Wednesday, 9 April 2008
Pointing to The Past
More letters from the country. These old signs are the very last vestiges of a simple direction system that pointed the right way with characterful style. Screw-on letters were once the preserve of rural signposts, black on dazzling white at crossroads and junctions, white on green for footpaths. We once carefully spaced them out on our garden gates or selected just a set of numbers for the front door. Who can forget Ronnie Barker trying to buy a couple of 'O's' from Mr.Corbett the ironmonger? Out in Rutland they still send out men on summer days to re-paint the signposts, and apparently there's still a chap in Leicester who turns out the metal letters for them. I hope he does it with a Woodbine hanging on his lower lip. Now it's all to often computer-generated on reflective material. And of course the letters peel off. One near me has lost an 'n' so that it now reads 'Sha gton' which has a curiously appropriate ring to it. So look out for these signs, leaning like an old village codger pointing out the way with a knarled stick. All too soon the soulless clinical sign with a long distance footpath name made-up in a council office, reassuring the SatNav Rambler of the way downhill. Or in these days of not wanting to offend anyone who can't speak English, just a silhouette of a trainer sole.