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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: Transport

Thursday September 20 2018

To me, nothing says Abroad quite like a poster, somewhere in Abroad, advertising an English speaking movie, whose English title I already know, with a foreign title that is different, but with all the same star names:

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La Taupe means The Mole.  I preferred the TV series, but I love this poster.  Photoed by me in Paris in February 2012.

As was this, on the same expedition:

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In the same directory, I encountered other photos of posters advertising the following movies: Drive (Ryan Gosling), Ghost Rider (Nicolas Cage), Underworld (Kate Beckingsale), and Star Wars Episode 1 (whoever).  But in those posters, the titles stayed in their original English.  Why?

Tuesday September 18 2018

And no, I don’t mean reinforcements for an army.  I mean the kind of reinforcements that end up buried in concrete.

Like these ones:

imageimageimage
imageimageimage
imageimageimage

All six of these photos also feature one of the more impressive scaffolding arrays near me just now.  The art of scaffolding and the art of creating reinforcements for structural concrete have much in common.  Both involve putting together lots of bits of metal.  Both need to result in a structure that stays put and does not collapse.  Both look pretty to people like me.

But there are also big differences.  Scaffolding is very visible, and it remains visible for the duration of its working existence.  Scaffolding thus proclaims itself to the world, by its very existence.  That we live in a golden age of scaffolding is obvious to all of us, whether we like this fact or hate it.

Also, scaffolding rather quickly punishes those who erect it, if they don’t do it right.  While creating scaffolding, scaffolders make use of the scaffolding they have just been constructing, and they are their own first users.  They thus have a literally inbuilt incentive to do their work well.  And if they don’t, it is not that hard for others to spot this.  Bad scaffolding wobbles.  Such are my surmises about scaffolding.

Reinforcements for concrete are something else again.  By the time they go to work, doing the job they were built for, everyone concerned had better be damn sure that they have done their work well.  But, if they haven’t, the disastrous consequences of that bad work may take years to happen, and even then to be controversial.  Who is to say exactly what caused a building to collapse?  And if the building collapses rather catastrophically, it is liable to destroy a lot of the evidence of what exactly happened, and why.  Investigating such catastrophes being a whole separate job in itself.  So, getting these reinforcements right, with an inbuilt regime of testing and inspection and supervision, all managed by morally upright people whose declarations of confidence in what they have been inspecting can be relied upon, is a whole distinct industry.

But, this is an industry whose products, by their nature, end up being invisible.  We all rely on such work being done correctly, not just “structurally” but also in a morally correct manner.  Yet, we mostly never see this work, only its indirect results.

So, I hereby I celebrate the work, morally as well as merely technically good, that goes into the making of reinforcements for concrete.  I salute the good men and true who make these (I think) beautiful objects, and who ensure that they perform faithfully.  Their moral as well as technical excellence is all part of why I consider such reinforcements to be things of beauty.

I did some googling to try to determine exactly what reinforcements like those in my photos are used for.  The lorry says R. SWAIN AND SONS on it.  But they are hauliers, not makers of concrete reinforcements.  The nearest I got to an answer was this photo, of objects just like those on my lorry, with this verbiage attached: “Prefabricated Piling Cages Made of Reinforced Bars On Site”.  Prefabricated Piling cages.  Piling sounds to me like foundations.  (Yes.) The reinforcing has to be shoved down a hole in one go.  It can’t be constructed bit by bit, in the hole.  It either gets assembled beforehand on site, or, it gets assembled in a factory and taken to the site by lorry, as above.

The reinforcing that a structure needs when it is above ground, on the other hand, can be assembled on site, and I’m guessing that this is what usually happens.

Just guessing, you understand.  My first guess actually was: for an above ground structure, until I came upon the photo I just linked to, and not foundations.  But, what do I know?

Monday September 10 2018

If someone is doing this ...:

image

... is it okay to photo them and stick the photo up on the internet, somewhere like here?  I feel that it is okay, because, albeit in a very good way, the guy is making something of a spectacle of himself.  He is doing something very individual, in public, in a way that people are bound to notice.  Therefore, he doesn’t mind them noticing, or he wouldn’t do it.  Therefore, he won’t mind me noticing it.

Behind our self-transporter, we can just about make out the towers of Battersea Power Station.  Well, I can, because I know that’s what it is, because that’s where I took the above photo, this afternoon.  At the time, I was busy photoing the road, because in my opinion it is a very interesting road.  For reasons which I may, or may not, explain, here, some other time.

Meanwhile, I miss Transport Blog.

