Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Matthew May on More White Vans
Simon Gibbs on More White Vans
Beakon blog on Tweet?
6000 on A weird view of the Wheel - and cats in Tiger
Michael Jennings on White Van
Brian Micklethwait on White Van
Rob Fisher on White Van
Rob Fisher on Is rugby the new squash?
Alan Little on Is rugby the new squash?
Michael Jennings on Michael Jennings on the likely progress of the Cricket World Cup
Most recent entries
- Big cat scan
- From a cat cushion to Bill Murray and a nude to a demon horse sculpture that killed its creator
- My favourie partial eclipse photos
- Bean drops snow on tourist
- Paul Kennedy on centimetric radar
- More White Vans
- Quota scaffolding and quota roof clutter
- Not squash
- A weird view of the Wheel - and cats in Tiger
- White Vin Van
- White Van
- BT Tower behind trees
- You don’t see this any more
- Photoing the photoers on Westminster Bridge
- Is rugby the new squash?
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6000 Miles from Civilisation
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Category archive: London
Is it a bird?
Is it a plane?
And it’s also a partial eclipse of the sun.
We had this in London, earlier in the week. All I remember is that I, one of the seemingly small minority of people who realise that Britain’s next day weather forecasts are accurate, ignored it, knowing that it would be clouded out of view.
Which it was.
A routinely good way to photo something which is only quite interesting is to line it up with something else that is similarly quite interesting. The result can be very interesting.
First, an outstanding White Van photo snapped from what looks like the inside of a cafe, by Simon Gibbs, to whom profuse thanks:
I’ve been photoing White Vans for a month and more, but have never got three of them in one go like that. That arrived chez moi first thing this morning.
And then, to my amazement, this was this at Guido, also today:
That’s right. Labour have launched there very own White Van! You wouldn’t dare make that up. I knew I was onto something with all this White Vannery.
The problem for the Labour Party here is that Essex White Van Man, the original beast, doesn’t work as an employee driver for Wellocks, or for Office Revival or for Yate Supplies (these being the enterprises who own and whose glory is proclaimed by Simon’s three White Vans above), and certainly not for the Labour Party. He has his own White Van, which is entirely white, as you can see when you peruse that original tweet that got all this fuss started:
That snap being a recent one of mine. And, as Guido points out, a proper Essex White Van is not a Merc, as the Labour White Van is. He doesn’t go on to say that it should be a Ford Transit, as above, but it should. The White Van in the original tweet is a Transit.
This new Labour White Van is supposed to separate Labour from the la-di-da world of London and to assert its connection to the common (i.e. non-rich-London) man. But it fails to do this, because, as these recent White Van postings of mine have been explaining, White Vans covered in poncey graphics are now quintessentially London. I assume that they have also become quintessentially Wigan and quintessentially Rotherham and for that matter quintessential Dagenham. But I further assume that when true-blue Wiganians and Rotherhamians and Dagenhamians look at them, they see, not their local culture, but cultural imperialism by bloody London.
(Damn. I did everything to this posting put actually post it “today”, so I’m leaving the date I originally attached to it. Cheating I know but it talks about Monday as today, so Monday it is.)
Indeed. Note to self: get well soon.
This really is a case of oh dear I’ve put nothing on the blog today, and I have a rule:
That’s looking along Lower Marsh, last September. The scaffolding is just scaffolding. But the roof clutter is special, being on the top of Millbank Tower. I like that I could just see the only truly interesting bit of that building from where I was. I particularly like that burst of roof clutter, because I can see it from my front door.
I also like the colour of the sky. You only get that kind of colour with a camera. The sky is never that colour for real.
Yesterday I visited a shop called Tiger in Tottenham Court Road. Here is the sign about it that sticks out into the road, even though what I thought I was photoing at the time was the Wheel:
That’s actually one of my favourite views of the Wheel, because it is so weird and unexpected. We’re looking south along Tottenham Court Road, with Centre Point on the left as we look. You hear people seeing this, and saying: Oh look, the Wheel. Wow.
