Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Rocco on Milo Yiannopoulos
Tatyana on Four towers joined together by two bridges
Patrick Crozier on Peter Foster on Robert Owen
Brian Micklethwait on Filling in a Meaningless Triangle near Kensington High Street tube
Alastair on Filling in a Meaningless Triangle near Kensington High Street tube
loony sports on Standing on boxes to interview Irfan
Brian Micklethwait on Standing on boxes to interview Irfan
Brian Micklethwait on Couple photoing their own shadows
MarkR on Couple photoing their own shadows
Brian Micklethwait on A Morris Minor advertising a ping pong night club
Most recent entries
- Avian Friday
- New chairs
- Milo Yiannopoulos
- Four towers joined together by two bridges
- Peter Foster on Robert Owen
- Quota Bald Blokes and Big Ben
- Less heat and more light
- Antoine Clarke on herding drunk cats
- Antony Flew on the Terrors of Islam
- Bell end?
- Couple photoing their own shadows
- Standing on boxes to interview Irfan
- What is this iceStone device?
- Filling in a Meaningless Triangle near Kensington High Street tube
- A Morris Minor advertising a ping pong night club
Other Blogs I write for
6000 Miles from Civilisation
A Decent Muesli
Adventures in Capitalism
Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
Another Food Blog
Antoine Clarke's Election Watch
Armed and Dangerous
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Burning Our Money
Chase me ladies, I'm in the cavalry
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Counting Cats in Zanzibar
Deleted by tomorrow
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Everything I Say is Right
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Category archive: London
What with Antoine herding drunken cats tonight, you’d think that today here might have been particularly feline. But as it happens, recent archive trawling has brought various bird photos that I’ve taken over the years to my attention.
I find birds difficult to photo, by which I mean difficult to photo interestingly. This is because they are so often photoed, very well, by other photographers. The trick for someone like me is to photo things that other people, and other photographers, tend not to see, like for instance all the other photographers. I think I managed to photo these two birds quite interestingly, just under a year ago, just before last Chistmas, but this sort of thing is rare for me.
Often, when I photo birds, I combine them with others things, as here, or as on the right, right here. This being one of those photos which I suspect will look rather good if seen very small. So, I am showing it very small. Which also means I have to waffle now, to make sure that the next photo doesn’t collide with this one on the right. What I really like about this snap is not the bird, so much as the unusual roof clutter. The bird just tops that off nicely. This shot was taken from Battersea Park railway station. That should be enough waffling.
Next, what we see is some birds seen from an unusual angle, which makes their wings look really strange, like they are made out of metal rather than bird. Whereas the earlier picture benefited from being small, this one squawked out to be horizontalised, so that is what I did:
For each of the two originals, above, click on the smaller version.
This last bird photo also shows something which is, to me, very strange. Which is, that all the birds are pointing in the same direction, one way or the other, along the road. Except one, who is, I suspect, turning from pointing one way to pointing the other way. Why are they doing this?
One possible explanation is that they are all looking at me, to see if I would throw them any food, or perhaps attack them. My guess being that when a pigeon looks at you he has to look at you sideways on, with just one eye. He doesn’t do what humans with their flat faces do, when looking at you, which is turn their faces towards you. No, a pigeon displays his profile. But what do I know? Am I making any sense? Anyone? I am probably talking nonsense.
Anyway, truth or tripe, that concludes today’s Avian Friday posting.
I say new. New for me. Old and superfluous to requirements for the people who were getting rid of them.
Audiences for regularly repeating events tend exactly to fill whatever comfortable spaces and places are offered to them. Given that my speakers tend to be pretty good, the single best way for me to persuade more people to attend my Last Fridays of the Month meetings (there will be another such meeting tomorrow evening) is to improve the seating arrangements. More and more comfortable chairs are the best way to make these events better.
When these meetings resumed, in January 2013, there was a rather ungainly sofa, which seats two in comfort and three in discomfort unless all three are very thin, and one other comfy single chair. The rest was all stools and upright chairs and old loudspeakers and suchlike.
Worst of all there was this:
That picture having already been shown here, here.
But, to replace the above abomination, there is now this:
Despite appearances, these two beauties work very well as a three seat sofa. Better yet, they cost me: nothing. I went out shopping a few months back, and Goddaughter 2 happened to be with me. We saw these two semi-sofas being inserted into a skip. So we skipped the shopping and grabbed them, all this being only a couple of dozen yards from the front door of my block of flats. Moments later, and they’d have been covered in subsequent rubbish. No Goddaughter 2, and I don’t know how I would have managed. Almost certainly, not. Amazing.
