Just Another Lock on the Fence
By Joanna Glasner
A man in London reported recently that he can no longer
mention the word "fence" without his wife
telling him to shut up. He suspects her antipathy toward
the word began shortly after he padlocked a print-patterned
ironing board to the wrought iron fence near his workplace
in the center of the city. It may have intensified when
he photographed the board, wrote a synopsis of his activities
and published the whole thing on his website, What-should-I-put-on-the-fence.com.
And without a doubt, things got worse after the ironing
board was taken down. In its place, the man -- who has
taken to calling himself "the Fencemaster"
(he refuses to reveal his real name for fear of retribution
from the owners of the aforementioned fence) -- attached,
in order, a stuffed tiger, a teapot and a full-sized
green refrigerator door. Each was photographed and recorded
on his website in detail.
Now, as he turns to the Web for suggestions of what
to add next, the Fencemaster reports that his wife has
not been an enthusiastic font of ideas.
"Whenever I say anything to her she cuts me off
before I can get a word out," he complains. "She
then gives me a minute or two to worry, and comes back
with: 'This isn't about the fence, is it?'"
For his neighbors in central London -- and now the
world, via the Internet -- the Fencemaster has created
quite a spectacle of late with his obsessive crusade
against the injustices of a fence-owning landlord and
his "no bicycles" sign.
With a protest scheme that seems straight out of a
Monty Python skit, he's combining the publicity-raising
power of an intricate website and a bizarre array of
outdoor props to make a stand for city bicyclists.
And until his goal is accomplished, it seems neither
he nor his wife will be entirely free of his infatuation.
"I want the insensitive actions of this ridiculously
wealthy landowner (and my peaceful protest) to help
bring cycling into the public eye," he said.
The genesis of the obsession began in February, when
the Fencemaster -- who at the time bicycled to work
every day -- arrived at the fence to which he normally
padlocked his bike. There, on the very same day that
city transit workers were on strike, the management
of the Howard De Walden Estates posted the following
"Bicycles found parked against or chained to these
railings will be removed without further notice."
The Fencemaster's initial reaction was disbelief and
anger, particularly given the fact that he was the only
bicyclist who regularly used the fence.
After the rage cooled, he had an inspiration:
"Fine, I thought. I no longer lock my bike to
the fence. I lock other things to it instead."
And so, the brigade of fence-attachings began.
Thus far, in addition to the previously mentioned items,
the Fencemaster has padlocked a frying pan, a kettle,
a copper lion and some cutlery to the fence. In a stroke
of luck, he even once captured a snapshot of one of
the landlord's henchmen removing the utensils (a ladle,
spoon and spatula) from the fence.
His initial burst of creativity spent, the Fencemaster
is now finding some support from the online public,
which has responded en masse to his call for fence decoration
In the past two weeks, he has received 1,000 e-mails
from supporters, and on an average day, the site gets
70,000 hits a day. "All on a 6 pound ($8.50) per
month budget," the Fencemaster said.
A few ideas he's seriously considering include a lawn
mower, a tricycle, a kitchen sink and perhaps even another
As a final coup, he's also looking into the feasibility
of a suggestion sent by a reader in Scotland, who proposed
the following attachment:
"A notice stating that any fences parked or chained
to the notice will be removed."