A correspondent takes up my invitation to tell me about things which contribute to the visual decline of Oxford, whether caused deliberately or by neglect. I have a pretty long list of my own to get through, but it includes this one, so I will cover it now.
Re St Giles: I’m incensed by the silly twee lights which have been put in the trees on the western side of the street. I thought they were just for Christmas, but they’ve stayed up. They are not only ugly and totally unnecessary, but an example of light pollution which we are supposed to be avoiding. And why spend money on vacuous things like this? Were they decreed by a councillor with a vast ego and no aesthetic sense? It’s just another addition to Oxford which takes away the city’s mystery.
The coloured lights did indeed arrive just before Christmas, pointing up into the branches. They were just about acceptable in that context and for a limited time – better anyway than illuminated sleighs and snow-flakes switched on in October by a television”personality”. I had an informal bet with a friend that they would not be taken down. And so it proved – we have reached April and they are still there, adding another tocuh of vulgarity to a street already ruined by sign-posts and the empty pebble-dashed planters which have been there since the 1970s and looked tasteless then.
St Giles, Oxford – a determined effort by vulgar people to spoil something they don’t understand, or are they just too thick to notice?
So why are the lights still there? It could be, as my correspondent suggests, a councillor’s ego trip. The ugly and unusable benches in Cornmarket were just that, so anything is possible. On balance, though, I don’t think any councillor pays that much attention to detail to do this and, besides, they would not have been expensive enough.
There is of course that vulgar woman who used to be a councillor and whose ambition it is to floodlight the centre of the city. These aren’t garish enough to be her work.
Perhaps they just got left behind and forgotten. I posted yesterday an item about Aristotle Lane railway bridge which City Works started to paint 18 months ago and never bothered to finish.
My money is on some little tick of an officer who actually thinks the trees look better for coloured lighting and who has authority in excess of his taste or brain. His house is probably lit up with Santas and sleighs from September to February and he genuinely thinks that dull old St Giles looks much better for having coloured lights in it. What use are trees anyway – they don’t grow uniformly in straight lines and to a standard height as council officers like, they get in the way of regular-sized parking spaces and they block the CCTV. They might as well do something useful and brighten the place up with pretty blue and red hues.
There is one consolation, of course. For as long as the trees are doing something considered useful, they might be allowed to stay there. Councillor “Axeman” Armitage needs no encouragement at all to order that trees be hacked down, as he did at Osney; the Parks Department recently cut down the wrong tree in the Botley Road. Perhaps we should be thankful that we have them at all.