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
- Incoming horizontality from Simon Gibbs
- Seven London bridges (again)
- Feline Friday at Samizdata
- Face recognition – face disguise – the age of pseudo-omniscience
- More South of France bridges
- Played 6 – Won 0 – Drawn 3 – Lost 3
- I want to write more here about music
- South of France signs
- Keeping up appearances at One Palace Street
- Goodbye PhotoCat – hello PhotoPad
- Incoming imagery from Antoine
- A bridge in Narbonne
- South of France electronic clutter
- Deirdre McCloskey - The Great Enrichment – Using a smartphone as a mirror
- Bird takes off from a TV aerial
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6000 Miles from Civilisation
A Decent Muesli
Adventures in Capitalism
Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
Another Food Blog
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Chase me ladies, I'm in the cavalry
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Counting Cats in Zanzibar
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My Boyfriend Is A Twat
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we make money not art
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Category archive: Food and drink
I love signs. They communicate a lot, by their nature, but they are not considered Art, so they aren’t preserved. They come and go, and stuff that comes and goes is how a photographer who is only an okay photographer makes his photos count for something.
So, I gathered together all the sign photos I took, to do a big collection. But that was taking too long, so I picked out the long thin ones, and here are those ones, in chronological order. I really did take the first one first:
Click on each to get the bigger pictures.
No coincidence that two of them - arguably three of them - are in English. There’s quite a bit of English to be seen in French shops, just as there’s quite a bit of French in English shops.
Byrrh is the local drink of Thuir. It’s a lot like Port. I’d link to the website, but it makes noises that you have actively to silence. I hate that.
What “lefties” means, when on the front of a shop, I have absolutely no idea.
LATER: This was all done in great haste, and I neglected to mention that the “lefties” sign is actually in Spain, in a big shopping centre we visited (and got stuck in because of traffic jams all afternoon (don’t ask)). But, I still like the sign and am still baffled by it.
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.
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.
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.
A Getting Old thing is that you take longer to get well, after not being well. On Sunday, I dined. I was not poisoned (this has been established), but I did catch a bug (ditto). On Monday, I ate some more, as you do. Early on Tuesday morning the bug, having been operating in a clandestine fashion from Sunday evening onwards, stirred itself into detectable action, and it became clear that everything I had eaten from Sunday evening onwards was … not needed. It was either returned from whence it had come or else fast-tracked through, if you get my drift. So, this morning, I had basically been starving for nearly two days. Today, I consequently felt weak. Had I been young, I would have been up and sparkling this morning. Today I managed to eat something, or at any rate swallow something, and let us all hope that my body is able to make some use of it, because if it doesn’t, I will have been starving for the best part of a week. Are all those noises in my stomach my stomach making use of what I have put into it, or my stomach rejecting what I have put into it? I have to believe that it is food processing that I am hearing rather than food rejection. But even if that’s right, it is taking more time to recover from this damn illness than it was to have it.
A particular result of all this starvation, aside from feeling rather starved, is that my mind/body is seems to have decided to prioritise in the warming department. The upper body is still considered by my mind/body to be worth keeping warm, but my feet are apparently superfluous to requirements and are accordingly being allowed to freeze. If I put on a fire, my upper body stews. If I turn off the fire, my feet freeze. I guess the mind/body figures I’ve not been using my feet much lately, so what’s the point in keeping them warm, given that fuel is so scarce just now?
I am starting to understand why Old People put their feet on top of hot water bottles, or in bowls of hot water.
People probably do tell you this sort of stuff when you are young, but being young, you don’t really take it in.
The good news is that although no fire has been on, my feet have now warmed up. While I was writing this. Do you suppose that my mind/body actually paid attention to what I was saying to you people? There’s a thought.
LATER: No. I cooked an omelette and that was what warmed my feet. This also, it soon became clear, had also stewed my upper body.
