Brian Micklethwait's Blog

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

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Category archive: Transport

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.

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.

Wednesday April 20 2016

As regulars here know, I am fascinated by unusual vehicles, and by almost all commercial vehicles.  Whereas cars tend to be reticent about making any sort of personal statement, commercial vehicles have to communicate.  They have to radiate an atmosphere.  They have to dress themselves like they’re going on the pull in a nightclub.  Well, they don’t have to.  But most commercial vehicles are an opportunity to do marketing, so why turn it down?  And these vehicles consequently radiate as many different atmospheres as there are commercial purposes being pursued in and with them.

Here are a couple of vans I spied today:

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Both are somewhat self-conscious, I think.  There is a lack of earnestness here, a certain ironic distance, a certain slightly bogus artifice, not to say Art, involved.

But, all part of what makes wandering about in London such an endlessly entertaining pastime.

Sausage Man website here.  I tried googling “Oliver London”, but all I got was a lot of stuff about a stage musical.  The small tricycle van looks oriental to me, and that its presence outside an oriental restaurant is not coincidental.

Saturday April 16 2016

And I was deliberately retracing steps I used to do make a lot of around eight or ten years ago, to see what had changed and what had not.  A lot had changed, in the form of a few big new buildings.  The rest had not changed.

Did I say that that sunset I recently posted photos of was last Saturday?  Yes.  Actually it was the Friday.  Get ill and you lose track of time.  That evening I also took a lot of other photos, on and from the south bank of the river, between Blackfriars road bridge and Tower Bridge, and here are some of the ones I particularly liked:

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That array of small photos (click on any you like to the look of to get it a decent size) really should not now be misbehaving, on any platform.  If it is, please get in touch, by comment or by email.

As to the pictures themselves:

1.1 A Deliberately Bald Bloke standing at the bottom of 240 Blackfriars.  (You can see the top of 240 Blackfriars in 3.1 here.) That Deliberately Bald look is, I think, fair game photo-blogging-wise.  The guy is choosing to look this way.  It’s a fashion statement, not an affliction.  Blog-mocking the involuntarily bald is not right, but blog-celebrating those who embrace their baldness is fine.  Especially if the guy obligingly turns his face away.

1.2 is one of my favourite weird London sites, namely the topless columns of the Blackfriars Bridge that isn’t, in between the two Blackfriars Bridges that are, the one on the right now sporting a new station on it.  The twist is that this was high tide, and waves were rhythmically breaking against a corner in the river wall and filling the air between my camera and the bridges with bits of water.

1.3 is a building on the other side of the river. Just beyond the Blackfriars Station bridge.  I do love what light and scaffolding and scaffolding covers sometimes do.

1.4 and 2.1 illustrate the universal photography rule to the effect that if you want to photo something very familiar, like St Paul’s Cathedral, you’d better include something else not so familiar, such as some propaganda for a current Tate Modern show that I will perhaps investigate soon, or maybe four big circles that you can see at the Tate Modern end of the Millennium Bridge.

2.2 is an ancient and modern snap, both elements of which I keep meaning to investigate.  Those two buildings, the office block and the church, are like two people I frequently meet, but don’t know the names of.  Luckily, with buildings, it’s not embarrassing to ask, far too late.

I know what that Big Thing behind the Millennium Bridge in 2.3 is, under wraps, being reconditioned, improved, made worse, whatever, we’ll have to see.  That’s Centre Point.  It even says most of that on it.  I have always been fond of Centre Point, one of London’s early Big New Things.

2.4 features something I have tried and failed to photo several times previously, a Deliveroo Man.  Deliveroo Men are usually in a great hurry and are gone before I can catch them, but this one was taking a breather.  Deliveroo Men carry their plasticated corrugated boxes on their backs like rucksacks, which I presume saves valuable seconds.

3.1: Another ancient/modern snap.  The very recognisable top of the Shard, and another piece of ancientness that I am familiar with but have yet to get around to identifying, see above.  I reallyl should have photoed a sign about it.  I bet there is one.

3.2: The golden top of the Monument, now dwarfed by the Gherkin and by the Walkie Talkie.

3.3: A golden hinde, which is to be found at the front of the Golden Hinde.  I’ve seen that beast before, but never really noticed it.

3.4: Another ancient/modern snap, this time with Southwark Cathedral dominating the foreground.  The combined effect yet again vindicates Renzo Piano’s belief that the Shard would blend into London rather than just crow all over it.  Those broken fragments at the top echo the four spikes on the nearby Cathedral.  It looks that way to me, anyway.

