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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

Saturday April 22 2017

Indeed:

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The history of this particular picture is that GodDaughter 2 and I were in Waterstones, Piccadilly, which is one of our favourite spots.  She loves all the books.  I like the books too, but I love the views that I can photo from the cafe at the top.  This is not very high up, but it is high enough up to see many interesting things, and familiar things from an unfamiliar angle, of which, perhaps or perhaps not, more later.

So, anyway, there we were in Waterstones, and we were making our way up the stairs to the top, rather than going up in the lift, because I needed the Gents and GD2 needed the Ladies.  All of which caused me to be waiting on the book floor nearest to the Ladies, and that was where I saw this book.  I had heard about it, via a TV show that Hockney did a few years back, and I did a little read of the bit that really interested me, which was about how very early photography intermingled with “Art”.  I wouldn’t have encountered the book itself had it not been for GD2 and I both liking Waterstones, and had it not been for nature demanding GD2’s attention.  So, this is another picture I owe to her, to add to this one.

The way Hockney and his art critic pal tell the story of how early photography and the Art of that time intermingled is: that all the other Art critics say that the Artists were zeroing in on a “photographic” looking style, through their own purely Artistic efforts.  Nonsense, say Hockney and pal.  The Artists were already using the early stages of photography, and if my recollection of that television show is right, that this had been going on for quite a while.  They were using photographic methods to project a scene onto a surface, and then painting it in by hand.  These paintings look photographic because, in a partial but crucial sense, they are photographic.  Later, the photo-techies worked out how to frieze that image permanently onto that surface, by chemical means rather than by hand copying.  Those Art critics want to say that the Artists lead the world towards photography, but the influence was more the other way around.  Photograhy was leading the Artists.

This fascinating historical episode, assuming (as I do) that Hockney and pal are not making this up, shows how complicated and additive a technology like photography is.  It didn’t erupt all at once.  It crept up on the world, step by step.  And of course it is still creeping forwards, a step at a time, in our own time.  Early photographers couldn’t shove their pictures up by telephone onto your television screen, the way I just did, if only because television screens didn’t happen for another century.

Meanwhile, the book trade is creeping forwards.  In the age of Amazon, am I the only one who sees a interesting book in a bookshop, looks at the price, says to himself: I can do much better than that on Amazon, and contents himself with taking a photo of the book’s cover?  Are we bad people?

For this book, the difference is thirty quid in the shop, but twenty quid or even less on Amazon.

In that talk I did about the impact of digital photography, one of the uses I found myself emphasising was using digital cameras for note-taking.  How much easier and more exact to make a picture of this book’s cover with one camera click, than to record its mere title with the laborious taking of a written note.

Friday April 21 2017

So far, I have only managed seven photo-postings about my expedition to the big old Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, which is now in the process of being turned into a bigger new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.  Tomorrow, Spurs play Chelsea in the semi finals of the FA Cup, and in honour of this confrontation, here is Tottenham posting number eight.

I made my way eastwards from the stadium, towards the park and then the canal beside which I hoped to walk south.  But before I got there, I encountered this:

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This footbridge is to be found next to the level crossing at the north end of Northumberland Park railway station.  I climbed up on the footbridge and took this shot, looking south, of that railway station:

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My main reason for showing this is to show you how far away the Big Things of the City are from this vantage point.  This sort of circumstance being why God invented zoom lenses.  Look what happened when I cranked up my zoom, on my trusty Panasonic Lumix FZ200.

What you see here is the miniscule portion of the above view that you see if you follow the railway lines straight to the horizon, and then shift a tiny bit to the left, just past that big spikey thing, to those tiny little things sticking up, just beyond the big spike and to its left, as we look:

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And what we see is that those tiny things are the Big Things of the City of London.  Gherkin.  Cheesegrater.  Shard.  Plus intervening clutter of course.

Over to the far left of the station view photo you can also make out the towers of Docklands.  But they aren’t that special to look at.  If it weren’t for the pointy one, you’d hardly know how to spot them, because they’d just be a few anonymous lumps.  What Docklands needs is a mega-skyscraper of a distinctive design.  Maybe a thin tower, with a huge revolving restaurant at the top.  Something along those lines.  But I fear that the nearby presence of City Airport would make that impossible, for the time being anyway.

Wednesday April 19 2017

Last August, in Gabriel’s Wharf:

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Really annoying day, making very little progress on about half a dozen different fronts.

Tuesday April 18 2017

I just spent about an hour working on today’s posting, but it got stuck, and complicated, as postings will.  So here is a shiny car to fill today’s void, photoed this afternoon, in Mayfair:

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It’s the younger, racier brother of this shiny car, which I encountered in 2015.

