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: Food and drink

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.

Tuesday December 12 2017

I have been receiving several of these calls recently, from faraway Indian-sounding guys who all, coincidentally, have English-sounding names.

Once again, I am reminded that the internet is the internet, and that if I type some words into my computer, along the lines of “I’m calling you from Windows …”, I should get the story.  And: I did.

That story was posted in 2012.  As it says, this rubbish obviously works.  Five years later, they’re still at it, with an identical script.

I’m somewhat ashamed to relate that it worked on me, the first time, a bit.  I seriously considered the possibility of the call being real, until I worked out that it obviously wasn’t.  Such shame spasms are important because they stop people talking about these scams and thereby reducing their chances of working.

In the early nineteenth century, sheep stealers were hanged, or so goes the legend.  Rip-off phone calls like the above make me understand why this happened, insofar as it actually did.  People talk, quite reasonably, about how people stole sheep because they were starving, but I’m guessing that having your sheep (singular or plural) stolen was a serious blow about which you (the victime) were ashamed, and that catching the bastards was very difficult even if you did tell other people.  So, when, by chance, sheep stealers were caught, they were often or at least sometimes killed.  I completely get it.

More often, however, they were (scroll down to the end) transported to Australia.

Once again, the internet tells the story.  This is yet another way in which the experience of getting old (the first posting you’ll get, as of now, if you follow that link, will be this one) has been transformed.  We oldies love to satisfy our curiosity about things that are none of our business and of no great interest to anyone, except us.  Time was when discussions about pointless trivia could go on for ever in a fact-free fashion.  Now, all you need is one small machine and the matter can be settled.  Does the internet kill conversation?  Discuss.  Or, you could type this question into the internet and get a definitive answer, yes it does or no it doesn’t.  End of conversation.  Or not.

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.

Tuesday December 05 2017

Earlier this evening at the Two Chairmen, Westminsters, Adriana Lucas, who grew up in the old Czechoslovakia as was, gave a most eloquent talk about this experience.  She didn’t bang on at length about the usual horrors – prison camps, executions, purges, and so on – although of course these were mentioned.  Rather did she focus on the minutiae of life for the rather less unlucky victims of communism, the ones who got to stay alive.  People adjusted, basically.  Or if, like Adriana’s family, they were dissidents, they learned to be extremely distrustful of almost everyone but their closest and most trusted loved ones.  Being a dissident wasn’t about overthrowing the regime; it was merely about staying sane.

Here are four photos, that I picked out from the dozen or more that I took, and that I just sent to meetings organiser Simon Gibbs, who is to be seen in the first one, introducing Adriana.  The photos I sent to Simon were rectangles, but I actually prefer these square cropped versions.

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As you can see, this excellent talk was videoed.  Videos are far harder to edit than merely to … video.  So you may have to wait a bit before seeing this one.  But, for those who did not attend this talk and for many who did, it will be worth the wait.

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.

Friday November 24 2017

Yes it’s a busy time here at Chateau BMdotcom.  I have a meeting here this evening, for which I must now prepare, but, preparations are not helped by the fact that the two biggest supermarkets in my vicinity, Tescos Warwick Way, and Sainsburys Wilton Road, are both now shut, so that they can rearrange themselves, refurbish themselves, in time for Christmas presumably.  (And in order to take our minds off the fact that the prices of everything are now shooting upwards.)

This is bizarre.  Couldn’t they collude to take it in turns to shut, rather than colluding (I assume) both to be shutting at the same time?  I am too busy, doing such things as trying to think where I will be going instead to buy food for this evening, to be able to expand here upon this peculiar matter.  Let’s just say it’s lucky for capitalism that I really like it.  If I didn’t, this might have tipped me over the edge into full-on Bolshevism, at which point I might have become the straw that broke the camel of capitalism’s back.

After tonight’s meeting, I then have a succession of pre-Christmas socialisings fixed, for over the coming weekend and into next week.  All very nice and everything, but a struggle to keep track of, and to fit other necessary things around.  Which is why postings here have been a bit perfunctory of late, and why that may continue for a few more days.

