"Genesis Integrated Systems" burglar alarm, Camden • This is possibly named after the horrible band (it could be an above shot of one of Peter Gabriel's early hairstyles), but I shall assume it's a reference to the first book of the Bible and the origin of the world. All that plus integrated systems too! While researching the Genesis singer's "reverse mohawk" (below), I came across brilliant medieval illustration showing the first day as essentially the view from an aeroplane window (also below). Or perhaps a giant celestial laundromat. • Spotted: Southampton Place, Camden, London, WC1, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Holborn and St Pancras Above: Peter Gabriel's early Genesis "reverse mohawk" barnet, and a laundromat-style first day of creation as depicted in the Nuremburg Chronicle of 1493
"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.
"ITS" burglar alarm, Hackney • I have come across quite a few burglar alarms that, wittingly or unwittingly, refer to Christian themes – so, as we're coming up to Christmas, now seems a good time to feature them. I don't know if this ITS monogram is intended to look like a big blue crucifix, but it certainly reads as one. The family firm behind the logo emphasise trustworthiness on their website, which explains that the acronym stands for "Integrity Technology Security". It would make a good choice for churches, so if there are any vicars reading this (unlikely, I feel), take note! • Spotted: Rivington Street, Hackney, London, E2, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Hackney South and Shoreditch
Ex-burglar alarm, Southwark • Good news: this rusty old bell box remnant is the last "skeleton alarm" for now. The age and long, narrow shape suggest to me it may have been a Brocks, of which there are others in the area. Or perhaps it was a fire alarm? I await expert advice. • Spotted: Price's Street, Southwark, London, SE1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark
Ex-burglar alarm, City of London • There's not much surrounding context for this grey plastic ruin, but it retains its electrical innards, which may help someone identify it (assuming it actually was a burglar alarm, that is). • Spotted: Long Lane, City of London, London, EC1, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Cities of London and Westminster
Ex-burglar alarm, Hackney • This ivory plastic skeleton suggests a robotic skull, and offers slightly more clues than yesterday's anonymous backplate. Peer closely and there's a maker's mark impressed top left, which reads "Designed and manufactured in England by Texecom registered design no 2036725" (I think). An easy clue for any experts out there! • Spotted: Clifton Street, Hackney, London, EC2, England, 2008 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Hackney South and Shoreditch
Ex-burglar alarm, Southwark • Ex-burglar alarms come in two forms: ghosts, where they've gone completely, leaving just a patch on the wall; and skeletons, where some of the casing remains. For the next five days I'm going to focus on the latter – and maybe some of the experts out there will be able to discern what model they were when intact (not that it will mean much to me). First up, a very anonymous metal backing plate from an office building in Southwark, with no identifying features other than random holes. • Spotted: King's Bench Street, Southwark, London, SE1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark
"ADT" burglar alarms, Hackney • I spotted these above an art gallery (Hoxton Square's full of them), and though not quite as impressive as the Design Museum's "Daisy" ADTs, it still looks a bit like a crappy art installation. To put it in art-speak, there's a poignant narrative tension in the way the lower ADT has been eternally blocked from joining its elevated companion by the Cyberman-esque piping snuggling round its head. And there's a cubist element in the repeated angles reminiscent of Paul Noble's Nobson Newtown, an immense pencil-drawn metropolis of everyday turd-folk presented in isometric projection (I'm not making this up) ... surely a contender for the Turner Prize next year. OK, that's enough spurious justification of a boring shot of two ADT burglar alarms. • Spotted: Hoxton Square, Hackney, London, N1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Hackney South and Shoreditch
"CSL" burglar alarms, Southwark • It looks like new burglar alarms are welcome too... • Spotted: Borough High Street, Southwark, London, SE1, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark
"Securebase" burglar alarms, Hackney • Although this heritage-green property in a semi-gentrified road near Hackney's riot central looks like a shop front, from its trio of bell pushes I deduce that the neatly-aligned Securebase triplets relate to three separate properties within. QED. • Spotted: Chatsworth Road, Hackney, London, E5, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Hackney North and Stoke Newington
"SDS Security" burglar alarms, Southwark • A stormy sky lights up three SDS boxes clad in shiny chrome, which I now know is the expensive option for sounder casings. They're somewhat too posh for the pitted concrete wall, though the combination is reminiscent of installations by many a contemporary artist, eg Turner Prize nominee Martin Boyce. They look too closely spaced to represent the alarms for three different floors, but that's the only explanation I can think of for the arrangement. • Spotted: Wild's Rents, Southwark, London, SE1, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark
Nameless burglar alarms, Lambeth • Whereas yesterday's burglar alarms really were an art installation, these just look like one. They suddenly appeared atop a cute little renovated industrial block near where I live, back in the heady days when people were still redeveloping things and, for some reason, painting them all shiny blue. Given the building resembles a shoebox-sized concrete fortress, with apparently no windows, I'm surprised it needs one alarm, let alone four, though their anonymity at least matches the unit's inscrutable appearance. • Spotted: Carlisle Lane, Lambeth, London, SE1, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Vauxhall
"ADT" burglar alarms, Southwark • I often find clusters of bell boxes, but they're usually random and mis-matched. However now and then I come across groups of identical sounders arranged into geometrical compositions, which – to use a fine art term – I think of as burglar alarm "multiples". This one takes the biscuit: six plastic daisies with ADT alarms as their centres, dancing across a wide white wall. It was a temporary installation on the side of London's Design Museum in 2005, but I never found out what it was in aid of. I quite liked the mystery, but after 30 seconds on Google I've discovered it was Daisy T from Sweet Dreams Security, "the ADT alarmbox flower attachment [that] transforms your existing alarmbox from dull and dreary to chirpy and cheery". In the mid-noughties the firm, brainchild of ex-graphic designer Matthias Megyeri, made some amazingly cute security products – from a CCTV camera disguised as a cat and butterfly-studded razor wire to teddybear padlocks and heart-shaped chain links (which sounds more like high-end bondage gear than a burglar deterrent). Apparently Megyeri was struck by the bizarre mixture of security and kitsch he saw on London homes, as compared with his native Stuttgart in Germany – especially all the ADT sounders – and set out to combine the two "to change the visual language of security products from depressing to seriously humorous". • Spotted: Shad Thames, Southwark, London, SE1, England, 2005 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark
