My small son navigates his way to school by landmarks that are quite different from mine, although we are walking together, the landscape is different. His is populated by the tree for climbing overhanging the ditch in the bushes, the street name that is the right height to be sat upon, the ancient wall outside his friends house, the ducks on the village pond. His is a landscape of adventure and imagination. Mine is associated with chores that must be completed and the deadline of the school bell.
Driving along the A421 on the way to Bolsover (we still had a long way to go) there is a roundabout with a sculpture of swans rising in a spiral. The swans (created by Susannah Oliver) are viewed from above as the road passes over and they are elegant and intriguing – why swans in this location? And there is the Black Cat roundabout. It’s had this name for years, reflecting the history of the site preceding the advent of the road , and now there is a Black Cat (not always complete it has to be admitted) but an arched backed characterful cat with a bristling tail nonetheless.
Whereas so much sculptural public art placed in nondescript developments of new housing looks like compensation for poor architecture, these way-markers measure out the journey with references to the location being passed through. Little snippets of visual information that remind us how far we have come or still to go. They help us locate ourselves providing necessary and often inspiring landmarks on an otherwise featureless road where the signage is functional and consistent with no regional variation. The description of the journey is suddenly closer to my sons recollections with references that are not dependent on tasks or timescales, but on more meaningful descriptions of landmarks and memories that are lasting and beyond the humdrum.