Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Tom on LON DON
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6000 on Another walk along the river
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Brian Micklethwait on What sort of duck is this?
Brian Micklethwait on What sort of duck is this?
Brian Micklethwait on Another walk along the river
Alastair on Another walk along the river
Darren on What sort of duck is this?
Architectural Visualization on Benjamin Franklin maps the Gulf Stream
Most recent entries
- My latest meeting went fine
- Pizza Express bus
- The difference between roof clutter and roof clutter
- Another photo for the traffic lights countdown set
- Centre Point through the new station entrance
- My next last Friday meeting: Patrick Crozier on the political consequences of WW1
- Keeping up appearances next to Centre Point
- A model of London now opening to the public
- Looking in at the Zaha Hadid Design Gallery in Goswell Road
- Van Art
- LON DON
- John Cage does Sudoku
- Happy couples
- Another walk along the river
- My next five last Friday of the month speakers
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we make money not art
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Category archive: Signs and notices
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:
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.
Circumstances had placed me at the Angel Tube. My business was concluded and the weather was wondrous. So, where to next? There is a canal near there, but I didn’t fancy another canal walk, so instead I just walked along whatever road presented itself to me, in the general direction of the Big Things of the City (one of them (the Heron Tower) having been turned blazing gold by the early evening sun). The road turned out to be Goswell Road. A place of slightly down-at-heal struggle, where you felt that for some, the struggle wasn’t worth it, but for others, maybe. That kind of in-between sort of a place. Not as affluent as you’d expect for something that close to the City, but trundling along as best it could. Big, shabby-modern university buildings. Building sites. Ethnic shops.
And then in amongst all this middlingness, a glimpse through what looked like a shop window, into a world of money-no-object designer gloss and nouveau riche ostentation. What is all this stuff?
It all looked rather Zaha Hadid, especially this shiny but strange object, presumably for sitting on:
And hey, look, there’s a picture of Zaha Hadid. This is obviously a place that takes Zaha Hadid pretty seriously, and is very saddened by her recent death:
Zaha Hadid, I should explain, is the world-renowned starchitect and designer, who recently died at the shockingly young age of 65. When a starchitect dies at 65, that’s like a rock star dying at 22. At 65, starchitects, rather like classical conductors, are just getting started. The thing is, starchitects need power, and their target demographic is old decision-makers, so they tend to be old too.
What was this rather strange place? I stepped back to see if there was any clue on the outside.
Here was a clue:
Good grief. This is an actual Zaha Hadid place of work.
I crossed the road, to photo the whole thing:
To be more exact, this is not the one place where Hadid and all her underlings did everything. This is the Zaha Hadid Design Gallery, which opened in 2013 (I now learn), which would perhaps have been open for me to walk into had I encountered it earlier in the day. The place displays many of Hadid’s numerous designs for Small Things, like furniture, lamps, sculptures, jewellery, paintings, and suchlike.
Considering what a wacky designer Hadid was, that’s a surprisingly prosaic building, isn’t it? I’m guessing that it was not built specifically with her in mind, but was adapted.
So, no wonder that this place now contains memorials to Zaha Hadid, like this:
There is some reflection of the outside in this next snap, but it gives you an idea of what the place as a whole is like, and what kind of stuff is in it:
Frankly, for me, all this indoor small stuff does not show Hadid at her very best. For that, I think, you have to go outside.
Her only building in London so far is the Aquatics Centre, which I photoed, very hastily, when I visited the top of the Big Olympic Thing. Had I know then that Zaha Hadid had been about to die, I would have taken more photos of this building, and more carefully:
I would, for instance, have placed it in a gap in that safety netting, rather than just randomly. Another time.
But notice that even in that casual photo, the beauty, I think, of the building still asserts itself. It’s like a sports helmet, of the sort worn by cyclists, and by some cricketers.
Even more remarkable is this amazing ancient-modern juxtaposition:
This is now, apparently, nearing completion. It might be worth a trip to Antwerp, just to see it.
Zaha Hadid’s underlings are going to try to keep the Zaha Hadid enterprise going, at least the architectural bit. Good luck people, but you’re surely going to need it.
