Brian Micklethwait's Blog

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

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Category archive: Other creatures

Monday October 15 2018

Here are what I suspect to be some wise words, from Rob Fisher, in a comment on this Samizdata posting I recently did about Facebook’s political bias:

Facebook is for cat pictures, baby photos and holiday photos. I recently posted some photos of some old model trains I have and another friend offered to give me some old toy trains they don’t want any more. That’s what it’s for.

People trying to do politics on Facebook serves only to demonstrate how unsuited it is for that purpose.

That’s comment number 42, and very possibly the last word on the matter.

Like I say, this sounds wise, in the sense that it seems to contain an important truth, even if it doesn’t really sound like the whole truth.  After all, I just did another posting here about something political which I first heard about on Facebook.

Here is a photo of Rob’s toy trains that he recently posted on Facebook:

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Am I betraying a confidence, meant only for Rob’s Facebook friends?  Hardly, since Rob has already mentioned his trains on the Mainstream Media, in a comment at Samizdata.

It occurs to me that I have some toy trains that Rob might like.  Like because I think they are N gauge, but perhaps something even smaller.  Rob, if you read this, take a look at them next time you visit me.

Friday October 12 2018

Somewhat over a year ago I wrote about When what I think it is determines how ugly or beautiful I feel it to be, in connection with this building:

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This is described, at any rate by its owners and its various occupants, as The Peak.

And that photo of mine above, taken from the top of the Westminster Cathedral Tower, is my Peak photo which best illustrates the oddly deceptive appearance of this decidedly odd-looking building.  It looks like a 60s rectangular lump, to which 90s or 00s curvatures, on the right as we look, and on the top, have been added.  But, as I discovered when concocting that previous posting, the whole thing was built all at once.  It looks like a two-off building rather than a one-off building, but looks deceive, or deceived me, for a while.  Two-off good, one-off bad, was how I had been thinking.  It was two-off, so (aesthetically) good.  Organic, additive, blah blah.  But, what was I supposed to think, on discovering that it was really an inorganic and un-additive one-off?

Now, buried in my photo-archives, I find this photo, taken on October 28th 2008, which confirms that The Peak is indeed a one-off, because here it is (here it was), all being built in one go.  There really is no doubt about it:

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When I took this photo, I was a lot more interested in the anti-pigeon spikes on top of those street lamps, and on top of the railway sign, than I was in the building work in the background.

How I now feel about The Peak, aesthetically, is that I still rather like it, if only because I have paid so much attention to it over the years, and feel sort of proprietorial towards it, as you would towards a somewhat clumsy child that you have adopted.  (That feeling applies, for me, to a great many London buildings.)

Also, whatever else you think of it, when you see it, you at once know where you are.  It is very recognisable, recognisability being a quality in buildings which I appreciate more and more.  “Iconic” is the rather silly word that estate agents and suchlike use to allude to this quality.  But they have a point, even if they use a silly word to point to their point.  That “you could be anywhere” feeling is not a good one, in a city or anywhere else.

“Other creatures” (see below) because of the pigeon scaring.

Tuesday October 09 2018

When I google “crane”, what I want to see is tall pointy things made of metal for shifting stuff around on building sites, not birds posing en masse in a lake.  You can’t always get what you want.

A further illustration of that same principle came when, this morning, I had reason to google “canada goose”, because this time I actually wanted to learn about a bird.  I photoed some lines of birds a while back, in Rye, and blog pal 6k commented today that they were probably Canada geese.  And because 6k backed this up with some migration info that seemed quite informed, this sounded right, despite the fact that Rye is nowhere near to Canada.

So I googled “canada goose”.

But what I got was lots of expensive jackets with furry hoods.  Even after two pages of links to stuff about the jackets, there was literally no mention of any bird.

You can’t sell a bird for thousand quid, I guess.  Or, not a bird like a Canada goose.  I am not the customer of Google.  I am Google’s product.  Overpriced jacket sellers are Google’s customer.

However, if you google canada geese, sanity is restored.  And I think Canada geese migrating is even better.  It would appear from the images you get if you look there that Canada geese do often form great big mobs, fish shoal style.  It can take them a while to get organised into lines.

