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Category archive: History

Monday October 05 2015

Photoed by me last night, at Southwark tube station:


Next to the ticket barrier at Southwark tube there are a number of these little history lessons, of which this was my favourite.  This is the kind of thing you can usually chase up quickly on the internet, and find a fuller account of.  But, my googling abilities are such that I can find no reference to this fish-discouragement story.  Anyone?

Saturday October 03 2015

Here being Epping Underground Station, which is not actually underground, but you know what I mean.

As already recounted here, I was recently in Epping.  But I just looked again at the photos I took that day and realised that, fascinating though the M11 is, this sign is even more interesting:


I did not know there was such a thing as the Epping Way.  But there is.  It is 82 miles long.  Did you already know about this “way”, from Epping to Harwich?  I didn’t.

This is not really a case of “blog and learn”, but blogging did help, because as so often I was looking for something interesting to pass on.  Which meant I first had to learn something more about it besides its name on a sign.

I also like the photo.  Without photography I would have completely forgotten about this.

When I was at Essex University, I used to go there from London by train, or by car, or by bus.  Now I learn that I could have walked, by what would presumably have mostly been a rather scenic route.

Sunday September 27 2015

How much you learn from something that you just read depends not only on what it says, but on what you knew before you read it.  And for me, this short paragraph cleared up several big blurs in my knowledge of Olden Times:

The new technique of fighting which had won the battle of Hastings for the Normans was also adopted in England; instead of standing or riding and hurling the lance overarm, these new warriors, the knights, charged on horseback with the lance tucked beneath the arm, so that the weight of both horse and rider was behind the blow and the weapon was reusable.  Though it required discipline and training, giving rise to the birth of tournaments and the cult of chivalry, a charge by massed ranks of knights with their lances couched in this way was irresistible.  Anna Comnena, the Byzantine princess who witnessed its devastating effect during the First Crusade, claimed that it could ‘make a hole in the wall of Babylon’.

That’s from the second page (page 8) of the first chapter of Agincourt, by Juliet Barket.

That bit in school history where they explained what a knight was and what knights did and how the knights did it … well, I missed it.  And ever since, everyone talking about such things has assumed that I knew it very clearly, when I didn’t.  It’s so obvious.  How would someone like me not know it?

Oh, I sort of knew it, from having seen a hundred films where film actors did this, in film battles and in film tournaments.  But I had not realised that it was a military innovation like the phalanx or gunpowder or the tank or the airplane or the atom bomb.  I had not properly realised that the essence of Knighthood was collective action rather than mere individual virtue, the point being that it was the former which required the latter.  And I had not realised that it was what won the Battle of Hastings.  Or, even more interestingly, I had not realised that it was what won the First Crusade.  (After which, I’m guessing that the Muslims then copied it.

Medieval society did not give rise to Knights.  The Knights technique of fighting gave rise to Medieval society.

I remember reading Tom Holland’s Millennium, and being presented right at the end with the result of the First Crusade, without there having been any mention (that I recall) of how a European military innovation was what won it.  (That doesn’t mean Holland does not mention this, merely that I don’t remember him mentioning it.)

So, at the heart of the European years between Hastings (1066) and Agincourt (1415 (when I now suppose the Knights to have met their nemesis in the form of the next big military innovation, the Archers (hence the picture on the front of Agincourt))) was a technique of fighting.  Like I say, I sort of knew this, but have never before isolated this fact in my head, as a Big Fact.  Instead, I have spent my whole life being rather confused about this Big Fact, reading a thousand things where the Big Fact was assumed, but never actually explained.

Why did I not correct this confusion decades ago?  Because, not knowing it properly, I had not realised what a huge confusion it was.

Friday September 18 2015

Here he is in action:


That is one of these cat pictures, and the photographer is Walter Chandoha:

Chandoha might be considered the forefather of the Internet’s now-ubiquitous cat photo; and while digital cameras and smartphones have certainly made it easier for people to document their feline friends, as Chandoha sees it, “All of this technology would be for naught if cats were not the sweet, lovable companions they are, and who are held in higher esteem today than those in ancient Egypt when they were worshipped as gods.”