Sunday September 09 2018

Photoed by me, this afternoon, just outside Acton Central London Overground station:

image

Time was when I would have completely trusted a blog posting like this one, which says good things about this enterprise.  Now I merely trust this blog posting enough to link to it, and enough to hope that what it says is true.  I’ve no reason to think that it isn’t, apart from the fact it’s on the internet.

I know what you’re thinking.  How can you be sure that I am for real?  I am, but I would say that, wouldn’t i?

Friday September 07 2018

Driverless cars will happen, eventually.  But when they do, who knows what they will be like, or look like, what they will do or not do, what other changes they will precipitate?  When this finally happens, it will surely be the railways, or the internet, in the sense that it will be big, and that nobody now knows how big or what the details will consist of.

Two driverless vehicle articles came to my attention today, both of which illustrate how very different driverless vehicles could end up being to the vehicles we are now familiar with.

This Dezeen report reports on a scheme by Land Rover to put eyes on the front of driverless vehicles, to communicate with pedestrians, the way pedestrians now look at the faces of drivers to negotiate who goes where, when.  Makes sense.  With no driver, and the vehicle driving itself, it could use a face, or else how will the vehicle be able to participate in after-you-no-after-you-no-afteryou-no-I-insist-so-do-I sessions?

image

So, does a robot with a working face (in due course robot faces will be a lot better than that one) count as: “Other creatures”?  I say: yes (see below).

Will the Thomas the Tank Engine books prove to be a prophetic glimpse into the future of transport?  Eat your hearts out, SF movies.  Didn’t see that coming, did you?

And here is a posting about how people might choose to sleep in driverless vehicles on long journeys, instead of going by air.  The problem with going by air being that you have to go by airport, and that sleeping in the typical airplane is for many impossibly uncomfortable.  But, if we do sleep on long distance driverless vehicles, what will we do about going to the toilet?  Stop at a toilet sounds like an answer.  But what will the toilet be like?  Might it also be a vehicle?

The point is: nobody knows how driverless vehicles will play out.  Except to say that if they look like cars and vans and lorries look now, that would be an insanely improbable coincidence.

LATER: More about those eyes here.

Monday August 27 2018

It was a moment in London’s construction history which has always intrigued me.  My photos of it were taken in March 2012:

imageimageimage

That’s right.  Those strange ghost columns were, for a few short months or years (I don’t recall), being used as so many tiny building sites, supporting the construction of the Blackfriars Bridge railway station.

I regret that some more permanent use could have been found for these ghost columns.  Maybe some sort of pedestrian bridge?  But I suppose these columns are distrusted for anything but the lightest use, such as we observe in the above photos.

If you read this, you will learn that these ghosts used to come in threes, rather than in the twos we observe now.  The inner columns became part of the new bridge.

But if those columns were good enough to do that job, why cannot their brethren be made more use of?

It seems a shame.  It seems like a missed opportunity.

I think I may have said something like this here before.  So be it.  It bears repetition.

Wednesday August 22 2018

I like these photos that I took last March.  I like the rather sombre light.  If my camera is to be believed, it was around 6.30 pm:

imageimageimage

On the left, the “South Bank Tower”.  Not interesting enough to the general public for it to have a name.  On the right, what I prefer to call The Wheel.  And in the middle?  I tend to call it One Blackfriars, but as Londonist points out, many people are calling this the Boomerang.

I also like it when Big Things aren’t quite ready and are still be worked on, but you can clearly see how they’ll look.  My very first digital camera coincided with the finishing off of the Gherkin and I have the photos to prove it, and ever since then, I’ve collected such architectural moments.  (My first digital camera also coincided with the last months of Concorde, but I don’t have the photos to prove that, which I still regret.)

And, as I only just remembered to say: the vertical bit on the far right is the edge of all that activity going on around the old Shell Building, and the building in the foreground is just flats, next to the iMax roundabout.

LATER:  Concerning the Boomerang, one of Michael Jennings’s Facebook friends (and actual friends, I think), who is called Lee J Tee, says this:

I actually really like that building. In general I think most of the modern buildings in London are worthy. A world class city deserves unique buildings and London has plenty of them, all different from each other and I like that individuality.

Amen.

I absolutely don’t understand how Facebook works, and probably never will, so I have no idea if I even can link to this, let alone whether, if I can, I should.  So, just take my words for it.

Someone else says that, actually, what I have been calling the “Boomerang” is “informally known as The Vase”.  Well, well.  I prefer that to Boomerang.

