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

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Category archive: London

Monday September 26 2016

Photoed in January of this year. from the top of the tower of Westminster Cathedral:

image

The Parliament website says that the tower above, the big one with lots of pointy bits, is called the Victoria Tower, but I’ve never heard it called that.  For me, it’s the Big Parliament Tower.

Anyway, whatever you call it, there it is, with the Shard beside and behind.  Very sweet alignment, I hope you will agree.

While categorising this posting, I had to check the picture to see if there are any cranes.  Of course there are cranes.  In shots like this, there are always cranes.

There are also two major London hospitals in the shot.  On the left St Thomas’s Hospital (the building on which it says “St Thomas’s Hospital"), on the far side of the river.  On the right, further away, bigger, next to the Shard, Guy’s.

Friday September 23 2016

I collect footbridges.  (Well, photos of.) Footbridges famous.  Footbridges not so famous.  Footbridges not even built.

Recently I came upon another for the collection:

image

This is a footbridge at the back of the Strand Palace Hotel.  I could find nothing about this footbridge on the www, but luckily I had already taken the precaution of asking someone local, just after I had taken my photos.  This local was entering an office in the same street with the air of doing this regularly, and who therefore seemed like someone who might know.  And he did.  What about that bridge? - I asked him.

Yes, he said.  That used to be the bridge that conveyed the servants from the Strand Palace Hotel, on the left in the above photo, to the servants quarters, which is what the dwellings on the right in my photo, behind the scaffolding, used to be.  These servants quarters had, quite a while back, been turned into mere quarters, for regular people to live in.  So, the bridge then got blocked off at the right hand end as we here look at it.  But, the bridge continued to be used by the Strand Palace Hotel as an elongated cupboard.  These old servants quarters are now being turned into luxury flats, which is why the scaffolding.  But the bridge stays.

That the original purpose of the bridge was to convey servants, as opposed to people, is presumably why the bridge has no windows.  Wouldn’t want to see servants going to and fro, would we.  Fair dos, actually.  A hotel of this sort – this one being just across the Strand from the Savoy - is a lot like a theatre, and the point of a theatre is not to see all the backstage staff wandering hither and thither.  So, I do get it.  And I doubt the servants minded that there were no windows.  I bet they minded lots of other things, but not that.

imageI will now expand on the matter of the exact location of this obscure footbridge.  As you can see from the square to the right, it is in Exeter Street, London WC2.  I took other photos of this Exeter Street street sign, because I have a rule about photoing information about interesting things that I photo, as well as photoing the interesting thing itself, which is that I do.  Sometimes, as on the day I took this photo, I even follow this rule.  But I thought I’d try extricating a detail from the above photo, and see how I did.  I blew the original up to maximum size, and sliced out a rectangle, tall and thin, with the street name in it.  I then expanded (see the first sentence of this paragraph) what I had, sideways, lightened it, contrasted it, sharpened it, blah blah blah, and I think you will agree that the result is unambiguous.  My point here is (a): Exeter Street, WC2, and (b): that such photomanipulation is not merely now possible.  My point (b) is that it is now very easy.  Even I can do all of this photomanipulation, really quickly and confidently.

I can remember when the only people who could work this sort of magic were spooks in movies, and then a bit later, detectives on the television.

Talking of spookiness, I included the surveillance camera in that little detail.  In London, these things are now everywhere.  Because of my sideways expanding of the photo, this camera looks like it sticks out more than it really does.

Monday September 19 2016

In this earlier posting, I speculated that someone living in Roupell Street, which is near Waterloo Station, has been collecting vintage Citroen’s.  This guy came upon the same Citroens as I did, in the same place, and made the same guess.

But this evening, I dined out with friends, mentioned the above posting, and was informed that the explanation for this clutch of Citroens is that there is a man who restores or repairs them, who lives or at any rate works, in that locality.  Makes sense.  And it means that Roupell Street may not have become quite as posh as I originally said.

Sunday September 18 2016

Here are some pictures I took in the main part of Tate Modern, while on my way to and from the New Extension.

Once again, what I saw in this grand building, now even grander, is this amazing paucity of Art.  I presume there is plenty of Art in this place, if you go looking for it.  But I have never before visited any Art gallery where you have to go looking, half as determinedly as you have to in this one:

imageimageimageimageimageimage

Art being somewhat lacking, the people came into their own.  I photoed people.  And I photoed people photoing people.

The lady with the blue hair and the blue fingers is herself a work of Art.

