Alan Barton from Yahoo wrote to us. “Good afternoon” he says – well, maybe it was when he wrote it but there was nothing good about the afternoon when I received it. Anyway, “Could you please tell me what the small steel tube fixed into the ground at the base of the telegraph pole, and often with a black plastic covering the end above ground, is use for?”
This all puts me in mind of an extended and entertaining emailic conversation I had with Bedfordshire-based engineer in permanent magnets, Martin Cummins, some years ago. He, by his own words is a nosy sort and wanted to know what are these similar, but more rectangular devices that are attached to the base of telegraph poles. Between us we guessed so far that they may be a means of delivering creosote preservative to the pole base. Or a means of checking just how deep the pole is planted. Or indeed a mini reverse periscope to have a look at the bottom of the pole, just because you can. The possibility that it may be some sort of anti-rotation device – which fits with our previously discussed notions of telegraph pole alignment – was also discussed. Then Mr Cummins had a letter back from BT at the time saying that they actually had no idea what they are for. Not a flipping clue.
If this is the case, I can only imagine pole-erection crews working through their checklist thus:
1 Park lorry.
2 Have a brew.
3 Check out the form in the Racing News.
4 Put the bloody pole up.
5 Fit the little black tubey thing.
6 Not forgetting the cap.
7 Don’t ask.
Well now we are asking ???