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Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

Where can we live but days?

steepholm steepholm
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St Nicholas's Day, 2012, Driving Eastward
When I drive into Wiltshire from the west, somewhere near Dead Maids, I always see a friendly sign proclaiming "Wiltshire Welcomes You!" Glancing in my rear view mirror, it is hard not to imagine a ghostly retort on its reverse: "Somerset Says 'Sod Off!'" Nor do we stop there, though further back the cries of the counties grow fainter: "Devon Says 'Get Off Moy Laand!'" drawls dimly across the winter fields. And beyond Dartmoor, tumbled in Tamar's tide, I hear a drowned mermaid lisping, "Emmets Go Home!"

This has made us both laugh a lot.

In the US it's state license plate mottos. New Hampshire's says LIVE FREE OR DIE, a rather alarming conundrum. I once participated in a game to create equivalents for other states. Wisconsin's would be EAT CHEESE OR DIE, for instance. Then there's the long-running battle between Ohio and North Carolina over which state gave birth to powered flight. (The Wright Brothers were from Ohio but they did their test flights in North Carolina.)

I'm always amused by signs reading "[Town name] welcomes careful drivers." I always like imagining the hideous fate that they have prepared for the more rash and careless members of the motorist fraternity, who enter their bounds, and are Never Seen Again.

Such places are guarded well by elemental spirits of great power. In ordinary times they are chained to the land, but woe to the driver who hears the fatal cry: "The sleeping policeman hath awaked..."