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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: Signs and notices

Sunday May 28 2017

The rule at this blog is simple.  Something every day no mattter how rubbish, barring computer disasters or worse, actual disasters.

But here is a hand-done sign, which I photoed in the summer of 2015, that reveals a very different attitude towards rubbish:

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Somehow, as with political demonstrations, hand-done signs reveal a depth of feeling that a more professionally produced, printed sign just would not communicate.  I sense the presence of a particularly rubbishy pile of rubbish which caused whoever it was to snap.

I like how he decided that the original exclamation mark, squeezed in at the end of RUBBISH didn’t quite do the job, so he added another exclamation mark, just to make sure that the whole passing world knew exactly how he felt, about rubbish.

Friday May 26 2017

That’s not a big cat.  This is a big cat:

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Details here:

Sculptor Dengding Rui Yao has carved this incredible wooden lion from a single tree trunk. The artist led a team of 20 assistants on a three-year journey to complete the sculpture, which was made in Myanmar and was transported to its permanent home at the Fortune Plaza Times Square in Wuhan, China.

I chose the photo with the Big(gish) Things of Wuhan in the background.

This lion was linked to in these David Thompson ephemera, this time last week.

Featured in the latest lot, a baby hippo called Fiona.

Wednesday May 10 2017

Today I was out and about in the the West End, Mayfair, Oxford Street parts of London today, and I took my usual ton of photos.

Like many photographers, of all degrees of grandeur from very amateur to very pro, I am fascinated by reflections, and the weather today, bright sunshine, is particularly good for such reflections.  As architectural facades have moved from masonry and concrete towards great sheets of high-tech glass, these reflections have become a characteristic townscape fact of modern life, as the older buildings bounce their facades off the newer ones, thus:

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What I especially like about reflections of this kind is that they proclaim cities to be architectural dialogues rather than architectural monologues.  These reflections are typically the consequence of at least two distinct minds, of two different times, two different styles.  Often of many different times and styles, of course.  And, for me, the very essence of cities is that that are almost never the creations of just one mind, of one aesthetic dictator, one tyrant.  London definitely isn’t.  It keeps being demanded by architectural commentators that the look of London needs to be more coordinated, more harmonious, more uniform, less “chaotic”, but it never happens.  And the result is these – to some jarring, but to me endlessly diverting – collisions and juxtapositions of styles and of aesthetic attitudes.  My urban vision, so to speak, is of a city that embodies many visions, creatively colliding and conversing.

I am sure you understand why I was so delighted by this photo, when I looked at it on my computer screen, and first saw those words “URBAN VISION”, on the right there.  I still don’t know why they were where they were.  Maybe I’ll go and check that out.  Meanwhile: enjoy.  I did.

Monday May 08 2017

For the last few days I haven’t been out much, and today I was confined to my barracks by email malfunction, and then by being required me to wait next to my computer, waiting to be told what was what by The Guru, after I had failed to make sense of it.  If you can’t send or receive email, modern life doesn’t work and all else is insignificant.

So, once again, my posting is about remembering sunnier times, this time those sunnier times being this time last year.  In France.

And nothing says France quite like an entire shop, in an impossibly picturesque seaside town, devoted in its entirety, to tinned fish:

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Here, for the benefit of those who can read French, is a closer-up view of the sign:

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Sardines, the queens of … well according to the internet, “conserverie” means: canning factory.

I bought fish paste:

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The fish paste is long gone, but I have kept the cans as souvenirs.

Things like this are utterly ordinary, if, for you, they are ordinary, which they would be if you lived in France.  But I live in London SW1, where I cannot buy such things, and I find them beautifully exotic.  If I could buy these exact sorts of French tins in Sainsbury’s or Tesco, they wouldn’t be worth a second look or a first mention here.  But, I can’t.

