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Zoological

A meta category for all members of the animal kingdom, from fierce to cute, from literal to mythical

“GD Security”, Southwark: un-describable wedgie

"GD Security" burglar alarm, Southwark • Another wedgie sounder with an un-describable shape, from the prolific GD Security, whose bulldog I've already featured here in the dogs category. While their guard mutt never changes, GD use a wide variety of box designs, usually in silver. This however is in blue and white, which I always think of as subliminal "police" colours. • Spotted: Morocco Street, Southwark, London, SE1, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark
“GD Security”, Southwark: un-describable wedgie

“Pointer”, Derby: pocket dog

"Pointer" burglar alarm, Derby • I've already featured a couple of Pointers, but this is by far the most recent – and the only example of this slightly "pocketty" shape of sounder I've ever come across. I still like the cute mutt logo, now in a smart silver roundel. • Spotted: Town centre, Derby, Derbyshire, DE1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Derby South
“Pointer”, Derby: pocket dog

“Crime Cure”, Bristol: vintage inverted pocket

"Crime Cure" burglar alarm, Bristol • This is an absolutely classic sounder, and it makes me chuckle every time I see it. I found it at eye level in downown Bristol, the city that never stops giving great burglar alarm gifts. Everything about it, from my shallow design-based point of view, is good: it's vintage metal; an unusual "inverted pocket" shape (though I have found one other); rare use of green; amusing name in bold modernist type; and a complex piece of heraldry incorporating eight popular security tropes in a tiny space, namely lions, keys, an eye, a padlock, some bars, a shield, a castle, and even a motto – "protect and deter". An internet search on "crime cure security" throws up firms in business listings all over the place, including Bristol, but as none have their own websites I'm assuming they're all defunct.• Spotted: High Street, Bristol, Avon, BS1, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bristol West
“Crime Cure”, Bristol: vintage inverted pocket

“Hewes”, Newham: Jesus fish

"Hewes Security" burglar alarm, Newham • The branding of 40-year-old Essex-based firm Hewes includes an unambiguous "ichthys"  symbol, based on a Greek acronym early Christians used to recognise each other. Also known as the "Jesus Fish", its incorporation into logos is more common in the super-religious US, where enthusiastic use by fundamentalists and creationists has spawned a slew of parodies, such as a Darwin Fish, with legs; and a Trek Fish, which resembles the Starship Enterprise. In the UK, the sign is less controversial; in my experience, it's most often seen on the bumper of aged Nissan cars being erratically driven by hat-wearing folk, no doubt on the premise that Jesus will save them. • Spotted: High Street, Newham, London, E15, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of West Ham Above: alternate bumper stickers – a Darwin Fish, left; and a Trek Fish, right.
“Hewes”, Newham: Jesus fish

“Sterling Security”, Southend-on-Sea: unpolished

"Sterling Security" burglar alarm, Southend-on-Sea • We've had three gem alarms, and now their perfect setting – three precious metals. First up is sterling, a term denoting silver hardened with a small amount of another metal, as pure silver is too soft to fashion into useful items. It's an ancient standard, one which has been regulated from Saxon times at least, and subject to an official assay mark since the 12th century. Add a heraldic lion – a very common burglar alarm trope that I'll cover further one day – and this Sterling sounder suggests an alloy of Britishness, quality, longevity and reliability. Just a pity it hasn't had a polish recently. • Spotted: Town centre, Southend-on-Sea, Essex, SS1, England, 2007 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Rochford and Southend East
“Sterling Security”, Southend-on-Sea: unpolished

“Panther Security”, East Grinstead: mutant eyebrow

"Panther Security" burglar alarm, East Grinstead • For years I didn't spot the "P" in the eye here, and was racking my brains as to what the full word could be – "ANTHEM" was my best (and wrong) guess. Then recently I came across this more recent version: lo and behold there was a letter “P” in the eye, so the firm is of course Panther. Although real panthers don't have eyebrows. • Spotted: London Road, East Grinstead, West Sussex, RH19, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Sussex Mid
“Panther Security”, East Grinstead: mutant eyebrow

“Tindall Security”, Islington: rockabilly owl

"Tindall Security" burglar alarm, Islington • Unlike the last two days' mysterious swift-or-swallow SWAT alarms, Tindall have a highly recognisable owl, and the firm is still demonstrably in existence, with a fully functioning website and a head office in Hertford, albeit on an industrial estate inacessible to Google Street View (I hate it when that happens). The owl's got a flat-top – maybe it's a fan of rockabilly. OK, that's enough birds. Tomorrow: vision. • Spotted: Tollington Park, Islington, London, N4, 2011 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Islington North
“Tindall Security”, Islington: rockabilly owl

“Swat Selby”, York: digital snooping

"Swat Selby" burglar alarm, York • Another mysterious SWAT alarm, this time with a bulb and a fancier "AT" monogram than yesterday's. I've been googling SWAT and still can't find out much about them: their website is just a holding page saying "coming soon", which could date from any time in the last few years. It bears this swirly "AT" rather than yesterday's clunky effort, so maybe this is the more recent alarm, though it looks pretty ancient. I came across quite a few old SWAT sounders in York, but no new-looking ones, so whether the firm still exists I don't know. I suppose I could ring the number on their website's holding page, but I haven't reached that sorry stage yet, so restricted myself to digital snooping. On one of myriad business aggregator pages (which is where businesses go to die) SWAT turn up on there was a positive review from 2010 – possibly an insider job – saying they were a long-established family firm. I also visited their address on Google Street View, but there was no sign of them there, although as it's a multiple-occupancy business centre, that doesn't prove anything. So all I have learnt is that Selby – which I had never heard of before – has an abbey, lies beside the River Ouse, and looks as if it's falling down. • Spotted: Grape Lane, York, Yorkshire, YO1, 2011 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of York Central
“Swat Selby”, York: digital snooping

“Swat Selby”, York: mystery bird

"Swat Selby" burglar alarm, York • They like birds in York: yesterday a raven, today a hummingbird. Although the "SW" in "SWAT" suggests it's a swift. Or a swallow. Yes, I think it's a swallow – hovering over the badly-drawn monogram "AT" rather than a nest. In Selby. As swallows do. I wonder if SWAT is intended as a verb – as in swat all pesky burglars – or as an acronym, as in its original meaning of "Special Weapons and Tactics" (which would be rather exciting in smalltown Selby) or, more locally, "Selby's Wonderful Alarm Technologists"? All very mysterious. • Spotted: Low Petergate, York, Yorkshire, YO1, 2011 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of York Central
“Swat Selby”, York: mystery bird

“Raven”, York: common thief

"Raven Security & Automation Ltd" burglar alarm, York • To round off a couple of weeks of hawkish birds, here are a few more arbitrary birds I've come across since the last lot. Raven is a generic name for various large members of the corvid or crow family, of which the Common Raven – which this sounder presumably depicts – is the biggest and most, well, common. It's an interesting bird, very intelligent and with a long and usually dark history in folklore and literature, but I can't see its relevance to security systems. Like its fellow corvid and burglar alarm star the magpie, it's a scavenger and wily thief, associated with dead spirits and evil deeds, so hardly great protection material. Sure, ravens are famed for "protecting" the crown jewels by not flying away from the Tower of London – but that's just a stupid Victorian marketing tale. More prosaically, this is probably the proprietor's surname – which in medieval times referred to a dark-haired, thievish type, so still not very appropriate. Uncanny coincidence: ravens are so clever they're known to use twigs as toys, and there's a twig lodged behind this bell box. So maybe a real raven put it there. • Spotted: Marygate, York, Yorkshire, YO1, 2011 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of York Central
“Raven”, York: common thief

“Permanex”, Kensington: grumpy raptor

"Permanex" burglar alarm, Kensington and Chelsea • My final hawkish bird represents Permanex, whose name has nothing to do with avians. Therefore there's no clue as to what species this grumpy raptor is, but I'm guessing the scruffy fellow's a kestrel. Permanex specialise in guarding scaffolding, and I'm coming across their alarms with increasing frequency; it's surprising there are still so many large building projects going on in this horrible financial climate, but that's London for you. • Spotted: Cheval Place, Kensington and Chelsea, London, SW7, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Kensington
“Permanex”, Kensington: grumpy raptor

“Falcon World Class Security”, Liverpool: stunted

"Falcon World Class Security" burglar alarm, Liverpool • I reckon this is a relative of the Liverpool falcon in a circular niche featured here, athough it's a slightly different design. "World Class Security" – I like the grandiloquence of such ambition. And it purports to be a registered trademark, too! Because there must be loads of security firms keen to rip off a logo that looks like a stunted griffin. • Spotted: Town centre, Liverpool, Merseyside, L1, England, 2008 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Liverpool Riverside
“Falcon World Class Security”, Liverpool: stunted

“Hawk Limited”, Hackney: tattered cypher

"Hawk Limited" burglar alarm, Hackney • This tattered old bird is the only actual hawk in the "hawkish birds" section, and the best drawing too, doubtless some random bit of clip-art. I reckon it depicts a falcon, as hawk isn't a species, but a mere generic cypher representing all birds of prey except owls. Which makes the hawk the panther of the bird world. • Spotted: Mare Street, Hackney, London, E8, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Hackney South and Shoreditch
“Hawk Limited”, Hackney: tattered cypher

