Brian Micklethwait's Blog

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

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Category archive: London

Sunday July 05 2015

It may not be as dramatic a photo as this one of it, but I do like this:

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There was a time when Modernism was supposed to destroy Ancientism.  Now, the two sit happily next to one another, and quite right too.  This aesthetic cohabitation began as a grudging political necessity.  Ancientism wasn’t going to roll over and die, it turned out.  Now, people have come to like the contrast.  And when I say “people”, I mean “I”.

Saturday July 04 2015

Today I was out and about in the sweltering heat of London, and unusually for me, I found myself noticing a news item:

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The news item being that big cloud of smoke, somewhere up river from Tate Modern.  Seeing as how I myself live up river from Tate Modern, this was a bit troubling.  Was it a moderately big fire, quite near to me?  Would I return home to find my home ablaze?  Had I started the fire by leaving something switched on that shouldn’t have been?  Or was it, as I found myself ignobly hoping, a bigger fire, further away?

I consulted the www about this fire when I got home, my home not having disappeared, and there being no smoke anywhere near it.  Eventually the www revealed what had happened.  The fire was - and alas, as I write this, it still is - in Perivale, which is way out in the west of London.  And this was one very big conflagration.

To quote the Evening Standard:

An enormous fire is raging in a warehouse in a west London suburb, with smoke visible for miles around.

Some 100 firefighters are tackling the inferno at a large building in Wadsworth Road, Perivale.

About 30 people fled before the London Fire Brigade arrived, with flames erupting just before 7pm.

That’s what I was seeing, no question about it.

According to my camera, the above photo was taken at 8pm, so the fire had already been raging for an hour before I noticed it enough to take photos of it.  Not that photoing smoke is my forte.  Presumably photoing smole is like photoing anything else in particular, the more you do it, the better you do it.

No matter.  Many others will undoubtedly have been photoing that same huge cloud of smoke.  It was, like the ES said, visible for miles around.  You’ll have no difficulty finding better Perivale warehouse fire pictures, in the event that you want to see such things.  For me, it is enough to know that nobody died.

A BIT LATER: Looking at the above photo, and at some of the others at the other end of the link immediately above (notably the one from beyond Tower Bridge) I realise that one of the tricks of smoke-photoing is the put the smoke behind a very definite and recognisable building.  So here is another photo I took, of some of the smoke that had already travelled a bit further, to the area behind St Pauls Cathedral from where I was:
image

Trouble is, although St Pauls is very definitely St Pauls, the smoke is not so definitely smoke.  It could just be clouds, in my photo.  Like I say, smoke is not a speciality of mine.

As you can also see, there is a crane to be seen there.  I also photoed smoke behind a crane cluster, but showing you that would be to change the subject.

Friday July 03 2015

This posting is not so much me passing on advice as me seeking to solidify some ludicrously overdue advice from me to myself, about how to photograph speakers.

Don’t try to do it when they’re speaking.

Last night I took about two dozen photos of Dominic Frisby, who was address the Libertarian Home crowd at the Two Chairmen pub in Westminster.  Almost all these photos were useless.  This was because Frisby was talking, and when people talk, they move.  The indoor light was very scarce, so the slightest motion meant a blur, and a succession of blurs was accordingly all that I got.  My only photographic successes during the Frisby talk were when I switched my attention to the people listening to him.  They were keeping still.

People like Richard Carey:

image

And Rob Waller, who was the “organising fascist”, as he put it, of the meeting, i.e. he set it up and did the introducing:

image

I think Rob clocked me, don’t you?

The only half-decent Frisby photos I got were during the Q&A, when, just like the two persons featured above, he too was listening rather than talking:

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Doesn’t he look adorkable.

As to what Frisby said (on the subject of Bitcoin), well, it was all videoed, although the video camera was being hand-held, as this further snap of Richard Carey, helping out with that, illustrates:

image

I include that snap also because of the John Lilburne reference, Lilburne being a man whom we libertarians should be bigging up every chance we get.

