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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: Cranes

Sunday August 17 2014

I departed for France on Tuesday August 5th.

My flight from London City Airport to Quimper in Brittany was due for lift off at 11.40am, so I obviously had to leave home at about 9.20am, thereby reaching City Airport as early as I could without having to pay for the journey.  (Old Git passes only cut in at 9.30am, or such is my understanding.) We infrequent flyers can’t be too careful.  I would far rather wait two hours at an airport while reading a good book than endure any fear of missing my flight at any point on my journey to the airport, still less actually risk missing it.

One way to get to London City Airport would have been to take the District Line to Tower Hill, and then the D(ocklands) L(ight) R(ailway) from then onwards, with just the one (somewhat complicated) change.  But my computer said it would be quicker to change twice, first at Westminster from the District Line to the Jubilee Line, and then again at Canning Town to the DLR.  The Jubilee Line is quicker than the trundlingly antique District Line and quicker than the relatively new but cautiously robotic DLR, and it may also have realised that both these changes are far easier than the one change from Tower Hill (District) to Tower Gateway (?) (DLR).  So, I changed at Westminster, and again at Canning Town.

All of which explains why, when I got to Canning Town, and was awaiting the DLR train on to City Airport, I got to see this:

image image

I couldn’t believe my luck.  I hadn’t even left London, yet already I was beholding once-in-a-lifetime wonders!  For yes, your eyes do not deceive you.  That is a crane, holding a bridge.  I love cranes, especially when they are doing something interesting.  I love bridges, especially new ones and especially when they are still being built.  So you can imagine my delight at observing a bridge being craned into position, by a crane.  And all of this presented to me as if by a performer who is determined to communicate to the maximum effect with his audience, assembled on the top deck of Canning Town Tube/DLR station.

On the left there, the first picture I took.  On the right, a later picture which shows where the bridge was about to be deposited.  There are two bright red bits, the same bright red as the bridge itself, clearly at each end of where the bridge would shortly be.

All of this happened on Tuesday August 5th.  A day earlier and it would not have started.  A day later and it would have been a fait accompli, with the installed bridge presumably looking exactly as it looks now.  Only by being there exactly on August 5th, and only by choosing the exactly correct railway journey combination, was I able to observe this delight.

(Imagine if I had happened to sale past this, on August 14th 1999.)

My week in Brittany had got off to a great start.

Monday August 04 2014

Blogging here will temporarily cease after this posting, and will resume at or about the middle of next week.  I will be back.  Have a good week.

Meanwhile, as a visual au revoir, here is another of the many photos I took last night, from that tiny little artificial urban mountain that is Stave Hill:

image

Through the gasometer in the foreground, we see the Dome of St Paul’s (attended by many cranes), the BT Tower, and on the left, with the spikey bobble on its top, the top of the Monument.

I tried to time my arrival at Stave Hill with the arrival of sunset, but got there far, far too early.  So, I waited, and read a book.  I hope you agree with me that it was worth the wait.

Monday July 28 2014

Here is a picture, taken from Lambeth Bridge in March of this year:

image

This is basically one of those “I just like it” pictures, that I came upon last night when trawling through the archives, although I liked it a lot more after a touch of rotation had been applied.  I particularly like the contribution of those leafless trees. 

The red brick tower that dominates this scene is something to do with St Thomas’ Hospital, but further googling made me none the wiser about its exact purpose or provenance.  It was, it seems built in 1865.  Other than that, I could learn little.

But googling did cause me to learn about this other tower, which used to be a hospital water tower and has now been converted into a home.

This sort of modernistic box-mongering can be very dull, when that’s all there is.  But put it next to some more ornate Victoriana, and both styles often look the better for it.

That is also part of the pleasure I get from the above photo.  Even if ancient and modern buildings are not next to each other for real, they can put them next to each other, with a camera.

Sunday July 27 2014

I just heard someone say in an American TV sitcom (I love American TV sitcoms) that they’re not going to answer the phone without knowing who it is, “like it’s 1994”.

