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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

Friday October 12 2018

Somewhat over a year ago I wrote about When what I think it is determines how ugly or beautiful I feel it to be, in connection with this building:

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This is described, at any rate by its owners and its various occupants, as The Peak.

And that photo of mine above, taken from the top of the Westminster Cathedral Tower, is my Peak photo which best illustrates the oddly deceptive appearance of this decidedly odd-looking building.  It looks like a 60s rectangular lump, to which 90s or 00s curvatures, on the right as we look, and on the top, have been added.  But, as I discovered when concocting that previous posting, the whole thing was built all at once.  It looks like a two-off building rather than a one-off building, but looks deceive, or deceived me, for a while.  Two-off good, one-off bad, was how I had been thinking.  It was two-off, so (aesthetically) good.  Organic, additive, blah blah.  But, what was I supposed to think, on discovering that it was really an inorganic and un-additive one-off?

Now, buried in my photo-archives, I find this photo, taken on October 28th 2008, which confirms that The Peak is indeed a one-off, because here it is (here it was), all being built in one go.  There really is no doubt about it:

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When I took this photo, I was a lot more interested in the anti-pigeon spikes on top of those street lamps, and on top of the railway sign, than I was in the building work in the background.

How I now feel about The Peak, aesthetically, is that I still rather like it, if only because I have paid so much attention to it over the years, and feel sort of proprietorial towards it, as you would towards a somewhat clumsy child that you have adopted.  (That feeling applies, for me, to a great many London buildings.)

Also, whatever else you think of it, when you see it, you at once know where you are.  It is very recognisable, recognisability being a quality in buildings which I appreciate more and more.  “Iconic” is the rather silly word that estate agents and suchlike use to allude to this quality.  But they have a point, even if they use a silly word to point to their point.  That “you could be anywhere” feeling is not a good one, in a city or anywhere else.

“Other creatures” (see below) because of the pigeon scaring.

Monday October 08 2018

Nine years, to the day, actually.  I was trying for ten years to the day, but after concocting what follows, I realised that these actually date from October 8th 2009:

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The first one shows a rather strange footbridge that used to go over the site, taking pedestrians from London Bridge Station to Guy’s Hospital, and places beyond.  Most of the other photos were taken from on that bridge.

What surprises me now is how chaotic it all looks, especially when I zoomed in on a particular bit of chaos.

What that lumpy cylinder that they are manhanding is, I do not know.

The website to be seen in the final photo seems to be long gone.

Sunday October 07 2018

If I had a pound for every time someone’s told me that they like to photo The Wheel from Tottenham Court Road, I wouldn’t have any more pounds than I already have, because it’s just me that likes to do this.  But, I really like it.

I’m talking about photos like this one:

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Great light there, don’t you think?  It could be an oil painting.  Exactly as it came out of the camera, no Photoshop(clone)ing.  That dates from April of 2015.  As you can see, that weird entrance to Tottenham Court Road Tube station was still under construction.

Here’s a couple more, taken in 2016 …:

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... and in 2017:

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That crane there should have told me that something ominous was in the works, but actually I was taken by surprise.

Take a look at what the same scene looked like today:

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That’s right.  The Wheel is about to blotted out of this particular picture.

I moved nearer, which moved the top of the Wheel down to the bottom gap in the structure:

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I took a final close up:

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And that may well be the last time that I ever photo The Wheel from Tottenham Court Road.

Thursday October 04 2018

Yesterday I attended a Master Class at the Royal College of Music, in which five singing students, GodDaughter 2 among them, were publicly instructed by distinguished tenor and vocal teacher Dennis O’Neil.  It was fascinating.  He spent most of the time focussing on the art that conceals art, which meant that I couldn’t really understand what he was saying.  The minutiae of sounds and syllables, and of where the sound comes from, in the head or in the body.  All like a foreign language to me, but it was fascinating to expand the range of my ignorance, so to speak.  I am now ignorant about a whole lot more than I was.