Finally, a book photo.  On account of Frisby’s talk beginning a few minutes earlier than I had been expecting it to, I arrived a few minutes late, and the only seat I could find was the one with Frisby’s books on it, which he had presumably earlier been sitting at.  That explains the odd angle of this photo:

image

Both books highly recommended.  More about Frisby by me (+ further links) in this Samizdata posting.  In this I mentioned that Frisby was working on a Bitcoin book.  As you can see, that book has now materialised.

It helps that books, like people who are listening, or for that matter doing photography, and unlike people who are talking, do not move.

Thursday July 02 2015

Or so I assume.  I can’t think what else might have created this effect:

image

Yes, it;s quota photo time, and that Pavlova statue on top of the Victoria Palace Theatre never fails to charm.

I took lots of similarly double glazed photos of Pavlova at the time I took this one, this one being my favourite.

Previous, quite recent, Pavlova statue pictures can be seen here, here, and here.

A new category is long overdue, but as of now I’m off to bed.

Monday June 29 2015

The question mark in my title is because I do not know whether or not this bench is unusual.  Is it truly odd?  Or did it merely seem odd to me, when I photoed it earlier this evening, because I noticed something I had never noticed before in such a bench, but which is actually not that unusual?

Anyway, this is the bench:

image

And what struck me as odd is those extra arms, dividing the bench into three individual spots.  There are other seats like this, but I have never seen a wooden bench of this very trad sort, with those very untrad internal arms added.  To me this was and is very novel.  I found myself thinking: Is there something particularly London (It says “City of London” on the bench) about this, to me, very odd arrangement?  Is this some sort of device to guarantee not being touched by the people who sit next to you, perhaps because there are three such people and they squeeze up against you?  And is that very London?  Something you definitely would not find in other more socially easygoing, less atomistic, places?

Also, somehow, given those extra arms, I expect also extra legs.

I encountered these benches (there were several, including the one I was sitting on when I photoed this other one) outside the Museum of London in the Barbican area of the City of London.  In case you wanted to know.

Sunday June 28 2015

I’m now knackered.  For reasons too complicated for me to explain in my present knackered state, I didn’t get as much sleep last night as I would have liked.  And then today I went on a photo-trek with Goddaughter 1.  This was great, and I am entirely glad that I did this, but about two thirds of the way through these photo-treks I typically arrive at a state of knackeredness, and so it was today.  Mostly it’s the feet.  They ache.  But, sitting down and resting only makes it worse when I try to resume.

We both took lots of photos, many of the best ones that I took being after I had become knackered, as also tends to be the rule with these photo-treks, hence my determination, every time, to keep trekking after becoming knackered.  This is often because at the end of the trek there is a destination which keeps us going, and which is really good.  This time, that destination, it gradually became clear, was Alexandra Palace.  And Alexandra Palace is a great place from which to photo London and its Big Things, especially if the light is as good as it was today.  The light at the end of the day is often the best, which is another reason to keep going, even if you become knackered before the day ends.  So I kept going, and so, a great day.

But a knackering day, and I am now off to bed.  I can, or so I hope, write when knackered.  But working with my primitive little laptop, I now find it impossible to contrive any links or post any photos, So no links.  No photos.

No photos also because, although it was a great day, I don’t know if I took any great (by my undemanding standards) photos.  I have looked at them, once, but am now too caught up in what I was trying to photo and am not yet able to be objective about what I did photo and to pick out any truly good ones.

Good night..

Saturday June 27 2015

Photoed by me today at the top end of Victoria Street, aka Victoria, where there is a hurricane of new building going on, a horizontal slice of an old building:

image

If you click on that, you will be able to see, from the daylight in the windows and from the big horizontal chunks of metal between the windows, that this is another of those facades from olden days that’s being held up and behind which indoor modernity will be put.

