Brian Micklethwait's Blog

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

Home

www.google.co.uk


Recent Comments


Monthly Archives


Most recent entries


Search


Advanced Search


Other Blogs I write for

Brian Micklethwait's Education Blog

CNE Competition
CNE Intellectual Property
Samizdata
Transport Blog


Blogroll

2 Blowhards
6000 Miles from Civilisation
A Decent Muesli
Adloyada
Adventures in Capitalism
Alan Little
Albion's Seedling
Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
Alex Singleton
AngloAustria
Another Food Blog
Antoine Clarke
Antoine Clarke's Election Watch
Armed and Dangerous
Art Of The State Blog
Biased BBC
Bishop Hill
BLDG BLOG
Bloggers Blog
Blognor Regis
Blowing Smoke
Boatang & Demetriou
Boing Boing
Boris Johnson
Brazen Careerist
Bryan Appleyard
Burning Our Money
Cafe Hayek
Cato@Liberty
Charlie's Diary
Chase me ladies, I'm in the cavalry
Chicago Boyz
China Law Blog
Cicero's Songs
City Comforts
Civilian Gun Self-Defense Blog
Clay Shirky
Climate Resistance
Climate Skeptic
Coffee & Complexity
Coffee House
Communities Dominate Brands
Confused of Calcutta
Conservative Party Reptile
Contra Niche
Contrary Brin
Counting Cats in Zanzibar
Скрипучая беседка
CrozierVision
Dave Barry
Davids Medienkritik
David Thompson
Deleted by tomorrow
deputydog
diamond geezer
Dilbert.Blog
Dizzy Thinks
Dodgeblogium
Don't Hold Your Breath
Douglas Carswell Blog
dropsafe
Dr Robert Lefever
Dr. Weevil
ecomyths
engadget
Englands Freedome, Souldiers Rights
English Cut
English Russia
EU Referendum
Ezra Levant
Everything I Say is Right
Fat Man on a Keyboard
Ferraris for all
Flickr blog
Freeborn John
Freedom and Whisky
From The Barrel of a Gun
ft.com/maverecon
Fugitive Ink
Future Perfect
FuturePundit
Gaping Void
Garnerblog
Gates of Vienna
Gizmodo
Global Warming Politics
Greg Mankiw's Blog
Guido Fawkes' blog
HE&OS
Here Comes Everybody
Hit & Run
House of Dumb
Iain Dale's Diary
Ideas
Idiot Toys
IMAO
Indexed
India Uncut
Instapundit
Intermezzo
Jackie Danicki
James Delingpole
James Fallows
Jeffrey Archer's Official Blog
Jessica Duchen's classical music blog
Jihad Watch
Joanne Jacobs
Johan Norberg
John Redwood
Jonathan's Photoblog
Kristine Lowe
Laissez Faire Books
Languagehat
Last of the Few
Lessig Blog
Libertarian Alliance: Blog
Liberty Alone
Liberty Dad - a World Without Dictators
Lib on the United Kingdom
Little Man, What Now?
listen missy
Loic Le Meur Blog
L'Ombre de l'Olivier
London Daily Photo
Londonist
Mad Housewife
Mangan's Miscellany
Marginal Revolution
Mark Wadsworth
Media Influencer
Melanie Phillips
Metamagician and the Hellfire Club
Michael Jennings
Michael J. Totten's Middle East Journal
Mick Hartley
More Than Mind Games
mr eugenides
Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism
My Boyfriend Is A Twat
My Other Stuff
Natalie Solent
Nation of Shopkeepers
Neatorama
neo-neocon
Never Trust a Hippy
NO2ID NewsBlog
Non Diet Weight Loss
Normblog
Nurses for Reform blog
Obnoxio The Clown
Oddity Central
Oliver Kamm
On an Overgrown Path
One Man & His Blog
Owlthoughts of a peripatetic pedant
Oxford Libertarian Society /blog
Patri's Peripatetic Peregrinations
phosita
Picking Losers
Pigeon Blog
Police Inspector Blog
PooterGeek
Power Line
Private Sector Development blog
Public Interest.co.uk
Publius Pundit
Quotulatiousness
Rachel Lucas
RealClimate
Remember I'm the Bloody Architect
Rob's Blog
Sandow
Scrappleface
Setting The World To Rights
Shane Greer
Shanghaiist
SimonHewittJones.com The Violin Blog
Sinclair's Musings
Slipped Disc
Sky Watching My World
Social Affairs Unit
Squander Two Blog
Stephen Fry
Stuff White People Like
Stumbling and Mumbling
Style Bubble
Sunset Gun
Survival Arts
Susan Hill
Teblog
Techdirt
Technology Liberation Front
The Adam Smith Institute Blog
The Agitator
The AntRant
The Becker-Posner Blog
The Belgravia Dispatch
The Belmont Club
The Big Blog Company
The Big Picture
the blog of dave cole
The Corridor of Uncertainty (a Cricket blog)
The Croydonian
The Daily Ablution
The Devil's Advocate
The Devil's Kitchen
The Dissident Frogman
The Distributed Republic
The Early Days of a Better Nation
The Examined Life
The Filter^
The Fly Bottle
The Freeway to Serfdom
The Future of Music
The Futurist
The Happiness Project
The Jarndyce Blog
The London Fog
The Long Tail
The Lumber Room
The Online Photographer
The Only Winning Move
The Policeman's Blog
The Road to Surfdom
The Sharpener
The Speculist
The Surfer
The Wedding Photography Blog
The Welfare State We're In
things magazine
TigerHawk
Tim Blair
Tim Harford
Tim Worstall
tomgpalmer.com
tompeters!
Transterrestrial Musings
UK Commentators - Laban Tall's Blog
UK Libertarian Party
Unqualified Offerings
Violins and Starships
Virginia Postrel
Vodkapundit
WebUrbanist
we make money not art
What Do I Know?
What's Up With That?
Where the grass is greener
White Sun of the Desert
Why Evolution Is True
Your Freedom and Ours