This all happened way down at the bottom of the RCM, in the Britten Theatre (which you go down to get into but the theatre itself stretches up to the top again), On the way back up the numerous stairs to the street level entrance, I saw, through a very grubby window, and photoed, this:

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Okay the window is indeed very grubby, but, you know, how about that?  All that roof clutter, buried in the middle of the College.  Although, I think that this particular clutter is part of Imperial College, which is next door.

Backstage architecture, you might say.

The Royal College of Music is as amazing an accumulation of architectural chaos as I have ever experienced.  It must take about half of your first year to learn where everything is, and years later you are probably still getting surprises.  I never knew this was here!  Etc.

That corridor made of windows, bottom left, with the light in it, is something I have several times walked along, to a canteen or a bar or some such thing, I think.  By which I mean that I think I have walked along it, but that this could be quite wrong.  Like I say: architectural chaos.  I took a look at the place in Google Maps 3D, but I still have only the dimmest Idea of where I was on the map.

The night before, I was at the Barbican Centre, also for some music, and that’s almost as architecturally chaotic as the inside of the RCM.  But there, they don’t have the excuse that the architectural chaos accumulated over about a century of continuous improvisation.  At the Barbican, the chaos was all designed and built in one go.

Wednesday October 03 2018

This:

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Photoed by me last night.  And explained here.  The Metropolitan Line came up with this logo just after the regular London Underground logo was devised.  Now this version of it survives,but only on platforms at Moorgate that are no longer used.

Weird.

In the twentieth century, weird is all it would have been.  Then forgotten.  Just another of life’s little mysteries.  But, in the age of the internet, there are no little mysteries.

Tuesday October 02 2018

Photoed by me last night, at Blackwall DLR station:

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It’s not really that of course.  It’s just that I have learned that one of the best ways to photo a sunset is to photo railway tracks that are disappearing into it.

Tuesday September 18 2018

And no, I don’t mean reinforcements for an army.  I mean the kind of reinforcements that end up buried in concrete.

Like these ones:

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All six of these photos also feature one of the more impressive scaffolding arrays near me just now.  The art of scaffolding and the art of creating reinforcements for structural concrete have much in common.  Both involve putting together lots of bits of metal.  Both need to result in a structure that stays put and does not collapse.  Both look pretty to people like me.

But there are also big differences.  Scaffolding is very visible, and it remains visible for the duration of its working existence.  Scaffolding thus proclaims itself to the world, by its very existence.  That we live in a golden age of scaffolding is obvious to all of us, whether we like this fact or hate it.

Also, scaffolding rather quickly punishes those who erect it, if they don’t do it right.  While creating scaffolding, scaffolders make use of the scaffolding they have just been constructing, and they are their own first users.  They thus have a literally inbuilt incentive to do their work well.  And if they don’t, it is not that hard for others to spot this.  Bad scaffolding wobbles.  Such are my surmises about scaffolding.

Reinforcements for concrete are something else again.  By the time they go to work, doing the job they were built for, everyone concerned had better be damn sure that they have done their work well.  But, if they haven’t, the disastrous consequences of that bad work may take years to happen, and even then to be controversial.  Who is to say exactly what caused a building to collapse?  And if the building collapses rather catastrophically, it is liable to destroy a lot of the evidence of what exactly happened, and why.  Investigating such catastrophes being a whole separate job in itself.  So, getting these reinforcements right, with an inbuilt regime of testing and inspection and supervision, all managed by morally upright people whose declarations of confidence in what they have been inspecting can be relied upon, is a whole distinct industry.

But, this is an industry whose products, by their nature, end up being invisible.  We all rely on such work being done correctly, not just “structurally” but also in a morally correct manner.  Yet, we mostly never see this work, only its indirect results.

So, I hereby I celebrate the work, morally as well as merely technically good, that goes into the making of reinforcements for concrete.  I salute the good men and true who make these (I think) beautiful objects, and who ensure that they perform faithfully.  Their moral as well as technical excellence is all part of why I consider such reinforcements to be things of beauty.

