Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Dent on The hottest day of the year (5): Old Citroens in Roupell Street
Melbourne House Check on Windows in bright light
Rob Fisher on Modernism now works
Jeff Weston on French animals from GodDaughter 2
Coffee Lover on On the connection between drinking lots of coffee and living a long and healthy life
6000 on Some more anonymous photographers from May of this year
Darren on Another fine day at the Oval (2): Jason Roy – and an extreme contrast
Michael Jennings on Large number of jobs
Natalie Solent on Large number of jobs
Mike on On the connection between drinking lots of coffee and living a long and healthy life
Most recent entries
- World’s tallest and longest glass bridge opens in China
- Views of Epsom and views from Epsom
- Sunny Croydon
- Bridge in Germany with houses on it
- A day in BMdotcom heaven (5): My belated photo-tribute to Kumar Sangakkara
- Quota Shard with quota cranes
- There’s a spiral staircase inside the Testicle
- Dernbach decisive again
- Windows in bright light
- When welfare means lavatories
- Another place to photo London’s Big Things from
- Crane with roof attached
- Another fine day at the Oval (4): Scoreboards old and new
- Street dogs
- Keeping their distance
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Category archive: Transport
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.
Indeed. Photoed by me this afternoon. I got off my bus early after spotting it, and walked back to photo it:
Inside the extraordinarily big front door of this place. The name keeps changing from Department of I forget what it used to be, to Department of I forget what it was after that, And I think they just changed it again, following all the recent political excitements, and us having a new Prime Minister. Innovation? Industry? Skills? All the sorts of things which, if you have a government department for it, you get less of. I believe it is now: Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Jolly ho. That’s probably completely wrong, and the Department of Energy and Industrial Strategy is perhaps somewhere else. Maybe everything is just staying where it is, and they have merely juggled the labels. That’s the likely story. Like I say: jolly ho.
Impressive airplane, though.
As I said yesterday, much socialising this week. Another do tonight, and yesterday, another visit with Darren to the Oval.
One of the advantages of my White Van fetish is that whenever I am waiting to meet someone in London, I can pass the time by photoing White Vans, of which there are invariably some and often many. So, while I waited to meet Darren, I photoed White Vans, and also a couple of not-so-White ones.
Before elaborating on the vans let me be clear that Darren was not late. He was spot on time. I was early. The trip to the Oval is not a totally familiar one for me, so I made sure I was not late by being early. Hence these vans.
Pride of place goes to the first van, light green in colour, decorated with the regalia of the Surrey County Cricket Club. I spotted this vehicle as I was making my way towards the Hobbs Gate, where we were due to meet. It was parked under one of the Oval’s huge stands. All the other vans were photoed outside the aforementioned Gate.
By the way, I love what I found when I followed the above link, to the Cricinfo Hobbs profile:
Jack Hobbs was cricket’s most prolific batsman. He finished with 61,237 first-class runs and 197 centuries, most of them stylishly made from the top of the Surrey or England batting orders. And he might have scored many more had the Great War not intervened, or if he hadn’t been inclined to get out shortly after reaching 100 to let someone else have a go.
Anyway, here are the vans:
1.1: The Surrey CCC van, as related above.
1.2: The first of two snaps with a bike angle. But, bicycle recovery? This van is for collecting bikes to mend, but not, alas, for recovering bikes that have been stolen. The bits where it says “We fix bikes” have, for me, an air of clarificatory honesty about them. Like they were added to lower falsely aroused expectations of daring do against the criminal classes.
1.3: This one I especially like, because I like White Vans and I like signs (by which I mean: I like to notice them). And here is an example of the former devoted to the latter. Note in particular: “Health & Safety Signage”. A big growth area in recent years.
2.1: I think this is my favourite one, of these. Usually, what I like about the White Vans I photo is the profusion of information that they supply. But in this case it’s the lack of information that made me smile. VOITH? Like: Everyone knows what VOITH is! But not me. Turns out it’s an enterprise that makes stuff for cars. When it says it “builds its partnership with Vauxhall”, this doesn’t mean with Vauxhall the place (which is very near to where I was standing when I took the photo), but rather with Vauxhall the car making enterprise.
2.2: A black van, devoted to cleaning. Very wise. One of the problems with White Vans is how dirty they can look, if only slightly dirty. And if you are a cleaning enterprise – and especially if you are a fantastic cleaning enterprise - you don’t want your vans looking dirty.
That’s enough vans.
