Rumble Strip by Pippa Corner

A compelling story of life, death, care and careers in local government and NHS - take a deep breath... big thanks to Pippa Corner



The sudden juddering of the rumble-strip jolted me from momentary sleep. Concrete pillars in my headlights, then the whole bloody lot flashed before me just like they always say.

A blue ball in long grass.
New T-bar sandals.
A gritty picnic on a wind-burned beach.
Sums on squared paper: hundreds; tens; units. My first wristwatch.
Coming third in the running race.

Carol concerts’ itchy wings and halos.
The dog’s dead. Mum crying.

Snowball fight.
A funeral.

Flashing by: secondary school; university; first job; white wedding. More funerals. More tears
Second job. Second marriage.

New start.

Bathing an old man. He has sore legs. Dab him dry, gently.

Pouring trolley-loads of suppertime drinks, milky and sweet, straight from the spout.

A fight. Handwriting notes in triplicate. Manilla folders tightly packed in metal cabinets. Lost the key. Can’t leave without locking up. Panicking. Flushed.

On a visit: house stinks of cat crap. She’s dead. The neighbours called. We didn’t know her. It’s the constable’s first one. He spews up on the doorstep. It’s a mess.


New job, computer, team. All at sea.

A sing-a-long: an ancient, bony hand claws softly at my elbow; a trembling jaw carefully, quietly enunciates, “It’s good here.”

Years flash by. Council empires rise and fall. Cuts and mergers bring out the placards. I travel across counties to keep in work.

There’s no bingo now. No council homes. Our folk sit alone, Skype from time to time and order grub online.

Colleagues, like seasons, flutter in and out of frame. I age in the mirror. I glimpse myself in shop fronts suited, greyer than before. My handbag holds a magical, glossy pane through which I view every report, budget or email and every care record of every individual in our protective embrace.

I’m late for an evening meeting 70 miles away. My car blinks its welcome. I sling my bag on the passenger seat. A satisfying clunk of the door. I’m in. I check the rear view mirror and pull away.

Last thing: the sound of my slate cracking the windscreen; the pillars and the rumble-strip.



Pippa Corner has been working in health and social care for 20 years, in the NHS and Local Authorities, as well as a short spell at the Audit Commission. She has held several senior roles with a focus on partnership and integration and is currently a Head of Service at Calderdale Council 

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Jenny Corfield 5 Years Ago
Very much enjoyed reading this, it brought a tear to my eye.