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

Tuesday February 21 2017

I like London’s (England’s?) long, thin, very vertical, outdoor maps.  Whenever I am out and about photoing, I photo them:

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There’s nothing like a photo of a map with “You are here” on it, to tell you exactly where you were.  That’s where I was, early on, on the day I later took these pictures.

Seriously, it is often quite difficult to work out exactly where I was when I look through the products of one of my photographic perambulations.  This kind of snap turns it from difficult to obvious.

Especially if you can actually see the bit where it says “You are here”, like this:

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I’ve recently been on several expeditions to this intriguing part of London, with its convoluted waterways.  Maps are nice, but there’s no substitute for actually being there.  With a camera.

Saturday February 18 2017

I often travel to Euston by tube, changing there from or to the Victoria Line to or from the Northern Line, but I very rarely emerge into the street at Euston.  But yesterday, I did this.  I arrived by tube and I exited via the main concourse of the main railway station, on account of these new concourses being, I think, interesting places.  And then when I exited from the main station, I noticed, for the first time, the rather handsome statue of Robert Stephenson that is to be seen out there, if you do that.

This statue is very fine, I think:

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Perhaps because of its modern surroundings, I suspected this statue of being a recent piece of pseudo-antiquity, perhaps motivated by guilt for all the architectural antiquity at Euston that got demolished.  But no, the statue dates from a mere decade after Stephenson’s death, which was in 1859.

I only discovered just now that Robert Stephenson designed the Rocket, the first ever steam locomotive.  I thought his dad George did that, but George merely did the railway.  Blog and learn.

I also learn, here, that this Stephenson statue was the work of Carlo Marochetti.

Friday February 17 2017

You don’t have to believe that animals either have or should have rights to realise that people who are gratuitously cruel to animals are likely to be more cruel than usual to their fellow humans.  But what of fake cruelty to fake animals leading to real cruelty to real creatures, animal or human?  I imagine there is some kind of correlation there too, although my googling skills fell short of finding an appropriate link to piece demonstrating that.

Being cruel to a fake animal that another human loves is clearly very cruel, to the human.

As was, I think, this demonstration of fake cruelty that recently hit the internet.  That link is not for those who are squeamish about beheaded teddy bears.

And what of people who are nice to fake animals?

Here is a picture I took in my favourite London shop, Gramex in Lower Marsh, in which there currently resides a teddy bear who was recently rescued from sleeping rough, by Gramex proprietor Roger Hewland:

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If you consequently suspect that Roger Hewland is a kind man, your suspicion would be entirely correct.  I agree with you that kindness to fake animals and kindness to real people are probably also correlated.

I sometimes drop into Gramex just to use the toilet.  Never has the expression “spend a penny” been less appropriate.

Thursday February 16 2017

Yesterday I told you about a photo I took on January 20th of this year.  Earlier that day I had journeyed to Bromley-By-Bow tube station, then walked south along the River Lea, and ended my wanderings at Star Lane Station.  It was a great day for photoing, and I especially enjoyed photoing this witty sculpture:

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But who did it?  This evening I realised that I seemed to recall Mick Hartley having something to say about this, and so it proved.

It’s by Abigail Fallis, and it is called DNA DL90.  Well, I say that’s what it’s called.  That’s what Abigail Fallis called it, but I bet nobody else calls it that.  I bet what most people call it is more like: Shopping Trolley Spiral.  I’m guessing further that Abigail Fallis regards her sculpture as some kind of critique of late capitalist consumerism.  But such ArtGrumbling need not stop the rest of it thoroughly enjoying the thing, and also continuing to relish our trips to the supermarket, there to sample the delights of early capitalism.  Because you see, Abigail, capitalism is just getting started.

Yes. I was right.  Says Hartley:

It is, says Fallis, a symbol of modern society’s consumer culture, which has now become entwined in our genetic make-up. They can’t help themselves, can they, these artists?

The usual bitch about Artsists is that they are predictable, and indeed they are.  But this was something else again.  I literally predicted this, before I read it.  How predictable is that?  Very, very.

Wednesday February 15 2017

On January 20th I attended one of Christian Michel’s 6/20 meetings.  The subject was: The Meaning of Life.  To be rather more exact, it was: What kind of question is the question “What is the meaning of life?”

So, when I was making my way home, via Earls Court Underground Station, I guess I was in a Meaning of Life kind of mood.  Which might explain why I took this photo:

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This particular message is a bit too sentimental for my liking.  Those little hearts put me right off.  But actually, I don’t really object to these little sermons that the Underground has taken to erecting at the entrance to its stations.  This is because something that is merely written, no matter how big the lettering, is easily ignored.  I think this is one of the things I like about signs and adverts and posters and notices.  You can pay them all the attention you want to pay them, from a great deal, right the way down to absolutely nothing.