Sunday October 07 2018

If I had a pound for every time someone’s told me that they like to photo The Wheel from Tottenham Court Road, I wouldn’t have any more pounds than I already have, because it’s just me that likes to do this.  But, I really like it.

I’m talking about photos like this one:

image

Great light there, don’t you think?  It could be an oil painting.  Exactly as it came out of the camera, no Photoshop(clone)ing.  That dates from April of 2015.  As you can see, that weird entrance to Tottenham Court Road Tube station was still under construction.

Here’s a couple more, taken in 2016 …:

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... and in 2017:

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That crane there should have told me that something ominous was in the works, but actually I was taken by surprise.

Take a look at what the same scene looked like today:

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That’s right.  The Wheel is about to blotted out of this particular picture.

I moved nearer, which moved the top of the Wheel down to the bottom gap in the structure:

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I took a final close up:

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And that may well be the last time that I ever photo The Wheel from Tottenham Court Road.

Friday October 05 2018

Busy day doing other things besides this, but here are a couple of Other Creatures snaps, the Other Creatures in this case being birds.

Last Saturday evening, I and some friends were in the southern coastal town (one of the so-called Cinque Ports) of Rye.  As it was getting dark, a big line of birds flew over us.  I snatched this shot, which you can get all of by clicking on this rotated and horizontalised slice:

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Then another squadron of birds flew over, this time in a V shape, which means that this next horizontalisation is a bit less thin:

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So, two lines, joined at the front, all following the one top dog bird.

Again, click to get the original.

Rye is a “port” that isn’t much of a port anymore, because a thousand years of river mud has pushed the sea away from it.  The houses in my two photos are recent, where there used to be sea, a bit away from the centre.  The centre, i.e. the whole of the old town, is on a hill, which used to be an island.

I think the birds are geese, but I really do not know.  For the benefit of birdophiles, this full-size crop from out of another photo I took, of the first line of birds above, should narrow it down:

image

Those look far too big to be - I don’t know - starlings.  And, I surmise, rather too well organised. Starlings just swirl about in a big mob, like fishes, right?  Come to think of it, do any fishes line up like these big birds?  I ought to be asking the internet this, but I’m off to bed.

Friday September 21 2018

The high point, literally, of the expedition that GodDaughter2 and I made to Kew Gardens back in August was our exploration of the Great Pagoda. 

From the top of the Great Pagoda, you can see the Big Things of Central London.  But what the Great Pagoda itself looks like is also worth examining.

Here is an early view we had of it:

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And here is how it looked when we got closer:

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The Daily Mail describes the Great Pagoda as Britain’s First Skyscraper.

Now look how it looked when we got closer still:

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So, what are those sticky-outy things on the corners of each sticky-outy roof?

That’s right, dragons.  And we’re not talking merely inflated dragons.  These are solid looking and scary.  You couldn’t kill these dragons with a mere pin prick, and you wouldn’t dare to try.

Most of the Great Pagoda dragons look like this:

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We discovered when we got there that the recent restoration of this Great Pagoda had, only a few weeks before our visit, been completed.  We got very lucky with that.

Read more about these dragons, and about the Pagoda that they now guard, in this Guardian report.

This Great Pagoda, London’s very first Big Thing, was built by Sir Wiiliam Chambers in 1762.  The dragons were a feature of the original Pagoda, but in 1784 they were removed.  Being made of wood, and following a burst of wet weather, they had started to rot.

Wikipedia says that Kew Gardens was adopted as a national botanical garden in 1840.  Would that be when the Pagoda was opened to the general public?  Whenever exactly that was, Kew Gardens and the Great Pagoda have been what we now call visitor attractions for quite a while now.

During World War 2, the Great Pagoda was used to test bombs.  You can still see one of the holes they made in all the floors, to allow the bombs to fall.  Keeping that for everyone to see now is a nice touch, I think.

Kew Gardens contains lots of greenery, and green stuff on sticks.  What do they call those things?  Trees.  Kew Gardens has lots and lots of trees, of many different brands.

