Sometime last year a rather surprising, printed bill-board appeared by the cross-roads with the traffic lights on the main southerly approach into Saxmundham (the old A12 before the by-pass was built). The notice was attached to the post carrying the town’s coat of arms. Its somewhat unusual message was that people walked in the road ahead i.e. the main street through this small town, so would you please drive carefully. Unfortunately, I cannot provide the text verbatim since I did not photograph it, though I often thought I should because the message seemed odd; it was at least a change from the usual instruction to pedestrians to keep off the road, or at the very least to warn them of dangerous, moving traffic. In its rather quaint little way, the reversal of roles, warning drivers of pedestrians, was very ‘Suffolk’.
But then disaster struck: either a vehicle clipped the road-side half of the board and snapped it off or, as I suspect happened, a person, perhaps a driver, annoyed by its rather fatuous message, snapped it off manually. ‘I really must photograph it in this state’, I said to myself but of course when I next returned to Sax with camera at the ready, the other half of the board had disappeared too. That must have been the result of deliberate breakage. All I could do was photograph the narrow middle strip of the board which was directly attached to the post. It is still there. It contains various letters and bits of letters but I have so far failed to reconstruct the full message in all its glory (photograph to be downloaded idc). And of course I don’t have a record of the original message: I wonder if anyone else has?
Meanwhile, off the market place on the side road approaching the railway station, a new poster has appeared. In the same black type-face on yellow background as the original it exhorts you to ‘DRIVE SLOWLY PEOPLE WALKING IN ROAD.’ In other words, it delivers the same message as the original but in fewer than half the words.
My guess would be that the original was the result of a well-intentioned initiative by an elderly persons’ organisation but that there were many objections to its odd wording, perhaps even from the police. So it was taken down, recomposed briefly, reprinted and put up again, though off the main street, where it can neither offend nor do much good. The odd thing is that It has never seemed to me, as a frequent motorist in Sax, that people walking in the road here is any worse than in other towns. Indeed, so characteristically unpeopled is the high street, with scarcely anyone on the pavements never mind in the road, that we have often made ‘dead as a dodo’-type remarks about the streetscape as we drive through. Funny place, Sax: it seems to have failed to solve a problem which doesn’t exist.