Friday April 14 2017

As related last Wednesday, I heard GodDaughter 2 (and others) perform this:

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What a strange piece it is.  To an atheist like me, the plot is very simple and wholly disastrous.  Mother watches her only son being tortured to death.  Yet Rossini makes a lot of it sound rather up-beat, even jolly, despite it mostly being in a minor key.  This effect was strengthened in this performance by the fact that instead of the orchestra that Rossini specified, they made do with two pianists playing one piano.  Don’t get me wrong, these guys did fine.  But the inevitable emphasis that a piano places, unlike wind and orchestral stringed instruments, on the beginnings of notes, especially when two pianists need to keep in time with each other, created a mood not unlike a rather jolly brass band, of the sort manned by men in leather shorts.  Put on top of that singing that was more operatic in manner than traditionally ecclesiastical, and you can see why (I just learned this (blog and learn)) Heinrich Heine described the work as “too worldly, sensuous, too playful for the religious subject”.  Playful is exactly the word.  The tenor solo aria, early on, sounded like he’d just got married.

But then again, it’s not for atheistical me to be telling nineteenth century Italians how they should feel about the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ.  If they want to treat this as a cause for something close to celebration, which I suppose is what Christianity as a whole does, in among all the lamentation, I’m not going to tell them otherwise.  Besides which, I enjoyed it, once I had got over the surprise of how it sounded. Playful is a good sound.

If you like the sound of playfully ecclesiastical Rossini, I also recommend his Petite Messe Solomnelle.  That’s long been a favourite of mine.

There’s something about young-and-still-studying classical music voices that is often lacking with more famous, better paid and older classical singers.  Basically, their voices are still pristine, not yet having suffered from the habit of belting everything out to the far corners of opera houses.  Provided the students you are hearing are in command of what they are singing and don’t sing out of tune (these were and didn’t), they can create a sort of musical magic that you often miss on bigger and grander occasions.  There is also something appropriate about how none of them are stars, or not yet.  That way God, the Virgin Mary and her Son get to be the stars of the evening.

That said, towards the end, GodDaughter 2 had her big solo moment, doing a very difficult number with some scarily low notes.  As I already reported she did very well, in other opinions besides mine, Other than that, the highlight for me was the performance of Michael Ronan, who brought gravitas to the occasion of a sort that I was expecting rather more of.  I say “performance” because he accomplished this effect as much with his restrained and perfectly pitched body language as with his fine singing.

It was a shame that more people were not persuaded to attend this event.  I’m guessing we were mostly friends and family.  We had the performers outnumbered, but not by much.

I earlier linked to the Scherzo facebook page.  This was then still plugging last Wednesday’s performance, but as of now it features a photo of all the singers and their conductor Matthew O’Keeffe, taken after the performance.  I’m tempted to show you the photo of the photographer taking this photo that I photoed, but have resisted.  I also resisted taking photos of the performance during the performance, but she showed no such restraint, sometimes being almost in the singers’ faces.  Afterwards, I heard grumbles, but presumably she had permission.  If her efforts help Scherzo to get the bigger audiences they deserve in the future, then I forgive her.

Wednesday March 29 2017

Last Saturday, I journeyed forth to check out a statue.  I’ve been reading this book, which got me interested in Frederick, Duke of York, second son of George III and C-in-C of the British Army, for real, not ceremonially.  A hugely important figure in British military history, apparently, and there is a statue of him at the top of a column, right across the road from where he used to work, where he used to work being a walk away from where I live.  I’ve always liked this statue, and its column, but had never, until now, given a thought to what the bloke at the top of it had done to deserve it, for deserve it he did.

But before I checked that out, I encountered, in Parliament Square, that big Anti-BREXIT demo, and since today is a rather important date, BREXIT-wise, I’ll leave the Duke of York to other days, and focus on that demo, and in particular on all the signs that I saw.  The light was very bright, so here, with many a shadow getting in the way, are most of the signs that I saw:

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Given that I personally voted BREXIT, why did I go to all the bother (and when I do this kind of thing it is a lot of bother) of showing all these snaps here?

Here are a few reasons:

I was struck by the enthusiasm and inventiveness and personal commitment on show, especially illustrated by the number of hand-done signs I saw.  This enthusiasm is a significant political fact of our time, I think, no matter what you think of it.  My personal opinion is that it is going to do terrible damage to the British left, in a sort of mirror image way to the damage that Britain’s participation in the EU did to the British right.  (See this posting and this posting, at Samizdata.)