The rumour I heard is that Hadid was “difficult” to work for. Maybe this was just an example of that law that says that bossy men are masterful, but bossy women are bossy. But maybe she really was difficult to work for. If so, this difficulty looks like it was all of a piece with the sorts of designs she created.
The thing is, Hadid was not some logical, everything-has-a-reason systematic, machines-for-living in, presider over a system of architectural problem solving. She was the kind of architect who unleashed drama, excitement, at vast extra expense, if what you’re comparing it all with is a big rectangular box. You only have to look at her stuff to see that any logic involved is just an excuse for a cool looking design. Why does it look that way? Because I, Zaha Hadid, say so, and I’m the boss, that’s why. I make beautiful shapes. Other people like them and buy them. Deal with it.
That’s going to be a hard act to replace.
People talk about how “nothing says London” quite like … and then they say something that happens quite a lot in London or gets eaten quite a lot in London, or some such very London thing, assuming you already know that that’s what it is.
I contend that nothing says London quite like a big sign, saying “LONDON”. With that, there’s no ambiguity.
Here is a LONDON sign – well, more like a painting – that I photoed in Goswell Road late this afternoon:
That particular sign saying LONDON is a bit cleverer than your usual LONDON sign. The more usual sort of sign saying LONDON would say LONDON even more clearly, by just saying LONDON.
A bit more seriously, I’m surprised you don’t see that particular game played with the letters of the word LONDON more often.
Goswell Road is not a familiar place for me, in fact I don’t believe I’ve ever walked along it before. It’s all rather arty and designy, in an urban decay kind of way. That big LONDON sign has a definite Pop Art feel to it. Unlike the sign saying CAR PARK. Arty signs and car parks both being what you do when an urban site becomes temporarily vacant. The usual rules about what is proper don’t apply.
Recently I wrote about footbridges, one in particular, in theatreland. As that posting illustrates, I especially like footbridges that join buildings (in that case theatres), rather than merely convey members of the public who are on a journey through the city, even though I myself cannot cross such bridges, because I too am only a member of the public.
The London epicentre of such footbridge action is situated near Tower Bridge, on the south side of the river. Footbridges of greatly varying heights above the ground and almost beyond counting connect the tall brick buildings on each side of whatever the street is where all these footbridges are to be seen.
I knew that on various journeys along the river I had photoed these bridges, but where were such photos to be found? Oh well, I thought. They’ll turn up.
Last night, they did turn up. I was idling through photo-directories past, looking for something entirely different which I may, or may not, be telling you about Real Soon Now, and suddenly I came across a clutch of photos of the very footbridges I had in mind. I immediately copied all these photos across into the rather recently created Footbridges directory. Photos like this:
None of the photos I took that evening of these bridges were technically very accomplished. The light was tricky and I think I was rather tired by the time I took them. But, there they were, the bridges, and the photos of the bridges.
I chose the above photo from the half dozen or more that I had not because it is the best of these photos, but because it contains this vital piece of information, in writing. Close up:
Le Pont de la Tour? Google google. Apparently it’s a posh eatery, for the kind of posh people who now live in these now very posh buildings. And immediately I had the name of the street.
Don’t ask me how you are supposed to say that. Shad? The Shad? Shad Thames? I don’t know. But there’s the name. Shad. Sounds like Sean Connery saying Sad. (Do you suppose that the reason Sean Connery pronounces S as Sh is because of how Sean is pronounced? Jusht a shuggeshtion.)
Armed with this address, I could pin down exactly as opposed to approximately the location of this footbridge clutch, so that I can return there, and take better photos, and look them up on the www some more, and generally celebrate these striking structures.
And the moral is: when you are (I am) out and about taking photos, always get wherever you are (I am) in writing, by photoing writing. Photo signs of shops, signs outside places, street signs, or, in this case restaurant signs. That way, you can work out where everything was, even years later. The above picture was taken nearly six years ago.
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:
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.
As soon as I did that first posting this morning, about blogging early, I was freed from any obligation – self-imposed, but still an obligation – to blog any more today. At which point the idea of putting more up here, today, became fun, rather than any sort of chore. Hence the next posting, the one immediately below this one.
This one is here mostly so I can have postings called “Blog early” and “Blog often” up here on the same day.
Earlier this evening I attended a Libertarian Home meeting, addressed by Tim Evans.