"Wimpey Security Systems" burglar alarm, Kensington and Chelsea • I came across this at Chelsea Reach, en route to explore the exclusive but tacky and depressing semi-gated community that is Chelsea Harbour (whose creation cut off to non-residential car traffic a very useful public road running behind the riverfront). It's an excellent old Eurobell sounder with a long-obsolete Wimpey logo – look closely, and there's a flash of lightning in the "C" of "Security". Presumably it hails from George Wimpey, who merged with Taylor Woodrow to form Taylor Wimpey PLC in 2007, but was the UK's largest private house builder in the 1970s – the same era as this alarm. • Spotted: Uverdale Road, Kensington and Chelsea, London, SW10, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Chelsea and Fulham
"Sky Security Systems Ltd" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • Despite its name, this triple-thunderbolt Sky surveillance device doesn't have anything to do with James Murdoch (and if it did, you can bet he wouldn't know anything about it)... • Spotted: Brune Street, Tower Hamlets, London, E1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow
"Security Centres (UK) Ltd" burglar alarm, Newham • This vintage sounder doesn't exist any more, as I found it in a part of London that's now been completely torn down to make way for the Olympics. It's a bit hard to make out, but that's a thunderbolt piercing the portcullis – another popular alarm motif I shall feature one day. So not only will felons be brutally gated, they'll be electrocuted. Nice! • Spotted: Pudding Mill Lane, Newham, London, E15, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of West Ham
"Chloride Granley" burglar alarm, Hackney • I've featured this brilliant vintage sounder before, but only really small, as part of a wider decaying tableau. If you look closely there's a lightning flash in the "O" of "Chloride", which is then repeated as the large jagged circle in the middle. It's unusual in being stencilled, and is the only one of its kind I've ever found, though unadorned Granley boxes are still fairly common. Decades ago Chloride – who I associate with car batteries – must have taken over Granley, and instead of stickering on a new logo as is the norm, they used a stencil so you can still see the old design underneath: a palimpsest, if you will. I'd be interested to know more about either firm, if any of the security pros out there can enlighten me. • Spotted: Leonard Street, Hackney, London, EC2, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Hackney South and Shoreditch
"Intervene Securities" burglar alarm, Newham • Here's another iteration of Intervene's elderly lightning flash – I'd be interested to know if it's older or newer than yesterday's. Thunderbolts suggest not only electric shocks (or in extremis the electric chair), but also retribution from on high, in the form of a bolt from the blue. So maybe this intervention will be divine... • Spotted: Abbey Lane, Newham, London, E15, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of West Ham
"Intervene Security Ltd" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • A piece of Land art I have always wanted to see is Walter de Maria's The Lightning Field (1977), a square kilometre of remote New Mexico desert bristling with 400 steel poles, designed to channel both occasional lightning storms and the sun's daily passage. But since it's around 5,000 miles away, and you have to pay $250 to stay there overnight (and aren't even allowed to take photos), I shall have to make do instead with a few burglar alarms bearing lightning flashes, aka thunderbolts. Once popular, it's rather a low-tech symbol these days, so is found mainly on vintage sounders such as this one. Note to completists: I've already featured a few thunderbolts – on Aegis, Enright, Haven and X Ray – in other categories. • Spotted: Fairfield Road, Tower Hamlets, London, E3, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow
"Platinum" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • I would normally castigate a design so unadorned as boring, but since this is meant to represent the pure, noble element of platinum, it reads well as a minimalistic statement of quality, despite a typeface more usually associated with sci-fi subjects. Platinum became known in Europe after the discovery of the Americas, where the pre-Columbians had long used it to make artefacts. These days it's used in both industry and jewellery, from chemotherapy drugs and catalytic converters to wedding rings and high-end watches. Whether denoting credit cards or record sales, it is perceived as above gold in the prestige pecking order, though its bullion value is less stable. Platinum has thus become the unassuming bling of choice for people who think gold too crass and silver too cheap, preferring to pay over the odds for something that looks like stainless steel. • Spotted: Barnet Grove, Tower Hamlets, London, E2, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow
"Golden Security Systems" burglar alarm, Brent • After 318 entries, my first burglar alarm from the borough of Brent – which shows I don't often venture into deepest North London. Gold is an appropriate element for the Totteridge & Whetstone area, home to some of London's most expensive property – although given that Whetstone looks to me no more attractive than Streatham, just a typical dull and dusty, traffic-snarled suburb, Totteridge is clearly the more gilded end. This golden oldie is affixed to Whetstone's small and snorey parish church, St John The Apostle (below), and incorporates a naive monogram with what I take to be sound waves, thus cramming three classic security themes onto one superannuated bell box. • Spotted: St John the Apostle Church, High Street, Whetstone, Brent, London, N20, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Chipping Barnet
"Pearl Alarms" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • What a beautiful old alarm, its evocative name recalling the faded fairground attractions of its home towns of Canvey and Southend, and matching perfectly the seaside-blue wall and decaying Dream Land awning. I've been parking beneath this sounder for years, as it's usually the nearest free spot to the Whitechapel Gallery, yet I never noticed it till the other week. The building's gaudy paint job is quite recent, so maybe that's what finally made it stand out. • Spotted: Wentworth Street, Tower Hamlets, London, E1, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow
"Sapphire" burglar alarm, Southwark • There are surprisingly few security firms named after jewels, so this Sapphire is as rare as its namesake. But what a disappointing design – a word associated with sparkling blue gems illustrated by a dull red-and-pink swirl that looks like a manky windsurfer's parachute under full sail. In fact sapphires can be any colour except red or pink, in which case they're called rubies. And although sapphire wafers (yum) are sometimes used in semiconductors, which may conceivably have some relevance to security systems, this logo doesn't reflect that either. Disappointment drove me to trawl the internet, where I have identified two far more literal-looking gemstone burglar alarms I hope to find and photograph one day: a shadowy intruder running through a Diamond in downbeat Bedford and a far-flung Emerald set in – where else – Ireland. • Spotted: Bermondsey Street, Southwark, London, SE1, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark
"ICU" burglar alarm, Hackney • My final vision-themed "backronym" offers up the unambiguous message "I see you". It's a nice idea, although the label could equally well be a piece of conceptual street art. Note that the sounder is the first I've posted with seven equal sides – a shape known occasionally as a septagon, but more usually as a heptagon. Or in this case, a hip Hackney heptagon. Fact: its sides all meet at an angle of 128.5714286 degrees. Thank you, Wikipedia! • Spotted: Rivington Street, Hackney, London, EC2, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Hackney South and Shoreditch
