Remember these icky-sticky barometers of summers past? Remember dawdling home from primary school, no uniform, no shoes, leather bags dragging on the asphalt, and the sun warming us as if it was our friend? (As indeed it was before ozone depletion). That process had begun hundreds of miles above us. But what we schoolboys were interested in was what lay in front beneath our toes, where the heat melted the bitumen and created tiny lakes and rivers of tar.
We'd poke our big toes in to test the heat and then rub the sticky stuff off on the nearest grass. We'd have sticks (what was a boyhood without them?) and we'd wrap the tar around like some black candy floss. Without shoes day in day out, the soles of our feet were like leather but even so the tar was sometimes so hot we had to hop across it. In our relative dotage, we thought the smell and tacky touch of it was a thing of the past.
But there on a back road in Russell last week we found it again, and wondered if our recall of never-to-be repeated summers was real, or just a trick of the boomer mind. But no, one or two tar pools in a back road nearly 60 years later don't come close. Here's why. Everybody else walked briskly past. Some paused to look not at the tar but at us, two slightly stooped boomers, taking this photo of well, yes - the edge of a road…