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

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Category archive: Transport

Sunday December 17 2017

This Is Why I’m Broke has recently featured a couple of new travelling things to stand on.  There was the Exodeck Off-Road Skateboard:

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And there were these Chariot Skates:

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I realise that the Exodeck Off-Road Skateboard supposedly doesn’t need any sort of artificial surface to travel on.  But, I bet a flat surface is easier.  And of course a flat surface is very necessary indeed for the Chariot Skates.

And, it just so happens, there is an absolute mania for new flat surfaces sweeping across the world, in the guise of dedicated cycle tracks and newly expanded pedestrian areas.  The war against the automobile continues apace, and the result will be not mere walking or cycling, but lots of new kinds of mobility, like the two pictured above.

Whenever I encounter devices of this sort in London, which I do more and more often, I try to photo them.  Not always very successfully, to put it mildly.  Often they’re gone before I’ve even put down my shopping, but sometimes: not.  Sadly, a quick search for such a photo yielded nothing, but next time I bump into one in my archives, I’ll do another posting on this subject.

Thursday December 14 2017

My camera has conked out.  The autofocussing is refusing to autofocus.  Which is nasty.  And even nastier given that I only found out about this when I was trying, with it, to take photos, this afternoon, like this one:

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That’s from the top of Primrose Hill, as photoed by my mobile phone, which is a Google Nexus 4.  That one wasn’t too bad, but most of the phone-photos I phone-photoed with this annoying gadget, truly good only for telling me where I am and how soon I will reach my tube destination and what the cricket scores are, were rubbish.

Here is one of the few other good ones, taken from one of the bridges over the Regent’s Canal:

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That red boat is the Feng Shang Princess.

GodDaughter 2 was with me.  Since I couldn’t take lots of photos, there was nothing for it, I had to make do with talking to her.  And also listening to her.  Which worked out quite well.

Tuesday December 12 2017

I have been receiving several of these calls recently, from faraway Indian-sounding guys who all, coincidentally, have English-sounding names.

Once again, I am reminded that the internet is the internet, and that if I type some words into my computer, along the lines of “I’m calling you from Windows …”, I should get the story.  And: I did.

That story was posted in 2012.  As it says, this rubbish obviously works.  Five years later, they’re still at it, with an identical script.

I’m somewhat ashamed to relate that it worked on me, the first time, a bit.  I seriously considered the possibility of the call being real, until I worked out that it obviously wasn’t.  Such shame spasms are important because they stop people talking about these scams and thereby reducing their chances of working.

In the early nineteenth century, sheep stealers were hanged, or so goes the legend.  Rip-off phone calls like the above make me understand why this happened, insofar as it actually did.  People talk, quite reasonably, about how people stole sheep because they were starving, but I’m guessing that having your sheep (singular or plural) stolen was a serious blow about which you (the victime) were ashamed, and that catching the bastards was very difficult even if you did tell other people.  So, when, by chance, sheep stealers were caught, they were often or at least sometimes killed.  I completely get it.

More often, however, they were (scroll down to the end) transported to Australia.

Once again, the internet tells the story.  This is yet another way in which the experience of getting old (the first posting you’ll get, as of now, if you follow that link, will be this one) has been transformed.  We oldies love to satisfy our curiosity about things that are none of our business and of no great interest to anyone, except us.  Time was when discussions about pointless trivia could go on for ever in a fact-free fashion.  Now, all you need is one small machine and the matter can be settled.  Does the internet kill conversation?  Discuss.  Or, you could type this question into the internet and get a definitive answer, yes it does or no it doesn’t.  End of conversation.  Or not.

Monday December 11 2017

It’s been around for a while, but thanks to This Is Why I’m Broke, I have now heard about it.  Rubber(-ish) tyres which don’t need inflating, and which therefore don’t suffer from punctures:

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An idea first conceived by Michelin research engineers in the United States, the TWEEL is a revolutionary non-pneumatic tire that changed the configuration of a conventional tire, bringing together the tire and the wheel assembly into one solid unit. The TWEEL comprises a rigid hub connected to a shear beam by means of flexible, deformable polyurethane spokes, all functioning as a single unit.

Unlike conventional tires, the TWEEL has no air, thereby solving what had seemed to be the unavoidable challenge of chronic flat tires that plagues the landscape, construction, contracting, refuse/recycling and agricultural industries.

Yes, at present the Tweel would seem to be confined to heavy duty activities of the sort described about, where spikey and scratchy things are constantly encountered, and where even a short amount of time is a lot of money.  On regular, smooth roads, the Tweel does not now make sense.

