Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: How the mind works

Friday August 19 2016

Or to give it its official name, City Hall.

I took this photo of City Hall in April of this year, from the other side of the river, outside the Tower of London:

image

Until this evening, I thought of this photo merely as the most flattering photo I have taken of this mostly rather ungainly, and frankly, frequently rather dirty looking building.

But, I just noticed that quite aside from it being such a flattering view of this edifice, my photo reveals that there is a spiral staircase in there.  I’m right.  Look closely, and you’ll see it too.

And here, by way of further proof, is a very artistic type photo of this same staircase, taken by Aaron Yeoman.  You have to scroll down quite a lot at the end of that link to reach this photo, so if you want quickly to see it bigger, click on this instead:

image

If you are outside a building, this is the kind of thing you only see at dusk, when natural light and artificial light are in a state of approximate equality.  You wouldn’t be able to see that staircase in the bright light of the day, because you wouldn’t be able to see the lights inside the building.

Plus, with me, you need to allow a few months for me to realise.  My camera sees far more than I do, and I discover new stuff in my old photos months and often years later.

So far as I can work out, from looking at the what you can visit bit of the City Hall website, regular members of the mere public are not allowed to go up this staircase to the top.  But you never really know about things like this until you actually go there, and ask.  Next time I’m there, I might drop in and do exactly that.

Tuesday August 16 2016

I continue to hoover up White Van pictures whenever an interesting one presents itself.  And this one, that I encountered yesterday evening in Victoria Street, is surely a classic of the genre:

image

What I enjoy so much about this van is how this enterprise clearly started out in a state of in-your-face honesty.  Yeah, we do lavs.  Our boss is Dave.  Workplaces need lavs.  You got a problem with that?  Everyone needs to piss and/or shit every now and again.

But then, as business expanded, the euphemisms crept in.  Changing the website was too complicated, but the surrounding verbiage got more polite and decorous.  That’s my take, anyway.  Have you ever seen the word “welfare” used like that?  I haven’t.  “Welfare Vans” sounds a bit like something laid on by the Japanese Army during the war, providing you-know-what to the soldiery, and for which they still refuse to apologise to the women thus made use of.

Go to www.davlav.com and it’s all explained:

These self-contained welfare vans offer independent diesel heating, washing, toilet and kitchen/eating facilities. Also included are auxiliary power microwave, hand wash and water boiler. Our welfare vehicles offer superior standards and are completely mobile, providing staff with all the facilities required by current employment law. All parts comply with the new legislation for Whole Vehicle Type Approval.

I might have guessed there’d be government regulations involved.

Thursday August 11 2016

Indeed.  Photoed by me yesterday, inside the original bit of Tate Modern:

image

Actually, if you look carefully, you see that these people aren’t exactly the same distances apart.  The ones further away are a bit further apart.  Which only adds to the effect.

More fundamentally, my picture shows people, but no Art.  The contrast, between the bigness of these buildings - Tate Modern, Tate Modern Extension - and the almost complete absence of Modern Art in most of these huge spaces, is truly bizarre.  Modern Art dwarfed by Architectural Modernity, you might say.  There are these pokey little collections of stuff in medium sized spaces, off the big main spaces, and I looked in on one of these shows.  I thought it was downright pathetic.  Not offensive or nasty, you understand.  Just feeble and totally underwhelming.  It looked like a few giant toys, that someone had forgotten to tidy up, lying about in a giant nursery.  And I don’t think it was just me.  I heard others commenting along similarly underwhelmed lines.

The only popular enthusiasm that I observed was being expressed for the view from the top of the new Extension building.  London is as fascinating and variegated to gaze out upon as Modern Art, to judge by the stuff I saw, is dreary and banal.

Monday August 08 2016

This computer upheaval I’ve been having lately was caused by me running out of computer storage space and my existing computer storage space having to be replaced.  All the informational clobber that had been stored on the old two terrorbite disc had to be shifted onto a new four terrorbite disc.  This took longer than was anticipated.  That is what was happening over the weekend.

