As a professional prognosticator I am always on the look-out for omens, signs and portents. Often I will cut a squash in half and study its seeds for clues as to the future’s unfolding (yes, I know augury more commonly uses the viscera of the animal kingdom, but as a (mostly) vegetarian I have had to improvise).
I can tell you that Christmas is almost upon us as I was able to acquire my Christmas double issue of the Mortician’s Gazette at the weekend. In a tradition almost as old a Christmas itself, the price is that little bit more than double the price of its normal weekly edition and we will no doubt find that half this new higher price will pertain after the festive season. I presume this is on the assumption that either (a) we will have consumed so much alcohol or (b) the standard of mathematics in this country is so low that no-one will notice.
But it is about the proliferation of signs of a less mystical kind that I wish to write. On my journey into Cambridge I have to use a short stretch of new road on the Addenbrooke’s site between one cycle path and the guided busway. A new piece of signage seems to be added to this road every day – by the Spring, I fear the road will be in permanent darkness such is their growing density. As well as the almost totally ignored speed limit signage, we have rather contradictory signs as to where cyclists are allowed to ride – I think at least one is in the wrong place (or someone in the Highways department is a fan of Epimenides and is letting his love of paradox affect his work).
We now have two signs from APCOA welcoming us to their World of Parking. As theme parks go, this doesn’t sound like an obvious winner – even World of Leather seems a better offering. In addition to the welcome, the signs contain a stack of small print which no motorist could safely read, even on the off-chance that they were obeying the speed limit. I think what they are trying to say is that if you have stopped moving for more than 30 seconds and have not offered APCOA a couple of limbs or your first-born, then you are in big trouble.
Today’s new sign was to give the road a name – it is now called Francis Crick Avenue. Since the road is basically straight with a bend to the right at one end, I can’t help but feel this is a waste of a good name. Mr Crick, as co-discoverer of DNA, needs a road with a far more helical course to bear his moniker – I would want to see at least one helix and preferably two (or we could have it intertwining with a James Watson Road). As it stands, the road barely justifies Uri Geller Avenue as a label.
Still, whilst the road is awash with signage, at least it has a nice level surface. Most of the roads on the hospital site are in an appalling state, several seem to be subducting under the hospital and also produce a rather unpleasant sulphurous odour – which makes two signs of tectonic activity. (But don’t worry, I’m not expecting an imminent eruption – and, if the worst happens, Cambridge could do with some new hills!).
I have mused that the poor road maintenance might be a deliberate ploy to acquire new business – certainly, an unwary cyclist could easily been thrown from his steed and require the services of the nearby A&E department. The ambulance service could also expect to offer a very swift pick-up and delivery – which should help them meet their performance targets. Then again, perhaps I shouldn’t be giving our stressed NHS managers any ideas they haven’t thought of themselves..