Brian Micklethwait's Blog
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Most recent entries
- Misty (or polluted) at Canning Town
- “Robot” suggests the possibility of fraternization
- Slam City Skates in Covent Garden
- And in Other creatures news …
- Cat proximity awareness
- Looking up in the City
- Indian sign cautions against selfie sticks
- Leake Street photo session
- Longer life would make most of us (certainly me) more energetic and ambitious
- Azure Window broken
- Beltane & Pop van parked on the South Bank yesterday afternoon
- New River Walk
- Die Meistersinger was very good
- Spring in Islington
- ROH Covent Garden here I come
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Category archive: London
Today, in the cloudless weather ordained by our omniscient short-term weather forecasters, I took a quite long walk beside the River Lea, out east. The clocks having just gone forward, there was suddenly a decent amount of daylight, so I took my time and just carried on walking, and now I am knackered. So, it’s quota photo time:
That was taken at Canning Town, where I was switching from the Underground to the Overground. It’s one of those I Just Like It photos, as in: I hope you like it too, but I realise it isn’t that remarkable.
There were no clouds in the sky, but there was something in the air. Mist? Pollution? Whatever it was, it had the effect of turning all distant objects from their usual appearance to a flatly uniform grey, like I’d pushed some kind of Photoshop button. Those are the Docklands Towers in the distance, looking flatly and uniformly grey. That one pointy tower makes the whole cluster recognisable. Increasingly, and as I think I am starting to say quite often here, I find myself valuing recognisability over mere beauty.
I don’t usually like it when street lamps get in the way. (Street lamps in London always get in the way, of every picture I ever try to take, or so it sometimes seems.) But I rather like the way these ones have come out. The nearer one frames the view rather nicely, and the more distant one poses in a dignified way, in a way that fits in well with the rectangular shapes in the gas-holder.
I totally trust the weather forecasters. I left my umbrella behind, and wore fewer clothes than ever before this year. And it worked. No rain, no cold. And not quite so knackered from carrying unnecessary garments. But still knackered. So that is all, and I wish you all a very good night.
Before we entered the Royal Opera House to endure and eventually to enjoy Die Meistersinger my friend and I wandered around Covent Garden, and chanced upon a shop selling artfully decorated skateboards, in other words looking like this:
As soon as I was inside this shop I asked if I could take some photos, and they said: snap away. So I did. I took the above photo first, which gives an idea of what it was that got my attention. And then I took a lot more, of which the following were the least worst:
I know. Lots of reflections in the shiny surfaces of the skateboards. But, you get the pictures.
A cat is involved (1.3 in the above clutch). A rather rude cat, but a cat. At first, I thought I ought to hurry the posting up and have this ready for last Friday. Then I thought, no, wait until next Friday. And then I thought to hell with that, I’ve nearly done it, I will post it when it’s done.
These artistically enhanced boards have all the relaxed and unpretentious exuberance of graffiti, of the sort I most regularly observe in Leake Street under Waterloo Station. You don’t have to read some idiot art-speak essay to find out what the hell this or that skateboard is “about”, even though it is sometimes obscure. “SHAKEJUNT”. “HAND IN GLOVE”. “FIVE BORE”. “FLIP”. You probably have to be a skateboarder to get what words like those mean. Which probably explains why I like the giant TV remote the best. That I definitely understand.
However, a magic ingredient that separates these skateboards from graffiti is that the skateboards come with added property rights. Once you’ve painted your own particular skateboard, that’s how it stays painted. Which means you can really go to town on it, make it really great, confident that some other artist won’t paint over what you’ve just done.
There is also the fact that a skateboard, unlike graffiti, can be moved hither and thither, which means it can be bought and sold. This means that politically sane people will gravitate towards decorating skateboards and political ignorami will prefer graffiti, property rights and civilisation being things that go hand in hand, as do attacking property rights and barbarism. Sadly, this does not necessarily mean that the skateboard art will be better, because mad artists are often better than sane artists. Plus, you can now add the magic of digital photography to graffiti, thereby preserving it. But as art objects, these skateboards will, unlike graffiti, be profitable and permanent.
