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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

Sunday May 28 2017

The rule at this blog is simple.  Something every day no mattter how rubbish, barring computer disasters or worse, actual disasters.

But here is a hand-done sign, which I photoed in the summer of 2015, that reveals a very different attitude towards rubbish:

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Somehow, as with political demonstrations, hand-done signs reveal a depth of feeling that a more professionally produced, printed sign just would not communicate.  I sense the presence of a particularly rubbishy pile of rubbish which caused whoever it was to snap.

I like how he decided that the original exclamation mark, squeezed in at the end of RUBBISH didn’t quite do the job, so he added another exclamation mark, just to make sure that the whole passing world knew exactly how he felt, about rubbish.

Thursday May 25 2017

I don’t remember how I recently found my way back this piece in the Telegraph, but I do remember noticing it when it was first published in 2014, because I remember the graphic in it about preserving various public views of St Paul’s.

However, I don’t think I actually read it right through in 2014.  In particular, I don’t remember reading this:

It’s no secret why developers want to build towers as tall as possible. The higher an apartment block is, the more money it makes. A rule of thumb is that each floor adds at least 1.5 per cent onto the value of an apartment.

“The fact is someone will pay more to be on the 29th floor than they will to be on the 27th floor,” says Mark Dorman, head of London residential development at Strutt and Parker. They are marketing the two new towers at Nine Elms (56-storey City Tower and 45-storey River Tower, ready in 2017).

“Surprisingly, too, as has been discovered in New York, you will get as much money for a high-rise apartment facing another high-rise block as you will for an apartment facing the river.

“The same rule applies in London; you’ll get more for an apartment with a view of The Shard or the Gherkin than you will for one with a view of the Thames. People in high-rises like to look at other high-rises.”

The piece then goes on to note that others, notably the Price of Wales, don’t like high rise buildings.

So, the people who like living in high-rise apartments are willing to pay for them.  Some of those not willing to pay for them don’t like them.  Guess who wins.

Plus, there are lots of people, like me, who are not willing to pay for high rise apartments, but who do like them, because they (we) like how London is and how London looks because of all these other people living in London, making all manner of interesting business and pleasure ventures viable, and making the entire place more interesting to live in and look at, and in my case a lot more interesting to take photos of.

Here is how the Telegraph piece ends:

As for those people who worry that it’s all foreigners who are coming over here and taking our high-rises, they shouldn’t get upset, says Challis. …

Challis being “head of residential research at Jones Lang Lasalle”.

… That battle is already lost.

“The fact is, one-third of the population of London was not born here,” he says.

“Take me – I’m Canadian. When it comes to internationalisation, I have to say that this is not a new phenomenon. This city is founded on its contribution to the globe.

“It’s time everyone woke up and realised what has happened. There’s no doubt in my mind that London is now the de facto capital of the world.”

All of which was written before Brexit happened.

And I’m guessing that Brexit won’t make much of a dent in any of this.  Some voted Brexit, I am sure, to put a stop to all this, or at least to slow it down.  I voted Brexit for other reasons, and also because I didn’t think Brexit would make much of a difference to the cosmopolitan nature of London.

In the longer run, I think and hope, Brexit will make London even more the “de facto” capital of the world.  In other words (see also “fundamentally”, “essentially") not really the capital of the world at all, but you know what he’s (and I’m) getting at.

Long before London became the “de facto capital of the world”, it was also the “de facto”, as well as actual, capital of England, in the sense that it has always been a Mecca for non-Londoners.  William Shakespeare for example.  He too was, by the standards of his time, an immigrant into London.  (Who went back home to die, as most immigrants don’t, but that’s a different story.)

Tuesday May 23 2017

Yesterday was predicted to be a good photoing day, so I photoed.  A lot.  But I was too tired yesterday evening to think much about what to show you from earlier in the day, and am tired now.  But here is one photo I took yesterday, on Westminster Bridge:

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I don’t know whether this guy was happy, or merely surviving.  At least some of the former, I hope.

There were quite a few of these tricycle people-transporters parked in a row on Westminster Bridge.  I have not seen such vehicles in this place before.

That shadow, bottom left, is me.

