Tuesday, March 22, 2005

On the road, again

British Roadside Attractions

I have a sneaking feeling that I've written about this before, but bear with me as my abandonment of the railway has opened up whole new vistas to me. This started off as a rant on the lack of decent roadside attractions in Britain, but the more I thought of it, the more I realised that we've got loads. And with the Easter weekend opening up before us like Goatse man's bottom, what better time to promote the best tat our country has to offer.

You see, there's a whole tradition of this sort of thing in America. The whole place is littered with monuments to the useless. You drive from Pigdick, Illinois to Arse, Texas and you are forever coming across the World's Biggest Cow Turd, the World's Longest Fish, huge fibreglass men - America is littered with this crap that travellers, bored with endless, endless roads, worship for the want of anything better to do. Like huge ducks, for example. Worship-me-do!

Your Gaimans, Brysons and any number of travel writers have waxed lyrical on the American roadside attraction, because, frankly, they try harder over there. In Weymouth, we've got a wishing well. Underwhelmed, I paid it a visit, and I'm still waiting for my lightly oiled Kirstie Allsopp clutching an attache case of used fivers.

Where's the weird guff when you need it?

It turns out that I just wasn't looking hard enough. On a recent trip up to Yeovil (where I could, if I wished, have taken a short diversion to see the Museum of Bakelite), I came across a submarine sitting beside the A37. A whole bloody submarine. With a periscope and everything.

And what, pray, is the Angel of the North, if it is not a massive roadside attraction designed solely to outdo those pesky American whippersnappers*?

And while I was trying out Wishing Wells, I remember a childhood visit to the Maharajah's Well just outside Henley. It's one of those what-the-bloody-hell's-that-doing-there? things that is so utterly out of time and place, you've just got to take a major diversion to see it.

What's near you? List me up!

I was rather disappointed, in my search for giant roadside stuff, to find out that Devon's The Big Sheep was not a large fibreglass farmyard animal. Must try harder. And if the Duck Trials are anything to go by, I'll be pleading not guilty, thank "ewe"** very much.

* Answer: a bit crap, and they forgot to paint it, the shoddy bastards.
** Sorry.

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