Brian Micklethwait's Blog

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

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Tuesday December 31 2013

I spent all my blogging time today concocting this posting, which is very long (being a review of my past year) and has twelve of my photos in it (one from each month).  Enjoy.

ls Happy Old Year right?  As in: hope you had one.  I rather think it might be, for today.  Anyway, I hope you did.

I have categorised this under, among other things, “Friends”, because if you are reading this today, or at all frankly, then you are.

Monday December 30 2013

This evening, in the Tube, at Embankment Station (Northern Line), I was sitting waiting for my train, but when it arrived it wasn’t my train.  It was this:

image image

A strange yellow train, with lots of yellow wagons, containing sort of cementy rocks, or something similar.  Biggish light grey coloured lumps, of the sort which looked like they might, if broken into smaller bits, make the small white rocky bits they put under railway tracks.

Not the greatest pictures, I know, but I was in a hurry, in low light conditions.  I had to get my camera out and going before the train had completely gone.

So is that what this train was?  A train transporting material to make more track, or to replace the stuff underneath existing tracks?

Here is a blog posting from 2006 which asks a very similar question.  The train looks very similar, and this time, the big grey lumps appear to have been crushed into smaller lumps, exactly as I speculate above.  It was spotted “at Euston”, which could also mean the Northern Line.

Sunday December 29 2013

As already noted here, the Helter Skelter tower is, after all, going to get built, or so it is being said now.

Here’s how it and its neighbouring Big Things will look:

image

That’s a photo I took last June of the big plasticated model of London, which you can look at by visiting the Building Centre in Store Street.

3D printing is going to make these kinds of models look a lot better, once they get such things organised.

Saturday December 28 2013

For about one second this posting appeared here.  But then I realised it could just as well go there.  So, there it went.

Friday December 27 2013

6000:

Post pictures of cats, they said. Seriously, if you’re not going to be able to write much, and a picture is worth a thousand words, then a picture of a cat is worth, well, Six Thousand. Do it.

So, with that in mind, here’s a picture of a cat, ...

I also found myself referring recently to the notion that a picture is worth a thousand words, but I think that one of the consequences of digital photography is that this is probably no longer true.  Not unless it’s a very good picture.  And to be fair to 6000, it is a pretty good cat picture.  Also, he was not saying that a picture is worth a thousand words, merely referring to the notion, by saying “if” it is, as an excuse for a quota cat.

One of the things that used to make pictures count for so much was that everyone knew what a bother it was to contrive them.  Now, everyone knows that contriving pictures has become very easy.

The reason I can never make myself care about just shoving hundreds of snaps up on the internet using something like Flickr, and why I prefer to put them here (or here), in much smaller numbers, is that I prefer my pictures to be accompanied by words, words that explain what I am trying to say with the pictures, or what I think is interesting about them.

The same principle applied to the old newspaper photographs, where this phrase presumably originated.  A picture may then have been worth a thousand words, but there were usually also plenty of actual words attached.

Often, the pictures here are pictures of words.  If following a link does not appeal, consider only the previous two postings.

Thursday December 26 2013

Now on display in the window of a local Oxfam shop, the one in Strutton Ground:

image

Here it is on Amazon.

(Further Amazon thoughts from me here.  The weird thing about Amazon is that it seems, still, to be a hangover from the dot com boom bust era.  It doesn’t make a profit, but still people want to own its shares.  Explanations anyone?)

But back to the latest England Ashes tour, which has become another very tough one.  Day One at Melbourne was hard going for England, not at all like their previous Day One at Melbourne.  And you can bet Clarke remembered that day when he put England in this time around.  This time over, he wanted to knock England over for something like 98, and end the day with Australia on something like 157-0.  At least England escaped that.  They didn’t do terribly badly, just not terribly well.  All the England top five got starts.  Only Pietersen got past 50.  It won’t be enough.  Australia will surely score quicker, get a lead, and win well, again.

Trott broken.  Swann gone.  They’re “playing for pride” now.  The pride, that is to say, of not being beaten 5-0, which they probably will be.