If you fancy following up on this advert, the bad news is: it happened five years ago.  Is someone being ironic?

Sunday May 21 2017

Last Friday, Kumar Sangakkara had the pleasure of standing next to a newly unveiled portrait of Kumar Sangakkara, at Lord’s:

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I love the contrast between the grimly formidable Kumar Sangakkara in the oil painting, and the ever-so-slightly goofy expression of Sanga in the mere photo.

Few players get the chance to walk past their own portrait on their way out to bat, and even less have the honour of doing so at Lord’s.

Friday was day one of Middlesex v Surrey.  So how did Sanga do for Surrey in that game?  Okay.  Today he completed his second century of the match, and will bat on tomorrow morning.  Without him, Surrey would be dead and buried in this game by now.  With him, they should get the draw, despite being behind on first innings by nearly a hundred.

This evening, Vithushan Ehantharajah of Cricinfo was waxing very eloquent about the great man’s batting:

Kumar Sangakkara‘s sense of occasion was evident once more in this London derby as he scored his second century of the match, while also passing 20,000 career first-class runs. Sangakkara’s 60th century in the format, from 174 balls, was played out in a thick cable-knit sweater despite the glorious sunshine that accompanied him for much of his jaunt. The ice in his veins must have been working overtime.

This knock saw Sangakkara become the first Surrey batsman to score twin hundreds in a Championship match since Arun Harinath - a Surrey academy product of Sri Lankan descent who Sangakkara picked to play him in the movie of his life (true story). Both centuries in this match were brought up with a three through extra cover. Both allowed Surrey to rest a little easier.

The first-innings deficit was 82 when he came in with Surrey 16 for 2. Toby Roland-Jones, having removed Mark Stoneman for a 10-ball duck, squared up Rory Burns and trapped him in front. Even at stumps, Surrey were not quite home and hosed. They resume on the final day 96 ahead, with six wickets remaining but no full-time batsmen to come.

This is usually the part of the report which tells you about the cover-drives and cuts behind point: the ones you have probably seen a thousand times over. You know: feet still, weight decisively either back or forward, hands through the ball with the gliding devastation of a man carving an ice sculpture with a light sabre. Or the defensive shots, which are just as serene.

Every block is a cover drive without the malice, each leave a statuesque pose making a mockery of anything you might find in a Florentine piazza. By way of housekeeping, there were 14 fours in this innings (so far).

Instead, consider this a public service announcement. Go and see him. Somewhere. Anywhere. Find the time, the money and the moment to watch Sangakkara before he decides the game has nothing left for him. He is 39 years of age and, luckily for us, has decided county cricket is where he wants to be right now. Until he decides otherwise, English cricket has a global great in its back garden. All you need to do is look out the window.

I already looked.

Saturday May 20 2017

Around five years ago, the dominant architectural story of London was all the Big Things that had recently been erected, starting with ther Gherkin, continuing with the Shard and the Walkie Talkie.  There are few more Big Things about to arrive in The City, but the bigger story now is the much more numerous, rather less big things.  less big things like these: 

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As you can see from the cranes, lit up by early evening sun against that cloudy sky (an effect of which I have always been fond), some of these particular Less Big Things are still being completed.  They are on the far (i.e. south) side of the River from me.  Behind them are the railway approaches into and out of Waterloo.

Call it the Benidorming of London.  By this I do not mean that London will become entirely Benidorm, merely that this is the way the architectural wind happens to be blowing just now.  Soon, another wind will blow, and people will be grumbling about that, and maybe even lamenting the end of the Benidorm phase.

Photo taken from the roof of my home, earlier this month.

LATER: To provide some context, here is another photo, photoed moments later, from the same spot, which tells you both more about where these Less Big Things are, and where I was doing the photoing from:

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On the left, the Millbank Tower (with its glorious roof clutter cluster).  The Millbank Tower is a truly Big Thing.  As you can tell, from the fact that it has a name, and that, if you are yourself a Londoner, you have almost certainly heard of it.

Wednesday May 17 2017

Today I had a New Zealand day.