Or, it may not.  Because actually, the urge to blog is, for me, hard to estimate the strength of beforehand.  Often, I think, the feeling I feel when busy that there are Things I Must Do, causes me then to avoid doing these Things by instead … blogging.

Right now, for instance, I am supposed to be preparing for this evening.  But instead ...

Wednesday November 08 2017

In the summer of 2007 I was wandering along the south bank of the Thames with my Canon S2 IS, and came across this statue, outside a pub in Greenwich, called the Trafalgar Tavern:

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I only got around to posting that photo at this blog in 2016, such time lags being frequent here.  It often takes me a while to appreciate how nice I think a certain photo is.

But 2016 proved soon enough for the lady who did this sculpture of Lord Nelson, for her new website was only then in the process of being put together.  An email arrived early this year asking me if I would mind any of my photos being used for this website, and if I was agreeable to this (which I was), could I supply original full-sized versions of all the decent photos I had taken of His Lordship?  Which I did.  I also asked, more in hope than expectation, to be informed if and when any use was made of any of my photos, and I then forgot the matter.

But then, a week ago, another email arrived saying that the photo above of Nelson was to be seen at the website, now up and running, of Lesley Pover, at the page where it says Nelson returns to Greenwich.  I even got a name check with a link back to here, at the bottom of that page.

All of which is most gratifying.  Ms Pover and her website maker have said their thanks to me.  I in my turn am grateful to be associated, if only in a very small way, with such an accomplished artist, and to have made a contribution to such a fine looking website.

Friday October 20 2017

Today, I was thinking, what with it being Friday: What can I put here about cats or other creatures that would be of interest?  But instead of looking for something along those lines, I was listening to a video conversation between Jordan Peterson and Camille Paglia, about the sorry state of the humanities departments of American universities.  I can’t remember why or how, but I was.  And twenty four and a half minutes into this, I listened in astonishment as Peterson suddenly started talking, fascinatingly, about zebras.

Why do zebras look the way they do, so very black and and so very white, and so very stripey?

This has long puzzled me.  The arch enemy of the zebra is the lion, and the lions are impeccably camouflaged.  Their coats are the same colour as the veldt, or whatever it is that the zebras roam about on and that the lions hunt the zebras on, and so the zebras don’t see the lions coming.  But the zebras, with their garish black and white plumage, are nothing at all like the colour of the land they live on.  What gives?  Why the lurid and fantastically visible stripes?

Today I learned the answer to this question.

The answer is: When lions hunt zebras, they do this by deciding on just the one zebra that they are going to hunt, and they concentrate entirely on that one zebra.  Eventually, the chosen zebra is exhausted, and the lions catch it and kill it.

And how do zebras respond, evolutionarily speaking?  Answer: By becoming extremely hard to distinguish from each other.  Their very stripey stripes do exactly this.  The result of that is that although the lions try to hunt just the one zebra, thereby exhausting it and killing it, they instead keep getting confused about exactly which zebra is the one they are trying to hunt.  And the result of that is that instead of hunting one zebra to its death, they hunt half a dozen zebras, not to any of their deaths, and go home without their dinner.

Some scientists who were studying zebra plumage did what turned out to be a rather cruel experiment which proved this.  They squirted some colour onto one of the zebras in a zebra herd.  The lions, confident now that they would not be confused about which zebra they were hunting, proceeded to hunt that one marked zebra to its inevitable death.  Without such marking out, they couldn’t tell which zebra was which.  With such marking, hunting success followed, every time.  Every time, they chose the marked and hence easily distinguishable zebra.

I did not know this.

Peterson’s point was that American humanities professors are like this.  They all have totally crazy, yet totally similar, opinions.  That way, their enemies can’t fixate on one of them and destroy him.  Or something.  In this version of the zebra stripes story, Peterson is saying that people in general are like zebras.  But I really didn’t care about that.  It was the zebras and their stripes that interested me.

I love the internet.