I still do this, with my old 1994 style phone, which I greatly prefer to mobiles, because when I am out and about, I don’t have to answer it, and because phones connected to your house with wire cannot be lost, and because I know exactly where it is when it rings, and because that ring never changes.

Quite often, when I do answer, it’s a junk phone call, offering to extricate me from a financial error that I personally have not made by urging me to commit another financial error, and as soon as I realise it’s junk, I put the phone down.  Does this constitute some sort of “success” for the junk phoning enterprise?  Look, they answered!  Because obviously they knew who we were, this not being 1994, and yet still they picked up the phone!  Hey, we’re getting through!

Much of life these days seems to consist of doing many futile things, but contriving for these things the appearance of non-futility.  These days?  I suspect all days that have ever been, with humans involved, and no doubt many other species also, both before and now during the human epoch.  Only the futile things and the means of contriving a non-futile appearance for them change from time to time.

I don’t mind junk phone calls.  If they were more frequent, they would annoy me.  As it is, if there is a pause in incoming phone calls lasting a few hours, it is soothing to be informed, even if only by a robot actor voice spouting nonsense, that my phone is still working.  The pause was because nobody wanted to talk to me.

When answering junk phone calls, I pause any music that may be playing.  I do not mind this.  There is a part of my brain (yours too?) where you remember the musical phrase you were listening to when you last paused the music, and when you unpause it you carry on listening just as you would have done normally.  I even suspect that pausing deepens my response to particular pieces of music, by fixing particular moments of them in my brain more firmly than might have happened otherwise.

Since I am now rambling like the really old person that I am rapidly becoming, let me ramble some more.  In connection with none of the above, here are the wheels of a big mobile crane that I photoed in Victoria Street a while back.  Click on it to get the crane:

image

I like cranes.  That one is, I think, the Spierings SK599-AT5.  I love how you can find out about things like this, these days.  And this time it really is these days, rather than all days. 

Here is a link to a toy version of this crane.  Do contractors use toys like this to plan their jobs, I wonder?  As well as just to decorate their offices or amuse their spoilt children?

It is now late morning on Sunday.  Are sermons like this, when the priest is getting old, but is too well liked for anyone to want to sack him?  With a blog you can ramble anyway, because nobody can sack you.

Sunday July 13 2014

Last Saturday, I was out and about by the river, taking pictures like this one:

image

But then, I noticed that bird, at the bottom of the left hand tower of Tower Bridge, and started snapping away in a more zoomed wayr than for the picture above.  Hence the title of this posting:

image imageimage image

I don’t know what brand of bird that is.  I do know that it is not one of those avian imposters that calls itself a “crane” (thus clothing itself in dignity stolen from the mighty urban machine of construction), but other than that, I can only guess.  A cormorant perhaps?

Pick and click.

Photographing birds properly is not my strong suit.  You probably need to know their habits, the way I know the habits of the digital photographer, the one living creature that really interests me.

If, on the other hand, birds were to start taking photographs ...

Monday June 30 2014

Incoming from 6k, about a dramatic Big Things photo that he came across, via a Facebook friend.  There is also a blog posting at his place about it, and about how I might like it, which indeed I do.

I’ve done what he suggested and have thinned it for here:

image

He has the whole thing, and here it is even bigger.  Very dramatic, I think you will agree.

6k entitles his posting “Waterloo sunset”.  This is a fine Kinks song, but sunsets are defined by where you are when you see them, and this photo was taken from the other side from Waterloo of the Big Things of the City of London, which is what these Big Things are.  He has most of them identified, but his big omission (no criticism intended - he is, after all, now 6k miles away) is the tallest one, in the middle.  This is the Cheesegrater.

My first thought was that this view might have been taken from the spot I visited last January, when I took these Big Thing photos.

But that isn’t right.  However, some other photos I took that day that do point at the approximate spot where the above sunset photo was, I think, taken from.

Photos like this one, also thinned:

image

6k’s sunset photo was taken from somewhere in among those houses on the other side of the river, with the Shard sticking up behind, on the left of my photo.

