Monday, 5 March 2012

Thwaites and Wilberforce Strike Back

For an introduction to Thwaites and Wilberforce click here
SETTING: A corner on High Street, Fremantle. The sun is beating down on two young men who are standing beside a small tree, which is sitting in a black plastic bag bordered by orange barriers. Each man is leaning lethargically on an enormous shovel. The men are dressed in rolled-up shirtsleeves and suit pants, and both have sweaty rings under their arms. One is also looking a bit sunburnt.

WILBERFORCE: So what are you here for?
THWAITES (sheepishly): I left the only copy of the draft design guidelines for Scheme Amendment 49 on the bus.
WILBERFORCE (grimacing sympathetically): Tough break, mate. We've all been there. You know the design guidelines for the East End?
THWAITES: The ones that were meant to be released early last year?
WILBERFORCE: Yep, those ones. Know why they never went out? (He points to his chest with both thumbs.) Back of a taxi after the 2010 Christmas party. Luckily the boss hasn't noticed yet.

(A brief pause while they watch a pretty backpacker walk past.)

THWAITES: So what are you in for?
WILBERFORCE: You know that new security camera at the Round House?
THWAITES: The one on the giant pole that looks straight into everyone's bedrooms?

WILBERFORCE: Yeah. That was me.
THWAITES: Ah. (A short, slightly embarrassed pause.)
THWAITES: Nice try though.
WILBERFORCE: I know, wouldn't it have been great? They were just about to mount the camera when a resident complained.

(He looks despondent, and THWAITES pats his shoulder consolingly. Another pretty backpacker walks past.

THWAITES: So what are we meant to be doing here exactly?
WILBERFORCE: We're supposed to plant this (prods the sapling violently) in the ground. And then repeat the process with all the others.
THWAITES (looking down the street and groaning): God, there are so many. And it's so hot. Can't we put it off till it's cooler? 
WILBERFORCE: Believe me, I tried. Turns out they've been sitting in these bags for three months already. The last bloke in charge of planting started with the grass trees at Bathers sandblasted pretty bad.
THWAITES: Ooh, nasty.
WILBERFORCE: Yeah, he'll be off for a few more weeks yet, till they know whether the eyelid transplant worked.
THWAITES (sighing): Well, better make a start. 

(He attempts to wrestle one of the plastic barriers out of the way, heaving with his whole body weight before collapsing against it in a sweaty heap.)

THWAITES (gasping): Bloody hell!
WILBERFORCE: I know. I think I got a hernia doing that yesterday.
THWAITES (sounding desperate): Aren't there... pipes and things we need to map before we do any planting?
WILBERFORCE (shaking his head): Taken care of. I called that 'dial before you dig' number.
THWAITES: Don't they sometimes get things wrong?
WILBERFORCE: Nah, don't think so. They have to be pretty on the ball in that department. Imagine if they got mixed up? I mean, people would be digging up gas lines and mains water supplies all over the shop.
THWAITES: You're right. It's an awesome responsibility. 
WILBERFORCE: It sure is.
THWAITES: I mean, we could hit a gas line, cause a spark and take out half of the West End! The public is relying on us to be a hundred percent sure of what we're doing.
WILBERFORCE: At the very least. Probably more like a hundred and ten percent.

(The two men ponder this for a moment.)

WILBERFORCE: You know, Thwaites...
THWAITES: Yes, Wilberforce?
WILBERFORCE: The guy I spoke to about where the pipes were didn't sound, you know... totally positive. Only, like, a hundred and nine percent sure.
THWAITES (looking suddenly alert): Not one hundred and ten?
WILBERFORCE: Nope, definitely more like a hundred and nine. A hundred and nine point five, tops.
THWAITES: Well, we have to stop the project right now, Wilberforce. Hundreds of lives could be at stake! 
WILBERFORCE: You're right, Thwaites. Launching in willy-nilly to something as serious as this is irresponsible. We need to do some more research. 
THWAITES: A study at the very least.
WILBERFORCE: And probably a working group too. Just to be sure. To investigate properly could take months. Ol' eyelids could be back before we're able to go ahead.
THWAITES: What a shame...but it's no use cutting corners. We'd better go tell the boss.

(Both young men sigh happily, and begin sauntering down High Street.)

THWAITES: Wilberforce...
WILBERFORCE: Yes, Thwaites?
THWAITES: Do you reckon people will people buy it? I mean, a study to put in a few plants... They're bound to think it's a bit suss.
WILBERFORCE: Trust me, mate, I don't think it's going to be a problem. Now let's nip into the backpackers and check their licence hasn't expired. Come to think of it, I reckon there needs to be a CCTV camera around there...

(He claps THWAITES heartily on the shoulder. The audience hears THWAITES exclaim "Ow, watch the sunburn!" before their voices fade into silence.)

When my wife and I strolled down High Street last December we were both pleasantly surprised to see that some trees had been introduced into the West End, albeit not planted but sitting in bags surrounded plastic barriers.

Recently I was glad to discover that the City is looking into making this more permanent. I hope that the study doesn't disappear into the bureaucratic mire and that we can enjoy street trees in the West End fairly soon. 


  1. I like the trees in High Street, but some heritage purist don't, I believe. they look good and soften the streetscape.

    Nice story, Michael. The CCTV camera will now be installed on another pole and the one at the Round House removed. A waste of money!

    Roel Loopers

  2. Great story Michael. I also support trees in the West End. Londoners are planting 20,000 in 2012 and I believe trees in the west end, will put some spirit and life back into the area. Some green as well as concrete, glass and tarmac sounds like a good idea. Cities look pretty sad without trees. They breath life back onto the streets and for those worried about buildings, views and lines of site etc, I think trees, correctly placed will enhance all of that.

    Rob Harrison