Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Wednesday May 04 2016

I went Ryanair to Perpignan to get here.  I made a point of booking a window seat, but tragically, the wing was centre stage, thus:

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I choose that photo to show you what sort of window my window seat was next to.  There are nice, clean, easy-to-see-through windows, and there are Ryanairplane windows.  So, I didn’t attempt many photos on my journey.

But as we approached Perpignan airport, from the sea, which involved the Ryanairplane obligingly taking a sharp right turn and lowering its wing out of the way, with the snowcapped Pyrenees way out in the distance, I had to at least try:

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That being what I finally saw, after I managed to persuade the Thuirian computer that I am now laboriously using, to show it.

I am in the town of Thuir, near Perpignan, for a few days.  Last night, in fading but still fabulous light, looking more amusing sights.  I was not disappointed.

I’m guessing that the thinking here is that nicking a crane, or even getting inside a crane, is quite an operation, what with cranes being rigged so they’re unenterable if you are not the designated owner.  But, nicking a cement mixer is just a matter of lifting it onto your vehicle.  So, here is how you protect your cement mixer when you go home at night:

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Cranes.  Is there anything they can’t do?

Typing text is a struggle in Thuir, because in Thuir, they have slightly different keyboards to what I am used to.  But photos, which in Thuir need different software to work, are also a struggle.  So, blogging here for the next few days will probably (I promise nothing), as always here, be light and perfunctory, the difference being that here I have an excuse.

Tuesday May 03 2016

Imqgine what it would be like to be able to see this from the top of your house:

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I don’t have to imagine this.  I am doing it now.

Having had no sleep at all last night, I am in no state to say much more.  What I can tell you is that those are the Pyrenees.

Monday May 02 2016

A week ago and more, the story was that Spurs were hunting them down, waiting for them to falter.  But it was Spurs who faltered, twice.  They had leads against both the last two teams the have played, but all they could muster was just the two points.  So Leicester, and most of the rest of the world that cares about such things, is now celebrating:

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All season long, people have been saying that Leicester would falter.  Now people are saying that this is a one-off, and that they’ve been lucky not to have more injuries and to have picked a moment when the hitherto best teams were all “rebuilding”.  We’ll see.  Leicester remind me a bit of Nottingham Forest of old, who were also said not to be front rankers, and had quite a few players rescued from the scrap heap.  They did pretty well, for a while.

Spurs?  Well, they have a new stadium coming soon, so there’s a decent chance this is Spurs on the up too.  On the other hand, there’s nothing like new architecture to take people’s eyes off the ball.  Again, we shall see.

As frequently threatened, this blog is going more and more to be about the process of getting old.  Yesterday’s posting was about that, and so is this one.

I have spent the morning doing various household trivia, internetting, and then, in particular, come eleven o’clock, keeping up with county cricket.  This really takes me back, to the time when, as a small boy, I was glued to my radio, keeping up with county cricket.  Then as now, just the numbers were enough to tell me a lot of what was going on.

Second childhood is catered to by tradesmen with just as much enthusiasm as first childhood is, the difference between that we second childhooders now make all our own decisions.

When I was a child, a magic machine that trotted out not just county cricket scores but entire continuously updated county cricket scorecards would have been a marvel.  Now, I have it, and just at the moment in my life when my actual life is winding down, and county cricket again seems like something interesting.  Between about 1965 and about 1995, I paid almost zero attention to county cricket.  I could not have told you who was winning or who had last won the County Championship during those decades.  The newspapers and the telly had remained interested only in international cricket, there was not yet any internet, and above all, I had a life.  But now that life as such is slipping from my grip, county cricket becomes an attraction again.

Notoriously, old age is the time when you remember your childhood better than anything else, or at least you think you do.  And the things that had intense meaning then have intense meaning still.  So it is that much of commerce now consists of digging into the manic enthusiasms that reigned six or seven decades ago, and rehashing them as things to sell now.  On oldie TV, such as I was watching last night, you see shows devoted to the obsessions of the nearly (but not quite yet) forgotten past all the time, every night.  As the years advance, shows about WW2 are succeeded by shows about 1950s dance halls or crooners or early rock and rollers, or ancient cars and trams and steam trains.  Often the shows now are about how the steam trains themselves are being revived, by manic hobbyists who have just retired from doing sensible things.

I know the feeling.  One of the best train journeys I recall from my boyhood was in the Cornish Riviera Express, driven by a huge 4-6-2 steam engine (for real, not as a “heritage” exercise) in about 1952, out of Waterloo.  I can still recall leaning out of the window on a curve, and seeing the locomotive up at the front, chomping away in all its glory, gushing smoke fit to burst.  I never quite turned into a full-blooded trainspotter, but like I say, I know the feeling.

A bit of a meander, I’m afraid.  But don’t mind me.  You’d best be going now.  I’m sure you have more important things on your mind.