Second, many people whom I like and respect, some of them people of the left but most of them not, nevertheless voted against BREXIT, for reasons I thoroughly respect.  Much of the motivation behind the vote against BREXIT was libertarian in spirit, and much of the motivation behind the vote for BREXIT was anti-libertarian in spirit.  I voted the way I did despite all that, because of my pessimism about the future development of the EU, and because in my opinion the EU brought out the very worst in our politicians and public officials.  Turned them all into a pack of bloody liars, basically.  But those who did not see it that way had their reasons.  This posting is my nod towards all those who disagreed with me in this great matter.

Third, this posting reflects a photographic enthusiasm of mine, which is for large sets of objects which are all of the same kind, yet all different from one another.  I reacted, photographically, to this demo, in the exact same way that I reacted to an NFL jamboree that I encountered a few years back, in Trafalgar Square, where I found myself snapping lots of NFL name-and-number shirts, likewise all the same yet all different.

And see also this demo.

I have included a few signs which verge on self-parody.  1.1: “I AM QUITE CROSS”, made me chuckle, and wonder whose side they were on.  As did 9.1 and 9.2, “Tut” and “DOWN WITH THIS SORT OF THING”, the latter being a sign that goes back to Father Ted.  11.2, “mewn” baffles me, though.  What is that?  Does it mean: me-EU-UN?

Wednesday March 22 2017

Incoming from Michael Jennings, who encountered this sign at (a?) (the?) Jodhpur Fort in Rajasthan:

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Hm, what to do?

Easy.  Use a drone instead.

LATER: See first comment.  It’s this:

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There can only be one fort like that.

Categories updated to include Architecture, History, Sport, and War.

Blog and learn.

Saturday March 18 2017

Indeed:

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Presumably they were selling stuff like this.

I like it when my pictures include clocks, and that clock is a particular favourite of mine.

Friday March 17 2017

My day in Highbury and Islington (and Canonbury) began with me not seeing much in the way of Big Things from Islington Highbury Fields.  But very quickly, I made my way to the north eastern end of New River Walk, and took the walk along it.

The thing is, Google Maps, what with it being so easy to change the scale of, can mislead about how far apart things are.  One Google map shows you a big area, that it will take you a day to explore properly.  But then, following further button pushing, another map, which looks like it is of an equally big area, is actually of a place you can be all over within less than two hours.  So it was last Monday.

Everything that day was smaller and more suburban and contrived and just nice, compared to what I had been expecting and compared to what the more northerly bits of the New River are like, when GodDaughter One and I checked them out, back in 2015.

In particular, the New River Walk turned out to be a piece of miniature canal that has been turned into a tiny, elongated version of Hyde Park, thanks to some lottery money that was bestowed upon it in the nineties, complete with fountains, and ducks, and carefully manicured footpaths, and views of nearby affluent houses and apartments, thus:

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It’s the sort of place I am happy to have visited just the once, to check out what it is.  But it isn’t really my kind of place.

But, this is Friday, and there were ducks.  And dogs.  Quite a lot of dogs actually.  Also lots of signs saying don’t let the dogs do dog do, or if the dogs do do dog do, then do tidy it up.

Thursday March 16 2017

It went on for a really long time, though.  The show kicked off at 4.30pm, and only ended at 10pm.  There were two intervals, each of just over half and hour.  I was careful to drink very sparingly beforehand.

During the overture, before the curtain went up, I also fretted that there might not be titles in English of what was about to be sung, which would mean me spending the best part of an entire working day of time trapped in a seat and bored out of my skull, with nothing to do except listen to not-my-favourite Wagner, with constant interruptions from singers, of a sort that I typically don’t much like the sound of.  And I further fretted that if there were such titles then we might not be able to read them, what with us being stuck right next to the roof about a quarter of a mile away from the action.  But all was well.  There were titles, and they were clearly readable.

