How much time do we spend looking at the ground beneath our feet? In London, it isn’t an exclusively inviting prospect, as the paving stones are patinated by a speckle of chewing-gum roundels. But I’ve found I’ve had to pay more attention recently because of the number of wobbly joints-in the paving, not my legs.

Inertia, together with the a reluctance to join the complaining classes, prevented me from raising the matter with the council, but great was my joy when I saw a workman with an outsized wooden mallet next to our railings this morning. He was fixing the worst of the trouble-spots. I suppose it’s an advantage of our litigious society that councils don’t want to be sued for injuries incurred by ill-fitting stones.

The man of the Irish brogue and weather-beaten countenance said that this has been a bad winter for pavements. The frost gets into the cracks, compounding the effects of subsidence and, apparently, rats.  

Once my attention had been directed downwards, I noticed a cover for some telephone cables, installed in the great age of publicutility design: the words were picked out in Roman lettering. But what has become of the coalhole covers that used to be such a feature of the pavementscape? I’m sure they were there the last time I looked-where did they go?