Australia aren’t especially good, and England aren’t especially bad.  But Australia are now definitely better in all departments, and with no interruptions or fluctuations caused by the weather like in England, they just keep on winning and England keep on losing, not just every match but pretty much every session.  Oh well.  Only a game.

England’s problem now is that the formerly great oldies (Cook, Pietersen, Bell, Anderson), are not yet bad enough to drop, and the newbies are not yet good enough.  But, if they don’t drop the oldies, the newbies will never get good.

Wednesday December 25 2013

I could just say Merry Christmas, hope you’ve been having one, had one, etc.  But if a picture is worth a thousand words, then here are 12,000 words.  In other words twelve snaps of various local businesses saying Merry Christmas and buy our stuff:

image image imageimage image imageimage image imageimage image image

All snapped locally, during the last few days.  Click to immerse yourself in the merriment.

The penultimate Merry Christmas (actually a Happy Christmas) was almost pitch black all over, until I got to work on it.  Had I snapped it in the day time it would have been in festive colour.

Or, if you want something more stylish, try these.

Incoming from Simon Gibbs, chasing that £50, saying how about this?:

image

I already considered this Ikea offering a while back, and quickly decided that it is too deep, front to back.  My living room is tiny.  I don’t have a whole 82cm to spare for people to lounge downwards and forwards half way across the room.  Small depth, and somewhat more height is what I want.

More like this, which I spotted last night in Habitat in the Kings Road:

image image

Those are appallingly bad photos, and on the second of them (the first, forget it) you can perhaps make out that the price being asked is £900, which is ridiculous.  But, that is much more like what I want.  Only about half the depth, or so I would guess, of the Ikea monstrosity above.

The fact that Habitat is now displaying such a thing, which when I last looked absolutely no London shop was, not a single solitary one (that I could find), is highly promising.  Maybe the furniture people are catching up with the notion that the market no longer wants only furniture to fill big new empty houses it is engaged in buying, but that it also now wants furniture to make the best use of the small, already crowded homes that it already has.

Tuesday December 24 2013

Even since Alex Singleton, earlier this year I think, turned my vague suspicion that my photos tend to lean to the right into a stone-cold certainty, I have been trying hard not to do this, to the point where I sometimes even see rightward leaning where none really exists.  I subjected yesterday’s photo, for instance, to a one degree leftward lean, but then reversed it.  It was, I believe I discovered, okay as was.

I have also been on the lookout for any other photographers guilty of this same sin.

Now, as a rule, I love the photos that Mick Hartley puts up at his blog, both by him (that one as of now being his own most recent one) and by others.  If I do not comment there much about these photos, well, that’s because putting “Hey nice photo” there, time after time, would get very boring.  But that’s what I typically think.

However, here are two snaps recently featured at Mick Hartley’s, of London and its bad air in former times, taken by Anthony Linck and Hans Wild, photographers for Life Magazine, no less, which both, to varying degrees (and especially the first one), seem to be suffering from, if I may so describe it, Micklethwait’s Disease.

I now feel much better.

I like this, from David Byrne:

I’m not saying that the artist doesn’t put their feelings into it, or any part of their biography, but that there’s a lot of constraints and considerations and templates that they work with – unconscious decisions or constraints put upon them that guide what they’re going to do.

Otherwise, why didn’t people in the 14th century start writing full-blown operas with giant orchestras and whatever?  These things just weren’t available to them. Our imaginations are constrained by all these other things — which is a good thing. There’s kind of a process of evolution that goes on where the creative part of you adapts to whatever circumstances are available to you. And if you decide you want to make pop songs, or whatever, there’s a format. You can push the boundaries pretty far, but it’s still a recognized thing. And if you’re going to do something at Lincoln Center, there’s a pretty prescribed set of things you are going to do. You can push that form, but kind of from inside the genre. So I guess I’m saying that a lot of creative decisions are kind of made for us, and the trick is then working creatively within those constraints.

Happy is the artist whose inner inclinations happen to fit perfectly with the artistic forms he is offered, with audiences as they are - or as he can easily make them.