"MECE" burglar alarm, Camden • Assuming this firm isn't run by an ecstasy-chugging rapper called MC EE, the logo is intended to read "me see" – geddit? – and is thus, like yesterday's iC, a "backronym". What the letters actually stand for isn't indicated on MECE's website, though I did learn that it's a huge 18-year-old company with offices across Europe, and loads of major clients including Eurotunnel, Cambridge University and the 2012 Olympics. Which makes it odd that I've only ever come across a couple of their sounders. • Spotted: Store Street, Camden, London, WC1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Holborn and St Pancras
"IC Integrated Security Ltd" burglar alarm, Southwark • To end this vision theme, a few examples of punning abbreviations, where the characters stand for entire words or syllables. While broadly acronyms, these seem to be a grey area in the English language, with no precise term for the multifarious kinds of letter-play available, though in an extensive entry, fascinating to those of a sub-editorial bent, Wikipedia suggests "initialism" as a catch-all term. I suspect this is what they would cutely sub-class a "backronym" – "one deliberately designed to be especially apt for the thing being named" – as Integrated Security happily reduces to iC, reading as "I see", or even "eye see". Had the designer dotted the "i" with an eye, this would have created enough levels of punning to end the universe. It possibly did end the company, because their website was last updated in 2009. • Spotted: Old Jamaica Road, Southwark, London, SE16, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark
"ExtraWatch Security Systems" burglar alarm, Islington • From the land of Arsenal and Old Labour (by which I mean long-serving MP Jeremy Corbyn, not ex-resident Tony Blair) comes this mouldering, faded and defunct-looking item bearing the colours of both; draw from that what parallels you will. So bleached is it that at first I thought it said Extra Witch, which sounds much more interesting and conjures up (ha ha) images of a bevy of broomstick-riding harridans swooping down upon Islington's cowering malefactors. Including, hopefully, Tony Blair. • Spotted: Marlborough Road, Islington, London, N19, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Islington North
"IFSS Infocus Security" burglar alarm, Hounslow • Now I leave the visual representation of eyes for a few alarms that, counterintuitively, refer to vision verbally – in this case, with that popular catch-all management-speak buzz-word, "focus". In all other ways, it's a supremely boring design – it isn't even an unexplained acronym, despite the extra "S" (for "systems", presumably). I promise there are some better ones to come. • Spotted: Chiswick Mall, Hounslow, London, W4, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Brentford and Isleworth
"Metro Security Centre" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • I'm probably reading too much into this design, but I see it as one immense red eye with a staring black pupil, hence its inclusion within the "vision" theme. Although that would only work on sounders of this specific almost-eye shape, and most firms use a variety of box styles over the years, so I'm probably wrong. • Spotted: Redchurch Street, Tower Hamlets, London, E2, England, 2007 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow
"Raysil Security Systems Ltd" burglar alarm, Southwark • Here we have a more recent and less faded version of yesterday's Raysil alarm, sporting the same dodgy design on a lovely new hexagonal box. In other words, a snorey update included for the sake of completeness. • Spotted: Farnham Place, Southwark, London, SE1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark
"Argus Always Alert" burglar alarm, City of Westminster • So I was standing waiting for the bus near Victoria Station, as one does, when I looked up and saw this: a superb vintage Argus alarm, with an abstract eye in the "g", and the enjoyable tagline "always alert". It's much nicer than the more recent red-and-black Argus Fire & Security Group alarm I found here, though I presume it's the same company. The building it's on is also a retro gem: Kingsgate House (pictured below), an attractive marble-fronted 1960s office block which is about to be swept away in a massive redevelopment, along with its all-seeing, hundred-eyed, always-alert guardian. • Spotted: Kingsgate House, Victoria Street, City of Westminster, London, SW1, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Cities of London and Westminster Above: Kingsgate House, Victoria – not long for this world
"Vigilance Security Systems Ltd" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • A deeply dull design, included only because there's a faint, pinky-mauve eye on it – squint hard, and you'll see it behind the "V" of Vigilance. If you don't fall asleep first. • Spotted: Bethnal Green Road, Tower Hamlets, London, E2, England, 2005 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow
"Securidor Total Security Systems" burglar alarm, Islington • A pun on Securi-door, presumably, in a font by famous graphic designer Neville Brody (an unlikely hit with burglar alarm designers), above a bilious, badly-drawn eye that looks more like half a fried egg. It's nice to know Securidor offer total (as opposed to what – partial?) security, but the nit-picking grammar police will be on their tail for that wrongly-spaced phone code – it should be 020 8 blah blah blah. • Spotted: Wedmore Gardens, Islington, London, N19, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Islington North
"Case Alarms" burglar alarm, Islington • If you ignore the logo, this looks like a weird Japanese manga face with a single red eye and a gaping blue mouth with one red tooth. Well, it does to me... • Spotted: Caledonian Road, Islington, London, N7, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Islington South and Finsbury
"Image Security" burglar alarm, City of Westminster • Continuing the theme of abstract eyes is this more literal – and far less distinguished – take on the "red warning eye" as featured by Barry Bros yesterday. Note the red strobe, which is far more common than the unusual green one featured a few days ago on this Spy alarm. • Spotted: Great Titchfield Street, City of Westminster, London, W1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Cities of London and Westminster
"Barry Bros" burglar alarm, City of Westminster • An even older Barry Bros alarm than yesterday's, this time with a big red eye and an ancient 071 code, plus a much bigger box. I prefer this red eye to the newer blue ones, because it looks like a warning light. Thankfully this is the last Barry Bros box, as there's not much else to say about them. • Spotted: Lower Marsh, Lambeth, London, SE1, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Vauxhall
"Barry Bros" burglar alarm, Camden • This is a slightly older version of yesterday's Barry Bros design, minus the word "security" and with an outmoded 0171 code – very 1990s. The actual sounder is of the same style as yesterday, with the slim square bulb beneath; it's quite a common type, though I haven't featured many so far. Other than that there is nothing scintillating to note – I am simply being completist about sounders with eyes on. • Spotted: Covent Garden area, Camden, London, WC2, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Holborn and St Pancras
