It's been rumbling on for over five months now. Mr. Dog is so stressed out he's threatening to send an e-mail to either Rolf Harris or the Rt. Hon Sadie. Even the most straight forward trip to town involves planning of military precision. Morning rolls or morning coffee; buying bread or brisket. The logistics of every journey have had to be evaluated in advance. On foot? By taxi? Escorted by sighted guide? And bear in mind this has been during a Scottish winter, when light quality is poor and weather bad.

And the reason for all this? An accident? An Asbo? Roadworks. Trenches, barricades and cones erupting around the town centre for a variety of reasons and at various times. Not always manned; not always secure; and what with vans, dumper trucks and other, noisy paraphenalia, encroaching well into the roadway. About the only things missing are sets of traffic lights. Perhaps motorists would find them confusing?

Whilst appreciating that there are occasions when Things Have to be Done, I wonder whether those who plan such projects ever consider those members of the public who cannot drive and for whom every excursion beyond their front door requires a great deal of concentration? If I'd been a white cane user, I doubt if I could have done any normal, daily journeys recently and, even with the sterling assistance of Mr. Dog, I've had to catch the attention of passing pedestrians on virtually every trip. A problem compounded by the fact that, on a winter's morning, with the town centre a chaos of drills and duckboards, pedestrians are a rarity. At my age, trying to catch the eyes of men in public places! Well, really! Confronted by a barrier, Mr. Dog knows he has to stop; wherever the pavement is blocked, or split by a gaping trench, he will only take me off the kerb when another person offers their assistance.

There's a lot more to restricted mobility than stiff joints and peching whenever one has to tack into anything over a Force 2. Theoretically, Mr. Dog and I can walk miles; left to my own devices, I can run up and down stairs; given suitable music and ambience, I can even execute a passable eightsome reel. However, I can just as easily trip over cats; stumble into furniture; bounce off a closed door. And all whilst traversing my own living room! Contrary to public perceptions, I have never acquired sonic navigation. I might share some characteristics with bats, but that ain't one of them!

And unfortunately, it's too much to hope that, when things eventually return to normal, navigation will be any easier. In those streets which appear to have been completed, tactile slabs have appeared but with a randomness which cannot be explained by either usage or decoration. Pavement promontories encourage pedestrians to totter towards approaching artics; blind faith assuming the drivers have the eyesight, ability and inclination to take avoiding action. And everywhere, but everywhere, rubble and grit is scattered all around. Apparently awaiting the Next Stage. Resurfacing the roads. When? No-one knows. It's classified, a state secret. Presumably to prevent it coinciding with the next invasion of Poland.

Technology provides substitutes for many activities, although often at a price. Talking books, accessible mobiles, bathroom scales which bellow one's weight to all within earshot. But, no matter how competent one's Guide Dog, nor one's expertise with hand held GPS, unaccompanied journeys, at least in unknown territory can be foolhardy. A day out, even in those Utopias where public transport exists, cannot be taken on a sudden whim. However, in my ain toon, is it too much to expect that Mr. Dog and I can go down the street without obstacle or hindrance?

As ecologists utter their warnings about increasing reliance on the internal combustion engine and petrol heids bemoan the rocketing price of fuel, spare a thought for those of us pounding the pavements in all weathers. Except, of course, when the Council has placed us under virtual house arrest because of yet another set of roadworks.

Ah well, since last October I've certainly made the acquaintance of a wheen of helpful folk. The ancient who, as he chivalrously escorted us around the barricades, announced to all and sundry that he'd finally nabbed a wumman. I'd obviously made his day, perhaps even his decade. And, on one particularly wet January morning, an extremely toty, wee and drookit workman who not only guided Mr. Dog and me around a trench worthy of the Somme, but also waited until we'd completed important transactions at the fish van thus ensuring our safe return. White knights are still out there, but, instead of shining armour and plumed helmets, they're probably wearing fluorescent jackets, hard hats or wee, woolly bunnets.

© Charlotte Bennie 2008