And, happy is the artist whose artistic wishes are in alignment with his artistic talents.

It is constantly said that “if Mozart had been alive today” he would have done this or that, and in all cases: a lot.  But maybe he would have done nothing.  Maybe he would have turned away from music-making nowadays in disgust and contempt, or maybe just frustration that it could not be what he wanted it to be.  We can never know.

Monday December 23 2013

The weather today has been particularly vile.  Rain and wind in a horrid combination, far worse even than the day I took the first of these two pictures, of three of London’s Big Things.  So here, to cheer me up, is a picture of the same Big Things, from a bit nearer, and in nicer weather, taken in July:

image

These Big Things, in this random clump, fascinate me.  Architects have obsessed about the aesthetics of each individual Thing, but seem to have paid no attention at all to how they will look in a group.  They are just plonked down next to each other, like a child playing with bricks.

Well, it may be a bizarre aesthetic jumble, but partly because of this, no other city on earth has anything quite like it.

What is particularly unique about London’s Big Things is that they are funny.  They are tongue-in-cheek.  They’re havin’ a larf.

The names – affectionate rather than grandiose – reflect this air of comedy.  Gherkin.  Cheesegrater.  Walky-Talky.  These names are chosen by the people of London, not imposed upon us by our rulers.

Sunday December 22 2013

According to Michael Jennings, the Mercedes-Benz W123 is the vehicle of choice for all taxi drivers in Morocco, which basically means that all transport in Morocco other than by means of legs, human or animal, is the Mercedes W123.

Here is a picture of lots of Mercedes-Benz W123s which Michael took on his travels.  They are resting, presumably:

image

Michael was telling Patrick Crozier and me about this iconic vehicle, and just as he was telling us, look what we found ourselves walking right past, on our way to our pub lunch:

image

That’s not quite a Mercedes-Benz W123, apparently.  But it is the exact same shape.

One of the things I like to photograph, on my walks, is vehicles that are strange or interesting for some reason.  Another for the collection.

It may not look much like a Volkeswagen, but it sort of is that.  Sturdy enough and mechanically simple enough for it not to break down often, and to be locally mendable when it does.  They stopped making them in the eighties, but they are still going strong.

Saturday December 21 2013

Went out to lunch today, to Twickenham, to dine with Patrick and Michael.

Here are some Big Things, viewed from Vauxhall Station, in today’s lousy weather:

image

Cheesegrater, Gherkin, Walky-Talky.  And they now plan to finish the Helter Skelter.

And here are some smaller things, viewed on the way back, up on the new Waterloo Station elevated shopping deck:

image

Those two coloured sheep were outside what I assume was some kind of wool-related enterprise, although I did not check.  Googling left me none the wiser.

Friday December 20 2013

I enjoyed this, which is the Daily Mash take on how cats “love any quirky and winsome humour associated with people”.

The piece concludes:

Cat Denys Finch Hatton said: “Our amusement at the eccentricities of human behaviour may be a way of switching off from our primal and sadistic natures which are obsessed by sex, killing and torture.

“Or maybe we’re just bored with our empty consumerist lives.”

To be a bit more serious, my understanding of cats is that they mostly look on us as giant domestic appliances, supplying food and warmth and strokes.  Seriously, machines that do these things seem equally attractive to them.

It’s dogs that are truly interested in people.  But dogs are goofy.

See also the Daily Mash view of the Ashes.

And, this is actually quite profound.

Thursday December 19 2013

I am, as noted in the previous posting, reading Deidre McCloskey’s Bourgeois Dignity.  At the join between page 350 and page 351, I learn this:

The second sons of British aristocrats, such as Richard Howe, had long joined even the technically demanding and bourgeois navy.  They stood on the quarterdecks facing enemy fire, as aristocrats should, but their fellow offers were the sons of lawyers or of clergymen (such as Sir Frances William Austen, Admiral of the Fleet in 1863 and Jane Austen’s brother; and Sir Charles Austen, another brother and another admiral).