One definite improvement over previous LH meetings in the same venue is that on the blackboard behind the speaker, it said his name, rather than the names of lots of things you can eat.
So, behind Tim Evans, underneath where it says “Specials” it also, this evening, said “Tim Evans”:
Better. In particular, better than this:
The speaker in that picture was Allum Bokhari, last August, and that picture of him is most unflattering. Alas, this is the picture I took that night that best shows all that food. Go here to see Allum Bokhari looking better, even if he is wearing headphones. To hear him also, talking about the “censorship” (if that’s what it is) of the social media, by the social media.
So, the video of Tim Evans talking will look better, in this particular respect, than did earlier videos, of LH speakers in front of that blackboard. You build an ideological movement one step at a time. This was a small step, but a definite step. Nice one.
Sadly, I am not so confident about the likely sound quality of any video that transpires. Tim has a way of talking rather quietly when in a smallish room such as this one is, but the hinges of the door to the room had no such inhibitions and were squeaking something terrible, every time anyone came in or out, as happened quite often. We shall see, and we shall hear. Hope I’m wrong about that.
Photoed by me, when I visited Barcelona in the summer of 2005:
This began like as an advert, but has mutated into Art. It seems to be quite a big deal, over there in Barcelona. My picture is of it supported by a structure which has since been replaced.
I have been a bit ill. Still am, rather. Hence this rather random posting, even by my random standards, and hence also the fact that although I tried to find out what this owl originally advertised, I pretty soon gave up. Anyone?
I was going to put up a picture I took of the Sagrada Familia (the big spikey Gaudi cathedral), with cranes. But the internet is full of pictures of the Sagrada Familia, without cranes, and also with cranes.
Another oldie from the I Just Like It directory:
Taken last July, in the City of London, during a quiet weekend as I recall it.
It’s this one.
I still fondly remember a posting I did on Samizdata, over a decade ago now, about a banged-up police car that was claiming to be Working for a safer London. Well, the white van below, photoed back on December 29th of last year, isn’t as big a PR clanger as that was, but it is a bit bad:
I know, I know. You can’t really make data insecure by damaging the van on which it says “secure data management”. This is the enterprise in question. Look at where the green lines cross the phone numbers, and you will see that, in the picture there, it is not the same van. So, they have more than one van. And by the look of it, what these vans do is transport documents. Nevertheless, this blemish suggests a certain sloppiness, or maybe I mean a certain willingness to seem sloppy, that does not sit well with handling data securely. If I was them, I’d want it sorted soonest.
On the same day, on the same photo-expedition, I also photoed this van:
Not nearly as white as the secure data van, but more to the point: not a scratch and squeaky clean. Which is appropriate, because this is also a business which needs to look like it is taking care when it is doing its business:
With paramount importance placed on quality and support, all equipment is thoroughly cleaned, tested and checked by our experienced engineers ...
Here’s another van, also snapped on that same expedition, that is both white and clean:
White vans often get rather dirty, but not this one:
Calabash are the No.1 commercial cleaning and washroom services company in London. Since 1992 we’ve been ensuring our clients maintain their premises to the highest standards ...
This, in other words, is a van that also needs to be maintained to the highest standards, and by the look of it, it is.
Today I have been what passes with me for busy. By this I do not mean that I have been doing anything along the lines of work, of benefit to others. Oh no. But I have been paying attention to a succession of things, all of which involved me not being in much of a state to do anything else.
There was a game of cricket, there was a game of rugger, and a game of football. England defeated South Africa. England defeated Scotland. And Spurs defeated Watford. So, three for three. And then I went to hear a talk at Christian Michel’s, about The Unconscious, Freudian and post-Freudian. Freud, it turns out, was right that there is an Unconscious, but wrong about a lot of the details.
On my way home from that talk, I took a photo. Technically it was very bad photo, because it was taken through the window of a moving tube train. It is of an advert at a tube station. But my photo did the job, which was to immortalise here yet another assemblage of London’s Big Things, in an advert:
That’s only a bit of the picture, rotated a bit, lightened and contrasted a bit and sharpened a bit.
The advert was for these visitor centres, which sound suspiciously like what used to be called “information desks”.
