The Parlement of Foules
680 Now welcom somer, with thy sonne softe,
681 That hast this wintres weders over-shake,
682 And driven awey the longe nightes blake!
Parlement of Foules, Geoffrey Chaucer, 1381-1382 – THE COMPLETE WORKS OF GEOFFREY CHAUCER, ed. W.W. Skeat (Oxford, 1900).
One of my favourite public art pieces of this Summer, a simple lattice constructed ‘sculpture’ in Aldgate, East London, enlivening an otherwise dead-zone pedestrian island opposite St Botolph’s church [aside: for a small fee you can practice here on what is believed to be England’s oldest church organ]. This unfortunately temporary only addition to the urban landscape, titled Paleys Upon Pilers was installed for the London Festival of Architecture in June and formed part of the so called High Street 2012 from the City of London to the Olympic Park in Stratford this Summer. The structure marks the spot of the historic Aldgate which until 1761 formed the City wall’s easternmost gate, and commemorates Geoffrey Chaucer who lived in the small room above the gatehouse between 1374 and 1386 [the time during which he wrote Parlement of Foules].
Apparently there is a wooden owl, nicknamed Geoffrey, perching in the eaves. I can’t say I saw him when I visited [coincident with St Botolph’s sung Eucharist ] but judging from the cigarette butts carpeting the area there seems to be an enthusiastic murmuration of twitchers looking out for him?
Visions of a bored Tippi Hedren sitting on that bench beside the playground climbing frame outside the old fashioned wooden school, children inside singing #Willow-tee wallow-tee – now, now, now#, crow alighting on the climbing frame. [cut to] Tippi reaching into her purse for a cigarette, lighting up ritual, #Ristle-tee rostle-tee – now, now, now#, [cut to] four crows on the climbing frame. [cut to medium close up] Tippi taking relaxing puffs, palls of smoke #now, now, now#. [cut to] A fifth crow landing. [cut to close up] Tippi getting agitated #Ristle-tee rostle-tee – Hey, donnie-dostle-tee# [cut to] A sixth crow landing [to] Tippi nervous, agitated. taking lots of puffs #Ristle-tee rostle-tee – Hey, donnie-dostle-tee – Knickety knackety#, [long shot] a single crow flying high in the sky #Hey, donnie-dostle-tee# [close up] Tippi flicking some ash, catching sight of the high flying crow, watching, concerned, turning on the bench #Ristle-tee rostle-tee – Hey, donnie-dostle-tee – Knickety knackety – Rustical quality# crow landing, climbing frame-swing-schoolhouse-shed all covered to bursting by a murder of mute black birds #Willow-tee wallow-tee – now, now, now#. Alfred Hitchcock, The Birds, 1963.
I’m not certain what. if anything, came of the plans from a couple of years back for ‘a new landmark for Aldgate’, as Paleys Upon Pilers seems to have gazumped both temporally and spatially these shortlisted proposals. I do believe however that this location could be the site of ongoing installations every bit as interesting as Trafalgar Square’s Fourth Plinth project.