Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Michael Jennings on To Tottenham (2): Seven Sisters?
Michael Jennings on Scum?
Jackie D on Plan as energy
Drone Misfits on Van – grey but very interesting
Drone Misfits on Droneverts
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Michael Jennings on Don't be fooled by the smallness of the building
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Most recent entries
- Trump makes headlines a year ago
- Arthur Seldon Centenary photos
- More database problems
- To Tottenham (2): Seven Sisters?
- Early dusk
- I am knackered
- Packaging that is too good
- Tidying up
- To Tottenham (1): A fine day (especially for scaffolding)
- Quota Citroen DS
- Plan as energy
- One mobile phone photoer now
- Somebody needs to invent electronically changeable paint
- Clocking clocks
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6000 Miles from Civilisation
A Decent Muesli
Adventures in Capitalism
Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
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Burning Our Money
Chase me ladies, I'm in the cavalry
China Law Blog
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Counting Cats in Zanzibar
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Category archive: Signs and notices
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.
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.
Or maybe it has been invented and the answer is it’s called lots of little flat screen televisions.
This thought was provoked by seeing this picture, at Mick Hartley‘s:
There’s nothing wrong with this Big Thing that painting it entertainingly wouldn’t put right, in fact very right indeed. It could become a well-loved landmark, if only it was spruced up a bit, with some bright colours. This Big Thing is called the Edificio Torres Blancas, and it is in Madrid. In Spain they like bright colours, right?
But, what bright colours? The answer is to copy what they now do in Trafalgar Square, with that Fourth Plinth. In Trafalgar Square, they have solved the problem of what to put on the Fourth Plinth by keeping on changing it. That way, everyone gets to like some of the objects they put on the Plinth, and that way everyone who dislikes what is there now can comfort themselves with the thought that it will soon be gone. All can photo the ones they like and ignore the rest. Eventually, a winner may be declared. Eventually, a thing will be put there that seems to right, to so many people, that it will be decided to keep that thing there for ever.
That’s what they should do with the colouring of the above Big Thing in Madrid.
So, techies, get to work. What we need is a new sort of paint that you just slap on, but whose colours, down to the minutest detail, can then be controlled by a big old computer at ground level.
Or, this is already possible, as the advertisers are now proving with their changeable screens, and all that it missing is that this is, for a mere building, as opposed to a commercially profitable message, for the time being, too expensive.
Also, maybe the architect is still alive and vetoing any such notions, insisting that his masterpiece remain blancas, or failing that then at least grey all over. Time will soon correct this sorry state of affairs, if state of affairs it be.
I recommend clicking on this:
What’s so entertaining about what you get is how commonplace the building is. How small. How suburban.
Ah, but if you go down to the basement, and if you can persuade them to give you the key to the purple door (which they won’t but you never know your luck), then in the act of entering, you step through a wormhole and find yourself at the huge BIS base that orbits around Alpha Centauri, which is like the Clapham Junction of our part of the Milky Way.
Meanwhile, this deceptively humdrum little place, disguised as a mere space travel fan club, is to be found a short walk across the river away from my home.
I took my photos of this building and its amusing sign on the same day I took this photo and these photos and this photo and this photo. That was a good expedition. Not as good as the expeditions the inner core of the British Interplanetary Society go on, from time to time (think about that), but good.
Ah the countryside, where the other creatures - other than cats, I mean - live:
And contribute about as much to the world as most cats do, by the look of them.
Actually this is not really the countryside. It is north east London. To be more exact, it is the gap between the King George’s Reservoir and the William Girling Reservoir, which is named after William Girling, who was the Chairman of the Metropolitan Water Board at the time of the reservoir’s opening.
I found myself in this spot in the summer of 2015, and don’t worry, I had a destination in mind that was nothing to do with horses. I was on my way to Yardley Hill, to take photos like this:
As I made my way towards Chingford Station, I also came upon a horse, wondering whether to kick a dog or run away from it. And I also encountered an Indian elephant, outside an Indian restaurant:
But I kept well clear of the cattle.