I still hate and fear golf.

Monday April 17 2017

Then being five and a half years ago, with a sunset behind it and some birds in front of it:

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The structure in the foreground there is …:

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… which is on the other side of the River from me, across Vauxhall Bridge Road and turn ride along the path next to the River.

Right now, Battersea Power Station is in a rather different state, which you can actually see rather well in that famous view from Ebury Bridge Road, looking out over the railway lines that leave Victoria to go south over the River:

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The whole area, in it and around it, is being turned into apartments.  They’re even going to have their own new tube station, at the far end of a new bit of the Northern Line.

On the same day I took this photo (and all the other photos mentioned in that posting (most especially these ones)), I also took these photos of what is happening in and around the Power Station:

imageimageimageimageimage

The first one there was taken from Battersea Park railway station, the other two shots from nearer to all the building.  That fake-up of how it will look tells you ... how it will look.  If you are a helicopter traveller.

What’s happening in Battersea is the one great exception to the otherwise inexorable drift of London’s centre of gravity eastwards.

Sunday April 16 2017

Lincoln Paine is an admirably ambitious historian.  Here is the first sentence (to be found on page 3 of my paperback (but still very big) edition) of the introduction of Paine’s very big book, The Sea and Civilization, which is 744 pages long and which I have just started reading:

I want to change the way you see the world. ...

Good, because I bought this book in order to do exactly that, change the way I see the world.

In the following specific way:

… Specifically, I want to change the way you see the world map by focusing your attention on the blues that shade 70 percent of the image before you, and letting the earth tones fade. ...

Hurrah for the internet.  I went looking for a maritime history of the world and found this, which I might never have done if I had been relying on merely physical bookshops.

… This shift in emphasis from land to water makes many trends and patterns of world history stand out in ways they simply cannot otherwise. Before the development of the locomotive in the nineteenth century, culture, commerce, contagion, and conflict generally moved faster by sea than by land. The opening of sea routes sometimes resulted in immediate transformation, but more often it laid the groundwork for what was later mistaken for sudden change. ...

Here is an example of what you notice when you think like this.  On page 7, we read this, about the USA:

A maritime perspective complicates our understanding of the “westward” expansion of the United States. California achieved statehood in 1851, two years after the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill, when the territory was virtually unknown to Americans back east and the number of United States citizens on the Pacific coast numbered only a few thousand. Thanks to the extraordinary capacity of the American merchant marine of the day, tens of thousands of people reached San Francisco by ship, a mode of transportation that was faster, cheaper, and safer than the transcontinental journey, although the distance covered was more than four times longer. The United States conquered the interior of the continent - what are today known as the fly-over states, but at the time could aptly have been called the sail-around territories – in a pincer movement from both coasts, rather than by a one-way overland movement from the east.

On my TV I have just recently been watching Michael Portillo investigate that very “westward” expansion of the USA, with plenty of wagons and locomotives involved, but no mention at all of any ships.  So I know exactly what Paine means.

Paine goes on to assert (on page 9) that there have been …:

… changes in the public perception of the maritime world, for the merchant marine and naval services no longer hold the attraction for people that they once did, when ocean liners and freighters crowded the piers of Manhattan, Hamburg, Sydney, and Hong Kong. At the start of the twenty-first century, ships and shipping lines are the warp and woof of globalization. Ships carry about 90 percent of world trade and the number of oceangoing ships has grown threefold in the past half century. But the nature of shipping has led to the relocation of cargo-handling facilities to places remote from traditional port cities, ...

In other words: out of sight, out of mind.

About that, I am not so sure.  Maybe it’s more a matter of degree than he says.  I guess I’m a bit different, in that I have been particularly noticing both what is happening to London’s old docks and waterways (they’re being prettied up for tourists like me and for the new gentry (really, mostly, just indoor and better paid proletarians) who now live next to them) and where London’s new mega-dock is now nearing completion, downstream.  I am definitely not the only one who has noticed shipping containers.  As Paine himself says, in his final chapter, containers are driving globalisation, and much of the globe has surely noticed.  Indeed, this might be why Paine’s publishers judged the time to be right for the switch in focus that he argues for.  On the other hand, I did have to go looking for this book.  Nobody else brought it to my attention, spontaneously, as it were.

Talking of focus, my eyesight has now reached the stage of me only being able to read a book by holding it about two inches away from my face.  Spactacles don’t do it for me any more.  Usually this is fine.  But this is a very big book, and it is going to be a very big struggle for me to read it.  But I am determined to do all the struggling that I must.

Or, I might go to the internet again, and buy something like this contraption.  If I do purchase such a reading aid, it will presumably be as cheap as it is because it recently crossed the world in a shipping container.

