Beware the Tynemouth cuckoos and orientation for time-displaced Romans

I had a really nice time here and Newcastle. I’m flying home tomorrow afternoon, so regular blogging should resume soon. There will be photos as well.

Today we took the Metro out to Tynemouth on the North Sea coast. Somewhere along the way, there was a station with bilingual signs. Now the linguist in me is fascinated by bilingual signage, so I took a closer look.

“That’s strange”, I thought, “It’s probably Italian, but it looks exactly like Latin”.

Then I noticed the station name. Wall’s End. Yup, this wall. So the bilingual signage made sense after all, sort of.

I still wonder whom it is for, though. Is it just to please Latin geeks like me or is it there in case a Roman legionaire accidentally falls through a crack in time? After all, that was a subplot in a Torchwood episode years ago. Though a Roman legionaire would probably still find a sign that says “Noli Fumare” mightly confusing, if he would manage not to get run over by a train, that is.

Also in Tynemouth, we happened to spot an uncommon number of toddlers with curly red hair. We spotted several and they all belonged to different families, too.

“They’re genetically enhanced super-toddlers who are bred in a lab somewhere round here”, I joked, “They’re the Tynemouth Cuckoos, just like the Midwich Cuckoos and they’re going to take over the world, once they’re out of diapers.”

Oddly enough, we also spotted a whole lot of billboards looking for foster families for troubled kids. And what did the billboard show? A smiling toddler with curly red hair.

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9 Responses to Beware the Tynemouth cuckoos and orientation for time-displaced Romans

  1. Laran says:

    Wallsend metro station was done bilingual when the nearby excavations of the Roman Fort Segedunum were opened to the public (I think in 2000). Segedunum is the fort which protected the Eastern end of the wall. When The Wall received World Heritage Status, finally there was money to protect the remains of the many Roman sites along the wall and to do excavations and a lot of research. Back then, Segedunum had built long rows of terraced houses on top of it and was nearly forgotten. They were demolished and very slowly excavations begun.
    When the site was fit for visitors, they built an observation platform with World Heritage money and had a splendid celebration in honour of the site. The whole area decorated Roman style, shop keepers changed their signs to Latin ones and even the buses had Latin texts on them, including advertisement at their sides. The metro station, too. Nowadays, some posters with many pictures in the metro station commemorate the occasion. It looks like lots of fun!
    Being an ancient historian myself, I always loved this gesture of the people of Wallsend. It isn’t a very wealthy area, but they have a strong community. The excavation itself is especially memorable because it is situated in a typical Northeastern (former) industrial setting: you have your Roman ruins surrounded by long rows of terraced houses in red stones and run-down industrial buildings. Only former shipyards with very heavy equipment separates the Roman enthusiast from the river Tyne… nobody works there any more, but it has lots of seagulls. I remember it as a quite still place – no machinery active any more, very few people around, but very loud shrieking of seagulls. Very weird setting for a Roman fort.

    • Cora says:

      Wallsend definitely looked like a typical working class suburb, if not for the Roman remains. Still lovely that they would celebrate the Roman legacy in their midst. I wish I would have had more time to explore the Roman ruins, but the weather and a metro outage cut those plans short.

      In the 1980s, my Dad worked as a technical supervisor for two chemical waste tankers. He visited Newcastle during that time and was mostly in South Shields on the other side of the Tyne, where the chemical terminal was (and may well still be). He had no idea that there was a Roman fort within walking distance.

  2. Estara says:

    There was a storyline in Prince Valiant where he runs into a Roman patrolling the wall – and first he and his companions think he’s a ghost, until they find out that he’s the product of the last faithful family who married and decided to stay at their post until officially given leave to do so – so the sons inherit the patrolling from the father (and Valiant uses it to stop hordes of Pictish invaders, because the Roman soldier in his full get-up has become a ghost legend through the years).

    The early Prince Valiants were really fun! And the women were usually incredibly capable (apart from the lost love Ilene, of course).

    • Cora says:

      I read Prince Valiant as a kid – it was one of the few comics I was allowed to read – but I don’t remember that particular storyline.

      A lot of the old American newspaper strips of the 1930s and 1940s were surprisingly good. I loved The Phantom (another one I was allowed to read, because my Mom is a fan) and Mandrake the Magician, both of which also had capable women and capable characters of colour at a time when that wasn’t common at all (the artwork is iffy, though). I also liked Rip Kirby and Secret Agent X-9. Flash Gordon was fun as well and gorgeously drawn, but problematic in the race and gender department. Though Dale Arden in the comics is actually quite useful – the fainting nitwit is a product of the 1930s film serials.

        • Laran says:

          I don’t recall this particular storyline either, but I recognize the specific stretch of The Wall in the title: It is part of the most picturesque part near Housesteads, very famous and often photographed. I spent many days hiking in the area during my university days in Newcastle. Quite funny, that he draw it from nature – or picture thereof.

          • Cora says:

            Hal Foster, creator of Prince Valiant, has been to Britain and even was a member of the Royal Society of Arts, so it’s possible that he actually visited the Wall and drew it from nature. At any rate, it’s fascinating that you could recognize the stretch of Wall from the photo, since comics are not drawn from nature all that often. I can recognize some of the locations in the old Captain Britain and Excalibur comics by Alan Davies. Several of the French-Belgian-Dutch comic artists also seem to have drawn from nature, e.g. Henk Kuijpers and also Hergé

      • Estara says:

        Yes, I read some Flash Gordon and those fat collections of The Phantom and Tarzan, never did think the women were very strong there, though. Probably because I read those as a teenager and went through a phase collecting Prince Valiant in my 20s.

        • Cora says:

          The Phantom has some pretty awesome women. Diana Palmer, the Phantom’s eventual wife, is an explorer and adventuress in her own right before she becomes the mother of future Phantoms. There was also a pretty cool female aviator who was the leader of a gang of all-female airplane pirates in an early story. The Phantom was very impressed with her (and had a fallout with Diana at the time), but then she died. Regarding Diana Palmer, I have never been able to look at a book by the romance writer of the same name without thinking, “Ah, Mrs Phantom is writing romances while her husband is out hunting the bad guys.”

          Flash Gordon is a strange case, because love interest Dale Arden is an terribly insipid character in the 1930s serials and bad girl Princess Aura is not much better. However, Dale in the comics is actually useful on occasion (and brunette, while film Dale is platinum blonde).

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