Brian Micklethwait's Blog
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Brian Micklethwait on Miguel aligns his message with his van
Natalie Solent on Miguel aligns his message with his van
Brian Micklethwait on Tate Modern is now fighting with its neighbours about privacy
Michael Jennings on Cyclists
Michael Jennings on Tate Modern is now fighting with its neighbours about privacy
Brian Micklethwait on Tate Modern is now fighting with its neighbours about privacy
Michael Jennings on Tate Modern is now fighting with its neighbours about privacy
Patrick Crozier on Cyclists
Brian Micklethwait on M20 bridge destroyed by passing digger
rob on M20 bridge destroyed by passing digger
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- 240 Blackfriars behind some reinforced concrete that is being demolished
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- When the people are the Art
- Ghost Bus
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- Just the top of the BOT … but still instantly recognisable
- How Brexit has unified the Conservative Party
- Six dials at Seven Dials
- Miguel aligns his message with his van
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6000 Miles from Civilisation
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Category archive: Signs and notices
I love all the paraphernalia, big and small, of London tourism. And with my digital camera, and more to the point with my habit of having my digital camera with me and keeping a lookout for things to photo with it, I don’t have to buy any of it. I can just photo it.
Today, for instance, from inside the laundrette that I have been frequenting lately, for my end of summer clothes washes, I spied this bus (I think there is only one such) going past. This is one of London’s more diverting sights. And I managed to get a zoom-snap of it before it got too far away:
Not bad, considering how gloomy the light was today.
That back window is actually quite a good detail to focus on. If you look a bit carefully (enlarge with a click), you can see that it is also the EMERGENCY EXIT.
I refer honourable readers to the posting I did earlier, about a pink van (miniature version of this pink van on the right there). And I ask you to note, again, the difficulties that this pink van’s decorators had in making what they had to say fit in with the indentations on the side of the van. The roller-blading fox has a big kink just under his midriff. The website information is written in letters too big to fit in the space chosen for it, but they have to be, to be legible. It all adds to the general air of amateurishness.
But now, let’s see how the professionals deal with similar problems:
I was all set to write about how this very “designed” piece of design made all the same mistakes as the pink van, but actually, I don’t think it does.
The thing is, the pink van is decorated in a way that says: this is a flat surface. Therefore, the fact that, actually, it is not a flat surface is a real problem.
But what the Sky van says is: you are looking through the surface of the van, to this three dimensional wonder-world beyond and within. Yes, it’s a van, and its outer surface has strange and random rectangular indentations and even stranger horizontal linear interruptions. That’s because it’s a van. Vans are like that. But all these vanly banalities merely happen to be in front of the real picture that we are showing you.
So, for me, this Sky van is a great success.
As for the world it depicts, the show in question is this. I’ve not seen any of it, but I do recall Karl Pilkington with fondness from that chat show he did with Ricky Gervais, which I seem to recall watching on television, in the early hours of the morning, even though it was supposed to be a “podcast”. Pilkington himself also remembers this earlier show with fondness, it would seem.
If I take a photo like this …:
… then I am liable to feel quite a lot of affection for the spot from which I took it. Big Things. Cranes. Roof clutter. A lit-up sign with news about a cricket game. Advertising, including even an advert for the excellent City A.M. (bottom right). True, it’s a bit gloomy. But that only makes the cricket score shine all the brighter.
Here, below, is a photo of the spot that I took the above photo from:
Yes it’s the Oval Pavilion. There is now sunshine, going sideways because by now it is the evening. Surrey have narrowly defeated Notts and all is well with the world, unless you were supporting Notts.
Here is another photo which I took a year later, from almost the same spot. Just sitting a bit further back:
Judging by the next photo I took, I must have surveyed the scene. 240 Blackfriars. St Paul’s. Yellow cranes. Yes, let’s take a closer look at those yellow cranes:
However, since taking all of the above (and a great many more (to say nothing of vans outside)) I have taken also to visiting another excellent Big Thing viewing platform, namely the one at the top of the Tate Modern Extension.
