Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Alastair on Santa's tired helpers
dodgy geezer on Matt Ridley on how technology leads science and how that means that the state need not fund science
michael fallon on Halloween buckets
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Michael on Matt Ridley on how technology leads science and how that means that the state need not fund science
Simon Gibbs on My digital photos on his TV
Simon Gibbs on On the rights and wrongs of me posting bits from books (plus a bit about Rule Utilarianism)
Mark Rousell on Hot dog shadow selfie
Michael Jennings on On the rights and wrongs of me posting bits from books (plus a bit about Rule Utilarianism)
Darren on How the internet is cheering up Art
Most recent entries
- Christmas tree with scaffolding
- Santa’s tired helpers
- To Covent Garden (1): The twisty footbridge
- Trousers keyboard
- Cameras photoing the Wheel (in 2007)
- Was Guy’s Tower a key building in the architectural history of London?
- Photo-drone wars to come
- A link and a photo of a photographer
- Matt Ridley on how technology leads science and how that means that the state need not fund science
- Sign blocked by surveillance camera
- My digital photos on his TV
- ASI Christmas Party photos
- Photoing at the ASI party
- Quota roof clutter
- I finally did something for Samizdata
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6000 Miles from Civilisation
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Category archive: Sport
My rule about being a sports fan is be very happy when your teams are winning, but relax when they aren’t. Enjoy the good stuff. Let the bad remind you that it’s just games. I am not, in other words, a “real fan”, the sort of who puts his entire happiness at the mercy of events that are wholly out of his control.
And just now I am happy, because two autumn rugby internationals have just kicked off, Wales v Australia and England v NZ, and in both games the Brit teams have scored early - and frankly very surprising – tries. 7-0 Wales. 5-0 England. This is the kind of thing you must enjoy while it is happening, without assuming that it will get any better, in fact while assuming that it is pretty much bound to get worse. Protective pessimism. Am watching Wales v Oz on the telly. Highlights of Eng NZ on the telly later.
And Australia score under the posts. 7-7 with the easy kick (yes). But, according to the BBC:
New Zealand are reeling from England’s blitz start.
Don’t you just love it when the other fellows reel. Reeling is something only now done with an -ing on the end. Why is that?
I am giving a talk on Jan 6th at Christian Michel’s about Sport Being A Substitute For War. Just thought I’d mention that. I will try to write it down and will thus be able to shove it up here afterwards.
And NZ have now scored. 5-5 with a kick to come. And Oz have now scored another. Wales 7 Oz 12 with a kick to come. I must stop. Three antipodean tries have been scored since I started writing this. It’s only games.
Or is it? Wales Oz 7-14, but Eng NZ 8-5, to England. And now Wales have scored in the corner. Wales 14 Oz 14. I remember when rugby was played in mud and you were lucky to see a single try in an entire match. So far there have been six tries in under half an hour. Make that seven because Oz have just scored again.
I sympathise with whoever wrote this:
West Brom can hardly believe their luck. Being denied a win at the death by Manchester United is one thing, but having teased a previously woeful Marouane Fellaini back to life must really does takes the biscuit.
“Must really does takes the biscuit.” I reckon he was choosing between, not two, but three different ways of saying what he was saying, but managed to combine all three.
This is the kind of mistake that can only happen with a computer. If you were merely writing, or typing with an old school typewriter, there is no way you would have put that.
When I perpetrate something like that, and I frequently do, and if I later spot the mistake, I then allow myself to correct it, no matter how long ago I made the mistake. Is this wrong? My blog, my rules.
A subsection of Sod’s Law states that whenever you mention someone else’s mistake in something you say on the www, you will make a similar sort of error yourself. If I do this in this posting, I will not correct my error, but will add something “LATER”, in which I identify my error.
Computers. New ways to screw things up.
I attended a talk this evening at Christian Michel’s about robots. The point was made the robot cars probably will be safer, but every once in a Blue Moon, there will be a truly spectacular disaster, of a sort impossible to perpetrate with old school cars.
Inevitably, in some of these cross-examinations, this blog came up, with me saying that I write here about whatever I feel like writing about, with very little thought for the interests of my readers. Cats on Fridays, general trivia, etc. I do Big Issues at Samizdata and trivia here. Blah blah.
However, an American lady friend, whom I had not met in quite a while and whom I was very pleased to meet again, told me that she quite liked my trivia stuff, and that she even read my postings about cricket (this being the most recent one). I thought that only I and Michael Jennings and Darren the Surrey Member were at all interested in those. It seems not.
