Wednesday, 10 January 2018

The right trousers

I inherited six manual typewriters, gave away five and regret it. Please send unwanted ones my way.

I use my remaining one to hammer out the words on the cover illustration below: it needs an air of effort and energy, to reflect the work of the students who've written Big Voice London's look-alike Law Commission reports.

Graphic design: Peter Sloper
I want a colourful background. The overalls worn by Ben Wilson, the Chewing Gum Artist, are perfect. He paints miniatures on gum deposits in London and beyond, using acrylics, car varnish and a mini-blowtorch. His uncle worked on an oil tanker, hence the orange cotton serge jumpsuits.

Uncharacteristically monochrome - Ben Wilson
The sun was bouncing off the paint crust on Ben's overalls last time I visited him on the Millennium Bridge. You'll find hundreds of his works there; he also paints on more portable objects such as bricks.

He depicts the passing scene or fulfils orders in his notebook, many of which commemorate births, marriages and deaths. He also paints at the whim of tourists.

One tourist, a girl of ten in an expensive coat, was showing off about having a YouTube channel and bullying her kid sister, who didn't. Ben stood up, spread his arms wide like the Angel of the North and gave the girls a ringing explanation of human values.

Oxford Street

Lichen on Ted Hughes's memorial stone, Dartmoor

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Is this the source of Paddington Bear's pop-up?

Watching Paddington 2, I get a Proustian jolt when the big-hearted bear opens a faked-up film-prop antiquarian book and Tower Bridge pops up: as a child I had a real version of this.

But where is that book now? I thought it was among the hundreds of musty tomes I'd smuggled into the house after my parents died. I ransack the double-stacked shelves, constantly distracted: Cockney Stories of the Great War, World War II knitting patterns, anything by P. G. Wodehouse...

Paddington's version

Can't find it. What the hell. I get another on eBay.

Bookano Stories 'with pictures that spring up in model form' were produced almost annually between 1929 until his death in 1949 by S. Louis Giraud, who coined their name with its deliberate echo of Meccano. His 'Strand Publications' was based in North Finchley in what is now a ready-made curtain outlet. The paper engineer Theodore Brown is not credited.

This is the penultimate issue, number 16. Growing up with John Tenniel, Phiz, Phil May and Aubrey Beardsley, I knew its black and white illustrations were not top notch. The materials and colour printing are cheap and cheerful.

A boffiny article about how Tower Bridge was built is absorbing, but there is nothing in the twee rhymes and stories to detain us. An account of As You Like It (plagiarised from Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare) is shoe-horned in for some cultural cred.

But the book, being a childhood companion, was more than the sum of its parts. The online interloper lacks the the aura of our lost copy, which served as one of the silent, solemn household guardians lining the defensive walls.

Bookano books in action: