Brian Micklethwait's Blog
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This and that
Don’t get me wrong, it was a very fine day indeed. Deepest thanks to Darren for sharing it with me. But, it wasn’t the magical day that the game that Darren fixed for us both to see last year was.
There are several reasons for this relative lack of magic. For starters, last time around, it was all happening, for me, for the first time. I had never before sat high up in the Surrey Pavilion like that, so last September I was doing that for the very first time.
The game in 2015 was a semi-final and was very tense throughout, in fact the result was in doubt until the final ball. The game last Wednesday was a handsome win for Surrey, which was good. But it rather fizzled out at the end, as handsome wins in sport so often do.
But the biggest difference between this game and the previous one was that whereas, in that 2015 game, a cricket legend by the name of Kumar Sangakkara made a superb century, in this game, there was no megastar super-performance, just a succession of very capable Surrey players doing very well, until the game was won.
The nearest thing to a dominant superstar on show last Wednesday was Jason Roy. Roy is not yet a cricket legend on a par with Sangakkara, and of course he probably never will be, having arrived only rather recently as an England one day and twenty-twenty star. But he has made one hell of a start, starts being what he specialises in. He supplied, for example, the rapid start that England had to have if they were to get anywhere near to South Africa’s huge score of 229 in England’s World T20 must-win game back in March of this year, in Mumbai. Roy hit four fours in the first over of that amazing and ultimately successful chase. Then, back in England, Roy did brilliantly in the 50 overs games earlier this year against Sri Lanka. He shared in the huge opening partnership with Alex Hales that won game two, and in game four he made 162, in another dominant England win.
On Wednesday, Roy got the game started in his usual style by hitting the first ball of the match for four. And I got a photo of that very predictable moment:
And so it continued, for a short while. But then, Roy got out for a mere 34, and Surrey needed many more runs to set a decent target. They got those runs, but the day would have been a whole lot more fun if Roy had hung around for longer.
Here is another and much better picture of Roy in action, which shows his face as well as one of his actions:
That shot, in both of its two meanings, was shot by a Real Photographer, again at the Oval, last Friday evening, when Roy played exactly the sort of innings that I would loved to have seen him play on Wednesday afternoon. This was a twenty-overs-each-way game. Roy again went in first for Surrey. But this time he stayed in, and slammed 120 not out. Roy and the formidable Australian, Aaron Finch, shared an opening partnership of 187, and Surrey ended up with 212-4. This was more than enough to crush Kent, but sadly, it was not enough to get Surrey through to the last eight, because another result went against them.
Darren, having so kindly invited me to accompany him to the Wednesday game, was also at the Oval on Friday evening, when I was busy hosting a meeting at my home. Perhaps this posting should end now, on that note of, I trust, good humoured envy. But I want to contrast the events of that game last Friday, which Darren witnessed and which I did not, with what happened in another cricket match, in Sri Lanka, that was happening at the same time.
On Saturday morning, yesterday morning in other words, I followed this other game on Cricinfo. Sri Lanka and Australia were playing out a test match. Remember those? The ones that sometimes go on for five whole days?
Sri Lanka, back home but still smarting from their disappointments in England, had got themselves out for a mere hundred in their first innings. But they then confined Australia to two hundred, and then got a real score in their second innings. By Saturday morning my time, Australia were struggling to get a draw, on the final day of a rain and light interrupted match. And in the course of this ultimately unsuccessful struggle, their ninth wicket pair, Nevill and O’Keeffe, resisted the Sri Lankan bowlers for more than twenty overs, without scoring a single run.
Here is a screen snapshot of cricinfo commentary, taken by me during this dot-ball-fest:
At that point, during over number 77, and as commenter Viran Salgado pointed out towards the bottom of that bit of commentary, it had already been twelve overs of dottiness with no runs having been scored. And when the ninth wicket eventually fell during over number 86 the score was still stuck on 161, with the final wicket falling three overs later, also at 161.
In other words, on Friday night Jason Roy made 120 and Surrey as a whole amassed 212, in the space of 120 balls. A few hours later, Australia, in the passage of play in their game against Sri Lanka that I have just described, faced almost exactly the same number of balls as that, and scored a grand total of: no runs. And in the course of all this relentless blockage, Sri Lanka managed to take: no wickets. 0-0. Zero for zero. Bugger all, for bugger all.
It’s not that nothing happened. It was riveting stuff. But this extreme contrast does illustrate how the game of cricket is now changing.
Indeed. Photoed by me this afternoon. I got off my bus early after spotting it, and walked back to photo it:
Inside the extraordinarily big front door of this place. The name keeps changing from Department of I forget what it used to be, to Department of I forget what it was after that, And I think they just changed it again, following all the recent political excitements, and us having a new Prime Minister. Innovation? Industry? Skills? All the sorts of things which, if you have a government department for it, you get less of. I believe it is now: Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Jolly ho. That’s probably completely wrong, and the Department of Energy and Industrial Strategy is perhaps somewhere else. Maybe everything is just staying where it is, and they have merely juggled the labels. That’s the likely story. Like I say: jolly ho.
Impressive airplane, though.
Friday is my day for cats and other creatures. The other creatures have already been alluded to. Now for the cats.
Last Sunday I visited GodDaughter 1’s parents and my friends, Gus and Mrs Gus. Gus, Mrs Gus and I visited their allotment, to collect our supper and to do some watering. Well, they collected our supper and did watering. I took photos. Like these two. On the left, Gus, and on the right some flowers? What sort of flowers? Yellow flowers.
And, I photoed cats.
The first cat I photoed lived in a house with a fence bordering on the allotments, through which it observed me, and then came closer, to investigate,while always being ready to retreat if I made any sudden moves:
That final picture is of the cat after he had gone back home, photoed with maximum zoom. But, he was still staring warily at me, just in case I did anything dangerous.
And the other cat I photoed was a handsome black and white cat, like the one my family had when I was a kid. He is apparently a regular visitor to the allotments, which is one of his favourite toilets, so I was told.
This time there was no fence to hide behind, so my zoom was in constant use.
Indeed. Photoed by her in a zoo in or around Quimper, where she is staying at the moment.
First, an elephant. At first I thought there was a camera smudge in this, in the middle. But the elephant is chucking dust over itself, and also some into the air:
GD2 particularly drew my attention to its legs. Also indeed.
And here are some monkeys, looking very learned:
This picture cries out for a caption competition, but caption competitions don’t seem to work here. By all means try to change that if you’d like to.
These - I think - very nice photos were apparently taken with an iPhone 6. Impressive.
As I said yesterday, much socialising this week. Another do tonight, and yesterday, another visit with Darren to the Oval.
One of the advantages of my White Van fetish is that whenever I am waiting to meet someone in London, I can pass the time by photoing White Vans, of which there are invariably some and often many. So, while I waited to meet Darren, I photoed White Vans, and also a couple of not-so-White ones.
Before elaborating on the vans let me be clear that Darren was not late. He was spot on time. I was early. The trip to the Oval is not a totally familiar one for me, so I made sure I was not late by being early. Hence these vans.
Pride of place goes to the first van, light green in colour, decorated with the regalia of the Surrey County Cricket Club. I spotted this vehicle as I was making my way towards the Hobbs Gate, where we were due to meet. It was parked under one of the Oval’s huge stands. All the other vans were photoed outside the aforementioned Gate.
By the way, I love what I found when I followed the above link, to the Cricinfo Hobbs profile:
Jack Hobbs was cricket’s most prolific batsman. He finished with 61,237 first-class runs and 197 centuries, most of them stylishly made from the top of the Surrey or England batting orders. And he might have scored many more had the Great War not intervened, or if he hadn’t been inclined to get out shortly after reaching 100 to let someone else have a go.
Anyway, here are the vans:
1.1: The Surrey CCC van, as related above.
1.2: The first of two snaps with a bike angle. But, bicycle recovery? This van is for collecting bikes to mend, but not, alas, for recovering bikes that have been stolen. The bits where it says “We fix bikes” have, for me, an air of clarificatory honesty about them. Like they were added to lower falsely aroused expectations of daring do against the criminal classes.
1.3: This one I especially like, because I like White Vans and I like signs (by which I mean: I like to notice them). And here is an example of the former devoted to the latter. Note in particular: “Health & Safety Signage”. A big growth area in recent years.
2.1: I think this is my favourite one, of these. Usually, what I like about the White Vans I photo is the profusion of information that they supply. But in this case it’s the lack of information that made me smile. VOITH? Like: Everyone knows what VOITH is! But not me. Turns out it’s an enterprise that makes stuff for cars. When it says it “builds its partnership with Vauxhall”, this doesn’t mean with Vauxhall the place (which is very near to where I was standing when I took the photo), but rather with Vauxhall the car making enterprise.
2.2: A black van, devoted to cleaning. Very wise. One of the problems with White Vans is how dirty they can look, if only slightly dirty. And if you are a cleaning enterprise – and especially if you are a fantastic cleaning enterprise - you don’t want your vans looking dirty.
That’s enough vans.
Last weekend and all through this week, despite still not being totally well, I have been doing lots of socialising. I now face more. This Friday I have a meeting at my own home (Michael Jennings speaking about Australia). Today, my cricket buddy Darren and I are going to see Surrey v Gloucs at the Oval. Plus, The Guru and I are, in the midst of all this, trying to fix a visit by him to see to my big old home computer ("Dawkins" is the name I think I gave it), in time to beat the Windows 10 For Free deadline, which I think is on Friday also. So, blogging here during the next few days may be more perfunctory than usual. It may not, but it may.
On the other hand, blogging doesn’t need to take that long, and while doing this apology-for-not=blogging posting, I also concocted another blog posting. See below.
This is why I make a point of promising nothing, so very frequently. Once I have promised nothing, my immediate inclination is to break that promise. Whereas, if I promise something, that is all too likely to be the promise that will get broken.
Savour this Dezeen headline:
I could write a long essay about that headline, and still not have extricated all the irony and nuance and cultural understanding and misunderstanding, history of failure, history of success, wrapped up in it. Maybe I will.
A central observation in such an essay, should it ever materialise, will be that Modernism now works. Those “machines for living in” that we were promised all those years ago did not work when they were first built, hence the unwillingness of normal people to inhabit these malfunctioning machines. But, now the Modernist machines do work. Architects have spent decades learning how to make “functional” architecture actually function, and now, on the whole, it does.
Thus, buildings which poor people used to run a mile from are now desirable dwellings, and rich people compete to purchase them.
I love before and after pictures. Here is another, showing how the world looked before Blackfriars Bridge Railway Station was built (photo taken in 2004), and after it was built (photo taken a few weeks ago).
What the two pictures have in common in those ghostly red columns, left over from an earlier Blackfriars railway bridge.
I seem to recall once upon a time speculating that the ugly lump next to the Shard made the Shard possible.Yes:
The Ugly Lump with the gasometer in front of it, on the right, is Guy’s Hospital. The other day I heard myself surmising that maybe if Guy’s Hospital had never been built, the Shard might not have been built either. As it was, there was no nearby neighbourhood or particular bit of the London skyline to ruin, aesthetically speaking, because that job had already been done by Guy’s. As it was, any aesthetical objection to the Shard was, as far as the immediate locals were concerned, a non-starter.
I still think that’s right. And what I now wonder is: did something similar happen with the new Blackfriars Station, the one on the bridge, that you can see in the right hand picture above, but not in the left had one? What I’m thinking is that the view that you see on the left, looking over Blackfriars railway bridge to the towers of the City is perhaps not a view that London’s rulers were especially proud of, what with those columns. Personally, I love the columns. For me, they are classic London at its weirdest and most eccentric. But you can imagine Powerful People being a bit uneasy about this oddity, and about the fact that Something Should Have Been Done About Them, by, you know, them. So, a railways station which spoilt this view, while not doing too much violence to views across the top of the bridge from further away, might not have been unwelcome. Without the columns, however, there was a view that they might not have been so ready to see interrupted.
This is just a speculation, just a thought, just a suggestion. I’m sure lots of other thinking besides that sort of thinking went into the building of this weird and eccentric railway station. (I added the word “more” to my title after first posting this.) But, I think there might be something to this.
Perhaps those Powerful People also hoped that something new and more constructive might be done with the columns, what with the new railway station being built. Maybe such a use was even promised, but later abandoned, for some reasons or other.
LATER: Actually, what I am now realising is that there used to be three disembodied rows of red columns, but that the right hand row as we look got swallowed up in a widened version of the original bridge. My pictures show this rather well, which is why I finally noticed.
Have I ever shown you this photo? I don’t believe I have. If I have, well, I think it’s good, and here it is again, slightly rotated and cropped into a square:
That was taken from the top of Hotel ME, in January 2014. On the left the Spraycan. On the right, the Millbank Tower, with its glorious roof clutter crewcut.
I definitely showed a clutch of other photos I took on the same day (Jan 25), but no, not that one.
This is why I like to trawl back through the photo-archives. I see things I didn’t see at the time.
This is a map showing my officially designated destination last Tuesday (the hottest day of the year (so far)). Across the bottom we see the railway going from past Waterloo main station to Waterloo East, in the middle towards the bottom, horizontally:
And just north of Waterloo East station is Roupell Street, in the middle of all those back-to-back houses, that I photoed in 2004 and then again last Tuesday (the hottest day of the year (so far)):
Here we are at the Cornwall Road end of Roupell Street, looking east. Lots of blue sky. No clouds. No clouds anywhere, actually.
I suspected gentrification, and the place did indeed have an air of rocketing house prices and of the banishment of old-fashioned workers, of the sort who presumably, once upon a time, lived in these houses.
In particular, I spotted three interesting vehicles.
First, a Citroen DS19 (I think 19):
So far so (relatively) ordinary.
But this was a bit more exotic, also a Citroen, something called (I also photoed where it said this) an “SM”:
And perhaps best of all, another vintage Citroen, in the form of an estate car version of the DS19:
Click on the above three pictures to get to the uncropped and even more sun-drenched originals.
All of these Citroens were parked within the space of about two dozen yards of each other, the first two right next to each other. I reckon what we have here is a collector of antique Citroens. And if that isn’t gentrification, je ne sais quoi what is.
Last Tuesday was ferociously hot by English standards.
The first thing I noticed, when I stepped into the inferno that was outdoors, were those windows which are not windows. (1)
I was at Waterloo because my officially designated destination was to check out the state of this view:
I took that photo in July 2004, with a now antique Canon A70, through a window, hence those unfortunate reflections.
Because it was a rather dirty window, this photo also emits a rather antique-photo atmosphere, like it was taken in the very earliest days of colour photography, an atmosphere greatly reinforced by the subject matter. Right in the middle of that snap is a bunch of back-to-back terrace houses. Where are we? Somewhere in The North? No, we are looking out on a little bit of London near Waterloo Station, a strange clutch of houses left untouched by either bombing or Modern Architecture. All around this antiquated patch of otherness, Modern Architecture is springing up, beating its chest and yelling for attention. But the thing itself is an unsullied little set of dwellings that would not be out of place in a DH Lawrence TV adaptation.
Here is how the same view looked last Tuesday:
No dirty window, no reflections, because I managed to get my camera through a small window opening out into the open. Also, my latest camera takes a broader view of things, which means that the stubby tower in the 2004 photo has become slimmer, and more of the horizon is to be seen. The Oxo Tower, for example, has moved into view.
The most obvious change is how 240 Blackfriars now blocks out so much. Tate Modern, Tate Modern Extension, and a large chunk of the City, all blotted out.
The place where I took these photos, from the outside, in 2004 as now, looks like this:
Just before taking the new version of the back-to-backs view, I took another photo, through another window off to the right of the ones you see in the above photo, the one of the Wheel and the cranes and the clutter in this earlier posting about a cricket match. (3) Which makes this the forth posting involving photos taken on that expedition.
Most emails that arrive here at BMdotcom don’t grab me by the throat, but I liked this one, with its attached graphic as above.
