50 Animals in Road
On Sunday we had a treat, and were taken to Glyndebourne in the afternoon by two of our friends -- to see Eugene Onegin. It's a long drive back to Cambridge and we were amusing ourselves with doing some first principles lit crit on the opera (neither the husband or I, nor I suspect the host who was driving, had actually read more than a page or two about it, nor had we read the Pushkin version from which it is adapted -- hence "first principles").
We were talking about how far we thought it was a terrible romantic tragedy, a comedy or manners or a nasty (though witty) satire on human folly (isn't it a joke that Lensky is such a look-alike Byron? and, in the first act, don't we all know that Tatyana is a larger than life parody of a teenager who just hasn't understood the tactics of playing hard to get . . . and so on).
It was, I fear, that kind of convesation that might not have looked too out of place in Pseuds Cormer -- until it was interrupted on the M11 by a series of notices (over what must have been the last 20 miles or so of the journey) which read "50 Animals in Road SLOW".
A little more donnish chat followed, I confess.
What actually did this mean, we wondered? The husband was outnumbered in the claim that we should be on the look out for 50 animals (... no, we said, it obviously meant "50 (miles per hour speed limit) <stop> Animals in Road".)
But it was, all the same, even with the "50" sorted out, a strangely unhelpful notice -- while disconcertingly distracting. I mean it's a very different thing to drive along a motorway on the lookout for cows -- than on the look out for a flock of geese or a family of runaway dogs.
This lead to further discussion about how these motorway notices actually worked. Was there someone sitting in a control room somewhere who could type out any notice he or she fancied in the right number of characters like a Tweet (eg "Geese in road: beware" "Cows behind you, watch out"). Or -- as we came to conclude -- do they just have a small number of pre-written ones from which to choose, so it's "Animals" or nothing?
(There's also that one which says "Take a Break" -- which I doubt has ever persuaded any exhausted motorist to draw into the next service station for a quick nap... "yes, I am rather tired I now realise, I think I will!")
The truth is that, while we kept specially observant, we saw absolutely no sign of wild life at all. SO either that someone was being hyper-cautious, or they had just not got round to turning the signs off.
We rather suspected the latter.