Born in ’54

2014 is the year I turn 60. No, I can’t believe it either. I wanted to know who and what I share my anniversary with, so here are twenty or so examples of others celebrating their 60th birthday this year.

SUNSILK SHAMPOO

Unilever first launched this famous shampoo in the UK. Now it’s the biggest name in haircare and is sold everywhere. A 1960’s ad campaign for Sunsilk featured a jingle composed by John Barry that was subsequently released as a pop single. Don’t look it up; it’s awful.

UNIVERS

Univers is described as a neo-grotesque sans-serif typeface and was designed by a Swiss guy called Adrian Frutiger. Frutiger also came up with, er, Frutiger. Alas, Univers isn’t on the WordPress menu so you’ll have to settle for whatever this is. Palatino?

THE GEODESIC DOME

A strong yet lightweight structure consisting of a lattice of interlocking icosahedrons, patented (but not invented) in 1954 by American hippy hero R Buckminster Fuller. The best examples in the UK can be seen at Cornwall’s Eden Project.

SLIDING DOORS

Not the movie, the actual thing. One breezy day in 1954, a couple of Texan dudes noticed that the wind was always blowing swing doors open. So they set about inventing the world’s first automatic electric sliding doors. Today it is estimated that there are lots of sliding doors everywhere.

THE MOGEN CLAMP

A tool used in circumcision procedures and invented by Brooklyn rabbi Harry Bronstein. Bronstein’s invention had an inherent design flaw in that the very act of applying the clamp made it impossible for the circumciser to see what he was doing. So Rabbi Bronstein is probably known as ‘that goddamn bastard’ by the various men who lost more than was religiously necessary.

PHOTOVOLTAIC PANELS

Also enjoying its 60th birthday is the photovoltaic or solar panel. Back in 1954 you needed a whole square yard of solar panel to power a single domestic light bulb. Today it’s more like 0.836 square metres.

TRANSISTOR RADIOS

The original transistor radio was called the Regency TR-1 and entered the US market costing £29.45, or about £250 in today’s money. Surviving examples are much sought after by collectors but rarely by music fans. I mean, look at it.

1717 ARLON*

Discovered in 1954 but actually born much, much earlier, 1717 Arlon is a small asteroid with its own tiny moon. It’s visible to the naked eye, but only if you’re viewing it from a spaceship that’s cautiously threading its way through the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
* Asteroid shown may not be 1717 Arlon

NUCLEAR STUFF

1954 was a big year for all things nuclear. America launched the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Nautilus, while Russia built the first ICBM, opened the first nuclear power station and exploded its first hydrogen bomb. Thanks, 1954!

NON-STICK FRYING PANS

Widely and wrongly believed to be an offshoot of NASA’s space program, the trusty non-stick pan was actually invented in France by one Marc Gregoire. However, it is true that US scientists one day saw Marc’s frying pan and thought to themselves ‘wait a minute – space travel!’

WEIRD CULTS

Scientology was founded in 1954. With their belief that everyone on Earth is descended from the souls of murdered aliens, they make practitioners of the Wiccan pagan religion, also founded in 1954, seem positively rational. Tom Cruise is a famous Scientologist, while Alan Whicker was a Wiccan*.
* Wasn’t

THE BLACK BOX

The guy who can probably claim most credit for the invention of the modern flight recorder is an Australian called David Warren. There are two things we know about the black box. One, they aren’t black and two, we’ll probably never find the one from flight MH370.

BLOOMSDAY

The annual Dublin event (read ‘pub crawl’) celebrating the life of Irish writer James Joyce. The day is named after Leopold Bloom, the main character in Joyce’s book Ulysses. Have you ever read Ulysses? Neither have I.

LOVE HEARTS

When I was growing up in the 60s, these iconic items of confectionery carried messages like ‘Groovy’ and ‘Swing it’. There’s currently a competition to dream up aphorisms for their 60th anniversary, so expect to see lots of OMGs, WTFs and ROFLMAOs. DYSWIDT?

1954 MOVIES

There were some good ones, like On The Waterfront and Rear Window, as well an abomination called The Silver Chalice, starring Paul Newman in his first role. When the film ran on TV in 1966, Newman took out ads in the trade press begging people not to watch it. His plea inevitably backfired.