Monday October 09 2017

Yesterday GodDaughter One invited me to join her for one of her Moves, from Stonebridge Lock, up the River Lee Navigation, to Enfield.  The boaters of London have to keep moving.  They aren’t allowed to stay in the one spot for ever, which I bet thins down the numbers.  Plus, it makes sure that the canals have lots of canal boats chugging about on them for the likes of me to photo.  It’s quite a subtle rule, I think.

I took many photos.  Here are some that commemorate the life and work of Alfie Saggs, the lock keeper of Pickett’s Lock, which was renamed “Alfie’s Lock” in 2015:

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Alfie Saggs is well known to London’s canal boaters, but the story was all new to me.  Read about Alfie Saggs here.  Apparently Alfie liked Bounty Bars, and so Bounty Bars were how the boaters expressed their appreciation of his work:

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It’s good that this celebration of his life’s work was something that Alfie Saggs himself was able to enjoy, and that it didn’t happen only when he died, just three weeks ago:

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I photoed a lot of signs yesterday.  Signs are very evocative and very informative.  When I browse through directories of past wanderings, I am always glad of signs.  They tell me exactly where I was, the way that mere landscape and waterways cannot with nearly so much certainty.

Saturday October 07 2017

From Michael J:

Is there anything better than sitting in a bar in one of the prime selfie taking spots in the universe?

Well, maybe I can think of a few things, but I get the picture.  To be exact, I got this picture:

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But where might this be?  I scrutinised the “properties” of this photo, in particular some numbers with the words “latitude” and “longitude” next to them.  So far as I could work it out, this was somewhere on the island of … Momix?  No, not Momix.  The island of: Rhodes.  But, that could easily be out by several thousand miles, given Michael J’s travelling habits and my analytical abilities.

Meanwhile, the most exotic place I’ve been to lately was the place where this photo was taken, by my friend Adriana:

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How cool is that?  And I’m not talking about the fact that this is ice cream.  This was my pudding when I feasted with Adriana and her Plus One here.  The ceilings were so far away you could hardly see them.  There were oil paintings beyond counting, often with no labels to identify the personages in them, presumably because People Like Us all know who they are without having to be told.  Or, they are all so posh they don’t care.

I left my stuff, including my camera, at the front desk, photography not being permitted.  Fair enough.  Don’t want any oiks casing the joint.  But her photoing an ice cream wafer, Adriana said, wouldn’t make waves.  Besides which, these days, how can you tell if someone is taking a photo, if all they are doing is waving a smartphone.

Friday September 22 2017

Today I had a taste of what my life would be if I had the Sky TV cricket channel.  (It would be over.) I watched Surrey play Somerset on the live feed from the Oval which comes complete with the BBC’s sound commentary. I had all sorts of plans for today, but managed to get very little else of consequence done.

Surrey spent their day trying to ensure that they avoided all possibility of being relegated from Division One of the County Championship.  When they finally managed to defeat Somerset, they found themselves lying second in Division One.  Division One contains eight teams, two of which will be relegated, and it’s all rather close, apart from Essex, who have already won, and Warks, who have already been relegated.  So, a very strange day, but ultimately a very good one.

So, quota photo time:

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Yes, it’s a still life, with condiments instead of old school food in old school containers.  Little Big Things, you might say.  Photoed five years ago, in a cafe only a very short walk away from the Oval.

Friday September 15 2017

Friday here at BMdotcom is Cats and Other Creatures Day.  So if I am out and about on a Friday, I always keep an eye out for relevant sights.  Sights like this, which I spotted in Putney this afternoon.

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Potted Horse?  As in: horse meat?

Well, no:

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Spotted Horse, as in: horse with spots.  A pub.

Picture of the entire front of the Spotted Horse:

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I like how it’s than the buildings on each side are bigger.  This being, presumably, because the pub is some kind of preserved building from olden times, and as such impervious to the rising price of land and hence the rising pressure continuously to destroy and replace with something ever taller.

