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

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Sunday April 30 2017

I am intrigued by how political opinions influence aesthetic feelings.  Can you think that something is beautiful merely because it is the way that you think, in a political sort of way, that it ought to be?  I say: yes.

I am now experiencing an illustration of this tendency recently.  And the effect was thrown into sharp relief by the fact that I changed my idea of what the thing was, and that changed how I felt about it aesthetically.  Although the thing itself hadn’t changed at all, I immediately found myself liking the look of it better.  I had felt it to be ugly.  Now, although I wouldn’t call this thing very beautiful, I don’t see it as ugly any more.

This is the thing that I had been regarding as ugly, It is to be seen across the road from Victoria Station:

image

The ugliness of it is in its non-symmetry, and in the utterly irrational and incoherent contrast between the rectangular block in the middle of it and the curvey bits on the top and at one end.  Why would you make a thing looking like that?

The best way to see how ugly this thing is (or was), is to look at it from above.  Here is the google satellite version:

image

But then what should have been obvious to me all along became obvious.  The rectangular block wasn’t designed into the building we are looking at.  It had been there all along.  The curvey bits had merely been added to the rectangular block, at one end and on the top.  This building wasn’t all one design.  It was a doubling up of designs:

image

There you see a photo, which I took in 2009, of this thing while they were doing it.  It doesn’t prove that it was done in two entirely distinct stages, of which this is merely the second stage, but it seems to suggest that.  The new building activity seems to concern the curvey bits on the top.  The scaffolding next to the rectangular bits looks much more like the kind of scaffolding you put up when you are merely revamping an already existing building.  And that, I am almost sure, is what is happening there, to the rectangular bits.

What I now see when I look at this ungainly thing is that rather than it being a very ugly piece of one-off design, I now see it as a charmingly quaint urban agglomerative confluence of constrasting styles, such as London contains a hundred examples of, and hurrah for London.  London itself, as a whole, is just such a multiple design confluence.  Old meets new, and both live to tell the tale.  Or in this case new meets newer.  This weird-looking building is a two-off design, you might say.  It is a two-off design, and it looks exactly the sort of way a two-off design ought to look.

If I am wrong about it being a two-off design and I learn that actually it was all designed at once, I’ll probably go back to thinking it ugly.

Here are some more pictures of it that I have taken since then, from various angles:

image

That picture, to my eye, makes it look downright beautiful.  As does this next one, taken looking into the evening sun from the top of Westminster Cathedral, even more so:

image

But now, the plot thickens, or maybe that should be: the plot gets thinner, back to its original state.

My internet searching skills are very primitive.  I have just had yet another go at finding out what this odd building is called, at any rate by those who own it or who are in the business of renting it out.  And I have finally managed to learn that they call it “The Peak”.  Heaven knows why.  It doesn’t look like much of a peak.

Anyway, knowing this, I eventually found my way to this description of The Peak.  And what do you know?  (More precisely: What the hell do I know?) It would appear that this ungainly thing was what I had originally assumed it to be: a one-off design.  The whole thing was built all in one go.  So what had seemed obvious to me was not even true, let alone obvious.

The Sheppard Robson designed building adjoins the Apollo Theatre and replaces two existing structures. The Vauxhall Bridge Road and Wilton Road elevations incorporate robust Portland stone-clad columns and spandrels with intricately designed glass solar shading louvres between.

The louvres provide a dynamic visual effect to the building both during the day and at night. The prow of the building facing Victoria Street is curved, following the site boundary, and an arcade has been provided at street level to substantially increase the pavement width along one of the busiest pedestrian thoroughfares in central London.

So, what will I now feel about this building?  Will I go back to feeling that it is ugly?

This will not be a decision.  It will simply be a fact, which I will discover by introspection.  How do I now feel?  As of now: not sure.  My mind may decide that, because it had, for a while, been deceived by this building, and dislike it more than ever before.  But, I am starting to suspect that, having found beauty in this object, even though this finding was based on an error, my mind will be reluctant to surrender this happy feeling.

Incidentally, I have already posted here a photo of the roof of this building, and in particular of the crane that sprouts out of that roof to clean the windows.  I’m talking about the last of the three photos in this posting.

Saturday April 29 2017

Spent the day doing pretty much nothing, frollowing the meeting I had in my home last night, having spent the whole of last week fretting that there wouldn’t be enough people.  There were, just about, but it was close.

So, quota photo time.  This will do, taken from Low Hall Sports Ground (near to Blackhorse Road railway statnion (which is how I found my way there)), in June 2012:

image

I went to this place to try to photo the Gherkin and the Shard directly in line, and as you can surely guess from the above photo, I succeeded.  But this not-quite-aligned version come out nicely too.

Friday April 28 2017

I like waterways, and walking along beside them, and I constantly photo waterbirds.  As do millions of others.

I rarely show my bird photos here, because they seldom seem to me anything out of the very, very ordinary.  I was, however, impressed by this bird, and reckoned readers here might be also.  Ditto, these ibises.  And ditto this Barcelona owl.  And now here’s another bird photo I consider worth making a small fuss of:

image

I do sometimes photo-enhance, but all I did to this photo was a bit of cropping, to get rid of an unsatisfactory edge.  Those colours were exactly what came out of my camera.  I was in Battersea Park, which is not somewhere I go to often, on a very sunny afternoon back in 2012, just after the “before” photos in those before-after twinned photos (now you don’t see them now you do), I posted earlier in the week.  Which means it was my Panasonic Lumix FZ150, the predecessor to the FZ200 that I now have.

This bird, which looks to me like some kind of crow, looks almost more like a sculpture made with some fancy blue plastic, than a real bird.  It’s tempting to guess that everything that came out of that camera was hyper-coloured like that, but I looked at other photos taken with that same camera around that same time, and there are none like the above photo, except the ones taken in that same place at that same time.  I truly believe that the light, there and then, was unusually bright, and the colours behind the bird unusually colourful.  And then I think what happened was that the camera, completely off its own bat, tried to balance things out by turning the bird blue.  Good call, I think.