MUSIC OF 1954

Mantovani, Dean Martin and Max Bygraves were the year’s big hitters. Bill Haley briefly lit up the charts with Shake, Rattle & Roll, but it wasn’t until 1955 that rock ‘n’ roll really took a hold. The number one when I was born was ‘Cara Mia’ by David Whitfield. I considered adding it to my party’s playlist. Then I listened to it.

THE ROUTEMASTER

Who doesn’t love the iconic Routemaster? Apart from people in wheelchairs, I mean? Some 2,876 Routemasters were built between ’54 and ’68, with 1,280 still in existence. They’re still operated on the ‘heritage’ routes 9 and 15 – plus there’s a phantom Routemaster that occasionally ‘appears’ in W10.

MONSTERS OF ‘54

Specifically, Godzilla and The Creature from the Black Lagoon, both of whom made their first appearance that year. Godzilla dealt with the prospect of humanity unleashing something beyond its control, i.e. atomic weapons. The Creature from the Black Lagoon was just a monster movie, although a 2014 remake is slated to be about the pollution of the Amazon.

FALSE NAILS

Artificial nails had been around for centuries, but the type used today came about by accident when US dentist Fred Slack broke a nail and used the tools of his trade to make a false one. The rest, as nobody says, is history.

THE ELECTRIC TOOTHBRUSH

The first one was called the Broxodent and it was invented by a Swiss dentist named Dr Phillipe-Guy Woog. Dr Phillipe-Guy Woog never met Dr Robert E Moog, or who knows what we’d have been subjected to whilst brushing our teeth.

SUBARU

Subaru is part of the Fuji Manufacturing Corporation. Not a lot of people know that. Subaru is the Japanese name for the Pleiades star cluster. Not a lot of people know that, either. And in the US, Subarus are popular amongst lesbians. Who the hell knew that?

FAMOUS DUDES

Simpsons creator and massive Zappa fan Matt Groening was born in 1954, along with John Travolta, Neil Tennant, Denzil Washington, Elvis Costello, Ang Lee, James Cameron, Ray Liotta, Annie Lennox, Angela Merkel, Arthur Smith and Jermaine Jackson.

Arthur Smith provided the comedy for my 40th birthday party. He was brilliant.

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It’s 2014 – time for World Cuppling!

Here’s a look at the variously clever, risible, audacious and at times just plain desperate attempts by non-official World Cup advertisers to align their products with one of the world’s biggest sporting events, without, you know, actually mentioning it by name.

It’s called World Cuppling. By me, anyway.

First up, Sony. The people who prepared a wraparound for our local newspaper use puns galore to allude to the World Cup. They must be sick as HD parrots to learn that Sony is, in fact, an official sponsor, and that they could have sprinkled magic World Cup soccer dust all over the place.

Next, Panasonic.

A little too subtle, Panasonic? And you spelled the ex-French captain’s name wrong.

Camelot is talking holiday destinations, right? Not a potential fixture in that footie contest

George at Asda. For everything a die-hard England fan won’t be seen dead in this summer.

‘Save’. A football reference. You’ve drawn me in! Small point: How much do I save, exactly? On the wine, for instance? You haven’t said. Are you Costcutter or Copycutter?

Will this do?

Pure quality

This next ad from 3 is actually pretty good. A totally relevant idea, with Kenneth Wostenholme’s famous quote thrown in for good measure (and far from gratuitously). I also like the way it avoids using the phrase ‘World Cup’ without the reader noticing its absence.

Not sure about that ‘whilst’, though.

Seen any examples of World Cuppling? Please send  them to kevincopy (at) gmail.com or leave a link in the comments section. Let’s get behind our Boys and Girls in creative departments up and down the land!

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Things you don’t see in Canary Wharf: an A-Z

Abandoned shops
Ad agencies (but only if you’re reading this after 2015, when Ogilvy & Mather upped sticks and moved back to London)
Apple store. The Wharf’s a prime location, you’d have thought. But if an office worker around here wants to look at the alternative to a PC, he has to go to Waitrose (see ‘John Lewis’)
A parking ticket on this car. Ever

Jaguar, alright for some

The Jag that never gets a ticket

Beggars
Big Issue vendors
Buskers who aren’t officially auditioned and licensed and whose repertoire doesn’t include songs by Coldplay
Charity shops, chuggers, children who aren’t on a school trip
Circus posters pushed through the letterboxes of abandoned shops (qv)
Civil engineering projects undertaken by any company whose name isn’t ‘Canary Wharf Contractors’.