“All of this technology” really has made it a whole lot easier to photo cats, though.  That’s a big part of the cats on the internet thing.  When cats do their funniest stuff, they tend to be moving about a lot, and now, that can all be captured.

Monday September 14 2015

A notable Brian has just died. Close.

Scyld Berry writes about the bravest man to ever play cricket:

The story was that when a ball hit him on the head at short-leg, he shouted “catch it!” Eric Morecombe joked that the start of the cricket season was the sound of leather on Brian Close.

RIP Tweet by Alan Butcher (which was how I learned about this):

Was once in a Roller with Brian Close. Went over a speed bump too quick. His head went clean through the roof upholstery.

Close was also one of the few men ever to make Boycott get a move on (see para 11).

He was a great England captain, briefly, but was then sacked for … well, for wanting to win too much, basically.  Then reinstated briefly, much later.  Should have been captain all that time.

Wednesday September 02 2015

What follows is one of the better commentaries on British politics that I have recently read.  It is pertinent to the current dramas involving Jeremy Corbyn and what appears now to be his likely victory in the Labour Party leadership election, because it focusses on something which I think has been somewhat neglected by other commentators, namely the weakness of Corbyn’s opponents.  It is by former Conservative Party Leader William Hague.

It is to be found at the Telegraph website.  I was alerted to it by Guido‘s invaluable “seen elsewhere” section.

But since the Telegraph only allows me to see thirty (I think it is) articles each month before it blocks me (for about half the month), and since I never blog about things that my readers can’t read just by clicking on a link, which means that I am actually not interested in things that readers can’t read just by clicking on a link, here is the piece, here, in full.  Now I am able to be interested in what follows, because here it is.

The original article contains links to other Telegraph pieces.  These I have reproduced.  But I have not checked if they work, because I don’t want to exhaust half my allotted Telegraph links with the month hardly having started.

If the Telegraph asks me to remove it from here, I will immediately remove it, and will instead replace what follows with smaller quotes and further commentary.  And then I will lose all interest in it, except perhaps as an interesting little event concerning the rights and wrongs of intellectual property.

In late 1997, having rather rashly taken on the job of Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition, I discussed with the new prime minister, Tony Blair, which of us had the most difficult job. “You have,” he said, without a moment’s doubt.

Blair was right. And that job was doubly more difficult because it was one pitched every day against him, the most formidable electoral opponent the Conservative Party has faced in its entire history. Before him, Labour had only twice since its foundation won a decisive majority; with him it did so three times in a row.

Although he is despised in Labour’s current leadership election, Blair was a Tory leader’s worst nightmare: appealing to the swing voter and reassuring to the Right-leaning, it was hard to find a square on the political chessboard on which he did not already sit.  When people told me I did well at Prime Minister’s Questions, I knew I had to, since I had very little else going for me at all – I had to raise the morale of Conservatives each Wednesday to get them through the frustration and impotence of every other day of the week.

Blair courted business leaders and Right-wing newspapers, often to great effect. He was a Labour leader who loved being thought to be a secret Tory, a pro-European who was fanatical in support for the United States, a big spender who kept income taxes down, an Anglican who let it be known he wanted to be a Catholic and regularly read the Koran. He could be tough or soft or determined or flexible as necessary and shed tears if needed, seemingly at will. To the political law that you can’t fool all of the people all of the time he added Blair’s law – that you can make a very serious attempt at it.

This was the human election-winning machine against which some of us dashed ourselves, making the Charge of the Light Brigade look like a promising manoeuvre by comparison. Yet now, only eight years after he left the scene he dominated, his party’s election is conducted with scorn for the most successful leader they ever had.

The first reason for this is the truly extraordinary rule allowing huge numbers of people to join up for the specific purpose of selecting the new leader. If there was an NVQ Level 1 in How To Run a Party, the crucial nature of the qualifying period to vote in a leadership election would be on the syllabus, possibly on the first page. Every student plotting to take over a university society knows that the shorter that period, the easier it is to mount an insurgency from outside. But this basic fact seems to have escaped Ed Miliband, along with every other possible consideration of what might happen after his own unnecessarily rapid departure.

