Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
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Most recent entries
- Up early – blogging early – elephant sculptures
- I Love You Will U Marry Me
- I’m back
- A snip at £7,499.99
- The most newsworthy thing so far done by a drone
- A vintage photo
- To Tottenham (6): The Spurs Shop
- Supporting England in the Big Bash League
- A new stadium for Chelsea
- You wait for years and then two come along at once
- Mosaic diversion
- On the value of speaker meetings - to the speaker
- 6k has a drone
- Quota coloured lights outside the Royal Festival Hall
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6000 Miles from Civilisation
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Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
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Category archive: Friends
Part of learning things is stuffing information into your brain. But another equally important part is arranging and connecting and understanding all the information once it is inside your head. And also: trying to understand why you stuffed all this particular information into your head in the first place. What were you thinking? What were you feeling? Why the attraction to this particular information?
In those two latter respects, I found that the talk I gave last Friday at Christian Michel’s was particularly useful. See here for a pre-report in what I talked about. I didn’t read out everything in that posting last Friday, but I did read out all the questions in the email that I sent Christian before the meeting, in other words I read out the indented bit of that earlier posting.
As I went on to ramble about in that earlier posting, and as I also rambled about last Friday, I have been pondering the Modern Movement in Architecture ever since I was a teenager. But last Friday evening I made some big steps forward in rearranging and organising how I think about it – and just as important how I have felt about it, what the attraction is, why I love it and love observing it and love photographing it, as much as I do.
In the word-processed file where this posting began life, there already follows the beginnings of a stream-of consciousness piece itemising a few of these steps forward. But I don’t want to rush that out before it has been written properly. In the meantime, I just want to assert my simple pleasure at what happened for me last Friday evening, without going into any detail.
Of particular value to me last Friday were some of the remarks from the floor, one in particular. This told me nothing that I did not already know, by which I mean already agree with. But what it did was place this particular observation into a different context. Into a different part of my head, so to speak. I found that particular moment especially helpful.
One obvious implication of my experience that I am willing to write about here immediately is that my happy experience last Friday made me very glad and proud that I also organise meetings at which others speak. Like Christian Michel, I give my speakers a lot of latitude in what they will speak about, this being because I have long known that a major part of the point of getting people to speak about something is that it will cause them to make discoveries rather like the ones I made last Friday. I often invite my speakers to speak about subjects they feel only partly on top of, which they are still getting to grips with, getting their heads round, getting their thinking straight about and their feelings clearer about. I have long known that this is a valuable thing to do, for the speakers. If the audience is a bit confused, so be it.
Well, I say that I have long known it. Now, I really know it, with a great deal more certainty, derived from a great big gob of recent and enormously encouraging experience.
The party I hosted on New Year’s Eve was rather exclusive. Nobody was actually forbidden entry. But I was very late with the invites, and because I feared that so few would be attending, I actually told people that if they wanted a proper, noisy, standing room only do, rather than what actually happened, they ought to steer clear, and that meant that even fewer people came. But it also took the pressure right off me, because whoever did come had been duly warned. The fireworks that those still present at midnight looked at and photoed from my roof (see below) were a bit out of the ordinary, but I had not seen that coming and so did not make that a selling point. Next time round, if there is a next time round.
But, I did have some fun conversations. And in particular one that has just resulted in this posting at Samizdata, about Shipping Containers. And about other Things. Once again, I at first wrote all of this for here, but then transferred two thirds of it to there.
My entertaining today is going very well, but is leaving me about zero time to do any blogging. I was too busy preparing for my guests, and am now too busy happily consorting with them.
By the time you read this, the new year will be with us. I hope that it will be a happy year for you. And, come to that, for me.
How to say that I am at home alone over Christmas without you feeling sorry for me? I can’t do it, but please: don’t. In exchange, I won’t feel sorry for you that you are reading this instead of having “fun”.
Each to his or her own, but I love it that holidays, for me, really are holidays, rather than just burdens of a different sort to the more usual ones. Don’t get me wrong, burdens are often well worth bearing, as when I visit GodDaughter 2’s family in Brittany, and must bear the burdens of living in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar facilities and unfamiliar routines and with the fear of inflicting various sorts of offence and inconvenience upon everyone, with them being too polite to say. But, these are still burdens. This Christmas, as is my usual habit, I have been ensconced in my little snuggery, with no burdens at all.
