Statement of obvious lives on our roads

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Anything can earn itself a cult following nowadays.

Recently I saw an advertisement that invited readers to join the Test Card Circle. I imagined that, on joining, members were issued with a DVD which enabled them to spend hours in front of the telly wallowing in nostalgia as they watched a static picture depicting various geometric patterns surrounding that picture of a little girl in front of a blackboard.

On closer investigation though, it seems that the Test Card Circle is more interested in the music that was played in the background – all those jaunty pieces featuring pizzicato strings.

But presumably, for the full experience, they watch a recording of the Test Card while listening to the music. Therefore, something which in most of our childhoods seemed to be the very acme of tedium, has acquired a band of enthusiasts.

Another form of broadcasting which seemed utterly naff at the time but which is gaining a cult following is the Public Information Film, those absurdly melodramatic little offerings of safety advice from the Central Office of Information. Nowadays they are sometimes hailed as mini-masterpieces of propaganda, but at the time they often seemed like a statement of the bloomin’ obvious.

The one that always springs to my mind had a voice-over by TV magic man Paul Daniels, which showed that unless you took the trouble to lock your car when you parked it at night in a dingy back street in a dodgy part of town, there was every chance it wouldn’t be there when you returned from your trip to the cinema.

Anyway, the Central Office of Information was sadly axed earlier this year. Britain suddenly feels a much more dangerous place.

But I sometimes feel its spirit lives on in the helpful hints and tips that motorists are bombarded with from those large matrix signs alongside main roads and motorways.

When there are no road closures or speed restrictions to warn us about, these signs offer handy hints and tips.

One that I have seen repeatedly in recent days reads, in large yellow lettering, “OLYMPIC GAMES. PLAN YOUR JOURNEY IN ADVANCE”.

I think I know what they are getting at. If the Central Office of Information were still on the go, they would probably have made a little film, perhaps featuring the Wright Family and the Wrong Family.

The Wrongs would be seen bundling themselves into a badly-maintained car. “Right, kids! We’re off to the Olympics, “ Mr Wrong would say. “It’s in London somewhere. That’s down south. We’ll ask for directions when we get there. We should be just in time for the 100 metres final. It doesn’t start for an hour.”

The Wrights, however, would have planned their journey down to the last detail, allowing for every possible mishap. We see them cheering a British winner home while the Wrongs are stuck in a traffic jam half way up the M1.

The matrix sign people, it must be said, have done in seven words when the Central Office of Information would have needed a five-minute film. But “OLYMPIC GAMES. PLAN YOUR JOURNEY IN ADVANCE” still seems like a statement of the bloomin’ obvious to me. Unless there really are people who are planning to type “Olympics” into their sat-navs a couple of hours before the event [“Yes, there probably are”- Ed]

I wonder if one day there will be a Matrix Society consisting of enthusiasts who collect classic pieces of non-advice from the Highways Agency.