Saturday September 17 2016

I love all the paraphernalia, big and small, of London tourism.  And with my digital camera, and more to the point with my habit of having my digital camera with me and keeping a lookout for things to photo with it, I don’t have to buy any of it.  I can just photo it.

Today, for instance, from inside the laundrette that I have been frequenting lately, for my end of summer clothes washes, I spied this bus (I think there is only one such) going past.  This is one of London’s more diverting sights.  And I managed to get a zoom-snap of it before it got too far away:

image

Not bad, considering how gloomy the light was today.

Website here.

That back window is actually quite a good detail to focus on.  If you look a bit carefully (enlarge with a click), you can see that it is also the EMERGENCY EXIT.

Friday September 16 2016

How do you know if a cat is happy?  Answer, mostly: from the sounds it makes and from its bodily movements.  It purrs.  It shoves its face against your legs, or your face.  These are the strongest signs.

A still photo of a happy cat, or any kind of realistic picture, is not likely to communicate feline happiness nearly so definitely.  And that is particularly true if you are only allowed a picture of the cat’s face.  It’s eyes may be nearly shut, but that could just be because it’s resting, rather than especially happy.  And anyway, good pictures of faces, the sort that really get our attention, have eyes which are wide open.

image

I’m guessing that this may have been the thinking behind the above, to me, rather unsettling image.  There are no eyes-wide-open eye-catching photos of happy cats, so they slapped a smile on a cat in a drawing.

But, as I often say of rather peculiar things that I show photos of here: it got my attention.  Click on the above for a bit of context.  I took the photo in the Earls Court area, rather than Notting Hill, and it was of a bike.

The website.

There is, of course, that Cheshire Cat, but that’s rather unsettling also.

Thursday September 15 2016

Mick Hartley celebrates the addition, now complete and in business, of a slide to the Big Olympic Thing, with some pictures of it that he has taken.

He of course shows the whole thing.  Me, I am more and more coming to see that the quality I most value in these Big Things is their instant recognisability.  Hey, look at that.  That can only be … That!

So here is another photo of the Big Olympic Thing from my archives, showing hardly any of it, but still (for me anyway) instantly recognisable:

image

Click to get the bigger original.  Rather artistic, I think.

Taken the same day, and from the same place, that I took this photo of the Shard and the Gherkin directly in line.

Wednesday September 14 2016

This I knew:

Seven Dials is a small road junction in Covent Garden in the West End of London where seven streets converge.

But this, I did not know:

At the centre of the roughly circular space is a column bearing six sundials, a result of the column being commissioned before a late stage alteration of the plans from an original six roads to seven.

I used to work in Covent Garden and Seven Dials was a favourite spot then.  There was a hardware shop in one of the Seven Dials spokes, so to speak, and I used to go there a lot.

Here is a picture I took of this column and of some of its surroundings, this (very sunny) afternoon:

image

But, here is a picture I took of the inscription at the bottom of the column, which I never noticed before:

image

So, was a replacement column put up, around that time?

Yes.  The original column went to Weybridge, via Addlestone, which reminds me of trains from Egham when I was kid.  “Virginia Water, Chertsey, AddleSTONE and Weybridge”, an old man used to yell, just before the train for these locations departed.  I used to love that.  But I digress.  Here’s what happened to the original Seven Dials column:

The original sundial column was removed in 1773. It was long believed that it had been pulled down by an angry mob, but recent research suggests it was deliberately removed by the Paving Commissioners in an attempt to rid the area of “undesirables”. The remains were acquired by architect James Paine, who kept them at his house in Addlestone, Surrey, from where they were bought in 1820 by public subscription and re-erected in nearby Weybridge as a memorial to Princess Frederica Charlotte of Prussia, Duchess of York and Albany.

The replacement sundial column was installed in 1988–89 to the original design. It was unveiled by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands on a visit to commemorate the tercentenary of the reign of William and Mary, during which the area was developed.

Original design presumably means that, just like the original, the new column only has six dials at the top.

Tuesday September 13 2016

If you reckon that the two van designs referred to in my previous posting are both as much of a muddle as each other, on account of the ins and outs of the surfaces of the vans colliding with the pictures, well then, I give you a van design that you will surely prefer:

image

What Miguel did was make sure that everything he said was aligned with the van’s design.  The frames on the van became frames for the pictures Miguel wants us to see.  And the writing all fits in perfectly.

It helps that he chose a van that was all horizontals and verticals, rather than indentations at weird angles, like you see on lots of vans.

