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: My photographs

Saturday December 16 2017

My camera is pretty good, but it isn’t ideal for me.  I only use a bit of it at all regularly, the automatic bit.  So if, on a rainy day, I push, by mistake, some stupid knob on it that tells it to stop being automatic, it stops being automatic.  And, the automatic focussing refuses to work the way it should.  That’s what happened when I thought it had conked out.  It’s fine.  It was simply obeying orders.

I tried photoing the relevant knobs, first with mirrors and then with my mobile, but the results of all that were a blurry mess.  Have you ever tried getting a camera to photo its own arse?  And photoing with my mobile is something I need daylight to do half decently.

I got a much better picture of the back of my camera by going to this.

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In particular, I draw your attention to this bit:

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The knob with AF/AE LOCK on it needs to be pointing at AFS/AFF, and absolutely not at MF.  MF means, I presume, Manual Focus.  AF means automatic focus.  S and the other F mean whatever they mean.

The problem arose when, in the rain and needing to possess three hands, one to hold my bag and two to operate my camera properly, I try to look at the photo I just took.  That involves pressing the button with the green arrow on it.  To get back to photoing, press DISP.  But, what with all the rain and the confusion and only having one hand to both hold the camera and press the knobs on it, I accidentally pushed the AF/AE LOCK knob, and got it pointing at MF.  By mistake.  I’m guessing this would be why the AF/AE LOCK button includes the word “LOCK”.  And this works a treat.  I know this now.

Anyway, the upshot (metaphorically speaking) of all this is that my camera went from photos like this, just before I met up with GD2 the day before yesterday ...:

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… to this, not long after that, after the knob disaster had occurred …:

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… and then back to this:

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… when I met up with a friend yesterday, in: Hither Green.

So, panic over.

It’s an odd feeling, partially the feeling of massive relief that I won’t have to spend Christmas trying to turn whatever guarantee came with my camera into another camera, and partially the feeling that I am an idiot and that I should pay more attention to the knobs on my camera.  Delight and embarrassment all mixed up together.

This is what Americans would call a “learning experience”, and although often all that this means is “total cock-up”, in this particular case they would be right.

Thursday December 14 2017

My camera has conked out.  The autofocussing is refusing to autofocus.  Which is nasty.  And even nastier given that I only found out about this when I was trying, with it, to take photos, this afternoon, like this one:

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That’s from the top of Primrose Hill, as photoed by my mobile phone, which is a Google Nexus 4.  That one wasn’t too bad, but most of the phone-photos I phone-photoed with this annoying gadget, truly good only for telling me where I am and how soon I will reach my tube destination and what the cricket scores are, were rubbish.

Here is one of the few other good ones, taken from one of the bridges over the Regent’s Canal:

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That red boat is the Feng Shang Princess.

GodDaughter 2 was with me.  Since I couldn’t take lots of photos, there was nothing for it, I had to make do with talking to her.  And also listening to her.  Which worked out quite well.

Sunday December 10 2017

There are two places in London where I regularly encounter antique cars, in other words the sort of cars that were new at the time when I was a new human being.  One of these places is Lower Marsh, where there are regular convocations of such cars, which I have regularly bumped into when shopping at Gramex for second hand CDs, which was until very recently in Lower Marsh.

And the other place where antique cars can often been seen is outside the Regency Cafe, which is about two minutes walk away from where I live.  Antique cars congregate there in order to contribute to television shows or films set in olden times, the self-consciously dated Regency Cafe being a regular location for such dramas.

I recall being rather surprised to encounter these two ancient Austins were doing, even nearer to where I live than the Regency Cafe, in the summer of 2013.  What are they do?  Answer: they had been or about to be performing outside the Regency Cafe.  Enjoy:

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I am meeting someone tomorrow morning at the Regency Cafe.  I haven’t actually used this place very often, other than to photo old cars and showbiz activity outside it, but I think I will eat in it rather more in the future.

Saturday December 09 2017

Yesterday’s panda posting had all the appearance of a quota panda posting.  But it wasn’t because there’d already been a posting earlier.  Who could forget those Thameslink Seats?