I haven’t been fobbing you people off with nothing but silly old photos because I’ve been gadding about around town, catching up with friends and family and attending swanky functions. No gadding about. I’ve been fobbing you off with photos because I have been relaxing, even more than usual.
Here’s another silly photo, to wish you all a Merry Christmas. I haven’t found any Merry Christmas messages out in the streets lately, so here is a Christmassy photo that I think I took in Oxford Street, definitely in December 2008:
Which tells me that I was fascinated by Bald Blokes Taking Photos for quite a while before I had worked this out in the fully conscious part of my head. I love how green he is.
On Christmas Day itself I will not be alone, for I am to have a Christmas lunch with friends. This will bring with it the burden of having to travel across London on Christmas Day, which basically means two very long walks. (I don’t know how to Uber, since you ask. I’d rather walk.) If I come across any Merry Christmas messages while walking, and manage to photo them, I’ll pass them on.
Last Thursday I managed to insert myself into a gathering of GodDaughter 1 and her close family, in honour of her birthday. So it was GD1’s Mum and Dad and Elder Sister, and me. We met up on the South Bank, and wandered along it, to see an art exhibition, and also a jewellery show, hosted by this enterprise, at the bottom of the Oxo Tower, which GD1’s Sister had helped to set up. GD1’s Sister has herself become a jewellery maker, and apparently a rather promising one.
None of GD1’s Sister’s products were on show, alas. But I was as interested to see what the general atmosphere and attitude was, of this quite large number of jewellery makers, each with a small clutch of Little Things for us to examine. I know nothing of this world. What sort of world is it?
The main thing to say is that the value of what all these makers are making is not based on the price of the materials they are using. This is not precious metal jewellery, the real purpose of which is to navigate through financial crises. The value of these Little Things lies in the inventive way that often quite modest materials are put together.
I was curious to see if there’d be any 3D printing involved. Sure enough, one of these jewellers (Lynne Maclachlan (I love how my photos remembered her name for me, with no need for any other sort of note-taking)) is doing this:
On the left, the little collection of Lynne Maclachlan’s wares that was on show. On the right, GD1 handles one of Ms Maclachlan’s products.
Does my picture, and the way GD1’s fingers look, make that bracelet look very light? I hope so, because it is very light. Which is an important consideration with jewellery, if you want to make it other than tiny. You don’t want your ears, fingers, wrists, or neck, weighed down with things that feel more like you’ve been enslaved rather than decorated. And 3D printing can accomplish this, by making a structure that is still structurally solid, but both less bulky and more fun to look at than a solid lump.
I have long wondered about 3D printed jewellery, but there is only so much you can learn from googling. Seeing these Little Things in their proper habitat, in their appropriate commercial context, tells you a lot more. That Lynne Maclachlan has been welcomed into the sisterhood (it is mostly sisters) of jewellery makers rather than seen as any sort of threat, is, I think, very telling.
It always surprises me when people don’t take pictures of events that they themselves organise. Me included by the way. I have a friend who kindly takes photos at my events whenever he attends them, because I mostly forget to, and I’m guessing others do too. This being the kind of obvious but small error that people make when they are stressed.
Which is maybe why this IEA guy, who saw me taking photos at this IEA centenary event in honour of Arthur Seldon, last night, asked me if I could send him a few of my photos.
Here are the seven photos I will be sending him.
The first one sets the scene, but also highlights a problem, which is that these days, at speaker meetings, there is usually a bright screen, while the speaker is - or (as in this case) the speakers are - in something more like darkness:
On the left there, Martin Anderson. On the right, Patrick Minford. Take my word for it.
But I did get a few half decent shots of speakers speaking, or listening to other speakers speaking:
Top left: Peter Seldon, Arthur’s on. Top right: Richard Wellings. Bottom left: Linda Whetstone, speaking from the floor. Bottom right: Patrick Minford, again.
Finally, my two favourite photos of the night, both of Martin Anderson. And of his magnificent giant shirt:
I did attempt some crowd shots, but they didn’t come out at all well. Shame, because there was quite a crowd.
I also tried photoing the video camera and its operator. That also failed to come out right, but at least there was a video camera present, so presumably those who did not attend will be able eventually to listen in on what was actually quite an upbeat event.
