Saturday, 11 March 2017

Cat's eyes removed


The stacking up of hundreds of plastic bollards outside reminds me that tomorrow is the Bath Half Marathon. I heard drunken students throwing them around last night. In my day, no student bedsit was complete without a stolen parafin road lamp hanging up somewhere in the room, and the previous generation's most prized trophy was a stolen policeman's helmet - taken from the head of a live and conscious copper. Students were made of sterner stuff in the 1950s.

I can sort of understand why young people have no respect for plastic traffic-cone bollards - there are just too many of them. Drive down any motorway under reconstruction in any other part of Europe and the cones will be placed about 20 feet apart, but here they almost touch each other. Can you imagine anyone who could be bothered to steal one to take home?

When I was a kid, I was fascinated by the reflector 'Cat's-Eyes' in the middle of the road, and I desperately wanted one so badly that I crept out one night and prised one glass eyeball from its rubber socket and took it home. I now have a complete pair including the rubber blinking mechanism, and the eyes are red glass. I found it at the side of the road, where it must have fallen from a maintenance vehicle - or from the hands of someone who had stolen it. All it would take to make it look like a giant tarantula is some legs and black paint.

In these days of locked churches, things left in the streets overnight are deliberately made ugly and worthless to discourage theft. Any public sculpture also has to be vandal-proof if it isn't ugly enough to be not worth stealing, and the materials must also be worthless - metal thieves prefer bronze to be be a few tons in weight.

The was a bollard historian on the radio today (yes, at least one exists), and she mentioned that the first things which could be described as traffic bollards were captured cannon, set upright into the pavement and plugged with over-sized balls. You still see them in London and other important cities, and the following designs for cast-iron bollards were all modelled on cannon. They still are when they are steel and not stone.

I always wanted my own real cannon when I was a kid too.

15 comments:

  1. Everything with metal content is stolen around here, including drain lids (very dangerous) and post boxes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They have even stolen the copper wire for hospital emergency generators.

      Delete
    2. Not forgetting the lead from the church roofs. Ever on-going hereabouts

      Delete
  2. The title of this post is taken from a road sign I saw leaning against the wall of a cat's home in the Mendips as I drove past!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Back when I drove half the country for a living, I was grateful for those cat's eyes becoming a standard on interstate highways. Now they do it with reflective strips of material that adhere to the pavement.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. For a while, we had a length of road with electric light strips which were charged by the sun. It was stranged to see them in your rear veiw mirror.

      Delete
  4. Dear Tom, I enjoyed getting caught up on your recent posts this morning.

    The imperial/metric post describes re-calculations that I often make in my knitting designs. Of course, when a knitting calculation turns out to be a bit off, it's much easier to just unravel a few rows...not quite the same with the materials you are using.

    Your bollards post has given me an idea for a future blog. I will take lots of photographs of various protective barriers that keep appearing around the city. Some of them attempt to be attractive planters; some are plain but look strong. Thank you for the inspiration.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I look forward to your bollard post.

      Delete
  5. Street and highway lights don't work in the city due to copper theft. It is big business around here. I have sold two old small brass cannons that really worked, though I wouldn't have a clue how to make them fire.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Far too late, all scrap-metal dealers are only allowed to pay by cheque here now. It's a good job you didn't try to make the cannons work...

      Delete
  6. I used to tell my children to learn absolutely EVERYTHING about some subject or other, and therefore to become an 'expert'; but I never though of bollards.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Please forgive my shitty spelling. I never proof read!

      Delete
  7. My big brother, when he was in his early teens, he and his friends once tried to steal the logo from a Jaguar car in a scrap yard. The yard guardian caught them, handed the boys over to the parents, and no police report was made. My father gave my brother a lesson of which he has never forgotten.
    Greetings Maria x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Those Jaguar emblems made nice objects. For a while, some people stole the Mercedes badges from the cars and wore them round their necks. Now Mercedes don't make then in 3D.

      Delete