But this really is a quota posting.  It features a photo of plants in summer (the summer of 2012 as it happens) that are pretending to be a trees in winter, by having branches but no leaves.  That means you can see through them to the Big Things in the distance:

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That wasn’t in the I Just Like It directory, but it could have been, because I do really like it.  The view is looking back across Victoria Park, which is out east, the other side of those Big Things from me.  The Big Things are way out of focus but still clearly recognisable, which is just what you want from Big Things.  The rule is: a photo is fine if something in it is in focus, like these plants.  If everything is out of focus, well, that’s a problem.  But even that can sometimes be quite good.

In a few years from now, that view will look very different, with several more really big Big Things, two in particular, now at various points in the pipeline.

Friday December 08 2017

Seeing a how this is Friday, and Friday is my day here for cats and other creatures, I don’t want to just leave it at train seats.  I have an Other Creature to show to you, that I photoed earlier this evening.  This was at Victoria Station, so this is also train related.

The Other Creature was, I am almost certain, a panda:

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A few moments after the moment captured above, I actually asked this guy if he’d object to me photoing his panda. I said “bear”, but it didn’t matter.  Not him, I said, just the bear.  He was fine with this, so I took another photo, of the panda.  But the above photo was better, if only because in it, the railway connection is better communicated.

And yes, the panda has stars in its eyes.  How about that?

My journey to St Albans yesterday began rather inauspiciously.  I was changing at St Pancras International, and I had hoped that I might get the chance to view the International bit, with its wide open spaces, Eurostar trains and its mighty roof.  But all I did was follow the signs to “Platform B”, and that weary plod might has well have been at Green Park or Oxford Circus, for all the wide-open-spaced drama there was to be seen.  And then when I was on the train, the scene outside was grim, grey and wet.

But then, I noticed the seats.  The surprising thing about these was that instead of resting on the floor of the carriage, they were attached to the walls of the carriage, leaving the floor entirely unencumbered.  They hovered over that floor with very little visible means of support:

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Here are two closer-ups, showing the diagonal compression member that was doing all the worke:

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It looked crazy, but it felt as solid as a rock.  Solider in fact, when you consider the state of a lot of rocks you encounter on your travels.

What I think I see here is not so much a design for a railway carriage, as a design of a system for making railway carriages, just the way you want them.  And for changing them, if you suddenly decide you want them to be different.  If you wanted to redo the seating on these carriages, all you would do is undo the linear compartment at the point where the wall of the carriage nears the floor of the carriage, and make whatever changes you want.  Different seats, differently spaced, whatever.  The floor is untouched.  If you want to change the surface of the floor, easy.  When it comes to cleaning the floor, also easy.

I have a nostalgic fondness for the railway carriages of my youth, with their absurdly thick, manually operated doors, that you had to slam shut, and which all had to be shut before the train could depart.  But whereas I genuinely like old cars, I cannot really mourn those old carriages.  These new ones are just so much better.  For starters, they are wider on the inside by about two feet, because the walls are so much thinner and because these walls curve outwards.

I also like how the latest carriages join together in a way that allows people to walk continuously through, thereby easing congestion at busy times.  Here’s a rather good photo from Wikipedia which shows that.  According to Wikipedia there have been complaints about there being too little leg room between the seats, and no miniature fold-down tables.

They have their reasons for imposing such discomforts.  Basically, they want to enable the maximum number of commuters to be able to travel in okay comfort, rather than allow a lesser number of commuters to travel in greater comfort.  Which makes sense.

My point is different.  My point is that if it is later decided, perhaps in response to such grumbles, to switch to having slightly more generously spaced seats, with little fold-down tables, this would be a relatively easy operation to unleash.  Newly introduced carriages could be differently configured with great ease, without needing a totally new design.

There is much to complain about in the modern world, but stuff like this just gets cleverer and cleverer.

Thursday December 07 2017

Indeed:

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Opened in 2013.  Still very much open 2017:

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Photos by me this afternoon, in St Albans.  Thanks to Darren and family for the hospitality.