The human eye comes with a brain attached, a brain which continuously works out what is actually there, as opposed to how things merely look. But the camera is stupid. It sees everything but understands nothing. It does not cut out what doesn’t matter.
So, when a camera takes a picture like this ...:
… it shows the sign, but it also shows all the stupid lighting effects that are messing with the sign.
It also shows weird lighting effects above and beyond the sign, which perhaps you hadn’t noticed, until I told you to look for them. Your brain may have cut that out, because it doesn’t have anything to do with the sign and you were concentrating on the sign.
But now do what I did next, when I realised what was really going on here. Having acquired the photography habit, I have become visually stupid, which means that I now see more, almost like a camera does.
Feast your eyes on this:
I am not sure if the above photo was the best I took of this effect, or the below photo. So I post both:
This was, I think, the single most remarkable thing I saw on my walk from Battersea Park station back to my home, last Wednesday afternoon.
From the above photos, you may be able to deduce what is causing this, but I’ll save you the bother of working it out. Here is the next photo I took:
And here is another photo which makes everything even clearer, that I got from the internet:
It’s the curvature of the surface off which the sunlight is bouncing that does it. That separates the blobs of light from each window into distinct columns, creating a parthenonic magnificence that would, with a flat wall of windows, have been just a big jumble. That would have been pretty good, but what we actually see is something else again. And yet, when I was photoing this, I was the only one paying attention to this amazing light show. Everyone else just walked past it, like it wasn’t there. This was because, thanks to their brains, it actually wasn’t there.
The internet ought to be able to correct such failures to notice. But the strange thing is, if you google the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, all you get is a lot of stuff about dogs and cats. No mention at all of this amazing special effect. The modern world has its priorities badly skewed.
I have photoed similar lighting effects before, such as the one reported in this posting. But that one is put completely in the shade by this one.
Categories below include Transport. That’s because all this drama was to be seen on a manky old railway viaduct. Which I actually think made it look better. (All everyone else saw was a manky old railway viaduct.)
The weather forecast says that tomorrow will be a beautiful day, and I intend to spend it: out. But where?
I promise nothing, but at present I am inclined towards visiting one of those delightful roof level London railway stations, along which one may perambulate, lining up Big Things with each other, namely …:
I’ve not been there lately. As you can see if you look at that carefully, and if you know your London Big Things, that photo was photoed quite a while ago, when the Gherkin stood in isolated splendour, uninterrupted by such things as the Cheesegrater, and when the Shard of Glass was but a concrete stump. Six years ago, to be more exact.
After hoovering up all the views to be seen from there, I then have in mind to wander back toward Vauxhall, past all the new US Embassy and Battersea Power Station excitements, towards the Oval and surrounding parts, and see what I see.
There is a park there, south of the Oval, that I’ve never checked out before. Parks are also good for seeing Big Things, because parks, if you stand on the far side of them, have no big intervening objects between you and the distance.
Leake Street, October 19th. Probably still there, as of right now, but quite possibly already painted over.
I do not know why the cat is saying: “4”. Some sort of golfing reference?
Snake on a car
Van – grey but very interesting
Cruise plays along
What does Thames “RIB” Experience mean?
The Big Parliament Tower and the Shard as seen from the Westminster Cathedral Tower
Another illustrated van
Photoing Tate Modern from the Oval and the Oval from Tate Modern
Tate Modern is now fighting with its neighbours about privacy
Deliveroo V sign
A direct hit
Views of Epsom and views from Epsom
Dernbach decisive again
When welfare means lavatories
Another fine day at the Oval (4): Scoreboards old and new
Another fine day at the Oval (1): Vans
LIFE at the Park Theatre
Temporary Oxford Street
A decade of unrecognisable photographers
South of France signs
Deirdre McCloskey - The Great Enrichment – Using a smartphone as a mirror
Benevolent Laissez-Faire photos
Horizontal French signs
White vans are becoming very informative
Centre Point through the new station entrance
Looking in at the Zaha Hadid Design Gallery in Goswell Road
The footbridges of Shad
Another idea for a collection of photos
Blog often (this time about the sound and the vision of this evening’s Tim Evans talk to LH)
Quota snappy snap
Vans that need to look the part
A busy day and a collection of Big Things
The Beckton Sewage Works
RIP David Bowie
With GD2 in Richmond Park (3): Scary names
Wicked Campers: Are they now going respectable?
