As I was sat in traffic the other day, I glanced across at the truck alongside me, and to help pass the idle time, I read what was emblazoned on the side. It's not that I was expecting it to be particularly interesting, it's more that I had time on my hands and felt that it was likely to be more interesting than continuing to study the numberplate of the car just in front.
It was a haulage company. No real surprises there. I read on, perhaps not eagerly, but I read on nonetheless. It was a haulage firm from Barnstaple, North Devonshire. Now, my father's family are from Plymouth, so I happened to know that Barnstaple was in Devon. I didn't actually know that Barnstaple was in North Devon. If I'd had to guess, then I think that's what I would have plumped for, but it would still have been a guess. It seems my gamble in reading the side of the lorry was paying off and I'd now learned something for my troubles.
I read on.
Except that was it. The name of the haulage company and the fact that it was based in North Devonshire. Perhaps it's just me, but I was expecting more. Hell, now I'd started reading, I felt a little bit cheated that there wasn't more. In the unlikely event that I wanted to find this haulage company, what the hell was I supposed to do? Follow the truck and hope it was going home? Is it too much to expect a phone number or something? Is a website really out of the question? Do you even want my theoretical business?
And North Devonshire? What's that all about? If I didn't know where Barnstaple was, is telling me that it's in North Devonshire as opposed to any other part of Devon really that helpful? Are the people of Barnstaple able to get into a taxi, anywhere in Europe, give their address as "North Devonshire" and have a trouble-free journey directly to their doorsteps? Perhaps there's some kind of regional pride here that I'm not aware of, and the people of North Devon are desperate not to be associated with any other part of their county?
"Where are you from then?"
"Ah, I'm from Barnstaple"
"Oh yes, is that in South Devon?"
Do the people of Central Devonshire make an advertisement of the fact, or do they prefer to think of themselves as being Southern North Devonshire? Or Northern South Devonshire? Are there rules here? Do the local councils have to issue guidelines, or is this something you are born knowing?
And then the traffic cleared up and I drove home.
Well, it passed the time alright, but what about all those unanswered questions?