Zipping along in the car you see one. Next day there's dozens dancing merrily in the breeze.
No, I'm not talking about Wordsworth and daffs. I'm talking about election posters. And what a strange, early blooming we have this Euro election. Maybe, it's because of our new post-Troubles politics but there appears to be less of the old certainties, more of a desire to be 21st century. Certainly, there’s less flag-waving.
Take Jim Nicholson. Previously his posters looked like an all-out effort to capture the boggle-eyed loony vote. Now, he's looking all relaxed ‘new unionist' (indeed there's even a spot of green on the poster — unimaginable a few years ago) and just a hint of a Union flag afloat on fluffy clouds, at first glance, like a lovely sunset. Maybe it's the influence of Dave Cameron and this UCUNF business, but it's a decided plus. The black mark is the ‘Vote for Change' line. As Nicholson's been around since the crack of dawn, it hard to see how the world's going to be turned upside down by putting a 1 against his moniker.
Admittedly, the DUP's Diane Dodds has the Union flag above her head, but she also brings a splash of colour. Well, her nifty red jacket does anyway. Indeed, as it flashed by it seemed the most interesting bit about the poster.
Subtle shifts can also be seen in Bairbre de Brún's effort. Though still exuding all the warmth of a tax inspector, her poster eschews the Tricolour (ok, green, white and orange predominates but change comes dropping slow). And what's this in the bottom corner? It's the usual appeal to vote SF but are the colours red, white and blue? Mmm.
The SDLP's effort manages an incredible feat. The picture of Alban Maginness doesn't look like Alban Maginness. Well, only in a Michael Sheen factudrama kind of way. It's like an actor pretending to be the MLA. Still, it’s good to see politics here finally catching up with the concept of vogueing: ‘They had style, they had grace/Alban Maginness gave good face'. Apparently, the SDLP thinks ‘When We Win You Win'. In which case, prepare for terrible disappointment.
Meanwhile, Alliance, post-Obama, is coming over all ‘Yes We Can'. Gone is the old WARNING: DANGEROUS CHEMICALS yellow and black, replaced with blue, yellow and white. As well as posters featuring Ian Parsley (which makes you think some goon has made a terrible misprint), the party has ‘word posters’ obviously written by somebody who once had a drink with somebody who knows the accountant of the President's chief speechmaker.
The messages are of a ‘Love is the Thing, Hate isn't' variety. Hope works, apparently, while fear costs. Sharing also works well while stagnation just isn't the thing. Alliance urges us to log on to Vote4Hope — to which one can only say 4getit.
Next lamppost up, Jim Allister makes it clear that when it comes to tired abstractions, you can count upon Traditional Unionists. His are Experience, Principle, Integrity. Er, 2 and 3 seem virtually synonymous. Can you have integrity but no principles? Or principles but no integrity? Questions for the philosopher and linguist perhaps, but one to ponder on long journeys in darkest Ulster.
Still, at least Jim has a proper Union flag even if it fades away in the top left corner. A sign of eventual willingness to compromise, perhaps? Also, the TUV logo looks suspiciously small in comparison with the candidate's name — whatever can that mean?
Which only leaves the Green Party's Steven Agnew. Obviously the youngest by a country mile, he's the only one who doesn't look like he'd be right at home on the nearest quango. The only man to forego a tie, his long(ish) hair and jumper, in comparison, seems the calling card of dangerous radicalism. Only here could someone who looks like a habitué of HMV be considered dangerous and edgy.
Yeah, I know it's unfair to judge a candidate by their poster but, well, anything — anything — rather than staying in to watch our would-be MEPs being grilled by Noel Thompson on Hearts & Minds