Brian Micklethwait's Blog
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Brian Micklethwait on Miguel aligns his message with his van
Natalie Solent on Miguel aligns his message with his van
Brian Micklethwait on Tate Modern is now fighting with its neighbours about privacy
Michael Jennings on Cyclists
Michael Jennings on Tate Modern is now fighting with its neighbours about privacy
Brian Micklethwait on Tate Modern is now fighting with its neighbours about privacy
Michael Jennings on Tate Modern is now fighting with its neighbours about privacy
Patrick Crozier on Cyclists
Brian Micklethwait on M20 bridge destroyed by passing digger
rob on M20 bridge destroyed by passing digger
Most recent entries
- I never thought that we could win
- Matt Ridley on how (fracking) technology lead science
- The wonderful things they’re doing with plastics nowadays
- The Big Parliament Tower and the Shard as seen from the Westminster Cathedral Tower
- 240 Blackfriars behind some reinforced concrete that is being demolished
- John Croft: Composition is not research
- The cuddly killer
- Strand Palace Hotel footbridge
- Harley Davidson - woman playing gramophone records
- Wooden Citroens and black baby dolls
- Brittany lighthouses
- Citroen correction
- When the people are the Art
- Ghost Bus
- Cats don’t smile
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6000 Miles from Civilisation
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Category archive: Transport
Continuing with snaps taken ten years ago, in Quimper and nearby spots, the French love their Harley Davidsons. Here is one:
And moment later, I zeroed in on one of this particular Harley Davidson’s details, a lady wearing a yellow top and blue trousers, listening to music, with evident pleasure:
It’s not the first time I have photoed a Harley Davidson in France. I still recall this photosession fondly, which happened five years later.
The directory with all the snaps I took in Quimper and surrounding places, ten years ago, contains some fine images.
And some rather weird ones:
Okay, Citroens made of wood is not that weird. Certainly not in France.
But those really rather realistic black baby dolls is something we surely don’t do nearly so much over here. I’m guessing we have too much of a history of what you might call derogatory black dolls, unrealistically racist dolls, and that means that all black dolls are now tainted in our eyes, even much more realistic ones like the ones in that picture. They evoke a tradition and a way of thinking we would prefer not to be reminded of, or worse, to be thought to be perpetuating. When the British are being sentimental about black babies, they do it in those (I think) ghastly charity fundraising telly adverts.
But what do I know? I’m just thinking aloud. Maybe we do have lots of dolls like these in British shop windows, and I merely haven’t noticed them. But, my first reaction when I say these black babies was, as I say: weird. Certainly striking enough to take several photos of.
In this earlier posting, I speculated that someone living in Roupell Street, which is near Waterloo Station, has been collecting vintage Citroen’s. This guy came upon the same Citroens as I did, in the same place, and made the same guess.
But this evening, I dined out with friends, mentioned the above posting, and was informed that the explanation for this clutch of Citroens is that there is a man who restores or repairs them, who lives or at any rate works, in that locality. Makes sense. And it means that Roupell Street may not have become quite as posh as I originally said.
I love all the paraphernalia, big and small, of London tourism. And with my digital camera, and more to the point with my habit of having my digital camera with me and keeping a lookout for things to photo with it, I don’t have to buy any of it. I can just photo it.
Today, for instance, from inside the laundrette that I have been frequenting lately, for my end of summer clothes washes, I spied this bus (I think there is only one such) going past. This is one of London’s more diverting sights. And I managed to get a zoom-snap of it before it got too far away:
Not bad, considering how gloomy the light was today.
That back window is actually quite a good detail to focus on. If you look a bit carefully (enlarge with a click), you can see that it is also the EMERGENCY EXIT.
This I knew:
Seven Dials is a small road junction in Covent Garden in the West End of London where seven streets converge.
But this, I did not know:
At the centre of the roughly circular space is a column bearing six sundials, a result of the column being commissioned before a late stage alteration of the plans from an original six roads to seven.
I used to work in Covent Garden and Seven Dials was a favourite spot then. There was a hardware shop in one of the Seven Dials spokes, so to speak, and I used to go there a lot.
Here is a picture I took of this column and of some of its surroundings, this (very sunny) afternoon:
But, here is a picture I took of the inscription at the bottom of the column, which I never noticed before:
So, was a replacement column put up, around that time?
