A correspondent suggests that the garish red sign of which I complained (Signs of danger in the University Parks) might be less offensive if it read “Swim at your own risk”.
Indeed it would, though a literal-minded pen-pusher (and all pen-pushers are literal-minded, if “mind” is the right word) would object that some might construe this as an encouragement to swim, or even a command.
My real objection, however, was firstly to the presence of any notice at all – is Pen-Pusher so very intelligent that his view is better than mine, and how have we managed all these years without his bloody notice? and secondly to the size and garish colouring.
I was in Hyde Park this week. It is not short of notices telling you what you can or cannot do – it takes longer to read the sign at the Princess Diana Memorial Ditch than it would take to walk round it – but they are low-key and tastefully coloured.
Pen-Pusher is either too ignorant to understand what he is ruining or he thinks that the appreciation of parks and nature is a middle-class affectation which it is his duty to foul up. I guess it is the former. He went home with his clip-on tie and his whiny voice and his plastic shoes completely unconscious of the visual effect of his notice and just proud that he had done his bit to save people from themselves. He had also done something to justify his existence and his place on the payroll, and if you were Pen-Pusher from Health & Safety you would want all the comfort you could get on that score.
Bagehot, as so often, says it all:
“The trained official hates the rude, untrained public. He thinks that they are stupid, ignorant, reckless – that they cannot tell their own interest – that they should have the leave of the office before they do anything. Protection is the natural inborn creed of every official ….”
Rot them all.