LATER: Another blast from the past:

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I remember liking that one a lot.

Sunday December 03 2017

I knew this would happen.  Ever since I noticed those leaning tower cranes of London, which looked like they might be about to collapse through the unbalanced weight at the top of them, I knew that as I wandered through my photo-archives I’d find more such pairs of leaning tower cranes, leaning in opposite directions to each other, and looking like they should have collapsed and caused a flurry of shocked news reports, but which never actually did that.

And I just did:

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Taken from the top of the Monument, on the same day as the photo below of the Walkie-Talkie.

At the time, all I thought I was photoing was a nice sunset and some nice cranes, posing nicely in front of The Wheel.  But those two cranes on the right there seem to be in that same state of strong disagreement about what exactly vertical is, and for the same reason.

Yet, if either of those cranes had collapsed, late on in the year 2012, I am sure that we would have heard about it, and that I would have remembered it.  Clearly, they did not collapse.  They were just leaning over a bit.

All those cranes that we see were working on, among other buildings, two rather striking buildings that are now finished.  I’m talking about the two stumps now blocking the view of the Shell Building.  There is, on the right, in between the two leaning cranes discussed above, 240 Blackfriars.  And to the left of 240 Blackfriars, as we look, the innards of the Tate Modern Extension, from which further lovely views out over lovely London were to materialise.

Saturday December 02 2017

Indeed.  I was going through the I Just Like It file, and came across two, independently selected, which make a nice pair.

First, taken in November 2012, the Walkie-Talkie while still under construction, viewed from the top of the Monument:

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And second, taken in January 2016, the Monument now just about visible in the scrimmage of smaller London

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The Walkie-Talkie looks very big from the top of the Monument.

The Monument looks very small from the top of the Walkie-Talkie.

And while we’re about it, here is another photo that links these two buildings.  Taken on that same day in November 2012, back on the ground, with a little sign on the right there, saying “Pudding Lane”. 

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The Monument remembers those who died in the Great Fire of London of 1666.  Pudding Lane, or so I was always told, was where that fire started.

Also, three days after taking that photo of the Monument from above, above, I took this photo of the Monument from below, along with another sign, this time a temporary sign telling me how to get to the Monument:

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The way to get to the Monument was not, it would seem, the obvious way to get to the Monument.

Friday December 01 2017

Last Saturday, a friend invited me to share some gin at The Star.  We also each had a pie, with red wine in it.  Delicious.

The Star is quite near to the junction of Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road, and has a great slab of Crossrail turmoil right slap against it, which has turned the formerly busy Great Chappell Street into a poky little footway, and has for a year or three now destroyed all possibility of passing trade to The Star.  So, The Star has switched to invites and events.  It hasn’t now even got a sign on over its front door.  Where there once was and still ought to be a sign, there is, for the time being anyway, only blank blackness:

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But inside, things liven up considerably, in particular with an enjoyably ironic display of antique signage:

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This next one, also visible above in the general display, being a particular collector’s item, which explains why I waited until today (Friday is Cats and Other Creatures Day here at BMdotcom) before displaying it here:

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That wouldn’t be allowed now, any more than all the tobacco adverts would be.

imageAnd since this is a Cats and Other Creatures Day, there on the right is an advert for another product from the same enterprise.  If the product had been made of budgies and canaries, I’m sure the pussies would have loved it.

We got there on the dot at 1pm, opening time, and were the first there, hence those empty tables to be seen above.  But the place was soon buzzing with happy gin drinkers.

An earlier posting, featuring a photo I took just before I got to The Star, was also naughty, in a different way.  It’s interesting what naughtiness is now and is not now allowed.

Wednesday November 29 2017

Yes, those horses brought it all back.  My journey out to exotic Tilbury, and its cranes, in the late September of 2013, and then walking along the north bank of the Thames Estuary towards the even mightier cranes of London Gateway.

As often happens on these expeditions, one of the most interesting things I encountered that day was right at the start of my wanderings, in little old Tilbury itself, on a footbridge, over the railway, before I had even got to the Estuary.