In the afternoon I had a whole lot of fun catching up with Tony, whom I last saw in about 1763.  Well, 1984, to be exact.  Still a long time ago.  Apparently Chris Tame and I and the Alternative Bookshop and all that had a big impact on his early thinking.  Tony is a New Zealander, who lives in New Zealand with Mrs Tony and the three grown-up Baby Tonys, and he is now on a flying visit back to Europe with Mrs Tony.  Message to Tony: here is Samizdata.

And then after that I attended a double talk at the Adam Smith Institute, by two other New Zealanders, about what we Brits can learn from them about how to make the best of Brexit.  Here are four of the photos I took.  On the left, two of the graphics, 1.1 being the one on the screen before they got started, and the other being about New Zealand immigration, which is apparently a lot better system than ours is.

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And on the right, the two speakers.  The first one turned out to be a German New Zealander.  Fair enough.  He talked about immigration, and he knows a lot about that.

The second guy talked about agriculture and about fishing.

Tuesday May 16 2017

This looks like an everyday urban scene, towards the end of a rather gloomy and cloudy day, with nothing much of any great interest to see:

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But observe that cluster of chimneys, to the right of and a bit higher than the bus stop sign.

I’m talking about this:

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I’ve lived a walk away from this delightful urban sculpture for about a third of a century, but I never noticed it, until today.

I’ll bet you anything there was a time when most people thought that the plague of chimney potted brick buildings that was marching relentlessly across London was the quintessence of ugliness, the way people think traffic jams are ugly now.  But now that such chimneys are no longer being built, but are instead merely being destroyed from time to time, we can relax and enjoy them.  And in a fifty years time, when the traffic jams start to retreat, people will realise that they look rather cute also.

Monday May 15 2017

Last night Spurs played their final game at the old White Hart Lane stadium.  They beat Man U 2-1, with Man U’s Wayne Rooney, no less, having the honour to score the very last goal there.  That will make a fine trivia question in years to come.

And today, the digging up of the old pitch has already begun:

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Ouch.

I then ran the video for a bit, until there were cranes:

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At the top there, you can see that open wound where the digging up has started.  And you can also see how the new stadium is replacing the old one, on an expanded version of the old site.

Here is a rather more pastoral photo of those same cranes, taken by me from out east, beside the River Lea, looking back across the Tottenham Marshes:

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I am not surprised that they are now in a hectic rush to complete the new stadium as quickly as they can.  Home advantage is a very real thing in sport.  Spurs did superbly at old White Hart Lane this last season, the one now coming to an end.  But not nearly so well at Wembley, where they played their “home” Champions League and Europa League games, and where they will play all their “home” games next season, or in their regular away games, at other club’s stadia (-iums if you prefer that).  Typically, it was an away loss to West Ham which finally saw them lose all hope of winning the Premier League, and let Chelsea gallop away with it.

I don’t fancy Spurs for next season, or for the season after, when (and this is if all goes well with the new stadium) they will still be new to their new home ground.  Spurs will bust all the guts they have control over to get the new ground ready for the season after next, and I believe they’ll manage it, if only because the amount of money at stake will cover all the costs of rushing.

They also face the problem of keeping the likes of Kane and Dele Alli from signing for Real Madrid, Gareth Bale style.  It might have been better for Spurs if Dele Alli had postponed proving what a great player he is for a couple of seasons.

So, the sooner Spurs settle into New White Hart Lane the better.  But it won’t be easy to combine all this commotion by topping their third place in the Premier League in 2015-2016 and their second place this time around.

Hope I’m wrong.

Saturday May 13 2017

I can’t remember how I came across the blog Sleepless in Barcelona.  But I did, and was intrigued that, like London, it seems that Barcelona likes to advertise itself with an assemblage of its most recognisable buildings:

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I visited Barcelona in 2005 (I got the date from this posting), and I remember thinking then that, like London, Barcelona was an obvious candidate for this sort of graphic promotion.  Like London, it used to have an upper limit to the height of its buildings - caused by religiously motivated legal restrictions, perhaps?  But now, whatever those height limitations were, they had been overcome or set aside, and the occasional bigger building was sprouting up, in the new “recognisable”, “iconic” style.  Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia used to dominate the city in splendid isolation, the way St Paul’s Cathedral used to dominate the City of London, but for a while now, other, secular Big Things have being permitted.