Saturday April 15 2017

Late this afternoon, in Lower Marsh, I came across this classic oldie:

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I see a lot of vintage cars in Lower Marsh?  Why?

Finally, the penny dropped and I asked the Great Machine in the Sky.  I typed in “vintage cars lower marsh” and immediately learned about this.  Every month, the classic cars gather there:

We meet between 12:00 and 16:00 on the third Saturday of every month at the Lower Marsh Market – on Lower Marsh Street just behind Waterloo Station.

Yes, come to think of it, I always see them on a Saturday.

Mystery solved.

Friday April 14 2017

As related last Wednesday, I heard GodDaughter 2 (and others) perform this:

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What a strange piece it is.  To an atheist like me, the plot is very simple and wholly disastrous.  Mother watches her only son being tortured to death.  Yet Rossini makes a lot of it sound rather up-beat, even jolly, despite it mostly being in a minor key.  This effect was strengthened in this performance by the fact that instead of the orchestra that Rossini specified, they made do with two pianists playing one piano.  Don’t get me wrong, these guys did fine.  But the inevitable emphasis that a piano places, unlike wind and orchestral stringed instruments, on the beginnings of notes, especially when two pianists need to keep in time with each other, created a mood not unlike a rather jolly brass band, of the sort manned by men in leather shorts.  Put on top of that singing that was more operatic in manner than traditionally ecclesiastical, and you can see why (I just learned this (blog and learn)) Heinrich Heine described the work as “too worldly, sensuous, too playful for the religious subject”.  Playful is exactly the word.  The tenor solo aria, early on, sounded like he’d just got married.

But then again, it’s not for atheistical me to be telling nineteenth century Italians how they should feel about the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ.  If they want to treat this as a cause for something close to celebration, which I suppose is what Christianity as a whole does, in among all the lamentation, I’m not going to tell them otherwise.  Besides which, I enjoyed it, once I had got over the surprise of how it sounded. Playful is a good sound.

If you like the sound of playfully ecclesiastical Rossini, I also recommend his Petite Messe Solomnelle.  That’s long been a favourite of mine.

There’s something about young-and-still-studying classical music voices that is often lacking with more famous, better paid and older classical singers.  Basically, their voices are still pristine, not yet having suffered from the habit of belting everything out to the far corners of opera houses.  Provided the students you are hearing are in command of what they are singing and don’t sing out of tune (these were and didn’t), they can create a sort of musical magic that you often miss on bigger and grander occasions.  There is also something appropriate about how none of them are stars, or not yet.  That way God, the Virgin Mary and her Son get to be the stars of the evening.

That said, towards the end, GodDaughter 2 had her big solo moment, doing a very difficult number with some scarily low notes.  As I already reported she did very well, in other opinions besides mine, Other than that, the highlight for me was the performance of Michael Ronan, who brought gravitas to the occasion of a sort that I was expecting rather more of.  I say “performance” because he accomplished this effect as much with his restrained and perfectly pitched body language as with his fine singing.

It was a shame that more people were not persuaded to attend this event.  I’m guessing we were mostly friends and family.  We had the performers outnumbered, but not by much.

I earlier linked to the Scherzo facebook page.  This was then still plugging last Wednesday’s performance, but as of now it features a photo of all the singers and their conductor Matthew O’Keeffe, taken after the performance.  I’m tempted to show you the photo of the photographer taking this photo that I photoed, but have resisted.  I also resisted taking photos of the performance during the performance, but she showed no such restraint, sometimes being almost in the singers’ faces.  Afterwards, I heard grumbles, but presumably she had permission.  If her efforts help Scherzo to get the bigger audiences they deserve in the future, then I forgive her.

Thursday April 13 2017

Indeed, a decade ago to the day, on the grass outside Westminster Abbey.  The word “selfie” didn’t then exist, but that didn’t stop anyone from doing it.  It was because so many were doing it that the word was needed:

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I like how the soles of their feet are the bit of the photo that’s most in focus.

My first use of the word “selfie” was, according to my blogging software, in this posting.  It’s all about me.

Wednesday April 12 2017

I have GodDaughter 2 to thank for this picture:

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That was the sight that greeted me just before I went inside St Stephen’s Church, Gloucester Road, where GD2 and some music student friends, conducted by Matthew O’Keeffe (Scherzo), were performing Rossini’s Stabat Mater.  That’s a link to a piece about the event written in the future tense, so I don’t know how long it will last, but it’s the best I can do.

I can’t be objective about GodDaughter 2’s singing, but she sounded very good to me.