Tiger has lots of stuff in it, which I haven’t time to tell you about now but will hope to do Real Soon Now. But what I will say (today) is that, after a bit of searching, I found cats, in the shapes of: a cat mat, some cat suitcases, and some tigers:
Too knackered to say more now. Suffice it to say that Tiger is a veritable cornucopia of cheap and cheerful stuff.
Following on from yesterday’s White Van, here is another White Van, which marks the moment when I first started really noticing these things. It was parked outside an office just round the corner from my front door:
Let’s take a closer look at the driver’s door of this White Van. Because the exact moment when the whole White Van thing clicked inside my head was when I saw, and photoed, this:
There you go. They’re having a laugh about White Van Man. I told you it was a thing.
This happened on December 17th of last year, which was about a month after the Shadow Ministress did her tweet that cost her her shadow job. But they’ve been driving around in that joke since well before all that, as this blog posting from April of last year proves.
And I know this got me thinking about White Vans, because the very next photos I took were of this:
I had been noticing this other White Van hanging around near my home, but until that moment I had not considered it something worth photoing. Then, I did. And, off an on, I’ve been photoing such vans ever since, although few of them as lavishly decorated as that one.
Ever since that ruckus when a Labour Shadow Cabinet Ministress got into hot water with a tweet which involved a White Van, I’ve been photoing White Vans. And, in fact, I think I have been doing this since before that little drama. This White Van, photoed by me today in the Covent Garden area, is one of my favourites so far:
The point is, White Vans have rather gone up in the world. Lots of them now come with much carefully designed décor and info. London now abounds with fleets of White Vans thus decorated, white being the preferred colour by far. It’s like an automotive uniform.
It’s as if White Vans have a sort of macho-stroke-ironic appeal to those who drive them, and to the rest of us. The drivers, when asked what they do for a living, can say: I drive a White Van. Oh, ha ha ha! But no, not one of those White Vans, the sort they have in Essex. Oh no.
Or alternatively, if the driver is a genuine White Van Man, with no irony involved, of the sort that lady politician was having a go at, he’s happy too, even if he would probably prefer plain white, rather than all that poncey verbiage. And he’d rather have sacks of cement or tubs of plaster in the back there, rather than nerdy SF stuff.
Well, not sure about that. But White Vans are definitely, as they say nowadays, a thing.
I was in Tottenham Court Road this afternoon, searching out a toner cartridge for what I discovered is now an antique laser printer. I had no idea until now how much less toner cartridges cost if you get them on line. Stupid me.
Anyway, it was a chance to photo the BT Tower, the first and still one of the greatest of London’s new Big Things (Big Thing being what BT stands for). Most things in London look better in bright sunshine, or at least I can photo them better. But for some reason, this rule does not apply to the BT Tower. Today’s decidedly muggy weather suited it very well. Because it is quite a way behind those empty trees, it looks dim and grey, instead of bright, and this seems to suit it. Maybe this is because muggy weather makes it look further away, and consequently bigger. Here is my favourite shot that I took of it:
Summer is very nice and well lit and warm and everything, but all those damn leaves get in the way horribly, and ruin all manner of what could be great shots.
Do you get bored with my obsession with photographing photographers? Well, such photos are easily skipped. It’s not like you have to read a whole chunk of stuff before you realised that the posting was of no interest to you.
Meanwhile, here is a cropped-out chunk of a photo I took on August 18th 2007, which tells me that, quite aside from photoing photoers being enormous fun at the time, photoing photoers will continue to be enormous fun far into the future, for as long as I have a future:
That’s right. The lady is taking a picture with a small, cheap digital camera. And she is, it would appear, on the phone, with her phone (one of the old-school folding sort) jammed between her raised-up shoulder and her ear. You would never see such a thing now, because the two gadgets would now be one and the same gadget.
You get a similar thing when you see people simultaneously photoing with and wired up to and listening to the same phone, a “phone” that would have been two separate pieces of kit a while back.
Things that will change, like cameras and phones and music machines, are more interesting to photo than things that will not change any time soon, like Big Ben.