But, I wonder what effect the switch to robot road vehicles might have.  Might that, in some hard-to-foresee way, create an increased demand for the Tweel?  If there is one thing we can be sure of, it is that we cannot now be sure exactly what robot vehicles are going to look like, and exactly how they will go about their business.  Will robot cars welcome the greater variety of terrains that Tweels would presumably make possible?  Might it be better for the robot cars to have wheels that are unpuncturable, given that those wheels would no longer be guarded by human drivers?  Who now knows?

More generally, it looks to me like further Tweel developments depend on improved materials, and improved materials is now something the world does very well.  Simply, Tweels may become better and cheaper.  That alone might cause them to replace what I am now inclined to call balloon-based wheels.  But what do I know?

What I do now know is that the Tweel impresses me greatly.

Sunday December 10 2017

There are two places in London where I regularly encounter antique cars, in other words the sort of cars that were new at the time when I was a new human being.  One of these places is Lower Marsh, where there are regular convocations of such cars, which I have regularly bumped into when shopping at Gramex for second hand CDs, which was until very recently in Lower Marsh.

And the other place where antique cars can often been seen is outside the Regency Cafe, which is about two minutes walk away from where I live.  Antique cars congregate there in order to contribute to television shows or films set in olden times, the self-consciously dated Regency Cafe being a regular location for such dramas.

I recall being rather surprised to encounter these two ancient Austins were doing, even nearer to where I live than the Regency Cafe, in the summer of 2013.  What are they do?  Answer: they had been or about to be performing outside the Regency Cafe.  Enjoy:

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I am meeting someone tomorrow morning at the Regency Cafe.  I haven’t actually used this place very often, other than to photo old cars and showbiz activity outside it, but I think I will eat in it rather more in the future.

Friday December 08 2017

Seeing a how this is Friday, and Friday is my day here for cats and other creatures, I don’t want to just leave it at train seats.  I have an Other Creature to show to you, that I photoed earlier this evening.  This was at Victoria Station, so this is also train related.

The Other Creature was, I am almost certain, a panda:

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A few moments after the moment captured above, I actually asked this guy if he’d object to me photoing his panda. I said “bear”, but it didn’t matter.  Not him, I said, just the bear.  He was fine with this, so I took another photo, of the panda.  But the above photo was better, if only because in it, the railway connection is better communicated.

And yes, the panda has stars in its eyes.  How about that?

My journey to St Albans yesterday began rather inauspiciously.  I was changing at St Pancras International, and I had hoped that I might get the chance to view the International bit, with its wide open spaces, Eurostar trains and its mighty roof.  But all I did was follow the signs to “Platform B”, and that weary plod might has well have been at Green Park or Oxford Circus, for all the wide-open-spaced drama there was to be seen.  And then when I was on the train, the scene outside was grim, grey and wet.

But then, I noticed the seats.  The surprising thing about these was that instead of resting on the floor of the carriage, they were attached to the walls of the carriage, leaving the floor entirely unencumbered.  They hovered over that floor with very little visible means of support:

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Here are two closer-ups, showing the diagonal compression member that was doing all the worke:

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It looked crazy, but it felt as solid as a rock.  Solider in fact, when you consider the state of a lot of rocks you encounter on your travels.

What I think I see here is not so much a design for a railway carriage, as a design of a system for making railway carriages, just the way you want them.  And for changing them, if you suddenly decide you want them to be different.  If you wanted to redo the seating on these carriages, all you would do is undo the linear compartment at the point where the wall of the carriage nears the floor of the carriage, and make whatever changes you want.  Different seats, differently spaced, whatever.  The floor is untouched.  If you want to change the surface of the floor, easy.  When it comes to cleaning the floor, also easy.

I have a nostalgic fondness for the railway carriages of my youth, with their absurdly thick, manually operated doors, that you had to slam shut, and which all had to be shut before the train could depart.  But whereas I genuinely like old cars, I cannot really mourn those old carriages.  These new ones are just so much better.  For starters, they are wider on the inside by about two feet, because the walls are so much thinner and because these walls curve outwards.

I also like how the latest carriages join together in a way that allows people to walk continuously through, thereby easing congestion at busy times.  Here’s a rather good photo from Wikipedia which shows that.  According to Wikipedia there have been complaints about there being too little leg room between the seats, and no miniature fold-down tables.

They have their reasons for imposing such discomforts.  Basically, they want to enable the maximum number of commuters to be able to travel in okay comfort, rather than allow a lesser number of commuters to travel in greater comfort.  Which makes sense.