Thursday June 25 2015

Here are two people whom Mick Hartley recently encountered.  He photoed them and stuck the picture up on his blog.  And I reproduce it here:

image

So, how come this flurry of privacy violation?  Hartley explains.  (There are several very heavy hints in the categories listed below.)

Tuesday June 23 2015

This afternoon I went walkabout, with quite another object in mind than the Shard.  But, the Shard was looking peculiarly beautiful this evening, at any rate from where I was standing, on the Millennium Bridge.

image

At present I am not seeing this picture nearly as clearly as you probably are, because my proper computer (Godot) is ill and my laptop (Dawkins) only has a very small and inadequate screen.

What I hope you are seeing is the sky looking very earthly, but the Shard looking almost heavenly.  The sky looks rough and the Shard looks smooth.  The sky looks matt and the Shard looks gloss.  Sky behind the Shard is dark, the Sky reflected off the Shard is light.  London is dim, but the Shard is bright.

Renzo Piano, who designed this wondrous Thing, saw all this coming.  He knew that the Shard would reflect in a quite different way to a merely vertical Thing, and today this effect was to be seen at its very best.  I can only hope that my photo gives at least a clue of what was going on.

Monday June 22 2015

Indeed.  After meeting the extended family and photoing those Dinky Toys, I made my way back to Egham Station via the RAF Memorial at the top of the hill that overlooks Runnymede.  Runnymede and a lot else.

In the foreground, the River Thames.  To the right, in the far distance, London and its towers, just visible, if you are lucky with the weather.  Next to London and a bit nearer, Heathrow Airport, with the Wembley Arch clearly to be seen behind it.  Straight ahead, big reservoirs.

And to the left, Windsor Castle:

image

Click on that little picture to get the bigger picture.

I am having a recurrence of those computer problems I described in this earlier posting, but have discovered that my picture processing programme does function after all, after a fashion.  But very badly, and I am posting this picture of Windsor Castle because I remember that picture to be good, rather than because I know it to be.

The pictures I took from the top of the RAF Memorial yesterday seemed to me better than ones I had taken before from this spot, and I suspect that this is because yesterday was the first time I had used my latest camera at this vantage point.  But my computer problems struck again before I could check this feeling against actual facts.

So meanwhile, enjoy Windsor Castle, assuming that the picture is as enjoyable as I remember it seeming to be when I looked at it last night.

Saturday June 20 2015

But, there is light.  And there is light.

Here is some light, earlier this evening, bouncing off the Millbank Tower with its superb roof clutter, next to a crane, and arriving upon the little square of electro-magic inside my camera:

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Yes, that is excellent roof clutter.  Yes, that is a crane.  But … it’s not a very remarkable scene.

But here is some light, earlier in the week, bouncing off the same Millbank Tower with its same excellent roof clutter, next to the same crane, and arriving upon the same little square of electro-magic inside my camera:

image

Put it this way.  Had I not taken that shot earlier in the week, I’d not be showing you the one I took this evening.  Which I only took at all to illuminate that earlier one.

Thursday June 18 2015

For most of today I was without my computer, and yesterday I could only use it in “safe” mode, the most obvious and lamentable effect of which was that I couldn’t see or manipulate pictures properly.  So, I couldn’t do pictures for the best part of two days.

Pictures like this one, which needed cropping because to the left of this young man (as I looked and snapped) was a close-up of another young man’s face, with nothing in the way and hence totally recognisable:

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What I liked about this picture at the time when I took it, on Westminster Bridge two days ago, was that the guy’s smartphone had a banknote on it.  And what I liked even more about this picture when I took another look at it just now with my restored computer is that the man on the banknote is Benjamin Franklin.

Franklin, an enthusiastic inventor, would surely have loved the idea of his face being, two and a quarter centuries after his death, on a portable instantaneous communication and computation machine, with the ability to create and transmit instantaneous likenesses of one’s companions and one’s surroundings and to record and transmit verbal messages, and to perform many other tasks and wonders.  Or: whatever he might have called a smartphone.

