We in Wales are recklessly uninhibited in our fondness for signs. We will put anything on a sign, however nonsensical, and leave it out for all to see. Consider the photograph above, taken on a country road in the Vale of Glamorgan. ‘Toads’, it says. Well? Is no further explanation required? I wait for a while in a nearby car-park, lest coachloads of amphibians should pass by, perhaps clutching little pennants, or else dressed in goggles and flying jacket, like the famous Toad of Toad Hall. But no cigar.
Let’s take another one:
I particularly like this bi-lingual sign near my house, on the river footpath, warning of the possibility of a tumble into the swirling waters of the Taff. I like its succinctness of composition and I especially like the upstretched arms of the falling man. It seems to be telling me something other than that which it purports to be telling me, but I am not quite sure what this is, and it leaves me with a stab of uncertainty each time I pass it.
This mania for signs, I realise, is not uniquely Welsh, but I sometimes think that we are the best at it, since we can do them bi-lingual in ways that the language planners never conceived. There are many beautiful examples of this, and I will sign off with one of my favourites. The Welsh in this sign warns cyclists not – as the English might lead them to expect – to get off their bikes, but that ‘bladder disease has returned’. Truly, we are a musical nation.