I'm not sure exactly when they arrived. One day the sides of the motorway were just plain banks of grass, the next, there was a swathe cut through and a tarmac path running parallel to the road. Suddenly there were three caravans, parked nose to tail on the concrete, traffic cones marking their space like a red and white picket fence.
There are net curtains at the windows; a strange suggestion of homeliness, and once or twice I've seen a man emerge blinking into the early morning sunshine as I pass by on my way to work. He wears the violent lime-green overalls of a construction worker and I wonder if he is actually living at the side of the road. The transition from my quiet home to the hectic madness of the motorway is always a shock to me; I can't imagine what it must be like to have no transition at all, to spend your working days and sleeping nights on the side of the road. This is one of the busiest motorways in the country, there is no end to the roaring traffic, and as the lorries thunder past rocking the fragile trailers, I think it must be like living in a constantly churning tumble dryer.
I wonder what the workers do once they've finished for the day. I picture a thick-set man in his late forties, ducking his head to step through the small doorway. He takes off the hard-hat he's been wearing all day and tries to rub away the lines it has left on his forehead. Then he eases off the heavy boots and places them together just inside the door. I see him trying to wash the grime of the road off his hands at a small stainless steel sink, before heating a tin of beans on a tiny two-ring stove. What does he do for the rest of the evening? Perhaps he's slumped back against the geometric-patterned fabric of a thin bench, peering at a portable TV; he must be frustrated at the quality of the picture, the poor reception caused by the constant traffic. Does he sit at the small table playing game after game of solitaire,or quietly reading until his eyes get heavy and he realises he's almost asleep and missing half the words? I smile at the thought that one night he might order himself a take-away; at the image of the bewildered pizza-boy, trying to find the right lay-by.
The roadworks are scheduled to last until the summer of 2012; twelve months of contra-flow systems and traffic cones; a whole year of speed limits that the crawling traffic has no chance of breaking, and speed cameras that threaten us should we dare. As summer turns to autumn, winter, then spring, I'll pass through this way on my journey to work each day and back again in the evening. I've no doubt I'll complain when the traffic is bad, swear when I get held up. I won't enjoy the journey, but I will be grateful that, unlike the imagined residents of the roadside caravans, I am just passing through.