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The feeling is mutual too. When my friend Clement saw me reading a book about the M25, he laughed. “Only an Englishman would buy a book about a motorway that everyone hates!” he chuckled.

This is a man whose hometown has an annual festival dedicated to a local breed of potato.

In any case, motorways are important as M1: The Road That Made Britain (Channel 5) pointed out. When our first motorway was declared open, by our disapproving Transport Secretary Ernest Marples on November 2, 1959, it was the first national road built in these isles since the Romans left.

You had to wonder why and if it had something to do with the foreigners.

Obviously, no one still bore a grudge about those Romans coming over here with their roads and aqueducts.

Not far away though a screechy little man with a bad hairdo had reinvigorated his country with a massive plan of public works, whose star turn was the autobahn.

Maybe we had to leave it a decade before borrowing an idea from the Nazis.

At any rate, Ernest Marples’s opening speech at Watford Gap was a weird affair, beginning with the observation that motorways could be a force for good, or a force for evil.

What on earth did Ernest mean? Was it a sideswipe at Hitler’s autobahn?

Had Ernest just had an awful pie at Watford Gap services?

As it turned out, the era of the awful pies was yet to come.

The first facilities on the M1 were so modern and groovy that people actually drove out to them for dinner.

In the Sixties, Blue Boar (to give Watford Gap services its rightful title) was such a transit point for up-and-coming bands on tour that people would flock there for a glimpse of The Kinks and The Rolling Stones and poor Jimi Hendrix heard so much buzz about the place he wondered why no one had booked him to play there.

Love or loathe the M1, you couldn’t help but enjoy this charming stretch of social history and a feel a little proud that those early motorists took to their new road with such glee.

People were actually disgruntled when the M1 didn’t go through their peaceful rural valleys and so giddy about driving on it that they would stop on the hard shoulder for picnics.

Remember that next time you sense the seconds of your life ticking away in a single lane near Junction 10. In line-up terms, new sitcom Hang Ups (C4) could hardly go wrong.

Written by and starring Stephen Mangan, with cameos from Richard E Grant and Charles Dance, it’s got a lot of acting oomph behind it and every great comedy depends on that.

It’s a clever set-up too, with Mangan’s character Richard Pitt pitching up as an online psychotherapist using his laptop and most of the action taking place on screens.

You’re never short of gags or innuendo where therapy is concerned and when you combine that with a chaotic household of teenagers and a main man clearly bluffing his way out of one nightmare into the next, you ought to have comedy dynamite.

I didn’t sense anything fizzing last night though let alone any bangs but maybe, like therapy, it takes time.


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