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Category archive: How the mind works

Monday October 17 2016

When you talk about an airplane being blown up, that usually means it has been exploded, destroyed, incinerated.  This airplane, however, has been blown up, yet it looks like this:


Details at 6k.  This posting here is basically a celebration, of the fact that I am now able to get to 6k, copy pictures from 6k, etc.

For the last few days, right up until nearly now, my computer was unable or unwilling to access 6k.  Everything else: okay, but rather clunky.  6K: not.  I checked if this was 6k’s fault by trying to access 6k via my mobile, and that worked.  Ergo, it was me.  Strange, and rather frustrating, because I like 6k.  And now, for some equally bizarre reason, my computer did some sort of internet connection hiccup involving that thing where it says something about a testing process and says you have to check in again, with some password you never knew you had which you can actually ignore by just opening a new window, and once I reopened a new window, everything was suddenly back working properly.  And: 6k returned.

Dodgy connection?  Well, maybe, but I hadn’t touched any of the connections.  Why did this happen?  Don’t know.  And: don’t care, unless it happens again.  Then: it did happen again.  Fiddled about with connections.  TURNED COMPUTER OFF AND TURNED COMPUTER ON AGAIN.  Seems now to work.  Weird.

Also weird is what the Russians are about to be getting up to.  (The airplane above is Russian.) Some things never change.  The Russians are always doing one of two things: pretending to be weaker than they are, or pretending to be stronger than they are.  They seem to be in a stronger than they are phase just now.

Life is full of mysteries.  More so, as you get older.

Sunday October 16 2016

The other day (which is an expression that strikes me as very odd – I mean: either yesterday or the day before yesterday), I was sitting on my toilet and, not having brought a current book with, I took a look at one of the Rebus books, The Naming of the Dead.  All my already read Rebuses are gathered there.  Immediately I was hooked, and since then, I have continued reading.

The thing is, I have already read this book.  I have read all the Rebuses, except the latest, which hasn’t yet emerged in paperback.  But, I have absolutely no idea what will happen in the rest of The Naming of the Dead, apart from that it involves a serial killer on the loose, which I got from the blurb on the back.

This is one of those bonuses of getting old.  It’s not worth all the drawbacks of getting old, but it is a bonus.  You can reread books which depend for their effect on you not knowing what will happen next, because if you read the book about, I don’t know, five years ago, you probably don’t know what will happen next.

And when I have finished The Naming of the Dead, there will then be all the other Rebuses.  For me, one of the most important ingredients of contentment is to have a book on the go that I really am keen to read.

Saturday October 08 2016

Whenever I see an old car, of the sort that was the latest thing when I was a kid, I photo it, or I try to.

See, for instance, those delightful old Citroens in Roupell Street.  Which were there, I have since learned, not because someone in Roupell Street is collecting them, but because someone in Roupell Street is repairing them.

And see also, this ...:


… which I saw earlier this week, while on my way to a violin and piano recital at the Romanian Cultural Institute in Belgrave Square.  A Rolls Royce, on the way to what turned out to be a Rolls Royce performance.

I used to have a Dinky Toy version of that car.

I am increasingly coming to believe that many of our most powerfully felt aesthetic prejudices are formed in the nursery.  And that a lot of Modern Art is the recreation of those happy sensations, in an enlarged form, suitable for the enlarged people that the nursery dwellers turn into.

But Dinky Toy cars don’t have to be enlarged, because they already have been.  Enlarged Dinky Toy cars are called: cars.

Come to think of it, I also had a couple of Dinky Toy Citroens, a DS19, and a 2CV.  Yes, this explains a lot.

Monday October 03 2016

This photo was taken in 2008, in France.  I took it myself, and though I say it myself, I think it’s great.

There’s a particular sort of car you see in France which is old school in its styling, but so beautifully shiny that you suspect it may be a brand new reproduction rather than the genuine old article:


Those big buses behind don’t spoil it.  The flowers in front don’t spoil it.  This is my blog, and I decide about such things.

Alas, you can’t tell what sort of car this is, and hence get agoogling about whether it really is a real vintage car or merely a pretend one.  My bet would be: real.  Which only makes its shininess more shiny.

Yes, another quota photo, but this time I’m doing it in the small hours of the morning for tomorrow, rather than for yesterday.

Friday September 30 2016

All regulars here (such people do exist) know that I love an alignment, of two London Big Things.

So.  Tower Bridge.  You see that in plenty of photos.  The Dome.  Ditto.  But how often do you see them in the same photo, right next to one another?  I just tried googling “Tower Bridge The Dome”.  Nothing.  All I got was pictures of each, separately, (mostly Tower Bridge), and lots of instructions about how to get from one to the other on foot, on the tube, etc.

So, take a look at this:


Just to be sure we know what we are talking about, here is a square of detail, from another closer-up shot of the same alignment:


In the middle there we see the top of the northern tower of Tower Bridge.  And just to its left, as we look, through a gap in the big Docklands towers, we see a clutch of cranes, yellow, red and grey.  Except, the yellow cranes are not cranes.  They are the spikes of the Dome, and the Dome is the white expanse below the cranes and the spikes.

It took me quite a few visits to the top of the Tate Modern Extension, from where these shots were taken, and quite a few looks at the photos that I had taken, to work out that this particular photo was there to be photoed.  I don’t claim that my photos are photo-perfection.  They merely prove that all you Real Photographers out there, who might want to improve on the bridge camera quality of my efforts, can now get up there and do just that.

Thursday September 29 2016

I like this photo, of Daniel Hannan, at the top of a Guardian piece about him, and about how he was and is “The man who brought you Brexit”:


I like this photo because it is exactly the sort of photo that I try to take of photoers myself.  A smartphone with interesting graphics, held over the eyes of the photoer (which of course often happens) to preserve anonymity.  Or it would if there were no other photos of Hannan in the world and no article underneath the photo, telling the world all about him.