4.1: Another delivery snap, this time of the old school sort.  A White Van.  But with lots of propaganda all over it, notably the back door, in the new school style.

4.2: Yet another ancient modern contrast, this time the Monument, again, with a machine for window cleaning.  Note that small tripoddy object on the top of the Monument.  I suspect that this is to give advance warning if the Monument starts to wobble.

4.3: Two exercises in power projection, now both lapsed into tourist traps.  Behind, the Tower of London.  In front, HMS Belfast.

4.4: Finally!  Modern/modern!  The Walkie Talkie and the Cheesegrater, and probably my favourite snap of all these.  Not a view you often see in other photos, but there it was.  Should the bottom be cropped away, to simplify it even more.  I prefer to leave photos as taken.

5.1 shows that thing when reflected light is the exact same colour when reflected as originally.  Photography is light, so photography sees this.  But eyes always try to create a 3D model of what is going on, rather than just a 2D picture.  Eyes deliberately don’t see this.

5.2 and 5.4 take me back to my beautiful-women-taking-photos phase, which was big last decade.  These two were too good to ignore. They were just so happy!  But, mobile phones, which is very this decade.  Just like my cameras, the cameras in these just get better and better.

5.3 is another view of that amazing cluster of footbridges.

Tuesday April 05 2016

Today I made the mistake of going out to do something before I had shoved something up here.  So this is not a complicated posting.  It’s a rubbish lorry, which I photoed today, just before doing something, near the Angel tube station:

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Dirty Harry’s Waste Management, of Chingford, would seem to be the kind of enterprise that doesn’t have its own website.  It is merely mentioned on lots of other websites, of the sort that enable you to do research on enterprises that don’t have websites.

The art on the side of this rubbish collecting lorry reminds me of that on these Wicked Campers.

Sunday April 03 2016

Incoming from Darren (to whom thanks also for various recent comments):

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Saw this White Van story and thought of you.

Outstanding.

The artist, known only as Mr Konjusha is 22 and from east London.

His work has been spotted at various locations since he started drawing on the vehicles about three weeks ago. He said he had worked on 10 vans so far.

I think the whiteness of White Vans is all part of their appeal.  If they are white and clean, they look really clean.  If they are white a dirty, they look really dirty.

But if they are white and dirty, but if the dirt has been turned into art, what are they then?

Once again we have here an art form which is greatly encouraged by cheap digital photography.  Would Mr Konjusha be so inclined to exert himself thus, were it not possible for his efforts to be quickly and easily recorded and equally easily shared with an admiring public?

Judging by what he says about how he was trying to put a smile on delivery drivers’ faces, he started doing this just for a bit of fun.  But if he likes the fame and the attention he is now getting, he’ll perhaps continue for a while, more than he would have done in the previous century.  Maybe, thanks to all the attention, his next job will be in advertising.

What’s the betting someone turns this dirty art into something that will actually get printed, nice and cleanly, onto a nice clean van?

I’ve included “cats and kittens” in the category list because the guy says that some of the faces he does look like hybrid human/lion faces.

Monday March 28 2016

Indeed.  The old Eurostar Terminal at Waterloo is finally coming back to life again, for boring rush hour services, but life.

Until late in 2007, Eurostar trains used to come and go from the new station they built at Waterloo for that exact purpose.  But then they shut the place, and the Eurostars operated from St Pancras instead.  Since 2007, the Waterloo Eurostar terminal has been a corpse.

After much searching, I managed to dig up a photo I took in 2007 of some Eurostar snouts poking out of the Waterloo terminal, just before it died:

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Once again, we see Century House in the background of a photo here that is basically of something else.  The previous posting in which this happened is here, at which there is a brief explanatory comment about Century House’s history.  Spooks, basically.  Now just flats.

Even older Waterloo Eurostar photos can be viewed here, posted here in 2013, but taken in 2003.  I also just re-listened to a conversation involving Patrick Crozier, Michael Jennings, Rob Fisher and me, about the new St Pancras, which we all liked a lot, and presumably still like a lot.

Tuesday March 22 2016

Do you want your clothes theatrically drycleaned?  Here is the enterprise you’ve been looking for:

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Throughout our 50 years’ experience within the dry cleaning industry we have gained a wealth of knowledge and understanding of the effects that various solvents on different types of fabrics, paints, stage bloods, beading, sequins and trimmings allowing us the achieve the very best results for our wardrobe departments.

