Friday, 29 February 2008
Off the Wall
Always prohibitively expensive to buy, vitreous enamel signs are the brilliantly colourful 'Street Jewellery' of the English scene. Most of my collection was levered off walls in the seventies from the top of precipitously-leaning ladders. With the express permission of shopkeepers, of course. All very well and typical of long-haired designer fads of the age, but these days I somehow prefer to see them still up on the wall where everyone can enjoy them. How untypically egalatarian is that of me? So I was very pleased to see these signs still in their original position on a shop wall in Bluntisham, Cambridgeshire. The Brooke Bond tea sign was once one of the most ubiquitous, but what I like here are the two sizes of Sunlight signs. It's as if the soap rep turned up, got out the sign catalogue and the shopkeeper said 'I'll have one of each'. They all bring back a painful memory. A little shop in the Highfields district of Leicester was closing, and outside was a Player's Cigarettes enamel sign, complete with the Hero sailor in glorious colour. I asked the little old lady if there was any chance I could have it when the shop finally shut. It was promised, I was over-joyed. Returning a couple of months later I saw that the sign was gone, just the empty frame staring blankly at me. On asking for it the lady said 'But you've already been in and had it'. Not me I said, gripping the counter. 'But he had a beard' was the only reply I heard as I went out.