Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Alastair on Wembley Arch lighting contrast
Rob Fisher on What does Thames "RIB" Experience mean?
Heathrow Transfers on Miguel aligns his message with his van
Brian Micklethwait on So shiny it looks fake
Patrick Crozier on So shiny it looks fake
Patrick Crozier on So shiny it looks fake
Natalie Solent on Wooden Citroens and black baby dolls
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
Most recent entries
- Snake on a car
- A particularly good panoramic view of central London
- Coastline politics at Samizdata
- Wembley Arch lighting contrast
- A blown up airplane and a dodgy internet connection
- Rereading a Rebus
- Rod Green on Boys and Men at the time of Magna Carta
- More birds on a TV aerial
- Van – grey but very interesting
- Union Jacks having fun
- Another TV aerial
- Cruise plays along
- An enlarged Dinky Toy in Belgravia
- Pigeons on a TV aerial
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Category archive: Transport
Friday was the day here for cats, but now I have widened it to all kinds of creatures, cats included.
This week, a snake! On a vintage car!
I took these pictures in the square next to Quimper Cathedral, in the summer of 2008:
The snake is most clearly to be seen in pictures 1.2, 2.1, 2.2 and 3.3. I think it must be some sort of air intake, for the engine, or for something. But what do I know?
Berliet seems to be an enterprise that makes lorries these days. But if you scroll down through the images you get when you type “berliet” into google images, you start to see vintage cars, in among the more recent lorries.
If you scroll down at this site, you get to something that looks like the above vehicle. And if it is the same vehicle, or something very similar, then it is a 1907 Berliet C2 Double-Phaeton, or something very similar.
There’s a number plate on the front of my Berliet, which says: 1909 VS 29. I thought that might be a clue, rather than, you know, a number plate, so I tried “Berliet 1909 VS 29” with google images, and guess what I found. A Berliet “Double Phaeton” at a car museum in Malaga.
I even found a photo of the car in question, with a ludicrously long internet address attached to it, which I now offer you, in the hope that it works
Well, the link does seem to work, but if it doesn’t, take my word for it. Although this is not the same car as my one above, it is very similar. So similar that the car in the Andalusian museum also has, just like my car has, attached to its side, with its mouth wide open, sucking in air, … a snake. Weird.
Earlier today I stuck up a biggish piece at Samizdata entitled Thoughts on the politics of coastlines, about the age-old conflict between land powers and sea powers.
That’s the nearest thing I could quickly find in my photo-archives to a relevant picture, of a ship near London Gateway, which I paid several visits to, way back in 2013. That’s as close as I’ve been to a British coast any time recently.
I recently photoed this van:
What intrigued me about it was its minimalist propaganda message. “GREY MOTH”.
My original thought was that, in the age of google, you don’t actually need a mass of information to find out all you want to know about an enterprise. That’s what this posting was going to be about. (I still remember fondly that van outside the Oval, which just said “VOITH”. I quickly learned all about VOITH.)
Trouble is, if the name of the enterprise is “GREY MOTH”, and you google “grey moth”, well, in addition to the GREY MOTH enterprise, somewhere in there, you get lots and lots of grey moths. (If you google “voith”, all you get is VOITH. A voith is not a regular thing, from which the VOITH enterprise merely took its name.)
Luckily, however, there was a website on the van, front and back. This website was back to front at the front, ambulance style, but I was still able to decypher it as: www.grey-moth.com, crucially including that all-important hyphen. Which, as you see, gets us where we need to be. And it turns out to be a very interesting business. I was thinking that it would be some dreary fashion enterprise, but not a bit of it. Turns out, it’s an aerial videoing business, using drones.
I’ve been keeping an eye on drones for a while. And after initially wondering if I might ever buy one, I eventually concluded: no. If you get a drone, then you will either have to take it very seriously and learn all about how to do it, and become a full-time droner, mastering not only all the technical problems of drones but also the many legal minefields that droners must walk across (safety and privacy to name but two). Or: not. And I decided: not.
Drones, in other words, are not toys. But, they are a huge business opportunity, both for businesses that can make serious use of them, like farms or pop concert promoters or movie-makers, and for people willing to master drone use for a living and to hire themselves out. Like Grey-Moth does.
Speaking of minimalist propaganda, those Guys & Dolls Unisex Hair Stylists look like they are ("UYS DOL S") on their last hair curlers, if not already gone.
Click at will, to get bigger, less square pictures.
Displayed in chronological order. Taken between May 2011 and August 2014. When I took that last one, of the bikini-wearing bottle openers, that got me collecting all the others. That last one is definitely the one where the Union Jacks are having the most fun.
Whenever I see an old car, of the sort that was the latest thing when I was a kid, I photo it, or I try to.