I’ve often wondered how they do Chinese (?) writing with computers. Now I am wondering some more.
My computer didn’t allow me to save this graphic in a different size, but my blogging software did. Odd.
My entire day today was bent out of shape by a cricket match, between Surrey and Hampshire. Surrey were trying to bowl out Hants and win, but the pitch was a belter and a draw was the likely result all day long. Nevertheless, every time the day looked like it had died, Surrey took more wickets. It reached six down, and Surrey were in with a chance. But then there was yet another long stand, by two Hampshire guys, in a match distinguished by long stands. The game had begun with a stand of over two hundred by the Surrey openers, and the Surrey first innings ended with another two hundred stand, unbroken, between the Surrey wicketkeeper and the Surrey captain, Gareth Batty. So today, Hampshire six down, with the game nearly over.
But then, Batty suddenly got a couple more wickets in the same over, bringing his total for the innings to six and his total for the match to eight, and then Stuart Meaker got another, and suddenly Hampshire were nine down. Could Surrey finish it? Earlier in the season, they got another side nine down but then got beaten by a big tenth wicket stand, so nothing was done and dusted until it was done and dusted. But then Meaker got the final wicket, and it was done and dusted.
The two photos I showed at Samizdata were chosen for their content, not their artistic expression. Here is one of my favourite photos, from the artistic expression point of view, that I took yesterday:
Mmmmmm. Cranes. And roof clutter. And The Wheel.
While out and about taking snaps like that, I was also following the Hampshire v Surrey game on my mobile. When I left my home, Hampshire were nearly all out in their first innings, and Surrey were on course to get them in again and get stuck into their second innings. But while I was drowning my sorrows in photography, Hampshire’s last wicket pair were frustrating Surrey for the last hour and a half of the day, and Hampshire still hadn’t lost their last wicket at close of play. This morning, the stand went on, only ending with a run out. Like I say, this was a match which Surrey always deserved to win, but you never thought they actually would. And then: they did.
Yesterday, I was opining that you shouldn’t let yourself be at the mercy of popular culture, to the point where you start getting angry about sequels and remakes, in this case the remake of Ghostbusters. But this is the fate of every true sports fan. He is at the mercy of events entirely controlled by others, and is doomed to constant disappointment. But, I suppose, there are enough good days, like today was for me, to make it a satisfactory bargain.
And I really am a true Surrey fan. While Surrey were piling up the runs on the first day of this game, England were busy being bowled to defeat by Pakistan. And while this was happening, I was wondering how many Surrey wickets I would surrender to cancel out England wickets. It turned out: hardly any.
So here, to celebrate, is another photo I took, last year, when I actually went to watch Surrey play:
That being Gareth Batty. Man of the Match, and Surrey’s Man of the Season so far.
LATER: Cricinfo agrees:
Batty was not so much leading from the front as picking up those around him, yapping under the helmet and then getting the job done himself. A century in the first innings began his work before two for 78 in the Hampshire reply was bested by a sensational six for 51 in the follow-on. Throw in Stuart Meaker’s reverse swing addled 18 overs of four for 40, and you wonder where the doubt in obtaining a result came from.
But with 10 overs left in the day, hope had all-but gone. At the end of Batty’s 24th over (56th of the match) he walked duck-footed to mid off, shoulders slunk, cap in hand, dreading what might be. Of all long-form cricket’s gut punches, the handshakes after a drawn fixture take the most out of a skipper who has spent the last few hours on top. And Batty’s side had been ahead for the last three days.
Summoning one last push, Batty returned to take two in his next over. Lewis McManus, having started the day with bat in hand, looked like he would finish it, too. But, after six hours and 21 minutes of crease time across both innings, he was finally dismissed to a fast arm ball. Three balls later, Andrew’s outside edge was found with a perfect off spinner. It was left to Meaker to finish things off. Late movement into the right hander did for Gareth Berg, before Mason Crane was the recipient of a bouncer that would haunt the most weathered opening batsmen, let alone a 19-year-old number 10.
Surrey currently sit outside the relegation zone, 10 points away from Nottinghamshire, who have replaced them in the bottom two. Even if Hampshire were to win their game in hand with full bonus points, they would only go one ahead of Surrey. It bears reiterating: rarely will you see a side work so hard to achieve a four day win of this magnitude.
Read the whole thing.
Indeed. Photoed by me this afternoon:
I remember enjoying the original Ghostbusters, because of its pro-free-market political angle. This piece explains this political angle well.
Mostly what I think about all the feminism in this latest iteration, and of all those complaining about the feminism, is that you don’t own works of popular entertainment just because you liked them when you were young. If you like the original but not the new one, then ignore then new one and watch the old one again. It is very childish to get all steamed up about your childhood memories being mucked about with, if they have not actually been mucked about with. I mean, the original Ghostbusters survives, and has not in fact been in any way tampered with.
I have been slightly ill for quite a while now. About three weeks. Not properly ill, just slightly ill.
One of the symptoms of being ill is that I don’t like coffee. Normally, I do like coffee. But when ill, I don’t. And for some reason the experience of being slightly ill has thrown this effect into sharp relief. Every morning for the last few weeks, I have asked myself: do I want coffee? Each morning, I have said to myself: yes, I do. Not as much as I do when healthy, but I still want it, more than I don’t want it.
This is because I am mostly well, but a bit ill. Mostly, I still want coffee, but I slightly don’t. Because I am slightly ill.
