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“Spitfire Security Systems”, Kensington: firebrand

“Spitfire Security Systems” burglar alarm, Kensington and Chelsea • The Spitfire fighter plane was brilliantly designed by ex-locomotive apprentice Reginald Joseph Mitchell, and while this alarm isn’t quite in that class, its logo is a lot more sophisticated than yesterday’s basic iteration. It employs the highly unusual burglar alarm colours of purple and gold, both associated with royalty, though what the comet-like thing underneath has to do with Spitfires I don’t know – the Comet was a completely different plane. The firm behind this alarm still exists, but though it retains the same logo – now in aqua – it has dispensed with security services and, renamed plain Spitfire, concentrates on telecoms. I was interested in the connotations of the word Spitfire, especially as one etymology website suggests it replaced the earlier term “shitfire”, from the Florentine cacafuoco. However according to the OED, its first-known use was by Samuel Rowlands in 1600, since when it hasn’t gathered any meanings other than fire-spitting objects such as cannons and volcanos, a type of nautical storm-sail, and – most commonly – creatures of irascible bent, eg women and cats. And now a defunct plane and burglar alarm. • Spotted: Clareville Street, Kensington and Chelsea, London, SW7, England, 2005 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Kensington

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