Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
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- Chippendale without Rannie
- Lady with a lot of hair
- Triple selfie
- Keeping up appearances
- Quota towers
- Not about cats
- 65x zoom!!!
- Bill Bryson on the miracle of crop rotation
- Union Jack Minis
- Breaking my Samizdata silence
- On the problems of half-parking with a half-car
- Roof party
- Crane lamp
- Headlights with cleaning brush
- Sign with sarcastic sneer quotes
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6000 Miles from Civilisation
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Category archive: Transport
Alert readers of this blog will long have known that I have a soft spot for interesting vehicles, often because they are old. (In general, the aesthetic nature of cars and of our response to cars interests me more and more.)
So, here is an amusing matching pair of vehicles:
The full size Mini was photoed not far from my friend Perry‘s home. The mini Mini was, as you can probably see for yourself, in a tourist crap shop window. Only the two white stripes on the bonnet of the mini Mini spoil the identicalness.
We have most of us seen these tiny little cars they make nowadays, which are about half the length of regular cars. A seemingly obvious usefulness of such vehicles, aside from them using half the metal and less money and power to make them and move them, is that they can be parked at ninety degrees to regular parking, which does away with the need for all that “parking” and doubles (and more) the amount of space available for everyone to park in.
But you seldom see such cars actually parked liked that, and when you do …:
… (as I did about a week ago near to where I live) you realise that this is actually a much more complicated arrangement than it might at first appear to be.
Suppose you see a half-parking-space, between two other cars, and you park your half-car in that space, at ninety degrees to those two cars.
You just might be making it impossible for one or even both of those cars to get out, unless you do first. I mean, maybe the car beyond the half-car above can get out. Maybe those two cars are cooperatively parked, so to speak, with both vehiclese arriving and leaving at the same time. But maybe the bigger car arrived first and will want to leave first, and was relying on being able to move backwards to get out, in which case …
Which actually makes me think this was cooperative parking, by the two vehicles in concert. Otherwise there would be just too much potential grief involved.
I can’t think, off hand, of an easy way to sort all this out. So, just as well it’s not my job to worry about such things.
There is also the fact that the half-car in my picture, isn’t actually quite a half-car, more like a two-fifths- or three-quarters-car, and it sticks out annoyingly. This doesn’t matter much in a big wide road like the one shown, but in other roads it might matter a lot.
Yes, you read that right. Sunday. I am celebrating the fact that I now have a Proper Computer (a temporary arrangement called Godo) at my command by doing more than one posting here today. There may (although I promise nothing) be even more than two. The thing is, during the Time of Dawkins, I accumulated lots of interesting little titbits which it was too bothersome to be bothering with, but which I now want (as they say in California and now regrettably everywhere else (see also the even more vomit-inducing “reach out”, which means pestering by telephone)) to “share” with you.
So, first up, this luxurious Rolls Royce, from the time when us Brits were in charge of how they looked:
As it says just above the roof, photoed in Lower Marsh, on Sept 1st.
Round headlights, but … four of them! This car dates from the days when the only way to jazz up car headlights was to have two of them side by side. How impossibly glamorous is that?!?! I seem to recall that the puppet woman who presided over International Rescue on the telly had a pink roller, with the same kind of headlights. Lady Penelope? Yes. Follow that link, and you will be reminded that Lady P’s roller had two sets of three headlights. Only a billionaire, or millionaire as they used to be called, could afford that kind of headlight array. (To say nothing of those doubled-up front wheels.)
(And it is so great that I am now back to hunting things like that down in about fifteen seconds. There is nothing like deprivation to make you grateful for large mercies.)
But Lady Penelope missed a trick. Her imaginary roller didn’t have a brush to clean its headlights, but some real rollers did! You will see what I am talking about if you take a closer look at this:
Yes, a sort of elongated rich person shaving brush, to keep those lights clean!
You didn’t get those on Morris Marinas.
Photoed this afternoon, on a dull day, through a train window:
The train in question was travelling back from Denmark Hill, past Brixton, and, after the above shot, on past Battersea Power Station and across the river into Victoria. There are excellent views views of central London from this line, for those with zoom eyesight or zoom lenses.
As to what this tumult of cranes is doing, I am almost certain it’s the new US Embassy in Battersea, although the buildings we can already see are, I believe, just apartments or offices or something. Usually I see all this from the other side, e.g. from Vauxhall Bridge.
The economics of car ownership is interesting. On the face of it, I might be the sort of person who would get a really small car (even if not this exact one). But the way I (and many others?) see it is: If I go to the bother of getting a car, and finding somewhere to park it, and a way of insuring it, and of protecting it from burglars and vandals, I might as well spend a bit more and get a proper car. You either buy a car, of the sort that can do all the things proper cars do, like transport another four people, transport bits of furniture, drive to Scotland or Paris or some such place, impress rather than amuse friends and enemies, and so forth. Or, you don’t.