"Barry Bros Security" burglar alarm, City of Westminster • This is quite a popular firm in central London, and I have come across several versions of their abstract eye design. This is the most recent-looking, although dating back to 2002; it bears the magic word "security", whereas the older ones don't. Barry Bros' rather antiquated website says they were founded in 1945 and are based in Praed Street WC1, opposite Paddington Station; Google Street View shows them as still there, so presumably they still exist. • Spotted: Mortimer Street, City of Westminster, London, W1, England, 2002 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Cities of London and Westminster
"Spy Alarms" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • My final Spy alarm is the only example of this logo I've found – which I reckon is a more recent design than yesterday's, though the eye still sports giant mascara. The green strobe at the bottom is unusual (most seem to be blue), and was presumably chosen to match the lettering. • Spotted: Fairfield Road, Tower Hamlets, London, E3, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow
"Spy Alarms" burglar alarm, City of Westminster • Here's a more recent iteration of the Spy design than yesterday's, a strange and decorative Egyptian-looking eye which is either crying, emitting rays, or has very effective mascara. It's sited on a strip of marble teeming with the fossils of ancient sea creatures – which is a lot more interesting than the burglar alarm, really. • Spotted: Strutton Ground, City of Westminster, London, SW1, England, 2007 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Cities of London and Westminster Above: a better view of the fossil marble strip
"Spy Alarms" burglar alarm, Lewisham • Why do all these designs only have one eye? Here's another cyclops, the Masonic-looking Spy, on a sounder so old it's got an 081 London number. Actually, I've just noticed there's another little eye in the "P", so it's not a cyclops after all; but it's still really weird. • Spotted: Lewisham High Street, Lewisham, London, SE13, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Lewisham Deptford
"Enright Security" burglar alarm, Southwark • I've already shown a small version of this as part of a decaying duo on an old laundry, so here it is in close-up: a superb vintage sounder with a sci-fi eye pierced by a lightning flash. Mike Hardesty, whose company it was, explains in his interesting comments here that the firm was started in 1976, named after his partner Eddy Enright, and sold to Lander Alarms in 1982. The logo was meant to represent an electronic eye, and was designed by a customer from his previous company who was "a bit of an arty person". I bet he never thought it would turn up on a futuristic invention called "the internet" over 30 years later. • Spotted: Pages Walk, Southwark, London, SE1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark
Nameless burglar alarm with eye sticker, City of Westminster • Ushering in the theme of "vision", which for obvious reasons is one of the most popular burglar alarm tropes, is this rather disturbing example of sticker graffiti. The creepy intervention lurks next to an art gallery (Haunch of Venison, named after the yard it's in) – probably no coincidence. I've discovered the sticker is by a street artist called Paul Insect – a print of a similar image would set you back nearly £700, as you can see here at Opus Art. • Spotted: Haunch of Venison Yard, City of Westminster, London, W1, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Cities of London and Westminster
"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
"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
"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
"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
"Eagle" burglar alarm, Lewisham • This is obviously the same firm as yesterday, only minus the drawing of an eagle. Perhaps they realised it looked like a vulture. • Spotted: Catford town centre, Lewisham, London, SE6, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Lewisham East
"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
"Ace" burglar alarm, Southwark • My final cage is an accidental one – a bondage burglar alarm trapped behind some random piping. It's on an taxi garage under the vast railway viaduct that scythes through Bankside in London. Painted a jaunty red, it's a rare survivor of the old-skool businesses that used to make this area so interesting, now all being replaced by identikit glass apartment blocks aimed at a seemingly endless supply of rich international students. In my day, students lived in slums heated by leaving the oven door open till the gas meter ran out – those were the days! (Note, I am not old enough for it to have been poisonous "town gas".) But at least we got grants... • Spotted: Southwark Bridge Road, Southwark, London, SE1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark
"Lee Security.com" burglar alarm, Islington • Things have come to a pretty pass when not just the windows, but even the burglar alarm has to be protected by wire mesh. And this isn't from some ultra-deprived inner-city riot zone, but the posh-restaurant hot-spot of Clerkenwell. Those foodies must be desperate folk. • Spotted: St John Street, Islington, London, EC1, England, 2008 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Islington South and Finsbury
"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)
"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)
"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
"Lion Security" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr! That's all I have to say today, I'm on a deadline...• Spotted: Calvert Avenue, Tower Hamlets, London, E2, England, 2002 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow
"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)
"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)
"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
"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
"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)
"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)
"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)
"MR Security" burglar alarm, Islington • Finally, the ultimate nightmare – when pigeon spikes stop working. This row of shops was encrusted with spikes, but also with bird poo. Time to call in the hawks... • Spotted: Stroud Green Road, Islington, London, N4, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Islington North Above: a hawk – the ultimate pigeon deterrent
"Banham" burglar alarm, City of Westminster • This is the first time I ever noticed a burglar alarm adorned with pigeon spikes: it struck me as quite amusing, especially as Banham's shield shape looks like a head with a rockabilly quiff. It's in Goodwins Court, a really old-fashioned gas-lit alley full of bow-fronted shops – built around 1690 and little changed today – tucked away between the Strand and Covent Garden (there's a good article about it here). Predictably, it's now part of a Harry Potter tour, though it's not the original "Diagon Alley" – that's thought to be nearby Cecil Court, famed for its quaint non-virtual shops selling weird and wonderful (and stupidly expensive) old books. • Spotted: Goodwins Court, City of Westminster, London, WC2, England, 2003 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Cities of London and Westminster
"Globe Security" burglar alarm, Lewisham • What I like about this is the contrast between aspiration and reality (one of the driving factors behind my entire burglar alarm collection, in fact). The sounder belongs to proudly-named Globe Security, suggesting megalomaniacal international reach with its image of an entire hemisphere. And yet here it is, wonkily cowering in a back alley of Deptford, South London – not even armed with its own guano deterrent but lurking behind a filthy pigeon-spiked security light, and semi-obscuring a ventilation grille. Aah, Deptford: home to half the world's races, quite possibly, but hardly a glamorous hub of global domination. • Spotted: Resolution Way, Lewisham, London, SE8, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Lewisham Deptford