I did some googling to try to determine exactly what reinforcements like those in my photos are used for.  The lorry says R. SWAIN AND SONS on it.  But they are hauliers, not makers of concrete reinforcements.  The nearest I got to an answer was this photo, of objects just like those on my lorry, with this verbiage attached: “Prefabricated Piling Cages Made of Reinforced Bars On Site”.  Prefabricated Piling cages.  Piling sounds to me like foundations.  (Yes.) The reinforcing has to be shoved down a hole in one go.  It can’t be constructed bit by bit, in the hole.  It either gets assembled beforehand on site, or, it gets assembled in a factory and taken to the site by lorry, as above.

The reinforcing that a structure needs when it is above ground, on the other hand, can be assembled on site, and I’m guessing that this is what usually happens.

Just guessing, you understand.  My first guess actually was: for an above ground structure, until I came upon the photo I just linked to, and not foundations.  But, what do I know?

Saturday September 15 2018

I was summoned to Chateau Samizdata (which is in South Kensington these days) for lunch today, which meant that when I walked past that Bartok statue at lunchtime today, the light was behind me, rather than in front of me and behind Bartok.

So I was able to have another go at photoing him:

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But with rather mixed results.  The change in lighting made a lot less difference than I had been hoping.

I spent the late afternoon and the evening (a) doing stuff at home, and (b) keeping track of the climaxes of two competitions, this one, which was won by pianist Eric Lu, and this one, which was won by the Worcestershire cricket team.  Which means Worcestershire have had a mixed season, having also been relegated from Division One of the County Championship.  It was like them winning the FA cup but also getting relegated from the Premier League.  However, getting relegated from Division One of the Country Championship makes far less financial difference than dropping out of the Premier League.  So Worcester are probably now pretty happy.  Counties doing well in one format but badly in another is quite frequent.  They all say that, of course, they want to win everything.  But in reality, they prioritise this and neglect that.

Tonight, Radio 3 played the last two Leeds Piano Competition concerto performances, the three others having been played last night.  I will be checking out the performance of Beethoven 1 from last night, because, while they were waiting for them to pick the various prize winners, they played part of a chamber music performance by the guy who had played Beethoven 1, which sounded excellent.  Also, this guy came second in the overall competition, so he’s pretty good.

Tonight’s Beethoven 4, from winner Lu, was excellent, albeit somewhat more subdued than I think Beethoven had in mind when he composed this piece.  Lu’s was a very “private” performance of what was actually, I think, written as a rather public piece (about private feelings).  But that’s very much a matter of (my) opinion.  Given what Lu was doing, he did it very well.  Besides which, who would want all concerto performances to sound the same?  Beethoven might have been surprised by Lu’s delicate and subtle performance, but that doesn’t mean he’d have minded.  On the contrary, he would probably be amazed and delighted that people were still playing the thing at all.

Tonight’s other concerto, the Schumann, was similar in artistic intention to Lu’s Beethoven 4, but to my ear it involved a few too many wrong notes.  The Radio 3 commentators didn’t mention these wrong notes, but I don’t think I imagined them.  I think they chose to ignore them.

Bartok wrote three Piano Concertos, each very fine in their contrasting ways.  None of these were played in the final of the Leeds Piano Competition.

LATER: I’ve just been listening to another county game, just started on Sept 18th, and I realise that the piece I linked to about Worcester getting relegated was dated 2015.  Theoretically, they could still avoid relegation this year.  But they’re not going to.  They’ve just been bowled out for 94 by Essex, and they are about thirty points shy of safety, with Yorks and Lancs both having to cock it up big time for them to escape.  As it is, Worcs and Lancs both look doomed to the trop.  But, in theory, Worcs are still in with a chance of avoiding this.

I am very sorry to have misled you, in the unlikely event that I did, and that you care.

Friday September 14 2018

Last Sunday morning I was trying to have a good old lie-in, but instead I got woken up early by a giant anteater.

Yes.  Having been woken up, I looked out my window towards where all the din seemed to be coming from, and this was the scene I beheld:

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At first I thought the culprit might be that refuse lorry in the foreground, but it soon because clear that the noise had been coming from that red lorry with the crane-like thing attached to it.