My point is different.  My point is that if it is later decided, perhaps in response to such grumbles, to switch to having slightly more generously spaced seats, with little fold-down tables, this would be a relatively easy operation to unleash.  Newly introduced carriages could be differently configured with great ease, without needing a totally new design.

There is much to complain about in the modern world, but stuff like this just gets cleverer and cleverer.

Wednesday November 29 2017

Yes, those horses brought it all back.  My journey out to exotic Tilbury, and its cranes, in the late September of 2013, and then walking along the north bank of the Thames Estuary towards the even mightier cranes of London Gateway.

As often happens on these expeditions, one of the most interesting things I encountered that day was right at the start of my wanderings, in little old Tilbury itself, on a footbridge, over the railway, before I had even got to the Estuary.

When I arrived at Tilbury, I could already see that there were cranes, and that there was a footbridge joining the platforms.  In order to photo the former, I ascended the latter, and got photos like this:

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Then I had a wander around Tilbury, and photoed weird stuff like this:

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That antenna looks like part of an insect, doesn’t it?  Well, I told you I occasionally like to attempt wildlife photography.

And then I decided that I needed to make use of another footbridge, a little further along the railway line, to get me onto the Estuary side of the line, so that I could get stuck into the real business of the day.

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It doesn’t look much, does it?  Just a footbridge.

But then, it started to look a bit interesting:  What are those faces, over on the other side there, not on the bridge itself, but on the approach to it, on the other side?  Graffiti, by the look of things.  But what sort of graffiti?

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I walked up the ramp onto the bridge, and on the actual bridge bit of the bridge, there was indeed graffiti.  Plenty of it.  But not graffiti that was in any way out of the ordinary.  It was the usual sort of graffiti, graffiti that says: We own this place, hee hee hee.  At night anway, when normal people are asleep and not looking.  Graffiti that says: You don’t know what this means, hee hee hee.  Graffiti that says, to me anyway: Yes, my life is going to be a pathetic failure, but it’s going to be the fault of the world and how horrible it’s been to me, rather than being in any way my pathetic fault, boo hoo hoo.  I grow increasingly irritated by this kind of stuff, which of course is one of its purposes, to irritate old geezers like me:

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Besides which, there are probably art galleries queueing up to get this guy to do his boring stuff indoors, to epater the bourgeousie in the approved art gallery manner and get a write-up in the Guardian.  So maybe this gink will make something of himself after all.  Maybe he already has.  Maybe his day job is doing the accounts for the Tilbury Town Council.

Whatever, so far so boring.

But then, something interesting started happening.  The Gink, or someone, had decided to insert a different psychological attitude into what was going on.  And the Gink, either because he personally wanted to or because someone else had taken him to one side and sat him down, and told him to change his tune, switched from the usual graffitied bafflingness to something clearer, and with a very different psychological vibe to it.  The Metacontext, as Samizdata’s Perry de Havilland would put it, suddenly changed.

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What is this?  Making things happen?  Hard work?  Persistence?  Success??? My God, someone has told the Gink that he is, just maybe, the boss of his own life, and that if he tries a bit harder, and takes responsibility for the outcomes of his own actions – in general, if he starts to think a bit differently - he just might truly amount to something.  It’s not definite.  That kind of thing never is, but if you give up and blame everyone else for your failures, failure is definite.

Was that the explanation for what happened next, or did what happen next actually get done first?  I don’t know.  But whatever the story, the story now changed.  On the approach ramp on the other side of the bridge, those faces.  Recognisable faces.  Next to readable messages.  In English.  There are details that tell not-an-art-expert me, so make of this what you will, that that this is the same guy, with the same paintbrushes and spray cans.  The medium is the same.  But the message has suddenly become something else entirely.  The grafitti suddenly becomes of something, in a way that even an old geezer like me can set about understanding.  My shoes are no longer being pissed on by a human animal, albeit one who is clever with a paint brush.  Instead, a truly human human being is communicating with me, in languages that are clearly intended for me to understand:

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The first face there, on the left, is Frank Sinatra.

Here are all the others:

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Names, with a link to the complete song lyric: Vera Lynn, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Aretha Franklin, Amy Winehouse, Tinchy Stryder, John Lennon, Adam Ant, Madonna, and Peter Kay.

It’s a quirky list, with strange inclusions and inevitable exclusions (Bowie? Stones? Jackson?).  Peter Kay, who merely mimed along to a song sung by someone else, is extremely lucky to make the cut.  But I reckon that’s all part of the fun.

Not all of the above photos are very good.  Some had to be rescued from the general scene and widened, and in one case (Amy Winehouse) made bigger.  Also, shame about the big W on Tinchy’s face.  But, you get the pictures.