And then, about a week ago in a charity shop I encountered these two little numbers, also very comfortable:
I had to pay a few bob for them, and some more bob for a taxi to get them home, but it all added up to far less than I was thinking of paying for something similar, singular, new, to see if another similar, singular, new, would be worth a further quite large outlay.
The above improvements may not seem like much, but they increase the number of truly comfortable seats at my evenings from three-and-a-half to eight-and-a-half. So the chance of a comfy seat have now more than doubled.
All I need now is to replace that goofy original sofa, with its goofy great arm rests that take up about one and half people’s worth of space, and things would be looking even better.
Photo taken in 2008 by me, from a train, just past Queenstown Road railway station, on my way from Waterloo to Egham, the railway station of my childhood:
That’s not two towers joined together by a bridge.
This is two towers joined together by a bridge:
Those two towers are going to be built in Copenhagen harbour. They’ve just received the go-ahead. Here’s hoping they do indeed go ahead.
Two more additions to the Bald Blokes Taking Photos collection. On the left, a Bald Bloke photos Big Ben, in 2006:
On the right, in 2010, a Bald Bloke photos the Wheel, above, with Big Ben in the background.
Indeed. Today was a lot colder than of late, and a lot brighter than of late. I guess that happens when the clouds go away, in November. I was on my way out around midday today, and took these, the last one through a train window:
The first two are looking across Vincent Square, towards Victoria Street and at Westminster Abbey. The next three are of building work at the top end of Victoria Street, where there is not a lot of building work going on. And finally, Big Things, from the train out of Victoria.
I was very pessimistic about all the new stuff around Victoria Station, but that big spikey thing is looking very cool.
The first picture is the odd one out. No cranes.
Today I finally managed to get back to Kings Cross, and I even got there before it was dark. But I couldn’t choose only a few pictures from that to show you, so maybe tomorrow with rather more than a few.
So meanwhile, a quota couple quota photoing their quota shadows, in the quota year of 2007:
This happened on the south bank of the Thames, between Westminster Bridge and the Wheel. These pictures make me fell smug and superior, on account of how much more complex and multi-layered my pictures were compared to theirs.
More remembered sunshine. It’s been grey and grim for so long now it seems like for ever.
A few months ago, when the sun was shining and I was in the habit of leaving my home and wandering about in London, I took what i thought at the time was a photo of a bald bloke taking a photo:
I cropped half the guy’s face out of this photo, to make him non-machine-recognisable.
But looking at this photo again, I realise that the real mystery is what the guy has on his left wrist:
As so often, my camera saw more than I did.
When I started googling, to try to find out more about that device, I was pretty confident that I would soon learn. But, I couldn’t find anything called that that looked like that. Presumably it is some sort of Androidy iPhoney Watchy Thingy. But I was unable to go beyond that vague presumption.
This is a hastily drawn illustration of a characteristic urban phenomenon of the late twentieth century, namely: the Meaningless Triangle:
The blue lines are the edges, aka the curbs, of two city streets, which, for reasons lost in history, meet each other at an angle.
The black lines are are piece of Modern Movement type Modern Architecture, circa 1970, made of grey concrete, with big, boring windows. Something like an office block or a department store. The Meaningless Triangles are the pink bits.
In the days of Modern Movement type Modernism, architects were obsessed with making everything rectangular, which explains that jagged, saw-like edge to the big Modern Movement type building, at the bottom of my diagram. In order for the building to be in line with one of the streets, it has to be at an angle to the other street, because the streets are not themselves at right angles.
So, why not just have wall to the building that are not at right angles? This is what is done now. Why not then?
There are many reasons. One is that doing this kind of thing, in the days before computers, was a bit difficult. But more fundamentally, right angles were, you know, Modern. Only the despised higgledy-piggledy Past had walls at crazy angles.
More fundamentally, Modern Movement architecture was not so much about building a mere building, as about building a small fragment of a potentially infinite urban grid. In a perfect world, the Modern Movement type building would not stop at the boundaries of the site. It would instead stride madly off in all four directions, covering the whole earth in a single rectangular grid. You think that’s mad? Sure it’s mad. But this was how these people thought, in those days. Hey really did publish schemes to cover the entire world with just the one new building, and smash all the others.
The boundaries of the site were an affront to the building. The building did not end gracefully and decorously at the boundary, and then show a polite face to the world. No. It merely stopped, as gracelessly and rudely as possible, and in a manner which threatened to go bashing on, just as soon as a socialist upheaval (preferably worldwide) could clear all the higgledy-piggledy crap of the past out of the way. In a perfect world, there would be no boundaries, no property rights. No arbitrary lines where one bit of “property” stops and another bit starts. Oh no. All would be owned by the People in Common, and our architect is the instrument of the People in Common, and supplies tham all, all I say, with a new and infinitely huge new building.