The result of this is that Labour’s leader is being chosen by a largely new electorate, with correspondingly little sense of ownership of the party’s history, in which the desire to align the party with their own views outweighs any sense of duty to provide the country with an alternative government.

The second reason is the weakness of the mainstream candidates to an extent unprecedented in any election in a major party in British parliamentary history. Even in 1935, an even darker time for the Labour Party when it had far fewer MPs than today, the leadership election was between Clement Attlee and Herbert Morrison: great names that are etched into our history. This is the first election of a Labour leader in which none of the candidates look like they could be prime minister five years later.

This weakness partly explains the third and most significant factor in what appears to be, in the form of Corbynmania, a sharp move to the pre-Blair, old-fashioned, Michael Foot-was-a-moderate, Seventies Left, which is that none of them has been able to articulate what a social democratic, centre-Left party should stand for in the first half of the 21st century.

Blair’s ability to win elections was not accompanied by a coherent philosophy. The seminars he held with Schroeder’s German SPD and Clinton Democrats on the “Third Way”, the ultimate attempt at government by triangulation, collapsed in ridicule. And the question neither Labour’s candidates nor their socialist colleagues abroad can now answer is – in a century in which markets dominate, more power passes to consumers, technology gives more choice by the day to individuals, working lives are more flexible than ever, and class-based voting is dying out, what is the role and purpose of the moderate Left?

You can scan in vain the speeches of Yvette Cooper, Liz Kendall and Andy Burnham for a clear answer to this question, although I do not necessarily recommend it unless you find it hard to sleep. You might think there is a modern social democratic case to be made that some people – the less educated, unskilled, and immobile – could miss out on the benefits of the information revolution and that changing that is a new purpose of the centre-Left. Instead, in Britain and across Europe, it is left to fringe parties to prey on those dissatisfied with the vast and rapid changes in modern society.

And most revealing of all, those same speeches (yes, I really have read them), point to no model abroad of the Left in power, no hero to be admired or policy to be emulated. The main parties of the Left have turned into partners of conservatives in Germany, reformist liberals in Italy, back-pedalling socialists in France, catastrophes in Latin America, and been annihilated by extremists in Greece. There is still a Socialist International, but there is no longer a common ideology to underpin it.

Seen in this context, the agony of Labour’s leadership election is easier to understand. This is a tribe lost in a desert with no star to follow, and no inspirational leader to point to a new one. Across the world, parties that thrived on the socialist ideals of an industrialising society are losing their relevance, and what we are witnessing is a symptom and dramatic demonstration of that fact.

Faced with that awful reality, Labour is turning to something, anything, that seems authentic, passionate, and consistent. The failure, in Britain and abroad, to find the social democratic version of that is a failure of historic proportions.

Sunday August 30 2015

I just watched a recording I made of a BBC TV show called Proms Extra, which is a chat show that responds to and flags up London’s immediately past and immediately future Promenade Concerts.  They were asking themselves whether they minded clapping in between movements, in connection with a performance of The Planets, in which this had happened..  The assembled commentators agreed that they did not mind at all.

Two thoughts from me about this.

First, the assumption seems to be that people clap in between movements because they don’t know they’re not supposed to.  But I think it is much more knowing than this.  I think the audience has changed its mind about this.

There has been a huge movement in music-making to achieve an “authentic” sound, by which is meant the sort of sound made by the first performers of the pieces.  Well, why not more authentic audiences?  Time was when “classical” audiences would clap in between movements without hesitation.  Sometimes they would yell for encores, of symphonic movements, before the symphony had even finished, just like at the opera.  That in-between-movements clapping is now happening (has been for quite a while actually) at the Proms tells me that the current fashion for clapping in among big multi-movement pieces is a very knowing decision, a very musically educated decision.  We are not “supposed” to do this?  Well guess what, we have decided that we will do this.

It’s not only this, but I am sure that this is part of it.

Personally, I think that not clapping something like the tumultuous third movement of Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony, for instance, seems very unnatural.

However second, there is no doubt that this new convention, if new convention it will be, has not yet been fully established.  Sometimes it happens, sometimes not, and quite often in a rather tentative, awkward and rather indecisive way.  So, it must surely sometimes make life a little difficult for performers.

