When I was teaching English in Dublin, students frequently asked me about all the “Ramps” signs they saw. There is one at the entrance of pretty much every housing estate in Dublin. When I explained to one French woman, she commented that it might be better to put a sign at the end of streets with no ramps and let drivers assume that there were ramps on every other street. It’d be more economical.
I feel the same way walking through English housing estates. The primary concern of English people would appear to be that there be no ball games. You can’t walk very far in the Arbury area of Cambridge, where I’m living, without seeing a sign, proclaiming a ban on ball games. I’m sure that the lives of these estate-dwellers was being ruined by roaming gangs of polo and ping pong players, until someone had the clever idea of putting up a sign bearing the words, “No Ball Games”.
On my way to the local supermarket, there is another sign that gives me the shivers. I imagine that it is to encourage dog owners to “scoop” their dogs’ “poop”, which is a fairly barbaric practice. I never fully understood pet-ownership. Anyway, the sign says “There’s no such thing as the Dog Poo Fairy”. Oh, praise the lord. Thank God there’s no such thing. Can you imagine how vile such a creature would be? A Dog Poo Fairy? Is the human imagination capable of worse atrocities against my sensibilities?
In general, it is by its signs that I know England is not Ireland. Looking around a typical housing estate here is not much different from looking around a typical housing estate at home, but in Ireland we don’t ban ball games, we have ramps instead. In Ireland, writing is generally smaller, as we have to write things in two languages. And in Ireland, we just aren’t horrid enough to invent fictional flying magical fecal creatures that would keep me awake at night.