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.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Bench town St Helier - with Meredith

Following the earlier problems with Eddie, my Inner Editor, for our Bench Town this month I have appointed a guest editor. 

This is Meredith. 

She comes highly recommended as she has previously edited both Mathematica Felinica and The Litter Tray Times. I'm hoping that with Meredith's help I can avoid the usual faffing about before getting to the point, which is to show you the wonderful range of benches in the chosen Bench Town.

Our Bench Town this month is St. Helier in the Channel Islands.

Meredith: What channel would that be?

The English Channel. There are five Channel Islands and St. Helier is on the tiny island of Jersey, which is off the coast of Normandy in France.

I thought Jersey was in the United States.

Yes, but that's New Jersey. This is old Jersey.

Just how old is it?


So St. Helier is in Jersey, which is in France. Or is it in England?

Neither. It's a country in its own right. It's called The Jersey States.

Which state? Old Jersey? Or New Jersey?

Meredith, I think we should probably move on. I've got a lot of benches to do.

Suit yourself. 

My best imaginary friend Miggy and I went to Jersey very recently. 

We flew right over the Isle of Wight.

Is the Isle of Wight one of the Channel Islands?

No. It's in England.

Why is it here?

I just thought it looked pretty from the air.

Would it be too much to ask to see a picture of Jersey?

Here is a picture of Jersey.

So this is St. Helier.

No, actually, it's Gorey, north of St. Helier.

Why is it here?

Because it gives a flavour of what Jersey is like.

Speaking of flavour, have you got any tuna?

I'm going to ignore that. 

The tides are very extreme in the Channel Islands, by which I mean extremely high and extremely low. 

This makes for some very big beaches at low tide. Here is Miggy on the beach in Guernsey.

The beach doesn't look that big. And what, pray tell, is Guernsey?

It's another one of the Channel Islands.

Why is it here?

Because you know how I love swimming? I wanted to show you one of the wonderful tidal swimming pools which fill with water on every high tide.


 This pool will be entirely empty at low tide. It will be a rocky beach.

Trust me, no one is interested in this.

I am. Swimmers are. People from St. Helier are.

Anyway. Swimming is a big deal in the Channel Islands. In St. Helier there are plaques built into the seawall to commemorate the brave souls who swim round-the-island; it takes ten or eleven hours and it's very, very dangerous. 

We'll have to take your word for it since we can't read the plaques. You didn't bother to get close enough and focus the camera. 

Fair enough, Meredith. My career as a photographer has been a bit of a blur.

You should see the photograph I took of the lovely bench girl in the St. Helier Library.

Don't give up your day job. 

Have a heart, Meredith. I'm just getting used to this new camera.

I did better keeping focus on these benches.

Is this a bench? It looks like a concrete barrier to prevent erosion.

Well, yes, it is. But it's right on St. Helier's main beach and many people use it to sit on.

I sit on the roof of the car. That doesn't make it a bench.

Meredith, I'm not very happy about having this picture of you in here. This is a blog about benches. 

Does the expression talk to the paw mean anything to you?

It doesn't.

Here are some very nice wavy benches in Les Jardins de la Mer. 

I suppose they speak French in St. Helier do they? 

They don't. It's just that a lot of place names in Jersey are still in Jerriais, for example streets are called Rue. And a lot of Jersey people have Jerriais last names. 

I think you ought to get on with the benches, non?

Yes. There are a lot of benches like this because it's very windy in the Channel Islands so holidaymakers often need to seek shelter.

This beach shelter looks like it's tipping over.

My photography again. Sorry.

St. Helier is a small town chock full of benches. There are rows and rows of benches along the Esplanade.

There are rows of benches in the parks.

And there are rows of benches right in the centre of town. 

Is this the centre of town?

You know it isn't.

These are the brand new Queen's Jubilee benches in King Street.

Which King would that be?

Some English king. 

So the Queen's benches are in King Street?


Do they have the King's Jubilee benches in Queen Street?

There isn't a King's Jubilee. No king has lived long enough.

