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Saturday, 27 June 2015

Meandering on the velocipede

I reasoned that perhaps a cycle ride would give me inspiration for the blog, so I blew the cobwebs off my trusty three speed and after a drop of oil and some air in the tyres I was ready for off.


Still on the subject of bicycles, I came upon this airborne specimen.

Then as Alice said "Curiouser and curiouser", for here I found more bicycles perched on top of a wall.

I should imagine this old boneshaker would be somewhat uncomfortable to ride!

Moving swiftly on (but not too swiftly due to twinges of arthritis), I arrived at the market where I came across these rather splendid ladies modeling hats.

I dismount for a rest outside this house. Now I have heard of it raining cats and dogs - but sharks!

There is an interesting story to the shark. The shark appeared in the roof one Saturday morning in August 1986, the 41st anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki.
When asked why by journalists, the chap responsible for the shark said "The shark was to express someone feeling totally impotent and ripping a hole in their roof out of a sense of impotence and anger and desperation..... It is saying something about CND, nuclear power, Chernobyl and Nagasaki."
The City Council tried to get the shark removed under the Town and Country Planning Act 1971. By 1990 retrospective planning permission had been refused and an appeal had been made to Michael Heseltine, who was then the Secretary of State for the Environment. In 1992 Michael Heseltine granted retrospective planning permission saying "I cannot believe that the purpose of the planning laws is to enforce boring, mediocre design". Michael Heseltine's planning inspector, Peter Macdonald made the following judgement -
" It is not in dispute that this is a large and prominent feature. That was the intention, but the intention of the appellant and the artist is not an issue as far as planning permission is concerned. The case should be decided on its planning merits, not by resorting to “utilitarianism”, in the sense of the greatest good to the greatest number. And it is necessary to consider the relationship between the shark and its setting…. In this case it is not in dispute that the shark is not in harmony with its surroundings, but then it is not intended to be in harmony with them. The basic facts are there for almost all to see. Into this archetypal urban setting crashes (almost literally) the shark. The contrast is deliberate … and, in this sense, the work is quite specific to its setting. As a “work of art” the sculpture (“Untitled 1986”) would be “read” quite differently in, say, an art gallery or on another site. An incongruous object can become accepted as a landmark after a time, becoming well known, even well loved in the process. Something of this sort seems to have happened, for many people, to the so-called “Oxford shark”. The Council is understandably concerned about precedent here. The first concern is simple: proliferation with sharks (and Heaven knows what else) crashing through roofs all over the City. This fear is exaggerated. In the five years since the shark was erected, no other examples have occurred. Only very recently has there been a proposal for twin baby sharks in the Iffley Road. But any system of control must make some small place for the dynamic, the unexpected, the downright quirky. I therefore recommend that the Headington shark be allowed to remain."
The shark, made from fibreglass is 25 feet long and weighs four hundredweight. It was created by the sculptor John Buckley.
Time to leave this fishy tale behind us and move on - actually move on a bit too fast, as the very steep hill leading back to the City Centre proves too much for the brake blocks against the steel bicycle rims. However, rider and bicycle arrive intact - phew, that was scary!

We arrive at a house covered in the most luxurious foliage Parthenocissus tricuspidata, also known as Boston Ivy or Japanese Creeper.

All grown from this one gnarled trunk. No one seems to know when it was planted, but it was at least fifty years ago.

Now for the ten minute cycle ride home, and what have we here parked outside the house? Well a very pretty little camper van named "Rhubarb". I mused on whether it came from the manufacturer with that name, or if perhaps the owner christened it Rhubarb.

Now into the house, sit down, rest my legs and have a nice cup of tea! 

1 comment:

Shammickite said...

I remember that shark on the roof.... I think. The house owner was interviewed on "As It Happens" which is the CBC's weeknight news interview programme on the radio. A couple of times if I remember rightly.
Loved the wall of bicycles, especially the bone shaker. My bike is in the basement with a flat tire right now, but it's a really big heavy bike and I don't get on with it very well, so it can stay in the basement for now. I had an old (pink!) Raleigh that I loved but it was stolen.