Sometimes guides meet groups who are coming into London on the Eurostar train. It used to pass near to my house in Brixton and the one occasion I was on it, coming from Paris with my family, I was tempted to ask them to do an unscheduled stop at Brixton station so we could hop off – but I thought better of it.
Now it comes into St Pancras station, the sister station of King’s Cross next door which may boast Platform 9¾ for Harry Potter fans but is not a patch on St Pancras otherwise. In fact, in the Harry Potter film which shows the station, they actually used St Pancras rather than the rather dull King’s Cross next door. They even had Ron and Harry’s ancient Ford Anglia parked outside in the street. You would need real magical powers in order to park there and get away with it in London today.
St Pancras has been in the news recently because of a new artwork by Tracey Emin, the bad girl of modern British art who once notoriously displayed her bed as a work of art – complete with used condoms and abandoned vodka bottles. She has settled down now and is on the way to becoming an NT (national treasure) which is probably the kiss of death for a creative artist. She was recently commissioned to provide a welcome for people coming off the Eurostar at St Pancras.
Railways being places of both parting and greeting, she chose the message “I want to spend my time with you” and had it placed below the clock so passengers alighting from the train cannot miss the message. Our old friends Elf and Safe Tea had their say and prevented her from using neon lights and also banned the colours red, orange and green in case the train drivers confused them with stop signs. So she used LEDs and the colour pink, which she said she had always wanted anyway.
It is meant to be a message to Europe, which we will be leaving in a year’s time as a result of the Brexit vote, and also a romantic message reflecting how lovers meet when coming off the train. There is a huge statue of two lovers underneath the sign which has been there for years and is now part of the landscape. Poor Tracey, ever the bridesmaid, has never married or had children but she says that she still hopes to receive a romantic message like this one day from a bloke. Or maybe another woman, who knows?
There is also a life-size statue of the poet John Betjeman nearby. He was a certified NT who loved Victorian architecture and helped to make it fashionable again. He is wearing his hat and coat and a three piece suit (with a tie naturally) and looks a bit like an old-fashioned commuter. I love Betjeman’s poems and reading them makes me feel that the world cannot be such a bad place with them to cheer you up.
I am not sure he would have approved of Tracey Emin, however, and his statue pointedly looks away from her sign. Both NTs, they are now part of the station’s art and architecture.