Sunday May 01 2016

While channel hopping in search of an entirely different TV channel earlier this evening, I happened to catch this snatch of dialogue, from the TV show New Tricks:

“When you’re looking for something, it’s always in the last place you look.”

“That’s because when you find it, you stop looking for it, you berk.”

Well, I laughed.  And I reckon it’s an improvement on any of these.

I didn’t know New Tricks was such a success in foreign parts:

These curmudgeonly coppers, baffled by new technology, hating modern policing methods and clearly in no state to mount a rooftop chase, proved gripping to viewers across the globe.

Actually, it’s pretty obvious why New Tricks is so popular with TV viewers everywhere.  It’s because TV viewers everywhere are mostly the same age as the curmudgeonly coppers in New Tricks, and at least twice the age of all the other cops on television.

Speaking as an oldie myself, I can tell you that jokes about not being able to remember where you put things speak to me, very loudly.  Yesterday, my oldie friend was helping me with my Ryanair checking in (another thing not all oldies to put it mildly are very good at sorting out) and during this my debit card was required.  So I produced it, from my wallet, and two seconds later I placed my wallet … into a black hole, and couldn’t for the life of me find it anywhere.  It just totally vanished into thin air, into a parallel universe, with its entrance portal on the far side of the moon.  And then it reappeared, on top of the plastic sugar jar.

Saturday April 30 2016

Indeed.  Photoed by me yesterday afternoon:

image

Learn more about the service at one of the places featured on the van door, such as this one.

The early version of this posting had a title with the word “verbose” in it, but that was inaccurate.  This is more words that you’d see on a van twenty years ago, but it’s all good stuff.

Friday April 29 2016

This is a first:

I am at Brian Micklethwait’s place for his latest Friday. This argument against leaving the EU was made (I am literally live blogging, this is breaking news!): The good thing about Brussels is that it is impossible to be emotionally attached to it. This weakens the state.

Interesting discussion is now ensuing. And we have not even got to the speaker yet.

The liveblogger in question being Rob Fisher, to whom thanks.

The speaker and subject matter were described in this earlier posting here.

I do hope to write something soonish about what was actually said by Patrick Crozier, but meanwhile, the other interesting thing about this evening’s event, for me, was how well attended it was.  By this I mean that the room was, as it usually seems to be, comfortably but not uncomfortably full.

What was so unusual about this outcome was that when I sent that first email out last Sunday evening, flagging up the meeting, I got no responses.  Usually, one or two or three people reply by return of email that they intend to attend, and more acceptances come in as the week before the meeting (which is on the Friday) progresses.  But this time: nothing.  Not even one email.  Not a sausage.  In my reminder email, which went out yesterday, I pretty much begged people to come, and to tell me beforehand that they were coming.  And a healthy trickle of positive responses duly trickled in, and I relaxed.  And then, come the evening itself, as already revealed, pretty much the exact same number of people showed up as usually shows up.

How do people, collectively, know to do this?  There has to be some kind of mathematical law in operation here, which says that the right number of people always shows up, no matter what.

It cannot be coincidence that the only time when far, far too many people showed up for comfort was the very first of these meetings, when I restarted them at the beginning of (I think it was) 2013.  Never again.  This strongly suggests to me that The Crowd, subsequently so wise, started out ignorant, of how much comfortable space there was, but that The Crowd has subsequently learned.  And now, The Crowd knows how to turn up chez moi in the exact right numbers, every time.  No matter what I do to assemble it, and no matter what it says beforehand, or doesn’t say.

Thursday April 28 2016

Yes, it’s a bus, totally covered in an advert:

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Click on that horizontalised graphic if you don’t believe me.  Buses like this one, photoed by me in Charing Cross Road this evening. really liven up London.  Basic monochrome red is so twentieth century.

But when it comes to buildings, plain bright red is a step towards riotous colour.

Wednesday April 27 2016

I spent a lot of my blogging time today writing about a talk I attended last night, given by Tim Evans.  I did not finish what I wanted to say, but the attempt left me little time to do anything here.  So, a photo, taken by me on the way to Tim’s talk, as I emerged from Euston Station:

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That’s part of the roof of St Pancras Station.  I like how my snap makes you see this building, if not with fresh eyes, then at least from a rather fresh angle, instead of the usual one you get, from in front.

St Pancras Station was first opened in 1868, and the contrast between how they did the tops of big buildings in those times and how the tops of similar sized buildings are done nowadays could not be more extreme.  Now, buildings of that size tend to have flat tops, and to be covered with telecommunications equipment.

Like this:

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This being New Scotland Yard.  And a statue of a man scratching his back outside Westminster Abbey.  Well, no, but that’s what it always looks like to me.  The column of that statue can also be seen in yesterday’s numerical traffic lights snap.

London’s famed Metropolitan Police are moving out of New Scotland Yard, back to old Scotland Yard.  It will be interesting to see what happens to all that roof clutter.  Maybe nothing.