Here’s the final photo I took, complete with the guy who said I could take all the other photos, despite knowing I wasn’t in the market for a decorated skateboard, but was merely interested in an art gallery-ish way:
I asked this guy for a card or something, so I could put a link to the place here, as I have done, see above. He didn’t have anything on paper. But then he thought: have a bag:
And that’s how I knew what the shop was called and where to find its website.
I hope this posting doesn’t do any harm to this enterprise, for example by diminishing its street credibility. Do things still have street credibility? Or, to put it in more recent parlance, is street credibility still a thing?
Taking pictures like these, which I took earlier in the week, is really easy, if you have a twiddly screen, the way all my cameras have had, ever since I first got a camera with a twiddly screen:
Imagine how to compose all those shots while looking vertically upwards, the way my camera was.
On a more serious note, what these photos illustrate is the design anarchy of London. Individual buildings are designed. Of course they are. But there is little in the way of aesthetic coordination going on.
But, imagine if there was aesthetic coordination. There would have to be an aesthetic coordinator, individual or collective. And what if that coordinator made everything conform to a dreary design? All those who say that London’s Big Things should be overseen by a Grand Designer all assume that the Grand Designer would impose a Grand Design they would like. But Big Things are often very ugly, so the Grand Design might be ugly too.
No, I prefer anarchy, where each building does its own thing. Successful styles are copied. Failed styles gradually get phased out. Okay, very gradually.
And each Big Thing developer gets to do what he wants to do with his own property. The resulting anarchy is something I relish rather than regret.
Leake Street is that tunnel under the Waterloo approach tracks, filled with an ever-changing display of grafitti. And of photoers photoing it.
Presumably they were selling stuff like this.
I like it when my pictures include clocks, and that clock is a particular favourite of mine.
My day in Highbury and Islington (and Canonbury) began with me not seeing much in the way of Big Things from
Islington Highbury Fields. But very quickly, I made my way to the north eastern end of New River Walk, and took the walk along it.
The thing is, Google Maps, what with it being so easy to change the scale of, can mislead about how far apart things are. One Google map shows you a big area, that it will take you a day to explore properly. But then, following further button pushing, another map, which looks like it is of an equally big area, is actually of a place you can be all over within less than two hours. So it was last Monday.
Everything that day was smaller and more suburban and contrived and just nice, compared to what I had been expecting and compared to what the more northerly bits of the New River are like, when GodDaughter One and I checked them out, back in 2015.
In particular, the New River Walk turned out to be a piece of miniature canal that has been turned into a tiny, elongated version of Hyde Park, thanks to some lottery money that was bestowed upon it in the nineties, complete with fountains, and ducks, and carefully manicured footpaths, and views of nearby affluent houses and apartments, thus:
It’s the sort of place I am happy to have visited just the once, to check out what it is. But it isn’t really my kind of place.
But, this is Friday, and there were ducks. And dogs. Quite a lot of dogs actually. Also lots of signs saying don’t let the dogs do dog do, or if the dogs do do dog do, then do tidy it up.
Or maybe Highbury. The nearby tube station hedges its bets and claims it’s both. (This particular spot may actually be Canonbury.)
Die Meistersinger goes on for ever, so since I don’t want to be fretting about this blog after it, but before I go to bed, here is a pre-emptive quota photo, taken on Monday:
The pink blossom signals the arrival of spring. But happily, 2017’s tree leaves have not yet arrived to spoil the view of the Shard, which you can just about see through the trees, to the left, as we look, of the pink blossom.
The omniscient short-term weather forecasters have ordained that today’s weather will be very good, so I will go somewhere, and take photos.
Here is where I plan to go:
I am interested in Highbury Fields, from where I hope to be able to see Big Things, uninterrupted by the leaves that will spoil such views later in the year. And I will also, if I have time, investigate the thin strip of green that goes through where it says CANONBURY, a little bit to the south east. This is part of the New River, more northerly bits of which I earlier explored with Goddaughter One.
