Written in the streets*

I’ve been working up to a full-on whinge about how all the visible history I see as I ride around London is the history of the elite – all the statues and blue plaques commemorate a minuscule group of people, usually men, usually white and upper-class, usually long dead, usually no one you’ve ever heard of. Every now and then I’ll stop and read what’s chiselled under a statue, or printed at the entrance to a park, and feel slightly guilty for not knowing anything or caring about the mark this obscure person made on the city. And then I’ll ask myself why there should even be a statue there, if no one really cares. The one where Wilton Crescent meets Belgrave Square is a case in point – it simply commemorates a chap who used to own a lot of the area. And how does having once held the deeds to a large swathe of SW1 entitle him to the status of a massive public monument? Who really wants to look at a landowner, when they could be admiring much more interesting statues, and reading much more fascinating inscriptions?

Come to think of it [I thought], why do we not have little plaques and epitaphs commemorating all the other significant things that happen in London?

On this spot, in 1974, Bruce and Camilla had their first kiss.

Kamil lost a tooth here.

This park is where George learned to ride his bike, in 1988.

It was against this lamp post that thatmessengerchick wrote off her Surly Steamroller. RIP.

Silly? Maybe. But these people would be just as unknown to me as the owner of Belgrave Square, and the details of their lives are far more interesting. There’s a street art project there, I do believe – but actually, it’s already underway; here and there, in small ways, temporary and permanent, people are making their mark on the city. There’s so much more to graffiti than just spraycans and Banksy. Here’s a few examples I’ve found – of varying legitimacy.

The bench in Lincoln’s Inn Fields where I eat my morning croissants.

I love this alleyway (prize for the first person to tell me where it is!), and how the history of the area has – quite literally – been inscribed on its streets. A reminder of how many lives and stories today’s city workers are trampling on as they go about their business.

And again…

Graffiti in the Wetherspoons toilets on the corner of Carey Street and Chancery Lane.

I have no idea what this one’s all about (beyond that Elvis is dead), and I’m surprised that I only spotted it fairly recently. (Where is it then? Anyone?)

Again, no idea. This was on Herbal Hill, EC1. I think it probably had something to do with art students.

Found this on a rainy walk near Beckenham.

And the saddest of them all.

*The title of this post is shamelessly ripped off from Philip Diprose’s 2008(?) documentary of the same name – generally acknowledged to be the authoritative video portrait of London cycle couriers, or at least the one that has had the fewest holes picked in it by said couriers.

[One day I will work out how to embed video. It will not be this day. Just bloody google it.]

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