Otterly Amazing

The development officer of Escot Park, near Ottery, Godfrey Kent, has proposed that a Giant Otter be placed by the A30 to make "travellers pause for thought." He's only just thought of the idea, and he hasn't heard of multiple pile-ups by the sound of it, but he has "a clean piece of paper on which we want to put our ideas".

Clean pieces of paper are, to you and to me, like blood-red rags to a large and crazy bull in a field of randy heifers, but let us be calm while we try to help Godfrey out (change your surname, Godfrey, for a start! You're supposed to be promoting Devon!)

This is what Godfrey wants. He wants something which will stop people in their tracks so effectively that they will pass up a visit to Cornwall, and come round our way with their wallets out and their purses jingling. It also has to be something environmentally friendly.

The role models here are The Angel Of The North near Gateshead, and The Wicker Woman of the M5 (I don't think it's a Man. If it is, I'm missing something - and so is the sculpture!) I would respectfully point out again to Godfrey Kent that people do not stop for a think, either on the M5 or the A1(M).

But on to the suggestion box.

1. A Gigantic Sign Reading HOOT YOUR HORN! THE A30 WELCOMES NOISY DRIVERS! Surely by now the happy residents who live alongside the musical highway into our county want to hear a different tune. What could be more inspiring than a whole range of honks and parps and beeps, in every possible key, changing the soundscape in an intelligent and Devonian sort of way? It won't be long before car manufacturers cotton on to the squillions that mobile phone companies are making out of ringtones, and customise their horns. Let's get in early!

2. A Fifteen-Storey Fox, With Hounds Rampant, And A Fountain Of Blood. When people come down to Devon, we don't want them thinking it's just chocka with potters and alternative shoe-makers. We want them to see life in the raw, and where better to start than by the side of the A30?

3. A Very Very High Hedge, obscuring all the local views. Drivers may as well get used to it.

4. The Debenham's Tower. Well, they're about to start bashing away at Sidwell Street, aren't they, and turning it into a magical faery land where shoppers and their children may roam in a perpetual pre-Christmas Sale? So let's get the ugliest building in Exeter dis-assembled, and placed at the entrance to the county. It can have a slogan: Everything You See After This Will Be More Beautiful.

5. A Statue Of Liberty, only holding a giant organic free-range ice cream cone instead of that fiery torch. It could be real ice-cream, too, supplied by our county's finest cream clots, and the flavour could change daily. That would have them out of their cars and up the spiral staircase for a free lick, wouldn't it?

6. An Outsize Euro, with the legend "sponsored by the UK Independence Party" across the top. If you can't have a laugh, what's the point, that's what I say!

7. A Great, Coiled Adder, With Its Fangs Ready To Strike. This would be known as The Hissing Sid, and would point the way past Ottery St. Mary to the river which snakes so gracefully to the sea.

8. A Whacking Great Wellington Boot, In Country Green, With A Huge Pile Of Mud Sticking To The Sole. Perhaps with a Huge Leg In It. Is there anything more quintessentially Devonian? And you couldn't call local mud anything other than environmentally-friendly, because it would be straight from the environment. Drivers would gawp at the Green Wellington - hmmm, that name has a nice ring to it, can't think what it is.

9. A Giant Goose. Something to have a gander at.

10. Nelson's Column. No, I was just thinking we could get this at a bargain price from Ken Livingstone, and people would definitely stop, get out, look at their maps and say to themselves "Where are we?", at which point an expeditionary force from Escot, carrying high-temperature effigies of their favourite mammal ("Otter Than 'Ell!") would spring out from the bushes, and cry "Welcome to Devon! The Land Of The Otters!"

11. Some Tremendously Tall Traffic Lights. These would flash red, amber and green in a very meaningful way, and would be the largest in the world, alerting car-owners to the fact that we have Roads in Devon, not just muddy tracks.

12. A Huge Off-White T-shaped sign, as high as a cathedral spire. (A Great Cream T, geddit?)

13. The Most Enormous Speed Camera In The World, with the message "15,167 caught today". That would make them slow down and have a look around, that's for sure.

14. A Gibbet, With A Skeleton In Witch's Costume Hanging From It In Chains. Children have wonderful imaginations these days, and a particular interest in the art of magic and spells. This would be a glorious and historical invitation to our young people to stay in our county, and sample similar attractions.

15. A Dome, Filled With Flora And Fauna. It would be called the East Of Eden Project.

16. A Statue of Gus Honeybun. I don't have to justify this, do I?

17. All right, then, an enormous figure in a black jacket with luminous yellow armbands and chestbands, carrying a pile of broken deckchairs, and pointing gleefully to a great cache of old freezers and fridges. It would be called The Great Totter Of The West.

18. Okay, I give in, Godfrey. An Otter. A Terracotta Otter. A Tarka In A Parka. An Otter so frightfully complete, whole, rounded and enormous that all children will look up at their mothers in astonishment. And say - come on, let's be having you -

"It Ain't Half Otter, Mum!"

From Express and Echo