While browsing through my archives recently, I came across those pictures I took of Brexiteer Kenny, doing his rehash of a Hannan piece in Trafalgar Square, with white chalk.  And what I discovered was that, to revise that Abba song, I never thought that we could win.  The pictures brought back the feeling I had when I took them, which was: gallant failure.  Brave effort.  Well done mate, going down fighting.  But, we won’t win.

I told myself that we might win, but mostly what I thought was that although the majority for Remain had slimmed down a bit over the years, it was still there.

As for the Brexit arguments now (quick versus careful), I am reading this guy.  He is for careful.  Every post he does says (a) that he is the cleverest person in the world and that everyone else is at best not so clever, and at worst stupid stupid stupid; and (b) something worthwhile, carefully and persuasively explicated.

I never thought that we could win, but just to be clear: there’s no regret.

Wednesday September 21 2016

The directory with all the snaps I took in Quimper and surrounding places, ten years ago, contains some fine images.

And some rather weird ones:


Okay, Citroens made of wood is not that weird.  Certainly not in France.

But those really rather realistic black baby dolls is something we surely don’t do nearly so much over here.  I’m guessing we have too much of a history of what you might call derogatory black dolls, unrealistically racist dolls, and that means that all black dolls are now tainted in our eyes, even much more realistic ones like the ones in that picture.  They evoke a tradition and a way of thinking we would prefer not to be reminded of, or worse, to be thought to be perpetuating.  When the British are being sentimental about black babies, they do it in those (I think) ghastly charity fundraising telly adverts.

But what do I know?  I’m just thinking aloud.  Maybe we do have lots of dolls like these in British shop windows, and I merely haven’t noticed them.  But, my first reaction when I say these black babies was, as I say: weird.  Certainly striking enough to take several photos of.

Monday September 12 2016

imageI refer honourable readers to the posting I did earlier, about a pink van (miniature version of this pink van on the right there).  And I ask you to note, again, the difficulties that this pink van’s decorators had in making what they had to say fit in with the indentations on the side of the van.  The roller-blading fox has a big kink just under his midriff.  The website information is written in letters too big to fit in the space chosen for it, but they have to be, to be legible.  It all adds to the general air of amateurishness.

But now, let’s see how the professionals deal with similar problems:


I was all set to write about how this very “designed” piece of design made all the same mistakes as the pink van, but actually, I don’t think it does.

The thing is, the pink van is decorated in a way that says: this is a flat surface.  Therefore, the fact that, actually, it is not a flat surface is a real problem.

But what the Sky van says is: you are looking through the surface of the van, to this three dimensional wonder-world beyond and within.  Yes, it’s a van, and its outer surface has strange and random rectangular indentations and even stranger horizontal linear interruptions.  That’s because it’s a van.  Vans are like that.  But all these vanly banalities merely happen to be in front of the real picture that we are showing you.

So, for me, this Sky van is a great success.

As for the world it depicts, the show in question is this.  I’ve not seen any of it, but I do recall Karl Pilkington with fondness from that chat show he did with Ricky Gervais, which I seem to recall watching on television, in the early hours of the morning, even though it was supposed to be a “podcast”.  Pilkington himself also remembers this earlier show with fondness, it would seem.

Saturday September 10 2016

If I take a photo like this …:


… then I am liable to feel quite a lot of affection for the spot from which I took it.  Big Things. Cranes.  Roof clutter.  A lit-up sign with news about a cricket game.  Advertising, including even an advert for the excellent City A.M. (bottom right).  True, it’s a bit gloomy.  But that only makes the cricket score shine all the brighter.

Here, below, is a photo of the spot that I took the above photo from:


Yes it’s the Oval Pavilion.  There is now sunshine, going sideways because by now it is the evening. Surrey have narrowly defeated Notts and all is well with the world, unless you were supporting Notts.

Here is another photo which I took a year later, from almost the same spot.  Just sitting a bit further back:


Judging by the next photo I took, I must have surveyed the scene. 240 Blackfriars.  St Paul’s.  Yellow cranes.  Yes, let’s take a closer look at those yellow cranes:


However, since taking all of the above (and a great many more (to say nothing of vans outside)) I have taken also to visiting another excellent Big Thing viewing platform, namely the one at the top of the Tate Modern Extension.

And when I looked more closely at the above photo of the yellow cranes, I observed this:


Still the yellow cranes, but this time we can also see the Tate Modern Tower much more clearly.  And the Tate Modern Extension is right behind a new block of flats, one of the ones already referred to in this earlier posting, about how you can see right into these new flats from the Tate Modern Extension viewing platform.

So, if I could see parts of the Tate Modern Extension viewing platform from the top of the Oval Pavilion, it ought also to be possible to see the top of the Oval Pavilion from parts of the Tate Modern Extension viewing platform.

And so it proved.  On my first expedition to the Tate Modern Extension viewing platform, I had given no thought to the Oval Pavilion.  But on my second visit, having scrutinised my Oval photos in the manner described above, I tried to photo the Oval Pavilion.  A lot, because I couldn’t myself see it properly.



On the right, in green, the famous Oval Gasometer.

Here, in case you are in any way unsure, is the Oval Pavilion:


For the last few days, I have been asking myself why I so much relish little visual duets of this sort.  Liking A, liking B, seeing A from B, seeing B from A.  Why am I so diverted by this?  Rather than answer this question, I will just leave it, for now, at putting the question.  I have the beginnings of some answers meandering about in my head, but they can wait.

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:


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:


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:


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 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:


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.


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:


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.