I now plan to go there, because I am so old I now need a plan, in order to get out of the house, good and early, in the first place.
I’m still photoing photoers, basically because the photos of photoers I took about a decade ago get more interesting by the year, and so, I’m betting, will photos like these, which I took in Trafalgar Square, last October:
The difference from ten years ago is that I avoid photoing faces far more than I tried to then. That means, as explained in this earlier posting, that I find myself photoing a lot of hair, as above. Although, 3.3 is the hair on a lady’s sleeve, and the guy in 2.3 has no hair. But, he has a hair style.
But I’m not a hair fetishist. I’m just a not-face photoer, when I’m photoing strangers who are themselves photoing.
There was a posting at Mick Hartley’s yesterday which showed that concern about photoing the faces of strangers and thereby in some way stealing from them is not new. Hartley reproduces a great pile of photos, photos like this:
Scroll down to the bottom of Hartley’s posting, and you will encounter quotes from the man, Richard Sandler, who took all these ancient black-and-white photos, of strangers. Go to where Hartley got these pictures and the quote, and you’ll get one of the questions, as well as the answer.
Have you had anyone ever question your motives in the street? Did you ever piss off anybody?
Occasionally people get angry and they have a right to, I am stealing a little something from them. Also for many years I used the strobe on the street and so there was no hiding what I was doing ... it can be startling. I have been kicked, spit on, and chased, but not very often. Once a woman with a rabbit pursued me for 30 minutes because I had flashed her and her pet.
Hartley also quotes Sandler saying this:
I think those were more interesting times because the warts of corporate/capitalist society were more visible then they are today, and those contradictions could be photographed more directly than now ... also every third person was not virtual, being on the fucking phone and not really on the street ....
Two things about that. One, there is something rather exploitative about these photos, as he goes on to admit, sort of like an old school colonist photoing the natives. Second, why the hell are “fucking” phones not themselves fit objects for his photoing? Not really on the street? Come on.
They are certainly fit objects for my photoing.
Could it be that Sandler is suffering from a dose of professional jealousy? Suddenly, the damn natives can photo the warts of corporate/capitalist society for themselves. And nowadays, they don’t even have to use a dedicated camera.
And as for flash, well, the latest cameras hardly need them. They can pretty much see in the dark.
Whenever I encounter interesting vehicles, of which London possesses a great many, I try to photo them. Taxis with fun adverts. Diverting white vans. Crane lorries. That kind of thing.
In particular I like to photo ancient cars. And, I also like to photo modern cars which are styled to look like ancient cars, like this one:
This is the Mitsubishi Pajero Jr. Flying Pug. How do I know that? Because I also went round the back and took this photo:
Is a pug a non-feline creature? Sounds like a non-feline creature to me.
More about this eccentric vehicle here:
On sale for just three years between 1995 and 1998, it sold reasonably well and has been popular as a grey import. None of which explains what on Earth Mitsubishi was thinking when it devised this horror show, the special edition Flying Pug.
The Japanese have always loved old, British cars. Through the Nineties it was one of the biggest markets for the original Mini, but retro pastiches had become popular as well, led by the Nissan Micra-based Mitsuoka Viewt, which looked a bit like a miniature Jaguar Mark II.
Mitsubishi thought it would jump on the bandwagon. Out of all the cars it made, Mitsubishi decided the Pajero Jr would be the best platform. Ambitiously, the brochure said it had “the classic looks a London taxi.” In fact, it looked more like the absolutely gopping Triumph Mayflower.
The press thought it was ugly and the buying public agreed. Mitsubishi planned to build 1,000 Flying Pugs, but just 139 found homes. The deeply weird name can’t have helped, but Japanese-market cars are notorious for it; another special edition Pajero Jr was christened McTwist.
I agree that “Flying Pug” is a strange name. And I agree that the Flying Pug doesn’t look much like a London taxi. But it resembles the Triumph Mayflower even less.