I’m guessing that this interest on her part is partly actual interest, but also partly that a principle is at stake here. Which is: that the trivia that other people are interested in, but not you, is not actually an entirely trivial matter. Life is not only Big Issues. It is the small pleasures that give colour and texture and individuality to life. Watever matters, to someone, matters. Your opinion about what the Big Issues are should not be allowed to drive a tank or a government bureaucracy over my trivial pleasures.
So, her reading about the trivial pleasures of others is her asserting this Big Issue to herself, as well as maybe learning something about other little parts of the world, like the world of cricket (actually quite big of course, as I daresay are the worlds of embroidery and gardening and croquet and rap music and all the other little things in life that I don’t personally care about, other than to believe that tanks or government bureaucracies should not be driven over them).
Me being me, my way of asserting the importance of trivia, in general, to people, in general, is me writing about the trivia that interests me.
Her way of asserting the importance of trivia to people generally is her reading about the trivia that others write about. But we are both making the same point.
I don’t want to say that I have entirely described why my American lady friend likes to read what I write about cricket. I merely speculate that the above speculations might be a quite small part of why she does this.
(She, like me, probably also thinks that thinking about trivia can often lead to interesting angles on Big Issues, of the sort that merely looking straight at the Big Issues might cause you to miss. Pointless fun and truly original insight are often delightfully close neighbours, I think. But that’s a tangent for another time, hence this paragraph being in brackets.)
This afternoon, The Guru is coming by to reconstruct God, so God (the other one) willing, I will be back in serious computing business by this evening.
When I was recently in Brittany, my hosts supplied me with a state-of-the-art laptop and a state-of-the-art internet connection. These last few days, without God (my one) and having to make do with Dawkins (my obsolete and clunky little laptop, the thing I am typing into now), I have felt less connected to the world than I did in Brittany. I am connected, after a fashion. But Dawkins is so slow and clunky that I have been doing only essentials (like finding out about England being hammered in the ODI yesterday), and checking incoming emails, and shoving anything however bad up here once every day. It’s like I’ve regressed to about 2000.
I have managed to put up a few pictures here, in God’s absence. But Dawkins’ screen makes these pictures look terrible. I am looking forward to seeing God’s version of these pictures and hope they will be greatly improved compared to what I am seeing now.
Thank God (the other one) I haven’t been depending on God (my one) for music. As I have surely explained here many times, one big reason I prefer CDs (and separate CD players scattered around my home) to all this twenty first century computerised music on a computer is that if God goes wrong, as he just has, I don’t lose music. I also have music concerts recorded off of the telly, onto DVDs, which I can play on my telly, which is likewise a completely separate set-up to God.
In general, the argument against having everything done by one great big master computer is that when something goes wrong with that master computer, everything else in your life also goes wrong, just when you may need those things not to. One of the things that willgo wrong, rather regularly, with your all-in-one master computer is when this or that particular one of its excessively numerous functions becomes seriously out of date. I mean, if it has a vacuum cleaner included, what happens if vacuum cleaners suddenly get hugely better? In Brian world, all I have to do is get another new and improved vacuum cleaner, and chuck out the old one. In all-in-one master computer world, you are stuck with your obsolete vacuum cleaner. Or, if you can, you have to break open your all-in-one master computer and fit a new vacuum cleaner, and probably also lots of other new stuff to make sure the new vacuum cleaner works, which buggers up a couple of your other functions that used to work fine but which no longer work fine. Or at all. I prefer to keep things simple, and separate.
Something rather similar applies with how to handle (the other) God. That is another arrangement you don’t want to have running the whole of your life for you either. It’s okay if you do God for some of the time and keep Him in his place, but you want scientists telling you about science, doctors about medicine, and your work colleagues about your work, and so on. If, on the other hand, absolutely everything in your life, and worse, everything in the entire world you live in, is controlled by ((your version of) the other) God, everything is very liable to go to Hell. (Aka: Separation of Church and State. Aks: don’t be a religious nutter.)
I have my own particular take on (the other) God, which is that He is made-up nonsense. But just as wise believers in (the other) God don’t let that dominate their thinking on non-God things, nor do I think that my opinions about (the other) God can explain everything else as well. These opinions merely explain the particular matter of (the other) God being made-up nonsense.