And when I looked more closely at the above photo of the yellow cranes, I observed this:
Still the yellow cranes, but this time we can also see the Tate Modern Tower much more clearly. And the Tate Modern Extension is right behind a new block of flats, one of the ones already referred to in this earlier posting, about how you can see right into these new flats from the Tate Modern Extension viewing platform.
So, if I could see parts of the Tate Modern Extension viewing platform from the top of the Oval Pavilion, it ought also to be possible to see the top of the Oval Pavilion from parts of the Tate Modern Extension viewing platform.
And so it proved. On my first expedition to the Tate Modern Extension viewing platform, I had given no thought to the Oval Pavilion. But on my second visit, having scrutinised my Oval photos in the manner described above, I tried to photo the Oval Pavilion. A lot, because I couldn’t myself see it properly.
On the right, in green, the famous Oval Gasometer.
Here, in case you are in any way unsure, is the Oval Pavilion:
For the last few days, I have been asking myself why I so much relish little visual duets of this sort. Liking A, liking B, seeing A from B, seeing B from A. Why am I so diverted by this? Rather than answer this question, I will just leave it, for now, at putting the question. I have the beginnings of some answers meandering about in my head, but they can wait.
I’ve visited the top of the Tate Modern Extension several times in recent weeks, so this story particularly entertained me:
Here’s the story:
Residents of the Rogers Stirk Harbour-designed Neo Bankside apartments have threatened legal action, after Tate Modern opened an observation deck that provides views into their private apartments.
The 360-degree rooftop viewing deck is one of the headline features of the Switch House – the 64.5-metre-high Tate Modern gallery extension by Herzog & de Meuron, which opened to the public in June.
But residents of the adjacent apartment complex have claimed that gallery visitors are using zoom-lens cameras and binoculars to peer inside their glass-walled homes and take photographs.
Having failed to reach a solution with Tate, the homeowners are now seeking legal action to regain their privacy.
I was particularly diverted by this bit:
So far the only change has been the addition of a sign asking Tate visitors to be more considerate.
Dezeen does not show any picture of this sign, but here, I can, because I photoed it several weeks ago:
I remember thinking at the time that this is almost contemptuously perfunctory. I’m not surprised that it failed to subdue the snoopers
I believe that, as London gets more and more interesting, and full of more and more intriguing Big Things, there will be more and more such viewing platforms like this one at Tate Modern. So, this problem of what you can see from such platforms that people don’t want you to see isn’t going to go away.
And the problem gets far worse when you consider that zoom lenses are only going to get ever more powerful. I often joke here that my camera has better eyesight than I do, and it’s true. But pretty soon, all cameras will have better eyesight than everyone.
It could be that about half of this particular viewing platform will be shut down, in which case, I need to make sure now that I have seen everything from that part of it that I can, before this happens.
I’d prefer the other idea, which is that these people living in glass houses should have one way mirrors installed, so they can see out but the rest of us can’t see in. But then, expect the internet to be awash with before/after photos.
I think it looks like they’re giving someone two fingers, rather than two kangaroo ears. At least it’s not pointing at us. It’s more like we’re doing it. Weird. It will be interesting to see if it survives. Quite apart from anything else, I just think it is extremely ugly, in the same kind of way that the 2012 Olympics logo was ugly.
No apologies for such retrospection, because it can often be very interesting. But today, I wanted to show a photo that I took today, and I wanted to do this even before I set off to take it, whatever it was.
However, today was grim and gloomy, a bad light stopped play day, not one for bright colours or grand vistas.
But perhaps a rather good day for this, which I had never noticed before:
I like the idea of public signs, offering little history lessons to passers-by. (I recall noting that the French do this a lot with their street name signs, in a blog posting, once upon a time, somewhere. Yes, in this.)
I also like those blue circles which say that someone interesting once lived here. I try to photo those whenever I see them. But, I hope you will agree that the above photo deserves to be on its own, rather than being, so to speak, diluted.
In this case police cyclists, photoed by me in Waterloo Road last Tuesday, after I had descended from the top of the Tate Modern Extension:
I am not showing you this photo for artistic impression, strictly for its content. At the time I just thought I was photoing police on bikes, which is about as common as police on horses. But while I took the photo, I heard a voice next to me say something like: “There go the police, ignoring the red lights.” And they were, as is evidenced by the green light telling us pedestrians that we could cross. At the time I also thought: did I get the green light? Yes I did. And I don’t think that the lady on the other side of the road is that impressed either.
