Monday, 11 February 2013

An Excellent Valentine

 Karl at

As some of you know, I am lucky enough to have two husbands. One of them is Mungo, who is imaginary. The other one is my real husband, His Excellency. 

In the run-up to our wedding anniversary on February 14th, His Excellency is getting just a teensy weensy bit fed up with this blog and the way it features Mungo all the time. You may have noticed that Mungo is in quite a few pictures and there is even a post about how we met. But have you seen a picture of His Excellency? 

No, you have not. He does not want his picture taken. The only photograph I have of him is somewhat disappointing:

Just to explain:  His Excellency is a very shy man. You would not catch us snogging on a bench in Hyde Park.

 Jan Williams at

When it comes to public displays of affection, we're like a couple of old spinsters. 

The Spinnsters 1927, Erik Henningsen

If we were French we would not have been les amoureux des bancs publics.

Even when we were young we would not have done this. If His Excellency and I were teenagers on this park bench in Hungary, we would be the couple on the right.

We might sit together on a bench but it's usually in steely silence.

We're not very romantic in writing either. Neither of us would ever write anything like this:

If His Excellency wrote me a love note it would say something like We're out of cheese.

He loves a good mature cheddar and those vastly expensive and smelly artisan cheeses you get in little delis. He loves watching rugby and birds and animals, and taking pictures, and painting watercolours. 

Being a philosopher by profession, His Excellency believes that the unexamined life is not worth living. Having examined life though, he feels quite despondent. 

Despondency from The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan 1671

He has too often found that the world is full of sad clowns.

Or as Jean-Paul Sartre once said, hell is other people. 

On the other hand, there is nothing so absurd but some philosopher has said it. Therefore, His Excellency is prone to a certain amount of mansplaining. 

When I told him about this post he gave a little grunt and said it would probably have a lot of pictures of Mungo on benches. 

No, I said, This post is about you. About our anniversary.

He said What anniversary? and went off to nibble some Stinking Bishop.

The way I remember it, I was attracted to His Excellency and approached him in a way that, looking back, maybe wasn't very subtle.

The Pilgrim's Progress, 1673

But I ask you, who ever loved that loved not at first sight? I was quite overcome and had to be revived by some very capable men. 

On The Ship 1887, Julian Falat

There was not a great deal of romance, now that I think about it. Not a lot of footsie under the table at dinner parties.

No heart-felt initials carved into benches. 

There was a bit of a stand-off as I recall.

Young Man in Black, Girl in White 1919, Nils Dardel

But finally I asked him to marry me and he said he wood. Good thing too. There wood have been a hole in my heart without him.

We had a proper wedding with bridesmaids and everything.

There were some anxious moments when Miggy was found in the vacinity of our wedding cake. Believe me, you do not want Miggy near a cake. Ever. 

The more observant of you may notice that the man on my right at the alter looks amazingly like Mungo. Yes, it is Mungo. 

So where is His Excellency? 

He insists that he's only ever on one side of the camera so he just stepped out while the wedding pictures were being taken. This made several people wonder how our relationship was going to pan out.

Of course there are ups and downs in all relationships. Here are Ruben and Lullaby having their first argument on a bench.

They're not having it alone though: it's interactive. For three dollars you can use your iphone to shake them and stroke them and cajole them into making up. Or not. 

They're young. Why not pay the three bucks and help them resolve it?

At the wedding reception I asked Mungo if he thought my marriage to His Excellency would last. 

He was non-commital.

Mungo is easy going but it has to be said, my relationship with His Excellency is sometimes on a knife edge. 

JD Hancock @

These days our sharing of benches is often something like this:

This year I was going to give him some socks for our anniversary. Yep, three pairs of Bench dot socks in a you-know-what. Bench dot Apukini socks were on Amazon for £14.99 for three pairs but there were only five pair left when I last looked. 

I then saw them at my local Bench dot outlet store for £10. I was tempted but I can't just buy everything with Bench dot on it,can I?

