Hot Rails and Rising Bollards

Today’s post comes from Renee in North Dakota

Our recent trip to Great Britain and Ireland helped me develop a renewed love of the English language. I learned some new words on our trip to Europe, words for technological advances I had no idea existed prior to the trip.  I also developed an appreciation of how funny ostensibly stuffy writing can be.

20160523_164429I noticed in our hotels in Dublin and Great Britain these pipe contraptions affixed to the walls in the bathrooms with a placard letting us know they were Hot Rails. They looked like towel racks with knobs and dials on them, and they were, in fact. loaded with towels. When you turned the dials, the pipes filled with hot water, which warmed the towels and made them toasty warm. What a lovely idea, and why don’t we have them readily available in the US?

I also noticed official traffic signs warning of Rising Bollards. What wonderful words! What would you imagine Rising Bollards to be? These signs were frequently placed in narrow streets near hotels where it would have been possible to drive or park a vehicle, and where there was often nothing that could have been construed as a Bollard or anything else. A quick rising_bollardssearch of the internet revealed that a Rising Bollard was a steel post that was lowered into the ground and that would electronically rise so as to prevent someone from parking or driving a vehicle in the area. It could also be lowered at whim. I don’t know who was responsible for raising the bollards, or under what circumstances the bollards would be raised.  We read in the London Times about someone who was suing their municipality for raising the bollards underneath their Volkswagen, smashing into the engine and causing untold damage to the undercarriage of the vehicle.

The Times of London was extremely funny.  I don’t know if the writers and editors intended it to be that way, but there were the most odd  stories that made me wonder if it was all made up. The story that sticks in my mind was a half page article about a woman who confessed on her death bed that she killed her husband 18 years earlier by bashing him on the head with an ornamental stone frog.  She wrapped his body in a tarp and hid it in their shed. No one questioned his disappearance, and she spent the next 18 years telling people that she had got away with murder and that people were really going to be surprised at what they would learn once she died. No one   bothered to say anything about her odd pronouncements until after she died, and people were strangely surprised when the police found his corpse in the shed. She kept the weapon,  too. I found it delightful that a photo of the stone frog was prominently displayed in the article. I don’t know if the journalist did this with tongue in cheek. I can’t help but think so. I love the power of language.

Describe a charming cultural oddity. 


54 thoughts on “Hot Rails and Rising Bollards”

  1. Marvelous post, Renee. Delightful way to kick off the weekend.

    Great story about the woman who killed her husband with “an ornamental stone frog.” Honestly, you can’t make that kind of story up, can you?

    The trouble with cultural oddities is that you only notice them when you first arrive. After you have lived among them for a while, they seem normal. Will have to ponder that for a while.

    It’s going to be another day here with temperatures hotter than Hades. I don’t do well in those conditions, to say nothing of my hair, which when faced with heat and humidity, becomes a cultural oddity all its own.


    1. Actually, today is quite pleasant, with a nice breeze. There is enough humidity to raise the hair issue a little, but it’s not bad. Don’t let the forecast scare you.


  2. Very interesting observations, Renee. We had a neighbor in Clarks Grove who liked to draw attention to himself by doing odd things. The things he did probably weren’t cultural oddities because they were not part of the culture of Clarks Grove although he might have thought he was adding o the town’s culture.

    He had a small canon that he occasionally set off making a very loud noise. The canon was mounted on top of the roof of his house. He sometimes sat in the corner of a restaurant and covered his mouth with his hand to keep people from seeing that he was doing bird calls. Also, he put signs in his yard including one that said “Freeborn County steal fair, Steel County free fair”. You have to pay to enter the Freeborn County fair and there is no charge for the Steel County fair.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. Once again I see I need some kind of emoji to signal when a post is just being playful. In point of fact, dying by ornamental frog is not significantly different from dying from a car crash or a heart attack. My discomfort lies with death itself, not death by frog. And yet some deaths are, on a superficial level, less dignified than others. The “Chuckles the Clown” episode of Mary Tyler Moore had fun with this.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. a little song a little dance a little seltzer down the pants is one of my favorite me mental visualizations images of mary losing it..

          i think if we ill steve with a stone wold he will be fine.
          yesterday the wolf in wisconsin made the news. they are up to 900 second only to minnesota in numbers. they are considering killing them they have so many.
          did they not notice how many germans they have in wisconsin certainly we could do something about that.