"Rely-a-Bell" and "Essex Security Services" burglar alarms, Tower Hamlets • Another striking composition from the endlessly-picturesque Petticoat Lane area, which is studded with vintage alarms. These have got two lines of defence: a communal half-veil of pigeon netting, and individual mini-crowns of pigeon spikes protecting their exposed heads. They're very well preserved, so it seems to have worked. • Spotted: Wentworth Street, Tower Hamlets, London, E1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow
"Essex Security Services" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • This seasidey sunbleached sounder looks like it's been caught in a fishing net. In fact it's another example of pigeon netting, necessary because the alarm resides in the same torrential guano zone as these revolting ADTs. The lovely old Essex logo looks like it pre-dates the chain-link example of a few days ago, but as you can see from the comment below I'm wrong: one of the company's head honchos tells me it's a later design. It's more attractive, but it's also a lot more violent: three immense curved sabres, enough to see off burglars and arial arse bombers alike. • Spotted: Wentworth Street, Tower Hamlets, London, E1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow
"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
"ADT" burglar alarms, Tower Hamlets • Eeeeuuw, a veritable waterfall of pigeon poo. I pity the poor ADT engineer who has to service this unappealing pair – there's enough guano here to impress David Attenborough. • Spotted: Wentworth Street, Tower Hamlets, London, E1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow
"Intruder Alert" and "ADT" burglar alarms, Tower Hamlets • This colourfully crusty corner is the sort of architectural detail that got me interested in photographing burglar alarms in the first place. There's only one kind of intruder causing problems here, and it's got feathers rather than a swag bag. Not to mention a very runny arse. • Spotted: White Church Lane, Tower Hamlets, London, E1, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow
"Britannia Security Systems" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • Birds are an extremely popular motif on burglar alarms, but there's one that never features: the pigeon (unless you include “Small Non-Feral Pigeon Security Systems”, aka Dove). Which is odd, because in real life pigeons adore bell boxes – the unsalubrious consequences of which we shall discover tomorrow. • Spotted: Bethnal Green Road, Tower Hamlets, London, E2, England, 2005 • Politics: In the Labour constituency
"Essex Security Services" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • This is my last locksmithery post for now, and I can't pretend it's been an rivetting theme. Some of the imagery has been quite nice, but I've certainly run out of things to say about chains. I found this in White Post Lane near Hackney Wick, one of the entry points to the Olympic Park. At the moment it's an area of picturesque ruins, colonised by artists' studios, and very photogenic; catch it while you can, because apparently it's soon to be as blandified as the rest of the new-build area. Although I haven't photographed many alarms actually in Essex (as I never seem to go there), I've got loads of from Essex Security Services, because East London is positively bristling with them. The firm's still going strong, with a very different design, but this is an early example – I'll be posting another, more violent, variation in a few days. Coming tomorrow: pigeon problems, principally poo. • Spotted: White Post Lane, Tower Hamlets, London E9, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow
"Securebase" burglar alarm, Islington • I reckon this is an abstract reference to chain links. It's quite clever if so, reading as both a small white S in the middle, a bigger blue S around it (making the ever-popular SS trope), with maybe the hint of a B, plus two chain links and the visual impression of something tightly twisted up. Though I'm doubtless reading far too much into what is essentially a pretty dull design. • Spotted: Wedmore Gardens, Islington, London, N19, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Islington North
"Garfield" burglar alarm, Camden • This company has put a chain around the entire northern hemisphere, from Greenland to equatorial Africa. Blimey! The trouble is most people associate Garfield with a not-funny American cartoon cat, and no amount of faded, cheap-looking Photoshoppery is going to change that. The firm could simply have given in and changed their branding to a kitten in chains; but instead they sold out in 2008 to ADT, so this improbable logo is no more. • Spotted: Bloomsbury Street, Camden, London, WC1, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Holborn and St Pancras
"Securaplace Alarms" burglar alarm, Lambeth • This badly-drawn house appears to have a giant rapper's neck-chain dropped over it. Meanwhile the lettering breaks rule 101 of typography: don't use script fonts in all upper case. And definitely not vertically. All in all, not a triumph of graphic design. • Spotted: Lower Marsh, Lambeth, London, SE1, England, 2007 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Vauxhall
"The London Lock Shop" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • This escapes the boring category of yesterday's alarm by virtue of being so basic it's practically a minimalist work of art (and in fact it does rather resemble a slogan piece by Turner Prize nominee Mark Titchner). Appropriately it was found between two minimalistically-inclined contemporary art galleries, Herald Street and Maureen Paley. Both occupy ex-industrial units in the same gentrifying but still-gritty East End backstreet; neighbours include car workshops, small wholesalers, and a very noisy evangelical church, also in an industrial unit. In other words, a prime hunting ground for ancient sounders such as this. I'm often struck by the beauty of bricks when photographing burglar alarms, and am intrigued by the herringbone-textured ones behind this, which are of a type I haven't noticed before. I can't find any relevant info on Google, though I presume they're just cheap industrial stock – it's that kind of road. • Spotted: Herald Street, Tower Hamlets, London, E2, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow
"Sharlock" burglar alarm, City of Westminster • Another tedious alarm which just happens to have "lock" in its name – whether coincidentally because it's someone's surname, deliberately because it's part of a name (eg Sharon) plus "lock", or stupidly because it's a mis-spelling of "Sherlock", I neither know nor care. This picture isn't a mistake, by the way – the alarm was actually positioned sideways like this. It wouldn't look any more interesting the right way up. • Spotted: Cleveland Street, City of Westminster, London, W1, England, 2005 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Cities of London and Westminster
"Locktec Security Systems" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • Why do so many dull typographic lock-related designs use blue-and-white Gill Sans Ultra Bold? This is the third example I've found that's set in the 1920s font – see also Bath Key Security and Strathand – and all three are ultra boring. There's a more interesting recent Locktec design depicting a roaring lion, but I'm saving that for a later category. To compound the tedium, it's a blurred photo – always a sign that I was feeling a mite exposed when taking the shot. • Spotted: Fairfield Road, Tower Hamlets, London, E3, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow
"AES" burglar alarm, Merton • This chunky but unremarkable design has wormed its way into the Locksmithery category thanks to a jaunty padlock in the bottom right hand corner. On the company website the logo is a bit more flashy, with the padlock in photographic colour, and the letters AES inscribed on its front. But although we learn that AES is a Cheam-based family company formed in 1984, there's no explanation of what the initials actually stand for: it's just another unexplained acronym. • Spotted: Kingston Road, Merton, London, SW19, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Wimbledon
"AK Security Systems" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • AK as in the legendary AK-47 assault rifle, a weapon not unknown in these parts? Probably not, or this would have had a picture of a gun rather than two keholes (unless they're a metaphor for the keyhole surgery required to remove bullets). The idea's not as fanciful as it sounds, because there are burglar alarms alluding to shooting, which I shall feature one day – though they don't go as far as depicting actual firerarms. I shot (photographically) this somewhat blurred image in a Bethnal Green back alley absolutely stuffed with vintage sounders, though I was actually on my way to the grittily-located Hollybush Gardens gallery. • Spotted: Pundersons Gardens, Tower Hamlets, London, E2, England, 2005 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow
"HBSS" burglar alarm, Southwark • Last week I was lamenting a side-on shot I'd taken of a vintage HBSS alarm. Then a couple of days ago I came across this updated version, which I've managed to photograph head on. It's just as random as its predecessor, with the main change being thinner lines and a giant phone number replacing the proud boast of "Grays Thurrock" (local references are so passé these days). Most importantly from an iconographic point of view, the keys have been updated, though these are now so fine they're hard to see. Previously two clumsy little key silhouettes hovered around the logo, like stranded sperm or spacecraft awaiting re-entry. These have now been replaced with two pairs of carefully-drawn linked door keys, conjuring up images of the coffee table at a 1970s wife-swapping party. • Spotted: Southwark Street, Southwark, London, SE1, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark
"Home Counties Monitored Security" burglar alarm, Islington • This is a grainy digital enlargement, as the box was positioned high up on a block of private flats (you never see alarms on council flats). It's the most modern alarm I've found depicting a key, which means that in design terms it's old-fashioned. It's also the only key with flat teeth, denoting a chunky lever lock rather than a dainty but less-secure pin-tumbler one. Note also a little house roof over the letter "H", emphasising the "Home" in that smug term, "Home Counties" – where does that leave all the other counties, then? So, a paean to stolid home ownership and southern civic pride, on a supremely boring alarm. • Spotted: Crouch Hill, Islington, London, N4, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Islington North
"HBSS Grays Thurrock" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • I could only take an angled shot of this, as it was in a gated car park, and for some reason alarms with keys on are all really high up. I've seen a few more in the area – I'll have to try and get a front-on shot some day. Still, you can see that it's vintage, and a pretty random design featuring two floating keys, an awkward diagonal logo, an unexplained acronym incorporating the popular "SS" trope, and a huge dangling bulb. Richard Wilson, commenting below, says he thinks HBSS stands for Homes and Business Security Services. There's not much else to report except that Grays Thurrock (aka Grays) is in Essex, a county from which I have few burglar alarms; and that Thurrock is a Saxon name meaning "the bottom of a ship". • Spotted: Autumn Street, Tower Hamlets, London, E3, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow
"Chiswick Security" burglar alarm, Hackney • Another key with an initial in its handle, though much cruder than yesterday's elegant example. The zig-zag notches on its blade suggest that, like the other keys featured so far, it is for opening a pin-tumbler cylinder lock, typical of house front doors. Inspired by 4,000-year-old wooden devices from ancient Egypt, the definitive cylinder lock was patented by Linus Yale Junior in 1861 and remains little changed to this day – a design even older than this alarm. • Spotted: Clifton Street, Hackney, London, EC2, England, 2008 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Hackney South and Shoreditch
"Radam Security Systems" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • This vintage alarm, found near Petticoat Lane market, is my favourite key example. Although presumably dating from the 1960s, the lettered key has a pre-war look, evoking a genteel age of locksmithery – you can almost imagine a butler answering the alarm bell. There's attention to detail, too: the grooves on the shaft are streamlined into the design, and the notches on the blade echo the "am" of "Radam" – which sounds like a completely made-up name. • Spotted: Goulston Street, Tower Hamlets, London, E1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow
"Gemeni Alarms" burglar alarm, Islington • Finally, scraping the bottom of the zodiacal barrel, a very basic and mis-spelled Gemini alarm – unless I’m missing something, and it says Gemeni for good reason, eg it's written in Romanian. So we’ve had Gemini the twins not once, but twice – one boring, and one boring and dyslexic. Uncanny! That’s it for astrological alarms, just the four: Zodiac, Scorpio, Gemini and Gemeni. I have found no more, whereas there are scores of animals on burglar alarms, which share similar – if less mystical – iconography. As I pointed out in the Zodiac entry, that leaves a gap in the naming market. I hope someone takes it up – and remembers to illustrate it. • Spotted: Goswell Road, Islington, London, EC1, England, 2008 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Islington South and Finsbury Above: the constellation of Gemini visualised as twins holding hands (not the usual depiction, which is abstract – see yesterday), by the children's author H.A. Rey. Realistic!
"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.
"Zodiac Security" burglar alarm, Ealing • The stories behind the various star signs are pretty convoluted, but they're all based on ancient folklore and superstition, so astrology is a fitting follow-up to my previous theme of mythological alarms. Zodiac is a Greek word for the constellations meaning "circle of animals", an idea drawn from the Babylonians, who first divided the heavens into 12 parts. It was originally an astronomical concept, but the great Romano-Egyptian scholar Ptolomy systemised the personality-based astrological system that remains hugely popular today. However, as we shall see, there are surprisingly few burglar alarms named after star signs – odd, as there are many good strong names: Taurus, Aries, Capricorn, Leo... though maybe not Cancer. I haven't even come across a security firm called Libra, and not name-checking the divine scales of justice seems a serious omission. So, unless security engineers are such a militantly rational lot that they won't even contemplate zodiac-based names, they're missing a trick in the burglar alarm branding stakes – and there's room to start an astrological trend. • Spotted: Ashbourne Parade, Ealing, London, W5, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Ealing Central and Acton Above: Look at all the brilliant potential burglar alarm logos on this 16th century woodcut showing the signs of the zodiac. They're just begging to be used...