Websites


Mainstream Media

BBC
Guardian
Economist
Independent
MSNBC
Telegraph
The Sun
This is London
Times


Syndicate

RSS 1.0
RSS 2.0
Atom
Feedburner
Podcasts


Categories

Advertising
Africa
Anglosphere
Architecture
Art
Asia
Atheism
Australasia
Billion Monkeys
Bits from books
Bloggers and blogging
Books
Brian Micklethwait podcasts
Brians
Bridges
Business
Career counselling
Cartoons
Cats and kittens
China
Civil liberties
Classical music
Comedy
Comments
Computer graphics
Cranes
Crime
Current events
Democracy
Design
Digital photographers
Drones
Economics
Education
Emmanuel Todd
Environment
Europe
Expression Engine
Family
Food and drink
France
Friends
Getting old
Globalisation
Healthcare
History
How the mind works
India
Intellectual property
Japan
Kevin Dowd
Language
Latin America
Law
Libertarianism
Links
Literature
London
Media and journalism
Middle East and Islam
Movies
Music
My blog ruins
My photographs
Open Source
Opera
Painting
Photography
Podcasting
Poetry
Politics
Pop music
Propaganda
Quote unquote
Radio
Religion
Roof clutter
Russia
Scaffolding
Science
Science fiction
Sculpture
Signs and notices
Social Media
Society
Software
South America
Space
Sport
Technology
Television
The internet
The Micklethwait Clock
Theatre
This and that
This blog
Transport
Travel
USA
Video
War


Category archive: History

Sunday June 21 2015

Today there was a big old Micklethwait family get-together at the ancestral home in Englefield Green, Surrey.  Me, two brothers, a nephew and a niece plus partners, another niece, plus two little kids.  I took photos of course, and I wasn’t the only one doing that.

I prefer not to show you pictures of my relatives, but I’m sure that nobody will mind me showing you these snaps:

image imageimage image

Those are Dinky Toys, in really quite good condition, dating from the 1950s.  I can even remember a couple of the names.  The red van (which was my brother’s, not mine) was “Mersey Tunnel”, because it is a Mersey Tunnel police van.  And the white car with green on it is a Singer Gazelle.  Ah, Singer.  Those were the days when Britain contained about a dozen distinct car-makers, with distinct names like Singer.

All these toys had already been extracted from all the other goods and chattels in the house and given to N and NP’s two little kids, before I arrived.  Theoretically, three of these four antiquities were mine, or they were mine sixty years ago, but the kids seemed to like them and I was glad for these toys to be passed on.  Such things are only worth proper money if the boxes have been kept, and of course they hadn’t been.  And although these Dinky Toys, especially the two cars, are in really quite good condition, really quite good condition is not nearly as good as mint condition, moneywise.  So, yes kids, you’re very welcome.

But one favour I did ask.  Before you take them off to your home, let me photo them, just to remember them.  Okay?  Okay.  So I perched them on my knees and took the shots.

One of the many good things about digital photography is that with it you can store fun memories in two virtual dimensions, rather than in three actual dimensions.

Thursday June 18 2015

For most of today I was without my computer, and yesterday I could only use it in “safe” mode, the most obvious and lamentable effect of which was that I couldn’t see or manipulate pictures properly.  So, I couldn’t do pictures for the best part of two days.