You don’t buy a bit of car.
The only exception is if your entire country has only just started buying cars, in which case even a bit of car is worth having. Especially if, for the time being, that’s all you can get
I departed for France on Tuesday August 5th.
My flight from London City Airport to Quimper in Brittany was due for lift off at 11.40am, so I obviously had to leave home at about 9.20am, thereby reaching City Airport as early as I could without having to pay for the journey. (Old Git passes only cut in at 9.30am, or such is my understanding.) We infrequent flyers can’t be too careful. I would far rather wait two hours at an airport while reading a good book than endure any fear of missing my flight at any point on my journey to the airport, still less actually risk missing it.
One way to get to London City Airport would have been to take the District Line to Tower Hill, and then the D(ocklands) L(ight) R(ailway) from then onwards, with just the one (somewhat complicated) change. But my computer said it would be quicker to change twice, first at Westminster from the District Line to the Jubilee Line, and then again at Canning Town to the DLR. The Jubilee Line is quicker than the trundlingly antique District Line and quicker than the relatively new but cautiously robotic DLR, and it may also have realised that both these changes are far easier than the one change from Tower Hill (District) to Tower Gateway (?) (DLR). So, I changed at Westminster, and again at Canning Town.
All of which explains why, when I got to Canning Town, and was awaiting the DLR train on to City Airport, I got to see this:
I couldn’t believe my luck. I hadn’t even left London, yet already I was beholding once-in-a-lifetime wonders! For yes, your eyes do not deceive you. That is a crane, holding a bridge. I love cranes, especially when they are doing something interesting. I love bridges, especially new ones and especially when they are still being built. So you can imagine my delight at observing a bridge being craned into position, by a crane. And all of this presented to me as if by a performer who is determined to communicate to the maximum effect with his audience, assembled on the top deck of Canning Town Tube/DLR station.
On the left there, the first picture I took. On the right, a later picture which shows where the bridge was about to be deposited. There are two bright red bits, the same bright red as the bridge itself, clearly at each end of where the bridge would shortly be.
All of this happened on Tuesday August 5th. A day earlier and it would not have started. A day later and it would have been a fait accompli, with the installed bridge presumably looking exactly as it looks now. Only by being there exactly on August 5th, and only by choosing the exactly correct railway journey combination, was I able to observe this delight.
(Imagine if I had happened to sale past this, on August 14th 1999.)
My week in Brittany had got off to a great start.
Before I start ruminating more convolutedly about my recent stay in France, there is just one more shot that I want to show you from that ASI boat trip.
It’s a photo I took of the guy who was driving the boat, and (I presume) the man who was in command of the boat:
I can find no mention anywhere here of the actual people who command and work on the boats, just lots of stuff about how great the boats are for partying on. So I don’t know the name or rank of this man. But, whoever and whatever he is, I love his look of calm but ever so slightly suspicious watchfulness, with his ever so slightly raised right eyebrow. It’s the face of a man who knows that, mostly, his job is just a job, but that this is a job that just possibly might, were he seriously to neglect his duties, turn very nasty.
Besides which, you never quite know what those people back there partying might get up to, under the influence of all that drink that the other members of the crew are serving them. A boat full of tipsy revellers, even more than a normal boat, needs a sober worker to guide it and to see that all is well, no matter how friendly the waters they are travelling on.
There’s something else about this picture that intrigues me. When I was a kid, wearing short trousers was the essence of being a kid, and graduating to long trousers was the essence of ceasing to be only a kid and starting to grow up. Yet now, more and more indisputably grownup men, doing their indisputably grownup work, wear shorts. Anyone care to speculate about what this means, or about why it is happening?
Yes, that about says it:
Taken by me, yesterday afternoon.
I just heard someone say in an American TV sitcom (I love American TV sitcoms) that they’re not going to answer the phone without knowing who it is, “like it’s 1994”.
I still do this, with my old 1994 style phone, which I greatly prefer to mobiles, because when I am out and about, I don’t have to answer it, and because phones connected to your house with wire cannot be lost, and because I know exactly where it is when it rings, and because that ring never changes.
Quite often, when I do answer, it’s a junk phone call, offering to extricate me from a financial error that I personally have not made by urging me to commit another financial error, and as soon as I realise it’s junk, I put the phone down. Does this constitute some sort of “success” for the junk phoning enterprise? Look, they answered! Because obviously they knew who we were, this not being 1994, and yet still they picked up the phone! Hey, we’re getting through!
Much of life these days seems to consist of doing many futile things, but contriving for these things the appearance of non-futility. These days? I suspect all days that have ever been, with humans involved, and no doubt many other species also, both before and now during the human epoch. Only the futile things and the means of contriving a non-futile appearance for them change from time to time.