Maybe it is the constant decision making which has made me so very aware of this equation, that being healthy means I can drink coffee, but that being ill means I don’t.
What this shows is that there is a definite connection between regular coffee drinking and a healthy lifestyle. But, for me at least and probably for quite a few others, the causal arrow goes in the opposite direction to the one usually assumed.
Every so often, Instapundit does a posting about how coffee is good for your health. Drink three cups of coffee every morning and live to be ninety five, that kind of thing. The clear implication is that it is the coffee that is causing you to live so long.
My surmise is that this is wrong. Your healthiness is what is causing you to be so healthy that you live to be ninety five, and your healthiness also causes you to drink lots of coffee. You drink it because you can. You are healthy!
Sickly people, the sort who die younger, cannot stomach coffee. But it is their sickliness that kills them, not their failure to drink coffee.
I can’t be the first person to say all this. I am slightly ill, and so can’t be bothered to search out all the other people who say such things. But, I bet they are out there.
I was out and about this evening, near to where I live, to do some shopping and to enjoy a late burst of sun. And took this snap on the way home, in Vauxhall Bridge Road, looking across the river towards Battersea, where this tower now dominates:
The sun was, as anticipated, making its presence felt, but I didn’t realise that the moon would put on such a show. To line this up, all I had to do was walk down Vauxhall Bridge Road. I know, I know, a better camera would have done better. True. But I still like what I got.
Soon, this view will be looking rather different. No more splendid isolation for this Big Thing either (see below).
For reasons of my own I have been digging into the photo-archives. This was taken on July 1st 2004. No Cheesegrater. No Walkie-Talkie. No lots of Things.
Don’t you just hate how Modern Architecture blocks out the view of the Gherkin?
Yesterday I was out in the depths of the countryside, and I snapped a bird. Birds are not good at moving their beaks out from behind greenery, just because you tell them to, but even so, I quite liked this snap in particular:
And I think it works even better in close up, thereby making its eyes more clearly visible:
I have absolutely no idea what brand of bird that is, and I certainly don’t know its science name. Anyone?
So, where was this particular depth of the countryside? Well, actually, it was up on my roof:
That being the entrance to the roof from the staircase that I share with my big pile of neighbours. The countryside is that green bit behind it. I have to be careful to keep that door open, because if it swings shut, I’m trapped up there.
So, I wasn’t in the depths of the countryside yesterday. But the light was magnificent up there on my urban roof, early in the morning, and then in the late afternoon. Although I promise nothing, I hope to prove this with more snaps, Real Soon Now.
And see also this Samizdata posting by Perry de Havilland, about the cats of Istambul.
[N]ever have I seen a city with more cats.
Perry visits Turkey. Military coup follows immediately. Coincidence? Well actually, yes.
The Park in question is Finsbury, the Park Theatre being near to Finsbury Park, and more to the point from my point of view, Finsbury Park tube station. I was there last night to see a friend perform at the Park Theatre, which she did very well.
That LIFE sign thing is just outside the smaller theatre space, where my friend was performing, at the top of the rest of the theatre. I do not know why it is there. Could it be that they hope that people will photo it, and then mention the Park Theatre on the internet?
I suppose the creator of this sign could also have been thinking of that old Blur tune. But that, I believe, concerns a different park.
I continue to photo London’s black cabs and their adverts, particularly when they are entirely not black, because of being covered in a big taxi-shaped advert.
Here, for instance, is an unblack cab that particularly caught my eye, in Oxford street around a week ago:
What strikes me about this image …:
… (and oh look, I managed to save the picture without all the website verbiage on top of it), is that London looks … well, see the title of this.
The way the website puts a logo of Principal Tower in the middle of that picture makes it look like Principal Tower is right in the middle of all this foggy drama. Actually it’s way off to the left, near Broadgate Tower, beyond Liverpool Street Station.
As for this looking like Dubai, I have in mind pictures of Dubai that look like this:
I guess there’s something rather appealing about the idea of living in a magic tower which just hovers in the sky, with all that mess below blotted out. Unless you need to nip out to do some shopping.
I’ve been suffering from something a lot like hay fever. Yesterday, the doctor gave me some anti-hay-fever spray to spray it with, up my nose, which I hate. My symptoms are: aches and pains that wander around all over the left side of my head. I knew you’d be excited.
But, from the same doctor who wants me to spray chemical effluent up my nose I learned that if you get something stuck in your throat, which is what set all this off, they recommend: coca cola. I did not know that. So last night, when I went out for drinks, someone offered me a drink, and I though, no I’ve had enough (what with the headaches and so forth), but then I thought: yes, get me a coca cola. Apparently it clears out stuff in your throat by dissolving it. How come it doesn’t dissolve your entire mouth? (Maybe it does.) But whatever, it felt like it worked, and I’m drinking more coke now.
Last night, at that drinks gathering, I heard something else diverting.
We were having a coolness competition. What’s the coolest thing you’ve done lately? That kind of thing. I contributed the fact that my niece is about to become the published author of a work of crime fiction, which is not bad, and which I will surely be saying more about when this book materialises. It will be published by a real publisher, with an office in London and a name you’ve heard of, which intends to make money from the book and thinks it might. More about that when I get to read it. I usually promise nothing but I do promise that, here or somewhere I’ll link to from here. It would be a lot cooler if it was me who had accomplished this myself, but it is pretty cool even from a moderately close relative.
