Over the weekend I made a brief trip to the South East corner of the country to meet my Mum at Heathrow airport and bring a car load of our belongings back with me. I set off from Ladan’s room at just after 6am and enjoyed the wide empty roads before me as the crisp light of dawn arose around me.
When I was about a third of the way down the country a sign above the almost deserted motorway informed me that there was a queue ahead and that I should slow down to 40mph. Sceptically, I started slowing down only to find that the next overhead sign, just around a bend from the first, said “End” meaning that I had passed the congestion.
I wondered, for a moment, what had prompted the sign to flash such an unlikely warning at me, before forgetting about it and pondering more interesting and important facts such as when and where I would get my breakfast. However, it was not to be the only overhead sign to flash nonsense warnings at me during my 14 hours of driving that weekend, I was warned numerous times of imminent danger by overhead signs on the A1(M), the M1 and the M25 and on every single occasion the warning was false.
There were a couple of occasions on the M25 where it is possible the traffic conditions had been different a few minutes earlier, but for the most part the warning signs were not just wrong they were verging on the impossible. The last instance of this that I experienced was on my way back where a sign warned of congestion ahead and suggested I slow down to 50mph, doubtful I ignored it and decided that I would only take notice if the next sign repeated the warning and recommended a drop to 40mph… actually the next sign did repeat the warning and suggested 30mph. The road was flowing so well that with all my experience of false signs I merely ensured I wasn’t above the speed limit, then the next sign was blank. Either it wasn’t playing along with the previous signs or it knew that nobody was taking any notice and took a “What’s the point?” attitude to giving any kind of warning. Of course, there were no delays and the next sign said “End”.
I am reminded of the parable of the boy who cried wolf. During my journey I saw a few accidents and delays on the opposite carriageway. One man I saw sent a cloud of smoke across the road as he burned his tyres coming to a sudden stop from over 70mph… had he seen a warning sign about queues ahead or were they only telling lies this weekend, or had he indeed seen so many false warnings that he had decided not to take any notice anymore.
I have no idea why the overhead warning signs were so outrageously wrong this weekend, but it is dangerous for them to be so. The overhead signs are a means of communicating important information to drivers but if the drivers lose their trust in the communications they are receiving then the communication becomes useless and it can no longer be used to improve safety on the road.
I had intended to get back to the old flat, pack our remaining things and give it a good tidy before collecting my Mum from Heathrow airport. I had forgotten how much stuff was still there and so I didn’t even finish the packing part, though I did pack as much as I would be able to bring back the following day. My Mum is in the country for a few weeks and should be coming up to Newcastle to visit me here soon. On Sunday morning I had the pleasure of seeing my brother Robert, his partner Anne and my nephew Finlay for the first time in over a year. It was a relatively short time before I felt the need to get back on the road but it was really great to see them all. Finlay is so very cute and cheerful.
Unfortunately I will need to make another visit to the flat to get the rest of our things from there, I had hoped this trip (my second quick visit) would be the last so that next time I go south I might just spend my time visiting friends or family rather than packing and loading. Hopefully the next trip will be the last.