You know you are getting old when instead of just attending funerals of people whom you knew, you attend celebrations of people who were born one hundred years ago, whom you also knew.
More about Seldon and his colossal impact here. There is also a photo of him there. Shame there wasn’t a photo of him on that big screen.
For me, on this night, Bonfire Night really was a bonfire night, and here is that bonfire:
There were also fireworks, in abundance. But I learned that photoing fireworks effectively is actually quite hard, if you are not used to using that snap-snap-snap-snap-snap procedure that is also used to capture sportspersons in action, so you can pick the best of five snaps rather than just hope that your one snap is good. My camera could probably do this, if only I knew how to push the right buttons. But, I don’t.
But it was great to be at this event, which took place in the grounds of this church. It reminded me a bit of the Farnborough Air Show, in that although there was a very large crowd of people present, all just standing in a big clump, nobody’s view of the excitements was impeded by any other people, because the drama was all in the sky, which we could all see quite clearly, with nobody interrupting anyone else’s view (as I explained in the final paragraph of this Farnborough Air Show posting). This fact alone made for a very convivial atmosphere. Usually crowds are rather bad tempered because the ones at the front can see whatever it is better, and the others are all fighting each other for what remains of the view. But not at the Farnborough Air Show, and not if there are fireworks, presented in the way that they were outside and above St John’s Loughton, earlier this evening.
Afterwards I and my Loughtonian host were able to buy a hot dog and a hamburger, for two quid each. Usually, “events” are an excuse to charge far too much for such things. Not there, not this evening.
No Guy, though. I would have liked a Guy.
In this earlier posting, I speculated that someone living in Roupell Street, which is near Waterloo Station, has been collecting vintage Citroen’s. This guy came upon the same Citroens as I did, in the same place, and made the same guess.
But this evening, I dined out with friends, mentioned the above posting, and was informed that the explanation for this clutch of Citroens is that there is a man who restores or repairs them, who lives or at any rate works, in that locality. Makes sense. And it means that Roupell Street may not have become quite as posh as I originally said.
The time is not far away when I will almost cease from adding to my photo-archives, and will spend most of my photo-time trawling through the archives that I already have.
And coming upon photos like this:
That’s a Big Thing alignment that you don’t see very often. It is, of course, the Wembley Arch and The Wheel. I took this shot in Eltham, quite near (I think) to Eltham Palace, on (definitely) December 23rd 2015. The posting at the end of that last link mentions this expedition, to meet up with my good friend Alastair, but the only picture it shows is a picture that Alastair himself took some weeks earlier, of the Walkie Talkie, and I never subsequently showed here any of the pictures that I took that day. The above is one of them.
However, it is typical of many of the photos I take in including things, in this case a Big Thing, that I was unaware of photoing at the time. I think I realised that I was photoing The Wheel, when I took the above photo. But I do not believe I realised at the time that I had also photoed the Wembley Arch. For this reason, the picture above zeroes in on this alignment. But if you click on it, you get the original photo that I took, where the above alignment is only one of many potentially interesting things.
The Wembley Arch often surprises me like this. It’s like one of those idiots who deliberately pops up behind TV sports reporters, except not idiotic or deliberate. It is very big. And it is quite a way away from the centre of London, in a rather confusing direction. So it has a habit of suddenly looming up in the background of the photos I take, even though, not knowing exactly where it is, I am seldom trying to photo it. Unless of course I actually see it, which I typically don’t. Until I look at my photos. (E.g. the final photo in this posting earlier this week, about what I saw from Epsom. From Epsom, the Wembley Arch is way off to the left of London Big Things.)
Earlier today, underneath the Wembley Arch, the Rugby League Grand Challenge Cup Final took place. Hull FC came from behind to defeat Warrington.
I spent today (a) fretting that my meeting this evening at my home might not be a very good meeting (on account of me not managing to persuade enough people to attend it), (b) having the meeting, and then (c) being pleased that it was a very good meeting. Thank you Nico Metten, the speaker.
I forgot, as usual, to take any photos of the meeting, so here is something (chosen because Friday is my day here for cats (and other creatures)) I photoed earlier:
I was in horse country earlier in the week, but only saw an electric horse. That real horse (with cart) was photoed in the vicinity of South Bermondsey railway station, just over a month ago.
Friday is my day for cats and other creatures. The other creatures have already been alluded to. Now for the cats.