But another friend from way back whom I hadn’t seen for years trumped this, with something which in my opinion made him the winner, not least because he did the thing in question himself.
Remember the Concorde crash in Paris, back whenever it was, just before 9/11. And remember how the other Concordes all got grounded for ever after that crash. What you may not recall quite so clearly is that the other Concordes were not grounded for ever immediately after the crash. That only happened a few weeks later. And my friend told us that he took a trip on Concorde, on the day after the Concorde crash. How cool is that? Very, I would say. There were many cancellations, apparently, but he was made of sterner stuff, which is all part of what made it so cool.
I know, a bit of a ramble. It comes of me being somewhat ill. Illnesses can be cool, I suppose. But this one, which is just uncomfortable enough to be uncomfortable, but which hasn’t actually stopped me from doing things, merely from doing them energetically and enthusiastically, definitely isn’t cool.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that there I was, making my first visit to the Tate Modern Extension, and photoing from the top of it: Big Things, cranes, roof clutter, bridges, churches dwarfed by modernity, and so forth and so on, but I made no mention of other photographers. Did I perhaps ignore them?
This was the first picture I took of the new building when we arrived in its vicinity, not of the whole building, but of some people at the top of it, taking photos:
And when I got to the top myself, I was keen to photo more of my fellow photoers, and I did:
The first and last of those nine photos are of people taking photos of the building. All the others are, as you can surely see, of people taking photos from the building, from that excellent top level aperture.
Almost entirely smartphones. I didn’t pick them out that way. That’s just how it turned out. The only non-smartphone camera is in the top picture, the one taken from the ground, and even he has a smartphone snapper next to him.
I remember the time well. It was when I first had a really nice camera, and I explored the banks of the River Thames, finding all manner of things that I never knew existed until I chanced upon them, camera in hand. This statue of Lord Nelson, for example, which is outside a pub called the Trafalgar Tavern, in Greenwich, which I encountered in July 2007:
The www offers two sorts of pictures of this statue. There are the ones that show his face and medals, with the Trafalgar Tavern behind his Lordship, often with the word Trafalgar carefully included. And there are the views from behind, like mine, which provide a modern background, in the form of the Docklands towers or the Dome.
I did take a front view of this statue, but it was totally ruined by my shadow blasting its way into the middle of the picture. The fact that I didn’t bother to retake that shot tells you that I preferred the modern background shots.
There are some excellent photos of the new Tate Modern Extension to be found here, this one being number 3 of the big pictures at the top of that posting:
As that picture shows very well, they’ve stuck a big lump onto the back of the Original Tate Modern, which is the Big Thing with the big tower on the left as we look. Tate Modern itself calls this new lump, on the right, the “Switch House”, which may or may not catch on as the real name of this thing. We shall see.
The new lump is a sort of cross between a modernistic erection from the Concrete Monstrosity era of Modern Architecture and a Crusader Castle. The structure is concrete, but the surface is brick, just like Original Tate Modern. And very handsome it looks, to my eyes. Those thin windows suggest to me people who want to be able to fire arrows at you, while being much harder to hit themselves. An appropriately belligerent metaphor for the still somewhat fraught relationship between Modern Art and the surrounding culture.
What that set of pictures at Dezeen does not wallow in is what you can see from the new Tate Modern Extension, and especially from that bigger opening at the top, the one without glass. That is indeed what it looks like from below. It is a viewing gallery. I never quite believe arrangements like that until I have personally sampled them. What will it cost? Do you have to book? Is there a lot of airport security crap to get through? Etc. But all the answers were good. It’s free, there is no security theatre to contend with, and the viewing gallery was everything that it promised to be.
I was up there with GodDaughter 2 last Sunday afternoon, and trying not to ignore her completely. Plus, the place was about to close. So I was very much in we’ll-look-at-it-when-we-get-home mode. But I got some good snaps, which at least inform you of the sorts of views you get up there, even if they don’t always hit the spot for artistic impression:
Big Things. Cranes. Roof clutter. Bridges. Churches dwarfed by modernity. BMdotcom heaven, in other words. Click at will.
LATER: Or, even better (much better actually), click on this.
When cute wildlife kills other cute wildlife, it has to be handled delicately:
‘We ask that members of the public exercise patience during this time. The City hopes to trap the caracal, collar the animal with a radio tracking device and to move it away from the penguin colony, but still within its current home range. …’
Wouldn’t get that in the Kruger National Park, now would you?
I’m guessing: not.
Until today, I had no idea what a caracal was. Blog and learn. You mean you still don’t know? Here you go. Basically, it’s a big cat (or a small lion-coloured leopard) with big pointy ears.
Latin name of caracal: caracal caracal.
On Tuesday of this week I did a posting about the view from Docklands ten years ago, which featured a shot of central London taken from one of the Docklands towers. While concocting that posting, I of course looked at other pictures taken from the same spot, on that same photo-expedition. Here is one of those other pictures:
What got my attention in this snap was those bits of stuff, floating on those two flat, floating box/barges? Let’s take a closer look:
Could that perchance be some kind of footbridge? Yes it most definitely could.
Googling “docklands footbridge” and clicking on images soon got me to the bridge that these bits subsequently turned into. It’s the South Quay Footbridge, which is just round the corner from where I snapped its bits. I’ve probably got shots of this bridge that I subsequently took myself, but here are a couple that I quickly found on the www:
On the left is a photo of this bridge that I found at the WilkinsonEyre website, WilkinsonEyre being the guys who designed it. On the right is another shot (which I found here) of the same bridge. Less dramatic, and in a way that wrongly suggests that it is a railway bridge, but making it clear beyond doubt (with its particular view the sticking up bit of the bridge) that this is definitely the bridge I was looking for.
