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

Monday May 30 2016

As nudged by Simon Gibbs yesterday, I did indeed make my way to Trafalgar Square to check out Kenny and his Brexit chalk-proclamation.

The photos I sent to Libertarian Home yesterday evening were strictly utilitarian, to tell LH exactly what Kenny had written.  Read the entire thing there.

Here, on the other hand, are some pictures which give more of an idea of how it looked, what the atmosphere was, and what Kenny himself looks like:

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The atmosphere was low-key, actually. There were no scenes or arguments, although I did hear the occasional “not going to read it all because it says Out”, as people walked away.  Others, however, did stop and read.  Most significant, I would guess, were those with mobile phones who were, unlike me, maybe passing it on with twenty-first century immediacy.  (I had to wait until I got home before I could send off my photos.)

I had to wait a while for Kenny to finish his efforts.  I got there before 3pm, and it wasn’t until just after 5pm that he was done.  And he started at 10am.

But it was worth the wait, and there was plenty else in Trafalgar Square to divert me, and to take photos of.  But photos like that can wait.  First things first, and that means Kenny.

Saturday May 28 2016

I was very proud of this photo of seven London bridges ...:

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… when I first posted it here.

Today I took another photo of these same seven bridges:

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I said I’d check this model of the City of London out, and today I did.

I wish this model included Westminster as well as the City, but it’s a model of the City.

Wednesday May 25 2016

I already showed you some Narbonne bridges, snapped during my France expedition.  Here are more bridges.

Are these first lot of bridges really bridges, or are they just buildings with holes in the bottom of them to let people through?  I reckon these make the cut, but once the buildings start really piling up on top of the holes …?:

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I’m doing these bridge photos in sets of three, and next is a clutch of photos of a set of three bridges that connect the town of Ceret to the other side of the local river.  Picasso spent time in Ceret, because of the light.  (I also photoed Renault Picassos.)

The regular shot of these bridges is from below, as you can see if you click on the second of these photos.  But I was with people who were in a hurry, so I only got to photo the bridges from the other bridges, or in one case, the shadow of a bridge, from the bridge.  And oh look, photographers!:

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In the first of these next three bridge photos, there are three more bridges, by my count.  They’re in the seaside town of Collioure.  The other two are in Perpignan, where, just like in Quimper (where I have also visited these same friends (G(od)D(aughter)2’s family) – they have houses all over the place), there is a river flowing through the middle of the town with multiple bridges over it.

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Finally, here are some rather more modern bridges.  First there is one of the main motorway from France to Spain, which carries a lot of lorries.

The motorways of Europe may, I surmise, be the place on earth where robot drivers have their first seriously big impact.  Robot cars are too complicated, and to start with, what will be the point of them?  But robot lorries will be able to travel a lot faster than regular lorries, for a lot longer than regular lorries, on roads that are the most controlled and predictable roads in existence.  European motorways carry colossal amounts of freight, unlike in the USA, where a lot freight goes by train, Europe’s railways being full of passenger trains.  And there’s nothing like a sight of this particular motorway, handily shown off by being placed on the side of a mountain in full view of the local and non-charged version of the same road, to see all this.

In the middle below is a hastily snapped shot from a bridge as we drove over it, over a newly constructed high speed passenger railway, again connecting France to Spain.  Brand new railways lines have a certain pristine charm, I think, with the gravel under the tracks yet to be blackened by constant use.

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Finally, we have what may well be my favourite South of France bridge photo of them all, on the right there.  This is one of those unselfconsciously functional footbridges, which more and more abound in towns and cities (London has many such bridges), and which join work spaces off the ground to other work spaces off the ground.  This particular footbridge is in Perpignan.

Quite why such bridges, which have long been around, are now proliferating is an interesting question.  Maybe it is just that organisations are getting bigger, and demand bigger buildings, and connecting two buildings by a footbridge of this sort turns two buildings into one building, at any rate for certain purposes.  If two bureaucracies that live across the road from each other merge, then a bridge joining the top floors together is the logical first managerial step.  This allows the new bosses to commune with one another, without having to trundle up and down and across the road all day long, rubbing their shoulders with the unclean shoulders of their underlings.  Lower footbridges bridges enable functional specialisation to proliferate among lesser personages.

