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
- My camera can see through a Ryanairplane window better than I can
- Using your crane to protect your cement mixer
- The view from the roof
- A souvenir screen capture
- Second childhood
- New Tricks is popular because it is full of old people and it is mostly old people who watch telly
- White vans are becoming very informative
- My latest meeting went fine
- Pizza Express bus
- The difference between roof clutter and roof clutter
- Another photo for the traffic lights countdown set
- Centre Point through the new station entrance
- My next last Friday meeting: Patrick Crozier on the political consequences of WW1
- Keeping up appearances next to Centre Point
- A model of London now opening to the public
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Category archive: My photographs
I went Ryanair to Perpignan to get here. I made a point of booking a window seat, but tragically, the wing was centre stage, thus:
I choose that photo to show you what sort of window my window seat was next to. There are nice, clean, easy-to-see-through windows, and there are Ryanairplane windows. So, I didn’t attempt many photos on my journey.
But as we approached Perpignan airport, from the sea, which involved the Ryanairplane obligingly taking a sharp right turn and lowering its wing out of the way, with the snowcapped Pyrenees way out in the distance, I had to at least try:
That being what I finally saw, after I managed to persuade the Thuirian computer that I am now laboriously using, to show it.
I am in the town of Thuir, near Perpignan, for a few days. Last night, in fading but still fabulous light, looking more amusing sights. I was not disappointed.
I’m guessing that the thinking here is that nicking a crane, or even getting inside a crane, is quite an operation, what with cranes being rigged so they’re unenterable if you are not the designated owner. But, nicking a cement mixer is just a matter of lifting it onto your vehicle. So, here is how you protect your cement mixer when you go home at night:
Cranes. Is there anything they can’t do?
Typing text is a struggle in Thuir, because in Thuir, they have slightly different keyboards to what I am used to. But photos, which in Thuir need different software to work, are also a struggle. So, blogging here for the next few days will probably (I promise nothing), as always here, be light and perfunctory, the difference being that here I have an excuse.
Imqgine what it would be like to be able to see this from the top of your house:
I don’t have to imagine this. I am doing it now.
Having had no sleep at all last night, I am in no state to say much more. What I can tell you is that those are the Pyrenees.
Indeed. Photoed by me yesterday afternoon:
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.
Yes, it’s a bus, totally covered in an advert:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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”
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:
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.
Indeed. Photoed by me next to Centre Point, this afternoon:
Another London facade which is nice but not totally wondrous is being carefully preserved, so that modernity can in due course be erected behind it. This time I photoed it from behind.
I have been assuming that this is a purely aesthetic thing. Done like this to get planning permission. But someone (I do not recall who) recently told me that if you preserve a facade you don’t have to get planning permission for whatever you put behind it. But, if you allow the facade to disappear, then you do have to get planning permission, even if what you subsequently do is re-erect the original facade.
Can anyone confirm or deny this?
Note that dash of Renzo Pianistic colour there.
Circumstances had placed me at the Angel Tube. My business was concluded and the weather was wondrous. So, where to next? There is a canal near there, but I didn’t fancy another canal walk, so instead I just walked along whatever road presented itself to me, in the general direction of the Big Things of the City (one of them (the Heron Tower) having been turned blazing gold by the early evening sun). The road turned out to be Goswell Road. A place of slightly down-at-heal struggle, where you felt that for some, the struggle wasn’t worth it, but for others, maybe. That kind of in-between sort of a place. Not as affluent as you’d expect for something that close to the City, but trundling along as best it could. Big, shabby-modern university buildings. Building sites. Ethnic shops.
And then in amongst all this middlingness, a glimpse through what looked like a shop window, into a world of money-no-object designer gloss and nouveau riche ostentation. What is all this stuff?