“Southern Safeguards”, Brighton: safe-smitten

"Southern Safeguards" burglar alarm, Brighton • Another spread eagle, and even more bonkers than yesterday's: what looks like a Southern Bald Eagle smitten by a massive and badly-drawn safe, in a rather literal reading of the firm's name, Southern Safeguards. Not the newest of items, judging by both the naive design and the moss growing along the top. • Spotted: St George's Road, Brighton, East Sussex, BN2, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Brighton Kemptown
“Southern Safeguards”, Brighton: safe-smitten

“Pro-Sec”, Tower Hamlets: mutant gecko

"Pro-Sec" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • I found this eagle on a trendy little black-and-white-painted Lambretta dealership, where it matched quite well. Known in heraldry as a spread eagle, it's an incredibly common device despite its popularity with hawkish regimes from the Romans to the Nazis lending it militaristic and even fascist connotations. This one has been splatted by a stripey shield, and is clutching some mysterious objects in its talons. My guess is an olive branch and a quiver of arrows, but it could just as easily be a mutant gecko and a bunch of twigs. The name, Pro-Sec, is equally obscure. Presumably it stands for "professional security", but it sounds more like a painkiller. • Spotted: The Oval, Tower Hamlets, London, E2, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow
“Pro-Sec”, Tower Hamlets: mutant gecko

“Eagle”, Merton: possibly a vulture

"Eagle" burglar alarm, Merton • Is it just me, or does this look more like a vulture than an eagle? Perhaps it's a bald eagle, so named for its white head. Pop fact: vultures have featherless heads to help them keep clean, because they're so often up to their necks in rotting flesh. Eeeuw. • Spotted: Merton High Street, Merton, London, SW19, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Wimbledon
“Eagle”, Merton: possibly a vulture

“Eagle”, Birchington-on-Sea: clumsy king

"Eagle" burglar alarm, Birchington-on-Sea • The eagle has been seen as king of the birds and a messenger of the gods since ancient times (although there's a bit of a crossover with falcons), and an Apollo Eagle has already featured in the mythology section. This design has an evocative 1960s feel, apt for sleepy Birchington-on-Sea, though the clumsily-drawn eagle looks less like a lord of the air than a delivery owl fresh from Hogwarts. I've also found a version that includes the word "Canterbury", so perhaps that's where it actually comes from. • Spotted: Town centre, Birchington-on-Sea, Kent, CT7, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Thanet North
“Eagle”, Birchington-on-Sea: clumsy king

“Kestrel Alarms”, Brighton: through the keyhole

"Kestrel Alarms" burglar alarm, Brighton • Another Kestrel that's made a hostile takeover, this time of a firm called Keyhole Security, whose name resides in a giant keyhole shape – I need to find one of these unstickered for my "locksmithery" set. Despite sporting Lib-Dem orange, yesterday's Kestrel was in the Conservative consituency of Brighton Kemptown, while this example lives in the only Green constituency in England, Brighton Pavilion. Both Brighton constituencies, along with my blog, will be mightily shaken up if the proposed boundary changes come into effect, morphing into Lewes & Brighton East (likely Tory) and Brighton Pavilion & Hove (likely Labour). In other words, bye bye Greens. (There's a brilliant map from the Guardian here showing the changes.) • Spotted: North Road, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Green constituency of Brighton Pavilion
“Kestrel Alarms”, Brighton: through the keyhole

“Kestrel Alarms”, Brighton: hostile takeover

"Kestrel Alarms" burglar alarm, Brighton • Last week cages, this week birds. I had so many bird alarms I divided them into two parts. The first was "arbitrary birds", which were random and generally benign – bluebirds, doves, macaws and the like. Part two, "hawkish birds", are more fierce, being the kind that rip apart large prey with their talons (technically I should have included owls here, but as they seem to feature on alarms for their cute or wise qualities, they're in with the benign bunch). And although this cartoon Kestrel looks pretty unthreatening – like an avian member of the Blues Brothers, with his cool shades and cheeky smile (or that's how I read it) – he's made an effective hostile takeover of a box previously owned by LanGuard Alarms, a firm who still exist. At first I thought LanGuard was a stupid name, but it was founded by someone called Lang, so there is some logic there. And yes, I do know Lan also means Local Area Network. • Spotted: Old Steine, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Brighton Kemptown
“Kestrel Alarms”, Brighton: hostile takeover

“Acorn Security Systems”, Derby: nuts!

"Acorn Security Systems" burglar alarm, Derby • In the absence of a zebra, yak, xenops (a type of bird, fact fans), warthog, vulture, unicorn (because I already did one here), or tapir, the final beast in this alphabetical creature feature is a squirrel, representing Acorn Security Systems (whose acronym would be ASS, like this alarm). To which all I can say is... nuts. • Spotted: Town centre, Derby, Derbyshire, DE1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Derby South Above: a real squirrel (photo by Mariappan Jawaharlal)
“Acorn Security Systems”, Derby: nuts!

“Raptor Security”, Aylesbury: stabby talon

"Raptor Security" burglar alarm, Aylesbury • I get the feeling I'm missing something here. What on earth is this nasty thing meant to be – a tusk, a fin, a hook? Given the name, it's probably a talon, the defining factor of a raptor. Thanks to the film Jurassic Park, the word is now associated with Velociraptor dinosaurs, but it was originally a term meaning bird of prey, or "fast predator". Which is obviously burglar alarm-appropriate, but this creepy image of a stabbily-drawn talon clawing its way out of a horrible hole is not a pleasant one. It's a good match for the feel-bad town of Aylesbury where I found it, though. • Spotted: High Street, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, HP20, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Aylesbury Above: real raptor talons (photo by Josh Bishop)
“Raptor Security”, Aylesbury: stabby talon

“Ram Security”, Reigate: angst-ridden

"Ram Security" burglar alarm, Reigate • A depressed-looking ram found on an old-skool corner cafe (actually called Corner Cafe, which is my idea of a proper name) in one of Reigate's less prime areas. Maybe it's protecting them from battering rams. Or maybe they sell battered rams. OK, it's a crappy joke. I wonder if the security firm's owner decided a ram would be a superb logo, so came up with the name "Reigate Alarm Master Security" (RAMS, surely) to match it? Or if the less-than-catchy name came first, then the boss thought, "Eureka! This calls for some clip art of a frowning uncastrated male sheep on my bell box"? I went back recently and the alarm's still there, but it's now so yellow and tattered that the ram looks positively angst-ridden. • Spotted: Dovers Green Road, Woodhatch, Reigate, Surrey, RH2, England, 2002 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Reigate Above: a real ram (photo by Martin Stoltze)
“Ram Security”, Reigate: angst-ridden

“Panther security.co.uk”, Reigate: Countdown

"Panther security.co.uk" burglar alarm, Reigate • Not quite as impressive a design as yesterday's stencilled panther, though it does fall into the popular category of "vision", which I have yet to explore on this blog. For years I had a photo of a rectangular version of this alarm reading "ANTHER", because the left side was obscured; I couldn't work out what the name meant, and it only recently dawned on me that there was a letter "P" in the eye, and so the full word must be Panther. Then the other month I stumbled across this, proving myself correct. But clearly I would be crap on Countdown• Spotted: High Street, Reigate, Surrey, RH2, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Reigate
“Panther security.co.uk”, Reigate: Countdown

“Panther Security”, Rugby: pedantic

"Panther Security" burglar alarm, Rugby • This streetwise, stencilled logo looks like an identity for a computer war game, or a brand of outdoors wear. To be pedantic, the panther is not a specific species, but a blanket term for big cats in general, such as jaguars, cougars, or leopards. The black panther is the "melanistic" variant of these, the small percentage with a very dark pigment – usually jaguars or leopards, which have long been bred in captivity for their beauty – and the word "panther" is often used to refer to these inky beasts in particular. This is most clearly a black panther, so assuming the security firm isn't paying homage to the militant African American revolutionary group, it's actually a leopard or a jaguar. This one can be found stalking along Sheep Street, Rugby – which is perhaps why there aren't any actual sheep there. • Spotted: Sheep Street, Rugby, Warwickshire, CV21, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Rugby A real black panther, ie a melanistic jaguar (photo by Cburnett)
“Panther Security”, Rugby: pedantic

“Orca”, Richmond upon Thames: burglar to gurgler

"Orca" burglar alarm, Richmond upon Thames • Whaaaat? A killer whale on a burglar alarm? This takes the sea biscuit. I was wandering through Kew at dusk once when I spotted this chap a long way behind a leafy wall. It is actually the least appropriate security creature I have ever seen, so I had to snap it – but the poor conditions led to this terrible photo, and I've never found another Orca alarm since, even though I went back to Kew to look once. I know Kew is by the Thames, but the vision of Orcinus orca leaping from its murky depths to drag an unwary felon down to Davy Jones' locker – thus turning a burglar into a gurgler – is just too preposterous to contemplate. • Spotted: Kew Green area, Richmond upon Thames, London, TW9, England, 2005 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Richmond Park Above: a real killer whale (photo by Dr Robert L. Pitman)
“Orca”, Richmond upon Thames: burglar to gurgler