However, I think now I'll give him my usual love-bench featuring a dear deer little couple on a bench. 

Yes, they've already appeared on Benchsite but never mind.

Happy Anniversary, His Excellency. I have one question:

Will you still need me, will you still feed me when I'm 64?

No reply. 

That's probably because he's out looking for a Valentine's present for me. I dropped a heavy hint: this lovely bench necklace from Laura in Dublin.

Happy Valentine's Day everybody! 


The lovely valentine photograph was taken in the South Tyrol by Karl at  Many thanks for his permission to use it. Mungo and Miggy and I visited the South Tyrol this summer. As ever, we were looking for benches. We found plenty of alpine benches to get high on

I have two husbands. One is Mungo, my imaginary husband, who features in lots of other Benchsite stories, but not this one. How did I meet Mungo? I gambled on love. This one is about His Excellency, who has a reputation for destruction, even when he means well. He's a philosopher and, to say the least, not a very practical person. He blames this on his education. You can appreciate his difficulties if you know his history. Mungo, on the other hand, keeps a good workbench. Read about both of them at

The Hyde Park Snoggers were photographed by Jan Williams at   The Caravan Gallery's exhibitions are seriously thought-provoking, distressingly perceptive and beautifully absurd. That's what it says on the website and it's absolutely true. 

For a fabuous film of love on French benches, accompanied by a song by Georges Brassens, see Les Amoureux des Bancs Publics at

Danish artist Erik Henningsen (1855-1930) was a master of Social Realism. In 1927 he painted The Spinsters, long past their own days of young love on a public bench. In other paintings he depicts the difficulties of the poor, wounded, unemployed, and socially isolated. He's one of my favourites among the Nordic Realists.

I am grateful to writer and photographer Stuart Freedman for the photograph of the teenagers on a park bench in Pecs Hungary in 2009. I saw this on his blog at His work has been published in a wide variety of publications including Life, Time, National Geographic, Der Spiegel, Newsweek and Paris Match. His work has been recognised in many awards, from amongst others, Amnesty International (twice), Pictures of the Year, The World Sports Photo Award, The Royal Photographic Society and UNICEF. See his stunning photographs at

John, aka MTSOfan, is a pastor who says that photography isn't just a hobby; it's his attempt at sanity, a diversion in a life with much responsibility, and also a way of looking at the world. John calls his photo of a thin bench couple Holding Hands, a whimsical bench. He photographed it in January 2013 in Chalfont, Pennsylvania.

The Marry Me subway poster is by Ryan Alexander from Redding, California. Ryan creates simple and modern subway art for the home at Alexander Creative

If you're interested in cheese and/or dairy benches, see Lord Brassica's guide to the cream of bovine benches. Just try not to confuse a cheese with a font. 

Mercy was fallen down without in a swoon. This is one of many illustrations  from John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress (1678). You'll find them scattered all around Benchsite. 

The beautiful angular statue, Couple on Seat, is in Cabot Square at Canary Wharf, London. It's one of many by British sculptor Lynn Chadwick (1914-2003), made in 1984 in the tradition of Henry Moore. Chadwick began his career as an architectural draughtsman but after World War II he took up sculpture. His work is now exhibited at Lypiatt Sculpture Park near Stroud in Gloucestershire. This photograph is by Sludgegulper in 2010 and although I first saw it on Wikicommons, it also appears in his Flickr photostream at  

Joel Haas from Raleigh, North Carolina is a steel sculptor and benches are his speciality. The bright red Love Seat is a steel garden bench commissioned by a Raleigh, NC couple as a Valentine's Day present.  After Joel finished the steel work, he had it commercially painted with two coats of red paint and a clear top coat The couple's legs don't actually support the bench but look cool. Note, the man's shoes are "tied" with steel wire. Joel's studio is at

I Heart heart benches! A big wood bench on Mendocino Bluffs had some interesting names and initials carved into it back in 2007 when it was photographed by Anita Hart. Anita is a designer, illustrator, photographer from Pacifica, California.