I see: the Cheesegrater, the Wheel, the BT Tower, Big Ben, the cable car river crossing, the Gherkin, Tower Bridge, the Shard, St Paul’s, and the pointy-topped Canary Wharf tower. I forgive TfL for plugging the embarrassing Emirates Dangleway. If they didn’t recommend it, who would?
Because of all that busy-ness, I have no time to put anything else here today.
Tomorrow: Super Bowl!
LATER: AB de Villiers, talking about South Africa now being two down with three to play:
“I can’t help but think, shit we have got to win three games in a row to win this series. Shucks, I mean. But that’s the fact of the matter. In situations like this, whether you are 2-nil up or 2-nil down, you have to take a small step. The next game is important for us. Shucks.”
We all know what shit is, but now learn what a shuck is.
My life, in this digital century, has contained quite a lot of wonderful expeditions which I never got around to mentioning here. Take the trip that I and G(od)D(aughter) 1 made to Beckton Sewage Works, on September 21st 2013. The only time I mentioned this here, it would seem, was in this posting, where I mentioned that I otherwise did not mention it.
So, to go some way towards correcting that, here is a picture of some birds that I took that day:
You want to know why London contains so many birds? Sewage processing, that’s why. Birds love that. The Beckton Sewage Works is one great big open air bird canteen.
And here is a picture of a sign that I took, which explains that a huge new sewage tunnel was in the process of being constructed, at the time of our visit:
More about that here:
The 75-metre deep Beckton overflow shaft is the entry point for the Lee Tunnel, a £635million project just as ambitious as the more highly-publicised Crossrail. Over the past five years, engineers have built a 6km tunnel stretching from Beckton up to Abbey Mills pumping station in Stratford, east London. The Lee Tunnel will help prevent more than 16 million tons of sewage from overflowing into the River Lee each year by capturing it and taking it down to Beckton. The sewage treatment works itself is being upgraded and expanded by 60 per cent to enable it to deal with the increased volume.
And the Lee Tunnel is just the first phase of the even more ambitious Thames Tideway Tunnel, a 25km tunnel that will handle sewage from Acton in west London through to Abbey Mills in the east. The Thames Tideway Tunnel will deal with the 34 most polluting overflow points along the Thames. Work on the £4.2billion project, known popularly as the London super sewer, starts in earnest in 2017 with engineers pulling the chain, so to speak, in 2023.
And here is another photo I took that day, which I include in this posting because I like it:
Behind that fence may, or may not, be activity associated with the digging of the big tunnel. But, I think it was.
Today I was out and about in the grim greyness of Winter London, with only very occasional patches of blue in the sky.
Had I had only these three photos in their original versions to go on, I might eventually have pieced together that David Bowie had died:
But I had already clocked this news from reading this posting at Mick Hartley’s. Viewers who feel strongly that all commemorations of the recently deceased should be in good taste are urged not to click on the middle picture. Whether the original you get by clicking is “what he would have wanted”, I do not know. One thing I know for sure is that it is not what I wanted. But it is what it is, and I had no other more suitable substitutes.
Later I took a more self-consciously commemorative photo to recognise Bowie’s death:
I’m not sure that it makes perfect sense to wish that a dead rock star should “rest in peace”, though. Surely at least the occasional burst of raucous rock and roll would also be in order. But, they only meant to say the right thing, and if not that, then what? I don’t know.
My personal feeling about Bowie, as with many rock and rollers, was that I paid very little attention indeed to the words as anything other than an excuse to make a satisfying musical racket. Also costumes don’t impress me, for better or for worse. I love the music of Abba, despite their preposterous outfits. And I love the Bowie tracks that I love, regardless of what “persona” he happened to be adopting at the time. It’s the backing that I love, and Bowie was really good at making this happen interestingly, I think.
What did “Suffragette City” mean? I never bothered to find out and I probably never will, but I love the sound it makes. “When You’re A Boy” made a bit more sense (to me), but it still came as a surprise (to me) when I saw a video of some women dancing along to it, who turned out all to be Bowie in drag. What was that about? Some sort of rumination on the socialised nature of sex-roles? Just a tease, to get the newspapers to denounce it and do the publicity for free? Probably the latter. Bowie was a dab hand at that.