Let’s move in closer:

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By the time this photo had been photoed, the big red lorry had lifted its nozzle out of that hole in the pavement on the right there, which I subsequently learned had been dug in connection with electric cables.  Evidently there was muck in the hole which needed to be got out, in a hurry.  Sometimes technology really sucks.

I was intrigued, and at first greatly puzzled, by picture on the side of the red lorry, and it took me quite a while to work it out.  It is a giant anteater.  It looks like at least two creatures, pointing in opposite directions, but the “other creature” is, or so I believe, the giant anteater’s giant tail.  That tail being a lot of what makes the anteater a giant.

Wikipedia tells us what an actual giant anteater looks like:

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I can see why an anteater would have a very long nose.  But why the enormous tail?  Balance, perhaps?  The answer offered here says balance, and also maybe to cover itself when sleeping.  It seems to be mixed up with the anteater having a low body temperature, the tail being there partly to keep heat out.  So, perhaps also some kind of fan?  I couldn’t find a confident answer.

As for the gizmo deployed at the back of the lorry, note how this time, a bendy arm with a tube in it does make use of a bendy tube, unlike that machine for squirting concrete that I mentioned here earlier.  Guess: not so much pressure this time, not least because the material itself being sucked up (this time) is not so heavy and bulky.  Some pressure, but not so much.

That phone number of the side of the lorry got me to the enterprise that supplied this equipment.  But follow that link and you’ll find no mention of any red lorries with anteaters on the side.  By which I mean, I didn’t.

Tuesday September 11 2018

If you step outside Sloane Square tube station, and immediately look to your left, you see this:

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This is one of those phenomena which doesn’t photo very informatively.  By which I mean that if you are there, it is far easier to see what is going on.  So let me now tell you what is going on.  This is the inside of a new building, but covered up, while they’re completing the building, with a sheet.  This sheet has another building painted on it.  And there is light coming at the sheet from behind.  When what is behind the sheet completely blocks out light, we see the picture on the surface of the sheet.  But when light comes at us from beyond the sheet, the picture on the sheet is overwhelmed, and we observe either light, or any shapes (in this case steel structure and scaffolding) in silhouette.

What I like about this effect is both its temorariness, and the fact that it ends up looking so much more interesting that it was intended to look.  The idea was that we would only see the picture on the sheet.  What we actually see is a whole lot more diverting.

Here is another photo I took of the same thing, this time including a bit more context:

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It’s a little more clear, in that photo, that there is a picture on a surface as well as all kinds of excitements behind it, on account of the sheet consisting of surfaces at an angle to one another.

Best of all, you can now see that one of the excitements behind the sheet - to be more exact, one of the structures behind the sheet - is a crane.

Sunday September 09 2018

Photoed by me, this afternoon, just outside Acton Central London Overground station:

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Time was when I would have completely trusted a blog posting like this one, which says good things about this enterprise.  Now I merely trust this blog posting enough to link to it, and enough to hope that what it says is true.  I’ve no reason to think that it isn’t, apart from the fact it’s on the internet.

I know what you’re thinking.  How can you be sure that I am for real?  I am, but I would say that, wouldn’t i?

Wednesday August 29 2018

I did a posting about a Big Thing Alignment that I saw when I went with Darren to that cricket match at the oval, and I did a posting about how the last ball of that game looked, two days later, on video.

Now for some more photos I took on the day Darren and I went to day 2 of that game between Surrey and Lancashire.

The very first photo I took that day was this:

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I love how, in the middle of that big photo, we see one of those excellent You Are Here signs that you see all over London, and in many other spots, I don’t doubt, in not-London.  I really like these signs, and constantly photo them, if only to remind me for later of exactly where Here was at that particular moment.

Of this OCS stand, SteelConstruction.org has this to say:

This is a most appropriate use of steel, in a geometrically complex arrangement, which adds drama and visual excitement to a famous venue.

