We were driving along the old Exeter bypass last autumn, and were amused by the sight of two signs, one above the other. The first was a sign to a Wedding Fair at Westpoint. Immediately below was an advert for car-sharing, and so the two signs together read “Wedding Fair. Register now at Carsharedevon.com”
Signs around St Leonard’s generally convey information without such opportunities for a smile. Looking around the neighbourhood, there are signs of various kinds. Every road and street has at least one street name sign, and we have assorted styles for these in St Leonard’s. Several have the name spelt out in ceramic tiles, which are distinctive and unusual. Sadly, in the course of some development work, the last two ceramic letters of “ROAD” for Magdalen Road have been lost from the sign opposite the junction with Denmark Road. Most local roads have simple metal plates a couple of feet high, which are widely used around the city. And a few have their names mounted on high poles, about ten feet above the ground. This makes sense for Cedars Road, so that the name can be seen by traffic on the hill in Holloway Street, but it makes less sense for Matford Lane at its junction with Wonford Road. Does anyone know why the road is identified in such a way? And anyone who is a stickler for punctuation will discover that the County Council website does not recognise apostrophes, so St Leonards Road is the only format one can use.
Computers have made us all aware of different fonts, with and without serifs; had you noticed that road name signs are not uniform in this? Variety is the spice of life, and the same can be said about the signs around the area which spell out the parking regulations all around St Leonard’s. The signs which tell you that you are entering the area with parking restrictions around County Hall use upper and lower case for all the text, except for the last word “ZONE” which is in capitals. They are matched by signs that read “Zone ENDS”. (Readers of a well-known daily newspaper will probably tell me that this change to upper case letters is all due to “Health and Safety”. In truth, this layout is that specified in the Highway Code.) But why is there a “Limited Waiting” sign in St Leonard’s Road which reads “Mon-SAT” with the last day in capitals, while all the others read “Mon-Sat”?
But for curiosity in signs for restrictions on parking, wander over to Athelstan Road. You would think that there was a standard text for indicating that an area was for residents only … but within a short stretch of the road there are three minor varieties of the first lines of “Resident(s) permit holders only”, with or without a capital P for permit, with or without making the first word plural.
The signs that are put up by the local councils are just one sort of sign that we can find around the neighbourhood. The bus routes that cross our area give rise to signs for stops, and strapped to many of the posts used by the D and H services are laminated sheets announcing changes to the timetable (from January 2011!) and a contact number for texts telling when the next bus is due (has anyone ever used this?). Last spring I found a Russian couple on holiday trying to make sense of the information, and wondered whether the effort that had been put into creating the text service could have been directed towards simple timetables for these services. On Topsham Road, Barrack Road and Heavitree Road, the bus shelters are labelled with their location. Someone has used white paint to indicate a correction to the spelling of Leonard opposite the church in Topsham Road.
In an earlier article I mentioned the signs for fire hydrants and utilities. There are still a number of poles carrying overhead telephone cables, and most of these poles are inspected regularly to make sure that they are not rotting away. The inspectors should leave a coded sign on each pole to record the date of the inspection, and examples of these abound.
The businesses and organisations in the neighbourhood vary in the types of signs that they show to the world. Some, like the schools and St Leonard’s Church, have a logo designed to identify them. The shops which are part of national associations do as well. Others have used sign-writers and artists, or computer graphics, and have added to their signs at different times and in different styles, so name-boards over the frontage may be in one form, and the lettering on the windows and display boards in another. Those who have discovered the range of fonts that come with word-processing packages can explore the range of fonts and effects used in the village.
So much for the permanent signs; around the neighbourhood you will find a range of temporary signs of many kinds, ranging from those for slimming classes through lost animals to estate agency signs (For Sale, To Let, Under Offer, etc). Ever since moving to Exeter, I have smiled at the signs proclaiming that a property has been “Sold by Force”. Incidentally, by way of amusement, I was fortunate to see, in its short life, the sign outside a local school that said it was a “School for Boy’s and Girl’s” – the sign was hastily replaced with one lacking the “greengrocer’s apostrophes”.
But the last word must go to the three delightful notices on the white seat in Raleigh Road. One sets out common-sense rules for good neighbourly behaviour in that road; these rules of courtesy should apply everywhere. Another invites you to pause on the seat and enjoy being there. And the third sign? You’ll have to go and see!
(Neighbourhood News March - April 2012)