Petrol station

I love petrol stations. Beacons of bright, fluorescent light set against the dark night sky. Yellow, red, blue or green (never a pastel shade) – these are landmarks crying out for our attention like the Blackpool illuminations. Modern stations never blend into their surroundings; there is no polite blend of Victorian columns or Tudor timber framing, not even in treasured, historic settings. Instead we see functional, mighty geometric shapes: pumps, lights, signs, and a shop like a goldfish tank. The shop, a long galley set behind plate glass, is always lit, and stacked with every essential for the journey: boiled sweets, antifreeze, pork pies…

Petrol stations punctuate my memories of travelling to school, weekend trips to the Lake District, or journeys to visit relatives in Cheshire. They’re essential; petrol is modern civilisation.

Petrol stations are an irresistible painterly motif, following in the footsteps of Edward Hopper’s artwork. We can admire the modern, efficient self-service station as a sign of progress and development, always there to serve us, around the clock. But there is a dependency there too, and we would be lost without them. It is perhaps a little too easy to take them for granted.



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