There, I’ve said it. For the past 30-odd years, while exploring pretty much every music genre apart from jazz and Irish ballads, the works of Mr Stewart have been a constant in my life. Derided by some for his bingo-nan Barnet and having the temerity to continue to perform into his 78th year; I’m one of millions of fans who appreciate his brilliance.
Those unlucky enough to get too close can often hear me belting out the lyrics to Maggie May or You’re In My Heart, just two from a back catalogue of classics which will endure for generations. Put simply, I didn't think my admiration for the bloke could run any deeper but then I learned about his recent heroics with a shovel and it went to the next level.
In fact, I should imagine that Rod the Mod - a nickname that only Baby Boomers use these days - has a whole army of new admirers after news emerged that he’d rolled up his sleeves and decided to do a job that he claimed his local council had failed to do.
The rocker released footage that showed him, along with some of the ‘boys’, filling in potholes on a lane close to his mansion in deepest Essex. Dressed in a Glasgow Celtic tracksuit and trainers and looking like a man at least 25 years his junior, he spoke for the nation’s motorists when took direct action and fixed a problem that dogged him and other road users for years.
He claims that the potholes were so bad that an ambulance had burst one of its tyres and was particularly aggrieved that he was unable to take his Ferrari for a spin for fear of doing it serious damage. While a tale about a multi-millionaire moaning how he is unable to put his supercar through its paces is unlikely to garner sympathy from those millions of people struggling to make ends meet right now, Rod’s very public display of community spirit will still be cheered by many.
Potholes and crumbling road surfaces have long been the scourge of both motorists and cyclists but despite our protests and counter claims that millions of pounds are being thrown at the problem, the situation seems to be getting worse.
I’m sure that well meaning public servants will point to their authority’s ‘extensive’ programme of road remediation works - or whatever they are calling hole filling this week - but the fact is that it isn’t enough. Our roads are an embarrassment, largely due to decades of under investment.
Right now, there cannot be a more put upon group in the UK than the humble motorist, a constituency who are currently waking up in a cold sweat, worrying about how much filling up the tank will cost them today. As I write, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak has yet to deliver his Spring Budget but whatever rabbit he pulls out of his size-restricted hat, is unlikely to change the fact that running a car is a criminally expensive business.
It is this unavoidable fact which makes the consistent failure of politicians to properly fund repairs so puzzling. Readers of newspapers like this one will be only too familiar with stories about potholes, which are often illustrated with a picture of angry looking folk pointing at the crater which put their Mazda in the local garage. Sure, the Government and councils have a growing list of priorities, not to mention shrinking budgets, but potholes are a tangible symptom of a repeated failure to deliver on promises.
While most of us don’t have the time or resources to repair a stretch of country lane, the action taken by an ageing musician is important because it reminds those in power just how strongly we all feel about potholes.