Thursday April 27 2017

A recent photo, taken in the Burlington Arcade, off Piccadilly:

image

Is this, I wonder, the place where Michael Portillo buys his clothes?  Here is the most Portillo-esque bit of the Cordings website.  Most of the clothes on show there are not so flamboyant.  Shame.

That’s GodDaughter 2, also photoing this enterprise, somewhat out of focus on the right there in my photo.  She is getting into the spirit of things not only with her finger nails but also with a sticking plaster on one of her fingers which is, instead of being flesh-coloured like a normal sticking plaster, bright blue.  I have not seen such a thing before.

Wednesday April 26 2017

What follows is the speculation of a football non-obsessive, and it could all be nonsense.  So sprinkle lots of “so I surmise” and “it seems to me” all over it.  And then correct me if I’m wrong.  So, I surmise ...

If all Premier League teams were very roughly equal in strength, amd doing well or badly merely because of the vagaries of form and fitness and confidence and sheer dumb luck, you’d expect a few to be stretching out at the front of the field, and a few to be falling back at the back, with a big bunch in the middle.  The biggest points gaps would be at the top and at the bottom, with no big gaps anywhere near the middle.

imageNow look at the state of the Premier League, as of now, on the right there.

We do now see gaps at the top and at the bottom.  As of right now, leaders Chelsea are 4 points ahead of their nearest chaser, Spurs, and Liverpool are next, a whole 8 points behind Spurs.  Bottom club Sunderland is now 6 points behind second-from-bottom Middlesbrough, who are 4 points behind third-from-bottom Swansea.

And we also see a big bunch of teams in the middle.  The points gap between West Brom in eighth place and Burnley at sixteenth is a mere 4 points.

But the biggest points gap of all between adjacent clubs in the Premier League is between Everton in seventh place and West Brom in eighth place.  This gap is currently no less than 14 points.  The top seven clubs (Chelsea, Spurs, Liverpool, Man City, Man Utd, Arsenal, Everton) are now, you might say, the Real Premier League.

I distinctly recall the times when the Real Premier League only contained four clubs: Man U, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool.  And then Man City joined it, with Liverpool slipping down.  So there used to be only four, but now there are seven.

This has had an interesting consequence, which is that the FA Cup is now important again.  Or so I surmise (see above).

The FA Cup used to count for a lot.  There was no Real Premier League in those far off times, or if there was I was not aware of it.  But there was a European Cup and a European Cup-Winners Cup, or some such thing, and all clubs wanted to win either the League or the Cup and preferably both, for the sheer glory of it.

Then, the European Cup or the Champion’s League or whatever started to get seriously into its stride and to mean serious money, to spend on now seriously well paid players.  “Getting into Europe” stopped being a bit of an afterthought and became what it was all about.  At around this time the Four-Team Real Premier League also got into its stride, and the best route into Europe, for Real Premier League clubs, became to ignore the FA Cup.  Remember when Man Utd didn’t even bother to contest the FA Cup and instead went flapping off to Brazil, to lose some mega-championship of the world game?  All that crap about The Magic of The Cup, and Anyone Can Win The Cup, blah blah blah, became very tedious, because Anyone Who Was Anyone (i.e. the Real Premier League) couldn’t be bothered with exhausting themselves trying to win FA Cup, what with them always being in Europe anyway and having the small matter of the Premier League to come at least fourth in to get back into Europe again. For the FA Cup, they put out their reserves instead of a real team, just to keep them busy and amused.  If they got beaten by Anyone Town, that was the fault of said reserves, was no huge surprise, and was no skin off the nose of the actual Real Premier League club.  Skin on it, if anything, because the season immediately became less exhausting for any first teamers who got dragged into going through the motions in the FA Cup.

But now that the Real Premier League has expanded from four clubs to seven clubs, a Real Premier League club can no longer take its route to Europe quite so much for granted.  At which point the FA Cup, which is another route into Europe, becomes of significance to Real Premier League clubs, the way it has never been since the Real Premier League got started.

This year, all four FA Cup semi-finalists were Real Premier League clubs.  (Chelsea, Spurs, Arsenal, Man City.) When was the last time that happened?

Tuesday April 25 2017

I know.  8056.  Not what I mean.

I’m hoping that as the years go by these kinds of comparisons are going to accumulate, and that as I do further trawling through the archives, other similar contrasts will be discovered.

All four of these photos were taken from the top of the tower of Westminster Cathedral, in Victoria Street, two of them in April 2012, and two of them in October 2016.

The first pair are looking down, towards the top end of Victoria Street:

imageimageimage

And the second pair of looking in nearly the opposite direction, towards Westminster Abbey and beyond, which is at the bottom end of Victoria Street:

imageimageimage

Quite big differences, I think you will agree.  Cheesegrater.  Walkie Talkie.  And all those pointy things near Victoria Station.

There is only one thing wrong with the fabulous views you get from the top of the tower of Westminster Cathedral.  From this spot, you cannot see the tower of Westminster Cathedral.  I like this tower a lot.

Monday April 24 2017

It’s happened again.  I am being made happy by a Mr Ed comment at Samizdata.  That’s twice in two days.  This comment is on this posting, and although I don’t grasp the relevance, Mr Ed provides a link to this BBC report:

A woman who decorated her London townhouse with red and white stripes can ignore a council order to repaint it, the High Court has ruled.

Property developer Zipporah Lisle-Mainwaring painted the candy stripes on the building in Kensington in 2015.

image

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea said it was out of keeping with the look of the area and had served her with a notice to repaint it white.

Mr Justice Gilbart ruled the stripy decoration was “entirely lawful”.
The council had served the notice under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 claiming the “stripes on the front elevation, is incongruous with ... the local area.”

I wonder.  Will this judgement provoke other outbreaks of architectural colour in London?