Yes. The original column went to Weybridge, via Addlestone, which reminds me of trains from Egham when I was kid. “Virginia Water, Chertsey, AddleSTONE and Weybridge”, an old man used to yell, just before the train for these locations departed. I used to love that. But I digress. Here’s what happened to the original Seven Dials column:
The original sundial column was removed in 1773. It was long believed that it had been pulled down by an angry mob, but recent research suggests it was deliberately removed by the Paving Commissioners in an attempt to rid the area of “undesirables”. The remains were acquired by architect James Paine, who kept them at his house in Addlestone, Surrey, from where they were bought in 1820 by public subscription and re-erected in nearby Weybridge as a memorial to Princess Frederica Charlotte of Prussia, Duchess of York and Albany.
The replacement sundial column was installed in 1988–89 to the original design. It was unveiled by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands on a visit to commemorate the tercentenary of the reign of William and Mary, during which the area was developed.
Original design presumably means that, just like the original, the new column only has six dials at the top.
If you reckon that the two van designs referred to in my previous posting are both as much of a muddle as each other, on account of the ins and outs of the surfaces of the vans colliding with the pictures, well then, I give you a van design that you will surely prefer:
What Miguel did was make sure that everything he said was aligned with the van’s design. The frames on the van became frames for the pictures Miguel wants us to see. And the writing all fits in perfectly.
It helps that he chose a van that was all horizontals and verticals, rather than indentations at weird angles, like you see on lots of vans.
Question: is the fact that vans double up as complicated adverts causing the actual vans to be designed differently nowadays? To suit people like Miguel, who want the van and the message to line up? It would make sense it that was happening.
I notice that Miguel doesn’t seem to have a website. I’m guessing that, from where he sits, his van is his website.
I refer honourable readers to the posting I did earlier, about a pink van (miniature version of this pink van on the right there). And I ask you to note, again, the difficulties that this pink van’s decorators had in making what they had to say fit in with the indentations on the side of the van. The roller-blading fox has a big kink just under his midriff. The website information is written in letters too big to fit in the space chosen for it, but they have to be, to be legible. It all adds to the general air of amateurishness.
But now, let’s see how the professionals deal with similar problems:
I was all set to write about how this very “designed” piece of design made all the same mistakes as the pink van, but actually, I don’t think it does.
The thing is, the pink van is decorated in a way that says: this is a flat surface. Therefore, the fact that, actually, it is not a flat surface is a real problem.
But what the Sky van says is: you are looking through the surface of the van, to this three dimensional wonder-world beyond and within. Yes, it’s a van, and its outer surface has strange and random rectangular indentations and even stranger horizontal linear interruptions. That’s because it’s a van. Vans are like that. But all these vanly banalities merely happen to be in front of the real picture that we are showing you.
So, for me, this Sky van is a great success.
As for the world it depicts, the show in question is this. I’ve not seen any of it, but I do recall Karl Pilkington with fondness from that chat show he did with Ricky Gervais, which I seem to recall watching on television, in the early hours of the morning, even though it was supposed to be a “podcast”. Pilkington himself also remembers this earlier show with fondness, it would seem.
Yes, I photo a lot of white vans, but fewer pink ones. So, at the end of last month I was able to correct this imbalance a little:
I also try to photo roller-bladers, and the fox on that pink van is a roller-blader, which speeds up the service he is offering.
One of the quite numerous things that I like about white vans, or in this case not so white vans, is the great variety of styles in which they are decorated, all the way from ultra-refined to ultra-trashy, with this one being a bit on the trashy? - well, make that amateurish - side. (This is another thing vans have in common with websites.) But, trashy or amateurish or whatever, this van certainly got my attention.
Talking of websites. Fantasy Cleaners had a particular problem deciding where and how to put www.fantasycleaners.com. The website is where all these graphics originated that they had such trouble fitting on the van. They changed nothing. The roller-blading fox is there, with the pink background. Everything. In general, many more professional van decorators than whoever did this van have problems aligning their messages with the indentations on the sides of the vans.
