Signs of Life from London

How can you not love this sign?

We, the family, are on Day Three of a week long stay in London, England. If I had my way, if I were alone, I would walk all over London just reading the signage. Not commercial signage, but public notice signage.  It says so much about a people, don’t you think? How they label things and give directions. How they express their views and rules on gardens, construction site policy and dog crap, as it were.

But this is a family holiday, not my personal journey in signage across the capital of the British Empire. We have an Agenda. Things to Do. And at a good pace, too, if you don’t mind.  We march along like good little ducklings. I usually take up the rear, so I can keep a watchful eye on my girls. They are twelve and fourteen and bat away my protective wings, even when their father and I try to stop them from walking into oncoming cars (that are, of course, coming from unexpected directions).

For that reason, you see a lot of cautions painted on the pavement at intersections, like this:

I love that message, particularly because people in London tend to dress awfully well. Even my older daughter commented, “people don’t dress like slobs here, they care! And they are so nice and polite”. You could really extrapolate the “look right” message to wardrobe choice and a general code of public conduct.

Everywhere we go – though looking right and looking left – my eyes tend to fall not on the London Eye, Westminster Abbey, the magnificent gardens or the well-dressed people. No, my gaze is drawn, time and again, to the signage:


“If this suspension is unclear, or is not being used, please call…”  Am I wrong, or does this message not have a rather “Ministry of Silly Walks” ring to it? I can just imagine the phone call: “Yes, is this the Department of Signs to be Ignored?” One can begin to understand where Monty Python drew their inspiration.

Here’s another that stopped me in my tracks. It appears on the door of a popular pub, just down the street from our flat:

If you tried out this sign in Ontario, where I live, you’d probably be faced with a Human Rights complaint alleging discrimination against, I don’t know, the laundry impaired. I can well imagine some belligerent jackass saying “Yeah, well, I may not be welcome, but I’m damn well gonna drink here anyway. I got rights, ya know”.  Or some clever soul would decide to litigate the definition of ‘soiled’, ‘dirty’, ‘welcome’ or all three.  I can’t see any Brit pulling that act. Call me crazy. On the other hand, the Brits do have this weird habit of walking around for miles outside their beloved pubs with a glass of ale in their hand. Now that, you can’t do in Ontario.

Here’s another sign of the times in London:

OK, well how about Ultimate Frisbee? A little ATV action? Why not just say “No fun allowed”? In all fairness, the gardens of London are lovely, well-tended and clearly enjoyed by the inhabitants. They, uh, Look Right, to give credit where its due.

And finally, let me leave you with this sign that caused us no end of laughter:

What can I say? I don’t know who laughed harder, the kids or I (and for the former, I believe I have the Black-Eyed Peas to thank). Their father just looked off in the distance, shaking his head.

We’ve another four days left to explore this magnificent city. Museums. Palaces. Parks. Tube rides to be taken. Plays to see. The Prime Meridian to straddle. And let us hope many, many more signs to read.