A Reminder To Look From The Other Side

Thursday 4th March 2021 12 noon

A friend of mine has a saying, attributed to a former colleague of ours: “Moi: pillock!”.

Well my friends…


For many months now the sign in the photo, or one very similar, has been clamped to the decorative iron trellis beside the conifers that shield the tiny area that I refer to as my ‘back’ garden. The notice faces out towards the road, about four feet up from the ground, and is clearly visible from the pavement. The idea is that it will easily catch the eye of delivery drivers, and they will follow the instruction I believed it is giving, and deliver the parcels for number 20 to the black table nearby, as indicated by the arrow.

Over the past months I’ve been repeatedly baffled and bewildered, and more than a tad vociferous (thankfully only to myself, not to the drivers concerned), to watch time and time again as delivery folk took a few steps towards the table, read the notice studiously, and walked away, package still in hand, looking around for – what?!

“Can you not read?!”, I yelled at them, blessedly unheard from behind closed windows, and eventually I came to the conclusion that in fact, that must be it. They were probably foreign workers (doing I must add, a wonderful and incredibly valuable job in these rather dangerous times) who don’t speak/read English. 

My nagging doubt that they could carry out their deliveries without being able to read ANY English, was quietened by the thought that maybe with sat nav technology, this could actually be possible. I accepted I must make a point of only ordering goods where I could specify a delivery day, and then keep a watchful eye.

Now, perhaps I should reiterate here, I wrote and placed the notice, or its identically worded forerunner, many many months ago. This morning, as the dawn light slowly spread across my tiny bit of the world, and I sat in my beach chair on the Pimms Patio with my flask of tea, and for at least the hundredth time over those months my gaze settled on the notice, it hit me: “Moi, Pillock!”.

Those wonderful, diligent, dedicated delivery drivers weren’t the idiots; I was! I – who has never been able to master any language other than the one I was taught from birth – have been wrongly accusing these good people who are making a go of it in a foreign land, of being unable to read what I believed to be a simple clear instruction; when in fact they’ve followed it to the letter.

As the dawn broke this morning, I found myself looking at my little sign with the eyes of someone whose mother tongue is probably a lot more logical than mine, and I realised that those wonderful, good, obedient delivery folk had done exactly what I’d asked them to, and had indeed left “No… deliveries here…” but had walked away looking around for the black table elsewhere!

Looking at the notice as if for the first time through open eyes, it was suddenly absolutely plain that their only failing, if indeed it can be regarded as such, is that they haven’t been taught every ridiculous quirk of the Englishman’s use of his (or her) own language!

I wonder that it’s only occurring to me now, after almost 63 years on this planet, to question why in blue blazes do we use “No” as a short form for “number”. There’s no “o” in the word number! (OK, I’m guessing probably latin or somesuch is to blame? The word “numerO” seems likely to be compliant in this madness somehow; but really..!)

Now I feel more than a little stupid, and quite ashamed at my snap judgement of others. Ah me, how often do we look at a situation convinced that our view of it is the right one, the only one? Sigh. I feel I’ve been taught a very humbling lesson this morning, and I hope I will remember it from now on. 

First of all though, I’ve a new sign to make.