Today something else happened.  The new computer arrangementspent the whole day noisily chuntering to itself, about something or other, in a way that I found most troubling.  Was this chuntering the new normal?  Is this it?  Is the new four terrorbite disc just permanently noisy?  And then, finally, early in the evening, the chuntering suddenly stopped.  And my computer sent itself an email saying that it had been doing some backing up, of the sort that happens at the beginning of every month.  Thank goodness for that.  There has since been no more chuntering.  There will presumably be occasional bursts of chuntering in the future, but when they happen, I will be able rationally to hope that the chuntering will soon cease.

In amongst all this chuntering, I went on a short photo-expedition.  It was short because I forgot to take my camera.  There was chuntering when I left.  There was chuntering when I returned.  But thanks to being back so very soon, I got to hear the blessed moment when the chuntering ceased, and to note the email that manifested itself at this wondrous moment of incipient silence.

Sunday August 07 2016

My today has been complicated by me having to wait to get my computer back, and then having to do other stuff with it.  This left blogging, if not to the last minute, to about the last hour or so.

Last Friday I mentioned an advantage to you of me posting photos here, rather than words, which is that photos take up less of your time if you decide you don’t like the look of them.  Another advantage, to me this time, is that posting photos is probably easier, for me, when I am knackered.  Writing when tired involves dozens of things that might go somewhat wrong, but posting photos is a simple matter of doing an easy task, or failing to.  There are no degrees of success or failure involved.  With each photo, I either get one out of one or nought out of one, and even when I am tired, getting one out of one, although tiring, is entirely doable, and getting nought out of one is entirely correctable.  If these words are confusing you, somewhat, this is because I am now tired.

imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage

The above photos were also taken last Friday, just before that earlier one was taken, of beautifully covered and nicely lit scaffolding.

The crane in the first picture (1.1) is the same crane as in the last picture (2.3).  The scaffolding in the first picture (1.1) is the same as the scaffolding in the third picture (1.3).  The picture featuring lots of chimneys and TV aerials was taken from near Victoria, but the crane and the new Big Thing in that picture are both on the other side of the river.

Friday August 05 2016

Indeed.  Taken by me, earlier this evening:

image

If you do not share my fondness for scaffolding, or my particular fondness for scaffolding when it is covered up, rather hastily and imperfectly, with huge stretchy plasticky sheeting, or my extreme fondness for all of that when it is hit hard by bright sunlight, well, never mind.  You can quickly tell from a photo whether you like it or you don’t like it, which means that if you don’t like it, only a very little of your life is consumed by this thing that you don’t like.  I’m not sure if a picture is worth a thousand words.  Certainly not in all circumstances.  But a picture takes up far less time that a thousand words does, except if you want it to.  Which explains a lot about this blog.

Wednesday July 27 2016

Last weekend and all through this week, despite still not being totally well, I have been doing lots of socialising.  I now face more.  This Friday I have a meeting at my own home (Michael Jennings speaking about Australia).  Today, my cricket buddy Darren and I are going to see Surrey v Gloucs at the Oval.  Plus, The Guru and I are, in the midst of all this, trying to fix a visit by him to see to my big old home computer ("Dawkins" is the name I think I gave it), in time to beat the Windows 10 For Free deadline, which I think is on Friday also.  So, blogging here during the next few days may be more perfunctory than usual.  It may not, but it may.

On the other hand, blogging doesn’t need to take that long, and while doing this apology-for-not=blogging posting, I also concocted another blog posting.  See below.

This is why I make a point of promising nothing, so very frequently.  Once I have promised nothing, my immediate inclination is to break that promise.  Whereas, if I promise something, that is all too likely to be the promise that will get broken.

Tuesday July 26 2016

I love before and after pictures.  Here is another, showing how the world looked before Blackfriars Bridge Railway Station was built (photo taken in 2004), and after it was built (photo taken a few weeks ago).

imageimage

What the two pictures have in common in those ghostly red columns, left over from an earlier Blackfriars railway bridge.

I seem to recall once upon a time speculating that the ugly lump next to the Shard made the Shard possible.Yes:

The Ugly Lump with the gasometer in front of it, on the right, is Guy’s Hospital.  The other day I heard myself surmising that maybe if Guy’s Hospital had never been built, the Shard might not have been built either.  As it was, there was no nearby neighbourhood or particular bit of the London skyline to ruin, aesthetically speaking, because that job had already been done by Guy’s.  As it was, any aesthetical objection to the Shard was, as far as the immediate locals were concerned, a non-starter.