“Secure-a-site”, Chelsea: 1980s robot lion

"Secure-a-site" burglar alarm, Kensington and Chelsea • My third and final lion for now is a windswept Heathcliff of a fellow, with 1980s "big hair", and red eyes that suggest he's possibly a laser-beam-firing robot. In reality, male lions are hindered by their manes, so it's lionesses that do the bulk of the hunting. Instead, the blokes spend the vast proportion of their time sleeping, and the rest fighting each other, which is why most of them die young. A small number are man-eaters, but my in-depth readings of Wikipedia suggest that Panthera leo is in no other way suitable as a security creature, and especially not up scaffolding, where this firm specialises. Nevertheless, as a popular icon from cave paintings onwards, and generally representing strength and nobility, it's fairly obvious why someone would put the so-called "king of the beasts" on their sounder. I have found several other alarm lions, but they are all in heraldic style, and so awaiting another theme. Interestingly, I have never yet found a Tiger security device – and those are even bigger and bitier, being the largest of the "roaring" cats. • Spotted: Beauchamp Place, Kensington and Chelsea, London, SW3, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Kensington Above: a real lion (photo by Trisha M Shears)
“Secure-a-site”, Chelsea: 1980s robot lion

“Locktec Security Group”, Camden: yawning

"Locktec Security Group" burglar alarm, Camden • A while back I posted an ultra-boring Locktec alarm consisting of dull blue lettering, but if this is the same firm they seem to have reincarnated as a fierce, roaring lion. Or perhaps it's yawning – I certainly am, because I'm still on a deadline (and it's got nothing to do with burglar alarms). I quite like these rather rare curved hexagon boxes – sort of a new-fangled update on the classic Modern / ADT look. • Spotted: Kilburn High Road, Camden, London, NW6, England, 2007 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Hampstead and Kilburn
“Locktec Security Group”, Camden: yawning

“Jaguar Alarm Company”, Islington

"Jaguar Alarm Company" burglar alarm, Islington • This is a confident piece of lettering, with a speedy, fluent line that well suggests the fluid motion of a big cat. (Or possibly a big car.) The animal it represents is, according to Wikipedia, a solitary, opportunistic, stalk-and-ambush predator at the top of the food chain; it has jaws stronger than a lion's, and kills by biting directly into the brain of its prey. All of which conjures up some pretty unsavoury images of this security firm's practices, despite their jaunty logo. • Spotted: Paget Street, Islington, London, EC1, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Islington South and Finsbury A real jaguar (photo by USFWS)
“Jaguar Alarm Company”, Islington

“Baker Hart”, Haringey: venison pie

"Baker Hart" burglar alarm, Haringey • I've slipped this into the middle of the animal run because it's such an appalling photograph. I include it because it's my only example of a stag, aka a hart, here clearly illustrating one proprietor' surname. Technically they should have included a picture of a baker too, or perhaps a steaming bun, or even a venison pie, but I'll concede that that might have looked less striking. The reason for the photo's blurriness is that I hate photographing alarm boxes on houses, because the owner is – understandably – liable to rush out and give me a bollocking. So this image was snatched on the hoof, sneak-thief-like, from its neat white house in a leafy lane of Highgate as the late afternoon sun bathed its macho, rutting sounder. • Spotted: Jacksons Lane, Haringey, London, N6, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Hornsey and Wood Green Above: a real hart, aka a red stag (photo by Bill Ebbesen)
“Baker Hart”, Haringey: venison pie

“Gecko Properties”, Bristol: self-amputation

"Gecko Properties" burglar alarm, Bristol • I love this! It's so weird, a splay-footed little gecko scampering up a cracked wall via a burglar alarm, bringing a touch of the tropical to Bristol. As to the gecko's suitability for anti-crime duties, well, it hunts at night, can sneak along walls and ceilings, and has no eyelids, so it's always on the lookout. It also shits on its aggressors and, in extremis, self-amputates its tail. Much more useful than a fox• Spotted: St Nicholas Street, Bristol, Avon, BS1, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bristol West Above: a real gecko (photo by ZooFari)
“Gecko Properties”, Bristol: self-amputation

“The Scaffold Alarm Company”, Tower Hamlets: evil

"The Scaffold Alarm Company" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • Unlike yesterday's docile fox, this one looks rather evil – so I'm guessing that he's the cunning enemy which the Scaffold Alarm Company hopes to keep at bay. There's no other explanation to link their extremely niche name to foxes – and I didn't even find this on scaffolding. • Spotted: Fairfield Road, Tower Hamlets, London, E3, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow
“The Scaffold Alarm Company”, Tower Hamlets: evil

“Renard Systems”, Winchester: docile

"Renard Systems" burglar alarm, Winchester • Renard is the French for fox - less embarrassing in English than the German Fuchs, under discussion here. It derives from Reynard, who was a cunning fox-cum-peasant-hero in a hugely poplar series of medieval satirical tales, always getting one over on the big-wigs. To this day foxes are celebrated as being smart and cunning, but they are also viewed by many as murderous thieves – so it's never clear on burglar alarms whether the fox represents the hunter, or the hunted. This one has a rather docile expression, and I'm guessing Renard is the proprietor's name. • Spotted: Town centre, Winchester, Hampshire, SO23, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Winchester
“Renard Systems”, Winchester: docile

“Fox Systems”, York: hatless

"Fox Systems" burglar alarm, York • Perhaps it's a bit soon to revisit this particular fox, which I pictured with a hat of pigeon spikes a couple of weeks ago. But I really like this alarm, and I wanted to show it without a crown. It's a clean and stylish design, although – being super-niggly – I would have preferred centered type (look closely, and you'll see it's ranged left). • Spotted: Swinegate Court East, York, Yorkshire, YO1, 2011 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of York Central
“Fox Systems”, York: hatless

“Fox Alarms”, Hull: where’s Wanker?

"Fox Alarms Leeds" burglar alarm, Kingston upon Hull • Now we come onto a run of Fox alarms. Since this has no image, it possibly simply refers to the proprietor's surname: an ancient English soubriquet meaning, um, fox – or someone cunning. It is also an anglicization of the German patronymic Fuchs, pronounced Fooks – which is almost as embarrassing as being called Mr Wanker, as Teutonic gentlemen often are. Fuchs & Wanker – now, that would be a great security firm name! • Spotted: Town centre, Kingston upon Hull, East Yorkshire, HU1, England, 2005 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Hull West and Hessle Above: a real fox (photo by Rob Lee)
“Fox Alarms”, Hull: where’s Wanker?

“Colt”, Hackney: brutal subtext

"Colt Alarm Systems" burglar alarm, Hackney • OK, so I've already featured a Colt, but it was shrouded in pigeon netting; this one's simply blurred. The fact that the term Colt is associated with handguns as well as young male horses is probably no coincidence, which means this also falls into the rare "shooting" category. The device's brutal subtext makes a nice contrast with the girly puce paint, which was on a groovy Shoreditch boutique. • Spotted: Goldsmiths Row, Hackney, London, E2, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Hackney South and Shoreditch Above: real colts
“Colt”, Hackney: brutal subtext

“Cobra”, Newham: hooded striker

"Cobra" burglar alarm, Newham • Cobra alarms of different vintages abound in east London, and I've got so many photos of the slinky hooded strikers that I didn't know which to use – this is by no means the oldest, which I'm saving for another time. Cobra is actually a generic name for all sorts of snakes, though they all rear up and spit venom when threatened. It's a ploy that has dispatched unwanted figures throughout history, and is presumably just as effective against burglars. • Spotted: Shirley Street, Newham, London, E16, England, 2002 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of West Ham Above: a real cobra (photo by Kamalnv)
“Cobra”, Newham: hooded striker

“Blue Circle”, Great Missenden: fox-cat-category

"Blue Circle" burglar alarm, Great Missenden • I really can't tell if this is a fox or a cat. Its pointy ears suggest the former, its posture the latter. However, since I already have a load of fox-based alarms, I am putting this firmly in the "cat" category (ha ha), of which it is currently the sole member (I'm talking domestic cats here – there are plenty of big cat alarms). Maybe it's one of those long-eared Abyssinian cats (pictured below), which are reputed to be the same kind depicted ancient Egyptian art. Though why it is trapped inside a Blue Circle logo – which I thought was a brand of cement – remains totally obscure. Perhaps one day the person responsible for this strange and rather Chinese-looking design will enlighten me. • Spotted: Town centre, Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, HP16, England, 2007 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Chesham and Amersham Above: a real Abyssinian cat (photo by Karin Langner-Bahmann)
“Blue Circle”, Great Missenden: fox-cat-category

“BBB”, Camden: to BBB or not to BBB?

"BBB Security" burglar alarm, Camden • Lisa from The Simpsons once impressed infatuated thicko Ralph Wiggum with a card reading "let's bee friends" (pictured below) – which sadly, like the hopeless Ralph, I find incredibly funny. But it doesn't get to the tragicomic nub of this sweetly silly logo, whose deceptively jolly graphics mask the spectre of death: for to be truly effective, these cheery charging arthropods must surely forfeit their lives with their stings. A profound message indeed for a burglar alarm, and one that Shakespeare might have summed up on a greetings card as "To BBB or not to BBB?" • Spotted: Great Russell Street, Camden, London, WC1, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Holborn and St Pancras Above: Ralph's bee card and a real bee (photo by Thomas Tolkien)
“BBB”, Camden: to BBB or not to BBB?