What if you have just given what you reckon was a tumultuously great performance of a movement which ends in a manner than just begs to be greeted with a round of applause, and there is silence?  In the older days, of strict inter-movement silence, fine.  I’m not finished.  But now?  Hm.  Did they not like it?  And, after a bit of silence, will they relent, and start clapping, just as I am starting the next movement?

The older regime of silence in between movements was at least a rule, which everyone stuck to and which newcomers quickly learned, from all the dirty looks they got if they broke the rule.  And performers could either pause or press on immediately, confident that no clapping would interrupt whatever effects they were seeking to create.

Friday August 28 2015

I like statues, by which I mean that I like the statues that I like.  Statues that I like don’t read where it says on my blog that I like them, and then say things like “But you never visit”, when I visit.  They don’t say things like: “So, now that you are visiting quite often, what is this?  Where is this relationship going?” In decades and centuries to come, maybe statues will behave in exactly this sort of troublesome way, but for now, they don’t.  They just stand there.

And, they stand there immobile, which as a rather crap photographer, technically speaking, I greatly appreciate.

Here is a recent London statue that I now like:


That’s also another in my ongoing series of Great Photos Taken Rather Badly, which you, oh Real Photographer, can now go and take better.  Big Ben won’t have moved.  Nor will the legs of the recently unveiled statue of Mahatma Gandhi.  Today, as I write this, looks like being a lot sunnier than it has been in London for quite a while.

(New Gandhi statue unveiled in “London’s Parliament Square”.  Interesting how hitherto national organs now aim themselves at the whole world.  The media they are a-changing.)

I only recently noticed this Gandhi statue.  For decades Parliament Square had no Gandhi statue.  Then, it had one. 

Not that Gandhi as he was was anything like what he is now cracked up to be.  (Thank you Instapundit.)

Sunday August 23 2015

When I first started noticing new architecture about fifty years ago, glass figured prominently in the ravings of Modernist propagandists, being the means by which buildings made themselves transparent and thereby proclaimed their structural honesty and modernity.

This same glass was routinely hated by those obliged to live or work behind it.  Glass was the means by which unfortunate inmates of Modernism were fried in the summer, frozen in the winter, or had their skirts looked up through by passing oglers.  The heating and air-conditioning bills could be stupendous.  Often, inmates shoved cardboard behind this glass, to diminish its worst impacts.  Glass in modernistic buidings regularly got broken, often deliberately, not least because first generation modern buildings, at any rate in the UK, often brought out the worst in those subjected to it.

How times have changed, by which I mean: how glass has changed.  It is far more varied now, far more cleverly made, far stronger and less breakable, and far more carefully used in buildings.  Which is not surprising given that glass has only grown in importance, and in the percentage of the surface area of buildings that it now covers.

What follows is the whole of a short report, by Chris Jarvis of Sheppard Robson, of a round table conversation in which he participated last May, about the use of glass in building, organised by the Architect’s Journal.

The prose is sometimes rather businessy and clunky, but I found the content fascinating:

Design process

The conversation was focused on the specification of high-performance glazing. More specifically, how fundamental changes within the industry – which include shifts in legislation and the drive for efficiency in our built environment – have resulted in the specification of glass being determined much earlier in the design process.

Glazing is no longer an adjunct that is decided upon once a concept design is complete and planning has been granted. Issues such as orientation, shading and air-tightness need to be considered in the early stages of projects along with the specification of the glass to ensure the target energy performances can be met. Rigorous energy modelling is also important to enable the right glazing option to be chosen for project, site and client.

Availability of data

One of the key challenges in the specification process is the availability of the necessary rigorous data on materials. Currently, there is a feeling across the industry that the level of detailed product information is not readily available across the board. This provokes the question of how can technology be harnessed to collate the necessary technical performance and cost data - which architects, façade engineers and contractors can use - to make the right choices earlier in the process.

New products

A holistic approach needs to be taken to assess all of the above criteria and select the most appropriate single, double or triple glazed units to meet the performance requirements, whilst staying within budget. Triple glazing is not currently a widely used material to boost performance, mostly due to the cost of the product. However, over the next few years this is likely to change: as triple glazing products become more widely used and technology develops to decrease the weight of the product, it will become more viable for projects and client budgets.