I don’t mind junk phone calls. If they were more frequent, they would annoy me. As it is, if there is a pause in incoming phone calls lasting a few hours, it is soothing to be informed, even if only by a robot actor voice spouting nonsense, that my phone is still working. The pause was because nobody wanted to talk to me.
When answering junk phone calls, I pause any music that may be playing. I do not mind this. There is a part of my brain (yours too?) where you remember the musical phrase you were listening to when you last paused the music, and when you unpause it you carry on listening just as you would have done normally. I even suspect that pausing deepens my response to particular pieces of music, by fixing particular moments of them in my brain more firmly than might have happened otherwise.
Since I am now rambling like the really old person that I am rapidly becoming, let me ramble some more. In connection with none of the above, here are the wheels of a big mobile crane that I photoed in Victoria Street a while back. Click on it to get the crane:
I like cranes. That one is, I think, the Spierings SK599-AT5. I love how you can find out about things like this, these days. And this time it really is these days, rather than all days.
Here is a link to a toy version of this crane. Do contractors use toys like this to plan their jobs, I wonder? As well as just to decorate their offices or amuse their spoilt children?
It is now late morning on Sunday. Are sermons like this, when the priest is getting old, but is too well liked for anyone to want to sack him? With a blog you can ramble anyway, because nobody can sack you.
You don’t see many of these these days:
I’m talking about round headlights on cars. About ten years ago, and I have photos that notice the moment, car headlights, having been round for about three quarters of a century, went absolutely mental, with silver moldings and weird shapes of all kinds. It’s been like that ever since. Now, a car with round headlights is an old car.
Like this one, the car with the above headlight:
It appears to be one of these, or if not then something very like it. I photoed this car this afternoon.
A while ago, I started photo-collecting round headlights, and the cars that sport them. There may accordingly, although I promise nothing, be a huge spread of them here, any month, or year, or decade, now.
Some new cars these days have pretend round headlights, such as the new German Mini. But they are only pretend round. Look carefully, and they are not properly round, like the one above.
Today, by some means or another that I forget (other than it was the internet) I learned that the new trains for Crossrail will supplied by Bombardier. Oh yes, I learned it here.
And then, and again I forget how exactly, I learned about this bizarre vehicle, the Bombardier Embrio:
Oh yes, how I got to this was I googled for Bombardier pictures, and in among lots of airplanes and some trains, I saw this weird one wheeled thing, and investigated.
It looks like something Sylvester Stallone would ride in a movie.
It isn’t real. It is only a “concept” vehicle, and concept vehicles never happen. They just become part of the past history of the future, along with flying cars, robots to do your vacuuming and serve you tea, and elaborate space travel by the end of the last century. Still, weird.
I think what made me dig this up was that I have a soft spot for Bombardier, having done a few days, over the past few years, of planespotting at London City Airport, my favourite airport in the world. Lots of the planes that fly in and out of there are made by Bombardier. The world’s famous planes are made by Boeing and Airbus. But the quirky ones, the ones with propellers, the ones you don’t recognise, are made by companies like Bombardier.
I also like the way that railway carriages have changed during my lifetime. They have got better and better, with their automatic doors and spacious interiors.
City A.M. has a report about another possible bridge across the Thames, this one being one that will connect Chelsea to Battersea. There is another map here, also showing all the various options for where exactly to put this bridge. And I see that I already mentioned this Chelsea to Battersea bridge idea in this earlier posting.
This makes three new London bridges that are now being talked up, planned, hustled, whatever. There is also the Joanna Lumley bridge, which will go from Temple tube station to across the river from Temple Tube station, or then again maybe not. Both this and the Chelsea to Battersea bridge are footbridges and bikebridges, but they are also forever talking about a big road bridge just down river from City Airport.
If this Chelsea to Battersea bridge gets built, it will be only a dozen minutes (two to three dozen minutes if I want to get close) from my front door, so you can bet that (although I promise nothing) I will be photographing its progress relentlessly.
I hope they make it look good. Bridges can look so great that it is a serious shame when they don’t look great. It’s good that they’re going to have a competition for this one. This, I think, will unleash a contemporary force that is starting to interest me a lot, which is internet informed public opinion. Now, all the various contending pictures of what they might or might not do can get published and talked about beforehand, far more easily than in the years B(efore the) I(nternet). The people who rule the world basically don’t care exactly where, or even if, this bridge gets built, so they are perfectly willing to let its final design be settled by Vox Pop. And Vox Pop, when it comes to bridges, is a force for good, I think. If you are going to spend 8X million quid on a bridge, you might as well spend 9X million quid and make it look really good and distinctive. That’s what I think Vox Pop will say, and for once I agree.
LATER ON FRIDAY (i.e. not the small hours of Friday morning): More bridgery today from City A.M., this time in the form of a plug for that East London road bridge, already mentioned above.
