Monday, 15 July 2013

Smiles of benches not for World Smile Day

World Smile Day is in October. But I can't wait to show you some of the smile benches I've been collecting. Here to help me is the King of Smiles, our own police constable Willie Wyme, affectionately known here in Fribble-under-Par as Wyme the Crime. 

Willie is a very smiley guy. He'd never enforce the law if he had to arrest people for smiling.

Welcome, Willie. You come from a long line of smilers, I gather. 

Here is Willie with his mum and sisters.

Looks like Mum is the only one who doesn't get the joke. 

Willie trained in New York City, where bench vandalism was rife.

Back in London as a bobby on the beat, he found the suffering benches of Piccadilly Circus. But he kept smiling, which is why I asked him to do the Smile Benches for us. 

So what smile benches have you brought to show us, Willie? 

Yes, this shows that you keep smiling in the face of danger. And there's a bench. But could we possibly have a Smile Bench?

image source unknown

Hmmm. Nice smile. But where's the bench? 

OK, that's a bench but I have to say, it's one of the least interesting benches I have ever seen. And there's no smile. 

A smile and a bench; that's what we're trying to achieve here: both in the same picture. Like this:

Or this:

And here's one from George Mason University in Virginia. Every year students paint the benches in front of the library in any way they like.

What do you mean you're too busy with work? Come on now, Wyme the Crime, there isn't a lot of crime in Fribble-under-Par, is there? Or in Drizzly either, for that matter. 

The only thing you have ever done was to lock up Hello Kitty for kitty littering.

The charges were thrown out, though you always say there was a cover-up; I think I came across the evidence in the garden. 

Even when Root is drunk and turns cars upside down on the marble bench you just stand there grinning.

Good relationships with the community? Yes, that's important. But there's more to policing than just smiling. For example, some people report their smile bags lost or stolen.

In that case it's no good to tell people to keep smiling, is it?

Not everyone is keen on smiling, of course. With these three pieces of toast, for instance, only two out of the three seem to be smiling.

The French toast guy here looks happy enough but the middle guy looks pretty miserable. Maybe he would like a pin like this?  I know I would.

You can only smile for so long. After that it's just teeth. That's not my quote by the way. 

Come on now, Wyme the Crime. Actual smiley benches; that's what we want to see! Like this:

What a cheerful smiling bench! This would make anyone's day. 

A laugh would do as well. Here's a storyteller having a good belly-laugh.

 The Storyteller from

The important thing is that we get some smiles going on. Even a fake smile will do.

So, for goodness sake, put all your miseries behind you and smile.

Speaking of warm fuzzy feelings, this is Sir Frosty, a very smiley fellow on a bench in Cambridge.

See what I mean? The purpose of this post is to show smile benches, or at least people smiling on benches. Under the People Smiling on Benches Act 2012 you must have both, otherwise you are liable to a fine. As you well know, Willie, being a man of the law.  

Sir Frosty doesn't count as People, huh? Well, he's not there now so there's no evidence. That's the useful thing about criminal snow people; once the thaw comes, you can't catch them. 

For World Smile Day (not) we ought to have smiles from all around the world. I'd be smiling if I had a hat like this! 

What about this painting of the Countess Nerina Pisani Volpi di Misurata? This is legal under Italian law; I've checked. 

image in the public domain

I wouldn't want to fall foul of the law. 

This little Japanese girl has a Lovable Smile t-shirt and a lovable smile to go with it.  

photo by Shinobu Matsuo

This woman could do with a lovable smile. 

And here is my dear friend Cookie. Which version of her would you rather meet?

This bench has a very simple message.

The Smile message is very popular. When I googled it on etsy I got 14,142 possibilities. There was even one for dogs.

Now it's your turn, Willie. Have you got a smile bench for us?

A smile with a message? Ok, let's see it. 

image from Le Jacobson

Willie, I can't for the life of me see why you've put this here. What, exactly, is the message?

 D. Sharon Pruitt at

Sorry, the message is still not getting through to me.

Yes, I know that World Smile Day is kind of a dentist thing. It's all about getting people to look after their teeth. 

Yes, I know you found Cora Boran's teeth at the Fribble bus stop. 

Yes, I appreciate that the Smile message is all over the place, even at The Hard in Portsmouth, where it's very hard to smile.

Yes, fine. I can see that the sun is smiling here. 

image source unknown

And the birds are smiling.

image source unknown

I'm going to lay down the law here, Willie. I'm not letting you put up another picture unless it's 1) a smile and 2) a bench. It cannot be one or the other. Under Section 3.12 of the Smiling Benches Act 2013, you must have both. 

For example, here is a beautiful smiling sun bench. This is the perfect example of what I'd like to see.

So, Willie, have you got a smile bench or not?

Ohhhh, this is really creepy. There is a fine line between a smile and a leer. This is seriously horrid. Who in their right mind would buy a hot dog from a vendor like this? And anyway, there's no bench.

You know what, Willie? This is an illegal smile.

 Brian Patton at

I think there is plenty of evidence for this. I have called in an expert.

