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Great Britain
Benches of the British Isles

While travelling we usually do not notice things as simple and basic as benches. Located in parks, in railway stations, on river banks, along busy streets, they allow us to rest for a while. We just sit and get up, without a second thought. But benches can not only be more or less comfortable, they can be attractive, innovative, and even commemorate people.

In many places we come across benches dedicated in memory of family members or friends who passed away. An accompanied plaque provides information that is was the favourite park or the favourite spot of the deceased person.

Practical British have realised that benches can commemorate somebody in much more useful way than just another statue. In London's Bond Street we can sit on the bench called "Allies" where we can join Sir Winston Churchill and Roosevelt. The spot between those two politicians is popular among tourist who wish to have their picture taken in such an distinguished company. On another bench we are invited to have conversation with Oscar Wilde. Sculpture of the writer's head is raised out of the stone with the initial sentence of the supposed dialogue: "We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars". A bench was also chosen by Dubliners as the way to commemorate Irish poet Patrick Kavanagha. He sits on the quiet bank looking towards the flowing water. Fragment of his poem reads: "leafy-with-love banks and green waters of the canal, pouring redemption for me"

Some benches are real tourist attractions. For any fan of the Beatles visit to Liverpool would not be complete without seeing bronze figure of Eleonor Rigby seated on the bench. The sculpture, like the song is dedicated to "All the lonely people". Because bench is an obvious meeting place, for some it is a place to escape from loneliness. But benches can also join people in other less obvious way. This colourful one, was created by unemployed people from Greenwich. It is symbolic way of trying to do something useful for the society.

More and more benches have become way of expressing creative and original ideas of designers of street furniture. In modern building of the British Library we can sit on the large open book. In London's Science Museum on the exhibition showing new uses of materials, there is a surprising bench made of spiky rubber. Although it looks like a torture device, it is unexpectedly comfortable. Its shape was inspired by the famous "lips" by Salvadore Dali and as the author notes "Dali would accept this surrealistic variation on the original idea".

Some of the exceptionally original benches can be found in Dublin. We can sit on the benches on the boat rising from the ground or ...underneath steel palms.

Although benches remain unimportant additions to the city landscape, they add a lot to the character and often can influence the way we see the places. One can even say that interesting places have interesting benches.

  Paul Kubisztal

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