I still think that’s right.  And what I now wonder is: did something similar happen with the new Blackfriars Station, the one on the bridge, that you can see in the right hand picture above, but not in the left had one?  What I’m thinking is that the view that you see on the left, looking over Blackfriars railway bridge to the towers of the City is perhaps not a view that London’s rulers were especially proud of, what with those columns.  Personally, I love the columns.  For me, they are classic London at its weirdest and most eccentric.  But you can imagine Powerful People being a bit uneasy about this oddity, and about the fact that Something Should Have Been Done About Them, by, you know, them.  So, a railways station which spoilt this view, while not doing too much violence to views across the top of the bridge from further away, might not have been unwelcome.  Without the columns, however, there was a view that they might not have been so ready to see interrupted.

This is just a speculation, just a thought, just a suggestion.  I’m sure lots of other thinking besides that sort of thinking went into the building of this weird and eccentric railway station.  (I added the word “more” to my title after first posting this.) But, I think there might be something to this.

Perhaps those Powerful People also hoped that something new and more constructive might be done with the columns, what with the new railway station being built.  Maybe such a use was even promised, but later abandoned, for some reasons or other.

LATER: Actually, what I am now realising is that there used to be three disembodied rows of red columns, but that the right hand row as we look got swallowed up in a widened version of the original bridge.  My pictures show this rather well, which is why I finally noticed.

Monday July 25 2016

Have I ever shown you this photo?  I don’t believe I have.  If I have, well, I think it’s good, and here it is again, slightly rotated and cropped into a square:

image

That was taken from the top of Hotel ME, in January 2014.  On the left the Spraycan.  On the right, the Millbank Tower, with its glorious roof clutter crewcut.

I definitely showed a clutch of other photos I took on the same day (Jan 25), but no, not that one.

This is why I like to trawl back through the photo-archives.  I see things I didn’t see at the time.

Wednesday July 20 2016

My entire day today was bent out of shape by a cricket match, between Surrey and Hampshire.  Surrey were trying to bowl out Hants and win, but the pitch was a belter and a draw was the likely result all day long.  Nevertheless, every time the day looked like it had died, Surrey took more wickets.  It reached six down, and Surrey were in with a chance.  But then there was yet another long stand, by two Hampshire guys, in a match distinguished by long stands.  The game had begun with a stand of over two hundred by the Surrey openers, and the Surrey first innings ended with another two hundred stand, unbroken, between the Surrey wicketkeeper and the Surrey captain, Gareth Batty.  So today, Hampshire six down, with the game nearly over.

But then, Batty suddenly got a couple more wickets in the same over, bringing his total for the innings to six and his total for the match to eight, and then Stuart Meaker got another, and suddenly Hampshire were nine down.  Could Surrey finish it?  Earlier in the season, they got another side nine down but then got beaten by a big tenth wicket stand, so nothing was done and dusted until it was done and dusted.  But then Meaker got the final wicket, and it was done and dusted.

Just now I did manage a posting at Samizdata, based on some photos I took out in the blazing sunshine of yesterday afternoon.

The two photos I showed at Samizdata were chosen for their content, not their artistic expression.  Here is one of my favourite photos, from the artistic expression point of view, that I took yesterday:

image

Mmmmmm.  Cranes.  And roof clutter.  And The Wheel.

While out and about taking snaps like that, I was also following the Hampshire v Surrey game on my mobile.  When I left my home, Hampshire were nearly all out in their first innings, and Surrey were on course to get them in again and get stuck into their second innings.  But while I was drowning my sorrows in photography, Hampshire’s last wicket pair were frustrating Surrey for the last hour and a half of the day, and Hampshire still hadn’t lost their last wicket at close of play.  This morning, the stand went on, only ending with a run out.  Like I say, this was a match which Surrey always deserved to win, but you never thought they actually would.  And then: they did.