But, what do I know?  My point is, I like such footbridges.  And whereas most of the other bridges in this posting are the sort that feature in lots of other people’s photos and in picture postcards, these Brand-X urban footbridges are only a Thing because I say they are.  Which is a major purpose of truly good photography.  Truly good photography doesn’t just celebrate the already much celebrated; truly good photography offers new objects of potential celebration.

So now I will celebrate this Perpignan footbridge some more:

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As I was photoing it, I was banging on to my companions about this footbridge and about footbridges like it, and they asked me if I was familiar with this London footbridge.  Oh yes.

Thanks to that little spot of googling, I just came across, for the first time, this bridge blog.  Do you want to meet bridges in your area?  That seems like a good place to look.

Saturday May 21 2016

Pictures taken by me earlier this month:

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I keep telling myself to take notes during photo sessions like this, but I didn’t, and it took quite a bit of googling to work out where all this keeping up of appearances was.  But here it is:

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It’s the big block in the red rectangle.  The big spread to its left as we look is Buckingham Palace.  Hence, I suppose, the Palace in Palace Street.

The former civil service block is being demolished, apart from its Grade II listed façade, and converted into 72 homes within yards of the perimeter wall of the palace grounds.

Then there’s a lot of sales babble, the gist of which is that if you have to ask you can’t afford it.  And then there’s this:

The building, designed by Chelsea Barracks architects Squire & Partners, will be completed in 2017 and reflect five architectural styles: 1860s Italianate Renaissance, 1880s French Renaissance, 1880s French Beaux Arts, 1890s Queen Anne, and contemporary.

Presumably “reflect” here means “preserve the outsides of buildings done in: ...”.

Or, it means “fake”.

Sunday May 15 2016

So today I went up to the roof of my block of flats, again, to photo the work in progress across the yard.  And I did.  But I also photoed a bird on a TV aerial:

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So far so ordinary.  But then this happened:

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There are of course ways to take such pictures as this on purpose, with machine-gunning rather than just shooting, so to speak, and then picking out the best one.  But that picture, with me shooting just the once, was a total fluke.

Let’s look at that bird in flight more closely:

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To me it seems somewhat strange.  The wings are those of a black angel, yet the body of the bird is more like an old woman in black with stooped shoulders.  And all that in sharp contrast to the erect posture of the bird when it was just perched there.  It’s just an accident of the exact moment in the flapping cycle that the bird got frozen, but it sill looks odd.

Saturday May 14 2016

Today I attended the Libertarian Home Benevolent Laissez-Faire Conference.  Here is the text of the opening speech by conference organiser Simon Gibbs.  And here is a selection of the photos I took, of the event and of the speakers:

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Conference programme here.

1.1: An attender.  1.2: The venue, very good, with a big side window looking out to a small basement level garden.  1.3: Syed Kamall.  1.4 and 2.1: Janina Lowisz and one of her slides.  2.2, 2.3 and 2.4: Julio Alejandro.  3.1: Simon Gibbs and Yaron Brook.  3.2: Brook.  3.3: Kyril and Rob helping with the books.  3.4: LH info, lit up by the afternoon sun through the window.  4.1: Anton Howes.  4.2: Howes and Brook.  4.3 and 4.4: Gibbs, Alejandro, Howes, Brook.

Friday May 13 2016

Friday is my day for creatures of all kinds.  Cats, yes, but other creatures too.

Here is a dog picture I took in France that I rather like.  Okay it’s a bit blurry, but the car was wizzing by, and I tracked it by swinging my camera round to follow it:

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According to the reviews of it at Amazon, I might have got a much better picture had I been using one of these, which is the camera I now lust after.

Here, on the other hand is a cat picture, of a cat clock, taken in Céret:

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That is not a favourite picture.  I show it merely because the lady at the centre of the next picture was taking a photo of this cat clock:

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And that picture I do like, even though that’s me in the middle, reflected in the shop window.

