Fun With Numbers

If only some households knew what these were.

The latest edition of Ambulance UK, the magazine of the ASA, appeared in the mess room the other day. It’s full of the usual boring, out of date articles that epitomise trade journals. I was, however, intrigued that “that old chestnut” of visible house numbers has raised it’s head again; this time from Paul Leaman, Chief Operating Officer for Essex. The article is based on an old press release from October, but reiterates once again the bane of all emergency staff:

With the nights definitely drawing in and the clocks set to go back soon, now is the time for everyone in the county to consider whether the emergency services could find your house in the dark.

There was a national campaign about this some years ago (though I couldn’t find a reference to it during a quick search on google). In any event, the residents of the properties in Scroatsville that we go to struggle with stringing a basic sentence together so the chances of them reading and responding to these types of appeals are, quite frankly, nil. We all know these properties; usually run-down council estates; David Copperfield and colleagues are there every day; and Frank Chalk’s been struggling to teach remedial maths and English to their despicable offspring for years, without much success.

Now it’s fair to say that the introduction of satellite navigation to our ambulance vehicles has improved our ability to find (some) addresses but we are still very much reliant on our own eyes for locating the actual property. The old nightmares we used to have came flooding back the other night when Doris-the-bitch (our sat-nav system) packed up completely and it was back to those tatty, faded, out-of-date map books that we keep stuffed about the cab or in the glove box. It doesn’t help that my present patch is an absolute nightmare; widely accepted as the most diabolical place in the whole county for locating properties.

  • Each road name is actually a whole collection of roads – in fact they’re more mini estates than roads.
  • They’re all a mixture of houses, flats and maisonettes with the occasional tower block plonked down in the middle for good measure.
  • Many properties are only accessible via footpaths.
  • The whole town was designed without even the slightest consideration that people might actually own their own car – or more precisely 3 cars. Consequently the roads are all but impassable with cars strewn on the pavements, across green spaces, blocking ‘turning points’, and dumped on any empty road space not currently occupied by another vehicle. We can only just get the ambulances through so goodness knows what the fire service do. If you make the mistake of turning into the wrong cul-de-sac then you can expect a tight bit of reversing to get out.
  • And then there are the house numbers – or lack of them. We consider it a bonus if the residents actually have a number on their door. But the biggest problem is that when it’s dark, raining, and you’re struggling to get to that ‘A’ cat call as soon as possible and getting all stressed out, there seems to be no rhyme nor reason to the numbering system. And to make matters worse, most of the time the signs showing where properties are located are either missing or heavily vandalised. When all else fails we carry some rather old photocopies showing the layout of these estates which are extremely difficult to read using just the vehicle’s courtesy light. It all adds up to a very harrowing time.

So, as a little challenge for the weekend, I’ve attached examples of the maps we have to rely on, with a test to find a certain property – just to demonstrate the nightmare we’re up against.

Map 1As a first example, this is one of our ‘favourite‘ estates. All the properties to the right of the centre line are only accessible on foot. It’s a mixture of houses, maisonettes and small blocks of flats.

Click on the image to see an enlarged version.

Click here to see the answer.







Map 2This estate is an older one – before planners cottoned on to the concept of flats and tower blocks – so all the properties here are houses (with no numbers on the door). Like in the first example, the houses on the left and at the top are only accessible via footpaths. At first things seem easy. You drive in off the main road and properties numbered in the 140s and 150s are clearly visible. Logic would say that properties in the 130 range should be nearby. Wrong!

Click the image to see an enlarged version.

To discover the whereabouts of number 138 – answer.



Map 3This is another ‘regular’ on our estate hit list. This place is pretty run down; it houses some of the least desirable elements of the town and has one of our few ‘true’ tower blocks. Once again trying to find a house number or a sign showing the whereabouts of properties is a non-starter.

Click on the image to see an enlarged version.

No surprises really. For the answer.





For anyone who’s interested, the numbering systems on these estates were actually set up with some logic. They are designed to assist a very important group of people – Postman Pat and his colleagues.

If you follow the numbers through the footpaths then postie goes round in sequential order.


7 Responses to Fun With Numbers

  1. compuserf says:

    I like bin days best. The bins have foot high numbers on them. The doors have chosen to be anonymous.

  2. Stu Savory says:

    In Japan, there does not seem to be the concept of ‘address’ either. Asa far as I could work out (I’m an analphabetic there) buildings are ‘numbered’ by their date of completion 😦

  3. regordane says:

    I appreciate the problem but might it not help to take a big red pen and draw lines from 43 to 44 and similar non-obviously adjacent numbers on your tatty photocopies?

  4. nicenurse says:

    Grrrrrrr……… to all people who don’t have a visible house number, to all planners who think it is acceptable to have a random numbering policy, to all people who come to meet the ambulance – but actually stand there without waving/shouting/jumping up and down as you go by, then ring in to say you have just driven by.

    I thank my lucky stars every day that I don’t work in a city, but ruralshire has its own unique problems when finding addresses. We go into villages with no street lights and have to look for house names (too posh for numbers!!), which are invariably painted/etched onto logs/stones/lumps of slate, usually at ground level, which are then overgrown by a hedge or tree, (or blocked by several freelanders/saabs/audi’s)

    When you finally get the address and the householder tells you they watched you drive pass four or five times, you [politely] explain you had some trouble finding the house name, you get the reply, ‘well of course, everyone in the village knows me, its not normally a problem……]. I am sure it would be a fairly big problem if you were in cardiac arrest!

    Nicenurse x

  5. Rebecca says:

    Just think, they may not get an ambulance but just how do they get take aways delivered hot.


  6. Betterlate says:

    Out in the hills and dales its house names that cause grief. Why would anyone think it was a good idea to set the name of the house in tiles on the floor of the porch? Or on a bit of wood stuck so far up a tree only a passing squirrel could read it. Aghhhh and I only wanted to deliver flowers not a defibrillator.

  7. Bmw 325 says:

    Bmw 325

    2006 Bmw 325i

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