good signs ahead

Roadside Haiku 2

This week started with a lovely email from a reader who wanted to share her delight at the Big West Festival’s roadside haiku project.

The use of oversized traffic management signs to flash the poetic shorthand thoughts of Footscray residents to an audience held captive by construction work snarls was one of the great hits of the ninth biennial community arts festival.

With only the NBN roll-out proceeding more slowly than motorists around Footscray these days, Big West artistic director Marcia Ferguson saw an opportunity in the banked-up lines of traffic.

After putting out a call for pithy poems based on traditional Japanese haiku style, Ferguson was inundated.

Some popular offerings included:

clutching                      Quixotic                       a yam sits                   steel sewn

paper bag                     poet seeks                  on steps                      & threaded

courage                        same                            smiling                         west skies

Reader Lizz summed up the feelings of many residents.

It was a brilliant idea with messages that made me laugh. It’s those unexpected little things that blow me away.”

It’s amazing how a little humour can take the edge off a stressful commute or just a plain bad morning.

Maybe VicRoads, Metro trains, the tunnel operators and even the folk in the Centrelink office could take a lesson from the success of the roadside haiku.

No more “lengthy delays expected”, but “stay cool, ice-creams ahead”. Under-employed tenors could be put to work holding stop signs, and the flashing numbers in Medicare claims replaced by karaoke systems.

Well, maybe not!

But as far back as the 17th century, Thomas Sydenham, the father of English medicine, promoted the value of laughter, observing: “The arrival of a good clown exercises more beneficial influence upon the health of a town than twenty asses laden with drugs.”

And, funnily enough, when you are on the look out for good humour you can find flashes of it everywhere.

Travelling back to the city along the Northern Highway yesterday we zipped past a side road sign suspended with a pair of brightly painted board-shorts: Short’s Lane.

On the road from Mt Franklin to Hepburn, a sharp-eyed motorist might be lucky enough to spot one of several teddies suspended from trees. You got it. Drop Bears!

Sitting on the verandah at the Glen Lyon General Store, look to the base of the big tree and you will see a tiny set of wooden steps leading to a knot door complete with handle, little front window and mailbox.

In the inner city, no matter how ordinary a day he might be having, my lovely brother couldn’t go past the graffiti Beware The Poodles of Doom without a smile.

He was quite gutted when it was painted over.

But he still smiles whenever he sees a poodle.

Heading for Christmas with the kids off school and the attendant festive frenzy we can all do with a smile as we go about the business of being.

Know of one you care to share?

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