“BAT”, Birmingham: bloodsucker

"BAT Alarm" burglar alarm, Birmingham • I know this acronym stands for Birmingham Alarm Technicians, because I found the head office (pictured below) – but I still prefer to think of it as representing an actual noun-type bat. Not a baseball or cricket bat, useful though they would be for the deflection of unruly interlopers; but the flying, squeaking, sharp-fanged kind. Trained squadrons of hunter vampire bats could locate swag-toting Johhny Burglar by sound alone, disorient him with their hideous flapping leathery wings, give him a nasty blood-sucking bite, and pass on a dose of rabies for good measure. Result! • Spotted: Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham, West Midlands, B18, England, 2005 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Birmingham Ladywood Above: a real vampire bat (photo by Barry Mansell)
“BAT”, Birmingham: bloodsucker

“Badger”, Hounslow: Albanian thief

"Badger Security Systems" burglar alarm, Hounslow • The grumpy TB-spreading badger has more relevance to burglar alarms than you may imagine. Firstly, it defends its sett ferociously, attacking even bears and wolves. Secondly, according to a very dubious entry on Wikipedia, its name possibly derives, via Romanian and Thracian, from the Albanian word for "thief" (though more conventional wisdom has it that it derives from French, and is related to the white "badge" on its forehead). And thirdly, its old English nickname Brock (from the Celtic "broc", meaning "grey"), is – ta da – also a make of burglar alarm, albeit long defunct. Of course, Badger may just be the burglar alarm proprietor's surname – in which case it has nothing to do with the animal at all, but refers either to the Domesday-listed Shropshire village of Badger, or to the medieval trade of bagger, or bag-maker. Whatever the story, it's a very old word; and it's a very old burglar alarm, too. • Spotted: Harvard Road, Hounslow, London, W4, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Brentford and Isleworth Above: a real badger (photo by BadgerHero)
“Badger”, Hounslow: Albanian thief

“Armadillo”, Brighton: abject but armoured

"Armadillo Brighton" burglar alarm, Brighton • I love this alarm. A completely abject-looking armadillo, mournfully slouching above some stylish compressed type. (Being an insect-eater, it is possibly pining for the fly on the Ape alarm, below.) I've found another one in Aylesbury, which is newer than this and uses the Cooper Black font above the same illustration; and a quick web search reveals that the doughty little fellow represents Armadillo Safeguards, a 25-year-old firm based in Sutton, Surrey. Comical though it may be, unlike many burglar alarm creatures the armadillo at least has some relevance to the security trade, as it rolls up into an impenetrable armoured ball when threatened – although its guardian credentials are somewhat hampered by terrible eyesight. It falls into what I think of as the "defensive" rather than "offensive" category of anti-crime identity – somewhat abstract distinctions I shall explore further one day.• Spotted: Eastern Road, Brighton, East Sussex, BN2, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Brighton Kemptown Above: A real armadillo (photo by www.birdphotos.com)
“Armadillo”, Brighton: abject but armoured

“APE”, Bristol: hairy hominid plus cheeky fly

"APE Fire & Security" burglar alarm, Bristol • Starting today: a bonkers burglar alarm bestiary. Animals are one of the most popular themes for security firms' logos, and they're not always fierce, with at least 50 per cent ranging from from cuddly to crazy. I'll be posting, in alphabetical order, all the creatures I've found so far, excluding birds and dogs, which are so numerous they get their own categories. Thus I start with Ape (plus cheeky house fly), which combines several top security tropes in one minimalistic design: soundwaves, naive monogram, unexplained acronym, and an unfortunate connotation, as presumably it's not really meant to suggest a large hairy hominid. Given the soundwaves I'd guess it stands for something techy like Audio Protection Enterprises, and the pre-dtp logo suggests it's a long-standing firm. (Googles Ape Fire & Security). Yes, this firm is the first thing that turns up, established 1977 and still going strong with an up-to-date website. But as to what Ape – or as their blurb has it, A.P.E. – stands for, there is no mention.• Spotted: St Nicholas Street, Bristol, Avon, BS1, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bristol West Above: a real ape (Photo by Matthias Trautsch)
“APE”, Bristol: hairy hominid plus cheeky fly

“Fox”, York: screeching stalker

"Fox Systems" burglar alarm, York • This alarm just looks like someone stuck a load of giant hatpins on it, though the stalking fox lends an air of surrealism. (The fox is a popular burglar alarm beast, as I shall illustrate soon.) My local area is aswarm with both foxes and pigeons, whose habits of night time screeching and daytime shitting are not a great combination. I blame Ken Livingstone, who had the pigeons chased away from Trafalgar Square with hawks. They all ended up on my balcony, and presumably the foxes followed. • Spotted: Swinegate Court East, York, Yorkshire, YO1, 2011 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of York Central
“Fox”, York: screeching stalker

“Colt”, Westminster: dark horse

"Colt Security Systems" burglar alarm, City of Westminster • So, how to protect one's burglar alarm from a tsunami of avian arse emissions? One solution is a veil of pigeon netting, here enveloping a Colt alarm in such full-on burqua mode you can barely see it. A dark horse indeed, ha ha. • Spotted: Strutton Ground, City of Westminster, London, SW1, England, 2007 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Cities of London and Westminster
“Colt”, Westminster: dark horse

“Mayfair Selby” label, York: faded chains

"Mayfair Selby" label on "York Alarm Centre" burglar alarm, York • Now we move from locks to chains, of which this is a particularly heraldic example. It once said Mayfair Selby, though the red text has long ago faded away; and by the magic of Photoshop, I have also discovered that the alarm underneath says York Alarm Centre, which presumably exists no more. A security system palimpsest, if you will. • Spotted: Shipton Street, York, Yorkshire, YO30, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of York Central
“Mayfair Selby” label, York: faded chains

“Scorpio Security”, Hackney: sinister arthropod

"Scorpio Security" burglar alarm, Hackney • In my entry on the weird Pac-Man-esque Orion alarm, I explained how the giant hunter was killed by a scorpion and turned into a constellation by Zeus. And now we come to the unfortunate arthropod which stung him, also flung into the heavens by Zeus, where it became the constellation of Scorpius, eternally snapping at Orion's heels. Astrologically, it represents the mysterious eighth sign of the zodiac, ruled by the Greek god Pluto – aka Hades, lord of the underworld – and reputedly the most powerful star sign. Scorpios are supposed to be intense, secretive, power-loving, cunning, unforgiving, vengeful and, as the alarm probably wants to suggest, with a considerable sting in their tail. This strange logo, like a J with horns, could almost be the symbol for some obscure occult sect – thus living up to Scorpio’s sinister image. • Spotted: Hackney area, Hackney, London,  England, 2008 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Hackney South and Shoreditch Above: A nice 1825 etching of the constellation Scorpio from the Library of Congress, Washington DC.
“Scorpio Security”, Hackney: sinister arthropod

“Apollo Eagle”, Tower Hamlets: moon lander

"Apollo Eagle" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • This vintage sun-like yellow sounder is a great match for uber-deity Apollo, the powerful Greco-Roman god of the sun. Worshipped far and wide in the ancient world, Apollo was closely associated with light, music, medicine, poetry and much else, but wasn't linked with eagles until mere mortals headed for the moon (property of his sister, Artemis) a couple of millennia later. In 1961, NASA manager Abe Silverstein deliberately referenced the Greek god when he named the US space program Apollo; and on 20 July 1969 Apollo 11's lunar module Eagle finally deposited humans on the moon's surface, hence the immortal phrase "the Eagle has landed". Which may be the source of this space race-era alarm's name, though more prosaically, it's probably the result of a merger between two companies called Apollo and Eagle. • Spotted: The Oval, Tower Hamlets, London, E2, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow Above: When Apollo met Eagle on the moon. Left: a Roman statue of Apollo (c.150 AD) from the Ny Carlsberg Glypotek, Copenhagen. Middle: Buzz Aldrin with moon lander Eagle on the lunar surface. Right: the Apollo 11 insignia, complete with moon-landing eagle.
“Apollo Eagle”, Tower Hamlets: moon lander

“Atlantis”, Tower Hamlets: sunk without trace

"Atlantis Secure Systems" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • Even the ancient Greeks thought Atlantis was fictional, and they should have known because they probably invented it. Before Plato described the 9000-year-old lost city in his dialogue Timaeus of around 360 BC, there had been no recorded mention of the place, whereas myths usually have long, traceable histories. It seems likely he was using imaginary geography to make a political point – as Jonathan Swift did in Gulliver's Travels, or Sir Thomas More in Utopia – but the idea is so seductive that it remains with us today. It's quite a weird title for a burglar alarm (albeit one illustrated with a white fish and a shadowy shark, possibly a metaphor for burglar-catching); Atlantis has the opposite connotation to yesterday's triumphantly arising Phoenix, suggesting something that will sink catastrophically. Despite this it's a widely-used name, ironically popular with vessels: not only seagoing ones but the last operational space shuttle Atlantis, whose final flight is in July 2011 (tickets to view the launch are available from NASA). As for possible sites for the city of Atlantis, there's a new crackpot theory every year. More interesting are the real, eponymous places: the Atlantis Massif under the Atlantic, a dome of dense green rock extruded from the earth's deep mantle; 1198 Atlantis, a Mars-crossing asteroid orbiting quite near Earth; and the Atlantis Chaos, an area of turbulent Martian terrain featuring possible water gullies (all pictured below). Plato's imaginary island went a long, long way. • Spotted: Vyner Street, Tower Hamlets, London, E2, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow Above: Digital images of real Atlantises. Top: the sub-Atlantic Atlantis Massif, from Washington University's Lost City deep-sea research site. Middle: orbit of the asteroid 1198 Atlantis from Nasa Jet Propulsion Lab's Small-Body Database Browser, which can animate orbits through time. Bottom: ripples and gullies in the Atlantis Chaos area of Mars, from University of Arizona's amazing HiRise Mars imaging site.
“Atlantis”, Tower Hamlets: sunk without trace