I did not know this, that is to say, I did not know (in particular) the bit in the brackets.  That explains a great deal about the novel Persuasion, in which the best men are navy men, and the biggest arse is an aristocrat.

Jane Austen’s books are popular because, despite the way they look on television, they are precisely not unthinking celebrations of aristocratic privilege and excellence.  Upwardly mobile traders are accorded dignity, and aristocrats who despise tradesmen for trading are in their turn despised by Jane Austen.  Yes, Mr Darcy owns half a county, and Elizabeth Bennet falls for him when she first sets eyes on his gigantic stately home.  But his aunt, Lady Catherine de Burgh, who despises Elizabeth for being related to tradespeople, is another pompous aristocratic arse (of the female sort), bested at the end by bourgeois Elizabeth Bennet.

By the way, McCloskey is a cricket fan.

Wednesday December 18 2013

I am now reading Bourgeois Dignity by Deirdre McCloskey, on the recommendation of Anton Howes.  It is very clear that Howes has been strongly influenced by McCloskey’s voluminous writings.

But, until a short while ago, I did not know this:

Deirdre McCloskey is a well-known economist, with a reputation for originality or, depending on how you like to see it, being a maverick renegade. She is a neoclassical Chicago economic historian by training. But she has been asking about the rhetorical underpinnings of economics for some time. She also, in a story well-known in the profession, used to be a he, Donald McCloskey, but has transitioned to being a woman.

Blog and learn.

Tuesday December 17 2013

I took this photo last month, in Gramex, Lower Marsh:

image

Hope you like it.  I do.

It’s not a real dog.

Since Gramex sells classical music, I wonder if the dog is any relation of this dog.

Incoming from Alan Little, from whom it is very nice to be hearing:

I thought this might be your sort of thing.

This being a collection, of course with photos, of 10 Spectacular Movable Bridges.  Definitely my sort of thing.

My favourite (for me) new discovery was this:

image

That’s bridge number seven, the Hörn Bridge, in Kiel, Germany.

It’s notable that about half (by my calculations) of these bridges are for pedestrians, or for pedestrians and cyclists, rather than road or rail bridges.

In recent years, local politicians have been discovering that a bit of well-judged public spending on a Popular Public Thing can really juice up the tourist trade, boost property values and tax take, etc.  This has meant, in particular, a proliferation of cute footbridges, often foot-and-bicycle bridges of course.  They are cute, but they are relatively cheap, certainly compared to bridges for roads or railways.

London has two recent footbridges (three if you count the Hungerford Bridge footbridges as two bridges), and two more are now being talked up, the Heatherwick Garden Bridge, and the one they are talking about that will connect Battersea to Chelsea.

I also liked bridge number eleven (aka bonus bridge number one), the Barton Swing Aqueduct:

image

The aqueduct, the first and only swing aqueduct in the world, is a Grade II listed building, considered a major feat of Victorian civil engineering. Designed by Sir Edward Leader Williams and built by Andrew Handyside of Derby, the swing bridge opened in 1894 and remains in regular use.

Cool.  Not something that anyone else felt the need to copy.  But still, cool.

Monday December 16 2013

I want one of these:

image

It’s a map of London, and a puzzle with each London postal district being a piece.  In other words, it’s a London Postcode Jigsaw Puzzle.

The thing is, I love London and everything, but I have no very clear idea of what the names are of its various bits.  Or to put it another way, I have no exact idea of where Harringay, Eltham, Camden, Islington, and so on and so forth, are.  I know most of the names.  I know most of the places.  Can’t match names to places or places to names.

This puzzle will be just the ticket for sorting all that out in my head.  £15.

Sunday December 15 2013

I have three sports teams that I support.  When I say support, I don’t mean I spend ridiculous sums of money actually turning up to watch about half of the actual games they play, but … I like it when they win and am saddened when they lose.

These teams are: England (cricket), Surrey (cricket) and Spurs (football).  I watch other games, but seem unable to develop any enthusiasm for particular teams other than the above three.  I think you have to be imprinted with this kind of thing when young.  I played cricket at school, and before that in a garden which was in Surrey, England.  Spurs were riding high when I was in my early teens, winning the League/Cup double in 1961.  Bang bang bang.