I love before and after pictures. Here is another, showing how the world looked before Blackfriars Bridge Railway Station was built (photo taken in 2004), and after it was built (photo taken a few weeks ago).
What the two pictures have in common in those ghostly red columns, left over from an earlier Blackfriars railway bridge.
I seem to recall once upon a time speculating that the ugly lump next to the Shard made the Shard possible.Yes:
The Ugly Lump with the gasometer in front of it, on the right, is Guy’s Hospital. The other day I heard myself surmising that maybe if Guy’s Hospital had never been built, the Shard might not have been built either. As it was, there was no nearby neighbourhood or particular bit of the London skyline to ruin, aesthetically speaking, because that job had already been done by Guy’s. As it was, any aesthetical objection to the Shard was, as far as the immediate locals were concerned, a non-starter.
I still think that’s right. And what I now wonder is: did something similar happen with the new Blackfriars Station, the one on the bridge, that you can see in the right hand picture above, but not in the left had one? What I’m thinking is that the view that you see on the left, looking over Blackfriars railway bridge to the towers of the City is perhaps not a view that London’s rulers were especially proud of, what with those columns. Personally, I love the columns. For me, they are classic London at its weirdest and most eccentric. But you can imagine Powerful People being a bit uneasy about this oddity, and about the fact that Something Should Have Been Done About Them, by, you know, them. So, a railways station which spoilt this view, while not doing too much violence to views across the top of the bridge from further away, might not have been unwelcome. Without the columns, however, there was a view that they might not have been so ready to see interrupted.
This is just a speculation, just a thought, just a suggestion. I’m sure lots of other thinking besides that sort of thinking went into the building of this weird and eccentric railway station. (I added the word “more” to my title after first posting this.) But, I think there might be something to this.
Perhaps those Powerful People also hoped that something new and more constructive might be done with the columns, what with the new railway station being built. Maybe such a use was even promised, but later abandoned, for some reasons or other.
LATER: Actually, what I am now realising is that there used to be three disembodied rows of red columns, but that the right hand row as we look got swallowed up in a widened version of the original bridge. My pictures show this rather well, which is why I finally noticed.
This is a map showing my officially designated destination last Tuesday (the hottest day of the year (so far)). Across the bottom we see the railway going from past Waterloo main station to Waterloo East, in the middle towards the bottom, horizontally:
And just north of Waterloo East station is Roupell Street, in the middle of all those back-to-back houses, that I photoed in 2004 and then again last Tuesday (the hottest day of the year (so far)):
Here we are at the Cornwall Road end of Roupell Street, looking east. Lots of blue sky. No clouds. No clouds anywhere, actually.
I suspected gentrification, and the place did indeed have an air of rocketing house prices and of the banishment of old-fashioned workers, of the sort who presumably, once upon a time, lived in these houses.
In particular, I spotted three interesting vehicles.
First, a Citroen DS19 (I think 19):
So far so (relatively) ordinary.
But this was a bit more exotic, also a Citroen, something called (I also photoed where it said this) an “SM”:
And perhaps best of all, another vintage Citroen, in the form of an estate car version of the DS19:
Click on the above three pictures to get to the uncropped and even more sun-drenched originals.
All of these Citroens were parked within the space of about two dozen yards of each other, the first two right next to each other. I reckon what we have here is a collector of antique Citroens. And if that isn’t gentrification, je ne sais quoi what is.
Indeed. Photoed by me this afternoon:
I remember enjoying the original Ghostbusters, because of its pro-free-market political angle. This piece explains this political angle well.
Mostly what I think about all the feminism in this latest iteration, and of all those complaining about the feminism, is that you don’t own works of popular entertainment just because you liked them when you were young. If you like the original but not the new one, then ignore then new one and watch the old one again. It is very childish to get all steamed up about your childhood memories being mucked about with, if they have not actually been mucked about with. I mean, the original Ghostbusters survives, and has not in fact been in any way tampered with.
I continue to photo London’s black cabs and their adverts, particularly when they are entirely not black, because of being covered in a big taxi-shaped advert.
Here, for instance, is an unblack cab that particularly caught my eye, in Oxford street around a week ago:
What strikes me about this image …:
… (and oh look, I managed to save the picture without all the website verbiage on top of it), is that London looks … well, see the title of this.
The way the website puts a logo of Principal Tower in the middle of that picture makes it look like Principal Tower is right in the middle of all this foggy drama. Actually it’s way off to the left, near Broadgate Tower, beyond Liverpool Street Station.