Sunday August 19 2018

Earlier this evening I did some laundretting, and while I was there, this showed up outside:

image

I still photo taxis with adverts on them, and I especially liked this one, advertising this..

It made me think of the last time I went up to the top of the Shard, just over a year ago.

So I took a browse through the photos I took that day, and this time around, this one particularly struck me:

image

That was cropped to confine itself to the one building, and photoshop(clone)ed to resist the dullness of the day and general fogginess of the original.

Part of me wants to say that this is a classic case of the behind-the-scenes bit of a building, a chunk of it that you are not supposed to look at and get all aesthetic about.  It is what it is.

But I actuallly think that this is the facade of the building that the architects of it were most proud.  There is an exuberance about this roof, done in the equipment-as-decoration style, that is utterly lacking in the rest of the building.  The “official” bits of which are about as dull as dullness can get.  They didn’t have the budget to go full Lloyds Building, all over.  But they were able to go crazy on the roof, because the politicians whose job it was to tell them to redo the design more boringly didn’t give the roof any attention.  They thought they were building a machine for studying in, but only on the roof were they able to go mad with “expressing” that machineness.

I reckon they were delighted that the Shard was later put right next to this block of boredom with a great roof, enabling thousands of folks to gaze down on their favourite bit..  Gotcha, boredom police!

Okay, just a thought, and a thought that could well be wrong.  Maybe they really didn’t care how the roof looked.  But take a look through these photos of this mostly very dull slab, mostly taken from street level, of course, and see if you don’t share my suspicions.

Wednesday August 08 2018

I don’t believe I am the only man to have been deranged by the heatwave in the manner I am about to describe, in fact I know that I am not, because I had one of those How-Very-True You’re-So-Right type conversations with GodDaughter2’s boyfriend, Only The Other Day, about exactly this matter.

I refer to the fact that I, and many other men, do not merely wear a jacket to fend off frigidity.  We also wear it to carry stuff.  It is our version of a handbag.  In my case: wallet, cheque book and paying in cheques book (so I was born before you were - live with it) (both these items serve another purpose besides handling the financial instrument relics of the previous century, which is to fill up the pocket containing my wallet and stop the wallet falling out (which would be a catastrophe)), pen, purse, Old Git free London transport pass, keys, handkerchiefs, mobile phone, spectacle case with reading spectacles, spectacle case with spare camera batteries and spare SD cards (the latter for if I forget to put my regular SD card back in the camera), Disprins, cough sweets, regular sweets, eye allergy spray, and no doubt several other things I can’t now remember.

Unlike some men, I also carry an actual bag around with me on my travels, containing: a folder with paper to take notes, a shopping bag for if I shop, a camera, a book, a small bottle of fruit flavoured anti-dehydration liquid, any food I have bought, any spare garments I might need for if it gets colder, an umbrella, and even sometimes a laptop computer, on those days when I am in a mobile laptop computing sort of mood (although lately I have tended not to be in such a mood (too heavy)).

But, transferring all the clobber described in paragraph two above into the bag, and into the midst of all the clobber described in paragraph three above, is a serious derangement, not least because the bag gets far too full.  For remember, what if, late at night, if the heatwave abates, I need the jacket?  I have to have the jacket in the bag, just in case, even though it is far too hot to wear it and in fact, throughout the heatwave, it remained so.  So, with everything now in an unfamiliar place, much of it buried under other bits of it, all the usual reflexes stop working.  Nothing is any longer where it usually is.  I start suffering from that frightful female syndrome of digging about inside the bag, frantically trying to find whatever it is.  Which may in fact be in one of my trouser pockets, or maybe even my shirt pocket, for goodness sake.  Oh God, where’s my wallet (which contains all sorts of priceless stuff which I dare not even itemise (see above))?!?!  Etc..

Today, the heatwave sort of ended, as in: the weather oscillated between pleasantly warm and somewhat warmer.  But unfortunately the London Underground didn’t get the email containing the link to the short-term weather forecast, and chose to remain full of the horribly hot air that it had been accumulating throughout the previous fortnight, or however long it’s been.

But the discomfort I suffered was the discomfort of wearing my jacket when it was rather hot.  That I can live with.

But worse, just like the London Underground, I too found myself suffering a systemic hangover from the previous period of high temperature hell.  Earlier this evening I was in a pub, and when my pubbing was done, I picked up my bag, and visited the toilet, prior to leaving.  Luckily, while there, I realised that I had left my jacket on the back of the seat that I had been sitting on.  I reclaimed it, seemingly unmolested by plunderers, except that … hell’s bells, my wallet wasn’t in it! It was, of course, in the bag, where I had recently been learning instead to put it.