With the university system languishing amid archaic traditions, and corporate R&D labs still on the distant horizon, the public space of the coffeehouse served as the central hub of innovation in British society How much of the Enlightenment do we owe to coffee? Most of the epic developments in England between 1650 and 1800 that still warrant a mention in the history textbooks have a coffeehouse lurking at some crucial juncture in their story. The restoration of Charles II, Newton’s theory of gravity, the South Sea Bubble – they all came about, in part, because England had developed a taste for coffee, and a fondness for the kind of informal networking and shoptalk that the coffeehouse enabled. Lloyd’s of London was once just Edward Lloyd’s coffeehouse, until the shipowners and merchants started clustering there, and collectively invented the modem insurance company. You can’t underestimate the impact that the Club of Honest Whigs had on Priestley’s subsequent streak, precisely because he was able to plug in to an existing network of relationships and collaborations that the coffeehouse environment facilitated. Not just because there were learned men of science sitting around the table – more formal institutions like the Royal Society supplied comparable gatherings – but also because the coffeehouse culture was cross-disciplinary by nature, the conversations freely roaming from electricity, to the abuses of Parliament, to the fate of dissenting churches.
The rise of coffeehouse culture influenced more than just the information networks of the Enlightenment; it also transformed the neurochemical networks in the brains of all those newfound coffee-drinkers. Coffee is a stimulant that has been clinically proven to improve cognitive function - particularly for memory-related tasks - during the first cup or two. Increase the amount of “smart” drugs flowing through individual brains, and the collective intelligence of the culture will become smarter, if enough people get hooked. Create enough caffeine-abusers in your society and you’ll be statistically more likely to launch an Age of Reason. That may itself sound like the self-justifying fantasy of a longtime coffee-drinker, but to connect coffee plausibly to the Age of Enlightenment you have to consider the context of recreational drug abuse in seventeenth-century Europe. Coffee-drinkers are not necessarily smarter; in the long run, than those who abstain from caffeine. (Even if they are smarter for that first cup.) But when coffee originally arrived as a mass phenomenon in the mid-1600s, it was not seducing a culture of perfect sobriety. It was replacing alcohol as the daytime drug of choice. The historian Tom Standage writes in his ingenious A History of the World in Six Glasses:
The impact of the introduction of coffee into Europe during the seventeenth century was particularly noticeable since the most common beverages of the time, even at breakfast, were weak “small beer” and wine .... Those who drank coffee instead of alcohol began the day alert and stimulated, rather than relaxed and mildly inebriated, and the quality and quantity of their work improved .... Western Europe began to emerge from an alcoholic haze that had lasted for centuries.
Emerging from that centuries-long bender, armed with a belief in the scientific method and the conviction, inherited from Newtonian physics, that simple laws could be unearthed beneath complex behavior, the networked, caffeinated minds of the eighteenth century found themselves in a universe that was ripe for discovery. The everyday world was teeming with mysterious phenomena – animals, plants, rocks, weather – that had never before been probed with the conceptual tools of the scientific method. This sense of terra incognita also helps explain why Priestley could be so innovative in so many different disciplines, and why Enlightenment culture in general spawned so many distinct paradigm shifts. Amateur dabblers could make transformative scientific discoveries because the history of each field was an embarrassing lineage of conjecture and superstition. Every discipline was suddenly new again.
Recently I wrote about footbridges, one in particular, in theatreland. As that posting illustrates, I especially like footbridges that join buildings (in that case theatres), rather than merely convey members of the public who are on a journey through the city, even though I myself cannot cross such bridges, because I too am only a member of the public.
The London epicentre of such footbridge action is situated near Tower Bridge, on the south side of the river. Footbridges of greatly varying heights above the ground and almost beyond counting connect the tall brick buildings on each side of whatever the street is where all these footbridges are to be seen.
I knew that on various journeys along the river I had photoed these bridges, but where were such photos to be found? Oh well, I thought. They’ll turn up.