I love pictures like this, where I stand in front of the window blocking the light onto the window, with the result that my reflection creates, as it were, a window through the window.  Where my shadow calls, we see through the window.  Where it doesn’t, what we see is what is reflected in the window.

Here is another cat, this time a real one, which we all saw just as we were getting into the car in Thuir to go to Narbonne, to sing in or to just be in the audience for Mozart’s Requiem.  I do not often see a cat sleeping in a tree, but this one was:

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Here is another creature picture, of those particular creatures called humans.  The picture emphasises, I think you will agree, human biology:

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And finally, back here in London, I photoed some pelicans in St James’s Park this afternoon, with a fountain going off behind them:

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Note the baby pelican there.  The eastern end of St James’s Park, where this snap was snapped, looking west towards Buckingham Palace, is one of my favourite places in London just now.  One of many, admittedly, but definitely one.

Monday May 02 2016

A week ago and more, the story was that Spurs were hunting them down, waiting for them to falter.  But it was Spurs who faltered, twice.  They had leads against both the last two teams the have played, but all they could muster was just the two points.  So Leicester, and most of the rest of the world that cares about such things, is now celebrating:

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All season long, people have been saying that Leicester would falter.  Now people are saying that this is a one-off, and that they’ve been lucky not to have more injuries and to have picked a moment when the hitherto best teams were all “rebuilding”.  We’ll see.  Leicester remind me a bit of Nottingham Forest of old, who were also said not to be front rankers, and had quite a few players rescued from the scrap heap.  They did pretty well, for a while.

Spurs?  Well, they have a new stadium coming soon, so there’s a decent chance this is Spurs on the up too.  On the other hand, there’s nothing like new architecture to take people’s eyes off the ball.  Again, we shall see.

Saturday April 30 2016

Indeed.  Photoed by me yesterday afternoon:

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Learn more about the service at one of the places featured on the van door, such as this one.

The early version of this posting had a title with the word “verbose” in it, but that was inaccurate.  This is more words that you’d see on a van twenty years ago, but it’s all good stuff.

Friday April 29 2016

This is a first:

I am at Brian Micklethwait’s place for his latest Friday. This argument against leaving the EU was made (I am literally live blogging, this is breaking news!): The good thing about Brussels is that it is impossible to be emotionally attached to it. This weakens the state.

Interesting discussion is now ensuing. And we have not even got to the speaker yet.

The liveblogger in question being Rob Fisher, to whom thanks.

The speaker and subject matter were described in this earlier posting here.

I do hope to write something soonish about what was actually said by Patrick Crozier, but meanwhile, the other interesting thing about this evening’s event, for me, was how well attended it was.  By this I mean that the room was, as it usually seems to be, comfortably but not uncomfortably full.

What was so unusual about this outcome was that when I sent that first email out last Sunday evening, flagging up the meeting, I got no responses.  Usually, one or two or three people reply by return of email that they intend to attend, and more acceptances come in as the week before the meeting (which is on the Friday) progresses.  But this time: nothing.  Not even one email.  Not a sausage.  In my reminder email, which went out yesterday, I pretty much begged people to come, and to tell me beforehand that they were coming.  And a healthy trickle of positive responses duly trickled in, and I relaxed.  And then, come the evening itself, as already revealed, pretty much the exact same number of people showed up as usually shows up.

How do people, collectively, know to do this?  There has to be some kind of mathematical law in operation here, which says that the right number of people always shows up, no matter what.

It cannot be coincidence that the only time when far, far too many people showed up for comfort was the very first of these meetings, when I restarted them at the beginning of (I think it was) 2013.  Never again.  This strongly suggests to me that The Crowd, subsequently so wise, started out ignorant, of how much comfortable space there was, but that The Crowd has subsequently learned.  And now, The Crowd knows how to turn up chez moi in the exact right numbers, every time.  No matter what I do to assemble it, and no matter what it says beforehand, or doesn’t say.

Thursday April 28 2016

Yes, it’s a bus, totally covered in an advert:

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Click on that horizontalised graphic if you don’t believe me.  Buses like this one, photoed by me in Charing Cross Road this evening. really liven up London.  Basic monochrome red is so twentieth century.