A distressing effect of us sitting up at the back and the top, was that, what with the house being pretty much full and spring having got properly started during the last day or two, it became very hot for us.  I heard one middle aged lady complaining vehemently about the heat to some hapless programme girl during the second interval, and from then on it just got hotter and hotter.

Another drawback of sitting at the top and at the back, for me and my faltering eyesight, was that I couldn’t see properly who was who on the stage.  It was just too far away.  The titles told me the meaning of what was being sung, but omitted the rather crucial detail of which character was actually singing it.  In part one this was a real problem, because the stage was mostly full of similarly dressed and similar sounding bassy-baritony blokes of a certain age, the Mastersingers of the title.  It helped that, as the night wore on, there tended to be fewer people on the stage, and I thus found it easier to deduce who was singing than it had been in part one

But oh boy, Wagner certainly takes his time with this one.  It’s supposed to be a comedy, and occasionally it was.  But one of Wagner’s favourite jokes is that he signals that something is about to happen, but then whichever dithering bass-baritone is supposed to be getting on with it then takes another five minutes actually to do it, or to sing it, or whatever he is supposed to do.  This device peaked in the final act, when Mastersinger Sixtus Beckmesser takes an age to start his butchered version of the prize song, which he has stolen from the tenor.

Leading the caste was the noted (Sir) Bryn Terfel, as Hans Sachs - philosopher, poet, Mastersinger and cobbler.  I was disappointed by him.  Terfel’s voice in no way stood out during part one, with all its other bass-baritones, and one of the other bass-baritones, Mastersinger Pogner I think it was, sounded much better to me.  This was, I believe, this guy.

The tenor Gwyn Hughes Jones, regularly complimented throughout the show on his beauty, was a fat middle-aged bloke who made a point of dressing down, rather than overdressing in the properly pompous Mastersinger style, at any rate in this production.  He looked, from my distant vantage point, more like a nightclub bouncer than a romantic lead.  But, and this is the only thing that really matters in opera, he sang brilliantly.  His voice was amazingly secure.  “Secure” sounds like damning with faint praise, but what I mean is that his voice combined the best qualities of a voice and a really well played musical instrument.  In this respect if in few others, yesterday was exactly like my earlier ROH experience, when tenor Joseph Calleja was also by far the best thing to be heard.  Hughes Jones’s performance of the prize song, right at the end, after Beckmesser’s mangling of it, was, as it should be, the musical highlight of the evening.

As with that earlier Verdi show, everyone else in this Meistersinger cast (apart from Pogner) made the usual operatic singing noises in the usual operatic ways, these usual operatic ways being the basic reason I mostly prefer classical music without singing, and as a rule avoid opera houses.  It isn’t just the crippling cost of the tickets.

There are two ways to sing opera badly.  You can sing with quite nice tone, but with far too much and far too slow and wobbly vibrato, to the point where neither pitch nor meaning are clear, even if you know the language.  Or, you can have less vibrato but a tone that sounds more like an industrial sawing process than a nice voice.  Last night, the singing wasn’t ever bad enough to be seriously off-putting to me, but there was more than a whiff of both styles on offer.  As often happens, the women were the worst wobblers.  And Bryn Terfel was the worst offender, to my ear, in the industrial sawing department, although perhaps the effect was made worse by me having been hoping for something better from him.  He did seem to get better as the evening wore on, although that could just be because both the music and the drama got better.  It got better very slowly, but it got better.

Die Meistersinger is a kind of pilgrimage, from old geezer fustiness to youthful brilliance as exemplified by the prize song, from light opera to heavy opera, from dreary pre-Wagnerian operatic frivolity, which Wagner could do only moderately well, to full-on Wagner, at which Wagner was, as you would expect, the supreme master. 

This production, especially in part one, was a bit off.  It was supposed to start in a church, but instead we were in a posh gentleman’s club, containing Mastersingers who looked more like affluent Victorian eccentrics than the real late-Middle-Ages deal.  Also, the ending was a bit un-Wagnerian, in that the lead soprano, Eva, wasn’t happy about the way the tenor was persuaded to join the Mastersingers, the way she surely was in Wagner’s mind when he wrote it.  But it was never freakishly stupid, like a Samuel Beckett play, and on the whole it didn’t just sound reasonably good, it looked very fine too.  Although Wagner takes an age to tell his story, there is at least a story to the thing that you care about.  Well, I did.  By the end.