Last night, they did turn up. I was idling through photo-directories past, looking for something entirely different which I may, or may not, be telling you about Real Soon Now, and suddenly I came across a clutch of photos of the very footbridges I had in mind. I immediately copied all these photos across into the rather recently created Footbridges directory. Photos like this:
None of the photos I took that evening of these bridges were technically very accomplished. The light was tricky and I think I was rather tired by the time I took them. But, there they were, the bridges, and the photos of the bridges.
I chose the above photo from the half dozen or more that I had not because it is the best of these photos, but because it contains this vital piece of information, in writing. Close up:
Le Pont de la Tour? Google google. Apparently it’s a posh eatery, for the kind of posh people who now live in these now very posh buildings. And immediately I had the name of the street.
Don’t ask me how you are supposed to say that. Shad? The Shad? Shad Thames? I don’t know. But there’s the name. Shad. Sounds like Sean Connery saying Sad. (Do you suppose that the reason Sean Connery pronounces S as Sh is because of how Sean is pronounced? Jusht a shuggeshtion.)
Armed with this address, I could pin down exactly as opposed to approximately the location of this footbridge clutch, so that I can return there, and take better photos, and look them up on the www some more, and generally celebrate these striking structures.
And the moral is: when you are (I am) out and about taking photos, always get wherever you are (I am) in writing, by photoing writing. Photo signs of shops, signs outside places, street signs, or, in this case restaurant signs. That way, you can work out where everything was, even years later. The above picture was taken nearly six years ago.
Last night I dined at the new and rather temporary home of Samizdata, where I took this photo:
Click on this to get it larger.
These really are very tasty crisps, and I strongly recommend them. I immediately decided that I would try to serve some of these at future iterations of my last-Friday-of-the-month meetings. So, I took a note of these chips, with my camera.
When I pondered the impact of digital photography, way back when that was, this ability to photo not only mere prettiness, but also information, loomed large.
I mentioned how my friend Simon Gibbs and his workmates all use their smartphones to photo the mass scribblings on a whiteboard after a brainstorming session. The man making the thumbs-up sign in the above photo told me about a new app that he now uses at work which takes a picture like the ones Simon and his pals take, and smartens it up, so to speak. It translates handwriting, that is to say, into proper computer text (presumably computer text you can scan), and arranges everything more neatly and more readably. Impressive. And I’m guessing that the existence both of smartphones taking photos, and of apps like this that can make even more sense of such photos, changes what gets written on the whiteboard, now that more coherent text will be better recorded and processed. I’m guessing that handwriting improves somewhat. But does this app, I wonder, subtract somewhat from the informality of the process? And might that undermine creativity?
I wonder what this app would have done with my Tyrrell’s veg crisps photo.
I photoed Mr Thumbs-Up’s smartphone, where the logo for this app was to be seen, but alas, the smart-focussing in my camera was not smart enough to focus on this image. It was all a blur:
There’s no point in me showing you a larger version of that, is there? How sad that my photo-note of an app for processing photo-notes should be so useless.
I should have included more stuff off screen for my camera to focus on. As I later discovered when I took some other photos off of his smarphone, of how my blog looked on his smartphone. Those photos came out better. But that’s for another posting.
As soon as I did that first posting this morning, about blogging early, I was freed from any obligation – self-imposed, but still an obligation – to blog any more today. At which point the idea of putting more up here, today, became fun, rather than any sort of chore. Hence the next posting, the one immediately below this one.
This one is here mostly so I can have postings called “Blog early” and “Blog often” up here on the same day.
Earlier this evening I attended a Libertarian Home meeting, addressed by Tim Evans.
One definite improvement over previous LH meetings in the same venue is that on the blackboard behind the speaker, it said his name, rather than the names of lots of things you can eat.
So, behind Tim Evans, underneath where it says “Specials” it also, this evening, said “Tim Evans”:
Better. In particular, better than this:
The speaker in that picture was Allum Bokhari, last August, and that picture of him is most unflattering. Alas, this is the picture I took that night that best shows all that food. Go here to see Allum Bokhari looking better, even if he is wearing headphones. To hear him also, talking about the “censorship” (if that’s what it is) of the social media, by the social media.