Do not, as they say, put all your eggs in one basket.
As of right now, late afternoon, there is rain and wind outside my window, and not long ago there was thunder. That’s in London SW1. And yet over in St John’s Wood, there is a test match going on, and there is no mention of any weather getting in the way of things.
Oh, as if to prove me wrong, Nasser Hussain has just talked about how the rain is staying “east of Regent’s Park”, in other words travelling northwards from me. North east and Lords would be getting a little bit of moisture some time around now.
It’s very tense, with England 62/1 and chasing just over three hundred, with an hour and a bit this evening and then all of tomorrow, weather permitting. Ballance and Cook have put on fifty, with Cook batting like his life depends on it. Which it does. He won’t die if he gets out soon, but how well he does today and tomorrow could have a big impact on how he lives from now on.
NOT MUCH LATER: 80/4. Cook just got out, for 22. Ballance and Bell already gone. England are not playing at all well at the moment.
Yesterday, someone emailed or tweeted Test Match Special, saying that the Notts captain, Chris Read, could be drafted in, to replace Cook as captain and Prior (who is now dropping catches) as wicketkeeper. It may eventually come to that. Continuity of selection is all very well, but what if they continuously selected team keeps on continuously losing?
See this earlier piece.
I have just done a comment at Samizdata, on this (about the recently concluded football World Cup in which England did its usual rather badly (although it did at least get there)), saying this:
I agree with the first comment, about how, if individualism explains this, England (England perhaps more than Britain) ought to be winning tennis, golf, swimming etc., routinely.
I think much depends on what a country (to use collective shorthand) just considers important, for several years rather than just for a few weeks. Like it or hate it (personally I hate it) Britain, definitely including England, put in a mighty effort (both individual and collective) to make a success (but damn the cost) of the 2012 Olympics, both as an event and by winning a ton of medals.
But from what I hear from football fans, English football takes winning the Premier League, and then doing well in European club competition, more seriously than doing well in the World Cup. The feeling I get is that the winning England footballer is the one who makes the most money throughout his career. A former Spurs manager recently talked about how some of his players would fake injury, and wanted his help to do this, to avoid being picked for England. That would knacker them to no personal career purpose.
Plus, there is this huge split between regular English fans who support their clubs week in week out, and people like me who watch the World Cup but not a lot else. That Germany Brazil game was the most memorable football game in years, for me. For a proper fan, it would be some obscure promotion battle or an amazing away draw against a European club that got their team to the last sixteen of the Champions League, or whatever. For a Man U supporter it would be that remarkable last ditch win against Bayern in the Champions League final.
Sadly, I think politicians have a big influence on this. The kind of power and money they command doesn’t make successful countries out here in the real world (Brazil, Argentina, etc.), quite the reverse. But it can make national sporting effort more successful, if by that you mean more medals and trophies. Angela Merkel is a big fan of her now triumphant football team. I wonder what else she and Germany’s other politicians did to support them, other than her showing up for lots more of their games than she had to.
Sport. War by other means. Discuss.
That last point is one I definitely want to write about more in the nearish future. How A-bombs and H-bombs have made all out war between Great Powers impossible, and caused an unprecedented outbreak of peace between Great Powers, and thus caused national rivalry to express itself in sport rather than war. That kind of thing.
Yes, I’m watching this bizarre game.
A commentator said of Brazil’s defenders that they are all over the place, or some such phrase, and added:
It’s like a testimonial match.
For you Brazil, ze turnament iss over.
My prediction? Germany 5 Brazil 2. My thinking? Momentum will shift. Brazil will be desperate - desperate - not to be further humiliated. Germany will spare them further humiliation and save their energy for the final.
Vee shell see.
Hansen and Shearer of the BBC are now raking it over at half time. Were Germany brilliant (Shearer), or Brazil awful (Hansen)?
LATER: I had a feeling about this game when I set the video recorder. But I hoped that it wouldn’t go to extra time because there is something else I want to record, starting at 11.30 pm. Please let regular time not end all square. Something tells me that my prayer will be answered.
FINAL SCORE: Brazil 1 Germany 7. Well, Brazil did score a goal. Right at the end. Just after Germany had missed making it eight nothing.
The Spaniards may now be feeling a bit less bad.
Yesterday, London was bent totally out of shape by the Tour de France. It became a French provincial city for the day, as I suppose some French people think it is always.