Wednesday June 17 2015

I don’t often go to pubs, because of the noise.  But Goddaughter 2, raised in France, wanted to try eating a pie in a pub, so we went to the Barley Mow in Horseferry Road to see what they had.  They had pies, which proved very tasty.

Two particular circumstances made the evening pure perfection for me, besides the pure perfection of Goddaughter 2’s company I mean.

First, they had the latest England v NZ cricket ODI on the telly, and I got to watch the conclusion of England’s outstanding and outstandingly successful run chase that has just levelled the ODI series 2-2.  And second, this being the twenty-first century, GD2 had her smartphone with her and was texting with all her friends.  I hope you aren’t bored because of me doing all this texting, she said.  No no, I said, gazing happily at the giant telly screen, you just carry on my dear.  Don’t mind me.  As I said to her when we were leaving, had I been asked to chose the perfect hour and more to spend in a pub this week, then given that this pub had the cricket on the go, and given that my ever-delightful companion was apologising for neglecting me and communing instead with her smartphone, this hour and more would have been it.

There was noise but it didn’t matter.  We didn’t do much in the way of conversation, in other words we didn’t shout much at each other, although we did a bit because it wasn’t actually that noisy.  But we were mostly doing two separate things that did not require peace and quiet to work.  GD2 didn’t need silence to read and write her texts.  I didn’t need any television cricket commentators to tell me that England were batting up a storm.

As we left I asked GD2 if she reckoned the social media have made it better for women in pubs.  She reckoned yes they probably have.  If men in pubs are diverted by men’s stuff, like cricket on the telly, then any women they have dragged along with them are now able to entertain themselves, instead of just sitting there moping and getting bored.  Or, if the men were a bit more gracious than that, they would force themselves to ignore the men’s stuff and do conversation, despite their strong inclinations.  Also not ideal.  So, social media definitely equals progress.  And if the women are distracted by women’s stuff, then the men can play with their smartphones.

One of the very few uses I have found for my own smartphone, aside from telling me where I am and where to go when I am out and about, is acquainting myself with the latest cricket scores when I am out and about.

Tuesday June 16 2015

Wikipedia, which I assume to be reliable on something so politically uncontroversial, has this to say about the Buck Brothers:

Samuel Buck (1696 – 17 August 1779) and his brother Nathaniel Buck (died 1759/1774) were English engravers and printmakers, best known for their Buck’s Antiquities, depictions of ancient castles and monasteries. Samuel produced much work on his own but when the brothers worked together, they were usually known as the Buck Brothers. More is known about Samuel than Nathaniel.

Samuel Buck was born in Yorkshire in 1696. After publishing some prints in that county he moved to London. With Nathaniel he embarked on making a number of series of prints of “antiquities”, which consisted of ancient castles and former religious buildings in England and Wales.  Starting in 1724, they travelled around these countries, and completed sets of prints for the regions of England by 1738 and for Wales between 1739 and 1742. These are commonly known as Buck’s Antiquities. During this time they also worked on a series of townscapes in England and Wales entitled Cities, Sea-ports and Capital Towns.

I mention these guys because here are their engravings of the Thames in London, seen from the south.  All are worth clicking on.

For the first time ever on the net, here are high quality images of Samuel & Nathaniel Buck’s complete sequence of five views of London as published in 1774.

That “first time ever” was in 2012, but news like this does not date.

Together the originals form a panorama of mid 18th Century London over 4 metres long. They show, in tremendous detail, the whole of the north bank of the Thames, between Westminster and the Tower.

Horizontality!  Each is fairly horizontal to start with, but stitch them together ...

Just how accurate these engravings are of the former times that the Buck Brothers were purporting to recreate, I do not know.  But I assume they give us a pretty good idea of how things were, until such time as aliens show up to reveal to us their tourist snaps from previous visits.

I especially like the last one:

image

I like this for a number of reasons.