Coincidentally, C also stands for ‘competitive tendering’

 Civil disobedience. At the time of Occupy London, Canary Wharf Management got jittery that something similar may occur on their patch. It was never likely, but the authorities took the precaution of cable-tying ‘Restrictions of Assembly’ rules to lamp-posts on all the approaches to Canary Wharf. The half-inch-thick document lists all the dos and don’ts – mainly don’ts – that visitors to Canary Wharf are subject to. I’d like to read it one day, but one of the don’ts is almost certainly ‘Don’t remove this document’. #catch22
Diversity
Dawdling people. Everyone’s in a hurry, all of the time. Not New York hurry, but a lot faster than New Malden hurry
Eccentrics
Etiquette, specifically as it pertains to holding doors open for other people. However, see ‘Unseemly free-for-all’
Extra Mints. I love these little fellers, despite a lifelong and completely inexplicable dislike of everything Wrigley. But no one here sells them. Update: Boots do.

These mints. Rarer than unobtainium

Feminists. I’ve no proof that they don’t exist in Canary Wharf, merely find the prospect unlikely
Flags. Can’t think of a single office that sports a gaily fluttering flag, nor a single reason why one should do so
Google Street View cars. They’re not allowed in. For security reasons. I can’t say more
Graffiti, greengrocers, greasy spoons
Happy and contented maintenance staff. I once saw a jacket hanging from the arm of this statue in West India Avenue. Its owner, a gardener, was toiling nearby. The scene looked quite amusing, so I asked the gardener if he minded me taking a photo.
He did. He told me that maintenance staff employed at the Wharf could be ‘let go’ for the most trivial reasons, and if someone from Canary Wharf Management were to see my photo on Instagram or wherever, he would most likely be tracked down and given his P45.
Ice cream vans
Independent shops
Jams, traffic
John Lewis. There’s a Waitrose that looks like a John Lewis and sells John Lewis-type merchandise, but it’s called Waitrose. Nobody knows why
Just passing through’. No one does this. Canary Wharf isn’t on the way to anywhere
Kebab shops
Knocking shops. Not that I’ve seen, anyway. Not that I’ve been looking. Or know what one looks like. If they look like office receptions I may have to revisit this entry
Learner drivers
Listed buildings
Litter
Long grass. Like long hair, it’s redolent of anarchy and will not be tolerated. There are little parks and gardens in Canary Wharf but they are enthusiastically maintained, with all the plants laid out in regimented rows and patterns
Marks & Spencer. OK, there is one that does a roaring trade in food. But one where you can buy some socks? Forget it
Men in suits. Joking!
Old people. Older than me people, definitely
Patience at pelican crossings. This particular phenomenon isn’t restricted to Canary Wharf but its effect is more pronounced here due to the lack of heavy traffic. What happens is that a pedestrian will hit the pelican crossing button before looking to see if any traffic’s coming or not. It’s generally not, so he’ll stride straight out into a deserted road. Then, when a car finally does show up, the lights will suddenly turn red for no reason. This makes me angry as a driver and a pedestrian, and if I were a pelican I’d be furious
Pelicans
Petrol stations
Pigeons. Today I was wondering why you didn’t see that many pigeons in Canary Wharf when I came face to face with one of the reasons. Lemmy is a Harris Hawk who, his handler explained, is employed to persuade pigeons and gulls that they would lead more fruitful lives in other London boroughs. ‘But there aren’t many pigeons around here!’ I said. ‘I know,’ replied Lemmy’s boss. ‘He’s good, isn’t he?’

