Say What??

Thursday, May 26, 2011 Road Junkies 0 Comments

KIDMORE END, England — One of the great pleasures of traveling is encountering new ideas and learning about different ways of doing things.  But every now and then we come across concepts that are so... well, foreign that we find ourselves doing a double or even a triple take.  Oddly, that occurred repeatedly today.  We began to question whether Iceland's volcanic ash had seeped into our brains or if maybe today was actually April 1and all the calendars were just wrong.

For Whom the Bridge Tolls
This morning whilst* driving on Deadman's Lane, a narrow country byway, toward Sulham Woods for a letterbox hike, we saw a sign indicating there was a "Weak Bridge" 4.5 miles ahead. Wait a minute.  Is that how the dead man met his fate?  A bit later, another sign warned, "Weak Bridge, 2 miles ahead.  No turning beyond this point."  That proved not totally accurate as there were indeed places one could turn off that road, but then maybe that's not what "no turning" meant.

The sign looked a bit roadworn so we figured the bridge had lasted a good long time, why not one more day?  On the other hand, maybe our little Vauxhall Corsa might prove to be this bridge's straw.  Living adventurously, we decided to take the plunge.  Uh, bad choice of words.


At any rate, we carried on* to the bridge where we were met with another surprise.  At the head of this very short, one lane bridge was a toll booth, manned by a tollkeeper.  Say what?  You warn me that I'm about to cross a weak bridge and then charge me for the privilege?  The toll was 40p (about $.65) for a car to cross, and we assume it's deposited into a search and rescue fund for when the bridge finally gives way.

We were happy to see that everyone pays a fair share to cross, whether man or beast. Though George III hasn't been on the throne since his death in 1820, this toll schedule he authorized was posted near the toll booth.  Note that 'd' was the old symbol for a penny, (from the Latin denarius, a coin used in the Roman Empire).  We wondered how the horses and sheep and the like carried their money.

Wanted:  Gullible Thieves
After our hike in Sulham Woods, we stopped to visit a small church nearby,where we saw two interesting signs.  Over a door set in the stone wall was a sign warning that anti-climb paint was present.  A bit of research turned up this information about the product on Wikipedia:  "Anti-climb paint (also known as Anti Vandal Paint) is a class of paint consisting of a thick oily coating that is applied with a stiff brush, trowel or by hand using a protective glove. In appearance it is similar to smooth gloss paint when applied but it remains slippery indefinitely thereby preventing any intruder from gaining a foothold.  It owes its effectiveness to the fact that it is based on a non-drying oil and keeps the surface greasy and slippery."  The product is designed for use on lamp posts and fences.

Two questions.  1.  Does this paint look as if it may have a greasy or slippery texture?  2.  Since the wall is stone and obviously not painted, what are we trying to keep vandals from climbing?  Maybe the sign was installed after rock climbers mistook the church for a cliff to scale.

The other high weapon in the little church's arsenal against burglary was announced in a cautionary sign on the main entrance door.

Say what?  Smart water?  Of course, we had to look into this.  Here's how SmartWater is described on the company web site:  "SmartWater is a forensic liquid that assigns your valuables with their own unique forensic code, allowing them to be traced back to you."  OK.  So you buy this special liquid and coat your valuables with it and thieves can't remove it so the police will go to the thief's home and find your property and you can prove it belongs to you?  And for the police to be able to trace your property, you need to pay a subscription fee to the purveyors of SmartWater to ensure that your "DNA-type" markers remain on file and accessible.  The promo video on the SmartWater site offers a better explanation.  If you're up for a bit of comedy, click here.

It's Tradition
If your thatched roof has caught fire twice and caused extensive damage to your pub yet again, what do you do when it's time to rebuild?  Put in a new thatched roof, of course.  It's tradition.

That's what we were told at this pub where we had lunch today when we inquired about the foot-thick thatched roof.  "Oh, yeah.  The place has burned twice when the roof has caught," the barkeep told us.  "You can see the photos from the last fire.  Just have a look at the album there on the shelf."

Say what??

*Note that we're trying to learn to speak British.