First, it shows the spires of old London, and hence how very well the Shard fits into contemporary London.  The Shard is of course the very embodiment of new London, but it also evokes old London, far more that most more recent London architecture.

Second, this shows old London Bridge, with all its buildings.  What fun it would be for London to build itself another such bridge.  One of the reasons I so welcome the new Blackfriars Station, on its bridge, is that it sets a precedent for just such a bridge with buildings some time in the future.  This new Ponte Vecchio on Thames probably shouldn’t be in the middle of London, though, because that would spoil a lot of views.  Why not a big bridge of this sort further downstream?  Any decade now … If it were ever to happen, such a bridge would nicely complement the new Garden Bridge, full of plants, that Joanna Lumley wants to build.  This is going ahead (… ”will” …), apparently.

And the third reason I like the above Buck Brothers panorama is that to the far right, it nicely shows what an imposing edifice the Tower of London used once to be.  Here is the detail I mean:

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Okay, that big building to the left means that the Tower is not as imposing there as all that.  But it certainly gives you a clue concerning what an imposition it was when it was first imposed (scroll down to the quote there).

Monday June 15 2015

Every time a new gadget gets introduced which catches on, in public, there is a chorus of disapproval from unimaginative puritans saying: ban it, it’s evil, it’s stupid, it’s wrong, blah blah blah.

Selfie sticks have caused particular ire.  Other people enjoying themselves, by photographing themselves, seems just too much to bear, for the unimaginative puritan tendency.

I say unimaginative, because it perhaps does take a little bit of imagination to realise that with a selfie stick you can get results that would be very hard to get by any other means.

But there’s no need for selfie sticks, say the UPs.  Get someone else to take your picture, if you really do want a picture of yourselves with all of you included.  And some people do just this.  I often get asked to take other people’s pictures for them, so that all of them get to be in the picture instead of one of them taking it and not being in it.  I do my best, but my best is, I fear, often very bad.  Other people’s cameras are notoriously difficult to use correctly, first time, only time.

Besides which, try getting someone else to do this for you:

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This couple were photoing themselves outside Westminster Abbey, with themselves in the foreground, and Westminster Abbey’s twin towers in the background.  But not just Westminster Abbey in a general sort of way behind them.  They wanted the camera looking up at them, and past them, to the top of Westminster Abbey, to those twin towers, and to the blue sky above them.  A much more dramatic shot.

Imagine getting a passing stranger to take that shot.  Try getting me to take that shot.  Even if I was willing to crouch down, how would I know what was on the screen?  How would I compose the shot?  I wouldn’t.  I couldn’t.  It would be a random mess.

The only way they could get this shot was with a selfie stick.

I am not saying that they realised they wanted this sort of shot, and got a selfie stick in order to get it.  Well, maybe they did.  But what is far more probable is that they they got their selfie stick, just to take good selfies instead of begging incompetent strangers like me to take bad unselfies.  And at first they took regular selfies, with the camera in the same sort of position as it would have been if someone like me had been holding it in the regular way, at a regular height.

But then they realised that they could point the selfie stick in any direction they liked and could place the camera any place they want to that the selfie stick could reach.  It could go straight up in the air, or straight down, or partly down but right near the ground, as here.  With it, they could choose the exact background they wanted and compose the shot perfectly.  And as any photographer, even an amateur like me, will tell you, background is everything when you are shooting head shots.

Selfie sticks are great.  Personally, I am not into taking self-portraits, except when I am reflected in the scene I am photoing, so I don’t need a selfie stick and I don’t have one.  Above all, I don’t want a selfie stick because mostly I go photoing on my own.  I very seldom need to be taking group shots that include me, the way people are if they are on their honeymoon, say.  But just because I don’t need a selfie stick doesn’t mean that nobody else needs a selfie stick and that all who have selfie sticks should be yelled at.

I took the above shot of the selfie stick in action on the same day I took this photo.