I know, insane. Don’t blame me. I’m just telling you what these lunatics were thinking.
Luckily, the higgledy-piggledy old world kept these maniacs under control. They had to stop their damn buildings at the edge of the site. If they had tried to bash on beyond the site, they’d have been arrested. But, they could make the ragged edge of the building look as ragged and ugly as they liked, and they did.
Hence all the Meaningless Triangles.
If you want to hear me talking about the above, go to this video, of me giving a talk about Modern Architecture, and start watching at 41 minutes.
What got me blogging about Meaningless Triangles was that I recently, in the course of wandering through my photo-archives, came across this photo:
What we see there is a very meaningful building, built to fill in a Meaningless Triangle. As I recall, this is a few dozen yards from the entrance to Kensington High Street Tube station. Yes, I just found the Caffe Nero in Wrights Lane, near that very tube station. That’s the one. I took my photo of it in 2010.
I never did get to see that gas holder park I was on about yesterday. I had thought it would be clearly visible and clearly signposted, but it was neither, and I placed myself on the wrong side of a big building site, and never got near it. I only worked out exactly where it had been hiding when I got home.
But none of that matters. The point of having a photo-objective of this sort is to get me to a part of town that I might not otherwise be visiting, and in general, to get me out into the town. Gas Holder Park isn’t going anywhere, and my failed attempt to visit it, I got to be on the exact right bit of pavement to take this photo, which is definitely one of my recent favourites:
It’s not just the craziness of the vehicle. It’s the way that, with no other traffic - or even pedestrians - choosing to get involved in the short, and with my camera tracking the crazy vehicle and thus blurring everything else, the crazy vehicle becomes a sort of disembodied presence, liberated from the urban bustle that it was in fact surrounded by, like it was a movie character on drugs, or something similarly unenmeshed in reality as the rest of us perceive it.
Seconds later, I took another shot of the crazy vehicle as it sped away from me, hoping that it tell me what the white sphere was in aid of. It wasn’t a great picture ...:
... but it did the job:
And (see above) it’s a recently opened ping pong drinkery. The white sphere is a ping pong ball. More about the place here, where there is another picture of the Morris Minor, surrounded by urban bustle, so not on drugs.
Because of the uncannily precise weather forecasts with which modern civilisation is blessed, I know that today will be a great day to be going out, which I have not done for a while. And I intend to check out this, which is a gas holder that has been tarted up into a big old public sculpture stroke small park inside:
There are mirrors. I like mirrors. Mirrors make for fun photos.
Also, notice how, in this other picture, …:
... it would appear that they (Bell Philips) will be inserting a block of flats into another nearby gas holder. Cute.
I’ll let you all know how it is all looking, at the moment. Assuming I manage to find it and it’s not still a building site behind barriers. With these kinds of things, the internet can only tell you so much. By which I mean that it could tell you enough so that you wouldn’t have to go there to check it out, but it generally can’t be bothered. So, since it’s only a short Victoria Line journey, I will go there. To check out not only the Thing itself, but to see what other Things I can see from inside it, framed by it.
Not to say the sexist-est. Those Victorians often used to let their hair down in public. It’s all around us, if only you are willing to look at it and see it. It’s only a matter of time before the feminists start defacing such things, because they are already in a state of fluttering Victorian spinsterish hysteria about the sort of feelings expressed in this statue.
This statue is in honour of Sir Arthur Sullivan. A while back, I and Alex Singleton did a recorded conversation about him, and about Gilbert of course.
So yes, In among yesterday’s picture archive rootling, I came across this amazing picture:
That picture, like yesterday’s effort, was taken in 2010, by which time I was in the habit of photoing the bit on statues where it tells you what it is. So I had no trouble learning more about this statue today. The great thing about the internet is how you no longer have to do “research” when you write about something like this. All that is required is a link, and all is explained, by somebody else.
And the somebody else at the other end of this link, “Metro Girl”, has this to say about this amazing statue:
Situated in the slimmer part of the gardens nearer to the north-eastern exit, it is located looking towards The Savoy Hotel. Sullivan and his frequent collaborator, dramatist WS Gilbert were closely linked to The Savoy Theatre, which was built by their producer Richard D’Oyly Carte in 1881 using profits from their shows. Gilbert and Sullivan’s last eight comic operas premiered at The Savoy Theatre, so it is only fitting that the Sullivan memorial is so nearby.