I think it looks like they’re giving someone two fingers, rather than two kangaroo ears. At least it’s not pointing at us. It’s more like we’re doing it. Weird. It will be interesting to see if it survives. Quite apart from anything else, I just think it is extremely ugly, in the same kind of way that the 2012 Olympics logo was ugly.
Nowadays, footbridges tend only to spring to life and to try to be entertaining to walk across, rather than just functional, when water is involved. But as the world’s economy slows and big new bridge projects become scarcer, I believe we can expect many more smaller and hitherto more mundane bridges to be similarly “designed” rather than just built. Like this one in Beersheba, which is over some railway tracks.
In this case police cyclists, photoed by me in Waterloo Road last Tuesday, after I had descended from the top of the Tate Modern Extension:
I am not showing you this photo for artistic impression, strictly for its content. At the time I just thought I was photoing police on bikes, which is about as common as police on horses. But while I took the photo, I heard a voice next to me say something like: “There go the police, ignoring the red lights.” And they were, as is evidenced by the green light telling us pedestrians that we could cross. At the time I also thought: did I get the green light? Yes I did. And I don’t think that the lady on the other side of the road is that impressed either.
Also, the policeman on the right is holding a mobile phone in his right hand, which is the kind of behaviour that the police are cracking down on when anyone else does it.
A few years back, cyclists behaved like the law didn’t apply to them, which presumably it didn’t, in the sense that nobody applied it to them. Cyclists would grab all the rights and privileges of motorists and of pedestrians, switching from one to the other whenever they felt like it, doing such things as biking past you at speed, on the pavement. But then, in London anyway, somebody did apply the law to them. My experience is that cyclists now behave much better than they used to.
But these police cyclists don’t seem to have got that memo.
I’m actually rather surprised that this kind of thing doesn’t happen more often:
The story is that a lorry with a digger on the back of it drove under a bridge, but the digger hit the bridge and broke half of the bridge off so that it fell on the road below, or to be more exact, onto another lorry, also going under it at the time. A motorcyclist was nearly killed, but wasn’t.
Cranes helped to clean up the mess:
One of the scarier things about all this, if I understand what has happened correctly, is that half the bridge is still sticking out over the motorway, and traffic is even now passing underneath it:
Is that right? And if that is right, is that .. you know … right?
I spent today (a) fretting that my meeting this evening at my home might not be a very good meeting (on account of me not managing to persuade enough people to attend it), (b) having the meeting, and then (c) being pleased that it was a very good meeting. Thank you Nico Metten, the speaker.
I forgot, as usual, to take any photos of the meeting, so here is something (chosen because Friday is my day here for cats (and other creatures)) I photoed earlier:
I was in horse country earlier in the week, but only saw an electric horse. That real horse (with cart) was photoed in the vicinity of South Bermondsey railway station, just over a month ago.
I continue to hoover up White Van pictures whenever an interesting one presents itself. And this one, that I encountered yesterday evening in Victoria Street, is surely a classic of the genre:
What I enjoy so much about this van is how this enterprise clearly started out in a state of in-your-face honesty. Yeah, we do lavs. Our boss is Dave. Workplaces need lavs. You got a problem with that? Everyone needs to piss and/or shit every now and again.
But then, as business expanded, the euphemisms crept in. Changing the website was too complicated, but the surrounding verbiage got more polite and decorous. That’s my take, anyway. Have you ever seen the word “welfare” used like that? I haven’t. “Welfare Vans” sounds a bit like something laid on by the Japanese Army during the war, providing you-know-what to the soldiery, and for which they still refuse to apologise to the women thus made use of.
Go to www.davlav.com and it’s all explained:
These self-contained welfare vans offer independent diesel heating, washing, toilet and kitchen/eating facilities. Also included are auxiliary power microwave, hand wash and water boiler. Our welfare vehicles offer superior standards and are completely mobile, providing staff with all the facilities required by current employment law. All parts comply with the new legislation for Whole Vehicle Type Approval.
I might have guessed there’d be government regulations involved.
Yesterday here featured a photo (of a photographer photoing a new marriage) which all happened on the Millennium Bridge. Today’s photo is of the Millennium Bridge, with three boats all within a few yards of it, as seen from the viewing gallery at the top of the new Tate Modern Extension:
Although I promise nothing, I hope to show more snaps snapped from this most excellent vantage point here, in the nearish future.