So, how are my teams doing just now?

Well, Surrey are not playing right now, but this is just as well because the last time they were playing, they were busy being relegated.  Everyone talks about how the death of the highly promising Tom Maynard (out on the town having a binge, running away from the Police, etc.) hit them very hard, but their real problem is that they are nowhere near to replacing the actual season-after-season accomplishments of Mark Ramprakash, who quietly retired from first class cricket in among all the Maynard dramas.

England are being hammered in the Ashes, down under.  Pretty much the same bunch of players who won the previous two Ashes series, against pretty much the same bunch of Aussies whom they beat, are now well on the way to being being thrashed 5-0.  Australia have finally recovered from losing Warne and McGrath, having, during the course of last summer, worked out what their top team is.  Mitchell Johnson has arrived at his long awaited peak.

England, meanwhile, are just running out of puff, the most embarrassing aspect of their game just now being the way that none of Tremlett, Finn or Rankin is reckoned worthy of a place.  Both Tremlett and Finn did things on the previous tour.  Now these three are being called the tallest set of drinks waiters ever.  It will be 3-0 by the time the current game ends, and there is no reason to think that Australia will not win the next two games as well.  Frankly, a result like 3-0 would be a pleasant surprise.  Where next for England?  I don’t know, but it will be fun finding out.  In particular, I am looking forward to seeing if Andy Flower persists, and if he does, whether he persists with Cook as captain.

Expect profound analysis of the weaknesses of English cricket, along the lines of all this stuff, written about Australian cricket a few months back.

And Spurs?  They have just lost 0-5, i.e. 5-0 at home, to Liverpool.  Bloody hell.  This after that 6-0 walloping by Man City. They had looked like serious top four contenders, but not now.  Antoine Clarke, with whom I’ve just been talking, reckons you can’t blame them.  Lots of money spent on the team, yes, but only recently (basically all the Gareth Bale money).  They need time to gel.  Antoine reckons sacking the manager isn’t the answer.  The answer is: time.

So, will England’s Flower and Spurs’s Villas-Boas carry on?  Surrey’s Adams already got the boot, and now they have a new coach.

MONDAY MORNING: The final over before the Australian declaration went for: 4 6 2 4 6 6.  134 off 17 overs this morning.  England need 504 to win.  I don’t think so, somehow.

Cricinfo commenter:

“It’s as if they’ve given up! Credit to Australia of course… But I really thought the disappointments of Atherton et al being smashed by the cocksure Aussies were well behind us. Alas, I was wrong.”

And that was followed very soon by Cook being bowled first ball.  It’s hard not to be hurt by such things, if you are an England fan like me.  That’s a new England low point.

MONDAY EVENING: Exit Villas-Boas.

Saturday December 14 2013

Incoming from Michael Jennings:

image

There is the end of Cape Bojador. This now scores high in the Brian blogs and Michael then goes there stakes.

Not very appetising looking, that having been my original point.  I just reread that piece.  Not bad.

LATER:

And when you get south of the point:

image

Not a helpful place to sale next to.

Friday December 13 2013

When tube drivers get above themselves and start doing stand-up comedy routines over the intercom during tube journeys, I find this nearly unbearable.  I think this is because, when on the tube, I go into a sort of trance, basically to cut out the din of the train, but comedy over the intercom makes that trance impossible to stay in.  I find myself listening carefully, despite myself, in case the exhibitionist failed comedian says something of importance, and with that, I am obliged to listen also to the train noise.  Horrible.

This (photoed yesterday by me at Embankment Tube Station), on the other hand, is not something I mind at all:

image

That’s right, platitudinous philosophical ruminations where there should be significant information about service interruptions.  But, it didn’t bother me.  In fact, I quite liked it.

Writing, as I recall writing in this piece (about how to argue), is a branch of good manners.  (In that I actually said “publishing”, but the point is identical.) This is because writing is easily ignored.  It puts the reader in control.