So, the video of Tim Evans talking will look better, in this particular respect, than did earlier videos, of LH speakers in front of that blackboard. You build an ideological movement one step at a time. This was a small step, but a definite step. Nice one.
Sadly, I am not so confident about the likely sound quality of any video that transpires. Tim has a way of talking rather quietly when in a smallish room such as this one is, but the hinges of the door to the room had no such inhibitions and were squeaking something terrible, every time anyone came in or out, as happened quite often. We shall see, and we shall hear. Hope I’m wrong about that.
After writing, several times, about how hard it is to do this, I am finally getting used to being able to investigate any strange thing that I see in London, provided that the strange thing has some strange words on it, or better yet, a strange website.
So, this afternoon, I saw this, on the front of a bus, in Whitehall:
And here is what that is about:
Capture the heart of the city’s culture. landmarks and history on our London Routemaster bus, whilst sipping on a lovely cup of tea and enjoying the exquisite tastes of France. High tea accompanied with an array of tasty sandwiches and delicious cakes and pastries. Your uniformed London bus driver will take you round The London Eye, Big Ben, The Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, St James’s Park, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, The Royal Albert Hall, Marble Arch, Piccadilly Circus, Nelson’s Column, Downing Street and more.
Adults “from” £45. And I bet all they do is point at these various Things, and talk. There’s no way they let you out to actually explore them. That would take too long. So, pass. I reckon I could go by train to Birmingham and back for that, and actually I’m thinking of doing just that, some time later this year. Take in a few canals and whatever Big Things they have up there, and then a classical concert at Symphony Hall to check out its acoustics and how much better these than the frightful acoustics of the Royal Festival Hall, and then back to Euston and snug in my bed back home the same day.
Symphony Hall opened in 1991 to immediate public and critical acclaim. With its world class acoustics and stunning auditorium it is considered to be not only the UK’s finest concert hall but also one of the best in the world.
That sounds like it could be worth forty five quid. And I’m writing this plan here to make it more likely that it will happen.
But forty five quid for a bus ride, some sandwiches, cakes and a cup of tea? Pull, as we say in these parts, the other one. Give, to coin a phrase, over.
So, I’m about half way through telling the massed ranks of BMdotcom readers about an excellent day out with G(od)D(aughter) One, which was many months ago, now. My last posting about that was done at the end of last year. And there you were thinking, what with this no longer being last year, the year in which the excellent day out happened, I was all done with that day. Oh no. There’s lots more to be said about it. It feels to me like I’ve hardly started.
Today, since this is Friday, cat day, and more recently non-human creatures of any kind day, here are, not actual creatures, but some vans which I snapped that day, which illustrate some of the contrasting attitudes that we humans used to have and have now towards non-humans.
We eat non-human creatures:
We use sculpted non-human creatures to carry us on roundabouts
We also make use of real non-human creatures in circuses to entertain us, circuses and entertain us humans. Or, we used to. This kind of things has become rather old school and unfashionable, on account of it being considered cruel.
Now, that sort of entertainment has been almost entirely replaced by the pleasure we get from conserving and staring at non-human creatures:
Yes, I have struggled over the years to get good photos of what my meetings are like. The problem typically is that I can never get everyone into the same picture, and the pictures look like about half as many people attended as actually did. Since the number wasn’t that huge to start with, that’s not what you want.
Here is a different approach:
That was the scene today following last night’s meeting, me having done almost zero tidying up to that point, bar hoovering up a few crisps. Now, Imagine that space with as many people sitting in it as you can fit in. That was what it was like last night.
If you reckon that the “table” in the middle looks like it could be improved upon, you are not wrong. There was a disaster when it collapsed last night, luckily not during the Tim Evans talk, and some fruit juice hit the carpet, along with lots of potato crisps. And it was then only imperfectly reassembled. More work is needed on that front. But it was a great evening, partly because of the table collapsing, because that sort of thing adds to the anecdotage factor. But mostly because it was an excellent talk, and because a very classy group of people who came to hear it. Including a baby, who was very welcome.