lemmy, hawk

That’s Lemmy on the right

Police. Proper police. The ones at Canary Wharf may look like your regular plod, but in fact they’re a private force. You see them every hundred metres or so, standing around or walking along with varying degrees of purposefulness. They look well tooled up but they’re mostly packing torches, walkie-talkies and energy bars. Truth is, there’s not much for them to do around here and in any case they have very limited powers. Most of the crime at Canary Wharf occurs behind glass doors*, and it’s unlikely these uniformed plastics have the authority to barge in and say ‘Right, you’re all nicked!’ ‘What’s the charge, copper?’ ‘We’ll think of something, sunshine. How about complicity in acts of financial malpractice likely to engender global recession? And that’s just for starters!’
Poundland, Primark, public libraries, pubs with dartboards
Quitters. There’s no place in Canary Wharf for people who aren’t in it to win it. You snooze, you lose. It’s our way or the dual carriageway
Quizzes, pub
Ram-raiders. The office blocks around the wharf are protected by tank-proof obstructions, often disguised as flower boxes. With its all-pervasive air of paranoia, Canary Wharf is the Porton Down of the business world. Mind you, the IRA did plant a massive bomb here back in 1996, so the fear isn’t completely unfounded
Scruffy people. If you do happen to see a girl in ripped jeans, they’ll have been skilfully hand-ripped by a professional jean ripper
Skateboarders, although you do see the occasional spirit-crushing sight of a middle-aged office worker on a scooter
Tattoo parlours. Are you kidding?
To Let’ signs on empty offices. Sends out the wrong signal
Toy shops
Tripods, Photographers with. Hat tip to Rob Borgars for this observation. Basically, using a tripod is discouraged in the Wharf. The reasons? You could be a terrorist (no, I can’t see the connection either). You might cause someone to trip, resulting in legal action. Or you might be someone aiming to take a photograph for commercial gain. Tripod = professional, you see.
Undertakers
Urban foxes. I’ve never seen a squirrel here, either
Unseemly free-for-all to get on the Tube at the end of the day. Instead, Canary Wharfers (as nobody calls them) queue in an orderly fashion. It’s a sight to behold
Vandalism
WH Smith. Oddly, there isn’t a single branch of Britain’s favourite newsagent. Something called ‘News on the Wharf’ takes care of all the sweets ‘n’ papers stuff
Xylophones. No one I’ve spoken to has ever seen one in Canary Wharf. Nor have there been any sightings of marimbas, glockenspiels, vibraphones or thongophones. Things might be different if there was a music shop here
Yobbos. Yodellers. Yellow-crowned night herons. I’m struggling with Y
Zombies. None of the office grunts or ‘retail sales advisers’ are flesh-eating zombies. I’m pretty certain about this.

*Probably

Anything I’ve missed?  Do let me know. Also if the local M&S has started selling socks yet. (Update: they always have.)

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President Who: One weekend, two momentous events

If they haven’t started already, the next few days will see plenty of people attempting to tell you where they were the day President Kennedy was assassinated. I’m afraid I’m about to join them.

My account of the incident won’t help our understanding of it or provide much of a snapshot of life in 1960’s Britain, but it was certainly a significant event of my childhood. So I’m recording it here because, one, some horrible illness may one day prevent me from remembering it with any clarity, and two, the act of writing it down rather than telling you orally means I won’t see you start scanning the room for someone more interesting to talk to.

So. It’s a Friday evening in Bournemouth, England. My dad has to collect something from the home of his mother-in-law who lives about a mile away. He doesn’t want to do this at all; he just wants to eat supper and start his weekend. But for some reason the errand has to be done now. He gets me and my brother to go along with him.

How does this help? Well, my dad has a stiff leg; the result of being shot during the war. Walking presents no problem but climbing up and down stairs is a little trickier. So my brother and I are dragooned into helping. We’ll be able to bound up the stairs, grab whatever it is we’ve been sent to collect, and charge back down to dad who’ll be waiting in the car with the engine running.

Another reason might be that dad won’t have to get into a potentially evening-sapping conversation chat with granny. Why he chose to take two sons when one could have done the job just as well is a mystery. Give mum a bit of peace, maybe.

President John F Kennedy, moments before the fatal shots that etc etc
Credit: Reuters

Anyway, we get to grandma’s house and run up the stairs to find her huddled close to the radio. (She’d have called it the wireless, of course.) She looks up and tells us that the President of America has been shot. We sit down and listen to the announcer for a while. I was only 9 years old but I’d heard of President Kennedy and, even if I didn’t understand then what a huge event this shooting was, the tone of the announcer’s voice must have told me that it was very grave indeed. We listen as the news unfolds until eventually we hear our dad sounding the car horn. We grab whatever it is we were sent to collect and rush downstairs to the waiting car.