However, the use of more advanced, highly tuned technology requires more monitoring after completion to access the efficiency of the product over the lifespan of the building. Currently, rigorous data of how glazing performs after 10 and more years does not exist; how can new products help the industry close the ‘performance gap’ and alert us to poorly performing glass that is ultimately having a major impact on the efficiency of our built environment.

I chanced upon this at the Sheppard Robson website after photoing one of their buildings, the new headquarters of the Salvation Army, near St Paul’s, and then looking that up on the www:


It looks good, even if custom build HQs often spell trouble for the organisations which move into them.

While I’m on the subject of glass, several incoming emails have wanted to be sure that I had clocked this:


That’s a swimming pool made of glass.  I yearn to photo oligarchical mistresses frolicking about in it, but, no chance.  This will be inside a very gated community, in the vicinity of the new US Embassy in Battersea.  I am optimistic, however, that we might all eventually catch a glimpse of such a thing in a James Bond movie, complete with frolicking oligarchical mistresses.

The above picture, and further details, here.

Monday August 17 2015

A lot of my postings just now involve me showing you photos I took quite a while back, and this one is also one of those.

What happens is, I rootle through all my past photos, and then sometimes get an idea for a posting about a certain category of thing or human conduct or mode of transport or some such thing, and I start gathering photos to illustrate this, in a separate directory.  I am careful to copy photos into the new directory, rather than just transfer them there.  One of my rules is, keep all the photos you took on a certain day on a certain expedition all in one place.  But, no harm in copying from those directories into other ones which are about particular things rather than particular trips or particular times.

However, what often then happens is that I forget about it all.  So, the directory sits there, sometimes for years, and then years later I come across it again.  This happened last night, when I encountered a collection of photographs, assembled in 2010, of photographers who were also holding guide books.  I could tell that I had never used them in a blog posting, because when I do that, I always give photos different names.

Here are four of those photographers-holding-guide-books photos, all of which involve guide books with the word “Londres” on them:


Click to get the bigger pictures.

I’m guessing that both the French and the Hispanics spell London as Londres, with the French calling it Londr and the Hispanics calling it Lon Drez.  But that’s only a gez.

And, yes (google google), I gezzed right:

Londres, the French, Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan and Filipino language name for London, capital of the United Kingdom and England

The guide book while photoing thing always appealed to me, not least because even then I was looking for ways to not photo people’s faces, and guide books often achieved that outcome for me very nicely.  But the phenomenon is also interesting because, slowly, it is fading away.  You do still see photographers flaunting guide books, but it is rarer now.

Instead, the smartphone is the new guidebook.  And, of course, increasingly, the new camera, for people like those shown above.  Makes perfect sense.

As for the lady above (in the picture bottom right) whose face I do here display (if you click), well, she was wearing a T-shirt saying, in London’s own language and therefore to attract the attention of Londoners like me: “believe me… i’m incredible”.  Somehow I don’t think it was “incredulous”.  Ergo, she was attracting attention with her own attention-attracting behaviour, ergo she was and is fair game for her face to go up, totally recognisably, (but nearly a decade later) on my blog.

Nearly a decade later because these photos were taken by me in 2006 and 2007.

Saturday August 15 2015

Time today only for three rather antiquated Citroens.

First, a Citroen DS23, photoed by me in Lower Marsh this afternoon, 3.45 pm:


Second, a second Citroen DS23, photoed by me in the Kings Road this afternoon, 5.06 pm:


To see one of these beauties is a beautiful thing.  To see two, within the space of less than two hours, is to be doubly blessed.

I know they were both DS23s because I also photoed where they both said they were DS23s, at the back.

And then, before the two hours were up, I also snapped this:


It just turned off the Kings Road, right in front of me.

Magnifique.  J’aime Londres.

That last one reminds me that I also took this photo, earlier in the week, in Strutton Ground:


A form of transport that is even more antiquated than are the automobiles pictured above.  See also: this.

By the way, I rather enjoyed it when I just image-googled automobile.  All I was doing at first was checking the spelling.

Sunday August 02 2015

Playing?  Yes.  It’s like they think test match cricket is some sort of mere game.