This is in sharp contrast to those appalling underground train guards who insist on preaching sermons over the intercom, instead of just telling you about how you have stopped in between stations because of a train still stuck at the next station.  Those sermons are impossible to avoid.

See also those buskers who actually climb onto trains and play.  Both these buskers and the tube train intercom sermonisers are on my personal Room 101 list.

The above also explains why Modern Art is so successful, but why, on the other hand, Modern Classical Music is so profoundly unsuccessful.  It’s not that Modern Art is mostly good while Modern Classical Music is mostly crap.  Modern Art is also mostly crap.  But, crucially, when a piece of Modern Classical Music traps you (when played live, in between two bits of proper Classical Music), you are stuck with it until it finishes.  Modern Art, in total contrast, is, when it’s crap, crap that is easily ignored.  Even when it ambushes you in an Art gallery, you can still just walk right past it.  Or, you can photo it, and then walk right past it.

Wednesday February 08 2017

Yesterday I was at Clapham Junction.  Here is what I photoed when I went to the far northern end of platform 12 (I think it was), further from the river than I usually find myself, and looked back towards London in a northerly direction:

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I say London.  That’s mostly Battersea, in the form of all the new buildings springing up around the new US Embassy, which you can see at the bottom of the Spraycan.  The Spraycan is the big tower on the left (although if you google “spraycan”, I’m guessing that all you will get is lots of spraycans).  The Embassy is the box with the crinkly diamond pattern on it.

The only serious evidence of life beyond Battersea is the Shard, on the right of the Spraycan.

But, ... cranes!  I make it sixteen of them.  Lovely.

Tuesday February 07 2017

Photoed by me late last month (just before I attended this (already mentioned here in passing (she is a friend (and it went brilliantly)))):

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Yet more evidence of how digital photography has encouraged temporary art, by making it digitally preservable.  What we see is videoing, I think.  But we can be sure that a straight up still photo of the final result will be included in the photography process.

Note the silver paint, on top of what was there before.  If the previous occupant of this spot (in the Leake Street Graffiti Tunnel) didn’t have what he had done photoed, he has only himself to blame.

Don’t ask me what the graffiti means.

Friday February 03 2017

Last night I was at the Institute of Economic Affairs for the launch of James Tooley’s remarkable book, Imprisoned in India: Corruption and Extortion in the World’s Largest Democracy.

Here are a few of the photos I took of him, talking about this book:

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James Tooley is the guy who roams the earth, seeking out freelance educational enterprises, and also setting up several of his own.  But then, he fell foul of India’s criminal justice bureaucracy, and got imprisoned for a while.  Scary.  And then he wrote a book about it.  I have only read the bit at the end, because I wanted to know that James Tooley was okay.  I of course intend to read the rest, and then do my bit to plug it.

Judging by last night’s performance, James is fine.  But he is also haunted by the knowledge that many other victims of the same corrupt system are not as lucky, if that’s the word, as he was.

Also present at the launch were James Bartholomew and Martin Durkin:

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Both were effusive about the book, more than they had to be, if you get my drift.

The Q and A focussed, inevitably, on what is to be done, about the vast scale of the corruption in India.  The mood of the room, although packed, was grim.  My feeling is: you start by telling the story.  You start by writing books like this one.

And the rest of us start by reading them.

Thursday February 02 2017

Dezeen details here:

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Bring it on.

I love signs.  So tedious to copy in writing.  So easy to photo.  And I was photoing signs yesterday, at Victoria Station.

Here are two of those signs that go well together:

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I was just about to stick these up late last night, but discovered that BMdotcom was malfunctioning.

This is not the kind of sign I love to see, when trying to add stuff to this blog, or for that matter just to look at this blog:

MySQL ERROR:

Error Number: 1194

Description: Table ‘exp_throttle’ is marked as crashed and should be repaired

Query: SELECT hits, locked_out, last_activity FROM exp_throttle WHERE ip_address= ‘91.84.14.3’

But, as you can see, it’s now sorted.  Unless you can’t see and it isn’t.

And until the next time something like this happens.  Partly because of such cock-ups, I am, thinking of doing what all other bloggers who still exist did long ago, and switching to Wordpress, which The Guru also suggested.  Comments on the wisdom of that from other gurus would be very welcome.

Meanwhile, while waiting for sanity to be reasserted here, I did a Samizdata posting, entitled Brexit has unified the Conservative Party and divided Labour.  It has.

