A load of bol­lards

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My brother, who lives in the UK, ap­plied for a job sell­ing bol­lards. At first, I wasn’t sure what he meant by “bol­lards”. I as­sumed they were traf­fic cones. My re­ac­tion, as it turns out, was typ­i­cal of a broad pub­lic ig­no­rance of the bol­lard in­dus­try.

My brother left school at 16 and worked harm­lessly in cam­era and hi-fi shops for more than 20 years, un­til he left the world of au­dio-vis­ual re­tail to sell buy-to-let mort­gages. His job was to tele­phone cus­tomers and con­vince them to pur­chase a rental prop­erty us­ing the eq­uity they held in their own homes. Within about 12 months, he had brought down the Bri­tish econ­omy and helped trig­ger the Global Fi­nan­cial Cri­sis.

He took a new po­si­tion with a com­pany that in­stalled home cin­e­mas in the man­sions of mil­lion­aires, but the busi­ness was soon dec­i­mated by the mas­sive fis­cal con­ta­gion my brother had sparked in his pre­vi­ous role, so he re­turned to a blame­less life demon­strat­ing tele­vi­sions in depart­ment stores at week­ends. Un­for­tu­nately, this does not pay the mort­gage, and he and my ex-wife – with whom my brother now lives, mak­ing it con­ve­nient for me to send them both cards at Christ­mas etc – have just bought a unit, which is what caused my brother to un­cover a hitherto deeply buried in­ter­est in bol­lards.

He put in his ap­pli­ca­tion for the job at the bol­lard com­pany, and spent a day learn­ing about the in­dus­try, which is more so­phis­ti­cated and var­ied than one might imag­ine. Its most vis­i­ble prog­eny may be in­ter­nally il­lu­mi­nated re­bound bol­lards, which can be seen di­rect­ing or­bitally chal­lenged peo­ple around round­abouts, but oth­ers in­clude the proudly roy­al­ist “Ju­bilee bol­lards” and the hot-blooded repub­li­can “Neapoli­tan bol­lards”, which dif­fer from one an­other in the colour and num­ber of stripes around the post. There are In­fo­mas­ter bol­lards, which dis­play vi­tal pub­lic in­for­ma­tion; Sign­head bol­lards, which are mounted with sig­nage; sleek Lin­ear bol­lards; and even heroic, crime-fight­ing anti-ram­raid bol­lards.

In his in­ter­view for the job, my brother was sur­prised to be asked, “What is the hard­est ques­tion we could ask you?”

He replied, with great hon­esty, “Why do you want to leave the au­dio-vis­ual in­dus­try for the bol­lard in­dus­try?”

He con­fessed (to his own in­quiry) that money was a fac­tor, and ul­ti­mately missed out on the job to a can­di­date from a re­lated in­dus­try. Although, as my brother pointed out, it’s dif­fi­cult to iden­tify a busi­ness re­lated to the sale of bol­lards.

I was sad for my brother but happy for the global econ­omy, which al­ways seems to suf­fer when he’s not qui­etly sell­ing TVs. How­ever, as a con­se­quence of his mis­for­tune, I’ve be­gun to no­tice the huge num­ber of bol­lards around Ade­laide. An­zac High­way in par­tic­u­lar is a par­adise for a bol­lard buff (if there is such a per­son). I tried to count the num­ber of bol­lards be­tween the city and Plymp­ton, but it was dif­fi­cult be­cause a dis­turb­ing num­ber of posts that look like bol­lards are ac­tu­ally fire hy­drants. I wouldn’t have thought the fire dan­ger was ab­nor­mally high on that par­tic­u­lar stretch of road, but I guess you never know when baf­flingly mo­ti­vated ter­ror­ists might fly a plane into a dis­count fur­ni­ture cen­tre.

Ex­cit­ingly, Ade­laide also seems to be home to a spe­cial kind of bol­lard: a hip-high post that stands at the end of a pedes­trian cross­ing and pro­vides a mount­ing for the cross­ing but­ton. Per­haps you’ve taken an in­ter­est in other un­usual bol­lards lo­cally – if so, you should prob­a­bly get a life, or at least a job.

I’ve heard there are po­si­tions avail­able in the bol­lard in­dus­try.

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