I'm feeling like that right now. 

OK, here are some very nice circular benches opposite the post office.

And in 2011 St. Helier bought 50 brand new benches from a company called Benchmarks. Here are some of the Benchmarks benches in the square off Rue Mulcaster Street.

I have found a basket and I am going to sit this one out.

Meredith, you are being paid as a guest editor. Please follow me in this tour of St. Helier's benches. Otherwise I will have to put you on Garden Leave with Eddie. 

I think you have mistaken me for someone who cares.

Come on, I'm going to show you some really cool cows.

Are they pink?

No, they're normal cow colours.

I'm partial to pink cows.

Or blue.

Channel Islands cows are not pink and blue.

Well, carry on without me then. 

Here are some cows. 

Jersey is famous for its cows. Great ice cream!

It's famous for business too. Smartly dressed businessmen cows like to sit on their benches and check the financial markets.

That goes for businesswomen cows too, of course. 

There are a lot of offshore transactions which attract people to careers in finance, law, and insurance. There are lots of very posh bank buildings and indeed some very posh benches.

It's a coincidence that the German word for bench is bank. 

The Channel Islands were occupied by German soldiers during World War II. Here are the Jersey War Tunnels which were dug by hand by slave labourers.

Although The Channel Islands were British territories, when Jersey was invaded in June 1940 Churchill famously wrote, "Let 'em starve. No fighting. They can rot at their leisure." 

With allies like that, who needs enemies?

This is Liberation Square, where they celebrate Liberation Day every May 9th. There are loads of benches in the square.

Here is the very old Green Street Cemetery which is called the green lung of St. Helier. There are benches here too, very simple stone ones.

It's where a lot of Jerriais people are buried. Fascinating headstones. I know, Meredith, you're going to tell me I need to get out more. 

And there used to be an aluminium man who sat calmly on this rock outside the Ogier Building on the Esplanade. But sadly be got beheaded by youths in November 2011 so now he sits inside the building. 

sculpture by Mariele Neudecker

Goes to show that even a good Bench town has its share of violence.

Finally, I couldn't resist this little bench at a very busy road junction in St. Helier. From the bench there's nothing to look at: it's noisy, fume-filled, and traffic comes whizzing around the corner at speed. Even so, the powers that be in St. Helier have thoughtfully provided a bench. 

I can't think who would want to sit here. Can you, Meredith?




The aluminium man is a sculpture by Mariele Neudecker at

Miggy and I stayed, as always, at the much-revered Revere Hotel in Kensington Place, St. Helier.

It is small and cozy and has red furniture and the most delightful staff*.

* This is beginning to sound like advertising. And the photographs are blurry again. You're rubbish.

Channel Islands ice cream is um, very creamy. For the creme-de-la-creme of ice cream benches, see

Cliff Dix keeps has a great eye for cows. Indeed he has a whole album dedicated to the Atlanta Cow Parade in 2003.   Here you will see cows of every description - hospital cows, shoe cows, watermelon cows, Elton John cows, and every kind of lovely decorated cow you can imagine. None of these are benches though. The cow reading a newspaper on a bench is the ING bench cow, at

The cow/girl on a bench reading a newspaper in a shopping center was photographed in 2010 by Daniel, aka parascubasailor, who lives in Thonon in France (near Geneva)  and has taken quite a few cow photos.  Daniel quotes from Mark Twain in his profile: You can't depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.

For more great cow benches, we've got the cream of bovine benches at

Swimming is great in the Channel Islands and I am a very keen swimmer. You can see my swimming bench at    Better still, here is a tribute to all swimmers and their benches

Just in case you think St Helier doesn't look like paradise, here's a link to my own benches here on Paradise Island

Many thanks to Boo and Melissa. As top-class models I am grateful that they were prepared to get out of bed for less than ten thousand dollars a day.  

For more cat stories edited by Meredith see Cat Benches for World Cat Day or see how she ruined helped with my piano bench story. And just to get my own back on her, here's a blog about dog benches. So there.