So, on the left here, the hole in the floor.  On the right there, the seat made from many trees:

imageimageimageimageimage

And in the middle, the seat, seen through the hole.

But back to those dragons.  The old rotting dragons have now been almost entirely replaced by 3D printed dragons, which look solid but which are actually far lighter than the timer originals.

On the lowest roof, right near the ground, there was a different sort of dragon, which looked like this:

imageimageimage
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I wonder what the story was of that one, for there did indeed seem to be only one such blue dragon.  Had the original plan been to make all the dragons like that one?  But did its structural weakness cause them to abandon that plan, and go with the other darker green dragon with its scary red tongue, and with its rather more solid wings?  Don’t know, but whatever the story is, the winning dragon design is pretty good also.

Everything about how the Great Pagoda looks, inside as well as its exterior, says: class.  This is a visitor attraction that I warmly recommend.  There is no lift, not originally of course, and not now, but the steps, although quite numerous, are at a comfortably mild angle - rather than, say, like the ones in the Monument.  Even better, each flight of steps you go up causes you to reach another actual floor, of the sort you can stand on, with windows looking outwards.  So, oldies like me can go up two floors, say, and then have a comfortable breather, without blocking anyone else on the stairs.  If we are on the right floor, we can even use that multi-treed seat (see above).

The weather on the day that GD2 and I visited Kew Gardens was not perfect.  The dragons look rather dark and menacing in my photos.  But that look works, I think.  And as days out go, this day out was pretty much perfect.

Friday September 14 2018

Last Sunday morning I was trying to have a good old lie-in, but instead I got woken up early by a giant anteater.

Yes.  Having been woken up, I looked out my window towards where all the din seemed to be coming from, and this was the scene I beheld:

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At first I thought the culprit might be that refuse lorry in the foreground, but it soon because clear that the noise had been coming from that red lorry with the crane-like thing attached to it.

Let’s move in closer:

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By the time this photo had been photoed, the big red lorry had lifted its nozzle out of that hole in the pavement on the right there, which I subsequently learned had been dug in connection with electric cables.  Evidently there was muck in the hole which needed to be got out, in a hurry.  Sometimes technology really sucks.

I was intrigued, and at first greatly puzzled, by picture on the side of the red lorry, and it took me quite a while to work it out.  It is a giant anteater.  It looks like at least two creatures, pointing in opposite directions, but the “other creature” is, or so I believe, the giant anteater’s giant tail.  That tail being a lot of what makes the anteater a giant.

Wikipedia tells us what an actual giant anteater looks like:

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I can see why an anteater would have a very long nose.  But why the enormous tail?  Balance, perhaps?  The answer offered here says balance, and also maybe to cover itself when sleeping.  It seems to be mixed up with the anteater having a low body temperature, the tail being there partly to keep heat out.  So, perhaps also some kind of fan?  I couldn’t find a confident answer.

As for the gizmo deployed at the back of the lorry, note how this time, a bendy arm with a tube in it does make use of a bendy tube, unlike that machine for squirting concrete that I mentioned here earlier.  Guess: not so much pressure this time, not least because the material itself being sucked up (this time) is not so heavy and bulky.  Some pressure, but not so much.

That phone number of the side of the lorry got me to the enterprise that supplied this equipment.  But follow that link and you’ll find no mention of any red lorries with anteaters on the side.  By which I mean, I didn’t.

Saturday September 08 2018

Earlier in the week, on my way to St James’s Park tube, and again on my way back home from St James’s Park tube, I photoed what I described to Google as a “concrete pump”.

This concrete pump was helping to build a clutch of apartment blocks where the old New Scotland Yard used to be, before New Scotland Yard moved to a new New Scotland Yard, back where the original Scotland Yard used once to be.

I got enough images to suggest that a “concrete pump” is indeed what this extraordinary contraption is, but not enough to suggest that I had named the contraption correctly, using the preferred words of those who deploy it.

Nevertheless, enjoy.  I did, especially the close-ups of the joints.

imageimageimageimageimage
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All this, just to be able to squirt concrete from a lorry into a hole.  (I’m guessing, from the invisibility of building action behind all the solid fences, that his concrete was for the foundations.  This being where concrete, as opposed to steel on its own, still seems to be essential.) And with a big long arm like that one, with all its joints, I’m guessing it can reach all sorts of complicated and out-of-the-way spots.  (If you guess that I do a lot of guessing when I see something like this, then you guess right.)