As for this looking like Dubai, I have in mind pictures of Dubai that look like this:
I guess there’s something rather appealing about the idea of living in a magic tower which just hovers in the sky, with all that mess below blotted out. Unless you need to nip out to do some shopping.
That being the name I have given to this photo, taken yesterday afternoon:
Pride of place in all the temporariness goes to Centre Point, currently having some kind of makeover. But there are also cranes, crane shadows, flags, and all manner of urban thisness and thatness, including a big face on the back of a Boris bus, advertising Coca Cola.
Why the Union Jacks I wonder? Was the idea that, following the vote for Remain that was obviously going to happen, there would always be a Britain? Tourists, this place is still its good old British self? Leavers, bad luck, this is your consolation prize? Remaining doesn’t mean that Britain will be gobbled up by Europe? (Even though that is the plan.) Seriously, I wonder what the thinking was there.
Whatever, it makes for a pretty photo, I think. Also, good light.
I love What If? History, and here is another What If?, from Jonathan Dimbleby’s book, published just this year, about The Battle of the Atlantic. I have only just started this, but so far it looks most promising. In particular, it promises to place this campaign in the wider context of the war as a whole, as this excerpt from the preface (pp. xxiii-xxvii) well illustrates:
Those responsible for the direction of the war on the Allied side were swift to appreciate the critical importance of the Battle of the Atlantic but rather slower to give their navies the tools to finish the job. In the early years of the war Winston Churchill juggled with many competing priorities as he sought to safeguard Britain from invasion and to defend a global empire. As a result, the nation’s resources were stretched to the limit and sometimes beyond it; to the profound frustration of the prime minister, who found it exceptionally difficult to reconcile his boundless ambition with the fact that the men, the armour, and especially the ships were not available in sufficient force to achieve everything at once. Nonetheless it remains one of the great conundrums of his leadership that, although he was to reflect that ‘the only thing that ever really frightened me during the war was the U-boat peril’, he failed to follow through the logic of this foreboding until it was almost too late and certainly well beyond the point at which that ‘peril’ could have been eliminated. For every month from the start of hostilities until the early summer of 1943, Britain was losing merchant ships at a faster rate than they could be replaced, largely because they were inadequately protected against the Third Reich’s rapidly expanding U-boat fleet. From the British perspective, the story of the Battle of the Atlantic is in significant measure about a prolonged struggle between the Admiralty and the Air Ministry which became so fierce that a senior admiral was driven to comment that it was ‘a much more savage one than our war with the Huns’.’ Their hostilities were suspended only when, after three and a half years of war, Allied losses in the Atlantic reached such an alarming level that for a while it looked as though the U-boats were on the verge of severing Britain’s lifeline, a prospective catastrophe which forced a resolution in favour of the Admiralty.
This damaging clash between two branches of the wartime government owed much to Churchill. In the summer of 1940, as the Battle of Britain raged overhead, the new prime minister was naturally obsessed not only with the need to stiffen national morale but also to orchestrate action against Germany which would reverse Britain’s fortunes and, in time, lead to victory. As he cast around for a means to this end, he swiftly concluded that ‘an absolutely devastating, exterminating attack by very heavy bombers from this country upon the Nazi homeland’ was the ‘only one sure path’ to the defeat of Hitler. The ethical controversies provoked by this misapprehension have persisted to this day. By contrast, the consequences for the course of the Second World War have received less scrutiny. Yet Churchill’s failure to insist that an adequate number of aircraft be released from the bombing of Germany to do battle against the U-boats in the Atlantic until it was almost too late was a strategic error of judgement that made a fateful contribution to Britain’s failure to nullify the U-boat threat until many months later than would otherwise have been possible. The price of this delay may be measured in the thousands of lives and hundreds of ships which were lost unnecessarily in consequence. It may also be measured in terms of its strategic implications.
There is a tempting, indeed mind-boggling, scenario for those students who are lured by the ‘what if’ or ‘if only’ school of historiography: if the U-boat threat had been aborted several months earlier than it was, could the mass transportation of American troops and armaments from the United States to Britain have started in time to countenance a cross-Channel invasion of France in the autumn of 1943? Might the Allied armies have advanced deeper into Germany before the Red Army’s own push towards the German capital in the summer of 1944? If so, would the Allies have been in a position at Yalta to ensure that the Cold War map of Europe was drawn more nearly to reflect their own strength on the ground, greatly to the strategic advantage, therefore, of not only the post-war West but also those millions of Europeans who later found themselves entrapped behind the ‘Iron Curtain’?
