Leave A Love Lock Somewhere.
This fashion was unknown to me until in 2013 on a river cruise through Paris we learned that tourists thought it clever to fasten a padlock to the wonderful old bridge Ponts des Arts as a symbol of their love for each other. How sweet, we thought (at first), two people make a physical sign of their love using a lock that will stand forever to show the world their feelings. The trouble was that so many were following the trend that the bridge was being damaged by the weight of all that metal.
A few padlocks, I hear you scoff, how can those damage a massive iron bridge? Look at this picture and scoff no more.
As we cruised beneath it our guide told us that the city authorities were going to take action and indeed, a couple of years later, they removed the locks. But the idea had long gone viral and bridges everywhere were and are being festooned with locks. Bloody good news for locksmiths, of course, but I want to declare my utter opposition to this practice.
There is the obvious problem that piling huge amounts of weight onto an old structure will cause damage. There is, in addition, the problem that the locks fill up all the spaces between railings and may blot out the view so that all you see is the locks themselves. There is the pollution of the rusting metal. There is the steady erosion of walkway space as the locks bulge out into the centre of the bridge. There is the sheer ugliness of all that stuff piled up. And if you are one who has left a lock that is then crowded out by hundreds of others - what was the point? Isn't your lover aware of your love? Why not give them something personal like a ring? Yes, you can walk away from the bridge with the beautiful (!) memory of that snap as the lock engaged and the clank as your lock hit the one next to it. So what? What about the beautiful sound of the opening of a bar of chocolate to be shared?
There is a wider point about the meaning of public spaces. Bridges, squares, long curving boulevards, intriguing side streets, riversides ... anywhere that is pleasurable to wander, especially in old cities, belongs to us all. As soon as someone appropriates a bit for themselves, as in sticking a lock to a railing, they are effectively claiming it for themselves and shutting everyone else out. Like graffiti artists, they give us something (almost invariably horrible and depressing to look at) and take away something far less so. And like graffiti artists they leave a mess for others to have to clear up. Incidentally, what happens to the keys? Are they thrown into the river? Does filling a river bed with rusting metal improve it?
I am suspicious about all fashions, especially those promulgated on social media. This one, superficially so charming and harmless, is one ruthlessly to avoid.