Thursday, March 5, 2009

This is an ex-Londoner

I wasn’t planning to blog about a trip to London. I’m a Londoner born and bred so it doesn’t count as travelling, but then maybe trips down Memory Lane ought to. As it happens I found the dear old city quite a bit friendlier, quieter and wackier than I had remembered.
Quieter possible because all the people who were yelling into their mobile phones on the bus last time I visited are now possessed of Blackberries and are typing instead of yelling. Friendlier, I can’t fathom. Maybe it’s me. I am sufficiently Canadian now to make eye contact with people in the street and chat to fellow waiters for trains; one of us has definitely changed.

But wackier is the point of this blog. People are doing the oddest things to brighten up their surroundings, from the peerless Banksy, who is on a one man mission to turn graffiti into a witty and thought provoking art form, to the chap whose name I don’t know who has chosen to decorate the pavements of North London with little paintings on the blobs of chewing gum people tread into the stone.

It all began when I mentioned to Rachael, with whom I had been staying, that there seemed to be much less litter about these days and that the absence of litter meant that you could see the chewing gum all the better. This led on to the story of the artist who is to be found in all weathers, laying face down in various streets, painting the gum. Apparently he has been arrested several times but, to date, prosecutions for defacing the pavement have been unsuccessful because he isn’t. And the council do not, legally, own the chewing gum. Now, after my little rant about chewing gum last week this may seem a little odd but I found the whole idea delightful. So, obviously we went on a fact-finding tour and photos of some of the finer works of art have found their way into the slideshow.

On the way we found a Bansky at Archway which has not yet been quite scrubbed away by the authorities, but I understand that a tour of East London is required to find most of the rest of them. Without wishing to be diverted too often from my mission of bringing you North America from a truck, it may just have to be done sometime in the future.

I should probably add another chewing gum related oddity, since it seems to be a bit of a hot topic, well in my head anyway. Sadly, I forgot to take a picture of the Gum Target attached to a local bus stop. It is a little plate on the bus stop advertising itself as a handy place to pop your gum when you’ve finished with it, presumably in some public-spirited attempt to keep the stuff off the pavement. Despite being a potentially great idea in someone’s head, the reality was utterly disgusting. Dried-up lumps of other people’s toothmarks at eye level. I think I prefer it on the ground. Especially when painted.

Back in Ontario and off with a truckload of mail to Edmonton (again) tonight, half hoping for adventures to write about and half hoping for an easy run due to lingering jet lag. Either way, I will be smiling about gum paintings for some time to come.

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