Here is a slice of Google Map which shows were everyone is:

image

I was where it says “ME”.  The Big Things of the City are where it says “BIG THINGS”, and 6k’s anonymous photographer was standing somewhere very approximately where I have put “?”.  The spot I chose for “?” is something called Stave Hill Ecological Park, which sounds very promising, what with it maybe being a hill.  I have never been there and I must check it out.  But, that’s only my guess.  The photographer could have been quite a bit further south and/or west.  Don’t know.

But there is more.  While going through the photos I took last January, comparing them with 6k’s sunset photo, I came across this one, which I have again thinned:

image

Again, click to get the bigger version.

Now, in the middle there, unmistakably (with three unmistakable holes in its top), is the Strata.

But, and I only spotted this today, almost directly behind it is the equally unmistakable Spraycan, unmistakable because in the dark, that is how the Spraycan is always lit up.

Here is a close up of the two of them:

image

The Strata is at the Elephant and Castle, and the Spraycan is way over in Vauxhall.  Beyond Waterloo, in other words.  Once again, I hit google maps, to check on the alignment of these two favourite Big Things, and it all fits.  By and by, I shall return to that same spot, to take more and better versions of this photo.

Like I always say, my camera has better eyesight than I have.  On days like that one, it almost invariably sees far more than I see.

Tuesday June 24 2014

I will go on saying that the tower, as featured in all these photos that I recently photoed, ...:

image imageimage image

... should be called the Spray Can, until everyone is calling it the Spray Can.  Or the Spraycan, that’s optional.

Or until someone comes up with an (even) better name.

But meanwhile, what shall we call the ”Salesforce” Tower?

image

The new name should please the residents but piss off Salesforce, for renaming towers all over the damn place, and make them wish they hadn’t attempted this in London.  Salesfuck.  Something along those lines.  Not good enough, because too profane to be printed in regular newspapers.  Salesfarce?  Failsforce?  Close enough to Salesforce to make the connection.  But insulting.  To Salesforce.  The obvious thing would be to just carry on calling it the Heron Tower, but I don’t think that will punish these Salesfuckers nearly enough.  Their stupid name needs to be dragged audibly through the mud.

In case you are wondering, yes I am still a libertarian.  Capitalism, hurrah!  But the thing is, when you complain about a business doing something really annoying, there’s quite a decent chance they may stop, or at least, if they persist, be commercially punished.  At the very least there is a decent chance you can make whoever did whatever it was squirm a little, and generally be made a bit of a prat of.  When you complain about the government, there is much less chance of any such good stuff happening.  No way will you get, e.g., refund.  Just another bill to clean up whatever the original mess was.

So, complaints against capitalism are rewarded, by capitalism.  Complaints against governments are not rewarded nearly so much, by governments or by anything else.

So guess which, in defiance of all sanity, you get more of.

That’s quite profound, I think.  (This is why I like tangenting.  See below.)

Friday June 06 2014

Incoming from 6k, alerting me to a New Statesman piece by Ed Smith, about how, after a small digger has dug out a deep hole under a posh London house to make the house bigger, it makes more sense to leave the digger in the hole than go to the bother of extricating it.  Makes sense. What a great story.

So, many of the squares of the capital’s super-prime real estate, from Belgravia and Chelsea to Mayfair and Notting Hill, have been reconfigured house by house. Given that London’s strict planning rules restrict building upwards, digging downwards has been the solution for owners who want to expand their property’s square-footage.

So, enter the digger, and dig dig dig.  But then:

The difficulty is in getting the digger out again. To construct a no-expense-spared new basement, the digger has to go so deep into the London earth that it is unable to drive out again. What could be done?
Initially, the developers would often use a large crane to scoop up the digger, which was by now nestled almost out of sight at the bottom of a deep hole. Then they began to calculate the cost-benefit equation of this procedure. First, a crane would have to be hired; second, the entire street would need to be closed for a day while the crane was manoeuvred into place. Both of these stages were very expensive, not to mention unpopular among the distinguished local residents.