“Phoenix”, Sheffield: Phoenix Arizona

"Phoenix" burglar alarm, Sheffield • Perhaps reborn from yesterday's Phoenix, and unusually decorative for a burglar alarm, this tattoo-like design looks more Phoenix Arizona than ancient Greece. But though grandly-plumaged  birds such as the storm-bringing Thunderbird figure heavily in Native American culture, there is no equivalent of the phoenix rebirth myth, suggesting it developed in Eurasia after early humans had populated the Americas. Of course humans came that way again later, bringing their Eurasian diseases and resurrection legends with them; and thus the modern metropolis of Phoenix was born, so named because it arose from the long-abandoned ruins of a pre-Columbian city. Amazing how these Assyrian legends get around. • Spotted: Union Street, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Sheffield Central Top row: phoenix tattoo designs reminiscent of this alarm. Bottom row: Native American birds – not related to Phoenixes, but looking similar. Bottom left:Bird with Red Snake” (1920) by Awa Tsireh from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington DC. Bottom right: painting of Kiowa Eagle Dancer by Stephen [Qued Koi] Mopope (1898-1974) from the Adobe Gallery, Santa Fe.
“Phoenix”, Sheffield: Phoenix Arizona

“Phoenix Security Doncaster”, Chelsea: rare old bird

"Phoenix Security Doncaster" burglar alarm, Kensington and Chelsea • A very old Phoenix, which – if it accords with legend – is the only one of its kind, and will soon set itself on fire. In the Greco-Assyrian myth which gives this device its name, the crimson-plumed firebird is the sole representative of its species, and lives for 500 years. When it feels itself getting old, it climbs onto a fragrant DIY pyre of frankinsence and myrrh, faces the sun and bursts exuberantly into flame, soaring reborn from the ashes. In some versions it's a small grub that emerges from the ashes, which after three days turns into a new phoenix; which, in further variants, carries the embalmed ashes of its parent to an altar in the Egyptian sun-worshipping city of Heliopolis. Although the estimable Greek historian Herodotus was bluntly sceptical about much of this fanciful tale, its clear parallels with Biblical accounts of the resurrection of Jesus made it a hit with early Catholic artists, hence its inclusion in European iconography, and eventually on burglar alarms. Generally considered benevolent despite their fierce looks, phoenixes are today a metaphor for anything that renews, such as a "phoenix firm" which declares bankruptcy, dumps its debt obligations, and restarts anew – hopefully not the fate of Phoenix Security. • Spotted: Cadogan Street, Kensington and Chelsea, London, SW3, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Chelsea and Fulham Above: Some even older phoenixes. Top row: during and after resurrection, from the beautiful 12th century Aberdeen Bestiary. Bottom left: Coptic Egyptian stone phoenix from the Allard Pierson Museum, Amsterdam. Bottom right: a magnificent printed phoenix from Friedrich Justin Bertuch's stunningly-illustrated educational partwork "Bilderbuch für Kinder" (1790-1830).
“Phoenix Security Doncaster”, Chelsea: rare old bird

“Sound Alarms”, Westminster: horny unicorn

"Sound Alarms" burglar alarm, City of Westminster • An odd subject for a burglar alarm, the unicorn is – like yesterday’s mermaid – a popular subject in young girls’ literature. This logo is more reminiscent of a 1980s computer magazine, with its warped sci-fi font suggesting the wow of a siren, and a pixellated unicorn that's either the ultimate in retro-futurism, or a bit of low-res clip art. Like all the mythological alarms I have found, this bizarre mix of ancient and modern originates in antiquity. The early Greeks believed unicorns were real wild animals living in India, and matters were further confused because in Mesopotamia bulls were often depicted in profile, showing just one horn. There are unicorns mentioned in the Christian Bible, though the original Hebrew term is re'em, a powerful beast which scholars have suggested could be anything from an ox to a rhino. This biblical connection led to the pretty white European unicorn, a deeply allegorical beast which could only be soothed by laying its head, complete with immense phallic horn, in the lap of a young and sometimes bare-breasted virgin (there are some examples below). With obvious symbolism, their "horns" – usually narwhal horns, upon which the spiralling spike is based – were considered great aphrodisiacs; Queen Elizabeth I reputedly had one in her cabinet of curiosities. And though initially associated with the Virgin Mary and purity, unicorns soon became frankly raunchy, prancing across vastly expensive OTT tapestries amidst hunting parties and fertility symbols, ending up happy and blood-spotted after capture by a fair maiden, in the manner of a medieval boy band member. Which explains why unicorns remain a staple of pre-pubescent female fantasy, but does not shed any more light on this weird burglar alarm, or what a unicorn has to do with sound – unless it's a play on the word "horn". • Spotted: Vauxhall Bridge Road, City of Westminster, London, SW1, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Cities of London and Westminster Some frisky unicorns. Top left: An underdressed lady soothes the beast in “Wild Woman with Unicorn”, c.1500, a cushion from Basel Historical Museum. Top right: "The Unicorn Is Penned", c.1500, a unicorn spotted with blood (or red juice) after capture by a maiden, from the epic Unicorn Tapestries in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. Bottom: "Virgin and Unicorn", 1605, teenage love as portrayed by Domenichino (aka Annibale Carracci) on a fresco in Rome's Farnese Palace.
“Sound Alarms”, Westminster: horny unicorn

“Siren Security”, Tower Hamlets: Fairfield maiden

"Siren Security" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • Yesterday I featured a mermaid from Fairfield Shipping Offices, Glasgow, and today – ushering in the theme of mythological burglar alarms – I give you a mermaid from Fairfield Road, London. Siren Security is a play on words, obviously, between the blaring sirens of the law and the sweet-voiced temptresses said to serenade sailors to their doom, but sirens and mermaids are not strictly synonymous. Though the word is Latin, sirens come to the modern world from Greek mythology: as described in Homer's Odyssey, written around 800 BC, they were winged, sharp-clawed bird-women who lived amidst the rotting corpses of their victims (which would certainly be a deterrent to burglars). The fish-woman comes from even older Assyrian tales of the popular sea goddess Atargatis (called Derketo by the Greeks), disseminated to seaports far and wide by Syrian merchants. Pagan Europeans got these ideas all muddled up with their own folkloric tales, not quelled by a dose of Christianity, so that today in many languages the word for mermaid is "sirena", or similar. In Haitian voodoo there is even a spirit or lwa called La Sirene, a European mermaid mixed up with West African beliefs, often pictured with a siren-like trumpet (see below for examples of all these ladies). Whatever her origin, Siren Security's logo is a charmingly modest mermaid, shown clutching an unidentified tablet – maybe the same one the bizarre wasp-man is holding on Wilton Alarms. And while there are plenty of of male images on burglar alarms, this is one of only two depictions of women I have found, the other being Liberty. • Spotted: Fairfield Road, Tower Hamlets, London, E3, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow Top left: "The Siren of Canosa", a Greek-style siren (note bird-feet) circa 300 BC from the National Archaeological Museum of Spain. Top right: John William Waterhouse's foxy "A Mermaid" (1900), from the Royal Academy, London. Below: a Haitian sequinned voodoo banner depicting horn-blowing water spirit La Sirene.
“Siren Security”, Tower Hamlets: Fairfield maiden

“Bluebird Securities”, Beckenham: white cliffs

"Bluebird Securities" burglar alarm, Beckenham"There'll be bluebirds over
/ The white cliffs of Dover / 
Tomorrow, just you wait and see. / There'll be love and laughter / And peace ever after / Tomorrow, when the world is free." In fact lyricist Nat Burton's words never came true, because – as discussed alongside the yellow version of this alarm – bluebirds are only found in North America, home of the song's writers. Which didn't stop this Battle of Britain spirit-raiser becoming a massive UK hit for Vera Lynn in 1942 (not to mention Glen Miller and several other artistes in the US), and remaining Britain's most celebrated WWII song ever since. • Spotted: High Street, Beckenham, Kent, BR3, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Beckenham
“Bluebird Securities”, Beckenham: white cliffs

“Britannia Security Systems”, Tower Hamlets: pre-war

"Britannia Security Systems" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • Today I'm launching the theme that originally got me interested in the idea of seriously documenting and categorising burglar alarms, namely designs evoking World War Two in some way. The Britannia alarm shown here isn't specifically WWII-related, but the Union Jack-decorated letter B conjoined with a heraldic lion is certainly patriotic, and sums up the Fortress Britain (or, less kindly, Little England) mentality that seemed prevalent in the late 1990s when I first started noticing – and, not long after, photographing – these bizarre building adornments. This example is spruce and pristine, in what I like to think of as a "pre-war" state; but there are many more bruised and battered "post-war" Britannias to be found, one of which I'll feature at the end of this category. • Spotted: Redchurch Street, Tower Hamlets, London, E2, England, 2007 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow
“Britannia Security Systems”, Tower Hamlets: pre-war