What all this illustrates is that the pictures I take of London contain far more information that I can possibly hope to process straight away. I later spot things. In this particular case, I spot things ten years later.
I definitely intend to seek out this particular bridge and take some photos of it for myself. It’s not a bridge style that I especially care for, with its ungainly non-vertical spike, but I guess it makes quite a bit of structural sense. Maybe I can find an angle that makes it look really good, as some of the other WilkinsonEyre pictures also do, I think.
And while I’m about it, here are some more footbridges, already in place ten years ago, for me to check out:
Finally, my thanks to Michael Jennings for contriving to take me to the top of this tower, which he was able to do because at the time, as I recall, he was working in another part of it.
I’ll end this posting with one of my favourite pictures of Michael, taken on that very same day and in that very same spot, as he looks out across East London – the Victoria Docks, City Airport and beyond – in a pose that suggests that he personally owns at least half of what he is looking at:
Sadly, not. But I still like the picture, which I think is very Ayn Rand heroic.
More pictures of Michael in this posting today at Samizdata.
That being the name I have given to this photo, taken yesterday afternoon:
Pride of place in all the temporariness goes to Centre Point, currently having some kind of makeover. But there are also cranes, crane shadows, flags, and all manner of urban thisness and thatness, including a big face on the back of a Boris bus, advertising Coca Cola.
Why the Union Jacks I wonder? Was the idea that, following the vote for Remain that was obviously going to happen, there would always be a Britain? Tourists, this place is still its good old British self? Leavers, bad luck, this is your consolation prize? Remaining doesn’t mean that Britain will be gobbled up by Europe? (Even though that is the plan.) Seriously, I wonder what the thinking was there.
Whatever, it makes for a pretty photo, I think. Also, good light.
Indeed. Taken in July 2006, through the green green glass of one of the Docklands Towers. Not the pointy one, the one next to it:
Michael Jennings, whose comments here are more informative than most of my postings, arranged this particular expedition. I think he was working there at the time,
No Shard. No Walkie-Talkie. No Cheesegrater. Photos like this get better with time.
I am an occasional visitor to Londonist, and I rather think that they’ve made it easier than it used to find be to your way to Oldie But Goldie type postings, of the sort that are not going to lose their appeal merely because they were posted six months or a year ago.
Postings like this one, which steers Londonist readers towards an amazing website, where you can compare old Ordnance Survey maps of London and surrounding areas with how things are now. As you move around in one of the maps, the other map automatically follows you. Brilliant.
The National Library of Scotland has just made freely available online 16,865 historic Ordnance Survey maps covering Greater London and the south east of England, dating between the 1840s and the 1950s.
Me being me, I compared the Oval cricket ground of old with how it is now:
Click on that graphic to get a bigger version of it.
Look how the playing area has shrunk, to make way for more places for people to watch play from. X in each map marks the same spot. On the left X is way out in the playing area. On the right, it is on the boundary edge. No wonder they hit lots more sixes these days. It’s not just bigger bats. It’s smaller grounds.
Taken by me, middle of last month, outside Westminster Abbey:
Normally, I would bore you to death with why I like this, but: busy day gotta rush.
I love What If? History, and here is another What If?, from Jonathan Dimbleby’s book, published just this year, about The Battle of the Atlantic. I have only just started this, but so far it looks most promising. In particular, it promises to place this campaign in the wider context of the war as a whole, as this excerpt from the preface (pp. xxiii-xxvii) well illustrates:
Those responsible for the direction of the war on the Allied side were swift to appreciate the critical importance of the Battle of the Atlantic but rather slower to give their navies the tools to finish the job. In the early years of the war Winston Churchill juggled with many competing priorities as he sought to safeguard Britain from invasion and to defend a global empire. As a result, the nation’s resources were stretched to the limit and sometimes beyond it; to the profound frustration of the prime minister, who found it exceptionally difficult to reconcile his boundless ambition with the fact that the men, the armour, and especially the ships were not available in sufficient force to achieve everything at once. Nonetheless it remains one of the great conundrums of his leadership that, although he was to reflect that ‘the only thing that ever really frightened me during the war was the U-boat peril’, he failed to follow through the logic of this foreboding until it was almost too late and certainly well beyond the point at which that ‘peril’ could have been eliminated. For every month from the start of hostilities until the early summer of 1943, Britain was losing merchant ships at a faster rate than they could be replaced, largely because they were inadequately protected against the Third Reich’s rapidly expanding U-boat fleet. From the British perspective, the story of the Battle of the Atlantic is in significant measure about a prolonged struggle between the Admiralty and the Air Ministry which became so fierce that a senior admiral was driven to comment that it was ‘a much more savage one than our war with the Huns’.’ Their hostilities were suspended only when, after three and a half years of war, Allied losses in the Atlantic reached such an alarming level that for a while it looked as though the U-boats were on the verge of severing Britain’s lifeline, a prospective catastrophe which forced a resolution in favour of the Admiralty.
