Brian Micklethwait's Blog
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This and that
My entertaining today is going very well, but is leaving me about zero time to do any blogging. I was too busy preparing for my guests, and am now too busy happily consorting with them.
By the time you read this, the new year will be with us. I hope that it will be a happy year for you. And, come to that, for me.
Indeed. But they weren’t so particular about where they dumped their rubbish:
Photoed by me on Christmas Day.
Busy day preparing to entertain. Busy evening entertaining. Tomorrow: another busy day entertaining.
As I told myself I would, I spent the day tidying. But it ended up being tidying of a rather peculiar and imperfect sort, with which I suspect most of us are guiltily familiar. Basically what I did was take a festeringly huge pile of paper, and do two things to it. First, I threw out some of the more obviously expendable pieces of paper. And second, I divided the bits of paper into piles according to the size of the paper. Not by content, by size. Well, there was a bit of content sorting, but far less than there should have been. The result looks tidy, but is merely chaos of a more visually organised sort.
But the really good thing is that chucking out and arranging by size has caused the festering paper heap to shrink to about half its previous size, even though I didn’t chuck out anything like half of it.
All of which, although nothing like perfect, is still a definite achievement. Despite reducing the amount of temporary shelving that has been cluttering up my home, I have still managed to free up quite a bit of surface space, which will make any future attempts at tidying a lot easier.
But all of the above is to understate the happiness I now feel. Having gone through all the paper, even though I have not done much with most of it, it now no longer afflicts me with the power of the unknown. I now have its measure. Before, it loomed over me like an unexplored mountain range. Now it is more like a big garden. The plants are not where I want them, but the weeds have taken a severe beating, and I now know my way around. My subconscious will now throw up lots of new ideas about what the next act of ordering and/or eliminating might be.
Plus, while doing all of the above, I sort of became addicted to the process. I have some entertaining to do over the next couple of days, but when that is done, I need to get back to the tidying, before this addiction has gone.
None of which may be very exciting to you. But this is my blog, and I expect one day to be rereading this myself, very fondly. This posting is not so much me entertaining you. It is me rewarding me. Me, you might say, giving myself a pat on the back.
Quite often, I settle down to write something for here, and end up with something which would go equally well at Samizdata. Whenever I realise this, I tend to put whatever it is at Samizdata, and leave only the less political and more “trivial” (the “s because trivia is often not at all trivial) stuff for here. Often, these are pieces that I would never have written had I not started out writing them for here.
Today I just did this again, in a piece about people who are F4BF (famous for being famous), and about the contribution that such persons make to the world.
The rest of today is set aside for more tidying up, so that may well be it, for here, for today.
The Londonist logo looks like this:
But under this logo, here, is an illustrated piece about how that logo might have looked rather different. London, says the piece, might have acquired itself an Eiffel Tower of its own, at Wembley. Seriously, the various towers that were apparently under consideration include at least two that look remarkably like the Parisian original, despite Eiffel himself not wanting to be involved:
Towards the close of the 19th century, rail magnate Sir Edward Watkin was intent on all manner of ambitious schemes, including a tunnel under the Channel (it’ll never work). He also dreamt of a gigantic tower, to rival the wonder of Paris and draw tourists to his rail network. Gustave Eiffel was himself unsuccessfully approached to design the behemoth, before the commission was eventually opened out to competition. Some of the entries are presented below.
The illustrations that follow are well worth a look.
In this age of primitively simulated 3D reality, superimposed upon dull old reality itself even as you wander about in reality, the day is surely approaching when you can wander around a city and see it not as it is, but as you would prefer it, at any rate as far as more distant buildings are concerned. It might be rather hard to walk along a street that has been obliterated by a huge skyscraper, or to visit a skyscraper that was never built. But your preferred view of St Paul’s could be preserved from a distance. Or, you could insert a London Eiffel Tower, and see how you like that.
It’s not that I am a hair fetishist. It’s more that I dislike faces, as in: I dislike photoing the faces of my fellow photoers, by which I mean photoing the faces of strangers. And then sticking their faces on the www. Or merely looking as if I might be doing that. Bad form. Not done. Especially with face recognition just getting bigger and bigger as a thing people worry about.