Question: is the fact that vans double up as complicated adverts causing the actual vans to be designed differently nowadays?  To suit people like Miguel, who want the van and the message to line up?  It would make sense it that was happening.

I notice that Miguel doesn’t seem to have a website.  I’m guessing that, from where he sits, his van is his website.

Monday September 12 2016

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

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

image

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday September 11 2016

I’m talking about those terrible Buy To Let Creeps:

image

From last Friday’s City A.M., bottom of page 4.  I picked up a rather bedraggled copy of this outside Pimlico Tube Station late this afternoon.

Saturday September 10 2016

If I take a photo like this …:

image

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

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

image

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

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

image

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

image

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

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

image

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

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

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

Success:

image

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

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

image

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

Friday September 09 2016

Yes, I photo a lot of white vans, but fewer pink ones.  So, at the end of last month I was able to correct this imbalance a little:

image

I also try to photo roller-bladers, and the fox on that pink van is a roller-blader, which speeds up the service he is offering.

One of the quite numerous things that I like about white vans, or in this case not so white vans, is the great variety of styles in which they are decorated, all the way from ultra-refined to ultra-trashy, with this one being a bit on the trashy? - well, make that amateurish - side.  (This is another thing vans have in common with websites.) But, trashy or amateurish or whatever, this van certainly got my attention.

Talking of websites. Fantasy Cleaners had a particular problem deciding where and how to put www.fantasycleaners.com.  The website is where all these graphics originated that they had such trouble fitting on the van.  They changed nothing.  The roller-blading fox is there, with the pink background.  Everything.  In general, many more professional van decorators than whoever did this van have problems aligning their messages with the indentations on the sides of the vans.

Thursday September 08 2016

I’ve visited the top of the Tate Modern Extension several times in recent weeks, so this story particularly entertained me:

Tate Modern visitors accused of spying on Neo Bankside residents

Here’s the story:

Residents of the Rogers Stirk Harbour-designed Neo Bankside apartments have threatened legal action, after Tate Modern opened an observation deck that provides views into their private apartments.

The 360-degree rooftop viewing deck is one of the headline features of the Switch House – the 64.5-metre-high Tate Modern gallery extension by Herzog & de Meuron, which opened to the public in June.

But residents of the adjacent apartment complex have claimed that gallery visitors are using zoom-lens cameras and binoculars to peer inside their glass-walled homes and take photographs.

Having failed to reach a solution with Tate, the homeowners are now seeking legal action to regain their privacy.

I was particularly diverted by this bit:

So far the only change has been the addition of a sign asking Tate visitors to be more considerate.

Dezeen does not show any picture of this sign, but here, I can, because I photoed it several weeks ago:

image

I remember thinking at the time that this is almost contemptuously perfunctory.  I’m not surprised that it failed to subdue the snoopers

I believe that, as London gets more and more interesting, and full of more and more intriguing Big Things, there will be more and more such viewing platforms like this one at Tate Modern.  So, this problem of what you can see from such platforms that people don’t want you to see isn’t going to go away.

And the problem gets far worse when you consider that zoom lenses are only going to get ever more powerful.  I often joke here that my camera has better eyesight than I do, and it’s true.  But pretty soon, all cameras will have better eyesight than everyone.

It could be that about half of this particular viewing platform will be shut down, in which case, I need to make sure now that I have seen everything from that part of it that I can, before this happens.

I’d prefer the other idea, which is that these people living in glass houses should have one way mirrors installed, so they can see out but the rest of us can’t see in.  But then, expect the internet to be awash with before/after photos.

Tuesday September 06 2016

In recent days and weeks I have been in the habit of showing photos here that were taken quite a while ago, sometimes even as long as nearly a decade ago, or even longer ago than that.

No apologies for such retrospection, because it can often be very interesting.  But today, I wanted to show a photo that I took today, and I wanted to do this even before I set off to take it, whatever it was.

However, today was grim and gloomy, a bad light stopped play day, not one for bright colours or grand vistas.

But perhaps a rather good day for this, which I had never noticed before:

image

I like the idea of public signs, offering little history lessons to passers-by.  (I recall noting that the French do this a lot with their street name signs, in a blog posting, once upon a time, somewhere.  Yes, in this.)

I also like those blue circles which say that someone interesting once lived here.  I try to photo those whenever I see them.  But, I hope you will agree that the above photo deserves to be on its own, rather than being, so to speak, diluted.