A new solution emerged: simply bury the digger in its own hole. Given the exceptional profits of London property development, why bother with the expense and hassle of retrieving a used digger – worth only £5,000 or £6,000 – from the back of a house that would soon be sold for several million? The time and money expended on rescuing a digger were better spent moving on to the next big deal.

Today being a Friday, I was delighted to learn that there is a feline aspect to this, in the form of Ed Smith’s final speculations.  This man is clearly learning fast how to get noticed on the Internet!

In centuries to come, says Smith:

… they will surely decipher a correlation between London’s richest corners and the presence of these buried diggers. The atrium of the British Museum, around 5000AD, will feature a digger prominently as the central icon of elite, 21st-century living.

What will the explanatory caption say? “Situated immediately adjacent to the heated underground swimming pool and cinema at the back of the house, no superior London address was complete without one of these highly desirable icons, sometimes nicknamed ‘the Compact Cat’. This metallic icon was a special sacrificial gesture, a symbol of deep thanks to the most discussed, revered and pre-eminent god of the age, worshipped around the world: London Property.”

Ed Smith is a former first class (and occasional test) cricketer, and now occasional cricket commentator.  As well as a writer of books.  Writing this posting also got me ordering a copy of his latest.

Saturday May 17 2014

I am very fond of the ballerina statue at the top of the Victoria Palace Theatre.  I recently photoed it with a red crane behind it, that being one of my favourite recent snaps.

This afternoon, I photoed it again, again with craneness:

image

What I had not realised until today is that this is a statue of Anna Pavlova.  Says the Victoria Palace Theatre:

From 1911, the year after its rebuilding to its present design by Frank Matcham, the Victoria Palace had a gilded statue of prima ballerina Anna Pavlova poised above it. This was owner Alfred Butt’s homage to the dancer he had spectacularly introduced to London.

The tribute was not appreciated by the superstitious ballerina, who would never look at her image as she passed the theatre, drawing the blinds in her car. The original statue was taken down for safety reasons in 1939 before the blitz and has completely disappeared. It is not known whether it is in someone’s garden or was turned to wartime military use, such as bullets.

The Victoria Palace moved into the new millennium with an adventurous building programme; enlarging the Foyer, WC facilities and increasing the dressing room space, whilst maintaining all the feel and character of a historic building.

In 2006, a replica of the original statue of Pavlova was reinstated to its original place above the cupola of the Victoria Palace and her gold-leafed figure once again gleams above us.

Blog and learn.

Friday May 16 2014

I see cat faces on bags:

image image

On the left, in Trafalgar Square.  On the right in a shop window, somewhere or other.

I see Hello Kitty continuing its conquest of the world:

image image

On the left: Patriotic Kitty, both an English Nationalist and a British Unionist.  (Hello Kitty is patriotic everywhere.) On the right: Hello Kitty colonises one of my local supermarkets.  Today shower gel, tomorrow, who knows?  One day, there will be Hello Kitty versions of everything.

And now I see this vast cat face on the outside of a building site at the top end of Victoria Street:

image imageimage image

Note the surveillance camera right in front of it.  Those things are also now everywhere.

This huge cat face was what got me noticing that Victoria Masterplan.

Apparently the cat face is an art installation.  Scroll down here if you doubt me:

A bold new art installation has landed here at Nova, Victoria. The enigmatic gaze of a 37ft tall black cat will become the new landmark to greet people as they arrive in SW1. Taking up residence on site, the portrait is the first European commission by American artist, Marlo Pascual. The chic black cat occupies the Victoria Street facade of our four storey site cabins, converting a disheartening grey slab into the most stimulating of canvases.

The untitled installation kicks off a series of iconic and non-conformist art projects that will unfold at Nova, Victoria on its journey to becoming the most forward-thinking and aspirational place to work, live, eat, drink, shop and enjoy in London’s West End.

So, people, nice big photos of cat faces are now iconic and non-conformist.  Modern Art eat your heart out.

(See also the bit where a discussion about “THE FUTURE OF LONDON DINNING” is advertised.)