Also, the policeman on the right is holding a mobile phone in his right hand, which is the kind of behaviour that the police are cracking down on when anyone else does it.
A few years back, cyclists behaved like the law didn’t apply to them, which presumably it didn’t, in the sense that nobody applied it to them. Cyclists would grab all the rights and privileges of motorists and of pedestrians, switching from one to the other whenever they felt like it, doing such things as biking past you at speed, on the pavement. But then, in London anyway, somebody did apply the law to them. My experience is that cyclists now behave much better than they used to.
But these police cyclists don’t seem to have got that memo.
Here in London, when a pedestrian sees a red light saying don’t walk across a road, it usually looks something like this:
Or like this:
Those being from the archives.
But yesterday, I was in a place where the corresponding red lights look like this:
Definitely horse-riding country. Although, perhaps strangely, I saw no real horses.
I was in that part of outer London known as Epsom. Having disembarked from a train at a station called Tattenham Corner, I found myself in … Tattenham? … and then kept on for a bit and emerged, just like that, into the open countryside. And I saw things like this:
That being, I’m pretty sure, in the foreground, the actual, original, Tattenham Corner, around which the horses and their riders go, in races.
But if, instead of making your way towards that big grandstand to watch the racing, you instead turn right, up a slight hill, through various clumps of trees, you eventually come out the other side of these trees, and you find yourself enjoying a distant view of London.
I did not come to Epsom in order to photo pedestrian lights or sporting architecture, although I did do this. What I came to Epsom to photo was scenes like this:
And like this:
And like this:
When I took these shots, the scenes I was shooting were so far away that it was very hard for me, with my ever more terrible eyesight, to work out what I was photoing. I only learned that I had photoed The Wheel when I looked at that shot on the screen of my camera and enlarged it, and hey, that looks like The Wheel.
As for Wembley Arch, I do vaguely remember thinking that I saw a shape that might be that, but I wasn’t sure until I got home.
And even then, these distant views of London weren’t that good, on account of being too distant and my non-SLR camera being too primitive. Epsom is a long way away from London.
The above explains, as not promised in the previous posting, why I was in Croydon yesterday. Getting by train from London to Tattenham Corner meant, for me, going from Victoria to East Croydon, and then changing to the Tattenham Corner train.
I half had in mind to break the journey back to Victoria at Battersea Park station, which also has fine views of London’s Big Things, but I slept through Battersea Park, and anyway, it was getting dark.
My blogging time this evening was totally bent out of shape by – surprise, surprise – a game of cricket. This went on for longer than I expected, and it seeed and sawed hither and thither. Sangakkara scored a brilliant hundred. Jade Dernbach also did important things for Surrey. And Surrey won. It was like I was there!
Sangakkara’s brilliance is well explained in this report of the game. But Dernbach deserves a bit more immortalising than his performance might otherwise get. First off, he took three top order Northants wickets, including those of Levi and Duckett, both dangerous, for small scores. And just as in that game in 2015 against Notts, the penultimate over that Dernbach bowled, and the contrast between it and the penultimate over of the Surrey innings, also involving Dernbach, proved crucial.
In the penultimate over of the Northants innings, Dernbach conceded just two runs, after the over before that one had gone for eighteen. And he got the wicket of his opposite number – the Northants number eleven, Azharullah – with the last ball of that penultimate over, thus ending a troublesome last wicket stand, and denying Kleinveldt one final over of tumultuous hitting, because thanks to Dernbach getting Azharullah there was no final over. Kleinveldt might have got a century, and Northants might have got three hundred. As it was, Kleinveldt had to be content with 76, and Northants with 276.
But whereas Northants had scored two off their last two overs, with one wicket left at the beginning of the second last over, Surrey, also with only one wicket standing, found themselves needing twenty four off the last two overs to win the game. Dernbach was batting alongside Sanga, and thanks in no small part to Dernbach, Surrey did win. Dernbach scored eight, including a much needed boundary during that penultimate over, and the rest of his runs in singles of the sort that got the strike back to Sanga. And Sanga did the necessary slogging and won the game for Surrey with an amazing six during the last over and a four off the last ball of the match. But Dernbach’s support was vital. He played a few shots and did not get out.