More Barcelona graphic assemblages here, and in lots of other www spots too, if google images ("Barcelona skyline") is anything to go by.

Here is another such piece of graphic promotion, this time more colourful:

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Just as with London, and with quite a lot of other cities, two of the key breakthrough modern Big Things were telecoms towers.  Montjuïc Communications Tower and the Torre de Collserola.  Both are to be seen on the left side of the above graphic.  I remember noticing both of those very dramatic buildings when I was there, but I also vaguely remember failing to photo them at all successfully.  My camera didn’t have anything like the zoom that my current one does.

Maybe I should pay Barcelona another visit.

Telecoms towers have a typically rather unacknowledged place in the history of modern architecture.  Dating as many of them do from the concrete monstrosity era, they proved, with their popularity and their popularity in particular with picture postcard sellers, that the public vastly preferred amusingly shaped buildings to the usual concrete monstrosities of the boringly rectangular sort.  This caused the Big Thing style to erupt quite a bit earlier than it might otherwise have done.

Friday May 12 2017

On that wander-around earlier this week, with GD2, there were, as related yesterday, lots of luxury objects to photo.  And I did try, but mostly I failed.  This was partly because luxury objects tend to be sparkly, and sparkly is hard to photo successfully.  But mostly, I suspect, it was just that I’m not used to photoing luxury objects and am in general not very good at it.

There were sparkly animals to photo, such as a bracelet with a tiger on it, and a silver horse rolling about on its back.  But they didn’t come out that well.

There were a couple of incongruously painted pandas (perpetrated by this guy), which I also photoed.

And there was a Bentley Mulsanne parked out in the street looking very good (especially its front lights), the effect as splendidly dignified as that of the two pandas were incoherent, offputting and pointless.  More about that Bentley, maybe, some other time.

Maybe even some more about the pandas, once I have thought of something to say about them other than that I didn’t like them.  I mean, someone obviously does.  Why?

In the end, the luxury item that I remember from that day with the greatest pleasure was this one:

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The trick with buying luxuries is to buy a category of luxury that you can tolerate being too expensive.  A luxury car would break my bank account completely.  A luxury bracelet would be a non trivial hit, even if I wanted one.  But a luxury ice cream, in a tub that someone has obviously “designed” (to look somewhat like an old Penguin paperback in this instance), that I could happily stretch to.

Tastes differ in such matters, but I found this icecream really tasty.  It was purchased in the cafe at the top of John Lewis’s in Oxford Street.  After we had consumed our various luxury foods and drinks we climbed to the floor above, to the roof garden, where the view of London is not as spectacular as some of the views of this kind, but very satisfying if you are a fan of roof clutter, as I am, especially with the weather being like it was.  Again: luxury.  This time not overpriced at all.

Thursday May 11 2017

GodDaughter 2 and I meet up every so often, so I can be brought up to speed on her progress as a classical singer.  The last two times we’ve met, we’ve visited posh shops.  She likes viewing their contents.  I just like photoing whatever amusing things happen to present themselves to me, including, sometimes, the contents of the posh shops.

Here are some of the photos I took on the most recent wander around that we did (just after I took the photo in the previous posting).  These photos all having been taken in the Burlington Arcade:

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1dot1 is the view everyone thinks of, if they think of anything at all, when they think of the Burlington Arcade.  1.2 is the rather elaborate floor, which I rather like.  Then things liven up a bit.  2.1 is someone who managed to look ultra-posh, even when seated in a wheelchair.  2.2 … well, you can see why I would like a posh box for putting posh things into, with decoration on its lid like that.

But then, my eye wandered a little, and I noticed that although we were in the Burlington Arcade, there was still – wonder of wonders - roof clutter to be seen, through the windows above us.  I hoovered up roof clutter views, and here are a few of those:

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The more I wander around London, the more I notice this contrast between the stage, the places where London is trying to look its best and is all primped and permed and made-up, and the behind-the-scenes areas.

Here was a circumstance where, behind a very posh piece of retail scenery, there was still backstage clutter to be seen, just by looking upwards, through the ceiling.

