If you use Waterloo Station, and you walk past the old Eurostar platforms (they tell me there are plans to turn this into a shopping mall, which God knows we don’t have enough of in London sarcasm), you’ll see this statue.
The statue, as you’ll know if you, you know, read the plinth, is of the artist Terence Cuneo. Sadly, it tends to be hidden away between a couple of stalls, which is just crappy. Cuneo is an artist whose work is hugely underrated. He specialised in transport paintings, particularly trains, hence his position in Waterloo Station. He produced a number of posters for British Railways, including some genuine classics of railway art. His particular talent was capturing the feel of the subject, the weight and atmosphere. You felt as if his trains had been captured in a single moment, although each painting must have taken many hours of painstaking concentration to produce.
Cuneo’s trademark in his paintings was a little mouse hidden somewhere in the picture. As a result, any exhibition of his work will inevitably have several viewers squinting at the paintings from three inches away in an effort to find the elusive rodent.
There’s even an anecdote that Cuneo told in a collection of his work in which the mouse caused an international incident. An officer in the Navy in South Africa had a print of one of Cuneo’s paintings in his cabin, and a guest observed that there would be a hidden mouse in there. The two men spent ages trying to find the mouse, but absolutely couldn’t. So they did what any sensible person would do, and telegraphed Cuneo, who responded with “Up telegraph pole first left”. This message, unfortunately, was intercepted and reported as being “suspicious, probably in code”. The officer was called upon to explain himself and, this being a month later, he’d totally forgotten about the mouse. It was several minutes before he remembered, whereupon he took the interrogators into his cabin, pointed dramatically at a telegraph pole in the picture and said, “Here you are, gentlemen – up telegraph pole, first left, and there’s the mouse!”
So it pleased me, when I first saw that statue in Waterloo, to find this hidden among the artist’s paraphernalia on the floor: