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Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Cats Like Plain Crisps!...

A treadmill day.

Then this. Graffiti, written in large black letters on sky blue MDF barrier put around some home improvement or other, spotted from the bus going through St. Margarets (contrary to scandal mongering put about by Bristolian subversives, I don't live or work anywhere near Slough, thank you very much):

"Cats like plain crisps" [cartoon cat's face used by way of an exclamation point]

I think nothing more of it until I mention it in passing to Andy at work, nowhere near Slough incidentally, and he recalls precisely the same slogan daubed on a large wall off the A316 by Richmond swimming baths in the sixties. Quite a cause celebre at the time, even making the letters page of the Times.

I googled it and found the following on this forum:


ant antpop com

Message: Hi Cheesy,
I was flicking through the latest Tony Parsons novel 'Stories We Could Tell' (which my Mrs is reading at the moment), and I was intrigued to find the following text on page 52, Chapter 4, describing a squat which one of the main characters is living in: 'On the ground floor the cracked and crumbling white plaster was almost obliterated by slogans. WE ARE THE WRITING ON THE WALL. NO DRUGS IN HERE. CATS LIKE PLAIN CRISPS.'

There you go!

Hmmm..I'm not that surprised it was a pretty famous piece of Graffiti at the time. Any mention of where this house was?

A later post by Anthony sheds a little further light on the origins of the phrase:

I can tell you there was once a good deal more infomation about the appeal of various crisp flavours to cats written on the back of a road sign in Grosvenor Rd in Twickenham. However the writer of this theisis [sic] included no references to earlier works or original research and so may well have all been the stoned ramblings of some derranged Freak! I suggest you research the subject yourself.

Ant recommends Weed's site as a good starting point, so I go there and find this page which as well as having this photo

of the original legend, has this one

of Chris's (who he? ed.) tree house, which looks very familiar. (Although I'm sure it used to be near Eel Pie Island, not Grosvenor Road...and Chris, if that's him, looks like the guy who used to come into Twickenham Library in Robin Hood clobber and who lived on a bivouaced raft on the Thames off Marble Hill Park)

And the origins of the legend?

As for the picture, I have emailed "Weed" in the past and had a good look around his site. He was part of the squatting scene in SW London in the early 70's (now who's too old) and used to live in the (in)famous Grosvenor Rd in Twickenham. I don't remember him and he doesn't remember me but we had a lot of mutual friends. Grosvenor Rd was divided neatly into two halves. One end was all squats, the other was all rented or owned and bang in between the two halves was a police station. But the interesting (or at least relevant) thing about Grosvenor Rd was that in the first house (No. 7) in the kitchen was written "Cats Like Plain Crisps" on the wall, and this is the first place that anyone wrote this. It should by rights be a shrine. I used to know who wrote it but have forgotten. Later somebody wrote a long treatise about exactly which percentage of Cats preferred which type of crisps on the back of a road sign just down the road. After this it took of [sic] in all manner of ways, there was always a "Cats Like Plain Crisps" Freak Flag at festivals where all the squatters congregated and people just started writing it up everywhere. Aren't Hippies annoying.

The squat became a political football for local councillors, among them Bowie biographer (and Tory ass) George Tremlett:

Local councillor Ken Elmes, offering help and support, hurriedly arranged for the press to come round. The resulting photograph of him, claw-hammer in hand, in the act of removing one of the boards led to a series of wild allegations by cut-and-paste pulp pop writer George Tremlett, the publicity seeking Tory Housing Chairman. He appeared to be quite deliberately attempting to mislead the council, the press, and the public with a series of inaccurate statements claiming that "the first squatters [were] let in by Cllr. K. Elmes [who] helped the squatters break down doors and windows to get into buildings and was photographed doing so" and that he "broke down the door of an empty house in Grosvenor Road with an axe".

The slogan spawned an all-girl band of the same name who cut their chops on the Isle of Wight in the mid-80s.

So there you go - a nice bit of secret history to start the day with. Better than being in Beirut, isn't it? And a good job I don't have anything better to do. And don't live in Slough.

© 2006 Swipe Enterprises

1 comment:

  1. I don't remember you either, but I well remember Chris Whitehouse, now Weed. And many others who lived in the Grosvenor Road squats. I was part of a younger, less hippy, more freeky, group of squatters who migrated to squats in Kew, Barnes and eventually a couple of hotels up on Richmond Hill. But I did have a dirty weekend in Chris's house once, which didn't involve much time in the kitchen, but I remember the graffito there. I think it was him who wrote it. He was one of the original Eel Pie Island squatters, along with Cliff Harper, who'd eventually abandoned the semi-derelict hotel there to the Kingston Hell's Angels.

    The bigger graffito just down the road that the kitchen graffito spawned was a fairly comprehensive account of what junk food nibbles cats in the area would tolerate. It began with something like '25% of cats like plain crisps' and ended (the line that used to make me laugh) '2% of cats will take peanuts (at a pinch)'. The big graffito that had a retired brigadier fuming to The Times was the plain but enormous 'Cats like plain crisps' inscribed on the main Richmond/Kew Road roundabout. Apparently 'CLPC' means something darkly revolutionary in Russian, although I forget what.