One way to not do this is to wait until they hold their cameras in front of their faces. Another is to simply photo them from behind. I do that a lot.
Which means that I find myself photoing a lot of hair, and a lot of hair styles.
And that is how I found myself noticing the deliberately bald look, so often sported by gentlemen these days.
And that is why I photoed this advert, which I chanced upon recently in a tube train:
I was standing up at the time. Which was lucky, because I was consequently able to take this photo without even the appearance that I might instead have been photoing the face of the man sitting underneath the advert. Many is the amusing tube advert I have refrained from photoing, in order not to arouse such fears, and maybe then cause A Scene.
More information about this impressive looking product here.
Last night, I promised I’d keep an eye and a camera open for Merry Christmas signage during my walking about today, and I did, but I didn’t find any such signs. But I did find another sort of sign, which I liked because it contained lots of London’s Big Things, and I photoed it. And then, when I got back home after dining out with my mates, I discovered that it had the words “Merry Christmas” at the top of it. How about that?!?:
Here is the website of this enterprise. I have a vague recollection of having gone inside this place, once upon a time. It was, of course, shut today.
I am collecting these graphic renditions of London’s Big things. You see them everywhere, if you look, frequently on the sides of white vans.
Merry Christmas. As in, I hope you had a good Christmas Day, and are having a good Christmas break because it almost Boxing Day now.
I like the roof clutter reflected in the window.
LATER: More Merry Christmas designage (dezeenage) here
The idea was that, all alone in my snuggery, I would do lots of tidying up. I have done some, but mostly I have been reading Anthony Beevor’s book, misleadingly entitled ”D-Day”, and unmisleadingly subtitled “The Battle for Normandy”. For Beevor’s story goes from the early agonising about whether (because of the weather), and if so exactly when, the landings would be launched, right up until the German catastrophe that was the Falaise Pocket. Then as now, despite much behind the scenes agonising, the short-term weather forecaster got it spot on, despite having far less to go on than his equivalents have now.
There’s nothing like the misfortunes of others to cheer you up. Which is a terrible thing to say and I wouldn’t say it if there was any chance that my bad attitude was able to reach back into the past and make the sufferings of those soldiers, and all those French people caught up in the fighting, even worse. But it won’t do that. And anyway, what I mean is, I am really just acknowledging how much worse things were for that generation than they have been for mine.
And then, come Christmas time, there was the Battle of the Bulge for all the participants in this book to put up with, if they’d not already been killed, or injured and stretchered off.
I haven’t been reading this book solidly, in its correct order. I have been dipping into it, reading about this or that episode, pretty much at random. Today I was reading about how Brittany was liberated, which until now I knew very little about. It helps a lot having been to all the towns and cities that get a mention.
Earlier, I read about what those Hawker Typhoons did, known to me until now only as an oil painting. What the Typhoons did was destroy a hell of a lot fewer counter-attacking German tanks than they claimed at the time and ever since, but they scared the hell out of the German tank guys, which was almost as effective. The counter-attack was duly snuffed out.
And when that book has finished entertaining me, I have another book, full of more evidence concerning how nice my life has been, this time about something that happened a year earlier. Kursk.
How to say that I am at home alone over Christmas without you feeling sorry for me? I can’t do it, but please: don’t. In exchange, I won’t feel sorry for you that you are reading this instead of having “fun”.
Each to his or her own, but I love it that holidays, for me, really are holidays, rather than just burdens of a different sort to the more usual ones. Don’t get me wrong, burdens are often well worth bearing, as when I visit GodDaughter 2’s family in Brittany, and must bear the burdens of living in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar facilities and unfamiliar routines and with the fear of inflicting various sorts of offence and inconvenience upon everyone, with them being too polite to say. But, these are still burdens. This Christmas, as is my usual habit, I have been ensconced in my little snuggery, with no burdens at all.