Here is a not very dramatic picture I took of Dernbach at the Oval, at the game I attended last month, just after he had taken three top order Gloucester wickets in that game:
And here is a rather better picture that I took, during that game in 2015, of a picture someone else took of him, along with the Shard and a crane and a gasometer:
Perhaps one reason Dernbach played so very well in this evening’s game is that he is now, what with being quite old, a one-day specialist. If Surrey had lost this game, I’m pretty sure that that would have been the end of his season, because Surrey would have been knocked out of this fifty overs tournament, and have already been knocked out of the twenty overs tournament.
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.
Proof that the day that Darren and I saw Surrey beat Gloucester was a great day out is that I have already done three postings about that day here, and have hardly scratched the surface of how much fun I (for only one) had, on that day.
Posting (1) about that day concerned vans. Posting (2) was about cricket, and in particular about the emerging cricket superstar that is Jason Roy. Posting (3) was about the Oval’s contrasting architectural Big Things, and about seeing (or not seeing) London’s biggest Big Things from one of the Ovals Big Things.
The final test match between England and Pakistan is now under way, at the very same Oval that I have been going on about. (England are getting stuffed, as I write this. Go here to be sure.) So it is appropriate that this posting takes us, those of us who are interested, back to cricket, and in particular to the photoing of a cricket scoreboard. Sporting scoreboards make for great photos, packed with memory-triggering information. Not just obvious things like the score of a particular game, but, as the years pass, forgotten names, and forgotten moments in remembered games.
I didn’t take many pictures of the old scoreboard that day, the one way off to the right of the Pavilion (as you look at it), but here is one of the pictures I did take of it, along with a lot of other stuff all around it:
You can’t really see the scoreboard there, unless you look rather carefully, so here is a close-up:
This looks to me rather like an eighties style computer screen, the sort that started you off with cryptic messages like: “A:>“. Such old screens often had orange letters or numbers on a black background. No doubt there have been suggestions that this scoreboard be replaced by something more twenty first century, but no doubt also, the old fogeys of the Surrey County Cricket Club drew the line at such vandalism. Cricket is, after all, a game typically played before an audience made up mostly of oldies. And as you can see from my pictures, this audience is too sparse for cricket people to be able to ignore the tastes of those who do show up.
I can remember scoreboards far more primitive even than this, where you hung the numbers on hooks. I even helped to operate such a scoreboard occasionally, when Englefield Green played nearby teams like Egham, Staines and so on, on … Englefield Green. Because yes, there really was an actual Englefield Green. There still is.
All that that old scoreboard showed was, as I recall, total runs scored, wickets down, batsman number this, this much, batsman number that, this much. And, if the other side had already batted, the other side’s total. Batsmen would not have been identified with numbers like 58 or 59, i.e. with the numbers on the backs of their shirts, because they wore no such shirts. Their number would be their place in the batting order, which is actually far more informative about the state of the game. If, say, there are seven wickets down, and batsmen 8 and 9 are batting, both with smallish scores, that’s one sort of game. But if batsmen 3 is still in with a decent score to his number, that’s a much better prospect for the batting side. “59” doesn’t tell you anything about whether the guy can bat or not.
Here is a much newer scoreboard, to be seen on the other side of the ground from the old scoreboard:
Here we learn who batsmen 58 and 59 actually are. Yes, they are the Curran brothers. They came together at the fall of the sixth Surrey wicket, and a lot depended upon them.
T(om) Curran is about twenty, and S(am) Curran is eighteen. On the day I took these photos, the Currans came together with the Surrey innings struggling for adequacy. There had been a flurry of wickets. More wickets now and not many more runs, and Gloucester would probably chase down the Surrey total easily. More runs now, and more wickets not so quickly surrendered, and Gloucester would have a fight on their hands.
