Helen Croydon: Will the real road signs please stand out

Once you've got the street, you've then got to locate the building number

Share
Related Topics

There is something about road signs which gives people comedic value to steal them. I lived next door to a boy at university who hung them in his room – grit included – as wall candy. Most sign swipers though don't have the audacity to send them to Bonhams auction house and pass them off as Victorian memorabilia from Downing Street.

It would have been a pretty good stunt had Cambridge Council not stepped in at the last minute suggesting that the sign, planned for sale yesterday, was actually from Downing Street CB2, not Downing Street WC1. Bonhams pulled it from sale, citing "provenance issues".

If the suspicion is proven, this would not be the first piece of stolen topographical property. Cambridge City Council says they recently caught someone selling a plaque for Tennis Court Road on eBay. So now I understand where Britain's road signs go – bedrooms and auction houses.

But such is the curious relationship we have with road signs. Out of context, they take on a surreal quality, and are a source of fascination and amusement. But it's different when we attempt to engage with them in situ, as it were.

At the weekend my car got towed away. It wasn't so much the £260 fee that made me swear loudly, but the fact that I couldn't find the car pound. Regis Road in north-west London, which is where a cab driver had the pleasure of transporting my ranting self to, only has a sign on one side of the street. From the direction we approached it wasn't visible. Naturally we sailed straight past, effecting a diatribe from me about the lack of directional road signs in Great Britain.

The week before, and I didn't care if was listening – I missed the turning for Weybridge on the anti-clockwise M25 because the sign isn't actually visible until you are on the slip road, meaning I ended up somewhere near Gatwick before I knew to turn around. Sometimes signs just stop. Chapel-en-le-Frith, straight on, one will avouch. Then you come to a T-junction and there's nothing.

The Highways Agency, which is responsible for major roads and motorways in England, seems to have abandoned directional signs since Sat Nav, which I stubbornly refuse to purchase, became mainstream. One friend, driving to Cornwall from London, told me he was directed not to St Ives, but to Gnome World. He was told he had reached his destination but there he was – trapped on Dartmoor, surrounded by gnomes.

Urban street signage is no better. Roads are often either unnamed or the sign is obscured. A cul-de-sac near me was changed (with a marker pen) from "Gay Close" to "Gayboy Close" and stayed that way for months. Roads are awarded a sign but then mysteriously change names half way along.

Once you've established the street, there is the building number to find. I cricked my neck walking along High Holborn in central London last week, looking up for number 252. Building numbers are the proprietor's responsibility, not the council's, so anyone without a placard loses business and infuriates guests at their peril. As for those who insist on a house name instead of a number – plain selfish.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

I’m not sure I fancy any meal that’s been cooked up by a computer

John Walsh
Labour leader Ed Miliband delivers a speech on his party's plans for the NHS, in Sale, on Tuesday  

Why is Miliband fixating on the NHS when he’d be better off focussing on the wealth gap?

Andreas Whittam Smith
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness