Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
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.