I am putting you under citizen's arrest citing Section 3.557 of the Offensive Smiles Act. You have the right to remain silent but anything you say will definitely be held against you: I'll make sure of that. I'm still mad at you about arresting Hello Kitty. 

Willie Wyme, aka Wyme the Crime, you are under arrest and it seems appropriate under the circumstances that you should be arrested in smiling cuffs.

World Smile Day is on October 4th this year. Hopefully you will be out of jail by then and able to take part in the celebrations.


The No Smiling bench was photographed by Troutio at Tottenham Court Road tube station in London. Troutio has done a lot of travelling. His classic USA road trip has stunning landscapes, signs, and images from iconic American places. It's available on his photostream

The people on the bench are not Willie's family but are actors from the motion picture Jangles of Pokes and Jabbs, made in 1916. The photo is from the Library and Archives of Florida, made available on Flickr Commons at

The pictures of Willy in New York and Picadilly Circus are both from the brilliant adult colouring book Fantastic Cities by Steve McDonald (Chronicle Books, 2015). I coloured them myself and I also added the benches. Funny how Fantastic Cities seem to lack benches . . . 

The bright yellow crescent smile bench with three people sitting on it is from Schneider Architectural Works in Jericho, New York. The Smile Bench :) abstract says: Whether sitting to read,  contemplate art work or wait for the bus, one becomes a part of this functional art. The literal shape and vibrant colour of the Smile Bench evokes happiness. Standing up as it does, the Smile Bench emits its happiness to pedestrians and/or motorists passing by. Even from a distance, depending on its location, the Smile Bench can be set upon a pivot, allowing users to orient the bench in whatever direction makes them the happiest. You can read more about the Smile Bench and other designs at

Liren Chan from New York is a prolific photographer of benches, incuding the Parade of Benches in Rochester, New York. She photographed the Chuckles smile bench at the Rundell Library in Rochester in 2010. Sponsored by Kodak, the artists are Chris Palace and Kevin Serwacki

The clouds smile is one of those ubiquitous images from the internet where it is impossible to find the original photographer. The same goes for the smiling sun, and for the birds forming a smile in the sky. Stunning images but sadly I can't credit the photographers because I don't know who they are.  

At George Mason University in Virginia there is an annual tradition of bench decorating, which occurs every fall when select student organizations let out their inner Picassos and paint the wooden benches in front of Fenwick Library. Fortunately, CE Handy has been there to photograph them
. Her photostream of benches and other subjects is at

The boring bench posted by Willie is what I call Bleak Bench as it is truly the ugliest, most unloved bench I have seen in a long time. It's in a residential close on a patch of grass used only by dogs. Owners stand well away from the grass and the bench. If anyone wants to give me a grant, I will try to do it up. A good deal of sanding and some red paint might fix it. 

The Storyteller is a cast aluminium sculpture by Richard S. Beyer (1925-2012). It's located at the Lake Washington Plaza in Kirkland, Washington. Between 1968 and 2006 Beyer created over 90 sculptures for public spaces in cities and towns throughout the USA (and beyond) that reflect local values and lore. His work is particularly well known in the northwest, where it appears in many public spaces. His designs are active and direct, using animals and people with expressively carved gestures to tell stories about experience and interaction. Beyer used humour to affirm the human condition, often making fun of things that limit and debase, such as pretension and complacency. The sculptures are brilliant and so are the titles: Coyote Reading a Candy Wrapper; Man Eating Dogfood; The Wedding of the Girl Who Grew Up With Chickens. You could tell a story from every title.

The three smiling and unsmiling pieces of toast are by Emily Bennett in Chicago, who makes handmade plush toys, buttons and pins. Plush is a type of fabric used for making soft toys. The three Toasts are Todd, Grumpy and French. I love the French toast but the miserable guy in the middle also makes me smile. Emily says she uses her crafty powers to produce the highest level of cuteness. The Toast Plush 3-Pack is available at

Sir Frosty in Cambridge is a photograph by Clara, who, judging from her wide range of photographs, clearly has a traveller's soul. Her photostream is at

The pretty smiling woman with bracelets on her head is from my ancient stash of photos which came with my old computer software. The Sherlock Holmes character and my dog Sit are also from these images. 

The beautiful portrait of the smiling woman on a bench is by Vittorio Matteo Corocos (1859-1933). It was painted in 1906. The woman is Contessa Nerina Pisani Volpi di Misurata, wife of Guiseppe Volpi, first Count of Misurata. Guiseppe Volpi (1877-1947) was an Italian businessman and politician who, among other things, negotiated peace between Italy and Turkey, brought electricity to Venice, and founded the Venice Film Festival.   

The little girl is Miyu. It's a lovely photo, which didn't scan very well but you can see that she is wearing an appropriate Lovable Smile t-shirt for this post. She and her baby sister Emi also appear at the end of the credits. The smiling and unsmiling couple are members of Mungo's family. The woman in purple is my dearest, oldest friend Cookie, late of Los Angeles, now of The North. She has both a brilliant smile and a way of looking scarily disapproving. I'll probably see the Disapproving look when she sees this post. 

