Graham Carter - the voice of age and experience

I have just returned from a short fact-finding visit to Belgium, which is possibly my favourite country in the whole world.

After all, you have to love a country that leads the world in chocolate making, and if there is one thing they are even better at making than chocolate, it’s beer.

I would even go so far as to say they are the only nation in the world capable of producing proper beer (ie, not lager) that slips down your throat as nicely as a glass of Arkell’s.

So one of our reasons for going there was to sample the beer, but we also went to watch a bit of cycling, over the border in Holland.

And don’t believe my wife who has, rather unkindly, been going round saying I was there to put the twerp into Antwerp.

Apart from an unexplained and unapologetic three-hour delay at the entrance to Eurotunnel on the way back, the journey went smoothly, with I and my friend, who was driving, spending much of it trying to work out why the roads on our side of the Channel are so much more congested and have so many more potholes than over there.

This turned out to be rather topical because last week this paper carried an interesting report on potholes, which you may have read.

Back in 1967 a Beatles song said there were “4,000 holes in Blackburn, Lancashire”, which was a reference to a real newspaper report at the time.

Even though I haven’t counted them all, I reckon there are currently 4,000 holes in Swindon, Wiltshire, which is much higher than the 164 the report said a cycling organisation had counted.

As a cyclist myself, I am surprised their number is so inaccurate, because when you are on two wheels you get to know where every hole and bump are, since any one of them has the capacity to put you over your handlebars or bounce you into the path of a lorry.

I feel as though I know all of Swindon’s potholes intimately, and when the report carried a picture illustrating one of them, I instantly recognised it as one in Northern Road that I have to dodge several times a week.

Another old friend is a sunken drain cover in Great Western Way, which I have to avoid in the car on a regular basis, so when readers were advised how to report such things, I got on the council website and reported that one.

If I had a lot more time on my hands I could fill out similar reports for all the other holes I find on my travels, such as the dozens along the Western Flyer cycle route and the many others you discover when you are pedalling around town.

Swindon may be blessed with an extensive cycle network, but your bum wouldn’t thank you for riding it without big tyres and suspension.

We needn’t worry too much, though, because the country roads outside the town are even worse, including those that don’t get much heavy traffic.

It’s not a problem they seem to have in Belgium or Holland, nor Croatia, which we visited last year, and where they probably don’t even have a word for pothole because as far as we could see, they don’t have any.

As with many things these days, expectations here seem to be rather lower than they are in the rest of Europe.

Credit where it’s due, though.

I quickly received an email and then a phone message from a man from the council, saying that they knew all about the hole I reported and they are… looking into it.