Yesterday, I was opining that you shouldn’t let yourself be at the mercy of popular culture, to the point where you start getting angry about sequels and remakes, in this case the remake of Ghostbusters.  But this is the fate of every true sports fan.  He is at the mercy of events entirely controlled by others, and is doomed to constant disappointment.  But, I suppose, there are enough good days, like today was for me, to make it a satisfactory bargain.

And I really am a true Surrey fan.  While Surrey were piling up the runs on the first day of this game, England were busy being bowled to defeat by Pakistan.  And while this was happening, I was wondering how many Surrey wickets I would surrender to cancel out England wickets.  It turned out: hardly any.

So here, to celebrate, is another photo I took, last year, when I actually went to watch Surrey play:

image

That being Gareth Batty.  Man of the Match, and Surrey’s Man of the Season so far.

LATER: Cricinfo agrees:

Batty was not so much leading from the front as picking up those around him, yapping under the helmet and then getting the job done himself. A century in the first innings began his work before two for 78 in the Hampshire reply was bested by a sensational six for 51 in the follow-on. Throw in Stuart Meaker’s reverse swing addled 18 overs of four for 40, and you wonder where the doubt in obtaining a result came from.

But with 10 overs left in the day, hope had all-but gone. At the end of Batty’s 24th over (56th of the match) he walked duck-footed to mid off, shoulders slunk, cap in hand, dreading what might be. Of all long-form cricket’s gut punches, the handshakes after a drawn fixture take the most out of a skipper who has spent the last few hours on top. And Batty’s side had been ahead for the last three days.

Summoning one last push, Batty returned to take two in his next over. Lewis McManus, having started the day with bat in hand, looked like he would finish it, too. But, after six hours and 21 minutes of crease time across both innings, he was finally dismissed to a fast arm ball. Three balls later, Andrew’s outside edge was found with a perfect off spinner. It was left to Meaker to finish things off. Late movement into the right hander did for Gareth Berg, before Mason Crane was the recipient of a bouncer that would haunt the most weathered opening batsmen, let alone a 19-year-old number 10.

Surrey currently sit outside the relegation zone, 10 points away from Nottinghamshire, who have replaced them in the bottom two. Even if Hampshire were to win their game in hand with full bonus points, they would only go one ahead of Surrey. It bears reiterating: rarely will you see a side work so hard to achieve a four day win of this magnitude.

Read the whole thing.

Monday July 18 2016

I have been slightly ill for quite a while now.  About three weeks.  Not properly ill, just slightly ill.

One of the symptoms of being ill is that I don’t like coffee.  Normally, I do like coffee.  But when ill, I don’t.  And for some reason the experience of being slightly ill has thrown this effect into sharp relief.  Every morning for the last few weeks, I have asked myself: do I want coffee?  Each morning, I have said to myself: yes, I do.  Not as much as I do when healthy, but I still want it, more than I don’t want it.

This is because I am mostly well, but a bit ill.  Mostly, I still want coffee, but I slightly don’t.  Because I am slightly ill.

Maybe it is the constant decision making which has made me so very aware of this equation, that being healthy means I can drink coffee, but that being ill means I don’t.

What this shows is that there is a definite connection between regular coffee drinking and a healthy lifestyle.  But, for me at least and probably for quite a few others, the causal arrow goes in the opposite direction to the one usually assumed.

Every so often, Instapundit does a posting about how coffee is good for your health.  Drink three cups of coffee every morning and live to be ninety five, that kind of thing.  The clear implication is that it is the coffee that is causing you to live so long.

My surmise is that this is wrong.  Your healthiness is what is causing you to be so healthy that you live to be ninety five, and your healthiness also causes you to drink lots of coffee.  You drink it because you can.  You are healthy!

Sickly people, the sort who die younger, cannot stomach coffee.  But it is their sickliness that kills them, not their failure to drink coffee.

I can’t be the first person to say all this.  I am slightly ill, and so can’t be bothered to search out all the other people who say such things.  But, I bet they are out there.

Thursday July 14 2016

Indeed:

image

The Park in question is Finsbury, the Park Theatre being near to Finsbury Park, and more to the point from my point of view, Finsbury Park tube station.  I was there last night to see a friend perform at the Park Theatre, which she did very well.