It all looked rather Zaha Hadid, especially this shiny but strange object, presumably for sitting on:
And hey, look, there’s a picture of Zaha Hadid. This is obviously a place that takes Zaha Hadid pretty seriously, and is very saddened by her recent death:
Zaha Hadid, I should explain, is the world-renowned starchitect and designer, who recently died at the shockingly young age of 65. When a starchitect dies at 65, that’s like a rock star dying at 22. At 65, starchitects, rather like classical conductors, are just getting started. The thing is, starchitects need power, and their target demographic is old decision-makers, so they tend to be old too.
What was this rather strange place? I stepped back to see if there was any clue on the outside.
Here was a clue:
Good grief. This is an actual Zaha Hadid place of work.
I crossed the road, to photo the whole thing:
To be more exact, this is not the one place where Hadid and all her underlings did everything. This is the Zaha Hadid Design Gallery, which opened in 2013 (I now learn), which would perhaps have been open for me to walk into had I encountered it earlier in the day. The place displays many of Hadid’s numerous designs for Small Things, like furniture, lamps, sculptures, jewellery, paintings, and suchlike.
Considering what a wacky designer Hadid was, that’s a surprisingly prosaic building, isn’t it? I’m guessing that it was not built specifically with her in mind, but was adapted.
So, no wonder that this place now contains memorials to Zaha Hadid, like this:
There is some reflection of the outside in this next snap, but it gives you an idea of what the place as a whole is like, and what kind of stuff is in it:
Frankly, for me, all this indoor small stuff does not show Hadid at her very best. For that, I think, you have to go outside.
Her only building in London so far is the Aquatics Centre, which I photoed, very hastily, when I visited the top of the Big Olympic Thing. Had I know then that Zaha Hadid had been about to die, I would have taken more photos of this building, and more carefully:
I would, for instance, have placed it in a gap in that safety netting, rather than just randomly. Another time.
But notice that even in that casual photo, the beauty, I think, of the building still asserts itself. It’s like a sports helmet, of the sort worn by cyclists, and by some cricketers.
Even more remarkable is this amazing ancient-modern juxtaposition:
This is now, apparently, nearing completion. It might be worth a trip to Antwerp, just to see it.
Zaha Hadid’s underlings are going to try to keep the Zaha Hadid enterprise going, at least the architectural bit. Good luck people, but you’re surely going to need it.
The rumour I heard is that Hadid was “difficult” to work for. Maybe this was just an example of that law that says that bossy men are masterful, but bossy women are bossy. But maybe she really was difficult to work for. If so, this difficulty looks like it was all of a piece with the sorts of designs she created.
The thing is, Hadid was not some logical, everything-has-a-reason systematic, machines-for-living in, presider over a system of architectural problem solving. She was the kind of architect who unleashed drama, excitement, at vast extra expense, if what you’re comparing it all with is a big rectangular box. You only have to look at her stuff to see that any logic involved is just an excuse for a cool looking design. Why does it look that way? Because I, Zaha Hadid, say so, and I’m the boss, that’s why. I make beautiful shapes. Other people like them and buy them. Deal with it.
That’s going to be a hard act to replace.
As regulars here know, I am fascinated by unusual vehicles, and by almost all commercial vehicles. Whereas cars tend to be reticent about making any sort of personal statement, commercial vehicles have to communicate. They have to radiate an atmosphere. They have to dress themselves like they’re going on the pull in a nightclub. Well, they don’t have to. But most commercial vehicles are an opportunity to do marketing, so why turn it down? And these vehicles consequently radiate as many different atmospheres as there are commercial purposes being pursued in and with them.
Here are a couple of vans I spied today:
Both are somewhat self-conscious, I think. There is a lack of earnestness here, a certain ironic distance, a certain slightly bogus artifice, not to say Art, involved.
But, all part of what makes wandering about in London such an endlessly entertaining pastime.
Sausage Man website here. I tried googling “Oliver London”, but all I got was a lot of stuff about a stage musical. The small tricycle van looks oriental to me, and that its presence outside an oriental restaurant is not coincidental.
People talk about how “nothing says London” quite like … and then they say something that happens quite a lot in London or gets eaten quite a lot in London, or some such very London thing, assuming you already know that that’s what it is.
