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Wednesday 27th August 2003

Not all the young men in London are disaffected and impatient pizza guzzlers always oh the look-out for the opportunity to shoot strangers in the face with a plastic gun.
Not like you thought, Hitler.

Tonight I was having a drink with my improbably named friend Ivanhoe (he played David Collins the horse in TMWRNJ and that is the only thing of worth that has ever happened to him. Being dressed up as a pantomime horse and having a transvestite Nostradamus sitting on top of him.)
We were sitting on the pavement outside a bar in Portobello Road drinking wine. It was very pleasant. Across the road I noticed some youths skulking around. One took out an aerosol can and began spray painting green paint over the bottom of the shutters of the shop opposite.
He didn't seem to be just writing "poofs are gay" or "arseholes" or "wank off" and there seemed to be some art to it. In fact he seemed very assured and confident, like some kind of mini Rolf Harris.
Him and his two mates continued to spray paint for the next hour or so as the bloke best known as a pantomime horse and me drank our wine.
It was very interesting to see their urban mural come to life and develop. It was difficult to make out what they were doing and to begin with some of the colours and shapes seemed totally inappropriate and meaningless.
But gradually it developed into something that still made little sense to my 36 year old eye, but that was obviously coherent and strangely beautiful. The colours blended nicely. There was a funny cartoon of a man smoking. The blurs of orange and green had been transformed into words. I couldn't work out what the words were. But they looked great. It was amazing to see this thing created from nothing using only spray cans. These little vandal Van Goghs were doing something constructive and worthwhile.
No-one seemed to give them a second look. At one point some policemen came by and talked to them, but didn't attempt to stop them. As it transpired the owner of the shop had actually given them permission to do this. And why not. It was on their shutters which are only visible at night and it was more interesting than the dull dirtiness of the original metal.
As we left we went across to talk to the lads (and much as I can't judge ages I would say they were all about 17) and told them we liked what they'd done. They were polite and answered our questions appreciatively. None of them threatened to shoot me at any point.
One of them (the best one I thought, who'd done the green word with what looked like little berries hanging on it) had travelled from East London to create this little piece of art. I told them that I couldn't really understand what they had done, or what it said (and they woudln't say. It's a kind of secret thing), but that I thought it looked really amazing. More impressively from close up it looked like nothing much, but from across the street it really came together. There was a genuine vision to it.
And it was art. Because I'd looked at this shop shutter so intensely for an hour, as I walked off down the street I noticed lots of other interesting shapes and colours in the buildings of Portobello Rd. They had made me look at the world in a new light. It was a real pleasure to witness it.
If you're local and want to have a look, it's at 250 Portobello Rd on the shutters of R Garcia & Sons, comestibles y vinos de Espana.
Only go at night time though or you won't be able to see it.

It's very simple, but I hope you'll get something out of it. And let's hear it for the kids who manage to do something constructive with their time. It's most of them at the end of the day.
Doubtless their work has already caused several elderley and thoughtless passersby to tut and mumble about vandalism.
But these fictional old folk have missed the point.
A point that R Garcia and his sons have presumably grasped and embraced.
Only a total idiot would put graffiti on top of this art-work.
Thus R Garcia saves himself a lot of time and money and white spirit.

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