It rained. I was otherwise engaged, and in any case did not fancy fighting my way through crowds for the mere chance of snapping a herd of cyclists racing past me for about twenty seconds, especially after I had watched a Lance Armstrong documentary on my television. What a shit. And what a shitty sport. Besides which there would, I reasoned, soon be plenty of photos on the www of the drugged up veloherd pouring past the Docklands Towers, the City and its Big Things, Parliament, Buckingham Palace and so on.
Most of the pictures I found today involved Parliament and Buckingham Palace rather than more modern Big Things, and the veloherd (all with hats designed by Zaha Hadid) of course, and the best Tour de France in London snap by far that I found today was taken three months before the big day, when they were still telling everyone about it:
Classic. Seriously, what better background could there be to a sport that is all about wheels?
Original and slightly bigger picture, with the story, here.
Further to this posting, more incoming from Darren, following my interest in further Oval views, looking to the right of the Spraycan shot in that earlier posting, towards the middle of London:
Here’s the other photo I took at the same time. No Shard, but you can just see Victoria Tower (The King’s Tower) with a nice crane alongside. Not a great view, but then again actually pretty good considering it was taken with a device whose main purpose it to access the internet.
Yes, cranes are always good. Here at BrianMicklethwaitDotCom, we like cranes. And yes, we can all see the Other Parliament Tower, by which I mean the other one besides Big Ben:
But now take a closer look (good thing Darren sent me the full sized version rather than a cut-down version) at that Thing Cluster, in the middle:
Now you can also see Big Ben itself, and the BT Telecom Tower or whatever it may have decided lately to call itself instead. I know this Thing as the GPO Tower, and it was the first of London’s modern Big Things. And there it is, to the left of the spike that is Big Ben. (Here is another BT Tower picture, one of my best ever snaps, I think.)
The point of photos like Darren’s, and like the previous one taken from the same spot, is not that they are perfect photos. They are not. They were taken with a mobile phone, in fading light, for heavens sakes. What matters is that such photos show what can be photographed from this or that vantage point, what (if you have really good eyesight, better than mine) you can see.
If anyone else - me for instance - wants to go there with a better camera with a zoomier zoom, we now know what we are looking for. We know that a pictorial snark is there to be hunted.
Incoming from Darren:
I just read your comment about The Spraycan always being lit the same way in your
Big Things in the sunset article and it made me realise I might have one or more photos waiting on my phone that I took last night that would confirm your assertion. I wasn’t (deliberately) photographing The Spraycan, of course.
Unfortunately it turned out that rather a large bit of “clutter” had thwarted me - see attached:
So, you’d have been watching Jason Roy upstage Dilshan then.
That looks like a great seat you had there, way up in the stand. A while back, D, you said something about us both going to the Oval. Rudely (apologies) I now realise I never replied. Serves me right. But next time you are going to that high up spot, and there’s space for me, let me know.
The Spraycan is right in the middle of this picture, at the back there, behind the floodlight. The Spraycan being at Vauxhall and the Oval being right near there also, there it is. Over to the right but further away, there are such things as the Strata and the Shard to be seen, or so I seem to recollect from when I was last at the Oval.
I’d enjoy the cricket too.
Surrey are doing really well just now. In addition to Roy’s T20 heroics, they are now third in Division 2 of the County Championship and have an outside chance of getting promoted right back into Division 1. All this after a truly frightful start to the season. Their last four first class games have been won 2 drawn 2, which may not sound that amazing, but Surrey have topped 400 in their first innings every time, and in one of those innings even got past 600. The last time they did that must have been in the halcyon days of Ramps. Now, instead of just the one guy making half the runs, they’re all at it. Burns, Ansari, Davies, Solanki, Roy (off 55 balls) and new captain Wilson have all got first class centuries in the last few weeks, and Tremlett nearly got one also.
Gloucester saved that game where Surrey got 600, losing only one wicket throughout the last day. But the point is, Surrey are making big first innings runs again, for the first time since Ramps went off the boil. Even if you don’t win after that, you don’t lose either, and the bonus points pile up. For batting obviously, but for bowling as well, because nothing puts pressure on opposition batters like a ton of runs against them. Gloucester may have escaped heroically, but Surrey still got quite a few more points than them in that game.
One of my favourite computer functions is Screen Capture. For years, I didn’t know how to do this. How is “prt sc” screen capture? I used to just photo the screen. Then I got told, and more to the point, told at a time just before I found many uses for this procedure, and as a result, I actually got it fixed in my head.