Sunday April 23 2017

I love it when a metaphor gets mixed.  But here is a metaphor that is not so much mixed as turned on its head.  It’s Samizdata’s Mr Ed, commenting on this, describing how our former PM David Cameron hoped that his EU referendum would see off UKIP and stop it sucking votes away from the Conservatives.  And it looks like that referendum will indeed see off UKIP, but not in the way that Cameron campaigned for.

Says Mr Ed of this referendum:

… a chance to lance the boil ended up boiling the lance.

Patrick Crozier (a couple of comments later) liked this also.

What particularly impresses me is how Mr Ed made use of those double double meanings, both of “lance” and of “boil”.

Saturday April 22 2017

Indeed:

image

The history of this particular picture is that GodDaughter 2 and I were in Waterstones, Piccadilly, which is one of our favourite spots.  She loves all the books.  I like the books too, but I love the views that I can photo from the cafe at the top.  This is not very high up, but it is high enough up to see many interesting things, and familiar things from an unfamiliar angle, of which, perhaps or perhaps not, more later.

So, anyway, there we were in Waterstones, and we were making our way up the stairs to the top, rather than going up in the lift, because I needed the Gents and GD2 needed the Ladies.  All of which caused me to be waiting on the book floor nearest to the Ladies, and that was where I saw this book.  I had heard about it, via a TV show that Hockney did a few years back, and I did a little read of the bit that really interested me, which was about how very early photography intermingled with “Art”.  I wouldn’t have encountered the book itself had it not been for GD2 and I both liking Waterstones, and had it not been for nature demanding GD2’s attention.  So, this is another picture I owe to her, to add to this one.

The way Hockney and his art critic pal tell the story of how early photography and the Art of that time intermingled is: that all the other Art critics say that the Artists were zeroing in on a “photographic” looking style, through their own purely Artistic efforts.  Nonsense, say Hockney and pal.  The Artists were already using the early stages of photography, and if my recollection of that television show is right, that this had been going on for quite a while.  They were using photographic methods to project a scene onto a surface, and then painting it in by hand.  These paintings look photographic because, in a partial but crucial sense, they are photographic.  Later, the photo-techies worked out how to frieze that image permanently onto that surface, by chemical means rather than by hand copying.  Those Art critics want to say that the Artists lead the world towards photography, but the influence was more the other way around.  Photograhy was leading the Artists.

This fascinating historical episode, assuming (as I do) that Hockney and pal are not making this up, shows how complicated and additive a technology like photography is.  It didn’t erupt all at once.  It crept up on the world, step by step.  And of course it is still creeping forwards, a step at a time, in our own time.  Early photographers couldn’t shove their pictures up by telephone onto your television screen, the way I just did, if only because television screens didn’t happen for another century.

Meanwhile, the book trade is creeping forwards.  In the age of Amazon, am I the only one who sees an interesting book in a bookshop, looks at the price, says to himself: I can do much better than that on Amazon, and contents himself with taking a photo of the book’s cover?  Are we bad people?

For this book, the difference is thirty quid in the shop, but twenty quid or even less on Amazon.

In that talk I did about the impact of digital photography, one of the uses I found myself emphasising was using digital cameras for note-taking.  How much easier and more exact to make a picture of this book’s cover with one camera click, than to record its mere title with the laborious taking of a written note.

Friday April 21 2017

So far, I have only managed seven photo-postings about my expedition to the big old Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, which is now in the process of being turned into a bigger new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.  Tomorrow, Spurs play Chelsea in the semi finals of the FA Cup, and in honour of this confrontation, here is Tottenham posting number eight.

I made my way eastwards from the stadium, towards the park and then the canal beside which I hoped to walk south.  But before I got there, I encountered this:

image

This footbridge is to be found next to the level crossing at the north end of Northumberland Park railway station.  I climbed up on the footbridge and took this shot, looking south, of that railway station:

image

My main reason for showing this is to show you how far away the Big Things of the City are from this vantage point.  This sort of circumstance being why God invented zoom lenses.  Look what happened when I cranked up my zoom, on my trusty Panasonic Lumix FZ200.

What you see here is the miniscule portion of the above view that you see if you follow the railway lines straight to the horizon, and then shift a tiny bit to the left, just past that big spikey thing, to those tiny little things sticking up, just beyond the big spike and to its left, as we look:

image

And what we see is that those tiny things are the Big Things of the City of London.  Gherkin.  Cheesegrater.  Shard.  Plus intervening clutter of course.

Over to the far left of the station view photo you can also make out the towers of Docklands.  But they aren’t that special to look at.  If it weren’t for the pointy one, you’d hardly know how to spot them, because they’d just be a few anonymous lumps.  What Docklands needs is a mega-skyscraper of a distinctive design.  Maybe a thin tower, with a huge revolving restaurant at the top.  Something along those lines.  But I fear that the nearby presence of City Airport would make that impossible, for the time being anyway.

Thursday April 20 2017

I always know when I am on the right track as a blogger.  It’s when someone quotes me.  (It’s usually either the Quotulator (I was most recently quotulated by him in this posting) or 6k.) This means (a) that I have said something interesting and somewhat novel, and (b) that I have said it well.  (b)-ing I do, on its own, regularly.  I regularly say obvious, banal, boring things clearly and fluently.  Don’t we all?  Nobody copies and pastes (b)-ing.  Frustratingly, I also do quite a lot of (a)-ing on its own, meaning: I say something interesting, but say it very badly and confusingly, with constant self-interruptions, this paragraph perhaps being yet another example of (a)-ing.  Nobody quotes (a)-ing either, because it just confuses and irritates people.  You have to do (a)-ing and (b)-ing all at once before you get quoted by anyone.

So, if 6k has just been quoting me, I must have said something good and said it right, right?  And 6k has just been quoting me:

First this, from earlier this week:

I still hate and fear golf.

And then this, from the posting that that recent posting linked back to:

I remember once having a go at it, when I was at my expensive public school in the middle of the last century.  I still remember hitting one golf ball really sweetly and deciding, right then and there, that I would never do this again, because if I did, there was a definite danger that golf would take over my entire life.  And I wasn’t having that.