And, more to my particular point, this:
The monument features a weeping Muse of Music, who is so distraught her clothes are falling off as she leans against the pedestal. This topless Muse has led some art critics to describe the memorial as the sexiest statue in the capital.
Not knowing every sexy statue in the capital, I can’t be sure that this is indeed the sexiest. But I’ve not seen anything to top it.
Recently I have become very interested in taking photos through my kitchen and toilet windows, my kitchen being where most of my toil (hah!) is done. (I said that that earlier photo was taken from my kitchen, but I now realise it’s taken from the toilet, through an open window rather than a grubby kitchen window which is too hard to be opening and shutting.) I am doing this because there is building going on across the courtyard, and I love to photo building work. The temporariness of everything. The scaffolding, and more recently the translucent blankets they now often drape over scaffolding, catching shadows of the scaffolding.
But over the years, I have taken photos through this window for other reasons. I especially like this one, which I just came across when looking for something else, which I took in 2010:
That netting has since been repaired, but it continues to add a layer of visual oddity to all the pictures I take from this window. It is there, as I said in that earlier posting, to stop pigeons crapping all over the courtyard.
I especially like the white dots against the black background, at the bottom. Each dot is a droplet, at each point in the netting where the strings join, or cross, or do whatever they do when they meet. The bigger, nearer droplets are on the outside of the window.
I’m guessing I was very struck by what I saw that day, because where I live, in London, rain is quite rare.
I’ve not been out much lately, but last Friday night I got to see Perry and Adriana’s new version of indoors. That was the best photo I took, of a drying up cloth.
Click on that to see Adriana’s trousers, of the sort that are presumably threatening all the time to get tighter.
Most clichés are true. Being true they get repeated and repeated, which is how they became cliches. But the cliché that it rains a lot in England is not true, at any rate not in my part of England. Rain in London is actually quite rare, and when it does rain it seldom lasts long. Heavy rain is very rare, which is why, when it happens, it causes excited headlines.
But, the weather is often cloudy and overcast. Thus for the last several days it has been almost entirely overcast, and very occasionally wet.
I have been mostly indoors, having one of my periodic attempts to tidy up. Photographically, I have done little, except remember sunnier days earlier in the year.
Here are four photos taken in June and July of this year, all of which involve sunshine in one way or another:
I love that weird effect you see when someone has been destroying reinforced concrete, combining jumbles of twisted metal rods and what can look like ancient rocks but which are really bits of concrete. The sunniest thing in that photo is me, in the form of my shadow. Nothing says bright light like a strong shadow.
All the other snaps involve - what else? - cranes. I especially like how bright light often strikes cranes. Usually, when I photo this, I get disappointingly toned down results. My camera presumably thinks that by eliminating dazzle it was helping, but dazzle is what I am often trying to photo. I want the light to be out of control and sloshing about all over the place. Bottom left is a rare exception to that tendency.
Bottom right is looking down Tottenham Court Road, at a crane and a Wheel, lit by sun, backed by dark cloud, a favourite effect. The strange and rather misshapen green house thing (which I like) is (I think) the top of the new Tottenham Court Road Crossrail-Tube Station.
I think my fascination with the Union Jack really got into gear with the Scottish Referendum. Why then? Because then, we might have had to abandon it. It might have become a relic.
Then, during the recently concluded Rugby World Cup, the Brits all got knocked out by the time the semi-finals came around. But, the two nations whose national flags involve the Union Jack (for the time being anyway), Australia and New Zealand (England’s flag is the red and white flag of St George), were the two finalists. So, the Union Jack triumphed, even if the nation that originated it did not.
So, I am now always on the lookout for Union Jacks, especially when the colours are being played with. The shape is wonderful, I think, but the colours can get repetitious and they come alive when altered somewhat.
And today, I found just such a Union Jack, in a shop, in Tottenham court Road. I went in and photoed it, several times. Nobody objected, or tried to sell me furniture. Or even to sell me the Union Jack that I was photoing. I just did my photos, and also a few others of cat cushions, and then made my exit.
If you look at a mirror, you tend to see yourself. If you photograph a mirror, you tend to photo yourself taking a photo, unless you are a Real Photographer. I am not, even if one of the above photos does exclude me.
£149 is what this mirror would cost you.
As I type this, Simon Schama is concluding his TV series about The Face of Britain, the final episode being entitled “The Face in the Mirror”. He is doing selfies, or “self-portraits” as they have mostly been known, until now. I expect that we will be shown regular folks posing with their selfie sticks, right at the end.