Last Sunday I visited GodDaughter 1’s parents and my friends, Gus and Mrs Gus. Gus, Mrs Gus and I visited their allotment, to collect our supper and to do some watering. Well, they collected our supper and did watering. I took photos. Like these two. On the left, Gus, and on the right some flowers? What sort of flowers? Yellow flowers.
And, I photoed cats.
The first cat I photoed lived in a house with a fence bordering on the allotments, through which it observed me, and then came closer, to investigate,while always being ready to retreat if I made any sudden moves:
That final picture is of the cat after he had gone back home, photoed with maximum zoom. But, he was still staring warily at me, just in case I did anything dangerous.
And the other cat I photoed was a handsome black and white cat, like the one my family had when I was a kid. He is apparently a regular visitor to the allotments, which is one of his favourite toilets, so I was told.
This time there was no fence to hide behind, so my zoom was in constant use.
As I said yesterday, much socialising this week. Another do tonight, and yesterday, another visit with Darren to the Oval.
One of the advantages of my White Van fetish is that whenever I am waiting to meet someone in London, I can pass the time by photoing White Vans, of which there are invariably some and often many. So, while I waited to meet Darren, I photoed White Vans, and also a couple of not-so-White ones.
Before elaborating on the vans let me be clear that Darren was not late. He was spot on time. I was early. The trip to the Oval is not a totally familiar one for me, so I made sure I was not late by being early. Hence these vans.
Pride of place goes to the first van, light green in colour, decorated with the regalia of the Surrey County Cricket Club. I spotted this vehicle as I was making my way towards the Hobbs Gate, where we were due to meet. It was parked under one of the Oval’s huge stands. All the other vans were photoed outside the aforementioned Gate.
By the way, I love what I found when I followed the above link, to the Cricinfo Hobbs profile:
Jack Hobbs was cricket’s most prolific batsman. He finished with 61,237 first-class runs and 197 centuries, most of them stylishly made from the top of the Surrey or England batting orders. And he might have scored many more had the Great War not intervened, or if he hadn’t been inclined to get out shortly after reaching 100 to let someone else have a go.
Anyway, here are the vans:
1.1: The Surrey CCC van, as related above.
1.2: The first of two snaps with a bike angle. But, bicycle recovery? This van is for collecting bikes to mend, but not, alas, for recovering bikes that have been stolen. The bits where it says “We fix bikes” have, for me, an air of clarificatory honesty about them. Like they were added to lower falsely aroused expectations of daring do against the criminal classes.
1.3: This one I especially like, because I like White Vans and I like signs (by which I mean: I like to notice them). And here is an example of the former devoted to the latter. Note in particular: “Health & Safety Signage”. A big growth area in recent years.
2.1: I think this is my favourite one, of these. Usually, what I like about the White Vans I photo is the profusion of information that they supply. But in this case it’s the lack of information that made me smile. VOITH? Like: Everyone knows what VOITH is! But not me. Turns out it’s an enterprise that makes stuff for cars. When it says it “builds its partnership with Vauxhall”, this doesn’t mean with Vauxhall the place (which is very near to where I was standing when I took the photo), but rather with Vauxhall the car making enterprise.
2.2: A black van, devoted to cleaning. Very wise. One of the problems with White Vans is how dirty they can look, if only slightly dirty. And if you are a cleaning enterprise – and especially if you are a fantastic cleaning enterprise - you don’t want your vans looking dirty.
That’s enough vans.
Last weekend and all through this week, despite still not being totally well, I have been doing lots of socialising. I now face more. This Friday I have a meeting at my own home (Michael Jennings speaking about Australia). Today, my cricket buddy Darren and I are going to see Surrey v Gloucs at the Oval. Plus, The Guru and I are, in the midst of all this, trying to fix a visit by him to see to my big old home computer ("Dawkins" is the name I think I gave it), in time to beat the Windows 10 For Free deadline, which I think is on Friday also. So, blogging here during the next few days may be more perfunctory than usual. It may not, but it may.
On the other hand, blogging doesn’t need to take that long, and while doing this apology-for-not=blogging posting, I also concocted another blog posting. See below.
This is why I make a point of promising nothing, so very frequently. Once I have promised nothing, my immediate inclination is to break that promise. Whereas, if I promise something, that is all too likely to be the promise that will get broken.