For a while, the Currans “rebuilt” the innings, in other words scored rather slowly. But then the younger Curran (S(am)) stepped on the gas. Soon, this Curran partnership had become a …:
… and then, seemingly in no time at all. S(am) Curran had brought up his personal …:
… and the partnership was looking like this:
S(am) Curran got out soon after that, and was duly thanked by the scoreboard:
We can see the Surrey total on the old scoreboard …:
... the Surrey total being just about the only thing that the old scoreboard did tell us, during the interval. That’s the thing about old-school scoreboards. When they’ve nothing to tell you, they are unable to tell you anything else instead.
Surrey had done well. Although there had been no outstanding innings in the manner of Kumar Sangakkara, who scored 166 back in September 2015, Surrey had actually made more in their first innings this time around. Besides S(am) Curran’s fifty, there were also substantial scores from Davies and from Burns, and it all added up. The stand-out moment of the innings, the sort they call a “champagne moment” on Test Match Special, was when Surrey captain Gareth Batty hit a ferocious six that went smack into the middle of the new scoreboard. With no apparent harm done to it at all. Which was impressive on both counts.
Gloucester made a bad start:
That’s twice I’ve watched Surrey in a 50 overs game, and twice I have seen Jade Dernbach do decisive things.
There followed a promising stand, but it ended too soon, for Gloucester’s purposes:
I will end with a burst of horizontality. Darren was kind enough to say that he especially liked the posting I did after our previous Oval expedition which featured lots of adverts piled up in horizontal slices.
Here, which I hope Darren will also like, is another pile of horizontal slices, this time of Gloucester’s last six wickets falling in a rather humiliating heep, and the time at which each wicket fell:
As you can see, Surrey won easily in the end, with Batty again distinguishing himself with five wickets. Story of the day: Surrey got in a bit of a mess, but recovered. Gloucester got in a bit of a mess, never recovered and instead crumbled. If you’re there, your team winning narrowly may be better, but winning easily is pretty good also.
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.
The Park in question is Finsbury, the Park Theatre being near to Finsbury Park, and more to the point from my point of view, Finsbury Park tube station. I was there last night to see a friend perform at the Park Theatre, which she did very well.
That LIFE sign thing is just outside the smaller theatre space, where my friend was performing, at the top of the rest of the theatre. I do not know why it is there. Could it be that they hope that people will photo it, and then mention the Park Theatre on the internet?
I suppose the creator of this sign could also have been thinking of that old Blur tune. But that, I believe, concerns a different park.
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.
Well, not quite a decade. I’ve been photoing photoers since well before this, but the first of these particular snaps was taken in July 2007. They illustrate that I have been concerning myself with the photoing of photoers while contriving, in one way or another, not to photo their faces, for a long while now. When I started taking photos of photoers, face recognition was a mere idea, used by implausibly attractive detectives on the telly but not yet a real thing in the real world. Now, with the social media and ubiquitous digital photography, faces (not just big faces but faces in crowds) can be dated and placed and identified, of everyone, and very soon by everyone.
I just picked out a few photos that I like (although, it soon became a bit more than a few). I like them because the pose is fun (6.2, 6.4), or because they’re strongly back-lit (1.1, 3.4), or because the screen is so clearly visible (6.1), or because the faces of photoers are hidden by bubbles (7.3), or by a coat (7.1), or by an orange bag with the Eiffel Tower on it (that one is the one snap of these that was not taken in London (that’s Paris, Feb 2012)), or because they’re photoing through some bars (in this case at the top of the Monument (1.3)), or because they were just too far away (in one of the pods of The Wheel and on the other side of the river (5.3)), or because they are simply facing the other way or holding their cameras (or their arms or their hands holding their cameras (1,2, 1.4, 4.1, 4.3, 5.1, 6.4, 7.2, 8.1, 8.2, 8.3, 8.4)) in front of their faces. My favourite face-blocking device here is the blue balloon (2.1) saying visit Mexico. The balloon goes very nicely with the Testicle (click and look on the blue square below if you are baffled). Happy times:
The most recent of these was taken when I was photoing that model of the City of London (8.4). Someone else was also.
After assembling these thirty two snaps, I did more browsing, and I soon realised that I could easily have found another thirty two more, and more, many more, of equal fun-ness.
Like with everything else, good photography comes from doing the same thing again and again.