The Middle of the M62
My dad once told me a story. We were traveling home from visiting family in the North.
It is a story that to this day has stuck in my head, it remains there like a stain on a badly washed mug. I remember he told me about a man whose home was in the middle of the motorway, an island on the M62. It was right between the Eastbound and Westbound carriageways, from Liverpool to Hull, via Manchester and Leeds.
The man hadn't always lived in the middle of the motorway, no. Well, I mean well yes he has always lived there, in that house, but the motorway hasn't always exist.
What I mean to say is the motorway was built around him. The tarmac was laid around his home, like piles of biscuits. Bourbon biscuits or custard creams, pulled open and lay out in layers, cream, biscuit, biscuit, cream, repeat. Like the first time I made lasagna, I couldn't get my head around the layering process -was it pasta or sauce first? Red or white?
When the motorway was being built the motorway man refused to move, no amount of money, no pay offs from the council or motorway authorities would get him to pack up his belongings and move out. It just wasn't happening. You couldn't build a motorway right through someone's living room.
I wondered from my Dads story how on this was possible, I had a lot of questions to ask. Like where did the motorway man park his car? and how did he get out of his house, especially in rush hour traffic, because surely crossing the motorway by foot was not possible?
And what would happen when there was an accident and the traffic piled up next to his house, could the people sitting in cars look through his window and watch him eating his dinner? Spying on him from the road side.
I was also seriously concerned about what this motorway mans diet was like, surely the service stations around his house were not the most adequate to provide sustainable meals, exclusively purchased from WHSmiths. Packets of winegums, tangfastics, cans of fanta orange, and BLT sandwiches weren't really a good diet (I'm basing these suggestions on what my Dad would bring back from the service station, and the food wrappers that I would find lining the floor of his Scirocco.) The motorway man would at least have fairly good access to McDonalds and Burger King. And if he is still there now maybe he could access an M&S simply food, Costa or Starbucks, perhaps even a drive through, or maybe he could get some sort uber eats delivered to his door.
I kept on worrying about motorway man - how did he dry his washing? Surely all the fumes from the cars would stop his white washing being white, instead with carbon deposits lining his bed sheets. And I also was concerned about any pets he might have - how would motorway man walk a dog or let the cat out?
And how would he get his car out on to the motorway, surely he would have to drive laps around his house so he could build up enough speed, to get up to 70mph, then when he finally got up to 70 he could exit the track and speed straight on to the tarmac, of course he would have to time this perfectly with the movement of traffic. and then when it came to coming off the motorway and parking back up by his house, now that would require some sort of giant wire attached to the back of his car which could loop onto a big strong hook and slow him right down, just like the ones which airplanes use in order to stop them crashing into things.
Now to keep on going about my concerns, but you see I was a very concerned child! I remember thinking how lonely it would be to live in a house with so many people speeding past, in multiple directions, every single hour of every single day you would see someone, even if it was only for a second. The motorway man was totally isolated from the environment that surrounded him. he was living on an island, the indoor part of an outside world.
My Dad told me the motorway man was so angry about the motorway being built he protested, he sat upon his roof and blasted out music to deter the contractors, sort of in a reverse John Cusack in Say Anything style boom box serenade, hoping your arms don't get too tired, the battery doesn't run out and Dianne comes back to you. Hopeful, but not too desperate. The contractors grew sick of the motorway mans musical efforts and decided to build around him, turning his home into an island, marooning him in a swamp of metal particles.
I did a bit of research into the story of the motorway man, if I'm totally honest I hoped I wouldn't find any information about him, and that the idea would remain as a phantom story. Some sort of new-age fable about how being stubborn was a bad or perhaps a good thing.
But some goggling took place and I found out about the motorway man. He wasn't how I had imagined him to be, he wasn't stubborn or persistent. he wasn't just a motorway man, he lived on a farm on the motorway, and i guess that makes him a motorway farmer?
Anyway, I found out that the motorway wasn't built around him because he refused to move. The road was built to fit with the lay of the land - the land was too wet for the road to be built on and it made sense structurally to build the road like this.
In a way, describing the land to have a fault seems a little sad to me. Its almost like we are blaming the land for being the cause of the problem here, and in the context of the word fault, the earths crust has a crack, or a fracture and that somehow makes the ground wet. So the six lanes of motorway traffic were split, 3 lanes going east and 3 lanes going west, with the motorway man living on a island in the middle.
As well as being a farmer, the motorway man took on other duties - he towed away vehicles where the drivers had crashed, one case saw a man suffer a heart attack whilst driving his car, and he drove straight into the farmland. The motorway man was able to help those who became stuck, they would use his phone to make calls when they had broken down, from their car they'd cross over the hard shoulder, jump the fence and walk straight up to the farm.
I also found out that it wasn't the motorway man who protested about the construction with angry music from the roof of his home, it was in fact another farmer who was angry about the M62. And it was either rock music or pop music that he played, one source said it was specifically The Who, and I kinda hope it was The Who, and maybe he played Baba O'Riely.