Time to bust open the DVD of this opera that I have long possessed, having bought it for a tenner about a decade ago.  The early staging already looks much more convincing.

But, crucially, the tenor doesn’t sound, to me, nearly as good as the one I heard yesterday.  He really was something.

Friday March 10 2017

Whenever I encounter interesting vehicles, of which London possesses a great many, I try to photo them.  Taxis with fun adverts.  Diverting white vans.  Crane lorries.  That kind of thing.

In particular I like to photo ancient cars.  And, I also like to photo modern cars which are styled to look like ancient cars, like this one:

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This is the Mitsubishi Pajero Jr. Flying Pug.  How do I know that?  Because I also went round the back and took this photo:

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Is a pug a non-feline creature?  Sounds like a non-feline creature to me.

More about this eccentric vehicle here:

On sale for just three years between 1995 and 1998, it sold reasonably well and has been popular as a grey import. None of which explains what on Earth Mitsubishi was thinking when it devised this horror show, the special edition Flying Pug.

The Japanese have always loved old, British cars. Through the Nineties it was one of the biggest markets for the original Mini, but retro pastiches had become popular as well, led by the Nissan Micra-based Mitsuoka Viewt, which looked a bit like a miniature Jaguar Mark II.

Mitsubishi thought it would jump on the bandwagon. Out of all the cars it made, Mitsubishi decided the Pajero Jr would be the best platform. Ambitiously, the brochure said it had “the classic looks a London taxi.” In fact, it looked more like the absolutely gopping Triumph Mayflower.

The press thought it was ugly and the buying public agreed. Mitsubishi planned to build 1,000 Flying Pugs, but just 139 found homes. The deeply weird name can’t have helped, but Japanese-market cars are notorious for it; another special edition Pajero Jr was christened McTwist.

I agree that “Flying Pug” is a strange name.  And I agree that the Flying Pug doesn’t look much like a London taxi.  But it resembles the Triumph Mayflower even less.

I also do not agree that either the Flying Pug or the Triumph Mayflower are ugly.  And they are definitely not, to my eye, “absolutely gopping”, or a “horrow show”.  Each to his own.

But I do like the fact that I photoed a car of which there are only one hundred and thirty nine copies in existence.

Tuesday February 21 2017

I like London’s (England’s?) long, thin, very vertical, outdoor maps.  Whenever I am out and about photoing, I photo them:

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There’s nothing like a photo of a map with “You are here” on it, to tell you exactly where you were.  That’s where I was, early on, on the day I later took these pictures.

Seriously, it is often quite difficult to work out exactly where I was when I look through the products of one of my photographic perambulations.  This kind of snap turns it from difficult to obvious.

Especially if you can actually see the bit where it says “You are here”, like this:

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I’ve recently been on several expeditions to this intriguing part of London, with its convoluted waterways.  Maps are nice, but there’s no substitute for actually being there.  With a camera.

Wednesday February 15 2017

On January 20th I attended one of Christian Michel’s 6/20 meetings.  The subject was: The Meaning of Life.  To be rather more exact, it was: What kind of question is the question “What is the meaning of life?”

So, when I was making my way home, via Earls Court Underground Station, I guess I was in a Meaning of Life kind of mood.  Which might explain why I took this photo:

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This particular message is a bit too sentimental for my liking.  Those little hearts put me right off.  But actually, I don’t really object to these little sermons that the Underground has taken to erecting at the entrance to its stations.  This is because something that is merely written, no matter how big the lettering, is easily ignored.  I think this is one of the things I like about signs and adverts and posters and notices.  You can pay them all the attention you want to pay them, from a great deal, right the way down to absolutely nothing.

This is in sharp contrast to those appalling underground train guards who insist on preaching sermons over the intercom, instead of just telling you about how you have stopped in between stations because of a train still stuck at the next station.  Those sermons are impossible to avoid.