Sadly for me, though, this is not the perfect piece of writing that I yearn to contrive, every time I place my fingers above my keyboard to start to type in this stuff.  It was not, that is to say, the blogging equivalent of a perfectly hit golf shot.  (a)-ing and (b)-ing were not perfectly combined. There is one crucial word missing.  Where it says: “… there was a definite danger that golf would take over my entire life”, I should have put “… there was a definite danger that playing golf would take over my entire life.”

Playing cricket, as a life-time occupation excluding all else besides doing whatever work was needed to stay alive, never appealed to me, for the simple reason that I was always hopelessly bad at playing cricket.  A cricketing life would have been a life of constant humiliation at the hands of all the other, better cricketers.  The occasional well flighted off-break or decently played single out to extra cover would not have begun to compensate for all the contemptuous fours and sixes hit off me (if and when I ever bowled) or the flying stumps (if and when I finally got to bat).  You can’t play cricket alone, against only yourself.  You have to have opponents, and if these opponents are almost always better than you, you aren’t going to have a huge amount of fun.

But playing golf is different.  Basically, no matter how they dress it up, golf is, or at any rate can be, a solitary game.  It is a game you can play against only yourself, and for me that would be a fair contest, rather than the permanent humiliation that me playing cricket regularly (by its nature, necessarily, against other cricketers) would have been.

6k notes that do I “love cricket”, and I do.  But to be more exact, what I love is following cricket, not playing it.  And following cricket, at any rate the way I like to follow it, fits in perfectly with me also having a life doing other more meaningful things besides following cricket.

What I love about cricket is, yes, the game itself, but also the minutiae of its progress - the verbal commentaries and the numbers and the dots, the runs and the wickets, the constant flow of data.

Football is not like this, for me.  The actual processes don’t appeal to me nearly so much.  All that passing and tackling and dribbling and creating and missing half-chances.  These processes only really matter, to me, if they result in a goal, and in a way they only matter to anyone if they result in a goal.  With football, it’s only goals that count.  Only goals determine who wins.  And only the goals really speak to me, so I prefer to watch, if I watch football at all, the recorded highlights of football, and the more highlighty the better.  (This is not an argument that you should stop loving football or playing in or going to watch football matches or watching entire games of football on your television.  I am merely describing how football does and does not appeal to me.)

Cricket, on the other hand, and unlike football, emits this constant gush of truly meaningful information, information which all adds up to winning or losing.  And I relish the decoding of this information in the same way that an MI6 analyst must relish being able to tell what is happening out there also only by looking at data on a computer screen.

I only ever actually attend a cricket game as a special and very occasional treat.  I wouldn’t want to watch cricket, for real, in person, at the actual ground, day after day.  The very second-hand and rather arms-length nature of cricket data is, for me, all part of what fun it is to be receiving it.  Having played enough actual cricket in my extreme youth to have the game imprinted into me, like a first language, I know how diabolically difficult it is to do what good cricketers do routinely.  When, as happens from time to time, my computer screen announces a “w” (somebody just got “out"), I feel the same lurch of emotion that the real spectators and participants enjoy or suffer.  When I see a “4” reported at Cricinfo, and then read some guy telling me that it was a good shot rather than a mis-hit, I get almost the same pleasure from that as I would have got from actually seeing it.

Especially entertaining is if, say, an IPL team needs to clobber a boundary off the final ball of a T20 game (never mind – it’s just a sort of cricket game) to win, but will otherwise lose, and then a “6” shows up on the screen.  Hey, how about that!  Or, if a limited overs win-or-lose, no-draws-allowed game ends with, say, one team needing three to win off the last two balls (I seem to recall something like this happening in the IPL a couple of days ago), but with only one wicket left, and the penultimate ball suddenly announces itself to have been a “w”.  Game over.  Wow.

(Although, I have to admit that a big spread of Premier League games on a Saturday afternoon, with goals erupting quite regularly, and then final whistles all being blown in a sudden rush, is fun, provided your team’s circumstances mean that you have firm preferences for several of these games rather than just the one game.  Lots of significant games then adds up to something almost as continuously amusing as a single game of cricket.  To me.  (This is not an argument, see above ...)

I know, all very childish.  But following sport is rather childish.  And there’s nothing wrong with such childishishness provided that it doesn’t totally take over your entire life and turn you into a permanent twelve-hours-a-day seven-days-a-week child.  Because, what I especially love about following cricket is that I can combine it with other things.  Life, when I am following cricket, can go on.

I can now even carry a 1960s mainframe computer around with me in my pocket.  I can keep up with any games of cricket that are happening while being out and about in London, meeting colleagues and friends, and taking photos.  My cricket machine even doubles up as an A-Z map, complete with a blue blob that says “you are here”.  Amazing.  In short, and although there are days when it threatens to, merely following cricket has not totally taken over my life.  There are even days when my real life is so diverting that I neglect cricket entirely, and have to catch up later.

All of which means that when 6k says that what puts me off golf is its pleasure to pain ratio, and that he feels just the same about cricket, and how come I don’t? - well, with respect, and all my fault for failing to clarify the difference between playing golf and following cricket, but he has it all wrong.  Following cricket is continuous squirts of fun into the texture of everyday life, all pleasure and no grief.  Playing golf threatened continuous squirts of pleasure, but no everyday life at the same time.  It threatened a completely different life for me, and an utterly vacuous one, like being a drug addict (very like being a drug addict), with all my spare time and spare cash consumed by it.  Like playing outdoor solitaire, all the time and not doing anything else, and perhaps even stealing money to fund the habit.  (I am also terrified of actual drugs, for the same reasons.)

Because the thought of playing golf during every spare hour I had filled and fills me still with such horror, I have even avoided following golf, for fear that merely following golf might become a gateway drug to actually playing golf.  You want continuous data?  Golf, like cricket, supplies a constant gush of it.  But cricket data never says to me that I ought to pick up a bat or a ball and start trying to play the game, again.  I know my limitations.  Following golf?  Well, I just can’t take that risk.