Talking of unsatisfactory tables, I wasn’t feeling so good myself today. My sleep last night was full of weird dreams, which I can still remember bits of, which is not normal. Plus, I have a new blender, and this morning’s concoction was terrible. The trouble with most vegetables is that they don’t taste of anything. Or, they taste rather nasty. Thank goodness for cherry tomatoes. But, all my current stash of cherry tomatoes got consumed last night by all the people that you can’t see in the picture.
This is weird. When I did a posting at Samizdata called My 2015 in pictures, I intended to include a picture I took of one of my meetings last year, the one at which Aiden Gregg spoke. But, although I talked about it, I didn’t actually include the picture. Rather humiliatingly, nobody noticed, or if they did notice, they didn’t care, or if they did care, not enough to complain.
So here is that picture:
I have also added it to that Samizdata posting, which absolutely nobody at all will notice. But, get it right, eh?
I think I got this picture by standing on a chair.
I mention all this now because I have another of these meetings, the first of this year, tomorrow evening. Speaker: Professor Tim Evans (also mentioned in that Samizdata posting), talking about Jeremy Corbyn and all that. Turnout looks like being just right, with the room comfortably as opposed to uncomfortably full. Luckily the seating arrangements have been improving.
Here, for good measure, is the photo I took of Tim when he gave his Inaugural Professional Lecture at Middlesex University, last summer, and which was also included in that Samizdata posting:
Not being accustomed to the ways of Academe, that get-up makes Tim look, to me, like he is in a very trad production of Wagner’s Mastersingers.
Today, went to the top of the Westminster Cathedral tower, again, to check out whether I could see the Wembley Arch. I could. Just. But, then went to a Christian Michel evening. Rob Waller speaking. Very good. But, me now rather drunk. So, cannot discuss Wembley Arch. Instead, here is a picture of west London and its cranes, from the top of the tower of Westminster Cathedral:
Hope you like it. Sleep well. I will.
I make it eight cranes.
My life, in this digital century, has contained quite a lot of wonderful expeditions which I never got around to mentioning here. Take the trip that I and G(od)D(aughter) 1 made to Beckton Sewage Works, on September 21st 2013. The only time I mentioned this here, it would seem, was in this posting, where I mentioned that I otherwise did not mention it.
So, to go some way towards correcting that, here is a picture of some birds that I took that day:
You want to know why London contains so many birds? Sewage processing, that’s why. Birds love that. The Beckton Sewage Works is one great big open air bird canteen.
And here is a picture of a sign that I took, which explains that a huge new sewage tunnel was in the process of being constructed, at the time of our visit:
More about that here:
The 75-metre deep Beckton overflow shaft is the entry point for the Lee Tunnel, a £635million project just as ambitious as the more highly-publicised Crossrail. Over the past five years, engineers have built a 6km tunnel stretching from Beckton up to Abbey Mills pumping station in Stratford, east London. The Lee Tunnel will help prevent more than 16 million tons of sewage from overflowing into the River Lee each year by capturing it and taking it down to Beckton. The sewage treatment works itself is being upgraded and expanded by 60 per cent to enable it to deal with the increased volume.
And the Lee Tunnel is just the first phase of the even more ambitious Thames Tideway Tunnel, a 25km tunnel that will handle sewage from Acton in west London through to Abbey Mills in the east. The Thames Tideway Tunnel will deal with the 34 most polluting overflow points along the Thames. Work on the £4.2billion project, known popularly as the London super sewer, starts in earnest in 2017 with engineers pulling the chain, so to speak, in 2023.
And here is another photo I took that day, which I include in this posting because I like it:
Behind that fence may, or may not, be activity associated with the digging of the big tunnel. But, I think it was.