Last Friday was another of those first days of Spring, which are coming thick and fast now. Spring has very nearly sprung, in other words. So, I was out on Westminster Bridge photoing the tourists and their cameras like it was 2006. Here are my favourites:
I’ve always been fond of the baglady look, and we see two more examples of the genre there.
For some reason, I feel that a photo of someone holding up a Cool Britannia bag is a lot cooler than a Cool Britannia bag. And the other baglady, dressed as David Hockney, looks really good in front of all that appetising verbiage, on the food kiosk next to Westminster Bridge at the Parliament end, right near where this photo was also taken. A favourite spot.
As for the lady in black, I’m not sure whether was actually photoing. Maybe she was just checking text messages. I hope she is having a good life. Here is a recent reminder that burqas can be bad news for those who wear them.
As for the group self-photoing themselves with a selfie stick, it really is time that I gathered up all the selfie-stick photos I’ve taken lately, and posted a group of them here. (But, I promise nothing.)
The selfie-stick is the latest photoing device to incur the wrath of all of those people who divert themselves by getting wrathful about the newly acquired habits of others, especially when those habits involve photography, and especially when they involve self-photography. The last such fuss involved using tablets to take photos.
Although, it seems that selfie sticks have been around for a bit longer than you might think.
Late this afternoon I went walkabout near to where I live, and in particular to photo my local ballerina, at the top end of Victoria Street. There’s lots of building going on around her, so the nearby and behind scenery keeps changing. My favourite shot of her today was this:
At the time, that bus driving by seemed like it was an interruption, but now I think it definitely adds something, to a part of the shot which wouldn’t have been half so interesting without it.
Just before Christmas, Goddaughter 2 arranged for the two of us to see and hear a dress rehearsal of a Royal Opera House Covent Garden production of Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera. This was, for all practical purposes, a performance. I didn’t much care for Verdi before I went to this event, and I still don’t, but the show was at least notable for the outstanding singing of the lead tenor, Joseph Calleja, a new name to me. I was extremely happy whenever he was singing. (He has a blog.) The rest of the show I found somewhat forgettable, mainly because Verdi seems to have been opposed to doing nice tunes that you can remember, unlike my operatic composer favourites, Mozart, Puccini, and Richard Strauss.
But very memorable indeed, almost as good as Calleja’s singing, was the bar we visited afterwards, which is right next to the main performing space.
From the outside the opera house and the bar look like this:
The bar being the thing on the left as we look there.
And on the inside, the bar looks like this:
The ROH refers to this place as the Paul Hamlyn Hall. What regular people call it for real I have no idea, but I like it.
I especially like that disembodied clutch of drinkers, suspended up there as if in mid air, but actually in mid mirror.
Here is a closer look at that same feature:
I know exactly what is going on here, and how this weird effect is achieved, but still I’m impressed.
A bit of hasty googling has failed to tell me what this place used to be and when it was first built. I’m guessing it was at first something to do with selling fruit and/or veg, but that’s only a guess. Anyone?
Suicide Bridge being this one:
And here is a closer up view of those Big Things in the far distance there:
Photos taken last Monday.
The more I photo the Walkie Talkie, the more I like it.
Indeed. But not an advert for a cat, an advert by a cat. The story of the century so far:
Photoed by me this evening near to Shoreditch Overground station, underneath the railway.
The website is here. What’s going to happen there, in Upminster, I am really not sure. Are they playing music live, or just playing recordings they’ve done, or playing recordings others have done? Or what? And why the big pussy cat? To get the attention of irrelevant people like me?
Once upon a time, it was thought that the internet might abolish regular advertising. Now regular advertising advertises the internet.
Libertarian Home have been having their meetings in several different venues of late. Last night’s event was in the Prince of Wales, Covent Garden, which is on the corner of Long Acre and Drury Lane. I got there a bit early, and filled the time by strolling along Long Acre towards where the old Alternative Bookshop once was, hoping for photoable diversion, and I was not disappointed. Through a window, just across the road from Covent Garden tube, I spied, and photoed, this:
I’m pretty sure I don’t like it, but it’s definitely a Thing worth photoing. This time I remembered to photo enough information about the place to be able later to identify it. The outside didn’t actually say what the place is, merely the address. But that was enough for googling purposes. It turns out this is a Fred Perry place, where Fred Perry and Co ... does things. And this wooden Thing is a combination of reception desk, seating and window logo. The Fred Perry enterprise makes, I assume sporty stuff and in particular sporty clothing, although that’s only a guess. That Fred Perry website is all design but bizarrely little information.