So it is that I am able to capture fleeting moments like this one:
That was the passage of play that turned the game England’s way, today, on day one of the test match at Headingley. Sri Lanka went from 228-5 and motoring to 229-9, in nine balls. In among all this, Broad got a hat trick, but didn’t even realise and had to be told! There was then a little last wicket stand and they got to over 250, but the big damage had been done.
Here is another interesting moment, which is the moment when they show me all the guys who worked on Adobe Photoshop, while I am loading Adobe Photoshop.
But, the trouble is, when I do a Screen Capture while that is happening, it doesn’t work. What gets captured is the moment when Adobe Photoshop is finally loaded. Until then, I guess my computer is too busy loading Photoshop to do a Screen Capture. Either all that, or else I just wasn’t doing it right, as is entirely possible.
But instead of obsessing about what I might or might not be doing wrong, I instead simply photographed the moment, just like old times:
The reason I wanted to photo this was all the Indian names, in among the occasional regular American ones. Interesting. Where are they all based, I wonder? I’m guessing somewhere in the USA, but what do I know? Adobe seems to have a lot of places where they could be. And of course, if something like Adobe doesn’t know how to plug a global network of co-workers together, who does? From where I sit, these Indian guys could be anywhere. Even so, like I say, interesting.
A lot of the Americans I read on the Internet say that Obama is destroying America, and he seems to be doing as much as he can along these lines. But there is a lot of ruin in a country, and a lot of ruin in American. This screen shot suggests that at least parts of the good old American upward economic mobility ladder are working just fine.
Mick Hartley writes about England’s loss to Italy last night in their opening World Cup game:
Much football punditry has always seemed to me to be an effort to provide a plausible post-hoc storyline for what was to a considerable extent a matter of chance. … as though the whole enterprise must be made sense of by virtue of the winning team being the team that deserved to win.
Very true. (I’m guessing that, with luck (ho ho), this book will have a lot more to say about this tendency.) Actually, much of the appeal of football (to those to whom it appeals) is that the “best” team on the day often doesn’t win. This means that the supporters of bad teams can live in constant hope of upsets.
This also explains why, at the early stages of a season, surprising teams are often at the top of the table. Later, the law of averages asserts itself inexorably, and the best teams arrange themselves in logical order at the top, and the surprise early leaders sink back into the pack where they belong.
All of which makes something like the World Cup quite good fun. All you have to do to win it is win five or six of your first six games. All the best teams have to do not to win is lose one or two of their first six games. One of the great moments of all World Cups is the one when a Much Fancied Team gets on its Early Plane Home.
What the pundits seem to have been saying about England is that, because the “expectation level” is low, they might do quite well. The expectation level is low so it’s high, in other words. My take on England is that they are a fairly bad team, who played fairly well against Italy, and lost, and that they will probably do fairly badly, but you never know, because there are only half a dozen games for each team to play. I will video-record all of England’s games, such as they are, just in case. I live in hope of a small series of upsets.
I also video-recorded the Spain Netherlands game, by far the most remarkable one so far. Will Spain be this time around’s Much Fancied Team early departure home?
And I also videoed the first game, between Brazil and Croatia, with its truly dire opening ceremony. This was a real collector’s item of awfulness. What is it about these terrible opening ceremonies, with their meaningless costumes and absurd dance moves? Witnessing them is like listening to someone talking in a language has only recently been invented - for aliens to speak in a movie, for instance - which consists of no actual words, only meaningless sounds.
The opening ceremony for the 2012 Olympics in London contained many things I disagreed with, and I continue to disagree with the entire principle of me and all other anti-Olympickers having to pay for the damn thing for the next thousand years. But at least that ceremony contained stuff that meant something. Although come to think of it, maybe the only people who understood it was us Brits, and for countless mllions elsewhere, that was also the gibbering of aliens.
One of the features of a genuinely chaotic cricket collapse is that not only does the batting dressing room descend into chaos. So does the scoring. And Cricinfo, God bless it, just descended into chaos this morning. Batsmen were out, but then remained at the crease, only later to be replaced for no reason. Wickets were credited to one bowler in his bowling analysis, but to the other bowler where it says how the batsman got out in the scorecard. Etcetera. It got so I just didn’t believe it. And frankly, I was finding it hard to believe. Gloucester, having made 207-3 in a twenty twenty game yesterday (only for the other guys’ innings to be rained off), descended into the chaos that is 25-5.