I’m still catching up with some of the things I did last summer, even though it is now next year. My gaff my rules. In particularly, I still have finished reporting on Richmond Park.
Richmond Park is the very picture of unthreatening sweetness and light, especially on the sort of day it was when me and GD2 paid our visit to it. But, as regulars here will know, I like to photograph signs, and maps, so that I will know where I’ve been.
In Richmond Park, there are big maps of Richmond Park, like this one:
This map is covered with the names of all the various places in Richmond Park. Most of these names are quite nice, as you can see if you take a closer look (by clicking on it), at this closer-up view of the middle of the above map:
Prince Charles’s Spinney, Thompson’s Pond, Sidmouth Wood, and Queen Elizabeth’s Plantation, they all sound nice enough, in keeping with the suburban niceness of the place. Although, I suppose “plantation” might suggest slavery.
But some of these names speak of a different and grimmer past. How about, to take a closer look at some of them, names like these:
Suddenly, Richmond Park becomes more like the sort of landscape that brings to mind, say, Vincent Price’s chilling enactment of the Witchfinder General.
Names like those two suggest interpretations that are probably far worse than the truth, of names like these:
Spankers are probably just people who chase deer so that the upper classes can kill them for sport. A saw pit is probably just a pit where sawing (of tree trunks) was done. And Peg’s Pond is probably just the pond which Peg owned, and fished in. But, I couldn’t helping thinking that Peg’s Pond was really the pond where Vincent Price made poor Peg swim, thereby proving that she was a witch. And then she got hanged in one of the two hanging locations named above.
And how about these two names:
Bone Copse? Killcat Corner? What on earth was that about? Googling told me nothing, but that proves nothing.
Here is what the vans of Wicked Campers (which presumably started up in Australia) look like, photoed by me over the last few months, in Lower Marsh, where they often congregate.
I claim no artistic expression points for these pictures. They merely show what these entertaining vehicles look like. All the artistic expression points go to whoever decorated the vans:
So far so excellent. More Wicked Campers van décor to be found here, many of them equally excellent if not more excellent, and equally tasteless and un-PC if not more tasteless and more un-PC.
The Guardian is not amused
So then, I decided to search out the British HQ of Wicked Campers, which wasn’t hard because it is not far from Lower Marsh at all, in very nearby Carlisle Street.
And it looks as if the Guardian’s complaints, and the complaints the Guardian reports and seeks to amplify, may be having an effect. Wicked Campers HQ was a severe disappointment, at any rate the day I visited, last week. I found only two more vans, and both were appallingly tasteful, compared to the Wicked Campers norm. The big clutch of vans above look like there were decorated by expat Aussies who don’t give a shit. These two vans look like they were done by a British art student who probably reads the damn Guardian, every day.
Picture one here is just a pattern, with no in-your-face verbiage at all. Pictures two and three are of the same van, opposite sides:
I really hope I’m wrong, and that Wicked Campers continue to prosper in their classic, tasteless, un-PC form.
Happy Christmas, as and when you get around to reading this.
The weather this Christmas has been terrible. Warm, yes, but relentlessly cloudy and rainy. It seems like it’s been raining in London ever since I said here early last month that in London rain is quite rare. Wednesday was a brief respite, which the weather forecasters duly noted beforehand, but yesterday and today it’s back to mostly cloudy and rainy. So here is some Christmas photo-cheer from just before Christmas last year, when the weather was mostly what it should be around this time, suitably cold and frequently bright and sunny.
I mentioned earlier my intention to focus of a Friday on non-deline as well as feline members of the animal kingdom. This fine beast was to be seen last Christmas outside the old Covent Garden Market, where they used to sell fruit and veg - all that having moved to this place - and where they now sell stuff.
And here are two more photos, of the beast’s head, with a dose of that proper Christmas weather behind it, and of the sign at the beast’s feet, about how you mustn’t molest it in any way:
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom would not be BrianMicklethwaitDotCom if I hadn’t photoed photoers and stuck some of the resulting photos up here, so here are some of the many other photoers who photoed this reindeer. The first two have the reindeer on their screens:
And my favourite one didn’t have anything on her screen that I could see, but did have reindeers on her excellent woolly top.
Relevant website. Like I said, stuff.