Pictures like this one, which needed cropping because to the left of this young man (as I looked and snapped) was a close-up of another young man’s face, with nothing in the way and hence totally recognisable:

image

What I liked about this picture at the time when I took it, on Westminster Bridge two days ago, was that the guy’s smartphone had a banknote on it.  And what I liked even more about this picture when I took another look at it just now with my restored computer is that the man on the banknote is Benjamin Franklin.

Franklin, an enthusiastic inventor, would surely have loved the idea of his face being, two and a quarter centuries after his death, on a portable instantaneous communication and computation machine, with the ability to create and transmit instantaneous likenesses of one’s companions and one’s surroundings and to record and transmit verbal messages, and to perform many other tasks and wonders.  Or: whatever he might have called a smartphone.

Tuesday June 16 2015

Wikipedia, which I assume to be reliable on something so politically uncontroversial, has this to say about the Buck Brothers:

Samuel Buck (1696 – 17 August 1779) and his brother Nathaniel Buck (died 1759/1774) were English engravers and printmakers, best known for their Buck’s Antiquities, depictions of ancient castles and monasteries. Samuel produced much work on his own but when the brothers worked together, they were usually known as the Buck Brothers. More is known about Samuel than Nathaniel.

Samuel Buck was born in Yorkshire in 1696. After publishing some prints in that county he moved to London. With Nathaniel he embarked on making a number of series of prints of “antiquities”, which consisted of ancient castles and former religious buildings in England and Wales.  Starting in 1724, they travelled around these countries, and completed sets of prints for the regions of England by 1738 and for Wales between 1739 and 1742. These are commonly known as Buck’s Antiquities. During this time they also worked on a series of townscapes in England and Wales entitled Cities, Sea-ports and Capital Towns.

I mention these guys because here are their engravings of the Thames in London, seen from the south.  All are worth clicking on.

For the first time ever on the net, here are high quality images of Samuel & Nathaniel Buck’s complete sequence of five views of London as published in 1774.

That “first time ever” was in 2012, but news like this does not date.

Together the originals form a panorama of mid 18th Century London over 4 metres long. They show, in tremendous detail, the whole of the north bank of the Thames, between Westminster and the Tower.

Horizontality!  Each is fairly horizontal to start with, but stitch them together ...

Just how accurate these engravings are of the former times that the Buck Brothers were purporting to recreate, I do not know.  But I assume they give us a pretty good idea of how things were, until such time as aliens show up to reveal to us their tourist snaps from previous visits.

I especially like the last one:

image

I like this for a number of reasons.

First, it shows the spires of old London, and hence how very well the Shard fits into contemporary London.  The Shard is of course the very embodiment of new London, but it also evokes old London, far more that most more recent London architecture.

Second, this shows old London Bridge, with all its buildings.  What fun it would be for London to build itself another such bridge.  One of the reasons I so welcome the new Blackfriars Station, on its bridge, is that it sets a precedent for just such a bridge with buildings some time in the future.  This new Ponte Vecchio on Thames probably shouldn’t be in the middle of London, though, because that would spoil a lot of views.  Why not a big bridge of this sort further downstream?  Any decade now … If it were ever to happen, such a bridge would nicely complement the new Garden Bridge, full of plants, that Joanna Lumley wants to build.  This is going ahead (… ”will” …), apparently.

And the third reason I like the above Buck Brothers panorama is that to the far right, it nicely shows what an imposing edifice the Tower of London used once to be.  Here is the detail I mean:

image

Okay, that big building to the left means that the Tower is not as imposing there as all that.  But it certainly gives you a clue concerning what an imposition it was when it was first imposed (scroll down to the quote there).

Sunday June 14 2015

Can artists learn about how to do art when they get old, from sportsmen?  Can sportsmen learn from artists about how to handle their career twilights?  I face my own twilight now, so I read Ed Smith’s piece about such things with keen interest.

Choice quote:

The weird aspect of sporting maturity is that it happens so early in life. An athlete’s career is played out in fast-forward.  Professional and emotional maturity are wildly out of sync.  Andrew Flintoff told me recently that his cricket career was practically over before he felt at his most confident as a person.  Many sportsmen feel the same.  By the time they’ve grown up, it’s gone.  The period of critical decision-making and the exercise of power arrives frighteningly early.  Only when they retire do sportsmen become young again as they rejoin civilian time.

Yes, if you leave pro sport but land on your feet afterwards, much as Ed Smith himself seems to have done, it might be like being born again, rather than the slow death that it often seems to be for many sports people.  But, no chance of any such resurrection for those artists, or for me.  This is it.