Wednesday April 19 2017

Last August, in Gabriel’s Wharf:

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Really annoying day, making very little progress on about half a dozen different fronts.

Tuesday April 18 2017

I just spent about an hour working on today’s posting, but it got stuck, and complicated, as postings will.  So here is a shiny car to fill today’s void, photoed this afternoon, in Mayfair:

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It’s the younger, racier brother of this shiny car, which I encountered in 2015.

I still hate and fear golf.

Monday April 17 2017

Then being five and a half years ago, with a sunset behind it and some birds in front of it:

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The structure in the foreground there is …:

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… which is on the other side of the River from me, across Vauxhall Bridge Road and turn ride along the path next to the River.

Right now, Battersea Power Station is in a rather different state, which you can actually see rather well in that famous view from Ebury Bridge Road, looking out over the railway lines that leave Victoria to go south over the River:

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The whole area, in it and around it, is being turned into apartments.  They’re even going to have their own new tube station, at the far end of a new bit of the Northern Line.

On the same day I took this photo (and all the other photos mentioned in that posting (most especially these ones)), I also took these photos of what is happening in and around the Power Station:

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The first one there was taken from Battersea Park railway station, the other two shots from nearer to all the building.  That fake-up of how it will look tells you ... how it will look.  If you are a helicopter traveller.

What’s happening in Battersea is the one great exception to the otherwise inexorable drift of London’s centre of gravity eastwards.

Sunday April 16 2017

Incoming, from “Phani”, to Cricinfo, during this game:

“Raina is trying too hard. Take a cue from Mccullum, start timing shits instead of forcing them. Be there till the end, not the usual batting paradise this.”

At the end of the ninth over of the Gujurat Lions innings, if you don’t believe me.  I’m guessing it will remain thus.

It’s never good to be forcing your shits.  On the other hand, being too rigid about the timing of them is often what leads to you forcing them.  Like Raina, you find yourself trying too hard.

And a Happy Easter to all.

Lincoln Paine is an admirably ambitious historian.  Here is the first sentence (to be found on page 3 of my paperback (but still very big) edition) of the introduction of Paine’s very big book, The Sea and Civilization, which is 744 pages long and which I have just started reading:

I want to change the way you see the world. ...

Good, because I bought this book in order to do exactly that, change the way I see the world.

In the following specific way:

… Specifically, I want to change the way you see the world map by focusing your attention on the blues that shade 70 percent of the image before you, and letting the earth tones fade. ...

Hurrah for the internet.  I went looking for a maritime history of the world and found this, which I might never have done if I had been relying on merely physical bookshops.

… This shift in emphasis from land to water makes many trends and patterns of world history stand out in ways they simply cannot otherwise. Before the development of the locomotive in the nineteenth century, culture, commerce, contagion, and conflict generally moved faster by sea than by land. The opening of sea routes sometimes resulted in immediate transformation, but more often it laid the groundwork for what was later mistaken for sudden change. ...

Here is an example of what you notice when you think like this.  On page 7, we read this, about the USA:

A maritime perspective complicates our understanding of the “westward” expansion of the United States. California achieved statehood in 1851, two years after the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill, when the territory was virtually unknown to Americans back east and the number of United States citizens on the Pacific coast numbered only a few thousand. Thanks to the extraordinary capacity of the American merchant marine of the day, tens of thousands of people reached San Francisco by ship, a mode of transportation that was faster, cheaper, and safer than the transcontinental journey, although the distance covered was more than four times longer. The United States conquered the interior of the continent - what are today known as the fly-over states, but at the time could aptly have been called the sail-around territories – in a pincer movement from both coasts, rather than by a one-way overland movement from the east.

On my TV I have just recently been watching Michael Portillo investigate that very “westward” expansion of the USA, with plenty of wagons and locomotives involved, but no mention at all of any ships.  So I know exactly what Paine means.

Paine goes on to assert (on page 9) that there have been …:

… changes in the public perception of the maritime world, for the merchant marine and naval services no longer hold the attraction for people that they once did, when ocean liners and freighters crowded the piers of Manhattan, Hamburg, Sydney, and Hong Kong. At the start of the twenty-first century, ships and shipping lines are the warp and woof of globalization. Ships carry about 90 percent of world trade and the number of oceangoing ships has grown threefold in the past half century. But the nature of shipping has led to the relocation of cargo-handling facilities to places remote from traditional port cities, ...

In other words: out of sight, out of mind.

About that, I am not so sure.  Maybe it’s more a matter of degree than he says.  I guess I’m a bit different, in that I have been particularly noticing both what is happening to London’s old docks and waterways (they’re being prettied up for tourists like me and for the new gentry (really, mostly, just indoor and better paid proletarians) who now live next to them) and where London’s new mega-dock is now nearing completion, downstream.  I am definitely not the only one who has noticed shipping containers.  As Paine himself says, in his final chapter, containers are driving globalisation, and much of the globe has surely noticed.  Indeed, this might be why Paine’s publishers judged the time to be right for the switch in focus that he argues for.  On the other hand, I did have to go looking for this book.  Nobody else brought it to my attention, spontaneously, as it were.

Talking of focus, my eyesight has now reached the stage of me only being able to read a book by holding it about two inches away from my face.  Spactacles don’t do it for me any more.  Usually this is fine.  But this is a very big book, and it is going to be a very big struggle for me to read it.  But I am determined to do all the struggling that I must.

Or, I might go to the internet again, and buy something like this contraption.  If I do purchase such a reading aid, it will presumably be as cheap as it is because it recently crossed the world in a shipping container.

Saturday April 15 2017

Late this afternoon, in Lower Marsh, I came across this classic oldie:

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I see a lot of vintage cars in Lower Marsh?  Why?

Finally, the penny dropped and I asked the Great Machine in the Sky.  I typed in “vintage cars lower marsh” and immediately learned about this.  Every month, the classic cars gather there:

We meet between 12:00 and 16:00 on the third Saturday of every month at the Lower Marsh Market – on Lower Marsh Street just behind Waterloo Station.