I haven’t been fobbing you people off with nothing but silly old photos because I’ve been gadding about around town, catching up with friends and family and attending swanky functions. No gadding about. I’ve been fobbing you off with photos because I have been relaxing, even more than usual.
Here’s another silly photo, to wish you all a Merry Christmas. I haven’t found any Merry Christmas messages out in the streets lately, so here is a Christmassy photo that I think I took in Oxford Street, definitely in December 2008:
Which tells me that I was fascinated by Bald Blokes Taking Photos for quite a while before I had worked this out in the fully conscious part of my head. I love how green he is.
On Christmas Day itself I will not be alone, for I am to have a Christmas lunch with friends. This will bring with it the burden of having to travel across London on Christmas Day, which basically means two very long walks. (I don’t know how to Uber, since you ask. I’d rather walk.) If I come across any Merry Christmas messages while walking, and manage to photo them, I’ll pass them on.
Here are two Wheel photos I took in March of this year.
The first one needs another go, to line up that rather dim reflection of it with the Thing itself. The top of the reflection is in the right spot, but the bottom needs to be looked at from lower.
That isn’t enough to be an Official Destination, but next time I’m passing by that spot, and if I remember, I’ll try to do this photo again, better:
This one, on the other hand, already looks fine to me:
An earlier photo along the same lines is to be seen in this 2010 posting.
The year approaches its end, and I am trawling through my year’s archives to put together one of those My Year In Pictures postings for Samizdata.
Which is how I came across this photo, that I took in January of this year:
That won’t make the cut, I don’t think. Too much about me. Too little about The World, etc. But, I do like it.
My official purpose in visiting Tottenham, way back when I did, was to take a look at whatever I could see of the rebuilding of the Tottenham Hotspur football ground, so I didn’t pause to work out what was happening with this:
Which I now regret. I didn’t even give those buses, stopped at traffic lights if I remember it correctly, a chance to get out of the way.
Interesting shadows. Interesting reflections bounced off windows. But, the two on top of each other? How come? Think about it. These two things have no business being right on top of each other. Do they?
I was able to work out what was happening with these photos, taken moments earlier. But the exact explanation of the above photo will presumably remain a mystery.
Earlier this evening I was out and about in central London, and although it was dark, I distinctly remember that I needed to take a photo. I remember this because there was no SD card in my camera, and I had to activate one of the spares that I always keep tucked away in my left hand inside jacket pocket.
But what did I photo? I can’t remember. Let’s take a look.
Ah yes, this:
This being … well, see above. Actually, I already knew when I started this.
What’s new about this scene since last I was there is not that this edifice now exists, when previously it did not. What is new is that the area around it is less cluttered, and now you can see the thing.
I think it looks cool. Also it photos well in the dark.
No way you could build a thing like this before there were computers to sort out all those bits of glass and metal, all different, all exactly the size they need to be.
On the left: Iceland (Lower Marsh), 50p. On the right: Tesco (Warwick Way), 75p.
Identical bottles, with the same green tops. But the Tesco one is, I believe, ever so slightly darker. Is it perhaps fifty per cent more concentrated?
That fog and gloom that I mentioned yesterday seems to have been a more than merely local circumstance. It caused Travel Chaos and got national media attention. Follow that link and see pictures of airplanes, trains, cyclists and people, in fog.
Or stay here and enjoy a few more of my foggy photos, or cranes with their tops in the clouds, and roof clutter with more distant roof clutter just that little bit vaguer than usual. Westminster Abbey looking very vague:
Quite a contrast with a day like this.
By the way, that peculiar red spike (2,1) is on the top of the Channel 4 headquarters. And while looking for a photo that includes this spike, I have just discovered that C4 might be about to leave this building and go to Birmingham. Blog and learn.
This morning I was out and about in the greyness and gloom of Victoria, and the more entertaining things I saw was this guy, wearing a suit. And a swimming cap. He was talking with a guy wearing a Santa elf hat, outside a pub, and inside the pub was a table full of more guys in strange headgear. Mr Swimming Cap and Mr Elf had to be part of that. Some kind of office or re-union pre-Christmas get-together, presumably. With a strange headgear theme.