        2. i have an affection for the nwt as it has its begining in banff at lake celestine. my favorite place in the world. i met many hikers who came up with their 60-80 lb packs and departed on a 60 day hike. i would guess the wolves along the trail are a bit like the bears up there. they know people in the neighborhood are a source of food not directly but in their back pack and campsite


        3. i mis spoke. nwt begins in jasper at lake celestine not banff. they are connected like minneapolis st paul but have personality differences banff is a show dog and jasper is a junk yard dog. the mountains trans form from the beautiful ice cream cone calendar favorites in banff to the rugged jagged moon scape looking, the nwt has many days above the tree line where there is nowhere to get out of sight of the wolf if it followed you. that would be unnerving


        4. My neighbor’s mother died while having a bowel movement in a tiny bathroom from a massive stroke, so I guess that’s the worst ending I can think of. Thank God, she wasn’t alive to see it.


  3. The topic of embarrassing death reminds me of a story that actually relates to today’s question. (Thanks for the charming post, Renee.) The story comes from All Things Considered, a broadcast many years ago. A family in Oklahoma survived an EF 5 tornado by hiding in a storm center. When they emerged, they saw that their neighbors’ home was flattened, so they rushed to rescue those folks. The neighbor’s wife was trapped under fallen debris. They saved her, but during the rescue it was obvious that the unfortunate lady was wearing soiled underwear.

    The wife of the rescuing family learned a lesson from that. She bought underwear that was kept in the original wrapping. Her idea was that she would quickly don the fresh underwear if it seemed a terrible tornado was coming at them again. The family referred to them as “Mama’s storm drawers.” She could accept the threat of dying in a tornado. After all, she lived in Oklahoma. What she couldn’t stand was the prospect of being rescued in dirty panties.

    Is that a cultural oddity? Maybe. 🙂


    1. i smile about my underwear when i put them on in the mornings. i remember the comment about men and their underwater and i am the perfect illustration
      if i wear tight underwear it binds and is uncomfortable. on top of that my waistline is a few inches bigger than in the past so i like to wear the ones where the elastic is worn out enough allow for expansion.
      the holes where the waist band is sewn on are occasionally enough that would be detrimental to my style points score.
      the holes are enought o make me laugh out loud when i am selectin =g my choice for the day
      but thats not odd at all is it?
      i went for 20 or 30 years cmmando but in m old age i found the choice of loose fitting feels perfect. actually i was thinking last weekend that underwear was exactly the correct garmen to wear on a hot humid day nothing more. i still kind of like th idea. these new wic away fabrics make it even more allealing. i have one underarmour t shirt and it is wonderful

      thnaks renee.
      i am not bored yet
      bring on another


    2. Somehow I have a sneaking suspicion that no matter how clean my underwear might have been in the morning, if I were found in the rubble after a tornado, it probably would no longer be.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. taupe should be the color of choice for underwear. white… what are we thinking. mens briefs went through a big change a while back. when i was a kid it was whitie tighties or boxers with ensignias in small necktie like prints that spoke of royalty and tradition. in the last little while ( i think its been two or three years and its been 15 or 20) the gray black and red sports briefs and bold pattern boxers. joe boxer etc


  4. Very fun, Renee. I don’t know what this was called, but in a tiny boulangerie near the Eiffel Tower was a lift that disappeared through the floor right behind where people would line up at the counter. I so wished I had taken a photo… No guard rail or anything, all of a sudden this thing just lowered into the lower level, then later rose up beside us!


  5. Renee’s rising bollards reminded me of my first time in London. Sitting in the hotel room trying to work through jet lag, I noticed how odd the buildings looked. Every building I could see had pipes and metal tubes running around the outside of the buildings. I’d never seen that before. Then I realized these buildings were all put up before there was indoor plumbing or electricity in each room. The buildings in that part of London all wore their guts (as it were) outside.


