Category Archives: Puppydog tails

Wish you were here

If you go on holiday to London don’t, I repeat, don’t buy me a souvenir as a memento of your visit. The poor tourists who come to these shores face a bewildering array of souvenir crap to purchase. But it doesn’t end with the legitimate shops which proliferate on our capital, walk across Westminster Bridge and you are confronted by the delights of figures made from bent wire, a busker playing the bagpipes or whistles to imitate birdsong.

[D]o you want a T-shirt with the worn joke on the front ‘my Dad went to London and all I got was this lousy “T” shirt’? Well, if you received that, thank your lucky stars. You could receive a cardboard policeman’s helmet, or how about a Union Jack umbrella. If you really want to stand out in the crowd try wearing a fur top hat in red, white and blue.

If this is not to your taste, go upmarket to the Buckingham Palace gift shop there are expensive reproductions of the Queen’s china, just like she uses at 4.00 every day for afternoon tea. There is something to be said for receiving a tea towel, naff, but useful, if only to mop up after the cat, and admittedly some Buckingham Palace gifts are tasteful, even if of dubious practicable value. They at least have the virtue of giving one a warm Regal glow, when partaking of one’s afternoon tea.

But who would treasure a gift of this rubbish. Forget receiving a postcard of Big Ben; send them a 20 year old picture of a spotty punk rocker.

These shops are so revered by the middle classes; they even had a competition instigated by The Institute of Architects to design a replacement souvenir shop when Hungerford Bridge was being improved.

But London isn’t the worst, not by a long shot, I recently went to Italy, and coaches have to pay over €200 just to park for a few hours in these tourist traps. At Pisa (of leaning tower fame) you run the gauntlet of dozens, and I mean dozens, of Africans selling fake designer goods, and the authorities had the temerity to put up a sign that read ‘it is illegal to purchase fake goods; offenders are subject to a €1,000 fine’. Maybe London isn’t so bad after all, anyone want a die cast model of a taxi, going cheap?

A Festival of Litter

With this deepening recession I was talked into going ‘South of the River’ recently, times really are that hard these days. Just imagine my surprise after passing the hinterland of Vauxhall and Stockwell when eventually we reached Brixton to find them celebrating a Festival of Litter. Citizens had taken time off from their busy activities to add crisp packets, empty cigarette boxes, and carrier-bags to this otherwise bland and neglected landscape. They fluttered gaily in the bushes and brought colour and texture to pavements and gutters. And to think that elsewhere we stick these objects in rubbish bins.

[T]he city fathers of Brixton must have puffed out their collective chests with pride as their town hall was officially opened by King George V and Queen Mary on the 29th April, 1908 becoming one of the grandest town halls in London. Victorian Brixton was the epitome of suburban living. Fine houses abound, some with servant’s quarters, with grand doorways proclaiming their owner’s wealth and influence.

The fine late Georgian church of St. Matthew’s was one of the four new Lambeth parish churches built in response to the growing population in the early 19th century. Consecrated in 1824, and has an imposing façade created by its architect C. F. Porden and sits opposite the town hall. It also has the ubiquitous Victorian cast iron monument donated by the most prominent family in the area.

So how has this fine borough come to the sorry state? The green outside, what was once a prestigious cinema, the Ritzy, in strewn with drunks and a fine collection of empty cans.

The gutters are gaily decorated with yellow and red McDonald’s boxes.

Don’t any of the residents of Brixton have an iota of their Victorian forebear’s civic pride?

Brixton Town Hall, London
© Copyright Stuart Taylor and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Save Little Green Street

I recently had a job up to Highgate and it gave me the opportunity to see the folly of local council planning departments. Not content with allowing a vast expanse of ugly housing at the end of this gem of a street, developers in their insatiable greed now want to build 20 houses, 10 flats and an underground car park on derelict land behind Little Green Street. Little Green Street has found itself, through no fault of its own, turned into the only access road for the developers.

[D]espite its size, the developers insist that this Georgian street is big enough to carry all the cranes, diggers, and lorries they need to carry all the waste away from the forty foot deep excavation they need to dig to build their underground car park. Some of the lorries and cranes weigh up to 49 tonnes and some are 2.9m wide. It’s a pity they didn’t measure Little Green Street, because the carriageway of the road is just 2.5m wide.

The street remains a very real threat of being turned into a truck route which would see a vehicle pass within inches of the front doors of these homes every three minutes, all day every day for up to four years down this delicate cul-de-sac.

So a little history is required at this point of the blog:

Little Green Street off Highgate Road in Kentish Town is one of the oldest streets in London.

It’s not very big, just eight houses on one side and two on the other. The houses were built in the 1780s are Grade ll listed and remain one of the few intact Georgian streets in London. They have stood unharmed through train crashes, the London Blitz, and survived two hundred years of wear and tear from the generations who have raised their children in the narrow cobbled terrace.

Although, after eight years of campaigning by more than fifteen thousand people, many visitors to their site, planning permission has lapsed, Camden Council are still vacillating about whether the construction work on a gated community with an underground car park should continue.

Little Green Street Mad, isn’t it? I made the mistake of driving my cab down this cul-de-sac and had to do a 9-point turn at the end in a vehicle famed for its 25 foot turning circle.

George Davis is Innocent

A change in attitudes has taken place over the past few years. For years graffiti has been the bane for any owner of a suitable wall which is acceptable for tagging. In the 1970s a successful campaign proclaiming on any suitable wall G. DAVIS IS INNOCENT O.K. It was claimed that a Mr. Davis was ‘fitted up’ by the police for an armed payroll robbery and after a long campaign the courts were forced to reprieve him – he was banged up later for a crime he really had committed.

[O]ther well known sayings daubed on walls are: ‘If voting changed anything, they would ban it’; or ‘Jesus Saves – at the Woolwich’.

Now an artistic genius has changed many peoples perception of street art. This person, who revels in his anonymity, goes under the name of Banksy

Banksy’s stencils feature striking and humorous images occasionally combined with slogans. The message is usually anti-war, anti-capitalist or anti-establishment. Subjects include animals such as monkeys and rats, policemen, soldiers, children, and the elderly.

Banksy even smuggled one of his works into Tate Britain art gallery which went unnoticed until it crashed to the floor hours later.

banksy_tesco_pledge_your_allegiance

So loved are his anarchic offerings, a parody of a Tesco flag being raised painted on a wall in Islington North London has a Perspex screen put in front of it, as if it needs protecting like the Mona Lisa.

Many people regard Banksy as a generic name for a group of like minded artists, hell bent on changing people’s perception of authority, one of my favourites is the simple slogan: One nation under CCTV. Another image depicted a scene from Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, with Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta clutching bananas instead of guns, alas London transport workers painted over this mural which was estimated to be worth more than £300,000.

So what is to be done to combat vandalism? A recent story of an oik after being given community service was told to wear a high visibility vest while cleaning up public property, he refused to wear the vest as his friends were making fun of him, so he walked away from his duties, jail him or what?

banksy postcard

Answers on a postcard or written on any suitable building please.

An excellent site for graffiti images is to be found at the art of the state

We have heard recently of the death of Rosie, George Davis’ ex-wife from cancer. She was the driving force with Peter Chappell to free George Davis. An excellent article has been written in The Daily Mail of the campaign and Rosie has also written a book recording her involvement.