See, for instance, those delightful old Citroens in Roupell Street. Which were there, I have since learned, not because someone in Roupell Street is collecting them, but because someone in Roupell Street is repairing them.
And see also, this ...:
… which I saw earlier this week, while on my way to a violin and piano recital at the Romanian Cultural Institute in Belgrave Square. A Rolls Royce, on the way to what turned out to be a Rolls Royce performance.
I used to have a Dinky Toy version of that car.
I am increasingly coming to believe that many of our most powerfully felt aesthetic prejudices are formed in the nursery. And that a lot of Modern Art is the recreation of those happy sensations, in an enlarged form, suitable for the enlarged people that the nursery dwellers turn into.
But Dinky Toy cars don’t have to be enlarged, because they already have been. Enlarged Dinky Toy cars are called: cars.
Come to think of it, I also had a couple of Dinky Toy Citroens, a DS19, and a 2CV. Yes, this explains a lot.
Yesterday I was reminding myself that we live in an age when pub quiz questions have instant answers. So when, soon after posting that posting, I came across this photo I took a while back, of a boat, …:
… with the words “THAMES RIB EXPERIENCE” written on it, I set to work to find out what the “RIB” bit means. I had vaguely supposed that this was some sort of steakhouse sponsorship deal. The world is now full of ridiculous arrangements of that sort, sponsored by commercial enterprises whose only way to sell more of their stuff is to cause even more people to have heard of it. The mere merits of the product being irrelevant, for their purposes. “Yes it’s bad for you but it tastes really nice” not being a message they want to be too publicly and explicitly associated with, because then they’d have the health fascists all over them.
So “Thames Rib Experience” as an exercise is boosting meat consumption? But which ribs should we be consuming. Just ribs generally? The British Rib Council, a combined consortium of ribbers, combining to boost ribs in general? It didn’t seem very plausible. So, what does RIB really mean?
It turns out that RIB means rigid inflatable boat.
This is a triviality, of course, unless you are in life-threateningly urgent need of a rigid inflatable boat trip on the Thames. But the change in the world towards a state where it is much easier to find things out is not trivial. The story that lots of people mention in this connection, and lots of people are not wrong, is the ease with which a formerly dirt poor farmer now can, in the depths of the African countryside, keep himself informed about the prices he can expect to get for his products, when he takes them to market.
Quicker and better answers to questions is all part of why all this stuff has been happening lately.
I took this photo from the roof of my block of flats this morning, of a brick tower, out beyond Victoria, with a rather startled expression on its face:
What is that?
We now live in a time when questions like that have pretty much immediate answers, and I went looking.
And I was reminded that the internet can be wrong as well as right about things, even about things which ought not to be a matter of opinion. Which I already knew, but it’s interesting to get caught up in the wrongness, from time to time.
A shot tower is a tower designed for the production of shot balls by freefall of molten lead, which is then caught in a water basin. The shot is used for projectiles in firearms.
But more confident and more numerous internet places persuade me that this is actually a pumping station tower. Or rather, it was.
Apparently, over there in Chelsea, there used to be a canal, the Grosvenor Canal. Bits of it are still there, but most bits, it would seem, not.
A remaining waterworks building, known as the Western Pumping Station still remains beside the site of the canal and its chimney is something of a landmark in the area. However, the chimney now acts as a ventilation shaft for sewers rather than its original purpose of being the chimney for boilers.
So, never a shot tower. Once a pumping station tower. Now a ventilation chimney.
This photo was taken in 2008, in France. I took it myself, and though I say it myself, I think it’s great.
There’s a particular sort of car you see in France which is old school in its styling, but so beautifully shiny that you suspect it may be a brand new reproduction rather than the genuine old article:
Those big buses behind don’t spoil it. The flowers in front don’t spoil it. This is my blog, and I decide about such things.
Alas, you can’t tell what sort of car this is, and hence get agoogling about whether it really is a real vintage car or merely a pretend one. My bet would be: real. Which only makes its shininess more shiny.
Yes, another quota photo, but this time I’m doing it in the small hours of the morning for tomorrow, rather than for yesterday.
This scaffolding is recent. I photoed it today:
That’s Waterloo, the new bit, the bit where the Eurostar trains used to arrive and depart, into that big New Thing that looks like a big, elongated greenhouse. And what I think we observe here is the start of getting those Eurostar platforms-that-were back into business. Not before time.
Here is an Evening Standard piece from March, when this refurbishment was announced. From that, a visual of what the new concourse area will look like:
Memo to self. I’ll take a look inside Waterloo, Real Soon Now, to see how this is looking from there. Although I doubt there will be much to see. But, maybe that raised-up shopping mall will make it easier to see what’s happening.
More about the revamp in a later ES piece, from July, here.
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.