That LIFE sign thing is just outside the smaller theatre space, where my friend was performing, at the top of the rest of the theatre.  I do not know why it is there.  Could it be that they hope that people will photo it, and then mention the Park Theatre on the internet?

I suppose the creator of this sign could also have been thinking of that old Blur tune.  But that, I believe, concerns a different park.

Wednesday July 13 2016

I continue to photo London’s black cabs and their adverts, particularly when they are entirely not black, because of being covered in a big taxi-shaped advert.

Here, for instance, is an unblack cab that particularly caught my eye, in Oxford street around a week ago:

image

What strikes me about this image …:

image

… (and oh look, I managed to save the picture without all the website verbiage on top of it), is that London looks … well, see the title of this. 

The way the website puts a logo of Principal Tower in the middle of that picture makes it look like Principal Tower is right in the middle of all this foggy drama.  Actually it’s way off to the left, near Broadgate Tower, beyond Liverpool Street Station.

As for this looking like Dubai, I have in mind pictures of Dubai that look like this:

image

I guess there’s something rather appealing about the idea of living in a magic tower which just hovers in the sky, with all that mess below blotted out.  Unless you need to nip out to do some shopping.

Tuesday July 12 2016

I’ve been suffering from something a lot like hay fever.  Yesterday, the doctor gave me some anti-hay-fever spray to spray it with, up my nose, which I hate.  My symptoms are: aches and pains that wander around all over the left side of my head.  I knew you’d be excited.

But, from the same doctor who wants me to spray chemical effluent up my nose I learned that if you get something stuck in your throat, which is what set all this off, they recommend: coca cola.  I did not know that.  So last night, when I went out for drinks, someone offered me a drink, and I though, no I’ve had enough (what with the headaches and so forth), but then I thought: yes, get me a coca cola.  Apparently it clears out stuff in your throat by dissolving it.  How come it doesn’t dissolve your entire mouth?  (Maybe it does.) But whatever, it felt like it worked, and I’m drinking more coke now.

Last night, at that drinks gathering, I heard something else diverting.

We were having a coolness competition.  What’s the coolest thing you’ve done lately?  That kind of thing.  I contributed the fact that my niece is about to become the published author of a work of crime fiction, which is not bad, and which I will surely be saying more about when this book materialises.  It will be published by a real publisher, with an office in London and a name you’ve heard of, which intends to make money from the book and thinks it might.  More about that when I get to read it.  I usually promise nothing but I do promise that, here or somewhere I’ll link to from here.  It would be a lot cooler if it was me who had accomplished this myself, but it is pretty cool even from a moderately close relative.

But another friend from way back whom I hadn’t seen for years trumped this, with something which in my opinion made him the winner, not least because he did the thing in question himself.

Remember the Concorde crash in Paris, back whenever it was, just before 9/11.  And remember how the other Concordes all got grounded for ever after that crash.  What you may not recall quite so clearly is that the other Concordes were not grounded for ever immediately after the crash.  That only happened a few weeks later.  And my friend told us that he took a trip on Concorde, on the day after the Concorde crash.  How cool is that?  Very, I would say.  There were many cancellations, apparently, but he was made of sterner stuff, which is all part of what made it so cool.

I know, a bit of a ramble.  It comes of me being somewhat ill.  Illnesses can be cool, I suppose.  But this one, which is just uncomfortable enough to be uncomfortable, but which hasn’t actually stopped me from doing things, merely from doing them energetically and enthusiastically, definitely isn’t cool.

Sunday July 10 2016

I remember the time well.  It was when I first had a really nice camera, and I explored the banks of the River Thames, finding all manner of things that I never knew existed until I chanced upon them, camera in hand.  This statue of Lord Nelson, for example, which is outside a pub called the Trafalgar Tavern, in Greenwich, which I encountered in July 2007:

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The www offers two sorts of pictures of this statue.  There are the ones that show his face and medals, with the Trafalgar Tavern behind his Lordship, often with the word Trafalgar carefully included.  And there are the views from behind, like mine, which provide a modern background, in the form of the Docklands towers or the Dome.

I did take a front view of this statue, but it was totally ruined by my shadow blasting its way into the middle of the picture.  The fact that I didn’t bother to retake that shot tells you that I preferred the modern background shots.