Click to get the bigger picture. I now wish I’d got more of the suit.
I like how the hat is wrinkled, like an alien in a cheap and ancient SF movie, before this kind of thing was done properly.
Indeed. Photoed by me in the Victoria Station branch of W.H. Smith, last week.
And here is Where to Find Them. Well, it’s one of the places to find them:
All the Penguin Modern Classics that they are selling occupy just the one alcove. Thirty books to read in a lifetime, one alcove. And Fantastic Beasts, one alcove. The J.K. Rowling juggernaut rumbles on.
And that’s not even to mention Robert Galbraith.
Indeed. I have the rest of today set aside for other things, maybe even including a little more tidying up, which I have been neglecting of late, but need to get a lot of done by the end of the year.
So here is a particularly diverting white van:
My rule for paying attention to things is to pay attention to things that intrigue me, without necessarily knowing why these things intrigue me. So it has been with white vans. Partly it is because they are politically symbolic. But partly it is because, actually, white vans span the entire social spectrum, in the atmospheres they radiate. There are as many different ways to make a white van look as there are ways to wear your clothes.
And the light at White Hart Lane Station was also at its brightest and best:
But nothing prepared me for what I saw a few minutes later, after I had descended from the station into the street:
Amazing. He looks like an angel magically deposited upon to earth. I got two shots of this guy before he moved and became unangelic in an instant. I couldn’t decide which of these I preferred, so here is the other one:
The key fact of these photos was that the light was not ubiquitous. It was concentrated in a quite narrow searchlight beam. And below we see how that happened. We have White Hart Lane Station to thank:
I took that photo before I photoed the angel-worker, and before I had any idea of what effects it might create.
I grumble from time to time, to myself, and here too, that I typically find it hard to take photos that communicate the sheer intensity of the lighting effects that my mere eyes sometimes see.
No grumbles this time.
Last Thursday I managed to insert myself into a gathering of GodDaughter 1 and her close family, in honour of her birthday. So it was GD1’s Mum and Dad and Elder Sister, and me. We met up on the South Bank, and wandered along it, to see an art exhibition, and also a jewellery show, hosted by this enterprise, at the bottom of the Oxo Tower, which GD1’s Sister had helped to set up. GD1’s Sister has herself become a jewellery maker, and apparently a rather promising one.
None of GD1’s Sister’s products were on show, alas. But I was as interested to see what the general atmosphere and attitude was, of this quite large number of jewellery makers, each with a small clutch of Little Things for us to examine. I know nothing of this world. What sort of world is it?
The main thing to say is that the value of what all these makers are making is not based on the price of the materials they are using. This is not precious metal jewellery, the real purpose of which is to navigate through financial crises. The value of these Little Things lies in the inventive way that often quite modest materials are put together.
I was curious to see if there’d be any 3D printing involved. Sure enough, one of these jewellers (Lynne Maclachlan (I love how my photos remembered her name for me, with no need for any other sort of note-taking)) is doing this:
On the left, the little collection of Lynne Maclachlan’s wares that was on show. On the right, GD1 handles one of Ms Maclachlan’s products.
Does my picture, and the way GD1’s fingers look, make that bracelet look very light? I hope so, because it is very light. Which is an important consideration with jewellery, if you want to make it other than tiny. You don’t want your ears, fingers, wrists, or neck, weighed down with things that feel more like you’ve been enslaved rather than decorated. And 3D printing can accomplish this, by making a structure that is still structurally solid, but both less bulky and more fun to look at than a solid lump.
I have long wondered about 3D printed jewellery, but there is only so much you can learn from googling. Seeing these Little Things in their proper habitat, in their appropriate commercial context, tells you a lot more. That Lynne Maclachlan has been welcomed into the sisterhood (it is mostly sisters) of jewellery makers rather than seen as any sort of threat, is, I think, very telling.
As mentioned in earlier postings, I did a trawl through my photo-archives, looking for the earliest evidence I could find of people taking photos with their phones. Here are the earliest photos I found of this characteristically C21 phenomenon. The first one dates from April 4th 2006, and the rest were photoed between then and the end of 2006. They are shown below in chronological order.