One day, the price of the land upon which the Spotted Horse rests will be such that a skyscraper will be demanded.  At this point, I would like to think that the Spotted Horse will mutate into the lowest two floors of this new skyscraper.  Why not?  The skyscraper will pay for all the confusion involved in contriving this.  Just because amusingly antiquated buildings need to become very tall buildings doesn’t mean they have to be destroyed and replaced entirely by modernity, especially when you consider how tedious modernity can be at ground level, a place where architectural antiquity excels.  No, put the modernity on top of the antiquity, on stilts.

Monday August 28 2017

I like to photo buses with adverts all over them.  I consider the elaborate graphics involved to be of aesthetic interest.

Buses like this one, photoed in Tottenham Court Road on the same afternoon, just over a year ago, that I photoed the dfs Union Jack door that I just added to the posting below:

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Okay very pretty, but do what I did.  Take a closer look:

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What intrigues me about that is how it points up the contrasting reputations of the Gherkin and the Walkie Talkie.  The Gherkin is clearly visible there.  But the Walkie Talkie is deranged by that clutch of ventilation holes, or whatever they are.  The advertising classes don’t do things like this by accident.  They like Lord Foster of Gherkin, but they do not like Rafael Vinoly of Walkie Talkie, and the same probably applies to most other people who know both of these Starchitects.  (I like both of them.) My sense is that Vinoly is reckoned to be too much the entrepreneur, too much the profit maximising businessman, too bothered with making buildings that make money, the way (so I hear it) the Walkie Talkie does and the Gherkin does not.  Vinoly, I surmise, is the Richart Seifert of our time, but on a global scale.

This is not the kind of thing you can prove very easily, and maybe I’m reading too much into a meaningless piece of graphics.

Well, I’m tired, I’ve had a complicated day attempting other things, unsuccessfully, and this is what you are getting.  Also, there’s a really good test match going on.

Sunday August 27 2017

The first I photoed in Victoria Station, while waiting for a train, to go to visit some friends in south London and partake of a barbecue, which is why I have so little time to be doing a posting here:

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I like the contrast between the sun-drenched colours of the flag with the mostly monochromatic background.

And here is a Union Jack I photoed earlier, about a fortnight ago, in a shop window near where I live:

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In that box, designer spectacles.  Although, I didn’t find many Union Jacks at the William Morris London bit of the William Morris website.

I really like how Union Jacks now come in lots of different colours.

Are you supposed to put Union Jacks with capital letters?  I do this because it feels right to me, but maybe that’s wrong.

Google, however, now tells me that the rest of the world does this too.

LATER, another Union Jack, Tottenham Court Road, June 2016:

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I remember when dfs stood for dashed fine show.  Except that no, I don’t, because it didn’t.  But, it could have.  And should have.

Tuesday August 22 2017

About a week ago or less, I found myself in the vicinity of The Wheel.  The light was very good, with lots of sunshine and lots of lurid looking clouds.  So, I took photos.

Below are a clutch of The Wheel related photos.  My opinion of how to photo The Wheel is that you should combine The Wheel with other things.  Like graphic designs featuring The Wheel which are in the vicinity of The Wheel.  It’s the old modified cliché routine.

In this photo clutch, however, I do include one very old school photo of The Wheel.  It’s the photo I took of a postcard (1.2), which features The Wheel.  And look what the postcard calls The Wheel.  It calls it The Wheel: “The Wheel”.  None of this “London Eye” nonsense.  Do large numbers of people in other parts of the world call The Wheel The Wheel?  I do hope so.  And I hope that this habit conquers London.

The next four photos, after the postcard (1.3, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3) are all of The Wheel reflected in a tourist crap shop.  And then 3.1 is of The Wheel reflected in a place, next door, that sells sandwiches.

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I like how I totally lined up the circular blue logo with The Wheel reflection, in 2.3.  Could I also have done something similar with the circular things in 2.1 and 2.2, in the latter case an actual picture of The Wheel.  I rather think that I tried, but couldn’t do that.  But, memo to self, return to this enticing spot, on a nice day, and see what I can do.

This is what I like about taking photos in London, rather than in some foreign spot that I am only going to be in once.  If, upon reflection back home, I suspect that I might have been able to do some of the photos better, I can, in London, go back to try to do this.