Van photoed by me in Tottenham Court Road last September, just minutes before I photoed this old American car.  I am becoming increasingly interested in photoing vehicles.  It’s not just taxis, and the vans don’t even have to be white.

As you can perhaps tell, today, it is nearly tomorrow.  I have been doing a lot less of that lately, but today I did.

Saturday March 19 2016

Bright sunlight on a basically rather dull day can make the most commonplace objects seem heavenly.  But when a shaft of sunlight slashed across Cape Town earlier in the week, it hit a big container ship and a flock of container cranes, who ended up looking like a herd of giraffes.  Amazing.  And crying out to be horizontalised:

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I was saving that for yesterday, because yesterday was Friday and my day for animals (the more bizarre the better).  But come yesterday, I forgot.

Too good to delay, too good to ignore.

Tuesday March 15 2016

One of the best things to have happened for the Old Gits of London tendency lately has been the arrival of those count-down signs which tell you how many more seconds you have to cross the road before the traffic lights change.  I love these.  (More about them here.)

So anyway, this was almost the last photo I took last night, after visiting Victoria Park:

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As so often with my photos, I did not know at the time what I was photoing.  What I thought I was photoing was a rather cheesy sunset outside Mile End Tube Station.  But it turns out that I was photoing a cheesy sunset outside Mile End Tube Station, and one of these count-down signs.  That “02” came out brilliantly, did it not?  No cropping, to make the 02 more central.  There it was, right in the middle, in a pleasing yellow that contrasts nicely with the cheesy pink.  Yeah, yeah, cheese is yellow not pink, so it’s the 02 that’s cheesy.  Whatever.  You get the picture.

Anyway, the plan is to post, once I have acquired them, a set of ten photos, featuring each number, of ten different signs, with entertainingly varied London backgrounds.  I promise nothing, you understand, but I have found that these memo-to-self postings can work rather well.

Monday March 07 2016

Yes, I’ve been continuing to photo taxis with adverts.  Here are half a dozen of the most recent such snaps.

First up, further proof, if you need it, that the internet has not abolished television.  People still like to be passively entertained, surprise surprise.  But the internet is in the process of swallowing television, so that they end up being the same thing:

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Next, become an accountant!  Note how they include the word “taxi” in the advertised website, presumably to see whether advertising on taxis is worth it.  Note to LSBF: I have no plans to become an accountant.

Note also the Big Things picture of London, something I always like to show pictures of here, and note also how out of date this picture is.  No Cheesegrater, for a start:

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Next up, a taxi advertising a book. I do not remember seeing this before, although I’m sure it has happened before:

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Next, Discover America.  I thought it already had been:

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Visit a beach.  I didn’t crop this photo at all, because I like how I tracked the taxi and its advert, and got the background all blurry, and I want you to see all that blurriness.  Nice contrast between that and the bright colours of the advert.  A little bit of summer in the grey old February of London:

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Finally, a snap I took last night, in the Earls Court area.  And now we’re back in the exciting world of accountancy, this time in the form of its Beautiful accounting software:

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As you can see, it was pitch dark by the time I took this.  But give my Lumix FZ200 even a sliver of artificial light and something solid to focus on, and it does okay, I think.  A decade ago, that photo would have been an unusable mess.

I am finding that taxi advertising changes very fast these days.  All of the above photos, apart from the one with the beaches, was of an advert I had not noticed before.

Which means that in future years, these taxi photos will have period value, because the adverts will have changed over and over again with the passing of only a handful of years.

Thursday March 03 2016

Blog buddy 6k recently did a posting about a Finnish word, “kalsarikännit”, which apparently means: “getting drunk alone at home, while wearing your underwear”.

I came across the big word in the title of this posting as a result of photoing a van, as it entered Victoria Street, on Tuesday:

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What got me photoing this van was not any long word on it, for there are none.  No, what got my attention was how amazingly posh this van looked.  Amazingly posh like one of those amazingly posh magazines about Design, two-thirds full of posh car, posh frock, posh watch and posh property adverts.  Goddaughter 1, if she sees this, will surely be delighted.  The market for aesthetically sophisticated architectural photography (which is what she mostly does for a living) has now spread to the sides of vans.