Yes, come to think of it, I always see them on a Saturday.

Mystery solved.

Friday April 14 2017

As related last Wednesday, I heard GodDaughter 2 (and others) perform this:

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What a strange piece it is.  To an atheist like me, the plot is very simple and wholly disastrous.  Mother watches her only son being tortured to death.  Yet Rossini makes a lot of it sound rather up-beat, even jolly, despite it mostly being in a minor key.  This effect was strengthened in this performance by the fact that instead of the orchestra that Rossini specified, they made do with two pianists playing one piano.  Don’t get me wrong, these guys did fine.  But the inevitable emphasis that a piano places, unlike wind and orchestral stringed instruments, on the beginnings of notes, especially when two pianists need to keep in time with each other, created a mood not unlike a rather jolly brass band, of the sort manned by men in leather shorts.  Put on top of that singing that was more operatic in manner than traditionally ecclesiastical, and you can see why (I just learned this (blog and learn)) Heinrich Heine described the work as “too worldly, sensuous, too playful for the religious subject”.  Playful is exactly the word.  The tenor solo aria, early on, sounded like he’d just got married.

But then again, it’s not for atheistical me to be telling nineteenth century Italians how they should feel about the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ.  If they want to treat this as a cause for something close to celebration, which I suppose is what Christianity as a whole does, in among all the lamentation, I’m not going to tell them otherwise.  Besides which, I enjoyed it, once I had got over the surprise of how it sounded. Playful is a good sound.

If you like the sound of playfully ecclesiastical Rossini, I also recommend his Petite Messe Solomnelle.  That’s long been a favourite of mine.

There’s something about young-and-still-studying classical music voices that is often lacking with more famous, better paid and older classical singers.  Basically, their voices are still pristine, not yet having suffered from the habit of belting everything out to the far corners of opera houses.  Provided the students you are hearing are in command of what they are singing and don’t sing out of tune (these were and didn’t), they can create a sort of musical magic that you often miss on bigger and grander occasions.  There is also something appropriate about how none of them are stars, or not yet.  That way God, the Virgin Mary and her Son get to be the stars of the evening.

That said, towards the end, GodDaughter 2 had her big solo moment, doing a very difficult number with some scarily low notes.  As I already reported she did very well, in other opinions besides mine, Other than that, the highlight for me was the performance of Michael Ronan, who brought gravitas to the occasion of a sort that I was expecting rather more of.  I say “performance” because he accomplished this effect as much with his restrained and perfectly pitched body language as with his fine singing.

It was a shame that more people were not persuaded to attend this event.  I’m guessing we were mostly friends and family.  We had the performers outnumbered, but not by much.

I earlier linked to the Scherzo facebook page.  This was then still plugging last Wednesday’s performance, but as of now it features a photo of all the singers and their conductor Matthew O’Keeffe, taken after the performance.  I’m tempted to show you the photo of the photographer taking this photo that I photoed, but have resisted.  I also resisted taking photos of the performance during the performance, but she showed no such restraint, sometimes being almost in the singers’ faces.  Afterwards, I heard grumbles, but presumably she had permission.  If her efforts help Scherzo to get the bigger audiences they deserve in the future, then I forgive her.

Thursday April 13 2017

Indeed, a decade ago to the day, on the grass outside Westminster Abbey.  The word “selfie” didn’t then exist, but that didn’t stop anyone from doing it.  It was because so many were doing it that the word was needed:

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I like how the soles of their feet are the bit of the photo that’s most in focus.

My first use of the word “selfie” was, according to my blogging software, in this posting.  It’s all about me.

Wednesday April 12 2017

I have GodDaughter 2 to thank for this picture:

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That was the sight that greeted me just before I went inside St Stephen’s Church, Gloucester Road, where GD2 and some music student friends, conducted by Matthew O’Keeffe (Scherzo), were performing Rossini’s Stabat Mater.  That’s a link to a piece about the event written in the future tense, so I don’t know how long it will last, but it’s the best I can do.

I can’t be objective about GodDaughter 2’s singing, but she sounded very good to me.

Tuesday April 11 2017

I like this footbridge, and I like this photo of this footbridge:

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I took this photo on the same day I took this gasometer with towers photo, and these cat photos.

We are looking down from the road bridge that takes Twelvetrees Crescent over the River Lea and Bow Creek.  It’s a delightful spot, to be found at the top right end of the Limehouse Cut.  On the right, we see the Limehouse Cut about to make its bee-line for the Limehouse Basin.  And on the left, the River Lea is about to wend its very winding way down to the River.  Where the Lea empties itself into the Thames is right near where I took these fish photos.

The reason I cross-reference all these photo-postings of mine is because the idea of these expeditions is not just to see amusing things in isolation, but in addition to that to build up the bigger picture in my mind of what that part of London, and in particular its waterways, is like.  All these walks need to join up with each other, in reality and in my head.  The latter I achieve by trawling back through my photo archives, by repeatedly meandering about in google maps, and by connecting up this blog posting with that one.  And by going on more expeditions.

Monday April 10 2017

You hear this phrase a lot, along with its twin “No, yeah …”.  Sportsmen in particular use this phrase a lot, especially cricketers.

A couple of days ago, I was sitting having a drink with a friend, and I heard a regular human being at a nearby table use this strange expression.  And straight away, I listened to myself in amazement as I immediately explained to my companion why people, especially cricketers, say this.  I had no idea why this nearby person had said “No, yeah” - or was it “Yeah, No”? - but quite suddenly, it became clear to me why cricketers so often talk like this.

Consider the following example, from earlier today.  Gareth Batty, the captain of the Surrey cricket team, is speaking about Surrey’s fine win, completed this morning, against Warwickshire, in a four minute video that you can watch at the Surrey website, here.

