At the End of the Day

Wandering  half-awake through our entrance hall this morning, before it was fully light, I noticed that one of our hip-hop lights bought when they were cutting-edge trendy ten years ago wasn’t working. So ‘designed’ is the misted plastic shade on this light, you have to crush half your face against the wall just to see if there’s a bulb in it. The ‘designer’ of it did not, however, run to an easy way of removing the shade and replacing the bulb: there are four minute screws attaching the shade to the bulb assembly. So there are just the 2 [two] ways of replacing a bulb: find a micro-screwdriver at the bottom of the screwdriver tin, and then lose at least one of the screws undoing them; or get on a chair and force both hands behind the shade while looking down a broken nose from above to see how you’re doing.

Foolishly, I chose the latter route. As a result, three slimline long-life bulbs had a very short life, dropping from the fumbled screw-in bulb socket to the unforgiving hand-mined Cornish floor slabs below. Only then did I revert to Plan A, and discover that the bulb that had been in the socket originally was just fine: it was the socket innards that had Ceased To Be Active.

There is, without question, a difference between good and bad design. Bad design looks like a Mafia Capo’s mother-in-law was the guiding light when it came to asthetics; good design combines clean, stylish looks with robust functionality. Like so much contemporary stuff, my hall lights fall between two stools.

Britain’s road signage suffers from the same halfway-house syndrome. It is clean and classic, but confusing and badly located. Just outside Arundel, there is a roundabout with a sign beforehand saying ‘through traffic’ in the best tradition of sensible French road signs. You take the recommended exit, and then come to a T-junction…at which there are no signs at all. Could be right to Arundel town centre and left to Ankara, but they’re not saying. I took the left mystery tour, and came to another roundabout with one of those annoying ‘macro’ signs: you know – Left, Africa, Right, Birmingham, Straight On, Penzance. Only when I got halfway round the bloody thing did it say ‘(A27)’ which was all the motorist heading for the M27 needed to know. Our road signs are an allegory for Britain’s economy: not sure where it’s going, and we all find out when it’s too late to argue about it.

But the most spectacular failure of British road signage is that nowhere does it say, ‘Warning: you are approaching Bexhill-on-Sea. Take evasive action’.

It has a lovely, lilting sound to it does Bexhill-on-Sea. Somehow – and I’ve no idea why – the name conjures up Edward Heath, discreet Tory affluence, yachts, and twee Christmas Carol services. My son-in-law told me, when I reported back to him about just how much B-o-H doesn’t live up to expectations, that his brother lives there. He added that he sort of felt this might be a sign of his brother’s mental state, but did say “You get a lot of house for your money in Bexhill-on-Sea”.

I’m sure he’s right: myself, I’d want someone to pay me tithes in order to ensure that Bexhill-on-Sea might be the place for me. For a start, it doesn’t augur well when you enter any town and find a derelict Sainsburys. Oh my Gaaard, they opened a Sainsburys here, and it failed. But the Lidl is doing a roaring trade.

What follows after you skirt around the empty Sainsburys is a cavalcade of Bad Britannia. Kebabs, KFC, Fish n Chips, Insurance brokers, moneylenders, tanning salons, Luigi’s Ristorante Italiano, a shop called Cheap Booze (I’m not kidding), and a hairdressing salon called Waves. B-o-H is the seamy underbelly of a Britain left behind by Teflon Tony’s style revolution: it is the town that Cafe Society couldn’t change. In a nutshell, it is the Last Redoubt of 197o’s Old Labour.

Somebody should send A A Gill to Bexhill-on-Sea: doing so would have to be a win-win. Either Gill would write a review so bad that the place would auto-sink into the sea, or Gill would be left a dribbling catatonic afterwards. Perhaps both.

But there is always an upside. Hunting around pointlessly for lightbulbs this morning, I discovered in our storage annexe a veritable treasure trove of the pre-bonkers pc global warming versions. Yes, that’s right – the ones enabling you to read by their light, and not have to wait a year for them to get going. Christmas, when it comes, will thus be all lit up. I can hardly wait.

Related: Separated at birth – Milt Friedman and Eric Hobsbawm



36 thoughts on “At the End of the Day

  1. There is no word in Mongolian for “road sign”
    Been there and highly recommended. No “Bexhill’s on Sea”. In fact no sea and the only bollocks are the ones you have to avoid eating…


  2. You may want to try the new LED light bulbs, low energy and instantly on when switched.
    It’s true that low-energy bulbs(the florescent type) contain tiny quantities of mercury (around 100-300 times less than you’d get in a thermometer).
    So be very careful if you break one,when cleaning it up!


  3. There is actually even an upside in Bexhill on Sea. It’s called the De La Warr pavilion. Designed by Chermayeff and Mendelsohn this grade 1 listed modernist building was refurbished to form one of the largest contemporary arts centres in the south. Just dont eat there.


  4. Ah! To have road signs. The Dutch are good at thinking, but are rather literal when it comes to the actualities. They will happily block off the Kampweg in Doorn for their regular market. I now know this is on Thursday as I would drive up from the car park by the post office only to find the road blocked off by an official barrier. Sadly this meant a 100m reverse down a narrow and often congested lane. Nobody had ever imagined the need to warn anyone beforehand.

    I don’t suppose for a moment that the council would realize that the letter pointing this out was of any real value.

