Eros statue has returned to London's Piccadilly Circus Winged statue of Eros back in place (nearly) after 18-month absence

Eros, the lithe, winged statue with bow in hand who appears suspended above the swirling traffic at Piccadilly Circus while fountains splash his foot, is back in place again. Almost. If, after 18 months' convalescence, Eros, the statue depicting the Greek god of love, appears to have soared somewhat in people's estimation, it is because the statue stands higher than it did before.

``All the better,'' says a London bobby, ``to keep him out of reach of the yobboes [British slang for young, rowdy boys]'' who have damaged him in the past.

With 30,000 people every hour seeing him at this hectically busy crossroads of London, it comes as no surprise that all this attention has turned Eros's head.

Now instead of facing Shaftesbury Avenue, as he did in the past, in deference to Victorian philanthropist Lord Shaftesbury in whose honor he was sculptured, Eros has turned himself around. He now faces the Haymarket. The statue also has been shifted 40 feet from its original site.

But, regardless of the changes, Eros standing atop bubbling fountains is welcomed back as a long lost friend. A German tourist making a return visit to London was pleased to see Eros back in place. ``Nice and clean again,'' he says.

For 18 months, Eros went into convalescence in Scotland, as his aluminum frame was repaired at a cost of 250,000 ($367,000). There was a fractured left ankle, a damaged thigh, and a badly rusted inside splint. The culprits were nighttime revelers who had climbed the statue and swung from the wings.

Sir Alfred Gilbert's statue has been taken down four times since it was erected 92 years ago. It was removed for safekeeping during the two world wars and during the rebuilding of the Piccadilly subway station in the 1920s.

The famous winged statue is often regarded as the most elevating aspect of an otherwise seedy street scene. Piccadilly Circus has been the target for a number of major restoration and rehabilitation efforts. Nothing has come of them, because the plans were too ambitious and grandiose.

This time, however, authorities have settled on a more modest plan in which existing buildings will be preserved, and Eros, instead of being stranded on a plaza in the center of Piccadilly Circus like an eye in a hurricane of traffic that swirls around it, will be connected to a handsomely paved pedestrian mall.

Meanwhile, the warren of pedestrian subways underneath the Circus will be expanded to connect important buildings and streets. This will make it possible to walk through an elegant concourse from the Center at the Circus -- the transformed Swan and Edgar Building -- to Great Windmill Street and the Trocadero under the London Pavilion in Coventry Street.

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