They’re everywhere we go. Well, everywhere scenic, that is. You’ll find them by stunning natural wonders, architectural marvels, and poignant memorials to the fallen.
And they have got to stop.
At the top of Sulphur Mountain, Alberta, we visited a memorial to some scientists. during the 1950s, These dedicated people had lived and doggedly worked away in a small hut at the peak for months at a time, monitoring cosmic rays as Canada’s contribution to the International Geophysical Year. Their tiny shack has been preserved in its original state, but visitors can still peep through the window to see the original valve radios and simple measuring equipment that did so much to advance human knowledge and make gizmos like the internet possible. And on the wall outside, we can also study graffiti saying that Tim was here, with Kate, Kenzo, Sarah, Vijay and Chan-Lee, all helpfully troubling to bring their own thick felt-tip pens to the top of a mountain (arriving by cable-car gondola) to let the rest of us know they, too, were here in 2013.
Thanks, guys. We’re glad to know.
But with the graffiti, there had to be padlocks too, fixed to the fence and left behind by couples as memorials to their declarations of love and affection. How romantic! What a fitting memorial to the scientists who struggled to complete their researches in such hard conditions, finally having their efforts crowned with the tribute left by Brad and Julia from Toronto, costing $4.99 at their local hardware store ! Romance? No, it’s Litter, and it’s becoming a plague around the world.
In Budapest, Hungary, on the banks of the River Danube, there’s a powerful tribute to the hundreds of Jewish citizens and other ‘undesirables’ who were machine-gunned and then dumped in the river, when the Nazis went about their hellish work in the 1940s. In memory of the executed, an inspired artist created a whole series of pairs of bronze shoes cemented to the ground on the river bank not far from the Parliament building. Its human, its breathtakingly simple- but not so simple as the fool who decided to fix a padlock to the buckle of one of these shoes.
What was that person thinking? In fact, were they thinking at all? It’s like painting ‘Sean loves Sharon’ on the Cenotaph. All right, perhaps the wombats who did it were young, and in love, and love has a way of putting the critical faculties on hold. But the shoes and the inscriptions (and the flowers laid alongside), might have provided a bit of a clue that this was not the right place.
Paris. This is probably where it all started, unfortunately. There’s a bridge close to the underpass where Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed met their unfortunate end in a car crash. It’s a sad story. But in the aftermath, someone obviously thought that the most fitting tribute to the couple was the fixing of a padlock to a nearby bridge. Then somebody else saw it… and you know the rest. See the picture.
The Paris authorities finally decided that Enough was Enough when the padlocked bridge was becoming a tourist destination in itself, and the combined weight of the padlocks was threatening the integrity of the structure. All that love was threatening to bring down an important crossing point over the Seine. So one day, workmen with bolt-cutters spent many happy hours, removing and trashing the lot. Good.
But oh, you nasty bully. Don’t you have a little space in your heart for romance and living gestures? Well, Mrs PGD will have to answer for that, but I’d have to say I’m still learning, slowly and painfully about what love and romance really means.
But as for leaving empty-headed gestures that spoil a public landmark? It’s like those nincompoops who add their me-too scrawls to the remnants of the Berlin Wall, ignoring everything the original inscriptions were demanding… and even blotting them out, for pity’s sake. ‘Lovelocks’ turn a personal gesture into a public statement, and the best public statement for love that I know is a wedding ring. Mine is thankfully, still sitting there on my finger now, after 35 years. It’s scratched and full of memories, it’s the symbol of something incredibly precious to me- but it doesn’t besmirch a national monument.
So for all those sweet romantics wanting to go public with their love... Try wearing a wedding ring- if you’re brave enough.