It’ll be a few more days before I recover my usual calm and suave demeanour, when out and about.

Tuesday August 07 2018

Nice Twitter exchange about how Ryanair provides a leg-up for young airline pilots.

Tom Chivers:

Saw the pilot of the Ryanair flight I’m on and honestly if I worked in a bar I would have IDed him

My friend and followee Michael Jennings replies:

Ryanair is a good place for a young pilot. They fly lots of hours and get promoted to captain fast. Then, with this on their CV, they go somewhere else where the working conditions are nicer.

Tom Chivers:

I remember reading that other airlines love Ryanair for exactly that reason. Steady supply of good trained pilots who are grateful not to work for Ryanair any more.

So, Ryanair is, from the employment, first-rung-on-the-ladder point of view, … well, see above.

I still miss Transport Blog.

Sunday July 22 2018

When I recently went to France, there was a rail strike on.  I even took a picture of the strike, in the form of an electronic sign at St Pancras full of train cancellations:

image

But, what happened to this strike?  Is it still going on?  Or has it finished?  If it has finished, who won?

I am none the wiser about the answers to these questions, but while seeking such answers, I came across this photo, of French trains, taken by someone looking down upon their roofs:

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Not much roof clutter to be seen there.  (See below.  This is now a preoccupation of mine.) Does the clutter on top of these trains not even exist?  Or, is it merely covered up?  (More research is needed.)

Saturday July 21 2018

6k has Flickred a wonderful little collection of photos he took on a recent expedition to France (he blogs about these here), of which this was one of my favourites:

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I particular like the extreme middle of this photo, which I have taken the liberty of cropping out and lightly sharpening:

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I love roof clutter.  So it’s no surprise that I also love rail clutter.  And France, so excellent at roof clutter, also does rail clutter exceptionally well.

Rail clutter embodies the exact same aesthetic contrast that roof clutter points to.  One part of what you are looking at is obsessed over, aesthetically.  The facade of a building is minutely contrived to look the way it should look.  And then on top of it, you can just shove up anything you like, to let out smoke, receive and send signals and generally do stuff on the roof.  Well, rail clutter is a lot like that.  The trains (especially the trains in France (and especially the high speed trains in France)) are aesthetically magnificent, or at least are intended to be are are considered to be by their creators (and I happen to agree with them).  Yet all around them is rail clutter, to feed the power into the trains, and this clutter is built in a totally functional manner, to do that job, no matter what kind of a jungle of mess that results in.

Let’s see what the photo-archive tells me about how this obsession played out on my own most recent expedition to France.

Here are two rail clutter photos, both featuring one of those beautiful trains, and both taken at Quimper railway station:

imageimageimage

On the left, you can pretend that the rail clutter isn’t there, if you really want to.  But on the right, the photo is photoed in such a way that you really can’t do that.  Look at that clutter!  I lined it all up with itself, just like 6k did in his rail clutter photo.

Here are a couple more photos of Quimper, taken from the footbridge over the main railway line off to the west of the city, right near where my hosts live, and in particular of the twin towers of Quimper Cathedral.  These two photos point to that same rail clutter aesthetic contrast by shoving it next to a cathedral, instead of next to a train.  But it’s the same point.  The cathedral has been obsessed about aesthetically for centuries.  The rail clutter just looks how it looks and to hell with that.

imageimageimage

But for me, perhaps most interesting of all, here are a couple of photos which point to a closely related phenomenon, which is the matter of clutter actually on the top of the trains.  That’s right.  Trains also, themselves, have roof clutter on their roofs:

imageimageimage

I remember noticing this phenomenon, pretty much for the first time (as in really noticing it), when I took this little clutch of photos.  From that same footbridge in Quimper.

I have the feeling that British trains are not so roof cluttered.  Memo to self: look into that.  But that can wait.  There’s been more than enough cluttertalk for this posting.

Thursday July 19 2018

Here.

image

Basically it’s a drone that can twiddle two of its propellers.  A robotised, propeller version of a Harrier Jump Jet.

However, the notion that flying cars will reduce or avoid traffic congestion is absurd.  Once such contraptions are finally made to work, they will not reduce or avoid traffic congestion They will cause traffic congestion to take to the skies.  They will give a new dimension to what is now a merely two dimensional phenomenon, and not in a good way.

Enjoy these days of big, empty, blue skies, while you still can.

