Friday, 15 August 2008

The Lure of the Totem Pole

Walking through the East India Dock Basin, in London, on my way to collect a vehicle from a company based in one of the wharfs.

I've walked about halfway along the relevant wharf when I come to an old, boarded up brick building - not an uncommon sight in this ungentrified part of the Docklands. However, the pieces of glass still remaining in the smashed windows have been painted in red, yellow and green. The crude brush strokes seem to follow the jagged edges, suggesting that they were painted after the windows were broken.

Next to the building a wooden telephone pole has been painted in a similarly determined but amateurish fashion, all the way to the top, to resemble a totem pole - colourful stripes interspaced with cartoon faces. Here and there are other small bits of stenciled graffitti, mostly symbols that are meaningless to me, with only an Antifa sticker on a lamppost having any overt political message.

Was the building formerly a squat? We are within walking distance of the ExCel centre, whose arms fairs have attracted protesters in the recent past, so perhaps there is a connection there?

I ponder these things as I make my way along the wharf, looking for the company from whom I'm due to collect the car that will take me home. I am still trying to locate them when my controller phones to tell me the job has been cancelled and I now have to make my way to Uxbridge, on the other side of the city, to collect a different vehicle.

I walk back past the totem pole and the painted smashed windows, their implicit rejection of the everyday world of work and wages seeming suddenly to have more merit.

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