Against Surrey. Hurrah! All those expensive bowlers finally accomplishing something. Although actually, the one taking the most wickets so far (if Cricinfo is to be believed) is Matt Dunn, from Egham, who cost Surrey nothing beyond what I’m guessing is a pretty basic wage.
It will presumably calm down. (Already Gloucester are 55-5.) Gloucester will slog (Geraint Jones and the other Gidman) and scratch (all the other remaining Gloucester batters) to a hundred and something, and by the close Surrey will be eighty for eight, because presumably conditions are not that good for batting. But just for the time being, let me enjoy this.
I don’t expect you to, but I am keeping up with the rest of the story, at Cricinfo, here.
Other Gidman out! 57-6.
67-7! 67-8!! Three wickets to Jason Roy, occasional spinner. Will they even get to a hundred?
LATER: Surrey doing extremely well shock.
Gloucester all out 112, which wasn’t quite as bad for them as once it looked, especially if conditions were as batting-hostile as their score suggested they might be. But then, at the close, instead of being approximately all out for something very similar, Surrey were 186-0. Surrey openers Burns and Ansari each having faced about the same number of deliveries as the entire Gloucester side, and nearing centuries. Burns is nearly there, and Ansari already has a personal best.
I did not see that coming.
Reminds me of this.
Ansari didn’t get to a hundred, his personal best now being 98, but Burns is past a hundred and still going.
Rather more excitingly, Alphonso Thomas of Somerset has just become the first person, unless I am much mistaken, to take four wickets with four consecutive balls, against Sussex. And these were not tailenders. Sussex began the day twenty something for no wicket and are now thirty something for five, Thomas having taken a hat trick with the last three balls of over 17 and then another top order wicket with the first ball of over 19. My vague impression is that Malinga recently took four consecutive wickets in the final over of an IPL T20 slog, but that this is the first time this has been done in a proper game in proper circumstances, so to speak. There will be plenty of discussion of this feat, so my hunches will soon be confirmed or denied without me having to do the digging.
The reason county cricket often excites me is that I have the scores puttering away on Cricinfo, in the background. So, when big things happen, they often happen to me all at once. The first I heard about Thomas taking any wickets at all was when he had already taken three, and when another guy had already taken another in over 18.
LATER: No, four in four in first class cricket is not rare. It just hasn’t happened in test cricket. Plus, I think the Malinga thing was in an international T20 game, rather than merely in the IPL. So he is the only one to have done this in an international. I knew you’d be excited.
Tate & Lyle Park presumably no longer exists. I wouldn’t know. I haven’t been there lately. This posting is partly to remind me to go, again, and check out what is happening there. It is surely something.
Last time I was there, I photographed two geese. Follow that link and you’ll also find a google maps picture from space on a very clear day of Tate & Lyle Park. I also took many other photos which I never got around to showing here, including the four that follow. Here is what Tate & Lyle Park looked like:
Below is why Tate & Lyle Park is called (by me anyway) Tate & Lyle Park. It’s not a park really. They’ll have built all over it by now. But on that day I was able to walk right to the river’s edge and photo Mr and Mrs Goose. I’ll still be able to photo everything though, because the shot above was taken from the nearby D(ocklands) L(ight) R(ailway) railway station, which is above ground and a fine spot for snapping from.
Here is a gas holder, on the other side of the river, a photo in the I Just Like It category:
Finally, here is another artistic type shot, with a different kind of clutter in it, this time: water clutter.
The tall thing in the middle of the picture is one of the towers, then nearing completion and basically needing only the wires and the pods, of the folly known as the Emirates Air Line. This is notorious for going from somewhere useless to somewhere else equally useless and for the fact that hardly anyone now uses it.
I had a go on this Emirates Air Line or whatever, after the Olympics (Mayor Boris J’s excuse for erecting it) had died down. It was less fun than I hoped. It was bumpy and it moves quite rapidly which is terrible for photography, unlike the Wheel which is smooth and slow. You can’t search out the best photos to take by lining things up, like you can on a railway platform on at somewhere like the top of One New Change. Instead you just get what you get, often very blurrily. Plus, the views from it are actually not that much better than they are on the ground in that part of London. But I’m glad I did the trip. Had I not, I have continued wondering about how good it is.
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.”