Yesterday, London was bent totally out of shape by the Tour de France. It became a French provincial city for the day, as I suppose some French people think it is always.
It rained. I was otherwise engaged, and in any case did not fancy fighting my way through crowds for the mere chance of snapping a herd of cyclists racing past me for about twenty seconds, especially after I had watched a Lance Armstrong documentary on my television. What a shit. And what a shitty sport. Besides which there would, I reasoned, soon be plenty of photos on the www of the drugged up veloherd pouring past the Docklands Towers, the City and its Big Things, Parliament, Buckingham Palace and so on.
Most of the pictures I found today involved Parliament and Buckingham Palace rather than more modern Big Things, and the veloherd (all with hats designed by Zaha Hadid) of course, and the best Tour de France in London snap by far that I found today was taken three months before the big day, when they were still telling everyone about it:
Classic. Seriously, what better background could there be to a sport that is all about wheels?
Original and slightly bigger picture, with the story, here.
City A.M. is now one of my go-to places first thing, and there I read today:
Transport for London (TfL) will be introducing screens displaying how many people are sitting upstairs and which seats are available, in a trial system to begin in two weeks.
The display screens will be situated next to the driver as people board the bus and between the driver and the staircase before passengers go upstairs.
I am struck by two electronic sign innovations that have already arrived on the London transport scene.
There are those invaluable signs at bus stops, telling you what is due, when, and where it will go. The only problem with these signs is that not every bus stop has them. I know, I know, you can crank up the bus app on your mobile. But I prefer not to have to bother, and anyway, that’s a lot of fuss just for a bus. (Note the vagiaries of the spelling there.)
And the other innovation, much more recent, is those little signs that tell pedestrians - i.e. me - how many seconds will elapse before the pedestrian sign will be turning red. Very helpful. I don’t want to freak out motorists by getting in their way, but nor do I want to neglect an opportunity to cross if I can do so without freaking out the motorists. These latest signs tell me what I need to know. And it’s amazing how far you can travel in three seconds, if you know that three seconds is all that you have, but that you definitely do have three seconds.
So, will these new sign inside buses be any use? Judging by earlier TfL electronic signage efforts, my guess is yes.
(More rhyming fun with esses (?) there. It could so easily have been and gues and yess. And before that, fus and buss. (Does such tangenting pis you off? (And are you fed up with this multiple bracket gag? (This, I think, being the record.))))
As politically controlled entities go, TfL is not too shabby, although goodness knows what it costs. Especially given that they are now dragging their feet (which is all it will take for Uber to get truly motoring in London) when it comes to crushing Uber. It’s the same mentality, d’you think? TfL likes electronic signage, whether the signs are public or personal. Could be. Do you think the next thing will be big public Uber signs that you can use to whistle up cheap and cheerful transport, if you don’t have a mobile on you? Again: could be.
I just came across this video, here, again, which has had many hits on Youtube. Like millions of others, I like it a lot. It’s Louis C.K., complaining about people who complain about modern life and all its wondrous new gadgetry. I was going to stick the video here, but it wouldn’t fit. (Anyone know how to make it 500 wide instead of 560? Maybe I should redesign my blog wider.) But follow that link and scroll down a bit to where it says: “- it’s very funny”; and then, in white on black at the top of the video: “+Everthing’s+Amazing+ +Nobody’s+Happy”. And then click and enjoy.
Part of why improved gadgets don’t automatically make us happy is that everyone gets to have a go on them, but what really makes a lot of us happy is improved relative status. New gadgets create a different world, in which we may as likely as not be demoted in status, below others who understand the new gadgets better.
There is also the particular genius of the gadgeteers to be considered, compared to our own ungenii. New gadgets can make many of us feel like savages, out of our depth in a world of wonders, less capable (because utterly incapable of producing such a wondrous gadget), rather than more capable (through possessing the gadget).
In the article linked to, there is speculation that old people are more easily pleased, by things. I certainly enjoy digital photography, as all regulars here will know, and you obviously enjoy that or you’d not be a regular. I also enjoy typing verbiage into my magic machine and this magic blog. Perhaps a reason why these things please me so much is that I am old, and had been waiting for such things to be possible for such a very, very long time. For decades, I fretted about my inability to make pictures without fuss and write stuff without fuss, and show both to other people whenever I felt like it, again without fuss. Now I can do these things. Any envy I feel towards the people who contrived these wonder is dwarfed by the pleasure I get in doing these things, finally. I know, I’ve been showing off my pictures and babbling away at various blogs for well over a decade. But like I say, I’m old, and more than a decade is nothing to how long I spent waiting for these things to be possible, all the while not even knowing if they ever would be. I had become used to knowing that these things might never happen, which means that I still can’t quite believe that they have happened, which means that they still make me happy.