Cricket, says Cricinfo’s George Dobell, is no longer like this:

A few years ago - 2004 if memory serves - an elderly spectator settled down to watch a day of cricket at Horsham before the 11am start of play and promptly died. It was not until 9pm that anyone noticed. Such was the character of the crowd, and the cricket, that one more silent, motionless man in a chair hardly stood out.

He’s right.  The current England side is full of one-day cricketers.  And when they tried to beef up their top order for their latest test match, all they could think of to do was to sack one of the top order grafters (Ballance) and bring in yet another one-day batsman, a one-day batsman (Bairstow) who has done well in county championship cricket this year, so in he came.  Nobody will be surprised if they sack another grafter (Lyth), and I would not be surprised if another one-day belter (Hales? Roy?) came into the team to replace him, because one-day belters is all that there are to pick.

After all, if batting like Kevin Pietersen is what all the best batsmen do best these days, why try to find old-school grafters in the Boycott manner, if no such people exist of the necessary class?  (By the way, a basic reason why there is no clamour for Pietersen to return to the England team is that he now has no rarity value.  Bell, Root, Stokes, Buttler, Ali, all bat the way Pietersen does.  So does Bairstow.)

One day cricket also rewards those who can bat, in a twist-or-bust sort of way, and who can bowl in a similar fashion.  This doubles their chances of making an impact in a one-day game.  They get to place two bets instead of just the one.  England now have two such, Stokes and Ali.  Plus, Broad can bat after a fashion, and Root can bowl after a fashion.  Which means that England now bat, in a one-day sort of way, right down to number eight, where Ali now operates, and they now have five regular bowlers, because two of them are now Stokes and Ali.

Australia have the same feel about them.  Mitchell Marsh is supposed to be a batter and a bowler.  Mitchell Johnson is a dangerous slogger.  They too are inclined to try to hit their way out of trouble, David Warner style, rather than to graft their way out of it, the way they used to in the days of people like Bill Lawry, Australia’s Boycott (i.e. the guy Boycott was England’s answer to), whom I remember from my childhood.  Lawry grafted always, whatever the situation was.  Now, Warner slogs, whatever the situation is.

And now, all wicket-keepers can bat up a storm, ever since Gilchrist created that template, and actually, before that.  I remember am England chap called Parks, who could bat better than he could keep.  Now everyone picks the wicket-keeper who bats best, and they then give him extra tuition with a wicket-keeping coach.

The most memorable old-school test match I can remember was this one.  Six hundred played six hundred, and that was it.

For me, a turning point was Kevin Pietersen’s innings on the final day of the final test of the 2005 Ashes series, at the Oval.  England were 126-5, with Warne threatening to finish them off and leave Australia needing 150 to win and with plenty of time for them to do just that, and level the series and go home with the Ashes.  So, the one surviving front-line England batsman, Pietersen, had a match to save.  There were two ways for him to do it.  He could try to bat for a long time and make no runs.  Or, instead, he could try to slog lots of runs and thereby get England too far ahead, which is what he actually did.  Meanwhile, Paul Collingwood batted for about an hour and got next to nothing, which was also useful, but nobody except me remembers that.  Giles was spared having to bowl, but batted very capably instead.  I remember at the time how the commentators said, after Pietersen had just hit another six, that this was a strange way to save a match, but save it he did, and rather quickly, because England were suddenly way beyond Australia’s reach.

The most one-day thing of all about the current England v Australia contest is the way that these supposedly five-day games have all so far finished early, with one, one and then two entire days to spare.  At one point that most recent game looked like it might end with three days to spare.

Also very one-day is that all three games have been won, by whoever happened to win them, by large margins.  One team just happens to slog or bowl its way into a dominant position.  The other team tries to slog quick runs or take quick wickets to get itself back into the game, and, as teams doing this usually do, they fail, and the dominant-from-the-start-to-the-finish winner wins by a mile.