The smiling bag on a bench is called The Lone Smile. It's by, whose photostream is on Flickr at  There are lots of lovely photos in the photostream but only the one bench. Lucky for me, it just happened to be an interesting Smile bench. 

The 'Keep Smiling' bench is a photo by Jez Atkinson, who lives in the northwest of England (Manchester).  His colourful and varied photostream is at  

You can only smile for so long. After that it's just teeth is a quotation from Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk. I can't tell you how many sickly-sweet Smile messages I had to wade through to find this. I was gritting my teeth by then, which broke off one of my teeth, not a good event to happen for World Smile Day. 

The No Whining sign from Anchor Paper is in Porto, Portugal. Anchor Paper makes cool vinyl decals, wall art, and labels at   Americans really hate whining and there are lots of signs telling people not to whine. In the UK we call it whingeing and I've never seen a sign so I don't even know how to spell it. 

The Puccinos Fake Smile sign is from Weeza in Berlin. Apparently customer service was so poor on this occasion that not even a fake smile was offered. Weeza's photostream contains intriguing and varied subjects: people, landscapes, travel, cats, interesting signs, unicorn meat  - it's all there at

The sunny yellow and orange Smiley Face bench is apparently in Coventry Village in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. (There is another Coventry in England, but that's not the one.) The author is THD3 and the image is available from

The bench with the Smile plaque is a photograph from Dawn Regan, who does fine art photography, wall art and home decor in her shop in Fremont, California. Colourful flowers, California landscapes, Hawaii, and a smiling bench-  Dawn has it all in her shop is at

Sit.Stay.Smile is a print by Ginger Oliphant in Seattle. This is a labrador but you can choose a border collie or retriever or other dogs as Ginger does all kinds of dog art. She also does cat and horse wall decor, greeting cards and magnets at her etsy shop at I doubt if she has a dog like my dog Sit though; he is truly unusual as dogs go. He sits. He stays. And he has a nice little smile. 

The two toothless smilers photo was sent to me by Le Jacobson, who is apparently an Old Fart (his words, not mine). It has taken me a while to find a use for the photo but I am always grateful for donated pictures and this one, finally, has found a home. In fact it was this picture which alerted me to World Smile Day and the need for a blog to celebrate it, even though I'm not a dentist.  

Another toothless person is Cora Boran, the Evil Twin of Dora, who has a habit of leaving her false teeth on the benches around Fribble. This is especially the case in the Fribble bus stop, where she 'gives them a rest' whilst waiting for the bus. Willie always retrieves the teeth during his evening patrol around town but clown that he is, he can never resist posing for a picture. 

This girl with braces is a dentist's dream. She's either smiling or grimacing - I'm not sure which. Her photo was taken by D. Sharon Pruitt and is available through Creative Commons licensing at

Portsmouth Hard is an area which raises the inevitable question: hard what? It's hard so that buses and cars and taxis can stop there beside Portsmouth Harbour. The Hard is where you get ferries to Gosport and the Isle of Wight, or where you get the train to London and well, almost anywhere. Since 2011 there has been an interesting installation of cheerful balloons, a sword, and a simple retro sign saying Smile. It was a miserable day when I took the photograph but it did make me smile. The project's title is 'Trav'ller in the Dark' and the artist is S. Mark Gubb.

The smiling suns Happy Bench is a photograph from Bruce Aleksander and Dennis Milam's Flickr photostream. Yes, if you've paid careful attention to Benchsite you'll have seen this image before, just a couple of weeks ago. I loved it so I used it again. The Happy Bench is in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Bruce and Dennis's photos of benches and many other wonderful things from their travels are at

The German sausage was photographed by Mungo at the Old Gaffers Festival in Yarmouth, Isle of Wight a few weeks ago. There were many food stalls from many countries and this one, to my mind, was by far the least appealing. I consulted several people about whether to include this photo for World Smile Day: everyone said no, which I thought was a pretty good reason for including it.  

The illegal smile graffiti was photographed by Brian Patton, aka US301retro. Highway US 301 runs through the Carolinas and Brian has an amazing array of retro photographs and postcards on his photostream at  Illegal Smile is a song by John Prine (1978) and I also found a website called Illegal Smile by graffiti artist Lombo. Brian has photographed a lot of graffiti, a subject which I hope to cover later on Benchsite. 

Liz and Jordan in Florida make handmade weird, creepy and offensive designs. Far from offending me, The Don't Tell Me to Smile button is a reasonable antidote, I think, to the constant barrage of messages urging us to smile. Besides buttons they make brooches, pins, patches, and necklaces. Their shop it at

The Mona Lisa cuffs are just what I needed to arrest Wyme the Crime. There's Mona, with her enigmatic smile, keeping Willie safely in custody to prevent him posting any more ugly Smile pictures. The cuffs are made by Suzanne Schmid, who makes innovative repurposed jewelry in Springfield, Illinois. She likes giving new life to common objects and turning antique relics into jewelry. Where else would an antique fishing lure become a necklace? Suzanne also makes buckles, cuffs and other jewelry at her Zanne Avenue shop: 

image from Shinobu Matsuo

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