Sunday, April 26, 2009

Road signs, national heroes and beer

click photo to enlarge
It has become the custom for English counties to publicly mark their geographical boundary where it crosses a main road. In the past a simple sign with the county name and the coat of arms was erected. Then, as local government tried to become more "user friendly" the county was prefixed by "Welcome to..." Nowadays most counties have a slogan as well, and in many cases they verge on the ridiculous.

Take Lancashire. A sign saying "Welcome to" (small print), "Lancashire" (big print), and "The Red Rose County" (small print), with an heraldic red rose, was perfectly unexceptionable. It told you which county you'd entered, and reminded you of the symbol that the county has proudly and publicly displayed for centuries. However, the county's elected representatives seem to inhabit a different planet from ordinary folk, and they couldn't see that changing the slogan to,"Where everyone matters", would invite ridicule. It was obvious that removing the well-loved Red Rose symbol would provoke criticism. And it was equally obvious that the new slogan means absolutely nothing: it's an empty, well-meant phrase that is not specific to Lancashire. One wag suggested that Lancastrians must be suppurating people, oozing pus-like matter! Norfolk's slogan is "Nelson's County". Now of all the fine things that I can think of associated with that fine county, Nelson doesn't figure very highly on the list. But, perhaps the sign's an attempt to make a connection between the great English hero and the county, and so raise its profile. Which leads me to the thought that many national heroes would turn in their graves if they saw the use to which later generations put their names. Would John Lennon and Robin Hood appreciate having airports named after them? Perhaps Field Marshall Montgomery would feel somewhat trivialised to be remembered by a duffle coat bearing his name. And Constable would surely have something to say about the number of biscuit tins his "Haywain" has decorated.

Which brings me back to Admiral Nelson and today's photograph of the side of a Bateman's Brewery lorry with an advertisement for "Victory Ale". A bottle of strong beer isn't, perhaps, the most demeaning use of a national hero's name and face, particularly when he's already been immortalised in poetry, with a column (and square), in countless pub names, and has a Lancashire town (indirectly) named after him. The size and colour of this lorry impressed me, and I felt the admiral, the bottles and landscape would make a quirky image when juxtaposed with a real person.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 73mm (146mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/500 seconds
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.7 EV
Image Stabilisation: On