Putting Out The Flags

It is encouraging news that so many of the South-West's beaches have been awarded flags. After a year in which the tourist economy was - well, flagging, actually, we will now have something to greet our visitors with when they slip on the flip-flops and Go Devon.

However, there are now so many flags that the Express & Echo has asked me to provide you with a cut-out-and-keep guide for visitors. If you are running a boarding-house, or a bawdy-house, or indeed both, then please have your scissors at the ready.

A red flag. This indicates that citizens of any socialist countries may congregate and sing their anthem, providing the noise does not extend more than fifty feet to the left, or fifty feet to the right. If there is no red flag, you will be expected to sing Rule Britannia.

A white flag. If you see a white flag, it means that the tourist information office has surrendered, after being besieged by questions. You are advised to let the occupants come out peaceably, one by one. Some of them may be upset after answering your questions about sharks. Look, we haven't got any sharks. We have nothing more dangerous than unexploded shellfish.

A flag with a picture of large teeth. This means that there is a shark alert, and we are very, very sorry. We were led to believe that we didn't have any, and your re-fund is at the tourist information office. Unless the white flag is showing.

A flag with a picture of a man and a woman. This tells you that there are public toilets nearby, and that relief is, as it were, at hand. In England, this is known as a flag of convenience. Incidentally, by "nearby", we mean the other end of the beach. Enjoy the sea view as you hurry back.

A red, white and blue flag. If you see one of these (known as a Union Jack), then you have missed the beach and reached the centre of the Royal City Of Exeter, which Her Maj has designated a site of world importance. Tread carefully. Do not throw litter. Do some shopping before you go back to the beach.

A red flag, an amber flag, and a green flag. The traffic lights have broken.

A black and white chequered flag. Be careful before stepping out in front of one of these. A Formula One donkey derby is in progress on the beach, and the winner may be walking towards you very fast indeed.

A flag with an ice cream on it. Your children have been throwing their ice creams about, and one of them has landed on the flag (the ice cream, not the child). We really would prefer it if you kept your child on a tight leash, and stopped it throwing ice creams. We're not made of flags.

A grey flag. The weather is not up to much today, so why not visit one of our many fine attractions? Besides which, on a miserable day like today, all the local people will be crowding the beach, staring out to sea, and saying "What a miserable day, takings will be down, they didn't say this on the weather last night, they didn't have weather like this when I was a child."

A flag in the shape of swimming trunks. Stop messing about, would you? This is a municipal flagpole. Get back in the water.

A see-though flag. This is a nudist beach. Keep your eyes firmly fixed to the ground, and walk along very carefully. People may be watching you with binoculars.

A skull and crossbones. Oh dear. Either pirates have sailed round from Topsham again, and are about to board your dinghies and make off with your sandwiches (the people of Topsham are starving). Or you have stumbled on our local fridge burial site.

A flag with five stripes, blue and green, a symbol of an orange and what looks like a cheese-grater. No idea. Please report it.

A yellow flag. This is a quarantine flag, and it means that there is a contagious disease suspected in the area. There is absolutely no need to panic. Devon is a very healthy place, and all our tourist facilities are in tip-top working order. This has been put up as a safety precaution, and you may safely ignore it. Have a nice day.

A black flag. Anarchists may be operating in the beach area. Please keep your valuables with you at all times.

A lot of small triangular flags, with pictures of safety pins. We call this baby bunting. This is an area where babies may safely be taken into the water.

A flag with 999 on it. This is an emergency service flag. If you need the ambulance or police service, phone this number. The phone-box is down at the other end of the beach. (Do not confuse this with a flag with 99 on it, which means you can buy an ice-cream with a chocolate thingy in it). If you require the fire service, then we'd like to know what you thought you were doing. We do not allow fires on beaches in this county, matey.

A teeny-weeny flag on a stick. This means the beach is half-way decent. It is what we call a minimum standard. Either that, or it's someone's sandcastle, you idiot.

From Express and Echo