    The Dutch are very much a “village” nation. They assume everyone knows what is going on. There is a roundabout south of Amsterdam that has no direction signs on it at all. Whilst this is not an isolated incident, it is nonetheless infuriating when you do not know which way you need to go. Of course, the thinking is that everyone knows their way to Amsterdam. It is a small village after all. Called Amstelveen, and the lane in this case is the S109 trunk road that connects the A9 motorway past the A10 ring to the city centre of Amsterdam. I am quite sure that there are many car drivers who do not know the way.

    But I was forgetting! Everyone has sat-nav these days. Even me, so that I can turn right when it says turn left, and having gotten it right this time find that I took the turning 60m afterwards, not 120m … and that on a bicycle too!


  5. You can still get proper light bulbs. called rough service bulbs and are currently being manufactured en masse. Find them in specialist lighting shops and hardware stores. for about a £1 a piece. Stuff the EU.


  6. Actually all the EU did with lightbulbs was stipulate that we should use something a bit more efficient than a bulb which emits just 2% of the energy it uses as light. They did NOT say we had to use compact fluorescents or any specific technology.

    As things stand now you can buy tungsten halogen lamps that look very similar to old style bulbs, work exactly the same and give ever so slightly whiter light. These are longer lasting, more efficient but otherwise identical. Oh, and they meet the EU regulations.


  7. Had to smile a recent notable event that makes me swear.

    Those 100W tungsten filament light bulbs that are now banned with exceptions for parliament and industrial use.

    *Currently being sold marked as unsuitable for domestic use*

    So it is suitable for ANY OTHER USE than in domestic households!


  8. Why so snooty about beautiful B-o-H? For those of us of a certain age for whom nearby Hastings and Eastbourne are too rowdy, sexy Bexy satisfactorily supplies a serene seaside setting for seedy senescence.
    Try visiting its twin on the coast opposite: the perfectly named Berck-sur-Mer


  9. You didn’t mention your lorry (your previous posts).
    Is HE working alright, or is HE a bit sick with a nasty cough?


  10. French traffic signs. I recall one photo,maybe in Private Eye, which showed a T junction with two sings. One way was “Toutes Directions” and the other Autres Directions”!


  11. if an ampty sainsburys bothers you . try the back end of bournemouth that really do have shops with notices in the window that say
    , “no stock left in this shop overnight, ” scary


  12. Many years ago, i came to the profound conclusion that British Road Direction signs have all been designed and put up by Council Folks who already knew the bloody way anyway. One may start out encouraged to see a sign post to your final destination at the first roundabout, but by the next one, it has disappeared and a different set of places are signed instead, or there is a T junction with only very local names, or it is written in white on the road, so that just as you drive over it, you find out that you are in totally the wrong lane.

    I tend to print out from Google Maps as for some reason I find it is easier to memorise than from screen, and then go by road numbers….my other pet hate being Sat Navs …..particularly the ones where a new by-pass has just been opened and the Sat Nav complains that I am driving across a ploughed field.


  13. Ditto, strangely, the USA.

    For a car-based nation, its road signage is abysmal, often impossible to differentiate from the clutter of commercial advertising signs, and frequently requiring one to have an in-built compass to remain aware if one’s general direction of travel is north, south, east or west.

    Driving all the way across from New York to San Francisco exposed the inadequacy of the signage, or possibly that of my navigating spouse – hence it is more prudent to blame the colonial sign-design.


  14. Professor,

    you need a fact checker. That was my troll speaking of lorries, not me.

    Goodness. You need taking by the hand and leading to the darkest corner in the room and being left there. I think, like my trolls, you read something, misunderstand it and jump to conclusions that are not appropriate.

    Perhaps you really are a professor. They tend to do that too.

    No! You work for the council and work out where the roadsigns need to be! It can take me a while, but I can suss things out in the end.


  15. I have a friend who used to work in the Govt. department that is in charge of road sign designs etc. (he retired some years ago). Funnily enough, he’s the biggest railway enthusiast I know…


  16. £1 each? ‘Rough service’ bulbs? Ye gods.

    Just as well I trawled the supermarkets for em before the hideous green things became de rigeur


  17. In my experience (circa 100 K driving) of non Satnav assisted French driving I have come to the conclusion that French road signs are useful only when you know where you are and where you are going, and useless for people like me who have a more cavalier attitude to road directions expecting to be bailed out by road signs relevant to me whenever I am lost.

    PS a Zerohedge current article says that Zimbabwee’s RPI of 3.63% is lower than the UK’s RPI of 3.67%!


  18. @ JW. In this article you mention a derelict Sainsbury’s. This made me think about your campaign against Tesco, & how it must be working, as I see in the failygraph that their profits are down 7% is it? Possibly the ‘rat sandwich’ may have had something to do with it as well……? Excellent!


  19. This bad signing of roads is pretty universal, having just returned from La France where in leaving Angers in pursuit of a couple of good vineyards on the Loire the directions petered out on a five exit roundabout, none of the exits went anywhere near our hoped for destination and when I ended up on an industrial estate the words from SWMBO ‘why do we always end up in one of these’ sounded familiar, we should of course exited at the unmarked roundabout some two miles back.


  20. You “discovered” a treasure trove of proper light bulbs?

    Meaning you didn’t know they were there and you did not stockpile them when you could, I assume.

    You must be the only person I know who doesn’t have at least a cupboard full of them – just so as to stick two fingers up to the EU.


  21. Andrew Duffin
    Have a look at LED bulbs, its just better technology. (OLED are worth a look also.
    E bay sellers have “proper” bulbs if you want them.


  22. … but even when we do have adequate road signs, we also have carefully planted vegetation in front of it to hide information about every direction except straight ahead


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