Monday January 30 2017

When I make my way, as I do from time to time, to Gramex (which is near to Waterloo) to get another fix of classical CDs, I tend to use the 507 single decker bus.

Many bus stops have become a lot more customer friendly in recent years by having electronic notice boards which say what buses are arriving, where they will go, and when they can be expected to arrive.  Very soothing, especially if you are not in the habit of tracking buses with your mobile, as many are, but not me.

My 507 bus stop sports no such signs, probably because the 507 is the only bus that stops there, and there will be another one soon because they are very frequent.

But inside these 507s, I am starting to see signs looking like this:

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Again, very soothing.  You get to see progress.  You get to learn when you need to be making a move towards the door, if you are seated far away from the door, so you wont be barging past people in a hurry.  It all adds to the sense you have that buses are nicer to be on than they used to be.

Tragically, this afternoon, what one of these signs was saying was merely this:

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Not even the one item of information it did still offer was right.  It was not 6.28pm, nowhere near.

But, I am anything but scornful about this little setback.  New kit needs the bugs worked out of it.  Things get tried out, and they go wrong.  The significant thing here is that these kinds of notices are being deployed, not that they don’t yet work as well as they should.

Here is an earlier posting I did about the bus stop signs, also with photos.  And that bus stop sign was malfunctioning also, hence that posting also, and that didn’t stop them pressing ahead with installing those signs either.  Quite right too.

Thursday January 26 2017

Just heard an announcer on London Live TV pronounce Persephone as “Percy Phone”.  It should be Per Seffany, in case you also are not sure.  Y(oung) P(eople) T(hese) D(ays).  They just don’t have the Classics.

This was in connection with a show at the Vault Festival, at which a friend of mine is also performing, tonight.

Recently, I have been posting (for example here and here and there) photos that I took quite a while back, of scenes that are now different or in some way ephemeral, that fact often being noted in the postings themselves.

Here is another such:

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This photo, taken in November 2003, is ephemeral in two ways.

First, there are men at work on the top of the Gherkin there.  The photo is not technically that good, if only because the camera wasn’t that good, and neither was the light on that particular day.  But, click to get it twice as big, and you will surely agree that men is definitely what we do see there.  Never before that day had I seen men at work on the top of the Gherkin, unless you count before it was finished (buildings still being built being another rich source of ephemera), and never have I seen this since that day.  It may be that these guys were in fact finishing the Gherkin, in some way that I don’t know about.  Whatever, there they are.

And the second ephemeral thing about this photo is that it dates from the time when the Gherkin stood in something approximating to splendid isolation.  The same shot taken from the same spot today (outside Liverpool Street Station) would surely contain a Cheesegrater at the very least, and probably several other Big Things.

Wednesday January 25 2017

At the end of the latest round of English Premier League football games (everyone has now played 22 games (out of 38, yes?)), the top six in the Premier League are, as of now, in order from the top: Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs, Liverpool, Man City, Man U.

When was the last time the top three Premier League spots were all London?  And when were both the Manchester clubs last outside the top four?  Well, maybe one or both of those things happened quite a few times very recently, but my point is, either very recently (as part of the same thing as is happening right now) or: never.  I’m guessing.  Corrective comments welcome.

Arsenal have recently built themselves a brand new stadium, and now Spurs and Chelsea are both doing the same.  Once all the confusions associated with the custom-built headquarters syndrome have calmed down, these erections will surely cement London’s Premier League supremacy.  Although it has to be said that Arsenal have perhaps punched below their new economic weight in recent seasons.

London is also, if you are a highly paid footballer, an ever more amusing and better connected place to live in, provided you can handle all the drama and excitement and combine that with continuing to be a good footballer.  Maybe Arsenal’s problem has been that their players haven’t coped with these pressures very well.  So. and contrary to my title and my earlier thoughts, will Chelsea and Spurs actually do less well once their new places are in place?

Saturday January 21 2017

I finally arrive at the official designated purpose of my Tottenham expedition back in November, which was to check out progress on the new stadium.

Here is what this was looking like.  Lots of cranes.  Lots of scaffolding.  And big signs on the perimeter fence celebrating glorious moments in Spurs history:

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2.1, in pleasing contrast to the masculinities of football and construction, a girly bus goes by.

3.2 features how the new stadium will look from above.

It will be entertaining to return in a couple of years time, to see how it all ends up looking.

In this report, you can see more pictures of progress, viewed from above.

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At present Spurs seem to be doing rather well.  Today, they drew with Man City, having been two goals adrift, which was a result, and they are in second place in the Premiership.

I had been expecting them to be doing rather badly just now, what with this new custom built headquarters being now under construction.