The same applies to blogging, in fact to the internet generally.  It isn’t an interruption.  You are in complete control of it.  Except when the damn thing starts making noises (like those damned tube comedians), that you have to spend ages tracking down the noise and switching it off.

Thursday December 12 2013

Photoed by me today:

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The golden dancing lady is the one on top of the Victoria Palace Theatre.

Wednesday December 11 2013

I am rather ill and I am very tired, and I am in no mood to be writing prose of the sort anyone else - or for that matter even I – would want to read.

And here we come to one of the great advantages of these big photo collections that I like to do here from time to time.  I don’t have to be a hundred percent to do it.  I can do it, and do it entirely right, even if in no mood to write proper prose.

So here is the latest clutch of photos, this time of people using Big Flat Things, rather than anything resembling regular cameras, to take photos:

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The first of these was taken in December of 2012, and the rest this year.

I have already written about Big Flat Things photography, so if you insist on verbiage, go here.

Tuesday December 10 2013

Only just discovered a new function in Expression Engine which has been staring me in the face for nearly a decade.

Instructions: If the title won’t fit in the Title field or you want to italicise some part of it use this. You will still have to put something in the Title field though. It’s an EE thing.

The italics thing is particularly useful, for book titles that I want in the title.  Wish I’d cottoned onto this a lot earlier.

Testing for real will be needed, though.  So there may be oddities.

And, it does not work.  The “Long Title” has not become a title.  The “Long Title” appears as line one of my text, in the dry run, but not in the final version.  The final version has the regular Title as its title, not the Long Title.  So, how the f*** do I get those italics working in the actual title? Time for some googling.  Bear with me.

And I am none the wiser.  Lots of information about Expression Engine.  Not the one bit I am looking for, or not that I could see.

Anyone?

Monday December 09 2013

Here is recent confirmation of the map app effect, i.e. the replacement of paper maps by electric maps. 

The pictures below were all taken on June 4th of this year.  Soon after that date I picked out these nine snaps of digital photographers doing their things, with a view to showing them here, but I never got around to doing that.  I made my selections without any particular thought of maps.  So far as I can tell, I picked my winners on a variety of grounds, three of them, it would appear, because of interesting backgrounds, in particular the one (2.1) with the word VISIONS to be seen in the background, on the side of what looks like a TV van.  My selection is also biased towards facial non-recognisability.

Here are eight of the nine I picked.

No maps:

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And here is the ninth.

A map:

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Was that ratio a fair reflection of the ratio for the entire lot of photos I took that day?  No.  It was not.  I took about 350 snaps, of which about third to a half were of digital photographers. That’s a lot.  Number of maps being flaunted by photographers: one.  That one.  Otherwise, no maps to be seen.  This does not of course mean that no other maps were being carried.  But it is telling, I think.

Four of these snaps, by my calculation, feature pictures being taken with smartphones.  I think I was a bit biased towards that also, but the fact that I had so many examples of that to pick out is likewise telling.

Goddaughter Two is in town.  She was already spontaneously talking about this map thing, before she knew I had any interest in it.  She and a friend are now being London tourists.  They are seeing a few maps, but only a few.

Change is not just the new stuff.  It’s the old stuff that you don’t see any more.

JUST BEFORE POSTING THIS: Goddaughter One’s dad dropped by.  He was recently wondering about maps, his question being: How do I best tell fellow engineers, visiting London for a footbridge conference, where London’s best footbridges are to be found?  Give them a paper map and mark the bridges on that map?  No.  Paper maps don’t sell any more.  At all. Ergo, they are rapidly ceasing to make them.  Answer: Given them electric map references.  They get you to within ten yards of each bridge, no worries.

Sunday December 08 2013

I notice that in this posting, about Maggie Thatcher telling Botha to get rid of Apartheid in 1984, Guido uses the phrase “Comrade Blimp”.

I like to think I may have put this meme into his head, with this, which was published in 1984.  (If I don’t link to my ancient writings, nobody will.) But then again, maybe in 1984, the phrase was already doing the rounds, and I merely plucked it out of the breeze myself.  Or maybe he said it first, and I stole it from him.