"www.Classic-Security.com" burglar alarm, Camden • How perfect is this? Such a witty match between burglar alarm and business can be no coincidence. Not only does Classic Security's name allude to the shop it protects, which specialises in ancient Greek-style gifts, but the Parthenon logo that decorates it looks just like the portico of the grand building opposite: that neo-classical repository of Greek and Roman loot, The British Museum. Not quite mythology perhaps, but a nice summation of the subject. Tomorrow: the Zodiac (so more mythology, really). • Spotted: Bury Place, Camden, London, WC1, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Holborn and St Pancras Above: It's All Greek (left), a gift shop in Bloomsbury, whose classical burglar alarm matches the building opposite (right) – The British Museum
"Eros Security Systems" burglar alarm, Lambeth • After a couple of sensible mythological burglar alarms, we're back to the bonkers ones. Eros? What on earth has Eros, Greek god of sexual love, got to do with security services? And anyway, this looks more like his boyish Roman counterpart Cupid, who was often portrayed as younger than the fully-formed teenage Eros. The resemblance to the Evening Standard's venerable logo makes me think this is a reference to the so-called Eros statue at Piccadilly Circus, that icon of tourist London. However, hard though it is to believe, what Wikipedia says about Alfred Gilbert's piece of high Victorian camp is true. I've double-checked, and the statue that stands surrounded by the horrible hurly burly of Piccadilly is not intended to be Eros, but his butterfly-winged twin brother Anteros, who was associated with selfless and requited love (although he sounds like a half-baked deity the Greeks made up to impress the Romans). For all its faults, this silly, cheeky alarm is one of my all-time favourites – so naughty Cupid has worked his mischievous magic. • Spotted: Lower Marsh, Lambeth, London, SE1, England, 2007 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Vauxhall Above: Eros and his twin in London. Top left: "Eros Stringing His Bow", a Roman copy of a Greek statue at the British Museum. Top right: ''The Angel of Christian Charity'' aka "The Shaftesbury Memorial" (1893) by Alfred Gilbert at Picadilly Circus, colloquially known as the Eros statue, but actually depicting his selfless twin bro Anteros. Above: London's familiar Evening Standard "Eros" logo (recently dropped from their masthead), which depicts the Piccadilly Circus statue and is therefore actually Anteros.
"Aegis" burglar alarm, Camden • "Under the aegis of" is commonly understood to mean "under the protection of", so like yesterday's Argus, this is an unusually sensible mythological name for a security device. In ancient Greece the Aegis was a protective breastplate or cloak, originally a thundercloud invoked by Zeus, and later the skin of a divine goat worn by his warlike daughter Athena. Her exclusive over-the-top haute couture version was a golden snakeskin extravaganza, generally depicted as covered in scales and fringed with tinkling tassels or writhing serpents, all fastened with the severed head of Medusa, the scary snake-haired Gorgon. The idea of the magically protective Aegis caught on and spread to Egypt, Rome and beyond; and 2,500 years later the Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace made his fortune by taking the Medusa-and-snakeskin look to improbable extremes, though it didn't protect him from being murdered on his Florida doorstep in 1997. The Aegis can also take the form of a Medusa-faced shield, so the shape of this alarm is very apt, as well as showing that Aegis is under the aegis of Banham, whose proprietary sounder this is. It's somewhat let down by the obscure Aegis logo, which is like a red pyramid with a lighting bolt through it, possibly representing an A and an E. But surely a severed Gorgon's head would have been better? • Spotted: Finchley Road, Camden, London, NW3, England, 2007 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Hampstead and Kilburn Above: The Aegis as hot ancient fashion item. Left: The classic over-the-shoulder Aegis cloak as modelled by Athena in a Roman copy of a Greek statue, "Athena Cherchel-Ostia" (c.400 BC), from the Louvre, Paris. Above right: the Aegis worn in casual cross-body style on another Athena statue, "Athena Lemnia" from the Staatliche Museum, Dresden. Note the Gorgon Medusa's head, a popular decoration appropriated 2,500 years later by Gianni Versace. Below right: An Egyptian-style Aegis, on a Nubian bust of the goddess Isis (c.300 BC) from the British Museum, London.
"Argus Fire & Security Group" burglar alarm, Lewisham • If the reflected double "a" in this Argus logo is meant to look like two eyes, then it's 98 short of the legend. Argus is a popular name in Greek mythology, but being a security device, this is surely inspired by the super-watchman Argus Panoptes, an ever-wakeful hundred-eyed giant whose name means "Argus the All-Seeing". Argus was a servant of Hera, the jealous wife of Zeus – who, as king of the gods, had more nymphs on the side than a premiership footballer. According to Ovid's Metamorphoses (c.8 AD), the politically-incorrect Zeus disguised one unfortunate floozy, Io, as a cow, but suspicious Hera demanded the beast as a gift and set Argus to guard it. Zeus sent his messenger Hermes to rescue Io, which he managed by telling Argus such boring stories that all his eyes fell asleep at once (I know the feeling), and then beheading him. The giant may have perished, but his hundred eyes lived on in the tail of the peacock, where Hera put them to honour his memory. I haven't yet found a peacock pictured on a burglar alarm, but there are plenty decorated with eyes; though most, like that other watchful giant Cyclops, sport only one. As will be demonstrated in a later theme... • Spotted: Lewisham High Street, Lewisham, London, SE13, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Lewisham Deptford Above: BC and AD versions of Hermes about to kill Argus and rescue the nymph Io, cunningly disguised as a heifer. Top: pictured millennia before burglar alarms, on an Attic vase (c.500 BC) from the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna – love the way he's grabbing that beard. Bottom: as imagined more serenely over 1000 years later in Diego Velázquez's "Fábula de Mercurio y Argos" aka "The Story of Mercury and Argus" (1659), from the magnificent Prado, Madrid.