I was then, and have been in this posting, much more relaxed about showing the faces of strangers than I normally am here. Now, I try not to even photo people’s faces, and when I do, I don’t post them on the blog. But I’m hoping that ten years is the passing of enough time for this not to be a problem.
It doesn’t surprise me at all that the first person I saw doing this was a young girl, just pre-teen. That demographic being famous early adopters of the things it likes to adopt.
Click and enjoy. But, be warned that these pictures are necessarily of rather variable quality. Picture quality is not the point here. The point is what is going on, and when it was going on:
It also says something that I often found it quite hard to work out whether what I was looking at was a phone or just a camera, and in about one or maybe two cases here, I may have got that wrong, although I don’t believe so. But actually, one of the best things about a smartphone is that, because you can use them for so many different things, it is often hard to tell which of those things you are doing at any particular moment.
This is a big, big fact about citizen digital photography. You often can’t tell, merely by looking at it, whether it is happening or not.
The other day I was at Tate Modern, at an exhibition where, it turned out, photography was forbidden. I saw people very obviously taking photos, and being told to stop. I myself took a few photos, and was told to stop.
And I saw others doing what I think was taking photos, and if so, was taking photos in a way that observers couldn’t be sure about, probably deliberately, and I didn’t see them being told to stop. Photography is not like smoking. You can’t just see it, and stop it. Not all of it. And that is partly because of smartphones. And of course other cameras are so smart that you can’t see them at all.
Yes, The Railwa. I had continued my odyssey from Seven Sisters on the regular railway, to White Hart Lane Station. And from the platform, and then when I got outside, this was what I saw. The Railwa:
As you can see from the picture on the right, The Railwa used to be The Railway Tavern.
The y Tavern bit has disappeared because this is one of the many, many British pubs that has recently been shut down.
The other night they had a telly show about this, but it seems that it’s not all doom. Pubs are being shut by Big Booze, and often then turned into blocks of posh flats, which are more lucrative. But, some of the pubs are being saved, and taken over by The Community. Accompanying this is the rise of “craft beer” (I at first misheard this as “crap beer"), which seems to be a mixture of regular beer and fruit juice, and as such, sounds right up my street. When it comes to drink, I am a girl. My alcoholic drink, on those rarish times when I am in a pub, is: lager and lime. So it’s all going my way, apart from if I go to one of these new pubs and find it full of The Community.
To be a bit more serious, what I think I see happening here is that the old Working Class, the sort that used to smoke, and watch football teams while standing up and wearing cloth caps is ceasing to exist and what remains of it is being kicked out of the pubs by the new Working Class, the sort that doesn’t smoke, and designs websites and manages brands and works in call centres and which spent this weekend at the Robert Rauschenberg exhibition at Tate Modern. The fate of the Railwa is what happens when an industry goes through a transformation of this sort. Many of the old institutions collapse and get trashed, like the Railwa, by the look of it. Others get transformed in accordance with the new dispensation, as perhaps the Railwa will be.
Alice Robb writes about the strange relationship between humans and cats:
When a stray cat wandered onto the tracks of a midtown 7 train last month, the MTA halted the entire subway line until the animal was out of harm’s way. At the same time, the U.S. government euthanizes millions of stray cats each year. They’re a disaster for the environment: One conservancy organization has called cats the “ecological axis of evil.” ...
There was no single, obvious reason for cats to have been domesticated, says Robb, like meat, or milk, or fur. They are famously unbiddable. And they can be very nasty to us. So, how did it happen?
As I talked to scientists, it dawned on me that we weren’t necessarily the ones who were driving this relationship. House cats sidled up to our first settlements 10,000 years ago, because of big changes we started making to the environment. All of these animals crept into our settlement and were eating our trash - animals like badgers and foxes, in addition to small wildcats. They got into this new niche and exploited it.
So how did they trick us into feeding them and taking care of them?