If you google “tilbury grafitti” you discover quite a lot.  Apparently a bit upstream from where I went there is a big long slice of graffiti (scroll down until you get to “London’s mega-port” and “The Tilbury graffiti wall” - both well worth reading and following links from), crammed with popular art references, on the estuary wall.  It’s like: someone has a policy, or at the very least an attitude.  You can’t eliminate graffiti, but you can maybe get it to say something a bit less suicidal and doomed.

It isn’t clear yet what effect London Gateway and its nearly thirty massive cranes and its huge “logistics park” is going to have on other big English container ports, like Felixstowe and Southampton.  But one thing is clear.  Little old Tilbury dock, just upstream, may dribble on for a few years, but it is not going to get any bigger.  My guess is it will soon close.  Tilburians are going to have to find other things to do with their lives.  As Lord Tebbit once put it, they are going to have to get one their bikes.  Maybe not as far as to Amarillo, but at least mentally speaking.  What my visit to Tilbury and my subsequent and more recent Tilbury googlings tell me is that at least some people in Tilbury, including some people with enough clout to decide what gets painted on a footbridge, realise all this.

Yes I know, maybe I’m reading altogether too much into a few dawbs on a footbridge.  But, maybe: not.  I definitely intend returning to Tilbury.

Friday November 17 2017

Indeed:

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Tilbury, September 2013.  That’s what a BMdotcom wildlife photo should be.  Creatures, yes, but also cranes.

At around that time, I made a series of trips out to London Gateway, London’s new container port, which is just downstream from Tilbury.  Here‘s a recent report of how London Gateway is doing, which also has further news about animals in the area:

The £1.5bn construction saw a staggering 350,000 animals moved off site into new habitats. At one stage DP World’s office building on the site homed tanks of great crested newts before they were moved into newly created ponds.

However, the horses in the above photo were not disturbed, because they were just outside Tilbury.  London Gateway is further down river.  It was only several hours later that day that I set eyes on those cranes, from a great distance. Despite the gloomy weather, it was a great day.  The photos bring it all back.

Tuesday November 07 2017

The usually ignorable but occasionally very interesting Dezeen has one of its very interesting posting up now, about a driverless bus/train, in China, which looks like this:

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That reminds me a bit of those road-trains that they have in Australia.

The system works by scanning the painted road markings, using sensors on the underside of the vehicle. These sensors are able to detect pavement and road dimensions by the millimetre, and send travel information to the train whilst in transit.

Clever.  And a lot simpler than a lot of stuff involving seeing and avoiding people, and seeing and avoiding other vehicles, with multiple sensors and artificial intelligence and whatnot.  The people have to avoid this bus, just like they have to avoid trams now.  This is not a self-driving vehicle.  It is merely a development of the driverless train, like the DLR, but with computers and road markings to keep the thing on the straight and narrow rather than rails.

Driverless cars on regular roads, roads with no special markings, are still a few years off, I believe.  Too complicated.  Too many unknown unknowns.  But driverless buses like these, driving along predictable routes, will be no harder to manage than trams or trolley buses are now.

Nobody knows what the long-term impact of driverless vehicles is going to be, other than that it will be very big.  But one possible future is that lots of railways might soon be flattened into virtual railways not unlike this one, which will be a whole lot easier to travel along than a regular road.

Meanwhile, I love how, in the picture above, in the bottom right corner, there’s a guy who looks like he’s taking a picture of the cab of this bus, a can with nobody in it.

Friday November 03 2017

In my recent rootlings about in This is why I’m broke I came across two dog related devices that seemed rather impressive, in the usual punitive and exploitative (respectively) ways that dog related devices so often are.

First, there was this rather sneaky Tug Preventing Dog Trainer:

Train your dog to stop pulling on the leash when you walk with this tug preventing dog trainer. Every time old Sparky pulls on the leash, this clever device will emit a harmless ultrasonic tone that only he can hear, encouraging him to stop pulling and tugging.

Engouraging.  That’s one way of putting it I suppose.

But this does confirm that dogs respond to instantaneous punishments for defying your will.  They respond in particular by not doing whatever it is, and in general by regarding you as their dog superior.  Once subjugated, their deepest pleasure is in serving you.

Serving you, for instance, by supplying power for your Dog Powered Scooter:

Harness your dog’s endless energy to travel around with the dog powered scooter. This revolutionary form of transportation safely allows you and your canine to move in the same direction – giving you and your dog a fun outlet to get some healthy exercise.

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Well, dogs seem always to hanker after more exercise than most of their human masters ever seem to desire.  This contraption solves that problem very nicely.

