Road signs were surely invented to tell us which way to go to get where we want to be.
But then the wheel was invented, and we got road signs telling us how fast to drive. Or, rather, nor to drive.
The Americans have taken all this to extreme, of course, and these ‘basic’ signs have got drowned amongst pointers to Dolly‘s One-Hour Day Motel and Bert’s Beer Parlour and advertisements for exceptionally fast food and cars. But, over here, we can still – most of the time – get the instructive and necessary messages that road signs deliver.
This isn’t to say that they can’t sometimes be a bit confusing. I came upon one signpost the other day, in the no-mans land between the Military Road and Shorwell, which seemed to have got turned round a bit, and I ended up in a field. And sometimes I forget, amongst the positive plethora of speed signs, whether it was a 30-40-40-30 or a 40-40-30-40 I last passed. Or what I have been de-restricted from/to.
The third principal variety of road signs is the Warnings. Watch out for low flying cows, and so forth. The Island does pretty well with interesting ones: I’ve been warned against badgers crossing and, for heaven’s sake, red squirrels crossing. But my favourite Wightish sign is in the village of Merstone.
I like it because it is quietly witty, original, and very much to the point.
You don’t see too many folk speeding past the thirty (it used to be thirty-one, I wonder what happened) driveways of Merstone, and every time I see this sign my knee-jerk reaction is to look at my speedo.
I reckon the villagers should get together and shout themselves a nice painted version of this sign. It can go down in road history as ‘the Merstone warning’.