For a long time, it was probably just an accident. But there are reasons that cats made the transition, but we don’t have badgers or foxes as pets today. One reason is that cats have a set of physical features that, for completely accidental reasons, remind us of human babies. Cats have big round eyes located right in the middle of their faces, because they’re ambush predators and need good binocular vision. They have little noses, because they don’t hunt by smell. They have round faces because they have short, powerful jaws. This set of features, which is actually just an expression of the way the cat hunts, looks to us like our infants. That gave them a leg up on the competition, and made them an intriguing and charming presence, rather than a straight-up nuisance, like a raccoon.
I always assumed that cats were made welcome by our ancestors because they killed rats and mice, which gobbled up our crops. But, says Robb, cats often can’t be bothered to kill rats, because of all the garbage humans emit.
There’s plenty of garbage for everybody. Cats and rats have been photographed sharing piles of trash. Why would these animals fight and risk their lives, when they could just comfortably graze together?
As for the suppose health benefits of keeping a cat, these, says Robb, are highly dubious.
It all adds up to a pretty good summary of the cat/person relationship.
Here are some photos from the archives, of front pages from a year ago tomorrow:
It’s interesting how Donald Trump was even then so recognisable from behind, because of that weird hair.
Will anyone try to ban President Trump from visiting Britain, I wonder? Nobody of any significance, surely. What Trump was saying then was that radical Islam is a serious problem and that he was going to give it hell. And what has happened since says that Trump is one clever operator. Which means that we now live in very interesting times.
I seem to recall thinking, around then, that Trump might win. But by the time the election came around, I was surprised as anyone that he did. And I wasn’t the only one.
It always surprises me when people don’t take pictures of events that they themselves organise. Me included by the way. I have a friend who kindly takes photos at my events whenever he attends them, because I mostly forget to, and I’m guessing others do too. This being the kind of obvious but small error that people make when they are stressed.
Which is maybe why this IEA guy, who saw me taking photos at this IEA centenary event in honour of Arthur Seldon, last night, asked me if I could send him a few of my photos.
Here are the seven photos I will be sending him.
The first one sets the scene, but also highlights a problem, which is that these days, at speaker meetings, there is usually a bright screen, while the speaker is - or (as in this case) the speakers are - in something more like darkness:
On the left there, Martin Anderson. On the right, Patrick Minford. Take my word for it.
But I did get a few half decent shots of speakers speaking, or listening to other speakers speaking:
Top left: Peter Seldon, Arthur’s on. Top right: Richard Wellings. Bottom left: Linda Whetstone, speaking from the floor. Bottom right: Patrick Minford, again.
Finally, my two favourite photos of the night, both of Martin Anderson. And of his magnificent giant shirt:
I did attempt some crowd shots, but they didn’t come out at all well. Shame, because there was quite a crowd.
I also tried photoing the video camera and its operator. That also failed to come out right, but at least there was a video camera present, so presumably those who did not attend will be able eventually to listen in on what was actually quite an upbeat event.
You know you are getting old when instead of just attending funerals of people whom you knew, you attend celebrations of people who were born one hundred years ago, whom you also knew.
More about Seldon and his colossal impact here. There is also a photo of him there. Shame there wasn’t a photo of him on that big screen.
Tried to upload some photos but instead got database error messages. I hope that this at least uploads itself, but even this might be a problem.
Well, that did load, but only very slowly. As will presumably be the case with this.
On my way to Tottenham, a week ago today, my first stop was Seven Sisters on the Victoria Line, where I changed to the regular railway in order to travel onwards:
But who, I wondered while I waited for my next train, were those Seven Sisters? I made a note to self – written only on my brain cells, but it worked nevertheless – to search out the answer. Which is easy these days.
The name is derived from seven elms which were planted in a circle with a walnut tree at their centre on an area of common land known as Page Green. The clump was known as the Seven Sisters by 1732.
