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Pedantry, punctiliousness, pomposity and particularity to name but a few of the leading P emotions and responses this crime against language inspires.

I spied it as I mooched around the periphery of Regents Park yesterday morning.

Lack of punctuation aside, its accidental pronouncement on the presence of runners in the park is its least dynamic feature. Anyone who has walked around Regents Park when any kind of collective Run is under way, either for Fun, a good cause or otherwise, knows all too well the tyranny that is a fist of runners (for that is my bludgeoning collective noun for them) heading in your direction.

It’s their park. Their path. Their arena. Their world. Their moment. And they’re seizing it MAN. And what the HELL are you doing? Huh? Mr beardy sloth-assed walking, looking thinking guy? NOTHING. That’s what!

The smug self-centredness of some of them and their sense of right of entitlement to the by-ways they tread is quite impressive if not a little delusional.

They are vaulted it would seem into divine superiority over all other bipeds, tripeds, quadrapeds (and mopeds for that matter) by the mere act of relentlessly throwing one foot in front of the other while sporting the kind of luminescent tops and inappropriate lycra also favoured by their close cousins, the far less sexually diverse MAMILs.

(Watching Flocks of these MAMILs circumnavigating the outer circle of the park tempted me to imagine for one delicious moment a cataclysmic collision of vitamin water bottles, hi tensile lycra, chrome, rubber, carbon frames, magnets, exploding trainers and performance insoles where fist meets flock. Efficiency and a dislike of waste and excessive logistical challenges also led me to further imagine that the mangled result of said collision could simply be shovelled a few hundred yards up the road and feature in the next Freeze Fair Sculpture garden – just a thought)

Anyway, to the sign in question, whose lack of punctuation (verging on an almost spiteful dereliction of syntactical duty) plunged me into all sorts of confusions.

The absence of punctuation actually raised (in tandem with my blood pressure) many questions (narrative, directional, nominative/ablative, relational, subjective, contextual, existential – you name it; the sign raised it).

This was effectively common criminal assault disguised as a leisure sports event sign.

My mind raced.


OK. Of course it could be a simple error. A slip of the punctuational tongue. Two full stops or periods absent without malice.

It should rightly read CAUTION. RUNNERS.

A clear sign to make me aware of the presence of Runners (plural) in the vicinity: but was that it? Or did it mean something more?

Did this sign demand that I caution runners? generally or specifically – and if so, against what or whom? Lycra Chafe? Trainer Rot? Falling branches? Designer dogs? Wind-borne Zoo animal Spores? London Business School alumni?

Or perhaps I was to caution them on the particular dangers of running itself? (long term joint impact & ligament problems – ‘patello-femoral pain’; lower back strain, compressed discs). And accidental health hazards & opportunities of punitive litigation – e.g. Collisions (with pedestrians, pets, park livestock, skateboarders and the aforementioned cyclists).

Or maybe I was to CAUTION RUNNERS on the need to be very very quiet given the arrival of a small pregnant female vole on the bank of the flooded ditch between the park and the zoo.

Or maybe I was to caution those guilty of knowingly or unknowingly disguising their eating disorder inside a seeming ‘passion for leisure activities.

Or perhaps the cautionary tale was around the subject of identity. Was one to caution said runners that being a runner was not all it was cracked up to be? Antisocial, smug, ultimately nihilistic: isolationist and self obsessed: potentially a sign of a deeper sociopathy, narcissism or compulsive disorder.

And then it struck me like a Gobblers Demon (probably while heavily under the influence of the dark magical realm of Lyra Belaqua):


Perhaps this was a brief window into the otherwise invisible systems of a mysterious breed of messenger – fleet of foot, immutable, unstoppable and relentless.

CAUTION RUNNERS – the mythical clandestine deliverers of cautionary missives, marks, data, intelligence, remarks and tales.

CAUTION RUNNERS We do not see them; but we know when they have visited upon us. (Think of those moments when we suddenly have a change of heart against some course of action or decision we have chosen or made. It is not our conscience or our fears talking. It is the cargo of the CAUTION RUNNERS lodged firmly in the back of our head.)

But then how do this mythical and other worldly sect of such daunting purpose remain unseen in the world? How come there is no proof of their existence bar one random accidentally placed sign?

They would be hard to miss. They will be patently odd. They will stick out like a sore, swollen and swaddled thumb. They will be incapable of normal socialisation. They would speak in riddles or some inexplicable language. Their human disguises would be clumsy. Their obsessive and compulsive nature would be difficult to disguise. They would be called upon to go out at all times of day and night. They would have developed strange codes of communication shrouded from the view of normal human beings. What earthly disguise could ever absorb so much?

This is a conundrum that I shall endeavour to solve. Throw a lens or filter across the seen world that will reveals them in all their splendour..

But until then, I’ll  continue to wander around the park, populated as it is by badly punctuated signs and a lot of awkward obsessed people in lycra and luminescent canvas talking in riddles to each other in the middle of a rainy Sunday, uncomfortable in their own…HEY…HANG on just one dang minute …HANG RIGHT BLOODY ON RIGHT THERE…