England crushed Australia in the first game.  But then, after they were crushed even more crushingly in the second game, everyone said, oh, England will now go back to grafting.  But no.  They didn’t.  They couldn’t.  They didn’t have the players to do that, even if they had wanted to.  And they won the third game by eight wickets, and only right at the end was Boycott a happy commentator, because the Australian tail in the third innings, and then the England top order in the final innings, both did a bit of “old fashioned” Boycott-type batting, or as close to that as modern batters can now manage.  This was why the match lasted a whopping three days, instead of a mere two.

Saturday August 01 2015

Following along from these pictures of earlier-than-now digital cameras, I have been doing further trawling through my photo archives, looking for weird old cameras in the hands of people wandering around the tourist spots of London, which typically, for me, then and now, means Westminster Abbey, Parliament Square, Westminster Bridge, and then along the South Bank.  And with this, I thought, I had struck gold.  This, I thought, from outside Westminster Abbey, nbjh is the weirdest camera of them all:


I took that picture, which I have somewhat cropped in order to eliminate the face of the man holding this contraption, on October 29th 2006.  At first I thought that this camera was a very ancient digital camera, for doing still photos.  A … well, a camera.  But after a little googling (that the company that made this thing is called “Sharp” was no help at all) I now learn that it is a Sharp Video8 8mm Video Camcorder Player Playback Hi8 Camera, or something a lot like that.

Whatever that is.  I have no real clue.  Does it mean that it is pre-digital, and that it records pictures on film?

The internet was very coy on the subject of what this thing actually is, and even more coy about when it was first on sale.  I myself have absolutely no idea, and would welcome enlightenment from any commenters inclined to supply it.

Wednesday July 29 2015

The more I read of Telling Lies About Hitler (from which I have already posted an untypically amusing excerpt), the more engrossing I am finding it.

In it, Richard J. Evans criticised some of the more casual observers of the libel case that his book described, for arguing that David Irving ought to be allowed to write what he wanted, as if the case was all about David Irving’s right to be heard.  But it was not.  It was about whether David Irving could silence one of his more prominent critics, Deborah Lipstadt, who had called him a bad historian and a Holocaust denier.

Yet, there was a reason why this error kept getting made by less than conscientious observers of this case, as Evans himself explained (p. 201):

Yet as the trial got under way, it quickly became apparent that lrving was going to find it difficult to set the agenda.  The bias of the English law of defamation brings its own perils for the unwary Plaintiff.  By placing the entire burden of proof on the defence, it allows them to turn the tables and devote the action to destroying the reputation of their accuser.  Indeed, once the defence has admitted, as Lipstadt’s did without hesitation, that the words complained of mean what they say and are clearly defamatory, justifying them in detail and with chapter and verse is the only option left to them.  A successful libel defence therefore has to concentrate, in effect, on massively defaming the person and character of the Plaintiff, the only restriction being that the defamation undertaken in court has to be along the same lines as the defamation that gave rise to the case in the first place, and that it has, of course, to be true.  The defence had to prove that Lipstadt’s accusations of Holocaust denial and historical falsification were justified in Irving’s case. Thus it was lrving, not Lipstadt, whose reputation was on the line.  By the end of the third week of the trial, as Neal Ascherson observed, the defence had thus succeeded in turning the tables, ‘as if David lrving were the defendant and Deborah Lipstadt the plaintiff’, an observation shared by other commentators too.  ‘In the relentless focus on Irving’s beliefs,’ wrote Jenny Booth in the Scotsman, ‘it was easy to forget that it was actually Lipstadt’s book which was on trial.  Increasingly it seemed that it was Irving himself.’

Having thus put himself on trial, Irving was then found to be guilty as charged.

Sunday July 26 2015

I like Palestra House, outside Southwark Tube.  It’s a bit trashy and seventies looking, but I like it.  Especially in nice weather, as it was when I recently photoed it, on the right here:


On the left is how Palestra House was looking on March 31st 2005.  There was a faked-up picture of what they thought it would look like on the outside of the site, but you never really know these days, by which I mean for the last three decades or so.  Although, there was an early clue, in the form of the beginnings of the glass cladding, as you can see.

One definition of Modern Movement modernism sixties vintage (as opposed to the later and more stylish versions), would be to say that when it was being built you did know only too well what it was going to look like.  It was going to look like … that.  And that … was not good.

I think that Palestra House, on the other hand, turned out quite good.