Junction 11 for Chertsey round to Junction 16 for the M40. The saving grace of 11-16 being at a constant standstill is that – as those who have briefly been above 30mph on it will know – the road surface is akin to a Lego brick with acute acne. Should you be blessed with the ability to move you will immediately assume someone has removed your tyres and you’re now driving over broken bones on your rims.

“The M25 has none of the majesty of its motorway brethren; it’s a perfunctory sprawl of problems and self-importance.”

God forbid they decide to resurface though. I think we could all live without nine years of road closures. Until the Highways Agency learns that unsupervised cones cannot fix a road on their tod, I will chatter my teeth to worn down nubs and replace the suspension in my car daily before suggesting we introduce more roadworks to the UK network.

As far as service stations go, the M25 is blessed with four:

South Mimms is somewhere up in that abyss I am unfamiliar with; I can only assume the White Walkers are delighted with the latte selection on offer.

Thurrock exists in the post-Dartford haze over by Junction 31 and must, I assume, have an almost continual flood of people shamefully shuffling around Costa wondering if they’ll ever get over the fact they have just peed on their passenger seat through sheer desperation.

Clacket Lane is down at about the 5pm position and was, embarrassingly, quite an obsession of mine as a teenager. Yes, mate, there is a band called Clacket Lane and, yes, mate, I did buy several of their EPs.*

The remaining service station, sitting at the 7pm slot, is Cobham. Cobham is well worth a visit and was my second choice wedding venue.

If you drive long distance in the UK then the M25 is as unavoidable as obesity and your own eventual death while trying to force a white Land Rover driver into the vacant left hand lane using swear words and your own vehicle. It’s one of life’s necessary evils and as such should be entered into with a calm, resigned frame of mind. You need deep breathing, yogic mantras and a wish for peace towards all your fellow road users…

Until you get to that bit up by the M40 where all the Oxfordshire dickheads use the slip road as a way to undertake the queue and skip 45 minutes of traffic. Then you need a shot gun. And some chocolate biscuits.

*As a disclaimer, I will say that if you grow up in Somerset and the M5 to Birmingham is about as far as you travel, then the M25 and London sounds GREAT. And, if you’re heavily into Radio 2 because you’ve already decided modern music isn’t for you (Clacket Lane classics such as Sunswallower and Moon Man notwithstanding), then you will hear a lot from Lynne Bowles or Sally Traffic about queues of traffic somewhere near something excellent sounding called Clacket Lane. Ah, Clacket Lane! Sounds like the home of Tiny Tim; a quaint cobbled lane with a rickety wooden bridge over a river with swans… not quite. But it does have a noodle bar, so… so that’s good.

@lauralexx

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Written by Laura Lexx

I am a comedian, writer, baker and glorious feminist. I am nothing if not enthusiastic about everything. @lauralexx