Either way, it’s good, I think.

Saturday December 07 2013

When the England cricket team does well, I celebrate.  Now?  It’s only a game.

See also this, about Kevin Pietersen.  And this now reads horribly well:

And what happens when this current winning England side starts to seriously fall apart, as it soon will, when players like Anderson and Swann (Swann in particular) have stopped playing?  How consistent will selection then be?  Something tells me I may be doing one of those I told you so link backs that we bloggers are so fond of.  When we actually did tell you so, I mean.

The first bit there, about England falling apart, now reads especially well, although I did not think that they would fall apart so soon.  Swann and Anderson are still playing, but Swann in particular is not what he was.  Trott is broken and gone.  Cook and Pietersen are runless.  Root looks good, until he gets out.  Tremlett was a prayer, not a selection.  Stokes?  Expect a period of England selection inconsistency.

It’s not quite over yet.  If England could scrape a draw in this game, it would feel like a huge win, and that is not totally impossible, especially if Cook hangs around for a day and a half.  But, nobody is betting on any of that happening, and certainly not me.

What I said about Stuart Broad seems now to apply far better to Mitchell Johnson.  I said the Aussies might regret having a go at Broad.  I wonder how the Barmy Army now feels about all the grief it has piled upon Johnson in former times?

Friday December 06 2013

One of the jobs of random blogs like this one is recommend such things as restaurants.  This is one of those postings.  If you read no further, just know that I recently dined at La Porte des Indes, and I liked it.  It’s just a short walk away from Selfridges in Oxford Street, where a friend had been working.  Address: 32 Bryanston Street.

So, to the details of why I liked it.  One: the food was very tasty.  Always a good start.  And while we were waiting, they gave us little plastic cups of soup, also very tasty.

However, although I like the way tasty food tastes, I now unable to consume very much food all at once.  Perhaps I am lucky, because being unable to eat too much, I am not becoming as fat as I might otherwise become, what with so much of the food I do eat being junk.

But there is a way in which I am often unlucky, which is when I am dining out.  Often, I just can’t manage to eat all that I am paying for.

So it is that a service I especially value is when I am allowed to take my leftovers away with me.  A restaurant willing to package up all my delicious but indigestible leftovers will now have a special place in my heart, and stomach.

La Portes Des Indes was not cheap, when I and a friend dined there about a fortnight ago.  But I still remember the delicious taste of the chicken, the pain of realising that my stomach would not be able to do it justice, and the small translucent plastic carton they used to put my spare chicken in, so that I could eat it later.  I’ve had bags made available in such circumstances before, but never a plastic carton.

I paid about twice what I usually want to pay when dining out, but I also dined twice over, once in the restaurant, and then again back home, the next day.

The place looks great as well.  The outside is unprepossessing, like a fast food joint at the bottom of an office block.  But when you step inside, it’s like you’ve entered the restaurant equivalent of the Tardis.  It’s really big.  It used to be a dance hall, so they said.  And the décor has been preserved from that era and added to, rather than stripped out and replaced with modernistic dreariness.  Plus, the ambient noise was not too loud and we could hear each other talk without any shouting.  Crucial, for me.  I often leave things early for this one reason.

Recommended.

Thursday December 05 2013

And not just any old telly.  BBC1, The One Show, no less, watched by millions. I was and I am impressed.  Watch Elena Procopiu in action 25m30s into it, here, while it’s still there.  (For future reference, this was on Tuesday December 3rd.)

Elena was born in Romania and did a piece to camera about Romania and about Romanians in England, entirely in a Romanian accent until right at the end, when she said in her regular English voice that lots of Romanians have been here for years.  Many Romanians have already seen this performance, on the www.  Some, who missed the bit at the end, were surprised that someone who has been in England for so long still has such a strong Romanian accent.  None said that the Romanian accent was not a proper Romanian accent, which is not that easy to get exactly right, if you no longer have such an accent.

Wednesday December 04 2013

Quota photos, I’m afraid, but I like them:

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Taken by me at St James’s Park Tube, yesterday.  Not really sculpture, of course.  But I like the colours that my camera has automatically selected for these images.  And I like how the one on the left has the dirt highlighting the shapes, rather like make-up.