This damaging clash between two branches of the wartime government owed much to Churchill. In the summer of 1940, as the Battle of Britain raged overhead, the new prime minister was naturally obsessed not only with the need to stiffen national morale but also to orchestrate action against Germany which would reverse Britain’s fortunes and, in time, lead to victory. As he cast around for a means to this end, he swiftly concluded that ‘an absolutely devastating, exterminating attack by very heavy bombers from this country upon the Nazi homeland’ was the ‘only one sure path’ to the defeat of Hitler. The ethical controversies provoked by this misapprehension have persisted to this day. By contrast, the consequences for the course of the Second World War have received less scrutiny. Yet Churchill’s failure to insist that an adequate number of aircraft be released from the bombing of Germany to do battle against the U-boats in the Atlantic until it was almost too late was a strategic error of judgement that made a fateful contribution to Britain’s failure to nullify the U-boat threat until many months later than would otherwise have been possible. The price of this delay may be measured in the thousands of lives and hundreds of ships which were lost unnecessarily in consequence. It may also be measured in terms of its strategic implications.
There is a tempting, indeed mind-boggling, scenario for those students who are lured by the ‘what if’ or ‘if only’ school of historiography: if the U-boat threat had been aborted several months earlier than it was, could the mass transportation of American troops and armaments from the United States to Britain have started in time to countenance a cross-Channel invasion of France in the autumn of 1943? Might the Allied armies have advanced deeper into Germany before the Red Army’s own push towards the German capital in the summer of 1944? If so, would the Allies have been in a position at Yalta to ensure that the Cold War map of Europe was drawn more nearly to reflect their own strength on the ground, greatly to the strategic advantage, therefore, of not only the post-war West but also those millions of Europeans who later found themselves entrapped behind the ‘Iron Curtain’?
It is a tempting vision that is explored later in these pages. What is surely beyond doubt, though, is that the prospect of an earlier victory in the Atlantic - by, say, the early autumn of 1942 rather than the early summer of 1943 - would have had a powerful impact on the fractious debate between London and Washington over Allied strategy in the prolonged build-up to D-Day (which this book also describes in some detail). In a cable to Roosevelt, which he despatched in July 1941, Churchill made it clear that he foresaw the liberation of Europe by a seaborne invasion ‘when the opportunity is ripe’. The single greatest obstacle in the way of this undertaking was the threat posed by the U-boats to the Atlantic convoys. Had this threat been eliminated earlier than it was, the strategic disputes between the Western Allies would have been even fiercer than they became by 1943; in particular the British would have found it far more difficult to persuade the Americans that victory in the Mediterranean (via North Africa and then Sicily) should precede the cross-Channel invasion of France. As it happened, of course, all such speculation, however intriguing, is rendered profitless because the prime minister was unwilling to prioritize the destruction of German U-boats over the destruction of German cities.
Churchill was a titanic leader whose strategic vision has often been unjustly disparaged but, in relation to the war at sea, his impetuous nature led him to embrace a false dichotomy. Contrasting the indubitably ‘offensive’ character of strategic bombing with the ostensibly ‘defensive’ task of forcing a lifeline passage for the convoys through U-boat infested oceans, he invariably favoured the ‘offensive’ initiatives hatched in the Air Ministry over the ‘defensive’ role assigned to the Admiralty. However, the prime minister was not alone in making this misleading distinction. Not only was it shared by his colleagues in the War Cabinet but also by the British chiefs of staff, including the First Sea Lord, Admiral Pound, who had most to lose. Although Pound became increasingly dismayed by Churchill’s refusal to withdraw from Bomber Command the aircraft needed to nullify the U-boat onslaught, he fatally weakened his case by failing to question the prime minister’s underlying premise. This collective mindset was evidently unable to recognize that the Atlantic convoys were no less ‘offensive’ in character than the wagon trains which opened up the American Midwest in the nineteenth century or (to borrow a twenty-first-century parallel) the military escorts which forced a way through the Taliban-infested deserts in Afghanistan to succour front-line towns and settlements. As it was, the Battle of the Atlantic soon materialized into a conflict that essentially was an asymmetric conflict between the convoys and the U-boats, a struggle in which, for month after month, the pendulum of triumph and disaster swung wildly from one side to the other.
Friday here used to be a day for cats and kittens, and it still is, but I have recently been broadening it out to give other non-feline creatures a mention. Which I do anyway, but now it’s official. So, this Friday, I show you a pig, photoed by me about a year ago:
This pig was to be seen outside Casa Manolo in the King’s Road. There are several Casa Manolos in various parts of London, and it took me a while to work out which Casa Manola this was. (I had photoed the shop sign, but had no record of which road I was in.) But the photo here is definitely of the same group of shops in one of my photos. No pig in that photo though. Either the pig is now gone, or, more probably, the photo at the other end of that link was taken before the pig arrived. Or, the pig lives indoors and only comes out sometimes.
And here are a couple of dogs, in Tottenham Court Road a few days ago, in the entrance to Heal’s. I don’t know what they are supposed to be doing there. “Chanel” says they’re advertising perfume, but that seems strange. Whatever, I like them:
It’s like someone saw a dog with one of those muzzles on it, and thought: I could make an entire dog that way.
There is also a cat inside Heal’s, advertised outside, which Heal’s claims is famous, even “infamous”. More about that (maybe – I promise nothing) after I’ve taken a look at it myself, and had a go at photoing it.
I realise that none of these creatures is actually alive, but that’s what comes of living in London. Plenty of alive creatures, but also plenty of pretend ones.
I also realise that all the Art in these photos (see below) is in what is photoed. But that’s fine.