I was hoping that this OCS Stand, would be as open for people to sit in as it was in the above photo photo, because I have yet to experience the views from the top of that stand, surely as dramatic in their own ways as the stand itself. But on the evening when Darren and I were there, the OCS Stand was shut.  Shame.  Memo to self: I will photo these views.  If I have to make a special trip to the Oval just to ask about that, fine, I’ll do it, and keep on doing it, until they let me up there, preferably on a nice day.

Here is that OCS Stand, as it was looking at the second interval of the day, which happened not long after we got there:

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That photo makes the ground look pretty dark, even though the floodlights were on.  And it does not deceive.  The ground did indeed look dark, to the human eye.

Here is the Pavilion that faces the OCS Stand, which is where we soon moved to:

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Some like ancient, and dislike modern.  Others dislike ancient, and like modern.  Me?  I like both, and particularly like it when they are near each other, or (as in this case) facing each other, and I can relish the contrast.

One of the particular charms of cricket grounds – this being especially true of the two big London grounds, the Oval and Lord’s – is that they feature both (fairly(at least in style)) ancient, and (very) modern architecture.  In comparison,.I find big stadiums built all in one go very dull.  I went to a football game at Wembley, and if it hadn’t been for the big arch on the top of it, it would have been totally anonymous.  It’s not just the architectural uniformity.  It’s also that in a place like Wembley there are no gaps, and you can’t see anything except the stadium.  You could be anywhere.

Darren and I, what with Darren being a Surrey Member, sat in those
seats at the top, in the middle, and when you look out from there, across at the OCS Stand and to the left and the right of it, you couldn’t be anywhere but London.  Here is another view looking to the right, which includes that earlier Big Thing Alignment and several other random Big Things besides:

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And here is the view to the left, towards Battersea, where the new US Embassy, just up river from MI6, has detonated a building boom:

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But forget the US Embassy.  The reason I am showing you the above photo is to tell you how very dark the ground had become.  Forget playing cricket.  How on earth can you even see anything on that cricket pitch?

But seeing things on that pitch soon became very easy.  Quite soon afterwards, observe how very light the ground had become:

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The floodlights were blasting away in both of those photos, not just in the second one.  Yet, in the first, they were being totally outshone by the paltry remnants of daylight.  Only when daylight had seriously dimmed did the floodlights suddenly start to make their presence felt.  And even then the sky is still quite light, especially down near the horizon.

I have been to the Oval quite a few times, but don’t recall witnessing the extremity of this contrast ever before.  I think it helped that we were looking down on the ground from quite a height, onto the brightness of the ground.  But basically, I’ve never been there when it was properly dark before.

The reason the above photo, especially of the people near me to the left, looks like it was taken with flash is because there is another big clutch of floodlights coming crashing into us from off to the right, very nearby.

Finally, here are a couple of photos I took just after arriving at the ground, through the Hobbes Gate, which is behind the Pavilion, on the far side of the Oval from the river, and from me:

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One of the more agreeable features of London’s big two cricket grounds - Lord’s especially - is the number of giant photos there are on show, of cricketing heroes present and past.  It was the same when I visited White Hart Lane a while back.

Here is a closer-up snap of the Surrey ladies captain, Natalie Sciver:

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Sciver lead her team to victory on Bank Holiday Monday in the ladies T20 national tournament.  Her Surrey “Stars” beat “Western Storm” in the one semi-final, and then won the final against Loughborough “Lightning”.  Lizelle Lee got a century for Surrey in the final, but she got good support from Sciver, and Sciver excelled with both bat and ball in the semi-final, which was a lot closer.

I am fond of emphasising how sport has replaced war in the world’s luckier and richer countries.  Long may that trend continue.  What these giant pictures emphasise, or so it feels to me, is the local significance of big sports clubs, and the way that, in terms of how these places feel close up, sport is also busy replacing religion.  This is especially true now that the other great modern challenger of religion in this kind of way, the cinema, is fading back into a merely domestic past-time.  The elaborate imagery.  The regular attendance at an architecturally impressive locale.  The shared agonies and ecstasies of the assembled congregations.  The way that the calendar is carved up into a distinct pattern.  To me, it all feels very religious, and I am certainly not the only one to have noticed this.  (That link took only seconds to find.)