Tuesday April 11 2017

I like this footbridge, and I like this photo of this footbridge:

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I took this photo on the same day I took this gasometer with towers photo, and these cat photos.

We are looking down from the road bridge that takes Twelvetrees Crescent over the River Lea and Bow Creek.  It’s a delightful spot, to be found at the top right end of the Limehouse Cut.  On the right, we see the Limehouse Cut about to make its bee-line for the Limehouse Basin.  And on the left, the River Lea is about to wend its very winding way down to the River.  Where the Lea empties itself into the Thames is right near where I took these fish photos.

The reason I cross-reference all these photo-postings of mine is because the idea of these expeditions is not just to see amusing things in isolation, but in addition to that to build up the bigger picture in my mind of what that part of London, and in particular its waterways, is like.  All these walks need to join up with each other, in reality and in my head.  The latter I achieve by trawling back through my photo archives, by repeatedly meandering about in google maps, and by connecting up this blog posting with that one.  And by going on more expeditions.

Sunday April 09 2017

As related yesterday, yesterday’s walk was basically pretty boring.  But by this I do not mean truly boring.  I mean: boring, if I had not had a camera with me.  But I did have a camera with me, and I kept a more than usually alert eye out for incidental photoable fun.

What had got me out and about in the first place was the hours of cloudless sky that were going to happen, and this lack of clouds enabled the sun, combined with all the bright shiny objects that abound in a city like London, to create some photoable fun with reflected light:

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I don’t know exactly how that first effect was created.  I was in too much of a hurry to get to the Limehouse Cut.  The middle one is light bouncing off the water onto the underside of a bridge over the Limehouse Cut.  And the third one is light bouncing off windows opposite.

Here, by contrast, is a picture of light going nowhere:

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You see a lot of these things on the tops of canal boats, and this makes sense, more sense than it does having them on the tops of houses.  The difference is that electricity on a boat comes with a cost not only in money but also in time and both.  The time it takes to transfer the electricity into your electricity store.  And the bother of finding one of the terminals you’ll be using, which is not so easy, especially if there is a queue.  So any topping up of your electricity store that you can do automatically, without having to stop at a special terminal, is very welcome.  Especially on a day like yesterday.

Saturday April 08 2017

Today I had what I suspect may prove to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  I say that because it was so boring that I may never do it again.  I walked the length of the Limehouse Cut:

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The thing about the Limehouse Cut is that it is dead straight, as purely man-made things so often are.  So, when you are walking along next to it, you find yourself staring forwards at an infinitely receding, dead straight, unchanging canal-side path.  The Limehouse Cut is dead straight, and hence dead boring.

Click on that dreary little map of the Limehouse Cut, above, and you will get the context, which shows also how most waterways in London look.  Not straight.  And that makes them much more amusing to walk next to.  Usually, when walking beside a London waterway, there are constant twists and turns.  New things regularly come into view.  The whole atmosphere of the journey keeps changing.  But when things straighten out, like they did today, it can get very repetitious.

Here are some pictures that make that point:

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I have long noticed something similar when it comes to walking along roads.  Long straight boulevards are an ordeal.  Twisty and turny walks, with lots of visual variety and with obstacles in the way so you can’t see miles ahead, are, I find, much more appealing.

The point is variety.  Anything that just keeps repeating itself is dull.  Even if it is something you might think picturesque, like a waterway with lots of boats on it.  But that gets dull also.

I was actually not surprised by this.  I was expecting it.  But, I was hoping against hope that there might be a good view in the distance, like the Shard maybe.  Or that it wouldn’t be boring.  Well, it wasn’t entirely boring.  There were things to see that were surprising.  Plus there was a park that I was able to visit.  But basically, it was boring.

But the thing was, what if the Limehouse Cut was really exciting?  I had to make quite sure that this was not so.  So, there was a meaningful mission today, and it was accomplished.  And it didn’t take that long.

Friday April 07 2017

I couldn’t decide which of these two fish photos was the best, so here are both of them.  The photo on the right is better of the fish itself.  The photo on the left shows more of the rather strange setting.  Click on either, or both, or neither, to get the bigger pictures:

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I encountered this fish in Orchard Place, last Sunday.  Orchard Place is the road you need to walk along if you want to check out Container City, which is what I was doing at the time.  To find Orchard Place on google maps, and to satisfy yourself that we are both talking about the same Place, got to Canning Town tube station and go south.

Thursday April 06 2017

Indeed:

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That’s the model of London in the foyer of the Building Centre, photoed by me last month.

In the foreground, all the new building in the Battersea area.

The small square green bit in the middle of the picture, on the other side of the river, is Vincent Square, which is a short walk from where I live.

London, especially on the south bank, looks like it’s flooded, doesn’t it?