All of which pales into insignificance beside what has undoubtedly been the week’s biggest cat news, which concerned an amazing YouTube video of a cat attacking a dog.  This story is now everywhere.  The dog was doing serious damage to the youngest son of the family, and was about to do even more serious damage than that.  But the dog reckoned without Tara the Cat, who launched what looked like a suicide bomber attack on the dog, which not surprisingly caused the dog to retreat.  Tara behaved exactly as if the small boy was one of her kittens.

Cats are complained about for being like perfectly evolved parasites on humans. We feed them, stroke them, put a warm roof over their heads, buy anything with cat faces on it, and in return they do pretty much nothing.

Tara, on the other hand, has surely repaid any debts she ever owed.

Thursday May 08 2014

In 2013, on September 5th, 18th, 24th and 29th, I visited the area in and around London Gateway, the new container port they’re building on the north side of the Thames Estuary, first to see if I could photo the cranes, and then to photo them again, and again, and again.  And everything else amusing I saw on my wanderings.  (I would never have remembered these dates if my camera hadn’t.)

I showed a couple of photos here of one of those expeditions at the time, but that was only the tip of the photographic iceberg.

These were undoubtedly among my best photo-expeditions of 2013, right up there with visiting Beckton Sewage Works with Goddaughter One, a superb day which I see that I seem never to have mentioned here at all.

My problem is, when I sit down at my computer and try to pick out a few good snaps from one of these huge photo-perambulations, I just don’t know which to pick.  There are just so many nice ones. I end up picking none at all and write about something else entirely.

So, I now pick another one, from one of my four trips to London Gateway, to show you, which I just found when trawling through them all, again.  One.  Just the one.  It features me, but not looking good.  No, looking appalling, with my appallingly flabby chin all scrunched up as I look downwards at my twiddly camera screen, which is how I actually do look when wandering around doing this kind of thing.

But, showoffy though it is, I think it’s a rather effective photo:

image

See also the first five cranes, of the twenty four that will finally be at London Gateway.  That snap was snapped on September 24th. 

When all those twenty four cranes are up and running and the place really gets into its stride, I will definitely return to check them out, as will all the world and its digital cameras.  Mark my words.  When they open this thing for business, the media, mainstream and irregular, social and anti-social, will be flooded with it.  Flooded I tell you.

But just now, they are busy building it, and the last thing they want is people like me wandering around photoing it.  So, they keep quiet about it.  Seriously, I’d be willing to bet that there are quite a lot of PR persons whose entire job consists of persuading journalists not to mention this thing until it’s finished, but then to mention it big time.  Silence now will be rewarded with access later.

Monday March 17 2014

Last Wednesday, I snapper a whole lot of my fellow snappers, but I did not neglect inanimate objects.  Here are some of the “I just like it” photos I also took that afternoon, as afternoon turned into evening and as the sun started hitting particular parts of those objects.  Click at will for the bigger versions:

image image imageimage image imageimage image imageimage image imageimage image image

I make that: four Wheels (1.2 behind trees; 2.1 behind a little scaffolding; 4.1, bottom of, end on; and 5.2, in a piece of art in a shop window, behind a bird); two Big Bens (2.3, with all its spikes (most pictures of Big Ben include the clock, which then upstages all the spikes) and 4.2, serving as blurry backdrop for two street lights); two Millbank Towers (2.2 and 5.3, the one with the crew cut hairdo of roof clutter); one Shard (3.1, weird top of); one Spray Can (2.3, next to the Millbank Tower -will “Spray Can” ever catch on?) some cranes (1.1) and some tourist crap (4.3), which I love to photo even as I would never buy.

See also a vapour trail (3.3), part white, part dark, depending (presumably) on whether the sun is hitting it or not.  (One of my best (I think) postings here concerned a dirty looking vapour trail.)

And see also that St Thomas’s Hospital car park under a park with a fountain (5.1), than I mentioned in the earlier posting with the photographers.

For someone else’s earnestly anxious ruminations about London’s incurably crowded and bustling state, try this.  Not enough “affordable” housing, he says.  This would suggest to me that building “affordable housing” is not affordable for the builders.  Why not?  What rules make affordable housing unaffordable to build?  He says, of course, not enough rules and subsidies.  I say too many rules and subsidies.