Wednesday July 11 2018

I was asleep when England got their first goal.  My urban locality erupted with honking and shouting.  I looked at my bedside clock, and it was just after 7pm, when the game was due to begin.  Sure enough, when I cranked up the telly: CRO 0-1 ENG.  (You don’t need any links.  You surely know what I’m talking about.)

I recall this phenomenon happening before, this time right at the end of a game of this kind.  It was 0-0 at the very end of extra time, and about to be a shoot-out.  Against Belgium, I think it was.  And then someone called Platt, I think it was, scored a goal for England, when I was in my toilet.  The noises that I heard from my neighbours could only mean an England goal.  So it was with Trippier’s early goal this evening.

I am and remain a preemptive pessimist about England’s chances in this tournament, because this will soften the blow when the blow does fall, as fall it surely must.  An early goal, such as England have just scored, is often a mistake, because it gets the opposition stirred up.  It makes them forget any nerves they feel and really play, because they have to really play.  The early goal-scorers on the other hand, are tempted to defend too much and let the other fellows into then game.  And then when the other fellows equalise, they are the ones with the momentum.  Sure enough, as half time nears, England are getting sloppy and Croatia now have a chance.  Well, it’s now half time, but I still back Croatia to win this.

Now, they’re saying that England had lots of chances and should be further ahead.  Indeed.  So when Croatia do equalise, England will be very depressed, and will lose.

Roy Keane, a fellow pre-emptive pessimist by the sound of it: “England got a bit sloppy.”

Oh, the torture of hope.

And the further torture of feeling like a idiot, for taking such events far, far more seriously than anyone should.

In particular, I feel the difference between someone like me, who refuses to get his hopes up, and “real” fans, who do get their hopes up.  I “contribute” nothing to the success of any team I support, as in: like to see winning but don’t get hysterical about.  Yet in truth, the hysterics contribute very little more than I do.  Just the occasional encouraging bellow.  But if England never do get eliminated from this World Cup (I shun the w word) I feel that I will not have deserved it, but that the hysterics and the bellowers will have deserved it.  If you suffer, you deserve to succeed.  If you shun suffering, you do not.  Even if the suffering accomplishes nothing.

LATER:

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A cleverly chosen name, wouldn’t you say?

For “first” at the start of this, read: early.  And only.

Monday July 09 2018

Last Saturday, in the afternoon, while the rest of England was obsessing over Sweden v England, I was taking the train from Victoria around the south of central London to South Bermondsey, to see an actual man, about a metaphorical dog.  My train stopped off at Denmark Hill on its way to Bermondsey, and there I took another of those inside-a-train photos, with yellow tank tracks on it caused by the lighting in the train:

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That looks like some sort of helicopter landing and taking off pad, of the sort that they have on top of hospitals.

If this was the twentieth century, it would have remained a mystery, to me, for ever, unless I happened upon someone who knew what this was and I happened to ask him.  But it is the twenty first century, and just now, I googled “Denmark Hill helicopter pad”.  And in no time at all, I learned that this was a helicopter landing and taking off pad on top of a hospital.

To say that I unreservedly love the twenty first century would be to overstate matters.  But it does have its features, in among all its various bugs.

So much for the certainties of this situation, as revealed by the internet, one of the better features of this century so far.

Now for some guesses.

Why the ramp, leading from the pad, to the hospital?

Why not a lift, into which bodies can simply be wheeled, in about ten seconds?

My guess is that nothing is allowed to protrude above the surface of the pad, in case helicopters are blown into it by a gust of wind, or in case they miscalculate in some other way.  No protrusions.  Not even for seriously injured bodies, perhaps close to death.

So, the ramp.  And for the first few scary yards of it, there are no fences to stop you or the body trolley you are pushing being blown off, just a horizontal bit of wire netting to catch it and you, and prevent the very worst, just like the similar horizontal bits that surround the pad itself.  So, take care.  But, as you descend the ramp, a fence slowly rises up around you that will impede any ill-judged horizontal meandering you may blunder or be blown into doing, without in any way impeding the helicopters.  And, as soon as you have got down below the pad, you go under it, into a lift.  And you are in the hospital and can breath easy, even if the body you have brought with you may be breathing very difficult.

It’s my belief that if you look at my photo, you will see, if not all, then at least most, of the above.

I recall reading, once upon a time, that digital photoing is a substitute for really looking closely at stuff.  We photo things instead of really looking at things and really seeing things, said whoever it was who was grumbling.  My experience has been the opposite.  For me, digital photoing has meant spending so much time looking at and seeing things that the problem has been finding the time time to be doing anything else.