The beautiful painting of a woman overcome, not by love but by heat, dates from 1887 when delicate ladies made long, hot journeys to colonial climes, in this case Colombo in Ceylon. Men rushed to her aid with fans and parasols.  The artist is the Polish Impressionist, Julian Farat (1853-1929), who is also known for his watercolour landscapees.  

Miggy is my best imaginary friend and travelling companion. She runs the cafe here in Fribble-under-Par, which serves tea, sandwiches and cakes. Migs herself is a great consumer of cakes. She even manages to turn a sensible discussion about log benches into a cake-centric story.  

Hell is other people is a quotation from French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre in 1944. 

The Sad Clown is a regular feature here on Benchsite. He does look miserable on his bench. For the full story of clowns, liars, and fake news benches see

Some people do not believe in love at first sight. But who ever loved, that loved not at first sight? This is from Christopher Marlowe's 1598 Greek myth of the doomed lovers Hero and Leander. 

There's nothing so absurd but some philosopher has said it is a quotation from Cicero going way back to 44 BC. 

And even further back, a quotation attributed to Socrates in 399 BC: the unexamined life is not worth living.

The wonderful painting of the Young Man in Black, Girl in White was made in 1919 by Swedish artist Nils Dardel (1888-1943). The girl is Nita Wallenberg, daughter of a wealthy Swedish banking family. Nita met the artist in Japan in 1917 and  they became secretly engaged but her father did not care for bohemian artists and put an end to the relationship. This painting sold for £445,250 in 2012. 

Amarand Agasi is a senior Unix Systems Administrator in Galloway, Ohio. He took the photo of the green heart hole in a bench back in 2006. He calls it I wood. I wood too. Armand loves computers, photography, people, reading and art - not necessarily in that order. His polished portfolio site is Oldbolt Studio and he has a larger body of work at DeviantART. Also a smaller subset of work at Amarand's Storm-Artists Page. And last but not least, a Flickr photostream where you can access all these

Erik Loyer is a media artist and creative director working at the intersection of interactivity, story, music and animation. He founded Opertoon in 2008 to explore the storytelling potential of mobile devices, creating and publishing tactile narratives Ruben & Lullaby and Upgrade Soul, both IndieCade nominees, as well as Strange Rain, which reached the top of the App Store Entertainment charts. Many thanks to Erik at for the image of Ruben and Lullaby. 

JD Hancock lives with his wife and two kids in Austin, Texas. He's a hubsand, father, web-slinger, cyborg, photographer. One of the things he photographed is the couple on a knife edge, an image which is straight out of the camera: no tweaking, no color processing, no cropping, no nothing. JD calls it Paring. He explains that a paring knife is a small, plain-edged knife designed for peeling and intricate work. The dull side also makes a great bench for his tiny young lovers, who are part of his Little Dudes series, documenting the Little Dudes who live in his home.  Weird, witty, highly recommended.

Hilde Skjølberg is a webdesigner and mother of two living in Oslo. She photographed the lovely old couple on a bench back in 2008. Gosh, they must be 64 by now. At least. 

The Babycham deer were lent to me by my friend Effie, who is 93 and has no idea why I love them. 

Laura from Dublin loves working with plastic and chain. She handmakes all her items and tries to keep it quirky and unique; one of her items is the tiny bench necklace from her shop, Bloody Odd Jewelry Laura draws inspiration from everything from retro computer games to childhood fancies and anything she would like to wear herself. Update 2015: I am unable to find Laura's shop via this link 

Just to let you know that Valentine's Day 2014 was not so excellent. Did His Excellency get me a hearty heart bench? No, he did not. 

The other photographs here are my own, including the wedding photo, which was taken by His Excellency. He was quite happy to take the photos but not to be in them. This saved us money on getting a wedding photographer so we spent what we saved on a huge chunk of vintage farmhouse cheddar and a good bottle of Châteauneuf du Pape.

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