Simon Bisson (sbisson) wrote,
Simon Bisson

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Far away is close at hand in images of elsewhere

For many years there was a piece of grafitti that ran along a wall beside the railway tracks that led into Paddington Station. You could see it as the train slowly pulled into London, or accelerated away into the west. "Far away is close at hand in images of elsewhere": an evocative phrase that still echoes today, when the wall has been demolished, and the paint has joined the dust of the fallen bricks.

No one knew who had written it, or why.

There was a piece in this week's Sunday Times that finally shed light on the mystery. The original artists had finally come forward.

The first six words were from a Robert Graves poem:
Far away is close at hand
Close joined is far away,
Love will come at your command
Yet will not stay.
And the rest came as a misquote from the title of a paper by Ruth Padel: “Imagery of the Elsewhere: Two Choral Odes of Euripides”.

The article revealed a pair of artists who wanted to make people think:
But Dave and Geoff seem to have regarded graffiti as a way of giving people food for thought as they travelled by train — a precursor of Poems on the Underground. The first occasion, admits Dave, was alcohol fuelled. It was the night before Geoff left for Australia in 1968: the brothers had several farewell drinks, took a nostalgic walk to their old family house at Blackheath which backed on to the Lewisham railway line, and painted “Be Cool, But Care” on the wall. Very 1960s.

After Geoff returned home, they fell into the habit of going out with brush and paint after midnight on Christmas Eve, when no trains ran. Each excursion was recced in advance and planned with military precision. Scaling walls was no obstacle: both were practised mountaineers from childhood holidays in the Lake District. Among their opus was “May the long time sun shine upon you”, from the song by the Incredible String Band (railway wall, South London, 1971); and Bakunin ’s “All submission to authority humiliates; all exercise of authority perverts” (canal wall, Walthamstow, 1972).
Unfortunately the article itself will soon disappear behind a paywall (like the wall fell to the demolisher's sledgehammer).
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