Maybe I’d start with the Green Belt, a huge doughnut of dreary fields through which commuter trains race and commuter cars crawl.  In a free market, some of the green belt would stay fields or become parks, and some of it towns, that are affordable to live in. I wouldn’t just free up all of it, in one go.  I’d carve out the prettiest bits of it and say: don’t build here.  And I’d point at the boring bits (very numerous) and say, build here, whatever you like.

But that wouldn’t “solve” all London’s problems.  These are caused by London being a great city that millions of people want to live and work in.  “Solve” whatever is considered to be London’s biggest problem now, and you merely make all other London problems that bit worse.  London will always be overcrowded, and lacking in this or that thing that Guardian opinion-mongers consider necessary and regard as an excuse for bitching about capitalism and for recommending more regulations and subsidies.

First you fuck with the free market and stop it doing its stuff.  Then you blame the free market and fuck with it some more.  See also: environment.

But I digress.  Last Wednesday was a very nice day.  As is today, by the look of it.

Wednesday February 26 2014

Seconds after I’d finished photoing that camel, I took this photo:

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But whereas I was quickly able to find out about the camel, and about how there’s a pub called that (partly), and so on, I was unable to find out anything about “SOUTH BANK ARCHITECTS” other than a phone number, which I dare not ring because I don’t really have a proper question to ask them other than: do you exist?  There is no website.  The www knows of no buildings that have been designed by SOUTH BANK ARCHITECTS.

So, if you work for SOUTH BANK ARCHITECTS or if you know anyone who works for SOUTH BANK ARCHITECTS, please add a comment.

My theory is SOUTH BANK ARCHITECTS used to exist, which is when they put up that big sign.  But, before the www came into existence, they went out of existence.  And now, nobody can be bothered to take the sign down.

Saturday February 15 2014

Tomorrow evening the 2014 BAFTA Awards shindig will be happening, at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden.  Roger Hewland, proprietor of Gramex (Records and CDs), Lower Marsh, told me this afternoon that BAFTA is paying the ROH three quarters of a million quid for this privilege.  Where RH picked this titbit up, I do not know, but it sounds a lot, doesn’t it?

Below is a picture that I recently took myself of the ROH.  If you google for pictures of the ROH, you mostly get either interiors, or else the big Parthenon-like front entrance.  But when I was at that Rooftop Bar I recently visited, I took this snap of the ROH:

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What strikes me is how modern it looks.  It’s just a big box.  The decoration is no more than a gesture.  I know, I know, that’s because nobody can see this bit, this being before the age of buildings taller than this, from which people can look down.  But even so, you can see architectural modernism all present and correct, just waiting to emerge.

Thursday January 30 2014

Much humour is to be had by modifying a cliché, and something similar applies to photography.  The Eiffel Tower features in many photos.  The chimney pots of Paris, not quite so much.

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That was taken on February 2nd 2012, from the Pompidou Centre.

I an still stunned by how brilliant my new, cheap computer screen is.  Pictures like this one become hugely better than I remember them first time around, and wandering around in my photo-archives is more enjoyable than ever before.

Here is another picture taken at the same time from the same place.  Also lots of chimneys, though you have to look a bit more closely this time.  But in the background there, La Défense, Paris’s Big New Thing district.

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What that big dome is in the foreground, I don’t know.  I was staying with Antoine Clarke when I took these snaps, and in fact he was up there with me when I took these.  Maybe he can tell us what that big curvey thing is.  When you take pictures of some big thing, there is a presumption that you do care what it is, but personally, in this case, I don’t really care.  There are more than enough mysterious buildings like this in London to keep me wondering, without me fretting about mystery buildings in Paris.  But maybe you would like to know.

And yes, I am almost certain that is a crane.

One other thing.  This new screen has me thinking that maybe the size of pictures I am putting up here may be a bit wrong.  When you click on the above two, you’ll get them at 1200x900, which is bigger than I usually do, because now my own screen is bigger.  Is this either too big, or too small?  I’d welcome anyone’s opinion on that.