  6. I’ve looked at those hot rails at some of the chain stores that sell bed & bath-type stuff. My house had radiators, though, so for much of the year the hot rails would be sort of redundant. In a hotel, or any place with forced air heat, it would be a good thing.

    I’m not really sure what’s a cultural oddity. I’ve attended a couple of classes at my local library on worm composting. One of the gardeners in the neighborhood keeps worm bins in her dining room. Many people would regard feeding worms in the dining room as an odd thing to do, but my neighborhood is a little…different.


  7. My initial draft of this post had the poor husband bludgeoned by a ceramic garden gnome. I was sure that was what the Times had reported. Dale found the article that confirmed he was killed by a stone frog. I am flummoxed why I remembered the murder weapon to be gnome. Dale and I thought the gnome was funnier than a frog. Why does my memory want to make life funny?


  8. We used to be charmingly quirky. Scattered around the state are water towers shaped like coffee pots, fishing bobbers, ears of corn. There are giant fish, giant Teutons, giant maidens, Paul Bunyans, and balls of string, Once these were expressions of a common identity and hopeful attractions.
    Regrettably, we have been homogenized and corporatized. All of the innocently quirky stuff that remains stands as relics- artifacts of a sense of community and optomism that seems not to be available anymore.


  9. A vein of distinct quirkiness remains, I think in annual town festivals. If no one already has, it would be a great service for someone to compile a guide to the annual town celebrations of Minnesota.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I share Bill’s enjoyment of quirky landmarks. Some persist. Garrison Keillor modeled Lake Wobegone partly on the town of Freeport. Freeport’s water tower still displays a big happy face.

      Not far from the cabin I once owned in northwestern Wisconsin there is a T intersection where a small gravel road joins highway 13. There used to be a sign there that said “Bayfield disaway (with an arrow) Washburn dataway (with an arrow pointing the opposite way).” It is gone now. I fear some local folks felt the sign was too folksy.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Speaking of quirkiness, the Strib feature on the cottage has spawned a request to have it placed on the “Old Cottage Parade” this summer. A business called “Steamboat Minnehaha” takes people around Lake Minnetonka bays every week end to enjoy looking at the vintage cottages soon to be relegated to history. I responded, telling them that I’d be fine with in-house tours. Then I realized that you can’t park a steamboat at a small dock like mine!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. In my world from the North Shore bollards are the big knobs on docks to which ships ties ropes. Bollard has always seemed to me a word with the sound of an insult or profanity. “Oh, bollards!” “you big bollard, you!”

    My son once gave me a compendium of some of the quirky stories printed in the Times of London over fifty years.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. I’m sure it hasn’t escaped anyone’s attention that today’s Father’s Day.
    If not most, at least a sizeable number of baboons, don’t have their father’s around anymore, these two songs are dedicated to them:

    Written by Steve Goodman but performed here by John Prine.

    The other “I brought my father with me,” written and performed here by Michael Peter Smith. Happy Father’s Day everyone.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I had the most enjoyable Fathers Day of my life. My son-in-law’s brother, Jamie, is visiting from Michigan. We had a dinner together at my daughter’s house. Jamie had not heard some of the classic stories told in our family. I was asked to tell some. One led to another. I wouldn’t have talked so much, but people kept asking for more stories. Unless you are a storyteller you could hardly believe how fun it is to recite stories that have amused, thrilled and surprised people for decades. What a joy!

    Liked by 4 people

  14. Great post, Renee — so charming. I really enjoyed reading some of your posts from your travels. I don’t always get a chance to post anything, I try to read the Trail on occasion when it’s not too busy at work. Alas, cultural oddities don’t remain oddities for too long, so I can’t think of any at the moment. Although I remember when we first moved to Big Lake, I found the yearly summer festival named Spud Fest somewhat amusing (lots of potato fields in the area).


      1. I don’t know about Queens or Kings, but I’m pretty sure there are Spud Fest Ambassadors or something. I’m a hermit, so I don’t usually attend this event. 🙂


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