I also do not agree that either the Flying Pug or the Triumph Mayflower are ugly. And they are definitely not, to my eye, “absolutely gopping”, or a “horrow show”. Each to his own.
But I do like the fact that I photoed a car of which there are only one hundred and thirty nine copies in existence.
This afternoon I was in the vicinity of Angel Tube Station, and after my socialising was concluded I took a walk along the Regency Canal, starting at the eastern end of the Islington Canal Tunnel, and proceeding east, until it got dark.
I refer confidently to the Islington Canal Tunnel, but in truth I only today became aware of its existence.
Another thing I only became aware of today was this tower:
This is Chronicle Tower, as I later discovered after much googling. Designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, who have been in business for many decades now. I remember them from my days as a (failed) architecture student.
Almost all of the pictures of Chronicle Tower on the internet that I found are from the other side. But I find that roof very diverting. On the right is my close-up of it, tilted to fit into a vertical rectangle, thereby enabling me to fit more detail in. I must say, I am impressed by my camera’s ability to record detail, in fading light, at something near to its maximum zoom.
There’s no doubt about it. Architects are now taking steadily more interest in “designing” the tops of buildings. Soon the days of flat roofs and random clutter, for all the world to see and enjoy, if it’s far enough away to see the roof, may soon be gone.
I particularly like the way we can see the window-cleaning crane there.
LATER: It’s not like me to miss this, but ... Dezeen reported yesterday on this same building. Their report includes a better version of my left-hand picture.
The tower designed for property developers Mount Anvil and Clarion Housing includes 300 apartments – of which 35 per cent are considered affordable – and a five-story, 405-square-meter penthouse with 360-degree views from all levels.
So, that would mean that 65 percent of the apartments are considered unaffordable.
But I do. (Clue in the categories list.)
Click if you want slightly more context.
Photoed by me, earlier this evening, at Victoria Tube Station.
I find sunset hard to photo interestingly. Towers, I find easier to photo interestingly. (Or maybe I just find sunsets uninteresting and towers interesting.) So, when I photo a sunset, I try to include a tower.
Here are two sunset-with-tower photos. On the left, the most famous tower of London, the Tower of London, is seen (with a sunset behind it), reflected in a a more recent building. And on the right, we see the top of the London Hilton Hotel (with a sunset behind it), with my camera pointing along Oxford Street towards the west. Well, it would have to be the west, wouldn’t it?:
Photoed in January and February of this year. Click to make these photos bigger, if you want to. But I think sunset photos often look better when smaller. Certainly the Tower of London looks much clearly like the Tower of London, when small. I also like how the two sky colours look right next to each other.
Also, and not changing the subject at all: what he said.
It has taken me quite a while to learn how to photo my meetings. The problem is that the room is so small that whichever way you point the camera, you are going to miss two thirds of what is going on.
The best place to photo from is above, standing on a stool:
That shot was taken at last Friday’s meeting, the one addressed by Marc Sidwell, Marc being the one sitting, in a white shirt, on the brown sofa with the big arms, next to Real Photographer Rob with his real camera. The formalities have ended and informality has begun. It was an excellent talk and an excellent evening, and I hope to be saying more about it, maybe here, but more probably there.
In a perfect world, I could attach my camera to a stick, and take the shot from the middle of the ceiling, rather than from its edge. Even in this picture, there are people missing who were present.
This would be a good use for a selfie stick, of the sort that those who moan about selfie sticks don’t pause to think about.
I like London’s (England’s?) long, thin, very vertical, outdoor maps. Whenever I am out and about photoing, I photo them:
There’s nothing like a photo of a map with “You are here” on it, to tell you exactly where you were. That’s where I was, early on, on the day I later took these pictures.
Seriously, it is often quite difficult to work out exactly where I was when I look through the products of one of my photographic perambulations. This kind of snap turns it from difficult to obvious.
Especially if you can actually see the bit where it says “You are here”, like this:
I’ve recently been on several expeditions to this intriguing part of London, with its convoluted waterways. Maps are nice, but there’s no substitute for actually being there. With a camera.