Gerry Farrell: City wants proof it's to blame for potholes
BACK in January this year I told you how my tyre exploded after hitting a pothole on Great Junction Street en route to a meeting. It cost me Â£40 in taxi fares to get to the meeting and back and another Â£90 to buy a new tyre. I wasn't happy.
I went out with my can of pink paint and sprayed rings round the potholes so other drivers wouldn’t damage their cars. I phoned the council who said they’d send me a complaint form. They didn’t. Five days later, I checked the potholes. They were still there.
I phoned the council again reminding them that they hadn’t sent me a claim form or filled in the holes. A week later, Graeme Paget the area roads manager sent me a letter: “I refer to the notification of your accident claim... to enable me to process this claim I would ask you to complete the attached accident claim form and return it as soon as possible.”
I filled in the form and sent it the following day. A MONTH AND A HALF later, I received a letter from Gallagher Bisset, the council’s independent insurers, written by a lady called Gina McArthur. It said: “We handle claims for the council. They have passed us your claim. We will assess your claim on their behalf. This matter is receiving our attention. We will write to you shortly.”
A full week later, ten weeks after the accident, this bombshell dropped through my letter-box:
“Dear Mr Farrell, We write in reference to your claim and the above incident. We will offer compensation only if you can show the council legally has to. You must prove that the council was at fault. This usually means that you need to show the council did not take reasonable care, broke a contract, or did not follow a written law. The council must maintain certain roads and pavements. However, you are not likely to prove liability if they offer a reasonable inspection system to identify defects. At the last inspection of this location, no defects were noted. It was not known that had (sic) deteriorated prior to your incident occurring. Once the council were notified of this defect they made the necessary arrangements to instruct repairs. As the council has a reasonable inspection and repair system in place we do not consider they can be held responsible for this accident.
We sympathise with you however we are unable to offer you compensation. If you have any other evidence that you consider will assist your claim that has not already been considered please write to us with details.”
I had to re-read this letter four times to penetrate the gobbledey-gook. It seems that the council and Gallagher Bisset have cooked up a Catch 22. I need to be able to prove the council was notified of the pothole and did nothing about it. Otherwise, they claim they “operate a reasonable inspection system to identify defects.” To pursue this claim, I’ll have to pay £100 to use the Freedom of Information Act to make the council release its road inspection records before and after my accident. I’m so p***** off, I’ll do just that. Because this little get-out-of-jail scheme is a travesty of natural justice and hangs on the meaning of the word “reasonable”. My car ran into a pothole and it ruined my tyre. Great Junction Street was riddled with potholes before and after my accident. In what way is that NOT the council’s responsibility?
I’ve rejoined the pudding club
Last year, some familiar faces moved into our apartment block a couple of floors down from us. It was George and Pauline Kerr, former owners of The Edinburgh Club, one of the city’s best gyms. Some time ago, they moved to West Bowling Green Street Lane and re-branded as The Club.
George was way ahead of his time. He was the first gym-owner in Scotland to recognise that his market wasn’t muscle-men and gym bunnies who represent a fraction of the population. He decided to aim his advertising at the 95 per cent of us who don’t have perfect bodies – the people who would really benefit from a bit of exercise. So he told all the posers and weightlifter types on his books to leave. He said “I don’t want you in my club. You’ll just put off ordinary people.”
George asked my creative partner and I if we could help him with his ads. It was a great project. I think we were the first people to put lumpy, bumpy bodies in gym ads. There was an ad for Club biscuits on the telly at the time with a catchy jingle, “If you like a lot of chocolate on your biscuit join our Club.” That’s what our headline said over a rear view of a chubby young woman on an exercise bike. George had a big banner over the gym’s doorway that offered special deals but he said it wasn’t working. We made him a new one and hung it so that it drooped in two places, with the message “If you sag like this, come in.” George told us later that people came in off the street and asked to join because the banner made them laugh.
When they did join, they weren’t disappointed. George’s Club isn’t like those factory gyms where sleek young gym bunnies go to check each other out. The members are all shapes and sizes, in washed-out shorts and T-shirts. There’s personal training and hard work – but a lot of laughs too. When I came back to rejoin a fortnight ago with Zsuzsa, it was like meeting old friends. The same faces were there and it wasn’t long before fingers were getting poked in my belly and I was being roundly abused for the weight I’d put on.
George and Pauline are well past their 21st birthdays now but their passion for what they do is undimmed and the atmosphere in The Club is as friendly and fun as it ever was.
Spring has sprung
Kids are playing football in the park. The crocuses are out. At Leith Market last Saturday the sun was shining and people were listening to a guitarist belting out songs in his shirtsleeves.
For some reason a famous old New York poem popped into my head: “Spring has sprung/ The grass has riz / I wonder where the boidies is./ The little boids is on the wing/ Why that’s absoid. The wing is on the boid.”