When I arrived at Tilbury, I could already see that there were cranes, and that there was a footbridge joining the platforms.  In order to photo the former, I ascended the latter, and got photos like this:

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Then I had a wander around Tilbury, and photoed weird stuff like this:

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That antenna looks like part of an insect, doesn’t it?  Well, I told you I occasionally like to attempt wildlife photography.

And then I decided that I needed to make use of another footbridge, a little further along the railway line, to get me onto the Estuary side of the line, so that I could get stuck into the real business of the day.

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It doesn’t look much, does it?  Just a footbridge.

But then, it started to look a bit interesting:  What are those faces, over on the other side there, not on the bridge itself, but on the approach to it, on the other side?  Graffiti, by the look of things.  But what sort of graffiti?

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I walked up the ramp onto the bridge, and on the actual bridge bit of the bridge, there was indeed graffiti.  Plenty of it.  But not graffiti that was in any way out of the ordinary.  It was the usual sort of graffiti, graffiti that says: We own this place, hee hee hee.  At night anway, when normal people are asleep and not looking.  Graffiti that says: You don’t know what this means, hee hee hee.  Graffiti that says, to me anyway: Yes, my life is going to be a pathetic failure, but it’s going to be the fault of the world and how horrible it’s been to me, rather than being in any way my pathetic fault, boo hoo hoo.  I grow increasingly irritated by this kind of stuff, which of course is one of its purposes, to irritate old geezers like me:

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Besides which, there are probably art galleries queueing up to get this guy to do his boring stuff indoors, to epater the bourgeousie in the approved art gallery manner and get a write-up in the Guardian.  So maybe this gink will make something of himself after all.  Maybe he already has.  Maybe his day job is doing the accounts for the Tilbury Town Council.

Whatever, so far so boring.

But then, something interesting started happening.  The Gink, or someone, had decided to insert a different psychological attitude into what was going on.  And the Gink, either because he personally wanted to or because someone else had taken him to one side and sat him down, and told him to change his tune, switched from the usual graffitied bafflingness to something clearer, and with a very different psychological vibe to it.  The Metacontext, as Samizdata’s Perry de Havilland would put it, suddenly changed.

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What is this?  Making things happen?  Hard work?  Persistence?  Success??? My God, someone has told the Gink that he is, just maybe, the boss of his own life, and that if he tries a bit harder, and takes responsibility for the outcomes of his own actions – in general, if he starts to think a bit differently - he just might truly amount to something.  It’s not definite.  That kind of thing never is, but if you give up and blame everyone else for your failures, failure is definite.

Was that the explanation for what happened next, or did what happen next actually get done first?  I don’t know.  But whatever the story, the story now changed.  On the approach ramp on the other side of the bridge, those faces.  Recognisable faces.  Next to readable messages.  In English.  There are details that tell not-an-art-expert me, so make of this what you will, that that this is the same guy, with the same paintbrushes and spray cans.  The medium is the same.  But the message has suddenly become something else entirely.  The grafitti suddenly becomes of something, in a way that even an old geezer like me can set about understanding.  My shoes are no longer being pissed on by a human animal, albeit one who is clever with a paint brush.  Instead, a truly human human being is communicating with me, in languages that are clearly intended for me to understand:

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The first face there, on the left, is Frank Sinatra.

Here are all the others:

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Names, with a link to the complete song lyric: Vera Lynn, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Aretha Franklin, Amy Winehouse, Tinchy Stryder, John Lennon, Adam Ant, Madonna, and Peter Kay.

It’s a quirky list, with strange inclusions and inevitable exclusions (Bowie? Stones? Jackson?).  Peter Kay, who merely mimed along to a song sung by someone else, is extremely lucky to make the cut.  But I reckon that’s all part of the fun.

Not all of the above photos are very good.  Some had to be rescued from the general scene and widened, and in one case (Amy Winehouse) made bigger.  Also, shame about the big W on Tinchy’s face.  But, you get the pictures.