“Falcon Security”, Liverpool: tatty bird, nice niche

"Falcon Security" burglar alarm, Liverpool • I always enjoy burglar alarms' varied architectural settings: some languish in obscure corners amidst layers of grimy urban decay, whilst others are proudly placed and neatly painted around. Some are even fortunate enough to have their own dedicated niches, and it is to these that I turn this week. Having just finished a fortnight of random burglar alarm birds, my first niche is home to a rather tatty falcon (a species be covered more fully in a later series on hawkish alarm birds). This circular brickwork detail decorates a 19th-century warehouse near Tate Liverpool, now given over to that booming 21st-century descendant of warehousing, self-storage. • Spotted: Norfolk Street, Liverpool, Merseyside, L1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Liverpool Riverside
“Falcon Security”, Liverpool: tatty bird, nice niche

“Magpie Services”, Camden: one for sorrow

"Magpie Services" burglar alarm, Camden • Two security tropes for the price of one: a thieving magpie, and a garland of locksmithery (a subject I shall cover soon). I can't let my final magpie pass without remembering the rhyme famous from classic 1970s kids' TV show Magpie: "One for sorrow / Two for joy / Three for a girl / Four for a boy / Five for silver / Six for gold / Seven for a secret never to be told / Ma-a-a-aaaag-piiiiiiiiie!". Those too young to remember the tune can revisit Magpie's brilliant 1970s opening sequence, sung by the Spencer Davis Group, here• Spotted: Marchmont Street, Camden, London, WC1, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Holborn and St Pancras
“Magpie Services”, Camden: one for sorrow

“Security Alarm Services”, Hereford: rural gem

"Security Alarm Services" burglar alarm, Hereford • I'm generally not keen on jewel-shaped burglar alarms but this one, no pun intended, is a gem. And what better to sit on a sparkling gem that a thieving magpie, which despite not being identified by name, this bird indubitably is. It's a sensitive piece of design, the attractive drawing perching cleverly atop the logo, a somewhat crime-inappropriate but charmingly foliate 1970s-style swash font. The firm's initials spell SAS, which would seem more suited to an aggressive combat-style design; but this is from wild and woolly rural Herefordshire in the far west of England, where placid cows and perky birdies rule. In honour of its peaceable location, I should add that magpies in folklore are not considered totally bad, being believed in some parts to protect the household and predict the future. On the other hand, in Scottish superstition a magpie near the window foretells death – which makes placing a Magpie burglar alarm there a pretty bad idea. • Spotted: Town centre, Hereford, Herefordshire, HR1, England, 2008 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Hereford and South Herefordshire
“Security Alarm Services”, Hereford: rural gem

“Bluebird Securities”, Lewisham: a picturesque nest

"Bluebird Securities Crayford" burglar alarm, Lewisham • How picturesque: a fine yellow bluebird from Crayford, tangled in a nest of wires on the Ladywell Road. The old-style line drawing is far more characterful than yesterday's slick photographic bluebird, even though it could represent any blue or yellow bird really – a jay say, or a yellowhammer. Yellowhammer – now that would be a good name for an alarm. • Spotted: Ladywell Road, Lewisham, London, SE13, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Lewisham Deptford
“Bluebird Securities”, Lewisham: a picturesque nest

“Bluebird Security Systems”, Westminster: harmless

"Bluebird Security Systems" burglar alarm, City of Westminster • Following yesterday's kingfisher, another photorealistic bird. But you won't find a real-life bluebird living wild in the UK, as it's a North American native – an attractive, harmless and beloved creature, regarded sentimentally in the US much as the British view robin redbreast. As such, it's a peculiar choice for a security system; but the charming word Bluebird has been used to title everything from lethal speedboats to school buses to swanky cafes, so it seems fair enough to allow burglar alarms onto that list. • Spotted: Little Portland Street, City of Westminster, London, W1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Cities of London and Westminster
“Bluebird Security Systems”, Westminster: harmless

“Kingfisher Fire and Security”, Southwark: realism

"Kingfisher Fire & Security" burglar alarm, Southwark • This is a more recent version of yesterday's burglar alarm. I don't feature two alarms by the same firm unless they're different enough to make an interesting comparison, and these two show the march of design and technology progress: from yesterday's monochrome silhouette on a rectangular box to today's photorealistic plumage on a jewel-shaped one. Despite a slight name change they've managed to keep continuity by retaining the same typography and ensuring the bird has the same pose – although now it's printed in full glowing colour, we can see that by choosing a back view, the designer has lost the kingfisher's most distinctive feature, its bright orange breast. • Spotted: Old Jamaica Road, Southwark, London, SE16, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark
“Kingfisher Fire and Security”, Southwark: realism

“Kingfisher”, Winchester: flying blue flash

"Kingfisher Security (UK) Limited" burglar alarm, Winchester • Yet another seemingly-arbitrary bird, the kingfisher's main burglar alarm credentials are hunting skills, feisty territoriality and the appearance of a blue flash as it flies (suggestive perhaps of a strobe, though this is a mite fanciful). It doesn't have an impressive cry, so its "siren" properties are not a qualification. However its main attractions are surely its attractive looks and name: the implied monarchy theme is ever-popular with security firms. The most interesting non-security fact I could discover about about kingfishers is that they have a transparent third eyelid and extraordinarily complex eyes, which work in two modes: sharply monocular in air, and blurrily binocular in water – all the better for spearing fish. • Spotted: Town centre, Winchester, Hampshire, SO23, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Winchester
“Kingfisher”, Winchester: flying blue flash

“Swift”, East Grinstead: they make spit-nests!

"Swift" burglar alarm, East Grinstead • I've got a few Swift alarms of varing designs, but this is the only one with the image of a bird, so the others presumably just refer to a speedy response. And the common swift pictured (rather badly) here really is fast, capable of 134mph speed-bursts, though preferring to cruise at a legal 30mph. The only bird known to mate while flying, its burglar alarm credentials include spending all night on the wing, and repelling nest intruders with vicious fighting and screeching. On the other hand it disappears to warmer climes for eight months of the year, so it's not the most constant of guardians. True fact: that cliche of Chinese cuisine, bird's nest soup, is made from the gluey saliva of cave swifts, which they use to construct cup-like nests. So popular and pricey is this delicacy that the swift spit-nests are now industrially farmed. Eeeuuuw. • Spotted: High Street, East Grinstead, West Sussex, RH19, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Sussex Mid
“Swift”, East Grinstead: they make spit-nests!

“Macaw”, Nottingham: where’s my perch?

"Macaw Security" burglar alarm, Nottingham • The brightly-plumaged macaw protects its nest with aggressive wing-flapping and a raucous screech, presumably the rationale for its use on an alarm. This unhappy creature has been transplanted from a tropical forest to Nottingham Forest (well, nearby); hunched sullenly in thin air, it's been deprived of both colour and perch. Maybe they got nicked – it seems I'd stumbled into some kind of crime paranoia hot-spot. Shortly after photographing this I was chased down the road by a raucously screeching homeowner, who was convinced I'd been casing the joint; she claimed her large and impressive villa had recently been broken into four times, despite having a burglar alarm. Not this one, I hasten to add. • Spotted: Mansfield Road, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, NG1, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Nottingham East
“Macaw”, Nottingham: where’s my perch?

“Dove”, Rugby: the burglar alarm of peace

"Dove Security Systems" burglar alarm, Rugby • An unusual bird choice for an anti-theft device: the allegedly sweet-natured dove, traditional symbol of peace and love. The simplified dove-with-olive-branch graphic popular with peace movements today derives from a post-WWII design by Picasso, but even though this photo is blurred (the alarm was really high up and shot at dusk), I can tell it's not one of Pablo's. Presumably that is an olive branch in its beak, though it looks more like a leech – which would be appropriate to represent a burglar, but seems unlikely. Technically, as a branch of the Columbidae family, the dove is just a small non-feral pigeon. But "Small Non-Feral Pigeon Security Systems" doesn't have quite the same ring. • Spotted: Market Place, Rugby, Warwickshire, CV21, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Rugby
“Dove”, Rugby: the burglar alarm of peace

“Thames Security”, Windsor: fierce royal swan

"Thames Security" burglar alarm, Windsor • Swans may look graceful, but they are fiercely protective of their nests and capable of breaking human limbs with the merest flick of a haughty wing (or so I was always warned as a child, when we lived next door to a swan-infested creek). This alarm has a posher location near the Queen's main castle at Windsor, which lies on an equally swan-infested stretch of the river Thames. Swans were once highly prized as game meat, and in the 12th century only the rich were allowed to own them; ever since then, the Crown has retained rights over all "unmarked" swans (ie those not owned by anyone else) in open water. In Windsor, this means the Thames, home of a yearly ceremony called "Swan Upping",  in which ridiculously-dressed men count the swans for benefit of tourists, and presumably to make sure none of the Monarch's birds get nicked. Thus Windsor, the Thames, swans and security are inextricably linked; and this burglar alarm is not as surreal as it may at first appear (apart from the giant floating T). • Spotted: Town centre, Windsor, Berkshire, SL4, England, 2009 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Windsor
“Thames Security”, Windsor: fierce royal swan

“Frome Security Centre”, Frome: a duck enchained

"Frome Security Centre" burglar alarm, Frome • Frome (pronounced Froome) is an arty little Somerset wool town that was once a hotbed of non-conformism, and is full of interesting old architecture including a plethora of quirky churches and chapels. So, rather than have a fierce hawk or a wise owl on their burglar alarms, they have this distinctly non-conformist design – a wacky cartoon duck tethered to what looks like the ball-cock from a lavatory cistern, but is in fact a convict's ball and chain. Why the duck needs to be imprisoned, or what it has to do with preventing crime, is impossible to guess. It's just one of those whimsical West Country things. • Spotted: Town centre, Frome, Somerset, BA11, England, 2008 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Somerton and Frome
“Frome Security Centre”, Frome: a duck enchained

“Security Services”, Stoke-On-Trent: an owl’s face?

