Confessions of a graffiti lover
Graffiti at its best – irrelevant, irreverent and inconsequential – can be seen in the toilets of one of the many Vietnamese restaurants currently en vogue in Berlin. But for more considered and self-conscious graffiti art there is none better than the ‘Fraternal kiss’, the ‘Bruderkuss’ between Russian premier Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honiker, president of the German Democratic Republic. Still striking, and rightly one of the best known pieces of Berlin wall graffiti art painted by Dmitri Vrubel in 1990.
The Wall, ‘Die Mauer’ that surrounded West Berlin, no longer exists, other than as a kaleidoscope of memories, or a state of mind. It was built in 1961 to prevent people from escaping from the eastern half of Berlin. Or, as the East German government would have it at the time, it was an “Antifascistischer Schutzwall,” an antifascist bulwark to keep capitalism out. Just the kind of double speak, the language of opposites, we’re getting with Ukraine. ‘Invasion’, ‘war’ or ‘special military operation’?
… and my career as a ‘wall pecker’
At the end of 1989 when the wall was ‘down’, my friends and I had driven from the UK to get ourselves a piece of history. So there we were with our hammers and chisels at about three in the morning, it was well below freezing, chipping away. We saw no one, and yet we could hear in the frozen silence, lots of other little chink chink chinks all around – the sounds of other ‘Mauerspechte’, or ‘wall-peckers’ as they/we became known. The word ‘Mauerspecht’ had never been used before, and officially entered the German dictionary in 1991.
Will the real ‘gentle sex’ step forward?
Still on the graffiti theme, remember the feminist slogan, “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle”? Whilst that might well be the case, any singles looking to meet a gentle softy kind of bloke, should have been at the recent Teenage Fanclub gig at Chalk in Brighton. I’ve never seen so many gentle, soppy forty something men in one place at one time, all grooving gently to the mellow sentimental West Coast style harmonies.
The no longer teenage fan clubbers all seemed like thoroughly decent chaps. More likely to be playing a board game than biting the heads off bats. Outside the mellow cocoon of their collective musical nostalgia, I cannot, of course, vouch for any of them.
High on shame … the real loos-ers
“Snowdonia mountain path covered in human faeces”, reported the BBC. As if the news wasn’t bad enough, the man caught defecating on the mountain’s railway line was the final straw. You have to have some sympathy with him being rumbled like that by a group of hikers.
By the same token it was also too late for the guide and her cohorts to un-see what had already been seen. All of which would have been avoided had there been any public loos open but, of course, there weren’t, as there often aren’t throughout the country – from the log jams of lorries outside Dover to the absence of public toilets in city centres.
It is shameful and surely discriminatory when there are no public toilets available, not least because this denies access to public spaces for older people or women with young children. If we followed the example of the French farmers who like to protest by dumping stuff on doorsteps, I’m sure we’d get the powers that be to actually give a shit, rather than just taking the piss.
Finally… a beautiful kind of bomb
But let’s not end on an ugly note. I don’t know about you, but I’m a sucker for reading the ingredients on the side of packaging. To forget the horrors of Snowdonia. In terms of meditative balm, this is up there with listening to the shipping forecast. Just read out loud the contents of Aldi’s ‘Grow your own seed bombs wild flower mixture’ …
… Pheasant’s eye, corncockle, bishops flower, shrubby hare’s ear, pot marigold, safflower, cornflower, chrysanthemum, dwarf morning glory, cosmos, Chinese forget-me-not, heavenly blue, honesty, large-flowered mallow, poppy, catchflies, caraway, buckwheat, lovage.
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