Monday, August 06, 2007

A bunch of fives

British gays have been having a right old knees-up. They've had their party hats on. They've had their blow-ticklers out. They've cut their cake. They've popped their corks.

The cause of their celebration is the 40th anniversary this summer of the decriminalisation of homosexuality. Before the Sexual Offences Act 1967 came into effect, the UK's homosexual community was restricted to low-key cruising and furtive cottaging. The threat of prosecution was constant. Victimisation and blackmail were rife. Once the new law came into effect, it was all a little less low-key, and not quite as furtive. And the bottom dropped out the blackmail market.

Gay rights campaigners still have their hands full though. Their current battleground is the use of the word 'gay'. Once it meant cheerful and carefree, then it evolved to mean homosexual, and became a positive replacement for the commonly-used 'poof', which was something of a derogatory term.

In recent years, the meaning of gay has changed once again. It is now often used as a general, multi-purpose put-down to dismiss anything considered to be inferior, undesirable, bland, embarrassing or a bit rubbish. Your ringtone is gay. Your car is gay. Your nan is gay. Some homosexuals don't like their word being used in this way. They claim it has homophobic undertones. Their opponents disagree. Don't be so gay about it, they say.

Graffiti artists have no qualms about the language they use. They'll happily chalk anything on a wall to make a point, using whatever phraseology they fancy. The pictures in this multi-image posting - a bunch of fives, if you like - illustrates this theory. Poof, gay... it's all fair game to them.

The first image, seen above, was sent in by Filthy Pen correspondent Emma Goodman, who noticed the defaced sign on an East Lothian industrial estate. The job looks to have been carried out with a high degree of care and attention to detail. Very nice. Thanks for that, Emma.

The second entry hails from Leith Walk in Edinburgh, where it was spotted adorning a pedestrian crossing - for no obvious reason - by regular TFP correspondent Nicola Rainey.

It's a rough and ready piece of work, and appears to have been etched or scratched rather than written. The slightly blurry mobile phone camera shot captures its old-skool spirit perfectly. Good spot Nicola.

Next, we're off to Grimsby, a town which has more than its fair share of colourful graffiti adorning its streets. This piece - faint, but legible - is written in green crayon on the exterior wall of a newsagents in the town centre.

Perhaps the author has what is often referred to as "issues" with the store, or with the storekeeper. Or maybe it's intended as a comment on the shop's top-shelf reading material.

By bizarre coincidence, almost 300 miles north, in the sprawling Dumbiedykes housing estate close to Edinburgh city centre, we find another green-crayoned slogan.

Whether the message is a reference to a person named Telford or the Shropshire town is anyone's guess. And what is it about that colour of crayon that makes it so attractive to graffiti artists?

The fifth and final image comes from that great graffiti canvas, the wall of a public toilet. This particular example was seen in the men's facilities at the Meadows Bar in Buccleuch Street, Edinburgh.

It seems to have been freshly-etched when this picture was taken - you can still see the flaky paint on the lettering - but that doesn't help us decide whether the slogan is a theory about Ray, or a rumour, or a confession.

Or maybe the culprit just thinks he's a bit rubbish.

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