March 29, 2014

Brought down by a burning fire

I'm interested in graffiti as one of the ways in which humans interact – often almost involuntarily – with their environment, and graffiti on trees has a quality all of its own. For one thing, it's often more childish – as though writing on once-living things is a gateway, an easier prospect for those who will later graduate to marking man-made, owned and 'official' structures.

One huge fallen tree by the railway line on Tooting Common had 'Tree Land' sprayed in red on its side for a long time, until the bark flaked off and left it clean; now, this stump on the Triangle – long dead, and finally burned out by a stolen car that was crashed into it and set alight a couple of years ago – has had its story neatly inscribed on it in marker pen, a small act of urban mythopoeia that's no less valid than the recent Common Knowledge project, Wandsworth Council's signs denoting wildlife areas, or the stories we tell in books and websites about the long history of this patch of land.