Tuesday December 03 2013

I’ve recently been doing a lot of trawling through old picture archives, and in the course of this I found a directory devoted to Digital Photographers Holding On To Their Maps.

So here is an enormous clutch of such photos, with the little squares below all homing in on the maps.  Click to see the photographers in action, if you wish.

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The photos you get by clicking are exactly as taken, but the little squares involved quite a lot of enhancement - brightening, contrasting, sharpening, etc. - the better to reveal their mapitude.

If you don’t wish to click on any of these map squares, fine, but at least reflect with me on how the age of maps, on paper, like this, is now drawing to a close.  The above snaps were snapped between 2005 and 2007.  I wonder how many such photographs I’d be able to take now.  Next time I go out snapping snappers, I’ll make a point of trying to see if paper maps are still being carried by photographers.

My guess would be, yes, just a few.  This would be because the keener you are on photography, the more likely you were to have had a nice camera before the smartphone thing kicked in, and the less likely you might be to get a brand new smartphone, to replace your regular, mapless old phone.  So maps being held by people with regular cameras are still, I am guessing, around.

But, nobody taking photos with a smartphone will now be simultaneously waving a paper map.  Such a person already has a map.

It’s surely worth me adding that I got my smartphone entirely for its map app.  It’s lighter than an A-Z and much lighter than all the A-Zs you’d need if you travelled much, and also much nicer than google maps printouts from my computer, because my smartphone, crucially, tells me where I am.  For me, a smartphone is a book of magic maps which also does occasional phone calls and textings, not the other way around.

Going back to the pictures above, it’s not just the map-flaunting that is now looking quaint.  So do a lot of the cameras.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  A picture collection is like a well stocked wine cellar.  It gets better with age.

Monday December 02 2013

More photos of things past

More because I have already done a posting entitled Photos of things past, as I discovered when trying to save the text file I wrote prior to posting this.

I must say, I do find myself missing this Thing.  If they hadn’t smashed it to bits, I would definitely be thinking that they should, but now that they have, this kind of Thing is on the defensive, and you find yourself siding with the architectural underdog.  I’d certainly not be happy if all traces of New Brutalism were brutally expunged.  We need a bit of it to hang around, if only as a warning of how mad architects can get, when they get mad.

This Thing was situated in the roundabout on the far side of Westminster Bridge, now occupied by the big hotel featured in picture 1.3 below.  Someone told me a few days back, when I was talking about having posted an earlier picture of it here, that it was a G(reater) L(ondon) C(council) office annex, reached by a tunnel under the road from the main building.  So, now that London’s local politicians have moved downstream, to The Testicle, this Thing became superfluous to requirements.

It was destroyed in October 2006, as these photos, taken on October 13th of that year, prove:

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On that same day, October 13th 2006, I took other photos, of other things that have moved on, or which soon might.

The first two of these next snaps are of cranes, temporary by their nature.  Who knows what that crane cluster (1.1) was building?  I could probably work it out, but that isn’t the point.  The point is: what an excellent crane cluster!  And I think I found another picture I took of it, this time looking along The Strand.

What that blue crane was doing, floating on the river, posing in front of The Wheel, I also can’t remember.

1.3 is another shot of the Eurostar trains at Waterloo, which in 2007, as reported here, moved on, to St Pancras.

I include the bus (2.1), with its entertaining reflections, because the London Double Decker Bus has now been redesigned, and all other London Double Deckers could soon be Things of the past.

Those wind propellers, on the top of Palestra House, the Big Thing just across the road from Southwark Tube Station, are long gone.

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And the final snap there (2.3) reminds us of another kind of temporariness, which is that sooner or later, we all must move on.  That snap is of flowers and pictures, placed outside Westminster Abbey, in memory of the then recently murdered (it’s still unsolved) Anna Politkovskaya.

Sunday December 01 2013

Indeed:

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Photoed by me, just under a week ago, in one of the windows of Selfridges.