Making Your Mark

I’ve come across a lot of signs, notices and graffiti lately on my travels. Student graffiti on university buildings in Bologna; early 17th century names (choir boys and Roundhead thugs, I imagine) carved into an alabaster effigy on a tomb in St Nicholas Church, Bromham, Wiltshire, and a bit of Banksy, thrown in on a day trip to the seaside.

There is something about these images that speaks volumes – without the need for explanation. That’s the whole point of slogans, signs and symbols, presumably, to get to the heart of the matter – convey the message as simply as possible but also allowing (often unintentionally) deeper levels of thought of the ambiguities, irony and even humour of the subject. I’m not a student of semiotics but I imagine that is what I am thinking about.

Semiotics is an investigation into how meaning is created and how meaning is communicated. Its origins lie in the academic study of how signs and symbols (visual and linguistic) create meaning.

Thank you signsalad 

It is a way of seeing the world, and of understanding how the landscape and culture in which we live has a massive impact on all of us unconsciously.

Graffiti on tomb of Sir Roger Tocotes, St Nicholas Church, Bromham

I’ve always wanted to use the word ‘semiotics’ in a piece of writing, having been a fan of Simon Brett’s radio drama series Baldi where I first came across it. I’m a great fan of David Threlfall, who plays Paolo Baldi, the titular Franciscan priest, philosophy lecturer and detective; I will believe anything he says. I’m not sure, however, that his particular academic discipline of semiotics informs the solving of the murders much; it just makes him a more interesting and enigmatic character in the drama.

I went to see the Weston Sand Sculpture Festival which was impressive for the skill and interpretations of the theme ‘It’s a Topsy Turvy World’ by the artists. However, many of them didn’t appeal aesthetically to me or the message was lost on me, perhaps due to a lack of interest in some of the subjects. The last person I wanted to see was Donald Trump who managed to sneak into one sculpture. Afterwards, I went off round the town, more interested in photographing odd quirky things that caught my eye as I strolled around.

The glories of this once prosperous town with its fine Edwardian villas and public buildings, are less obvious now with the concrete and tall glass developments masking views. Noisy arcades, garish lights and endless takeaways attract the crowds towards the Promenade and Pier for their fun. You have to look up above the shop fronts and signs for fish and chips and mobile phones to see the other Weston, with its architectural gems such as the art deco cinema – now a Costa’s. Keeping up with contemporary culture, Weston has its own Banksys: arrows on pavements leading from the station into town – a relic of Dismaland 2015, I assume, and one of two children playing conkers.

Banksy ‘Conquering the World’ Weston super Mare

There is the tacky, the tasteless and the incongruous as well as the beautiful and bizarre to be found, everywhere from Bologna to Weston. While some people are enjoying life living for the moment – carpe diem – seizing the day, enjoying the ride and adrenaline rush, while others protest about their lives – their boredom or anger or perceived injustices. It’s good to slow down though to stop and think and look around at all the different signs of life – in the present and from the past. We all become part of history every minute that passes of our lives. We all have the need to be remembered and to leave our mark on the world but not always on someone else’s wall or tomb.