It is a tempting vision that is explored later in these pages. What is surely beyond doubt, though, is that the prospect of an earlier victory in the Atlantic - by, say, the early autumn of 1942 rather than the early summer of 1943 - would have had a powerful impact on the fractious debate between London and Washington over Allied strategy in the prolonged build-up to D-Day (which this book also describes in some detail). In a cable to Roosevelt, which he despatched in July 1941, Churchill made it clear that he foresaw the liberation of Europe by a seaborne invasion ‘when the opportunity is ripe’. The single greatest obstacle in the way of this undertaking was the threat posed by the U-boats to the Atlantic convoys. Had this threat been eliminated earlier than it was, the strategic disputes between the Western Allies would have been even fiercer than they became by 1943; in particular the British would have found it far more difficult to persuade the Americans that victory in the Mediterranean (via North Africa and then Sicily) should precede the cross-Channel invasion of France. As it happened, of course, all such speculation, however intriguing, is rendered profitless because the prime minister was unwilling to prioritize the destruction of German U-boats over the destruction of German cities.
Churchill was a titanic leader whose strategic vision has often been unjustly disparaged but, in relation to the war at sea, his impetuous nature led him to embrace a false dichotomy. Contrasting the indubitably ‘offensive’ character of strategic bombing with the ostensibly ‘defensive’ task of forcing a lifeline passage for the convoys through U-boat infested oceans, he invariably favoured the ‘offensive’ initiatives hatched in the Air Ministry over the ‘defensive’ role assigned to the Admiralty. However, the prime minister was not alone in making this misleading distinction. Not only was it shared by his colleagues in the War Cabinet but also by the British chiefs of staff, including the First Sea Lord, Admiral Pound, who had most to lose. Although Pound became increasingly dismayed by Churchill’s refusal to withdraw from Bomber Command the aircraft needed to nullify the U-boat onslaught, he fatally weakened his case by failing to question the prime minister’s underlying premise. This collective mindset was evidently unable to recognize that the Atlantic convoys were no less ‘offensive’ in character than the wagon trains which opened up the American Midwest in the nineteenth century or (to borrow a twenty-first-century parallel) the military escorts which forced a way through the Taliban-infested deserts in Afghanistan to succour front-line towns and settlements. As it was, the Battle of the Atlantic soon materialized into a conflict that essentially was an asymmetric conflict between the convoys and the U-boats, a struggle in which, for month after month, the pendulum of triumph and disaster swung wildly from one side to the other.
One of the more intriguing consequences of the not-now-so-very-recent (what with another one coming along) Scottish independence referendum (which happened in September 2014) was that, rather suddenly, the world (by which I really mean: I) suddenly found itself (myself) contemplating the idea of the Union Jack flag disappearing into the history books. Had Scotland gone separate, the Union Jack would surely have had to be redesigned. I would not have regretted Scotland detatching itself from England, in fact I would have voted for this if I could have. But, I would have regretted the passing of the Union Jack, if only because it is such a great design, so recognisable that it is capable of being endlessly mucked about with, while still remaining the Union Jack.
The new, non Scottish version of the Union Jack might have looked a bit like the bag on the left here, as we look:
That snap was snapped in 2015, after the Scottish referendum, but I don’t think those designs have anything to do with politics. They’re just simplified and rather dull variations on the Union Jack theme. The one on the left just happens to look a lot like the Union Jack minus the Saltire. (Saltire is the Scottish flag, right? Yes.) But what does the one on the right signify? In terms of the flags that go towards the Union Jack, it takes the blue stripes from the Saltire and turns them into a background for the red bits of the Welsh and English flags. So actually, it’s just a blue bag, with bits of red Union Jack-ish stuff on it. Maybe there was also a red one with white Union Jack-ish stuck on, to complete the red white and blue set. I might never have bothered showing the above photo here, if it hadn’t been for the Saltire subtraction angle.
I had already been snapping Union Jack snaps, since quite a while before that moment of the Union Jack’s possible moment of disappearance. I long ago added “funny things being done with the Union Jack” to my mental photo-category list, alongside such things as bald blokes taking photos, utilitarian and commonplace footbridges, taxis covered in adverts, Big Things seen from a long way away in among foreground clutter, and so forth and so on. But, since that earlier referendum, I have been taking photos of Union Jacks with particular zeal.