The Church of Cricket is, I quite realise, but a small sect, these days, at any rate in England, compared to the Universal Church of Football.  But the point about sport replacing religion in modern life still stands.

Tuesday August 14 2018

On that same photowalk with GodDaughter 1, five years ago, that I mentioned yesterday, and a bit earlier than when I took yesterday’s photo, of her and her shadow and my shadow, I took these photos:

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You can see how that little mind of mine was working, can’t you?  That being one of the amusements of me taking so many photos that comes across years later.  I can now see exactly what I was thinking, in a little photo-moment, five years ago.

I encounter an interesting sculpture.  (I find that I like sculpture more and more, provided I like it of course.) Then, in the distance, I see a favourite Big Thing, in this case the Big Olympic Thing.  I line up the Big Olympic Thing up the sculpture.  I line it up again, this time including only that very recognisable top of the Big Olympic thing, and putting that right on top of the sculpture, like a handle.  Good.  Nice one.

Then I draw back, and take another shot that provides some more context, while being careful to keep the Big Olympic Thing present, to one side.  What I do not do, regrettably, is photo any sign or caption which told me about this piece of sculpture.  What is it?  Who did it?  When?  Why?  What’s it of?  There must have been some clue I could have photoed.

Happily, this is the twenty first century, and a little descriptive googling ("sculpture clasped hands” or some such thing) got me to places like this, which tell the story.  And it’s quite a story.

Sunday August 05 2018

Yes, every time I visit my friends in Fulham Road, I get out at South Kensington tube, a bit early, and I photo, and then sit on the plinth of, the Bartok statue.  Follow that link to find out why it’s there.

Context, caption, and the prettiest photo I photoed of this, this time around:

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Music is made up of melody, harmony and rhythm.  What I like most about Bartok’s music is the harmonies, of the more “beautiful” and less strident sort.  Too many instruments, too loud, or a piano on its own ditto, and he loses me.  In other words, I basically don’t like Bartok’s music that much, but I sometimes very much like the sound that it makes.  I especially like the very beginning of the Concerto For Orchestra, the Piano Concertos (especially number three), and the string quartets.  Oh, and I really like Bluebeard’s Castle, provided the singing is bearable.  I especially like the in-English CD I have of it that came attached to the BBC Music Magazine about two decades ago, in which Sally Burgess sings superbly.. Memo to self: listen to that again.  I presume that Bluebeard himself is the usual industrial drill noise that almost all such singers perpetrate for a living, but it will be worth it for Ms Burgess.

This is the recording I mean.  Click on that, and you will discover that you can listen to it too.

Sunday July 29 2018

Two things got my attention just now on Twitter, both, I think, very funny.  I didn’t actually LOL.  But I did smile.

First up, this quote:

It is always bittersweet when your relatives bid you fond farewell as you leave for Edinburgh, and only you know how much you are about to defame them for comedic gain.

And next up, this cartoon:

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The latter of these two jollities goes way back, and I suspect that the script and the visuals were done by different people.  But the first one is bang up to date, and I am hence able to direct you to who originated it, which I like to do.

This, on the other hand, baffles me:

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I recognise financial commentator and funny man Dominic Frisby, on the left there.  But why do Frisby’s shoes have lightbulbs in them?  Who is that other bloke, and why are the two of them waving their fingers like that?  Why are they sitting in the eyes of a giant skull?  Also, what on earth does this have to do with Brexit?  What is it that Remainers have said about such a scene as this, to the effect that it couldn’t happen, or would happen less?  Are the above two gents, like the provider of the quote above, in Edinburgh, for the Festival?  And have the Remainers said that the Edinburgh Festival this year would be a flop?  Yes, that must be it.

LATER: Just noticed where it says spikedmath.com in the cartoon.  So I guess that’s where that started.

EVEN LATER: This:

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Also:this.