See also those buskers who actually climb onto trains and play.  Both these buskers and the tube train intercom sermonisers are on my personal Room 101 list.

The above also explains why Modern Art is so successful, but why, on the other hand, Modern Classical Music is so profoundly unsuccessful.  It’s not that Modern Art is mostly good while Modern Classical Music is mostly crap.  Modern Art is also mostly crap.  But, crucially, when a piece of Modern Classical Music traps you (when played live, in between two bits of proper Classical Music), you are stuck with it until it finishes.  Modern Art, in total contrast, is, when it’s crap, crap that is easily ignored.  Even when it ambushes you in an Art gallery, you can still just walk right past it.  Or, you can photo it, and then walk right past it.

Sunday February 12 2017

I just started watching the Opera North Ring Cycle on BBC4 TV.  Very good.

The basic problem with The Ring is how to stage it, and how to do the costumes.  Extreme Trad, where they all dress like nineteenth century fictional fantasy characters almost always looks ridiculous, like a bunch of opera singers clumping about in silly costumers on a daft stage, which is of course what they are.  (The only way to do that would be to do it as a fantasy cartoon movie.  Which I hope somebody will eventually get around to doing.) But modern costumes on a stage that looks like the inside of a nuclear power station is even sillier, because it plays havoc with Wagner’s very carefully scripted symbolism.  You end up with blokes who look like merchant bankers or geography teachers, holding spears and waving them at steam turbines, or some such ancient-modern mish-mash.  Either that or they go totally modern, and rewrite the opera.  Yes.  They literally do not perform Wagner.  If you change the Rhine and its maidens into a nightclub and some strippers, that’s something else, and something else pretty damn stupid.

What Opera North have done is film a stage performance.  The singers all wear suits and dresses, albeit suits and dresses that were very carefully chosen.  And then on top of that is photographically superimposed Wagner scenery, and, when it helps (it often does), simple words on the screen to tell you what is happening.  Plus, because it’s the telly, you get subtitles to tell you what they’re singing about.  (CDs have the best costumes, i.e. no damn costumes, but you do need to know what they’re singing, if you don’t do German.) It’s hard to describe, but I don’t need to, because you can sample it here, it you care to.

The Rhinemaidens are three opera singers in matching dresses on a stage, with wateriness added on top of them.  At no point are you asked to believe that they are actually swimming about, naked, under water for minutes on end, and singing.  I have never before not seen that scene look totally ridiculous, one way or another, and I bet it was totally ridiculous, one way or another, on the first night.  This time, it was not ridiculous.  That’s how very, very good this production was.

I particularly liked how, when Donner was summoning forth the right sort of weather for the Gods to enter Valhalla, at the end of Das Rhinegold, he was dressed like a conductor.  He was dressed that way throughout, but it worked especially well for that moment.

Loge was particularly good, both as an actor and as a singer.  His look and manner reminded me a bit of Stan Laurel.

Thursday February 02 2017

I love signs.  So tedious to copy in writing.  So easy to photo.  And I was photoing signs yesterday, at Victoria Station.

Here are two of those signs that go well together:

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I was just about to stick these up late last night, but discovered that BMdotcom was malfunctioning.

This is not the kind of sign I love to see, when trying to add stuff to this blog, or for that matter just to look at this blog:

MySQL ERROR:

Error Number: 1194

Description: Table ‘exp_throttle’ is marked as crashed and should be repaired

Query: SELECT hits, locked_out, last_activity FROM exp_throttle WHERE ip_address= ‘91.84.14.3’

But, as you can see, it’s now sorted.  Unless you can’t see and it isn’t.

And until the next time something like this happens.  Partly because of such cock-ups, I am, thinking of doing what all other bloggers who still exist did long ago, and switching to Wordpress, which The Guru also suggested.  Comments on the wisdom of that from other gurus would be very welcome.

Meanwhile, while waiting for sanity to be reasserted here, I did a Samizdata posting, entitled Brexit has unified the Conservative Party and divided Labour.  It has.