Sunday October 15 2017

For me, it’s the most expensive penny I ever spend.  I’m referring to the toilet in Gramex, the services of which I often avail myself, in between hunting for keenly priced second-hand or ex-review-copy classical CDs.

This shop has kept moving over the years and is now seeking yet another new location, because its current location is about to be turned into a hotel.  But for now, until the 17th of this month, when you pee there, you beyold, in a very bedraggled state, a reproduction of a famous photograph, of New York’s Grand Central Terminal:

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There seem to be several versions of this photo, because more than one photoer noticed this remarkable phenomenon.  The phenomenon being how the presence of smoke or steam in the atmosphere turns any light that journeys through the smoke or the steam into a solid block of light.

This being well known to showbiz of course.  Here is a recent 6k photo, of a pop combo in action, being lit with smoke and searchlights.

The nearest I have ever got to anything like this myself is a set of photos I took one rather misty day in September 2015, when I was officially checking out the first of London Gateway’s cranes.  I have already shown this photo here, but here it is again because I like it so much:

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Here is another photo that I took moments earlier, which I have not shown here before:

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What I especially like about that one is that is shows how solidified light of this sort blocks out what is behind it.  You can’t see past such light.  But when there is no light crashing through and lighting up the mist, you can see through the mist.  Look how, when there isn’t lit up mist, you can see, past all the closer-up drama, another world of clouds, in the darker distance.

The above photo reminds me of another favourite photo of mine, this time where my reflection in a shop window, dark because back lit, makes it possible to see through the shop window into the shop, which otherwise you can’t because of brightly lit reflections from behind me.  In this case it is those bright reflections that are the solid light:

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That was photoed in the south of France, in Ceret, a town famous for its light and much loved by artists, in particular by Picasso.

I love that what we actually see through the shop window is someone else taking a photo.

Photography is light.

Thursday October 12 2017

I had a nice surprise today.  As time passes, the number of places I can buy the Gramophone and the BBC Music Mag keeps on diminishing, one of the few that remains being W.H.Smith in Victoria Station.  It was once again a beautifully lit late afternoon, and when I stepped outside the station concourse, I encountered this beautiful sight:

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Yes, the wraps have come off Pavlova.  And far sooner than I had been expecting.

Several of the above photos feature the new Nova building.  This fine edifice was awarded this year’s Carbuncle Cup.  The dreary grumblers who award this award think that it’s a badge of shame, but I generally find it, and its accompanying runner-up collections, to be a great source of information about interesting and often excellent new buildings.  Nova is wonderful, I think.  I intend (although I promise nothing), to say more about this enjoyably showy yet elegant addition to Victoria’s mostly rather lumpish architecture.

In 3.2, I got lucky with an airplane.

Monday October 09 2017

Yesterday GodDaughter One invited me to join her for one of her Moves, from Stonebridge Lock, up the River Lee Navigation, to Enfield.  The boaters of London have to keep moving.  They aren’t allowed to stay in the one spot for ever, which I bet thins down the numbers.  Plus, it makes sure that the canals have lots of canal boats chugging about on them for the likes of me to photo.  It’s quite a subtle rule, I think.

I took many photos.  Here are some that commemorate the life and work of Alfie Saggs, the lock keeper of Pickett’s Lock, which was renamed “Alfie’s Lock” in 2015:

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Alfie Saggs is well known to London’s canal boaters, but the story was all new to me.  Read about Alfie Saggs here.  Apparently Alfie liked Bounty Bars, and so Bounty Bars were how the boaters expressed their appreciation of his work:

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It’s good that this celebration of his life’s work was something that Alfie Saggs himself was able to enjoy, and that it didn’t happen only when he died, just three weeks ago:

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I photoed a lot of signs yesterday.  Signs are very evocative and very informative.  When I browse through directories of past wanderings, I am always glad of signs.  They tell me exactly where I was, the way that mere landscape and waterways cannot with nearly so much certainty.

Friday September 29 2017

Indeed:

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From the I Just Like It collection.  Photoed somewhere in the Piccadilly Circus Leicester Square region, in December 2013.

One of those photos where I moved my camera to keep it on the object of my attention as it rolled by, thereby keeping the object in approximate focus and the background not.

Nice.

I love luxurious cars driven by the ostentatious nouveau riche.  (Is there another kind of nouveau riche? Probably, yes.) I would hate to have to actually look after such a vehicle throughout its life, but I love being able to photo such things, on my wandering in London, where there are just enough of such vehicles to be amusing, but not so many that you stop noticing and stop enjoying.