There must be a reason why they don’t use a flexible tube, but have to make do with a rigid tube, but with the occasional rotating joint.  So elaborate are those joints that they end up looking biological rather than merely mechanical.  So, as with the previous posting, also about technology rather than biology, I have categorised this posting as, among other things, “other creatures”.  (I’ve also added “sculpture” to the category list.  Does regular sculpture come any better than this?  Sometimes maybe, but not very often.)

The concrete itself must be a marvel of blending and general wonderfulness.  Able to travel as a near-liquid along this elaborate pipe, under (guess) great pressure (another guess: that’s why the pipe has to be made of metal rather than of something bendier), but then able, at exactly the right time, to solidify in the deep cylindrical holes into which it is squirted.  At which point it has to stay solid for ever.  (Is something added, at the critical moment, to make it solidify?)

There is much that is very wrong with the world.  This sort of stuff is what is very right with the world.

A concrete pump?
Driverless vehicles with faces and driverless vehicles to sleep on
Do they know it’s them?
Steven Pinker Galapagos photos of weird and wonderful creatures
Richtigen Moment Klick
Cats - Dogs - Hitler - and Surrey don’t win
Elephants in Sloane Square
Creature contrast in the City
How London and its many creatures are evolving and should evolve some more
Wardour Street dragon
Angel Bear outside the Gare du Nord
The men but not the luggage - and a round of golf
Trafalgar Square lions
I need a link dump
Fox in SW1
Heron out west
Robot dog apocalypse
A picture of a not missing cat and the link to the story
Hippo with lid
Cheetaroo
Not the usual end to the Six Nations
Quota taxi covered in quota red flamingos
The Devil’s Dice in Piccadilly
Wartime Encryption for Pigeons
Blurring the face of the Big Prawn
Barn owl in winter
My new FZ150
But they didn’t mean this thing to look like a penis
What kind of car is this?  Answer: A Charger and a Bee
Copycat (and copydog)
A Mickey Mouse posting
Quota creative misquote
Merry Christmas - Happy New Year - 50 percent off
Belated Christmas greetings
Pigs don’t pig out
I like Prince Albert’s backing
Merry Christmas … and …?
BMdotcom insult of the day from Bette Davis (or from Legend)
Googling for new planets
A big panda (with stars in its eyes) at Victoria Station
Monument dwarfed by Walkie-Talkie
Naughty old adverts in The Star
Cranes and horses
The face of a seagull
Stop your dog pulling on his leash – make your dog pull you
Quota hippo
Mick Hartley on Hadid’s new Antwerp Port House
Hippos
Jordan Peterson on why zebras look the way they do
IKEA launches first range of furniture for cats and dogs
Nobody owns the paintings in the Leake Street Tunnel
Horse spotted in Putney this afternoon
Eight
Surrey Docks Farm
While England were winning the World Cup I was photoing adolescent swans
Dogs in boots
This story will run and run
Art is strange
Huge lion carved out of a huge tree
Luxury
Battersea Park bird
Fish in Orchard Place
And in Other creatures news …
New River Walk
If Pugs could fly
Cruelty to a fake animal – kindness to a fake animal
Shopping Trolley Spiral beside the River Lea
Making blue by copying tarantulas
Up early – blogging early – elephant sculptures
Always?
Fantastic Beasts has an alcove in W.H. Smith all to itself
Alice Robb on how cats look like babies
Packaging that is too good
Creatures of outer London
A dogs and cats building
The Battersea Dogs and Cats Home light show
The internet is for telling me what’s on the telly
Batman consults his smartphone
Snake on a car
More birds on a TV aerial
Union Jacks having fun
Pigeons on a TV aerial
Pink van with roller-blading fox
Deliveroo V sign
Eltham horses (and a dog (I think))
A very good meeting - and a quota horse with quota cart
Street dogs
French animals from GodDaughter 2
Bird – and bird close up
A pig and two dogs