"Ariel Alarms" burglar alarm, City of London • I always thought Ariel was a version of wing-heeled Greco-Roman messenger god Mercury, whose alarm I featured yesterday. Which shows how little I know, becuse I now discover Ariel is a minor Judaeo-Christian archangel associated with health and the elements, whose name means "Lion of God". Winged angels seem to go back to the ancient religion of Zoroastrianism and beyond, and in all faiths that feature them they are messengers of god; so there's some connection with Mercury after all. The Jews are thought to have brought the archangels' names out of Babylon, though in Abrahamic faiths the wings were always recognised by scholars as merely symbolic, showing the superiority of angels to mortals. In English culture the name was popularised by Shakespeare, whose play The Tempest features a flying spirit punningly called Ariel (aerial, geddit?) bearing similarities to both angels and Mercury. Since then the name has been used for anything from biological washing powder to the BBC's in-house magazine, titled after Shakespeare's character and not the wire thing that receives radio signals, which is spelled aerial. Although it looks like a 1960s book cover, I think we can be fairly sure the alarm's not a tribute to the famous volume of poetry by suicidal American writer Sylvia Plath, who named the collection Ariel after her childhood horse, and successfully gassed herself shortly after completing it in 1963. Yet the Ariel alarm probably dates from the same decade, which means it's definitely not named after the ubiquitous font Arial, which apart from having different spelling, was designed in 1982. It took 10 people to create it – and the result is just like Helvetica! • Spotted: Middlesex Street, City of London, London, E1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Cities of London and Westminster Above: Ariel, from religion to soap powder. Left: The archangel Ariel from a series the studio of Francisco de Zurbarán made in 1645-50 for the Monasterio de la Concepción, Lima, Peru – Ariel's a bigger deal in Latin America than in Europe. Above right: Shakespeare's Ariel in "Ariel between Wisdom and Gaiety", a 1930s sculpture by old perv Eric Gill on the facade of BBC Broadcasting House in Portland Place, London W1. Below middle: Ariel in his guise as a pioneering biological washing powder from the 1960s. Below right: Also from the 1960s, Sylvia Plath's posthumously-published hit poetry collection "Ariel", a vintage cover from a recent writers' residency at Nottingham Contemporary gallery by Wayne Burrows.
"Mercury Security Systems" burglar alarm, Islington • This boring design gives no clue whether its name refers to the planet, the element, the crap Queen singer or the myth. Seeing as the myth came first, I shall include this alarm within the mythology section. Mercury was the Roman version of Hermes, messenger of the Greek gods, famed for his winged sandals and helmet, and a snake-entwined staff called a caduceus. The Romans equated him mainly with travel and commerce, and his image can be found adorning stations and shopping centres to this day. A notably slippery character, with traits which would have taken him far in diplomacy or journalism, Mercury combined patronage of noble things such as music, wit, sport and invention with a reputation for cunning and trickery. Which is perhaps how a god strongly associated with thieves and boundaries – described in an ancient Greek hymn as "a watcher by night, a thief at the gates" – has wangled his way onto a burglar alarm. • Spotted: Whitecross Street, Islington, London, EC1, England, 2008 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Islington South and Finsbury Above: Mercury in Manhattan, still representing trade and travel today. Left: "Winged Mercury" (1933), a carving by Lee Lawrie on the ex-British Empire Building at the Rockerfeller Centre. Right: "Glory of Commerce" (1911-14) by Jules-Alexis Coutain, aka the famous Mercury clock at Grand Central Terminal. There's more about it on Which Yet Survive, a great but short-lived blog about New York statuary.
"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.
"AFA Minerva EMI" burglar alarm, Lambeth • This is one of only three burglar alarms I've found featuring women, the others being Siren and Liberty. Minerva was the multi-talented pan-Italian goddess of poetry, medicine, commerce, weaving, crafts, magic and music, but primarily of wisdom. Only in Rome was she considered, like her Greek prototype Athena, a goddess of war – an idea the Roman Empire exported, hence her regular appearance sporting helmet and spear, and her suitability for burglar alarms. In Britain she was conflated with Bath's local deity Sulis, and the famous thermal baths there are dedicated to her. Britain also has Western Europe's only Athena shrine remaining in situ, an extremely worn structure carved into the side of a quarry near Chester. Mythology apart, I'm interested in the big red drum, which is also associated with Thorn, on whom I wrote a corporate history here. I know Thorn were absorbed by EMI, who clearly took over AFA Minerva too. But though I've seen vintage sounders saying simply AFA, I've never seen one saying AFA Minerva without the EMI at the bottom, or a standalone Minerva alarm. I'd be interested to know some more about the histories of AFA and Minerva – perhaps one of the burglar alarm fraternity can shed some light on this. • Spotted: Lower Marsh, Lambeth, London, SE1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Vauxhall Above: Images of Minerva – warlike, wise, and popular in Britain. Left: a no-nonsense, helmet-toting Minerva from the destroyed city of Herculanum, near Pompeii. Above right: head of Sulis Minerva found in 1727 in Bath, and now displayed at the Roman Baths there. Below right: Minerva's very worn-out shrine in Edgar's Field, Handbridge, near Chester.
"Orion Alarms" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • This naive but multi-layered design recalls two mythical figures: Orion and Pac-Man. Ostensibly a monogram comprising an O and an A, it's probably meant to represent a pyramid in a circular night sky with a crescent moon overhead. Apart from the night sky, it's hard to see how this connects with the Greek hero Orion, a giant hunter blinded for raping a princess, healed by the sun, then killed by a scorpion and turned into a constellation by Zeus. There are few reliable descriptions of Orion, but we know he wasn't a big black blob. However, the design also looks disturbingly like a Pac-Man with a winking eye, chomping his way down the alarm. Developed in Japan in 1979 and originally called Pakkuman, it's fair to say that the genre-launching yellow-and-black ghost-munching video game has achieved legendary status. The name is based on paku-paku, Japanese slang for lip-smacking eating (equivalent to "nom-nom-nom"), and the fact that the avatar looks like a part-eaten pizza is no coincidence, because according to its inventor Tōru Iwatani, that's what it's based on. This is the second Pac-Man-like alarm I've featured: the first was JB-Eye, and no doubt the game was a formative entertainment for both designers. • Spotted: Fairfield Road, Tower Hamlets, London, E3, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow Above: Orion v Pac-Man. Left: Orion and his constellation by astronomer Johannes Hevelius from his celestial catalogue "Uranographia" (1690). Right: fashionably geek Pac-Man t-shirt available from Worm Sign designs.
"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.
"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).
"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.