Here are a couple of very recent Union Jack snaps I did. The first is of some flip-flops, on sale at the Parliament end of Westminster Bridge:
I reckon it’s the cellophane that gives that its artistic effect.
And here is a London taxi wing mirror:
That taxi décor isn’t part of an advert. It is just a taxi decorated with the Union Jack.
And then, while I was ruminating on a posting along these lines, came this piece of graphic Union Jackery, from the Spectator, to decorate their decision to back the Leave campaign in the forthcoming EU referundum:
This reminded me of a picture I took in East London five years ago, of some Art:
I could continue, with yet more Union Jack snaps, but I will end with some more Brexit propaganda. Still on the flying theme, just before I took the above snap of how fabulous Britain will be and will feel if we Leave, here, taken just moments earlier, is another Artistic-type picture of how ghastly things will be and will feel if we Remain. That’s the EU there, trying and failing to take wing, because its bureaucracy is far too big and heavy and its wings far too feeble and misshapen, crushing us as it plummets to earth:
Are you thinking that there really needs to be a Union Jack on that car, to make this point even clearer? But that’s exactly point! The EU scrubs out the Union Jack. Look! The Union Jack is nowhere to be seen! The EU has totally obliterated it! What could be clearer?
Slightly more seriously, the EU’s rulers will not be happy until they have driven the Union Jack into the history books, not by breaking up Britain, but by swallowing it and turning it into either fuel for itself, or shit. The only Union they want, and want celebrated with a flag, is their own.
Indeed. Just after snapping that WWWhite Van (see below) in Lower Marsh, on Saturday, I then photoed, in the same road a bit further on with a new name (The Cut) another means of transport of interest, in the form of this:
I have not seen an electric car being charged before, in the flesh, as it were. Not in London, not anywhere else. As you can see, this electric car originated in Brighton, the San Francisco of England.
I am sure all my libertarian friends would want to tell me that such cars only exist because of Big Green Blob giving them Money, and that in a real market, they would not exist.
Photoed by me yesterday, in Lower Marsh:
How soon before you will be able to take a smartphone photo of such a vehicle, and then, on your screen, press on the Twitter or Facebook squares, or on the website, and get there. Presumably, with that squiggly square, you can already do something like this.
That would certainly be an “intelligent advertising” improvement on what I have heard threats of, which is that adverts will change when they see you coming, to something they believe you are interested in. But I don’t believe that will happen any time soon, because how would you stop other people seeing what the advert thinks you are interested in? Leaving it up to you to investigate further, if you want to, will be much more civilised.
Indeed, with cranes and with intervening roof clutter in the foreground:
One of the oddities of the internet is that if you google new us embassy london, you get lots of Big Boxy Things, all looking different from each other. By which I mean, it’s the same box, but the architectural wrapping is different. Basically what you are looking at is all the different guesses or early suggestions about how it was going to look or how people thought it ought to look, which then just hang about for the next few years. Until such time as the Big Boxy Thing is finished, at which point huge numbers of new photos of it will drown out the guesses and the failed propaganda. This makes it hard to know, now, when the Big Boxy Thing is still being constructed, if what you are seeing is the Big Boxy Thing in question, or some other Big Boxy Thing.
But, in among all the imaginings, I found actual photos of the new Embassy as it actually is, in the process of being built, and the above photo is definitely of the actual US Embassy. No doubt about it. More views from the same spot, above my head as I write this, here.
What is happening is that Spook Alley, which starts near Waterloo Station, continues via all those James Bond enterprises in anonymous Big Boxy Things, and then takes in the new MI6 building, is now being added to with an American strip of boxes of comparable scale, further up the river on the south side. This is the Special Relationship in steel and concrete form, and the idea that this relationship is now cooling is visibly absurd. It has never been more solid. A whole new district of London is being created, basically for spying on terrorists, and on anyone else that the spooks take against.
As the rest of London expands down river, towards places like the new Container Port way off to the east, governmental London moves in the other direction, up river, west.
I constantly walk to St James’s Park tube, and often past it. Seldom do I actually notice what is above it, namely the until recently) headquarters of London Underground, 55 Broadway. This evening, on my way to a Libertarian Home meeting, I did notice this extraordinary, Mussolinian edifice:
According to Wikipedia, when 55 Broadway was completed in the late nineteen twenties, it was the tallest office building in London.