Surrey’s two best players in this game were, first, Mark Stoneman, who made a big hundred which enabled Surrey to get a big first innings score of 450 odd, and second, another Mark, Mark Footitt, who wrecked the Warwickshire first innings reply, with figures of 9 overs 2 maidens 14 runs 6 wickets, which are very good figures.  Footitt in particular was a match winner.  A batsmen can make sure his team doesn’t lose the game, but a bowler can, often with brutal suddenness, win the game, and Footitt won this game, in one brilliant afternoon of bowling.  He got Bell and Trott, both recent major England batsmen, both for ducks, in one over.  Warwickshire never recovered.  Yesterday Warwickshire batted quite well in their second innings, Trott in particular, but it was too late. This morning Surrey got Warwickshire’s last few wickets and won by an innings.

So, of course, Gareth Batty was invited by his video interlocutor to agree that Stoneman and Footitt had been brilliant, as they had been.  But Batty had something else he wanted to say.  He wanted to say, and did say, that this was a team effort. Everybody contributed.  We all hit the ground running in our first game of the season.  Well done all of us.  Well done all our hard work in training, all that pre-season effort in the nets, and all that.  And when he’d finished saying all that he said how great the Surrey fans had been.  Message: we all pull together.  Not a few individuals.  The team, in fact the entire club and its supporters.

So, before all that, by way of introduction, how did Batty react to the claim that he should be singling out Stoneman and Footitt for praise, and also be talking about a brilliant catch by Borthwick to get Bell out when Bell looked like staying a lot longer with Trott than he did and threatening to save the game, and giving Borthwick a name check also.  By saying: “Yeah, no …” You can hear him say this just over a minute into the video.

What gives?

What gives is that Batty is saying “Yeah” to the inescapable facts being presented to him.  Stoneman and Footitt did play brilliantly.  Borthwick’s catch was also superb, and a game-changer.  So he is not going to disagree.  So: “Yeah”.

But: “No”, because Batty wants to say something else instead, which he then says.

The “root cause” so to speak, of the Yeah, No, No, Yeah thing is that typically, when sportsmen are being interviewed, they are knackered, and have had no time to think what the hell to say, and in any case mostly don’t make a living doing sport after being top of their class at school in elocution, and they have to be helped.  And the way that sports interviewers help sportsmen is typically by supplying them with a ready-made answer and asking them to agree.  But often, the sportsman, while not wanting to contradict exactly, doesn’t want fully to agree either.  If he personally did brilliantly (that often being why he is picked out to be interviewed), he doesn’t want to deny that he did indeed do brilliantly, exactly, but he would rather say that it was, you know, nice to do well, and pick out a few other team-mates by name who also did quite well.  So, he starts by saying “Yeah, no”.  Yeah, he did well, but no, not that well.  He of course thinks that he did brilliantly, sure, but he doesn’t want to say it, because then everyone, and especially his team-mates, would think he’s a arrogant pillock.

Batty, today, agrees that two particular guys, whom he makes a point of not naming, did indeed do well.  “They don’t need me to tell them” how well they did, is how he puts it, and then talks about the whole team.  By saying “Yeah, no” at the beginning of all this, he is neither wholly agreeing nor wholly disagreeing with the “question”.  He is more, as it were, sculpting, modifying, diluting, shifting the emphasis of, changing the balance of, what has just been put to him.  Yeah, it’s not wrong.  But no, he wants to say something else.

Sunday April 09 2017

As related yesterday, yesterday’s walk was basically pretty boring.  But by this I do not mean truly boring.  I mean: boring, if I had not had a camera with me.  But I did have a camera with me, and I kept a more than usually alert eye out for incidental photoable fun.

What had got me out and about in the first place was the hours of cloudless sky that were going to happen, and this lack of clouds enabled the sun, combined with all the bright shiny objects that abound in a city like London, to create some photoable fun with reflected light:

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I don’t know exactly how that first effect was created.  I was in too much of a hurry to get to the Limehouse Cut.  The middle one is light bouncing off the water onto the underside of a bridge over the Limehouse Cut.  And the third one is light bouncing off windows opposite.

Here, by contrast, is a picture of light going nowhere:

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You see a lot of these things on the tops of canal boats, and this makes sense, more sense than it does having them on the tops of houses.  The difference is that electricity on a boat comes with a cost not only in money but also in time and both.  The time it takes to transfer the electricity into your electricity store.  And the bother of finding one of the terminals you’ll be using, which is not so easy, especially if there is a queue.  So any topping up of your electricity store that you can do automatically, without having to stop at a special terminal, is very welcome.  Especially on a day like yesterday.

Saturday April 08 2017

Today I had what I suspect may prove to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  I say that because it was so boring that I may never do it again.  I walked the length of the Limehouse Cut:

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The thing about the Limehouse Cut is that it is dead straight, as purely man-made things so often are.  So, when you are walking along next to it, you find yourself staring forwards at an infinitely receding, dead straight, unchanging canal-side path.  The Limehouse Cut is dead straight, and hence dead boring.

Click on that dreary little map of the Limehouse Cut, above, and you will get the context, which shows also how most waterways in London look.  Not straight.  And that makes them much more amusing to walk next to.  Usually, when walking beside a London waterway, there are constant twists and turns.  New things regularly come into view.  The whole atmosphere of the journey keeps changing.  But when things straighten out, like they did today, it can get very repetitious.

Here are some pictures that make that point:

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I have long noticed something similar when it comes to walking along roads.  Long straight boulevards are an ordeal.  Twisty and turny walks, with lots of visual variety and with obstacles in the way so you can’t see miles ahead, are, I find, much more appealing.

The point is variety.  Anything that just keeps repeating itself is dull.  Even if it is something you might think picturesque, like a waterway with lots of boats on it.  But that gets dull also.

I was actually not surprised by this.  I was expecting it.  But, I was hoping against hope that there might be a good view in the distance, like the Shard maybe.  Or that it wouldn’t be boring.  Well, it wasn’t entirely boring.  There were things to see that were surprising.  Plus there was a park that I was able to visit.  But basically, it was boring.