"Security Services" burglar alarm, Stoke-On-Trent • You may disagree, but I contend that this represents the face of an owl. An owl made of rope, with the initials SS for eyes, to be sure – but still distinctly an owl, down to the suggestion of ears. Yes, it could be a kinky bra, or a pair of goggles, or just a knot – but that wouldn't be so burglar alarmish. I rest my case. • Spotted: Hanley town centre, Stoke-On-Trent, Staffordshire, ST1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Stoke on Trent Central
“Security Services”, Stoke-On-Trent: an owl’s face?

“Wessex Alarms”, Salisbury: an owl from Hardy country

"Wessex Alarms" burglar alarm, Salisbury • Wessex is the historical stomping ground of the West Saxons, a place name which long predates the invention of burglar alarms, if not owls. But although it is the sharply-drawn setting for Thomas Hardy's depressing bucolic novels, and sounds like a county to rival Sussex, Middlesex and Essex, in administrative terms Wessex doesn't actually exist. The proud name lives on, however, in the collective consciousness of a large swathe of south-western England, and is used to brand everything from radio stations to colleges to – as here – burglar alarms. Wiltshire, the "Wessex" county where I found this, is famed for its neolithic standing stones and bony, chalky hills – an ancient and mysterious landscape, at its most other-worldly by twilight. So a silhouetted owl seems appropriate, though being perched cutely on a 1970s disco-style logo somewhat detracts from the atmosphere. • Spotted: Town centre, Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP1, England, 2007 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Devizes
“Wessex Alarms”, Salisbury: an owl from Hardy country

“OTS”, Tower Hamlets: an owl on a key – how sweet!

"OTS" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • A chubby owl sitting on a giant key in front of a crescent moon – how sweet is this? The initials OTS  are branded on the owl's breast and below its feet, but there's no clue as to what this unexplained acronym stands for. The firm itself is equally mysterious; all I can discover is that it was once based in the Northumberland Park area of Tottenham, London, and by the noughties had merged with a Chingford company called Davenheath. The 081 number dates it as pre-1995, and there's also a later 0181 numbered version which must be pre-2000. On this latter iteration, the key, moon and chest tattoo are gone, and the owl is simply perched on a big OTS logo. It was probably meant to look more sophisticated – but, charmingly, it still looks just as much like a children's book illustration. • Spotted: Redchurch Street, Tower Hamlets, London, E2, England, 2007 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow
“OTS”, Tower Hamlets: an owl on a key – how sweet!

“Owl Alarm Systems”, Southwark: it winks!

"Owl Alarm Systems Westerham" burglar alarm, Southwark • Having spent the last couple of weeks researching the tangled corporate histories of modernist-styled alarms, I've decided to take things easier for a while by writing about birds. Our feathered friends are very popular on alarms, with plenty of hawkish hunters and thieving magpies, but many less obvious suspects too, such as ducks, swans and doves. Owls cover all the alarm bird bases: they're wise, they catch prey at night, and they're cute too. One of my favourites is this charming 1970s-style drawing reminiscent of the early work of illustrator Jan Pienkowski (famous for his Meg, Mog and Og kids' books). Brilliantly, the owl has got a little light in each of its eyes: if you look closely, you can see that the left one is lit up red, while the right one is off. It's winking at us! • Spotted: Sawyer Street, Southwark, London, SE1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark
“Owl Alarm Systems”, Southwark: it winks!

“Wilton”, Salisbury: half man, half wasp

Wilton burglar alarm, Salisbury, 2007"Wilton Alarm Services" burglar alarm, Salisbury • Possibly inspired by Jeff Goldblum in The Fly, what we have here is a creature half human, half insect, and all bonkers. Its nether regions are waspish, with a striped thorax resembling a pantomime burglar's t-shirt, while its back sports just one weird bubble-shaped wing. Atop this sprout the head and arms of a pudgy middle-aged man, bald save for a huge, lop-sided sprig of hair. One arm clutches an object (maybe a burglar alarm) saying "WASP" to his breast, while the other brandishes a fencing foil, presumably denoting the sting of justice. Grinning manically, he hovers like a drunken fancy dress uncle above the firm's logo – whose initials inexplicably spell WAS, not WASP, and are printed in blue and white rather than the more logical black and yellow. What a mutant fencing wasp has to do with burglar-catching is anyone's guess: I like to think the character was designed by the security firm's owner, in the colours of his favourite football team, and portrays himself. One of the craziest burglar alarm designs I have found. • Spotted: Town centre, Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP1, England, 2007 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Devizes Wilton burglar alarm, Salisbury, 2007
“Wilton”, Salisbury: half man, half wasp

The mystery of “Dogs Full of Money” – solved

How I went in search of a Banksy, and ended up with a Dog Full of Money. Links to DFM Flickr gallery A few days ago I posted a burglar alarm from Bristol with a sticker of a funny dog on it. It looked a bit like a Banksy, so I decided to research it – and what I came across, via the magic of Google, was the phenomenon of “Dogs Full of Money”. Known as DFMs for short, these were a spate of photocopied stickers which appeared internationally in 2006, all bearing mutated variations on the outline of a dog-shaped charity collecting box with three coins dropping into its head, as above. The dog on the burglar alarm was too decayed to guess its author; what led me to hope it was a Banksy was its confident style, and the witty way it made the Shorrock branding read “Shock”. So I worried away like a terrier at the world of DFMs, chasing clues down a maze of ever-older and obscurer web-holes. [More]
The mystery of “Dogs Full of Money” – solved

“Pointer”, Glasgow: a discreet “vandal” sticker

"Pointer" burglar alarm with "Vandal" sticker, Glasgow, 2010"Pointer" burglar alarm with "vandal" sticker, Glasgow, 2010 • A very discreet vandal indeed must have placed this tiny sticker. It's on an updated version of the ancient Pointer alarm from Hull I posted a while back. This design tames the bonkers dog logo within a circle, and replaces the stonking stencil font with tasteful Officina, the Helvetica of the 1990s, designed by type god Erik Spiekermann. The alarm's designer appears to be channelling a 1990s CD sleeve (presumably current at the time), and probably had to fight for that lower case "p" – it's an exciting life in the world of graphics. I still prefer the original naive design, though. • Spotted: Merchant City area, Glasgow, Lanarkshire, G1, Scotland, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Glasgow Central "Pointer" burglar alarm with "Vandal" sticker, Glasgow, 2010
“Pointer”, Glasgow: a discreet “vandal” sticker

“Shock”, Bristol: is this dog sticker a Banksy?

"Shorrock" burglar alarm with dog sticker, Bristol, 2006"Shorrock" burglar alarm with dog sticker, Bristol, 2006 • This charming dog-stickered burglar alarm is my all time favourite – and, just possibly, a Banksy. At first I thought those were butterflies above the dreamy labrador's head, but they're coins dropping into a slot: it's a drawing of an old-fashioned guide dog collection box, cleverly positioned on a Shorrock burglar alarm to make it read "Shock". So, why do I think it's a Banksy? Firstly, the style and pose of the dog's head – that confident line and slightly wistful, upwards-tilted look is something I associate with a lot of his figures. Secondly, I found it in Bristol, which is where Banksy is from. Thirdly, Banksy often depicts dogs. And fourthly – well, there is no fourth, but I've just always just half-thought it was a Banksy, and enjoyed the mystery. I've now discovered that there was spate of these photocopied dog stickers in 2006, all with their bodies redrawn in strange ways (this is the least mutated I've found) – and one of them did have a Banksy logo on it. However these other versions looked amateur, and any fool can xerox a Banksy logo, so the jury remains out. It's an interesting story, on which I'll post a separate visual essay shortly. In the meantime, I still don't know if this is a Banksy, but it's certainly a one-off, and I'm glad I spotted it. (Update: I later discovered it wasn't a Banksy – the full story is here.) • Spotted: Clifton area, Bristol, Avon, BS8, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bristol West "Shorrock" burglar alarm with dog sticker, Bristol, 2006
“Shock”, Bristol: is this dog sticker a Banksy?