Some reindeer-based Christmas cheer from last year
ShiRtstream drycleaners and a party recollection
Wheel and shadow (and Wheel reflected)
Out and about with GD1 (6): The journey gets properly started
Screens at dusk
Christmas is coming and you’d better watch out
Now I know what a Mews is
An underground history lesson
Here begins the Essex Way
Some quota reflected cranes and a quota white van
Alcoholic Architecture sign
The light outside the Proud Archivist on the evening of July 22nd
Where punctuation might have helped
Credit where credit is due (in France)
Out and about with GD1 (5): Stoke Newington’s Amazing Castle
Cat picture on white van
The view from outside Waterloo Station
A forgotten war
A new not very big Thing in Paris
Why I mostly write about architectural design rather than about interior design
Along the river towards Battersea
Another quota sign
Made-up London detectives in real London places
A weird view of the Wheel - and cats in Tiger
White Vin Van
Move over CND
Photographers - photographers with hats (one of the hats being rather scary)
“Real Democracy Now” in Parliament Square this afternoon
Sixty Charlie Hebdo demo signs that say something other than “Je Suis Charlie”
Charlie Hebdo demo in Trafalgar Square
Cats in Quimper shops
French roof clutter
Sign blocked by surveillance camera
Photographed flatness that doesn’t look flat
Fuck the duck until exploded
Another facade being carefully preserved
Sign with sarcastic sneer quotes
A Sunday ramble
TfL electronic signs (etc.)
What is this Thing?
GARBAGE SHED AND JUMP INTO THE SEA IS PROHIBITED
Strata with greenery and a scaffolding sign
A Real Photographer does a shadow selfie
A old bus doing regular bus stuff
National Theatre Boo
A slightly foreign part of London
Happiness is a wallet that I didn’t lose after all
South Bank signs
Green screen blue screen
A selfie taken in 1955 - another taken in 2014 - another being taken in 2014
A new Morrisons is opening in Strutton Ground next Monday
The Met swoops on the Adams Family
South Bank Architects?
The text of my talk for Christian Michel last night on the impact of digital photography
Hampers can be annoying
Otherwise blogging (and a Burgess Park butterfly)
Smaller is more legible – big is more fun
Corrie Chipps pictures the Zimbabwe inflation
Views from the Hackney Wick station footbridge
Pictures from Georgia and Warsaw
Reflections on a strange coincidence involving an Android app and a malfunctioning bus stop sign
Google Nexus 4 photos
Wedding photography (2): Signs
Remembering a warmer day
Lunch at Gessler at Daquise
Six Nations joy
Reflections on and in Westminster Tube Station
Big London Things with clutter in the foreground
Multilingual botanical gardens in Cyprus
Malta Day procession
A memorable scoreboard surrounded by empty seats
Occupy St Paul’s pictures
Another reason to like Colorado
Choosing a Clean Food Outlet in Lawas is as easy as ABC
Health and safety on a mountain in Borneo
Five pictures of me
Misspelt (correction: Italian) signs of the times
The graffiti says he won’t get his keys back
Rally Against Debt signs
Nil scrap value
Do not climb on the Thing!
The wedding lingers on
The Armstrong Gun
Signs from the Frenchosphere
And there was you thinking you were immortal
More signs of the times
Blue Men on a boring building in Borough High Street
Signs - all in my bit of one railway carriage
That’s what I call a Health and Safety Notice
If you can’t beat them hire them
Another sign of the times
The bike behind the theatre
Soviet health and safety posters
Noticing signs of the times