But the thing was, what if the Limehouse Cut was really exciting?  I had to make quite sure that this was not so.  So, there was a meaningful mission today, and it was accomplished.  And it didn’t take that long.

Friday April 07 2017

I couldn’t decide which of these two fish photos was the best, so here are both of them.  The photo on the right is better of the fish itself.  The photo on the left shows more of the rather strange setting.  Click on either, or both, or neither, to get the bigger pictures:

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I encountered this fish in Orchard Place, last Sunday.  Orchard Place is the road you need to walk along if you want to check out Container City, which is what I was doing at the time.  To find Orchard Place on google maps, and to satisfy yourself that we are both talking about the same Place, got to Canning Town tube station and go south.

Thursday April 06 2017

Indeed:

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That’s the model of London in the foyer of the Building Centre, photoed by me last month.

In the foreground, all the new building in the Battersea area.

The small square green bit in the middle of the picture, on the other side of the river, is Vincent Square, which is a short walk from where I live.

London, especially on the south bank, looks like it’s flooded, doesn’t it?

Wednesday April 05 2017

A friend, one who evidently drops by here from time to time, recently noted that I am spending a lot of time in East London.  Indeed I am.

Given that what interests me is places that are changing, and all the cranes and commotion associated with all the change, and then what they finally turn into, this map, of London “skyscrapers” in the pipeline, explains why:

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I found that map in this report.

The reason I say “skyscrapers”, instead of just saying skyscrapers, is because I doubt whether all these … “skyscrapers” will really be of the sky scraping sort.  I suspect they’ll just be rather tall.  More like tower “blocks”, I suspect, most of them.  Or maybe something between a block and a true skyscraper.  Well, we shall see.

More interesting, to me, is that obvious hot spot there, in Tower Hamlets.  There is a London borough that is really living up to its name.  Just now, Tower Hamlets is also famous for being a hot spot of local government corruption.  There is a lot of news coverage of how former Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman was bullying people to vote for him, than there is concerning mere money grubbing.  But you can’t help wondering if all those planning permissions were somehow a part of this story.

I remember, when I was a teenager, travelling through Croydon on a bike trip I was making around London, to get a ferry to Scandinavia.  (Ah how I wish there had been digital cameras then!) And the thing was, Croydon was then a brand new tower cluster.  I was amazed, as it came into view over the brow of a hill.  It was the nearest thing I had ever then seen to Manhattan, in this then green and cautious land.  And a year or two later, a whole bunch of Croydon councillors found themselves in jail.  I remember thinking then that if crooked councillors are what it takes for a decent cluster of towers to get built, then I’m for it.

It stands to reason that planning permission is going to go to the highest (in both senses) bidder, from time to time.

On the other hand, it could just be that the whole of London wants lots of towers in that part of town.  Greenwich is also heavily involved in that hot spot, and I am not aware of any above average degree of corruption there.  Comments from people better informed about such things than I am would be very welcome.

Throughout my decades of living in London (about four of them so far) I have been feeling the centre of gravity o

Tuesday April 04 2017

I find myself becoming ever more entertained by those cranes at the top of buildings, for cleaning windows.  The ones that look like this:

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Is it a crane?  Is it roof clutter?  It’s both!

The above photo was taken in March.  And then, in April, this month, I took this next photo, because, although not by itself very significant, it really adds to the story being told above:

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I did a bit of cropping on both these, to make them more identical, in all but the essential difference they illustrate.

For you see (which you now do), this particular window cleaning crane has the trick of disappearing into the (very visible) roof of its building like it’s not even there.

One moment: roof clutter, of the most obtrusive sort.  Next thing you know: roof clutter gone.

There is another such window cleaning crane, very near to the above window cleaning crane, in fact just across the road from it, on the big ugly building with the curved roof, from which a window cleaning crane with a curved bit of roof on it occasionally emerges.  And in February, I chanced upon this window cleaning crane in action:

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From form emerges function.  Function functions.  Then function disappears back into form, like nothing had happened.

Monday April 03 2017

This afternoon I checked out London Fields, hoping for views of Big Things.  But the clearest Big Thing views I got from the trip were taken from London Fields Overground Station.  This is because London Fields Overground Station is, to coin a phrase, overground.  It’s at roof level rather than ground level.  London Fields, on the other hand, is a collection of fields, with lots of trees everywhere.

Big Things were to be seen through the beginnings of the summer’s greenery-to-come, but only very dimly:

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Actually, I have to admit that with those trees looking all springy and everything that’s quite a sweet looking photo.  But on the whole, views of Big Things from higher up tend to be more varied and more interesting.  You can include more interesting backgrounds and go looking for interesting alignments.

Whatever.  From London Fields station I also immortalised this excellent clump of roof clutter:

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I took other photos for reminding me of the shape of the building as a whole, and that meant that I and google maps were quickly able to learn that this is the tower in the middle of Pitcairn House.  Follow that link, and you will see that Pitcairn House is two quite big slabs of housing, but because there are two curved roofs over most of it, with only the top of that tower being easy to get to, all the clutter has to be concentrated in that small spot.

Saturday April 01 2017

I took this photo of a photoer, among many other photos of photoers, outside Buckingham Palace, exactly ten years ago today:

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It’s the best photo I took that day.  By which I mean that today it is the best photo I took that day.

What this guy is holding in his hands is the past (i.e ten years ago) and the future (i.e. today) of low-end digital photography.  He is using a now obsolete little digital camera of the kind people hardly use any more, to take his photos, back then on April 2nd 2007.  Dangling down below that is a mobile phone, which is what people mostly now use to take these kinds of photos.

DP Review explains, here.

Five, when they were still building it, as viewed from the south side of the river:

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And now, from a little spot in the City called Bunhill Fields, which is a graveyard, through some leafless trees:

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The first photo was photoed five years ago last Thursday, and the second was photoed ten days ago.

The more I see of this Big Thing, the more I like it.  And I am hearing others say that they like it too.

While I’m about it, one of its admirers singled out what happens at the top of the Walkie Talkie.  This looks like this:

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I took that in January of last year.