I’ve been suffering from something a lot like hay fever. Yesterday, the doctor gave me some anti-hay-fever spray to spray it with, up my nose, which I hate. My symptoms are: aches and pains that wander around all over the left side of my head. I knew you’d be excited.
But, from the same doctor who wants me to spray chemical effluent up my nose I learned that if you get something stuck in your throat, which is what set all this off, they recommend: coca cola. I did not know that. So last night, when I went out for drinks, someone offered me a drink, and I though, no I’ve had enough (what with the headaches and so forth), but then I thought: yes, get me a coca cola. Apparently it clears out stuff in your throat by dissolving it. How come it doesn’t dissolve your entire mouth? (Maybe it does.) But whatever, it felt like it worked, and I’m drinking more coke now.
Last night, at that drinks gathering, I heard something else diverting.
We were having a coolness competition. What’s the coolest thing you’ve done lately? That kind of thing. I contributed the fact that my niece is about to become the published author of a work of crime fiction, which is not bad, and which I will surely be saying more about when this book materialises. It will be published by a real publisher, with an office in London and a name you’ve heard of, which intends to make money from the book and thinks it might. More about that when I get to read it. I usually promise nothing but I do promise that, here or somewhere I’ll link to from here. It would be a lot cooler if it was me who had accomplished this myself, but it is pretty cool even from a moderately close relative.
But another friend from way back whom I hadn’t seen for years trumped this, with something which in my opinion made him the winner, not least because he did the thing in question himself.
Remember the Concorde crash in Paris, back whenever it was, just before 9/11. And remember how the other Concordes all got grounded for ever after that crash. What you may not recall quite so clearly is that the other Concordes were not grounded for ever immediately after the crash. That only happened a few weeks later. And my friend told us that he took a trip on Concorde, on the day after the Concorde crash. How cool is that? Very, I would say. There were many cancellations, apparently, but he was made of sterner stuff, which is all part of what made it so cool.
I know, a bit of a ramble. It comes of me being somewhat ill. Illnesses can be cool, I suppose. But this one, which is just uncomfortable enough to be uncomfortable, but which hasn’t actually stopped me from doing things, merely from doing them energetically and enthusiastically, definitely isn’t cool.
On Tuesday of this week I did a posting about the view from Docklands ten years ago, which featured a shot of central London taken from one of the Docklands towers. While concocting that posting, I of course looked at other pictures taken from the same spot, on that same photo-expedition. Here is one of those other pictures:
What got my attention in this snap was those bits of stuff, floating on those two flat, floating box/barges? Let’s take a closer look:
Could that perchance be some kind of footbridge? Yes it most definitely could.
Googling “docklands footbridge” and clicking on images soon got me to the bridge that these bits subsequently turned into. It’s the South Quay Footbridge, which is just round the corner from where I snapped its bits. I’ve probably got shots of this bridge that I subsequently took myself, but here are a couple that I quickly found on the www:
On the left is a photo of this bridge that I found at the WilkinsonEyre website, WilkinsonEyre being the guys who designed it. On the right is another shot (which I found here) of the same bridge. Less dramatic, and in a way that wrongly suggests that it is a railway bridge, but making it clear beyond doubt (with its particular view the sticking up bit of the bridge) that this is definitely the bridge I was looking for.
What all this illustrates is that the pictures I take of London contain far more information that I can possibly hope to process straight away. I later spot things. In this particular case, I spot things ten years later.
I definitely intend to seek out this particular bridge and take some photos of it for myself. It’s not a bridge style that I especially care for, with its ungainly non-vertical spike, but I guess it makes quite a bit of structural sense. Maybe I can find an angle that makes it look really good, as some of the other WilkinsonEyre pictures also do, I think.
And while I’m about it, here are some more footbridges, already in place ten years ago, for me to check out:
Finally, my thanks to Michael Jennings for contriving to take me to the top of this tower, which he was able to do because at the time, as I recall, he was working in another part of it.
I’ll end this posting with one of my favourite pictures of Michael, taken on that very same day and in that very same spot, as he looks out across East London – the Victoria Docks, City Airport and beyond – in a pose that suggests that he personally owns at least half of what he is looking at:
Sadly, not. But I still like the picture, which I think is very Ayn Rand heroic.
More pictures of Michael in this posting today at Samizdata.