It would be a lot more logical to have a reception desk, some seating, and a company logo in the window, each separate, each doing their own job, each replaceable as and when, or if decreed to be imperfect in some way. Why do all these things need to be connected? They don’t. They need not to be connected. And the reception desk bit must be very inconvenient actually to do receptioning on.
Thinking about this some more, this Thing makes me think that the Fred Perry enterprise is all about “design”, way beyond the bounds of intelligence or sanity or usefulness. The website exudes the same atmosphere. It tells you almost nothing, very prettily. The whole company seems like one of those arrogantly stylish twats whose attitude is: I don’t have to explain myself. I have your attention. I am not going to deign to use it by actually talking to you. I am wonderful and wonderfully stylish me. That is enough for mere you. Consider yourself lucky to be even seeing me.
But then, I guess that I am not their target demographic. I am neither sporty (as in actually doing sport), nor stylish (as in myself wanting to look stylish).
While trying to find some kind of link to this enterprise, I learned that Fred Perry, the man himself, Wimbledon tennis champion in the year whenever it was, was also the 1929 world champion at ping pong. Blog and learn.
Here is another bit from a book which I found particularly interesting, having just purchased and started to read the book in question.
In the Preface of A Great and Terrible King: Edward I and the Forging of Britain, Marc Morris writes that the first question everyone asks is: Was that Edward the Confessor? No. He came much earlier, before the Norman Conquest. Question number two was more interesting, because it has a more interesting answer. It concerns evidence:
The second question that has usually been put to me concerns the nature of the evidence for writing the biography of a medieval king, and specifically its quantity. In general, people tend to presume that there can’t be very much, and imagine that I must spend my days poking around in castle muniment rooms, looking for previously undiscovered scraps of parchment. Sadly, they are mistaken. The answer I always give to the question of how much evidence is: more than one person could look at in a lifetime. From the early twelfth century, the kings of England began to keep written accounts of their annual expenditure, and by the end of the century they were keeping a written record of almost every aspect of royal government. Each time a royal document was issued, be it a grand charter or a routine writ, a copy was dutifully entered on to a large parchment roll. Meanwhile, in the provinces, the king’s justices kept similar rolls to record the proceedings of the cases that came before his courts. Miraculously, the great majority of these documents have survived, and are now preserved in the National Archives at Kew near London. Some of them, when unrolled, extend to twenty or thirty feet. And their number is legion: for the thirteenth century alone, it runs to tens of thousands. Mercifully for the medieval historian, the most important have been transcribed and published, but even this printed matter would be enough to line the walls of an average-sized front room with books. Moreover, the quantity is increased by the inclusion of non-royal material. Others besides the king were keeping records during Edward I’s day. Noblemen also drew up financial accounts, issued charters and wrote letters; monks did the same, only in their case the chances of such material surviving was much improved by their membership of an institution. Monks, in addition, continued to do as they had always done, and kept chronicles, and these too provide plenty to keep the historian busy. To take just the most obvious example from the thirteenth century, the monk of St Albans called Matthew Paris composed a chronicle, the original parts of which cover the quarter century from 1234 to 1259. In its modern edition it runs to seven volumes.
I say all this merely to demonstrate how much there is to know about our medieval ancestors, and not to pretend that I have in some way managed to scale this mountain all by myself. For the most part I have not even had to approach the mountain at all, for this book is grounded on the scholarly work of others. Nevertheless, even the secondary material for a study of Edward I presents a daunting prospect. At a conservative estimate, well over a thousand books and articles have been published in the last hundred years that deal with one aspect or another of the king’s reign. For scholarly works on the thirteenth century as a whole, that figure would have to be multiplied many times over.