Dad’s furious. Why did we take so long? When my brother tells him that we were listening to news about the President being shot, he doesn’t believe us. He thinks my brother’s making it up. I chip in and tell him that it’s true, but he won’t have it. He’d prefer to think we’re storytelling than imparting the biggest news story since war was declared. So he drives us home in angry silence. We’re angry too: the worst thing when you’re a kid is not being believed by an adult. Especially when it’s your own father.

Salvation of a sort occurs as soon as we pull up in front of the house. Through the kitchen window we can see mum staring straight ahead. Uncharacteristically, she doesn’t acknowledge our arrival. We go indoors and notice that she’s actually crying. Dad asks her what the matter is. Through tears she tells him that President Kennedy is dead.

“Christ, not you as well!” shouts dad.

Not really. That would have been a good punchline to the story but the truth is, my memories of the day stop at that point. My only other Kennedy-related reminiscence is of a special assembly held the following week at school. Everyone was told to pray for America and for the world. Me and Steve Green had a go at praying when I went round to his house for tea, but we soon started giggling and changing the prayer to include the presents we wanted for Christmas. A Johnny Seven for me, probably.

Death and birth

The other big event that weekend in 1963, as everyone knows by now, was the first-ever transmission of Dr Who.

It struck me then as being unlike any children’s television programme I had previously seen. Clearly aimed at kids but with quite sophisticated ideas, it’s probably true to say that discussion of this new series overshadowed talk about Kennedy’s assassination in school playgrounds on the following Monday. I still believe that the thinking behind the Tardis warrants the tag of genius. A time-traveling machine that was bigger on the inside than the outside fits perfectly with the theme of ‘time and relative dimensions in space’, AND gave the writers carte blanche to do what they like within the Tardis’ four (?) walls, subject to the  production department being able to achieve it. Then, devising a backstory that ‘explained’ the appearance of the Tardis (it was supposed to adapt to whatever environment in which it materialised, but there’d been a fault with the mechanism) was another masterstroke. It was also  deliciously British – there was never a problem with the Enterprise that wasn’t the result of battle.

Cantankerous old bastard – the first Dr Who, played by William Hartnell. Plus other actors.

Did I do the now clichéd thing of hiding behind the sofa during the scary bits of Dr Who? Yes I did. The series that particularly frightened me was the second time the Daleks made an appearance. Their arrival in London brought the terror too close to home and made the sense of hopelessness all too real.

So there we have it. One life-changing weekend – or life-ending, depending on who you were – in November, 1963.

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Do you ever use A COMPUTER?

In this guide from 1986, nightmarish characters tell you…

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The hairdressers of New Malden

You’re looking for a book that isn’t by James Patterson or Maeve Binchy.

You’re under 30 and you fancy a new shirt or a pair of trainers.

You like browsing around antique stores or record shops, or enjoy buying your meat from a butcher and your fish from a fishmonger.

If any of these apply to you, you can safely give New Malden High Street a miss. Try Wimbledon or Kingston instead. But if you want a haircut, then our high street is definitely THE place to come.

At the last count there were no fewer than 11 hairdressers on this half-mile strip of road. (That’s excluding the slightly dodgy-looking ones located up narrow staircases, behind single doorways at the side of shops.) In New Malden, only estate agents and food outlets are thicker on the ground.

Right next to the station, this is probably New Malden’s busiest barbershop.
No one who works here is called Sam.

Inside Sam’s.

Judy isn’t clear about whether to include an apostrophe, so covers her bases.
Judy is also as real as Sam.

Inside Judy’s. Or Judys. Note the modern, understated furniture.

Located just doors away from Judy’s. #koreanhairfight

Inside The Hair Salon. You don’t get that kind of wallpaper at John Lewis.

The long-established Headmasters.

Headmasters was one of just three shops that wouldn’t let me take a shot inside. “We have a marketing department, and they’re very strict on that sort of thing.” Surprisingly, it is also the only local hairdresser to have a hair-based pun in its name.

New Malden’s newest hairdressers*

* Actually, it’s difficult to tell with this site. Hairdresser shops tend to come and go here, sometimes starting off as one neat single store, then growing to become double-fronted before being trimmed back to a single shop. The staff can vary in sex, number and ethnicity, while the name of the shop changes with the frequency of Lady Gaga’s hairstyle.