But when it comes to buildings, plain bright red is a step towards riotous colour.

Wednesday April 27 2016

I spent a lot of my blogging time today writing about a talk I attended last night, given by Tim Evans.  I did not finish what I wanted to say, but the attempt left me little time to do anything here.  So, a photo, taken by me on the way to Tim’s talk, as I emerged from Euston Station:

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That’s part of the roof of St Pancras Station.  I like how my snap makes you see this building, if not with fresh eyes, then at least from a rather fresh angle, instead of the usual one you get, from in front.

St Pancras Station was first opened in 1868, and the contrast between how they did the tops of big buildings in those times and how the tops of similar sized buildings are done nowadays could not be more extreme.  Now, buildings of that size tend to have flat tops, and to be covered with telecommunications equipment.

Like this:

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This being New Scotland Yard.  And a statue of a man scratching his back outside Westminster Abbey.  Well, no, but that’s what it always looks like to me.  The column of that statue can also be seen in yesterday’s numerical traffic lights snap.

London’s famed Metropolitan Police are moving out of New Scotland Yard, back to old Scotland Yard.  It will be interesting to see what happens to all that roof clutter.  Maybe nothing.

Tuesday April 26 2016

I took this picture in lots of different versions.  Same picture.  Lots of different numbers.  So which number to choose, to show here?  I chose 5, because behind where it says “05”, Big Ben reveals the time to have been 5 past 5:

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So that’s 5 ticked.  2 is already done. 8 more to go.  Or maybe 7. Because, I rather think that these devices never get to say “01”

Monday April 25 2016

Indeed:

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Photoed by me, just after photoing this.  That particular part of London is a maelstrom at present.  As are lots of parts of London at any given time.

A new crossrail station is being completed, and Centre Point is being given a makeover.  I doubt it will look any different, but you never know.

Any decade now, Centre Point’s exterior will burst into colour.  But Centre Point right now, temporarily wrapped in this and that, is as colourful as it is likely to be for a decade or two yet.  A generation of monochromist modernist architects still has to die, before colour can really start happening in London.  At present (see the previous photo) Renzo Piano is the only fashionable architect being colourful.

While I’m showing you pictures of that rather angly station entrance, here is another, taken moments before the one above:

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Lots of signage of various kinds there.

For another view, looking down Tottenham Court Road, of this strange station entrance, see photo 3.2 of these.

Sunday April 24 2016

I just sent out the email plugging a talk to be given at my home this coming Friday (the 29th) by Patrick Crozier, on “The Political Consequences of World War One” (as already flagged up here in this posting).

The email included this:

Many libertarians of my acquaintance talk about World War One as the great libertarian historical What-If? As in: Surely, surely, the world would have remained far more libertarian-inclined if only ... World War One not been blundered into by its deluded protagonists. Everything bad about the modern world, for many libertarians, has its origins in that fateful and fatal moment of mass mobilisation, for massed war, in August 1914. War is the Health of the State! And with war, modern statism just grew and grew.

But has this growth in statism happened because of war, and because of that war in particular? Or did war merely accompany the growth? Was this causation, or merely correlation?

Patrick Crozier writes regularly for Samizdata, specialising in World War One, and in events of WW1 that happened exactly one hundred years before the time of his postings.  Just recently, Patrick has been, as it were, extricating himself from the trenches and from purely military issues, to look also at wider political developments, on the home front and beyond.  So he seemed to me to be the ideal person to be asked, as I did ask him earlier in the month, this question:

Was the rise of statism in Britain and the West seriously accelerated by WW1, or would such stuff have happened anyway, with or without war?

Were there big moves being made towards statism before the outbreak of war, and not even in anticipation of war? Did neutrals also do lots of statist stuff at the same time as the war’s protagonists?

Sounds good to me.  But then, these talks always do, because if at talk doesn’t sound good to me, I keep on looking until I find another that does.

If you didn’t get the email but would like to attend, or would like to get this and future emails, leave a comment or send me an email.  To do the latter click where it says “Contact”, top left.