In his early seventeenth-century work, Brief Description of Tottenham, local vicar and historian William Bedwell singled out the walnut tree for particular mention. He wrote of it as a local ‘arboreal wonder’ which ‘flourished without growing bigger’. He described it as popularly associated with the burning of an unknown Protestant. There is also speculation that the tree was ancient, possibly going back as far as Roman times, perhaps standing in a sacred grove or pagan place of worship
The location of the seven trees can be tracked through a series of maps from 1619 on. From 1619 they are shown in a position which today corresponds with the western tip of Page Green at the junction of Broad Lane and the High Road. With urbanisation radically changing the area, the ‘Seven Sisters’ had been replanted by 1876, still on Page Green, but further to the east. Contemporary maps show them remaining in this new location until 1955.
So: trees. I was hoping for actual sisters.
Today, after being knackered yesterday, I had a quiet day, but just before it got dark, I visited my roof, and took photos. As you can see from a couple of clocks in the pictures (this one (1.1) and this one (3.1)), it was just after half past three, and already it was starting to get dark:
My official purpose was to find out what stage the new US Embassy has got to (1.3). But I also like 1.2 and 2.1, because they feature bright lights, looking almost as bright in my photos as they did for real. 3.3 features a view of the next door tower block that I hadn’t noticed before, flanked rather pleasingly by chimneys.
The sky (2.2) was also looking good, it being vapour trail weather.
And I am so knackered that I am too knackered to explain why I am so knackered.
Here is a photo I took today of a fellow photoer:
Woolly hats and gloves often come out especially well, I find.
Good night. I am off to bed.
Friday is the day here for cats and other creatures, so here, among other things, is a panda:
What this photo illustrates is the perennial problem of trying to chuck stuff out, which is that all too often, stuff is just too nice to chuck out.
I recall, a year or two after the Berlin Wall was dismantled, meeting an Eastern European lady, who complained about how the packages and pots and bottles in which produce was suddenly now sold was too good to chuck out. Bloody capitalism. Capitalist rubbish was better than what they had previously had as actual stuff.
In a modified form, I now suffer from this syndrome. It has crept up on me more gradually, but throughout my lifetime, packaging has been getting ever better, probably because it is the sort of industry that politicians disapprove of, and have hence left to its own devices, an industry’s own devices invariably being better than any device devised by politicians. The packaging industry, not having been “helped”, has thrived.
Beer bottles (the one in the picture still has beer in it so that will be consumed first), I have learned not to miss. But even they are sometimes so artfully designed that it seems wrong to throw them away.
The coffee jar I will keep, because coffee jars are so structurally impressive.
But that panda has got to go.
I have spent yesterday and today indoors, tidying up, or at least trying to. Infrastructural Overload is a terrible thing. This posting is about this tidying. You have been warned. Spoiler alert. You risk being seriously bored – angered even - by the triviality of it all.
The turning point was setting a date by which a serious amount of tidying needs to be done. The date in question is December 30th, when there will be a post-Christmas party and a talk in the evening, in the place now being tidied. December is a long month, in the sense that the last Friday of November was on the 25th, which was when I last entertained here in a space-hungry way. So the last Friday of December is five weeks later, rather than your more typical four. The key decision was not to attempt any entertaining before Christmas, which gives me a nice long time, and in particular that precious blank (for me) time around Christmas, to get stuck into all the shite that needs de-shiting.
The basic problem is a lot of piles of unprocessed paper. We are talking about an enormous in-tray in a small dwelling, which is not a good combination. Today, the piles of paper are now mostly in the living room, on top of big planks on top of sofas, and the processing has begun.
I already have a small chair-load of superfluous paper, destined for the bins, and have made several discoveries.
I have discovered two vital books of instructions that I had thought gone for ever, one for my washing machine and the other for a recording device. Very gratifying.
And, I have discovered that some magazines wrap themselves in biodegradable plastic. I found several such unopened magazines from several years back, and the wrapping has biodegraded. I had to vacuum bits of it off my hands. I’ve often wondered what biodegradation looks like. Now I know, a bit more than I did.
I anticipate a sense of liberation, of spiritual renewal, once a serious amount of tidying has been done. This may be a delusion, but if so it is a delusion that is already having consequences, in the form of me doing tidying up.