Tuesday April 26 2016

I took this picture in lots of different versions.  Same picture.  Lots of different numbers.  So which number to choose, to show here?  I chose 5, because behind where it says “05”, Big Ben reveals the time to have been 5 past 5:

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So that’s 5 ticked.  2 is already done. 8 more to go.  Or maybe 7. Because, I rather think that these devices never get to say “01”

Monday April 25 2016

Indeed:

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Photoed by me, just after photoing this.  That particular part of London is a maelstrom at present.  As are lots of parts of London at any given time.

A new crossrail station is being completed, and Centre Point is being given a makeover.  I doubt it will look any different, but you never know.

Any decade now, Centre Point’s exterior will burst into colour.  But Centre Point right now, temporarily wrapped in this and that, is as colourful as it is likely to be for a decade or two yet.  A generation of monochromist modernist architects still has to die, before colour can really start happening in London.  At present (see the previous photo) Renzo Piano is the only fashionable architect being colourful.

While I’m showing you pictures of that rather angly station entrance, here is another, taken moments before the one above:

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Lots of signage of various kinds there.

For another view, looking down Tottenham Court Road, of this strange station entrance, see photo 3.2 of these.

Sunday April 24 2016

I just sent out the email plugging a talk to be given at my home this coming Friday (the 29th) by Patrick Crozier, on “The Political Consequences of World War One” (as already flagged up here in this posting).

The email included this:

Many libertarians of my acquaintance talk about World War One as the great libertarian historical What-If? As in: Surely, surely, the world would have remained far more libertarian-inclined if only ... World War One not been blundered into by its deluded protagonists. Everything bad about the modern world, for many libertarians, has its origins in that fateful and fatal moment of mass mobilisation, for massed war, in August 1914. War is the Health of the State! And with war, modern statism just grew and grew.

But has this growth in statism happened because of war, and because of that war in particular? Or did war merely accompany the growth? Was this causation, or merely correlation?

Patrick Crozier writes regularly for Samizdata, specialising in World War One, and in events of WW1 that happened exactly one hundred years before the time of his postings.  Just recently, Patrick has been, as it were, extricating himself from the trenches and from purely military issues, to look also at wider political developments, on the home front and beyond.  So he seemed to me to be the ideal person to be asked, as I did ask him earlier in the month, this question:

Was the rise of statism in Britain and the West seriously accelerated by WW1, or would such stuff have happened anyway, with or without war?

Were there big moves being made towards statism before the outbreak of war, and not even in anticipation of war? Did neutrals also do lots of statist stuff at the same time as the war’s protagonists?

Sounds good to me.  But then, these talks always do, because if at talk doesn’t sound good to me, I keep on looking until I find another that does.

If you didn’t get the email but would like to attend, or would like to get this and future emails, leave a comment or send me an email.  To do the latter click where it says “Contact”, top left.

Saturday April 23 2016

Indeed.  Photoed by me next to Centre Point, this afternoon:

image

Another London facade which is nice but not totally wondrous is being carefully preserved, so that modernity can in due course be erected behind it.  This time I photoed it from behind.

I have been assuming that this is a purely aesthetic thing.  Done like this to get planning permission.  But someone (I do not recall who) recently told me that if you preserve a facade you don’t have to get planning permission for whatever you put behind it.  But, if you allow the facade to disappear, then you do have to get planning permission, even if what you subsequently do is re-erect the original facade.

Can anyone confirm or deny this?

Note that dash of Renzo Pianistic colour there.

Friday April 22 2016

The Londonist is telling me that I should Visit This Incredible Model Of Central London, Newly Open:

For many years, a wonderful secret has resided in a basement beneath the Guildhall. This highly detailed 3D model of London, used by planners, developers and architects, has been off-limits to the public, except for rare open days. From 23 April it will be freely open every week for anyone who cares to take a look.

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And you should take a look - it’s fascinating on many levels. Stretching from Holborn to Wapping, the scale model gives a superb overview of the different styles of architecture that make up central London. It also looks ahead, including any building that has received planning permission. Many towers under construction are here shown complete. Below we snapped the ‘Can of Ham’, soon to rise next to fellow picnic-able skyscraper, the Gherkin.

My first reaction, to the photos - not to the model itself (which I have yet to see) - is how very unrealistic it looks, despite (I’m sure) everything being the exact right size and shape.  I’m not complaining, just saying.  Models are often like that.

Not that I need convincing to visit this thing.  Fridays and Saturdays, apparently.  I’ve got various things coming up, so it may be a while before I get do this, but do it I definitely will.  And when I do, expect more photos.

That the model includes everything that has received planning permission will sometimes mean temporarily including Things that are never actually built, merely permitted but then abandoned.  Like the Helter Skelter, for instance.  Which presumably had a starring role in this model, for a while.