If you google “tilbury grafitti” you discover quite a lot.  Apparently a bit upstream from where I went there is a big long slice of graffiti (scroll down until you get to “London’s mega-port” and “The Tilbury graffiti wall” - both well worth reading and following links from), crammed with popular art references, on the estuary wall.  It’s like: someone has a policy, or at the very least an attitude.  You can’t eliminate graffiti, but you can maybe get it to say something a bit less suicidal and doomed.

It isn’t clear yet what effect London Gateway and its nearly thirty massive cranes and its huge “logistics park” is going to have on other big English container ports, like Felixstowe and Southampton.  But one thing is clear.  Little old Tilbury dock, just upstream, may dribble on for a few years, but it is not going to get any bigger.  My guess is it will soon close.  Tilburians are going to have to find other things to do with their lives.  As Lord Tebbit once put it, they are going to have to get one their bikes.  Maybe not as far as to Amarillo, but at least mentally speaking.  What my visit to Tilbury and my subsequent and more recent Tilbury googlings tell me is that at least some people in Tilbury, including some people with enough clout to decide what gets painted on a footbridge, realise all this.

Yes I know, maybe I’m reading altogether too much into a few dawbs on a footbridge.  But, maybe: not.  I definitely intend returning to Tilbury.

Saturday November 25 2017

Indeed:

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Photoed by me in Oxford Street this afternoon,

Like I said: perfunctory.

Friday November 24 2017

Yesterday I showed a photo that I actually took yesterday, rather than last year or last decade.  And today I’m doing the same.  I’m showing you another photo that I took yesterday:

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That’s the inside of the domed roof in the middle of Leadenhall Market in the City of London.  This is another of those photos which is a lot easier to take if you have a twiddly screen, such as I always now have.

Here is the next photo I took, to show you which place I mean:

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To me, one of the odder things about Leadenhall Market is that all the enterprises plying their trade in it would seem to be obliged by the house rules to proclaim their names in the exact same style and size of lettering.  This is not what you get in most shopping centres, which is what this place basically is.  But, fair enough: their gaff, their rules.  And although in one sense this is uniformity gone a bit mad, in another sense it is variety, because this is not something you see very often.

It is clearly a recent thing, and Wikipedia confirms this:

Between 1990 and 1991 the market received a dramatic redecoration which transformed its appearance, enhancing its architectural character and detail. The redecoration scheme received a special mention in the Civic Trust Awards in 1994.

Ah yes.  Commercial, you understand, but not too commercial.  The subtle business of not being too businesslike.

I passed through this place on my way to Monument tube, having been wandering towards the City and its Big Things from the Bethnal Green area, enjoying the last daylight of a very fine yesterday.  Of which maybe more here later, and of which maybe not more here later.  (This blog is also not very businesslike.)

Thursday November 23 2017

Indeed.  And, I got him to hold the pose while I photoed it:

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Okay, mine’s a rubbish picture, but: you get the picture, and in any case the fact that you can’t read the numbers is a feature rather than a bug.  I’m sure he got his picture.  He has already typed into his other little machine a note of my address and electricity score.  So it will be entirely clear to him which number he is confirming, or conceivably correcting, with his photo.

Just another example of what mobiles contribute to the economy, not just by doing newsworthy stuff like transmit big gobs of money or send portentous messages to and from people on the move, but simply by helping workers to do little bits of work.  Often, mobiles and their cameras are used to record the progress of work.  This is using mobiles and their cameras actually to do the work, because this particular work is recording.

I know: smart meter.  Well, someone recently tried to install one, but for some reason it couldn’t be done, or not yet.

To really appreciate this, you have to have experienced what happens to your electricity bill when your electricity consumption is recorded wrongly.

Wednesday November 22 2017

It’s been a while since there’s been any horizontality here. (That isn’t the most recent piece of horizontality here, just one that I happen especially to like.) So, allow me now to correct this, thus:

image

Click to get the bigger original.

It’s a shop just off Lea Bridge Road, opposite the station.  Photoed by me almost exactly one year ago.