Only an hour before this picture was taken, ‘BARBERS SHOP’ occupied the left hand side while the food takeaway ‘Baguette, Set, Go’ enjoyed its all-too-brief existence on the right.

Inside Sam & Sunny’s. No idea who’s who.

“J-j-j-ust a haircut please”

Inside Sopranos.

Dee biarsee? Die Bias? No idea.

Apparently there’s been a DiBiase salon in New Malden since 1914. I hope they’ll be playing lots of Haircut 100 next year.

No interior shots, I’m afraid. I know you’re massively disappointed.

Apparently, essensuals is ‘the diffusion group of Toni and Guy’, although it looked like a ‘hairdressers’ to me.

Inside essensuals.

The strangest retail pairing in history.

From the outside, Carrington Wood looks (and sounds) like an estate agents. Then you notice those posters in the window  advertising eyebrow threading and waxing. So what exactly is it? Well, it’s perhaps Surrey’s first hybrid estate agent/beauty parlour/hairdresser/lettings agent. Inside, the front of the shop has a few office desks and filing cabinets in the typical (though slightly down at heel) estate-agent style, while the back is given over to the hair and beauty side of the business. They wouldn’t let me photograph inside the shop, evidently thinking it a bit of an odd request. They know all about odd at Carrington Wood.

“Hi! I’m looking for a Victorian semi, three beds, about £350,000?”
“Sorry mate, the best we can offer is a modern semi for £395,000.”
“Oh. Shame. How about a number two on top and a one on the side?”

Just as some of the best New York shows are found off-Broadway…

Here’s George. Unlike Sam or Judy or Sunni or the other Sam, I’m pretty sure George is his real name. He’s cut hair in New Malden since the 1970s and I don’t think he’s ever going to expand into eyebrow threading, diffusion products or real estate.

£9 to you, squire.

PS – thanks to New Maldenite Matt Lord (@ThatChapLordy on twitter), we now have a pic of the hairdressers that catered for the very, very old of New Malden. Bebe was demolished in 2006 to make way for a vacant area of rubble.

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You can’t write this sign any better. Or can you?

This sign has become a familiar sight on the back of many of Britain’s vans and lorries:

Mirrors sign

I like the sign’s brevity and its irrefutable logic. I don’t know how it can be improved. But that hasn’t stopped some people from having a go. In recent months I have seen several versions*:

IF YOU CAN’T
SEE MY MIRRORS
THEN I CAN’T SEE YOU

The addition of the word ‘then’ seeks to cement the link between the two clauses of the conditional sentence – the protasis, which expresses the condition, and the apodosis, which conveys the consequence. But in my opinion it adds nothing but five additional characters.

IF YOU CAN’T
SEE MY MIRRORS
I CAN’T SEE YOU

See the connection? We’re talking about you and my mirrors, here. Think mirrors and you, mirrors and you. It’s not about looking for my door handles or sun visor. Ignore those; they don’t matter. It’s mirrors you should be looking for. Sorry, MIRRORS.

IF YOU CAN’T
SEE MY MIRRORS,
“I CAN’T SEE YOU”

This is a weird one. We’ve got an added comma, which is probably correct for formal writing though unnecessary in a sign, but then we’re suddenly hauled inside speech marks. So who’s saying the “I can’t see you” bit, the van driver? Who’s saying the rest then, an anthropomorphised van?

Or has this been done by someone who thinks that putting something inside quote marks instantly invests it with more authority? To compound the felony, in the version that I saw the last line appeared in Comic Sans, and I know how much you hate Comic Sans.

IF YOU CAN’T SEE MY MIRRORS I CAN’T SEE YOU.
THIS MEANS THAT I’M MORE LIKELY TO KNOCK YOU OFF YOUR BIKE,
CAUSING YOU PAIN AND SUFFERING OR EVEN WORSE

This is a version we haven’t seen yet. It’s on the back of an imaginary lorryload of copywriters, one of whom has clambered out to improve the sign by adding a benefit. The benefit in this case being not getting crushed under the wheels of an artic.

How would different professions word the sign? I’m thinking of compliance officers, civil servants, manufacturers of smoothies…

A free HGV licence to the winning entry.

* No photos for these signs, I’m afraid. I saw them when I was driving.

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