“Bulldog Alarms”, Sheffield: naive triangular teeth

"Bulldog Alarms" burglar alarm, Sheffield, 2010"Bulldog Alarms" burglar alarm, Sheffield, 2010 • I found this above a boarded-up kebab shop on Wicker, a dreary strip of fast food joints surreally terminated by an immense Piranesian viaduct. The road is situated by a bend in the River Don, and its unusual name may derive from wick, meaning angle. This nicely echoes the angular Bulldog Alarms logo, a naive yet artful monogram whose jagged triangles form a rhythmic pattern which conjures up both houndstooth check and early 20th century geometric abstract art (both possibly unintentionally). It has exactly the same casing as the preceding entry, Kudos, and the outdated phone code and accretion of guano suggest it is of the same pre-1995 vintage. In fact, it could be even older: judging by the yellow-and-black Street Sounds records-style colourway and constructivist bent, its logo was designed in the mid to late 1980s. • Spotted: Wicker, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S3, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Sheffield Central "Bulldog Alarms" burglar alarm, Sheffield, 2010
“Bulldog Alarms”, Sheffield: naive triangular teeth

“Kudos”, Bath: soppy superannuated Alasatian

"Kudos" burglar alarm, Bath, 2008"Kudos" burglar alarm, Bath, 2008 • I love this soppy Alsatian alarm in so many ways. It's on a poncey pink-painted wall in the genteel Romano-Georgian city of Bath. It has a snobbish classical name – "Kudos", meaning glory or renown in Greek – and depicts a potentially vicious dog as a delicate, doe-eyed supplicant. Its logo is a sensitive ink drawing, rare on a burglar alarm, and is printed on an ill-fitting sticker, not guaranteed to inspire confidence. The alarm casing looks like a 1980s clock radio, while the dial-phone symbol is probably not ironic, because this area code went extinct in 1995. The whole contraption is spattered in mud, which complements the pointillist style of the drawing and adds to the general air of pathos. And finally, it's from a Lib-Dem constituency, which makes it a definite underdog in numerical terms. Sad superannuation, pompous overstatement, a cuddly creature, naive design, an attractive architectural setting – it ticks all my favourite boxes. • Spotted: Town centre, Bath, Avon, BA2, England, 2008 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bath "Kudos" burglar alarm, Bath, 2008
“Kudos”, Bath: soppy superannuated Alasatian

“Pointer”, Hull: poignant poetic port dog

Pointer burglar alarm"Pointer" burglar alarm, Kingston upon Hull, 2005 • The isolated north-eastern city of Kingston upon Hull has been regularly voted Britain's worst place to live, but it suited resident poet Philip Larkin, who described it as having "a different resonance". I found the ex-fishing port to be wistful and atmospheric, which is reflected in this charming burglar alarm. The pointer is not a vicious or scary dog: in fact it is noted for its friendliness, intelligence and loyalty. What it can do is find prey once it's been shot down by a hunter – which makes one wonder about burglar-catching strategies in Hull. The design is unusual, and one of my favourites: a robotic-looking stencil dog with tea-crate lettering – apt for a port – that reminds me of an early 1980s record sleeve design (if I could be bothered to search my old vinyl collection, I'd find the precise one I'm thinking of). I've found later variations of this logo elsewhere in the north, but though the typography changes, the stylised pointer remains. Perhaps Philip Larkin would have appreciated it, because he was fond of animals, and waxes lyrical about both dogs and Hull in his famous poem "Show Saturday" – though he fails to mention burglar alarms. • Spotted: Town centre, Kingston upon Hull, East Yorkshire, HU1, England, 2005 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Hull West and Hessle Pointer burglar alarm
“Pointer”, Hull: poignant poetic port dog

“Scaff Guard”, Kensington: a very gory bulldog

Scaff Guard Ltd burglar alarm"Scaff Guard Ltd" burglar alarm, City of Westminster, 2010 • The word slavering could have been invented for this comically rabid beast, my final Tory dog for now. Appropriately for such a hammy performer, I found him by the Royal Albert Hall on Kensington Gore (which is also the name of a famous make of stage blood, as seen in Hammer Horror films). He wasn't even protecting a house – just some scaffolding. And there wasn't a real guard dog in sight. • Spotted: Kensington Gore, City of Westminster, London SW7, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Cities of London and Westminster Scaff Guard Ltd burglar alarm
“Scaff Guard”, Kensington: a very gory bulldog

“GD Security”, Kensington: mystery bulldog from 1984

GD Security burglar alarm"GD Security" burglar alarm, Kensington and Chelsea, 2005 • Another smart royal blue silhouette, another Conservative borough: namely affluent Kensington, home to some of the most expensive property in the world, and where Madonna was burgled twice, despite having a burglar alarm. The initials are unexplained, but by having a fairly recognisable bulldog image above them, we're invited to surmise that GD stands for Guard Dog, though it could be Good Defence, General Dynamics, Gold Digger, God, or whatever you fancy. Google research suggests it doesn't actually stand for anything, but the firm was formed in 1984 – an excellent year for surveillance. • Spotted: Gloucester Road, Kensington and Chelsea, London SW7, England, 2005 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Kensington GD Security burglar alarm
“GD Security”, Kensington: mystery bulldog from 1984

“Securipol”, Westminster: dodgy duo behind MI5

Securipol Systems burglar alarm"Securipol Systems" burglar alarm, City of Westminster, 2010 • I have a soft spot for silhouettes on burglar alarms, with their suggestions of shadowy activity. Despite having so little detail, they are often extremely poorly drawn, and this is no exception: note the Bunny-girl ears on the presumed Alsatian, and the awkward pose of the security guard, with his hint of jackboot on one side, and what appears to be an amputated stump or penile malformation the other. More successful is the equally bodged-up name: Securipol. It's a naive, unsubtle construction, but one with etymological power, because what instantly springs to mind? Security. Police. Loaded words with classical roots: Latin "securus" (without care) and Greek "polis" (city). It's rendered in navy and white, which also have police connotations (a trend I've noticed on other burglar alarms too), implying that somehow this potato-headed freak and his rabbit-eared mutt are state-sanctioned protectors of the national security. Appropriate then that I found this alarm in Westminster, the heart of British government, on a building situated right behind the HQ of MI5,  the UK's internal security service. Make of that what you will. • Spotted: Horseferry Road, City of Westminster, London SW1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Cities of London and Westminster Securipol Systems burglar alarm
“Securipol”, Westminster: dodgy duo behind MI5

“Bulldog”, Derby: logo as abstract leg wound?

"Bulldog" burglar alarm, Derby, 2010 • Somehow, you feel the designer was not entirely in tune with the image that the word "Bulldog" normally conveys. With its popular "initial as logo" device and cheesy sci-fi-style fonts, this alarm's stickered livery resembles the cuff of a jaunty sports sock rather than a fierce beast. Maybe the way the B is formed by an absence of ink represents the chunk of flesh the bulldog will remove from an unwise intruder's leg, and the buzzing red-and-white stripes the raw blood and bone that will result. But I think not. It's on nice bricks, though: and I can recommend Derby as a repository of many fine historical buildings. • Spotted: Town centre, Derby, Derbyshire DE1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Derby South
“Bulldog”, Derby: logo as abstract leg wound?

“Warren Bannister”, Derby: Ena Sharples meets bulldog

"Warren Bannister Partnership Gloucester" burglar alarm, Cirencester, 2007 • Printed on what appears to be a photocopy, this label is peeling from an elderly alarm in the West Country, where life moves slowly. Thus, rather than snarling, this decaying bulldog has an expression of quizzical disapproval; he looks less likely to take anti-burglar action than to harrumph and go back to reading his Daily Telegraph (or maybe it's a she: add a hairnet and you've got a dead ringer for Ena Sharples). Design-wise, it's a rare example of a black alarm, and features enjoyably retro 1970s disco typography. Closer inspection shows that the doughty mastiff has the initials WBP emblazoned on his collar. It's meant to honour his ambiguously-named organisation, the Warren Bannister Partnership (one person? Two? A spy ring perhaps?) – but it's also just a slip of the tongue away from the acronym for waste paper basket. Which is where this old dog looks like he's heading next. • Spotted: Town centre, Cirencester, Gloucestershire, GL7, England, 2007 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Cotswolds
“Warren Bannister”, Derby: Ena Sharples meets bulldog

“Watchdog”, Newham: the Cyclops of Olympic Park

"Watchdog" burglar alarm, Newham, 2010 • As if the gazillions of CCTV cameras watching us weren't enough, now we've got burglar alarms with eyes too. And despite being on public land, I was heavily hassled by a bunch of G4 "security operatives" simply for snapping the one here. That's because it's in an area where most alarms – along with the rotting industrial buildings they were attached to – have been swept away to make way for London's glossy new Olympic Park. I was once terrorized by a monstrous, crazed watchdog while exploring the Olympics area pre-demolition, and to me, this device resembles a blue-nosed dog with one mean, narrowed eye: the face of a wary Staffie with its ears flattened back, ready for combat. If the designer intended this, by the placing of the logo in relation to the snubby bulb below, then it's deceptively clever; it makes me think of the plastic debris masks by African artist Romuald Hazoumé. It's an all-seeing cyclops of the Olympics, a one-eyed Cerberus of the Bow Back Rivers. Or maybe that's just my bad memories kicking in. • Spotted: Marshgate Lane, Newham, London E15, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of West Ham
“Watchdog”, Newham: the Cyclops of Olympic Park

Essay: Do Conservatives prefer bulldogs?

Dodgy statistics show that 50% of dogs on British burglar alarms are bulldogs – rising to 75% in Conservative wards. I have only come across 10 unique dog-themed burglar alarms so far, not a lot for an allegedly mutt-loving nation, but they employ a good range of styles. Exactly half bear that stereotypical British emblem, the bulldog; two more portray alsatians (or what look like them); one is a non-specific watchdog; one a soppy Pointer; and one pointed graffiti. Since there are so few, it makes a good test-bed for my "alarms reflect their area" theory. You can see how they break down by political constituency below... [More]
Essay: Do Conservatives prefer bulldogs?