But what is BRS?  BRS.NL was a big clue.  Dutch, yes?  Yes.  Here’s the website.  I had a rootle around in it, and that was when I came across “Toegangsbeveiligingsproducten”.

Here is the original Dutch:

Het accent van de werkzaamheden van BRS Traffic Systems BV ligt op het ontwikkelen, produceren, installeren en onderhouden van toegangsbeveiligingsproducten zoals Xentry® Speedgates, Pevac® Traffic Blockers®, Pevac® Road Blockers, Pevac® Spike Barriers®, Pevac® Bollards, Xentry® Speeddoors en Pevac®Traps.

By the way, “van” is not the Dutch for a van.

The only translation of “toegangsbeveiligingsproducten” that I could coax out of the internet was the English translation of the above verbiage:

The emphasis of the work of BRS Traffic Systems BV is the development, production, installation and maintenance of access security as Xentry® Speedgates, Pevac® Traffic Blockers®, Pevac® Road Blockers, Pevac® Spike Barriers®, Pevac® Bollards, Xentry® Speed Doors, and Pevac®Traps.

So, “access security products”?  Fancy metal gates, in other words.  That’s not as good as “getting drunk alone at home, while wearing your underwear”, but I reckon “kalsarikännit” is not as impressive as “toegangsbeveiligingsproducten”.

Thank heavens for copy-and-paste.

German, I know, and Dutch, which I presume to be very similar, would seem to have this ability to construct infinitely long words, like good trains.  So perhaps this particular word is not that surprising.  But I like it.  I wonder if there is a single German, or Dutch, word for “a word that is in principle infinitely long, to which you can keep adding stuff for ever, like a goods train”.  Probably.  It could, that is to say, be devised.

Tuesday March 01 2016

After writing, several times, about how hard it is to do this, I am finally getting used to being able to investigate any strange thing that I see in London, provided that the strange thing has some strange words on it, or better yet, a strange website.

So, this afternoon, I saw this, on the front of a bus, in Whitehall:

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And here is what that is about:

Capture the heart of the city’s culture. landmarks and history on our London Routemaster bus, whilst sipping on a lovely cup of tea and enjoying the exquisite tastes of France. High tea accompanied with an array of tasty sandwiches and delicious cakes and pastries. Your uniformed London bus driver will take you round The London Eye, Big Ben, The Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, St James’s Park, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, The Royal Albert Hall, Marble Arch, Piccadilly Circus, Nelson’s Column, Downing Street and more.

Adults “from” £45.  And I bet all they do is point at these various Things, and talk.  There’s no way they let you out to actually explore them.  That would take too long.  So, pass.  I reckon I could go by train to Birmingham and back for that, and actually I’m thinking of doing just that, some time later this year.  Take in a few canals and whatever Big Things they have up there, and then a classical concert at Symphony Hall to check out its acoustics and how much better these than the frightful acoustics of the Royal Festival Hall, and then back to Euston and snug in my bed back home the same day.

Symphony Hall opened in 1991 to immediate public and critical acclaim. With its world class acoustics and stunning auditorium it is considered to be not only the UK’s finest concert hall but also one of the best in the world.

That sounds like it could be worth forty five quid.  And I’m writing this plan here to make it more likely that it will happen.

But forty five quid for a bus ride, some sandwiches, cakes and a cup of tea?  Pull, as we say in these parts, the other one.  Give, to coin a phrase, over.

Monday February 22 2016

There’s a really good piece at Samizdata, posted earlier today by Michael Jennings, about Why a traveller loves Uber.

In a piece I did a while back about Uber, I speculated that a typical way that people will first get the Uber habit is when they visit a foreign city, where they trust the local taxi drivers about as far as they can spit them.  So, they use Uber.  Michael, with massively greater recent globetrotting experience than me, bangs this point home.  We libertarians do love to talk about Uber.

imageOne of my regular visit sites, Dezeen, recently featured a story about the redesign of the Uber logo, which resulted, critics mocked, in a new logo that looked like an arsehole.  Uber’s head of design then immediately stepped down, to spend more time with his family.

This might be true.  He was tired, and had been spending lots of long hours away from home, working on the design of the arsehole.  That could be it.

What on earth possessed these designers to dump the U and go with a near-O instead, like they were changing the name from Uber to Ober, Oil of Ulay (now Olay) style, I cannot imagine.

None of this logo nonsense will change anything.  Uber is great, no matter how they choose to logotomise it.