I contend that nothing says London quite like a big sign, saying “LONDON”. With that, there’s no ambiguity.
Here is a LONDON sign – well, more like a painting – that I photoed in Goswell Road late this afternoon:
That particular sign saying LONDON is a bit cleverer than your usual LONDON sign. The more usual sort of sign saying LONDON would say LONDON even more clearly, by just saying LONDON.
A bit more seriously, I’m surprised you don’t see that particular game played with the letters of the word LONDON more often.
Goswell Road is not a familiar place for me, in fact I don’t believe I’ve ever walked along it before. It’s all rather arty and designy, in an urban decay kind of way. That big LONDON sign has a definite Pop Art feel to it. Unlike the sign saying CAR PARK. Arty signs and car parks both being what you do when an urban site becomes temporarily vacant. The usual rules about what is proper don’t apply.
The weekend before last, just before getting ill, I attended a christening, at St James’s Piccadilly. Outside St James’s, I encountered two ducks, who seemed very much at home, and I’m assuming that this is their home. There was a small pond, which I’m guessing was theirs:
And on the right, the day’s other happy couple, showing off their newly christened daughter. Her name is not “Liberty”, but Mum and Dad are libertarians. Congratulations to Ayumi and to Richard, and to their daughter. A very good way to make more libertarians is to give birth to them and then raise them as libertarians. But a very happy day, whatever she decides to make of herself.
And I was deliberately retracing steps I used to do make a lot of around eight or ten years ago, to see what had changed and what had not. A lot had changed, in the form of a few big new buildings. The rest had not changed.
Did I say that that sunset I recently posted photos of was last Saturday? Yes. Actually it was the Friday. Get ill and you lose track of time. That evening I also took a lot of other photos, on and from the south bank of the river, between Blackfriars road bridge and Tower Bridge, and here are some of the ones I particularly liked:
That array of small photos (click on any you like to the look of to get it a decent size) really should not now be misbehaving, on any platform. If it is, please get in touch, by comment or by email.
As to the pictures themselves:
1.1 A Deliberately Bald Bloke standing at the bottom of 240 Blackfriars. (You can see the top of 240 Blackfriars in 3.1 here.) That Deliberately Bald look is, I think, fair game photo-blogging-wise. The guy is choosing to look this way. It’s a fashion statement, not an affliction. Blog-mocking the involuntarily bald is not right, but blog-celebrating those who embrace their baldness is fine. Especially if the guy obligingly turns his face away.
1.2 is one of my favourite weird London sites, namely the topless columns of the Blackfriars Bridge that isn’t, in between the two Blackfriars Bridges that are, the one on the right now sporting a new station on it. The twist is that this was high tide, and waves were rhythmically breaking against a corner in the river wall and filling the air between my camera and the bridges with bits of water.
1.3 is a building on the other side of the river. Just beyond the Blackfriars Station bridge. I do love what light and scaffolding and scaffolding covers sometimes do.
1.4 and 2.1 illustrate the universal photography rule to the effect that if you want to photo something very familiar, like St Paul’s Cathedral, you’d better include something else not so familiar, such as some propaganda for a current Tate Modern show that I will perhaps investigate soon, or maybe four big circles that you can see at the Tate Modern end of the Millennium Bridge.
2.2 is an ancient and modern snap, both elements of which I keep meaning to investigate. Those two buildings, the office block and the church, are like two people I frequently meet, but don’t know the names of. Luckily, with buildings, it’s not embarrassing to ask, far too late.
I know what that Big Thing behind the Millennium Bridge in 2.3 is, under wraps, being reconditioned, improved, made worse, whatever, we’ll have to see. That’s Centre Point. It even says most of that on it. I have always been fond of Centre Point, one of London’s early Big New Things.
2.4 features something I have tried and failed to photo several times previously, a Deliveroo Man. Deliveroo Men are usually in a great hurry and are gone before I can catch them, but this one was taking a breather. Deliveroo Men carry their plasticated corrugated boxes on their backs like rucksacks, which I presume saves valuable seconds.