Wednesday May 10 2017

Today I was out and about in the the West End, Mayfair, Oxford Street parts of London today, and I took my usual ton of photos.

Like many photographers, of all degrees of grandeur from very amateur to very pro, I am fascinated by reflections, and the weather today, bright sunshine, is particularly good for such reflections.  As architectural facades have moved from masonry and concrete towards great sheets of high-tech glass, these reflections have become a characteristic townscape fact of modern life, as the older buildings bounce their facades off the newer ones, thus:

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What I especially like about reflections of this kind is that they proclaim cities to be architectural dialogues rather than architectural monologues.  These reflections are typically the consequence of at least two distinct minds, of two different times, two different styles.  Often of many different times and styles, of course.  And, for me, the very essence of cities is that that are almost never the creations of just one mind, of one aesthetic dictator, one tyrant.  London definitely isn’t.  It keeps being demanded by architectural commentators that the look of London needs to be more coordinated, more harmonious, more uniform, less “chaotic”, but it never happens.  And the result is these – to some jarring, but to me endlessly diverting – collisions and juxtapositions of styles and of aesthetic attitudes.  My urban vision, so to speak, is of a city that embodies many visions, creatively colliding and conversing.

I am sure you understand why I was so delighted by this photo, when I looked at it on my computer screen, and first saw those words “URBAN VISION”, on the right there.  I still don’t know why they were where they were.  Maybe I’ll go and check that out.  Meanwhile: enjoy.  I did.

Tuesday May 09 2017

Remember all those anti-Brexit signs that I photoed, at that demo?  My original official objective that day was not signs or demos.  It was statues.

In particular, I wanted to photo the statue of Frederick, Duke of York, the man whose army reforms contributed greatly to Britain’s victory in the Napoleonic Wars.  Wellington rated him very highly, which is not surprising.  No Frederick, Duke of York, and there would probably have been no Waterloo.  Or not the kind of Waterloo that we Brits would have been able to celebrate.

This FDoY statue is on the other side of St James’s Park from me.  This was the best photo I managed of it, that day:

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I agree.  Nice sky and pretty trees, but not so good of the Duke himself.  He is at the top of a very tall column and the light was mostly behind him.

I had better luck with the far more down-to-earth statues of three World War 2 military supremos, outside the War Office:

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Left to right: Monty, Slim, Brooke.  My photos look good that way.  The real order is Slim, Brooke, Monty.

More about these statues (together with twenty two other “powerful” London statues) here.  Scroll down to get full length photos of these particular three.

I really like the Slim and Monty statues.  Brooke, not so much.

Sunday May 07 2017

In September 2014, GodDaughter 2 and I visited Tate Ancient, as I like to call it, which is a short walk from where I live.  These places try to discourage photography, but they are losing this battle.  Here is my favourite photo from that day, together with a couple of other photos of the same object, to provide context:

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This object just oozes that Art Nouveau vibe of modernism wedded to luxury.  You can easily imagine smaller versions of this thing being on sale in Harrods, as maybe they were, way back in the twenties when this object was contrived.  The columnar neck, with no wrinkles or adam’s apple or any such concessions to reality, is especially effecive, I think.  This is what turns it into a potential luxury commodity.

Once again, it’s the colour contrast that I like in my photo, between the shiny gold of the thing itself, and the blues and greys and browns behind it.

Here two context photos, that show how it looks in its Tate Gallery setting:

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Read a bit more about it here.

The man it portrays is Sir Osbert Sitwell.

Saturday May 06 2017

I like to photo London taxis, of the sort that have big elaborate multicoloured adverts all over them.  Not so black cabs, you might say.

I encountered this unblack cab in the Cromwell Road earlier this evening, just as it was getting dark.  I like how its colours shone out, in contrast to all the greyness and gloom by which it was surrounded, as if photoshopped:

image

But there was something else I especially liked about this taxi and its all-over advert.  Here is a detail from the above photo:

image

What I like is how that little orange light in the side of the taxi has been incorporated into the design of the advert, by becoming the point at which about eleven cake slices of colour meet.

I’ve not seen anything like this before.  That doesn’t mean it hasn’t been out there.  It just means that if it has, I haven’t noticed.