This summer it will be 55 years since The Beatles blew my mind with Sgt Pepper.

Actually, most people had their minds blown by it, but for a then six-year-old boy like me, it was, in a very literal sense, awesome, with lyrics such as: ’I read the news today, oh boy/4,000 holes in Blackburn, Lancashire.’


I had never even heard of Blackburn before, nor the Albert Hall, which we were reliably informed you could fill with 4,000 holes.

Later I discovered it was inspired by a newspaper report about potholes in the road, and John Lennon’s strange but brilliant lyrics were reputedly fuelled by a banned substance.

But if you think his masterpiece was a way-out fantasy, it pales alongside the idea that the holes in Swindon’s roads have been magically filled overnight.

That was more or less the boast of Swindon Borough Council when they informed Twitter, recently, that they had filled all but 19 of the town’s potholes (to quote the tweet directly: ’just 19… Think about that’).

So I did, and by my reckoning, the truth is there are far more than 19 potholes in Swindon, and even Blackburn’s 4,000 doesn’t cover it.

In fact, as both a motorist and a keen cyclist, who spends more time than nearly anybody else in Swindon looking at the cratered surface of the road in front, I think you can probably add three noughts to the figure.

That’s right: I haven’t counted them all, but I reckon there must be 19,000 holes in Swindon, Wiltshire.

So what’s going on?

Well, the easiest way to win a match you are losing - in this case against potholes - is to move the goalposts.

Whereas you and I might talk about potholes these days being all those that jolt your car or threaten to throw you out of your saddle, in Swindon they only count if they are at least 4cm deep.

So it is easy to make the number whatever you want, just by changing the definition, and you could even get it to zero if ‘pothole’ means one the size of the Albert Hall.

Not that Swindon Borough Council are the only ones at it.

If you visit the Road Surface Treatments Association website, you will find there is a national scandal about ‘cash-strapped local authorities’ who ‘may move the goalposts in order to try to save money by not repairing smaller potholes.’

I don’t know about you, but my intelligence is insulted whenever someone suggests that what I can clearly see with my own eyes must be wrong, so I am asking them - again in the words of John Lennon - to GIMME SOME TRUTH.

Which brings us to Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell’s futuristic novel, and appropriately one of Lennon’s favourite books, where you will find the following extract.

‘The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command. His heart sank… and yet he was in the right!’