3.1: Another ancient/modern snap. The very recognisable top of the Shard, and another piece of ancientness that I am familiar with but have yet to get around to identifying, see above. I reallyl should have photoed a sign about it. I bet there is one.
3.2: The golden top of the Monument, now dwarfed by the Gherkin and by the Walkie Talkie.
3.3: A golden hinde, which is to be found at the front of the Golden Hinde. I’ve seen that beast before, but never really noticed it.
3.4: Another ancient/modern snap, this time with Southwark Cathedral dominating the foreground. The combined effect yet again vindicates Renzo Piano’s belief that the Shard would blend into London rather than just crow all over it. Those broken fragments at the top echo the four spikes on the nearby Cathedral. It looks that way to me, anyway.
4.1: Another delivery snap, this time of the old school sort. A White Van. But with lots of propaganda all over it, notably the back door, in the new school style.
4.2: Yet another ancient modern contrast, this time the Monument, again, with a machine for window cleaning. Note that small tripoddy object on the top of the Monument. I suspect that this is to give advance warning if the Monument starts to wobble.
4.3: Two exercises in power projection, now both lapsed into tourist traps. Behind, the Tower of London. In front, HMS Belfast.
4.4: Finally! Modern/modern! The Walkie Talkie and the Cheesegrater, and probably my favourite snap of all these. Not a view you often see in other photos, but there it was. Should the bottom be cropped away, to simplify it even more. I prefer to leave photos as taken.
5.1 shows that thing when reflected light is the exact same colour when reflected as originally. Photography is light, so photography sees this. But eyes always try to create a 3D model of what is going on, rather than just a 2D picture. Eyes deliberately don’t see this.
5.2 and 5.4 take me back to my beautiful-women-taking-photos phase, which was big last decade. These two were too good to ignore. They were just so happy! But, mobile phones, which is very this decade. Just like my cameras, the cameras in these just get better and better.
5.3 is another view of that amazing cluster of footbridges.
Pyjama bottoms have a way of disintegrating. And just lately I have been having other problems (I will say no more than that) with pyjama bottoms. The night before last I had to wear short pants in bed, like an American sitcom actor just after having had sex, and last night I cranked up the hot water bottle. It’s amazing what a difference just swapping proper length pyjama bottoms for the same thing but with no legs.
So the question was: laundrette, or Primark. Wash the two remaining pyjama bottoms, one of which had gone missing, or: buy some more pyjamas at Primark. I couldn’t face laundretting, so Primark it was. Earlier this evening, I staggered forth to Oxford Street.
In the tube on the way, I grumbled to myself about how I would be obliged to purchase yet more pyjama tops, to add to the already absurd number of such garments that I already possess.
Instead I encountered this:
A pair of pyjama bottoms, as in two pyjama bottoms, and no pyjama tops. I bought two large (L) and two extra large (XL). The XL ones fit fine and I am wearing one of them now. Extra large my arse! Well, apparently so.
I feared that the merely large ones would be far too tight, but they’re okay. I’m now wearing one of them. A bit tight but okay, and the good news is that elastic expands when you wash it.
And all this for just twenty quid. And no, I don’t feel bad about the terrible wages paid to the people who make such garments. I remember winning this stupid argument way back in the seventies, when I was accused of keeping Hong Kongians poor by buying their cheap stuff. What I was actually doing, as I knew at the time, was making them rich (which they now are), by bidding up the price of their labour. And now I’m doing it again.
I tried to find these garments on the internet, but failed. So I just did a photo.
Modern life is good in so many ways, but I really did not see this particular item of goodness coming.
I’ll add that the new Primark at the Centre Point end of Oxford Street, which I was sampling for the first time, was agreeably uncrowded, and generally less of a mad down-market scrimmage than the one near Marble Arch, at least whenever I’ve been there.
The above link gets you to a place that says it isn’t open yet, but it was open enough when I visited. Maybe the fact that it was open but not yet Open explains why it was so quiet. Maybe when these places officially Open, pandemonium rules from then on.