Today there was a reminder, for cricket followers anyway, of how sports careers, like lives, can be cut cruelly short.  Sometimes, sportsmen only get to have just the one (short) life.

Two cricket fielders, both running for the same catch in the outfield, collided and had to be taken away in ambulances.  The match was called off.

I learned about this in an odd way.  Cricinfo was doing basic commentary.  Just runs, dots and wickets as they happened.  No frills.  No explanations.  And then, the commentary just stopped.  What was going on?  A complicated run out.  Rain?  But they usually say if it is raining.  Eventually I tuned into the BBC’s radio commentary, and got the story.

Google “Burns Henriques” and maybe also “Surrey” during the next few hours and days, and you’ll get plenty of hits.  Rory Burns and Moises Henriques are the names.  Surrey is their county.  At first I thought Surrey were maybe looking at another death (to add to this one, which caused havoc at the club).  So, I imagine, did everyone who was at the ground and who saw it happen.  But now that seems unlikely:

One piece of misinformation circulating was that Henriques was receiving CPR. Thankfully, rumour was quickly replaced by the sight of Henriques and Burns both sitting upright and giving the thumbs up as they were lifted into ambulances and taken to nearby St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester.

So, can you get hurt, do a thumbs up, and then go to hospital and die?  What do I know?

Get well soon, gentlemen, and hopefully well enough to play again, also soon.

More sports news, old sports news, from a movie I’m watching in the small hours of tomorrow morning on the TV.  I know - how does that work? - time travel.  The movie is Secretariat, about a champion horse in 1970s America.  So, the horse’s champion jockey, the usual diminutive jockey size, walks into the Belmont Ball on the eve of the big race, with a tall and gorgeous blonde on his arm.  He is asked how he convinced the tall and gorgeous blonde to attach herself to him.  He says:

“I told her I’m taller when I stand on my wallet.”

Old joke?  Maybe so, but first time I heard it.

I had no idea how Secretariat would end.  But I know the end now.  Secretariat won Belmont (on June 9th 1973, by the way) by thirty one lengths, a Belmont winning margin never seen since.  Even I know that’s a lot of lengths.  I did not see that coming.

LATER: Burns (a confusing name in a story when injuries are being listed): facial injuries.  Henriques: seriously broken jaw.  Nobody died or is going to.

LATER STILL: One man’s facial injury is another man’s opportunity.  Arun Harinath, playing for Surrey for the first time this season in place of Burns, has just scored a century against Glamorgan.  Such are the downs and ups of sport.

Thursday June 11 2015

I love learning about two-man teams, and in Paul Johnson’s short, excellent biography of Mozart (see also this earlier bit) I have been learning more about just such a team, although a very temporary and unequal one:

In the meantime, Mozart had met his great partner, the Abate Lorenzo Da Ponte.  The letter (May 7, 1783) in which he tells his father, “I have looked through at least a hundred libretti and more, but I have hardly found a single one with which I am satisfied,” also says he has met the new fashionable poet in Vienna, Da Ponte, who “has promised ... to write a new libretto for me.” The emperor had decided to abandon singspiel in 1783 and embrace Italian opera again, and he put Da Ponte in charge of the words.  Da Ponte was a converted Jew, the son of a tanner, who had embraced Christianity in 1763.  He had led a bohemian life, as a teacher, a priest, a lascivious escort of married women in the Venetian fashion, a friend of Casanova, expelled from Venice for sexual depravity, and thereafter making his living as a translator and writer in the theatrical world.  He had an extraordinary gift for languages, rather like Mozart himself but on a much more comprehensive scale, and seemed to think multilingually.

Da Ponte wrote the librettos for three Mozart operas, The Marriage of Figaro (K. 492, presented May 1,1786), Don Giovanni (K. 527, October 29, 1787), and Cosi fan tutte (K. 588, January 26, 1790), and the collaboration between the two men must be accounted one of the most successful in the history of opera.  By almost universal agreement, Figaro and Giovanni are Mozart’s two best operas, though a small minority argues that Cosi contains the best music and superb staging and that a first-class production can make it the best evening’s entertainment.

The two men worked successfuly together for two reasons. First, they both understood that creating an opera was collaboration and that composer and librettist both had to know when to give way; sometimes words must yield and sometimes notes. The truth is, of course, that Mozart was extremely adept at words as well as music, and often he took over as librettist, Da Ponte acquiescing. This raises the second point: Both men were good tempered, used to hard knocks, nasty words, and intense arguments.  They had the admirable habit, essential to success in the theater, of drawing a firm line over a disagreement, once it was resolved, and moving on quickly to the next problem.  Mozart’s good nature was absolutely genuine and went to the root of his being.  He was incapable of real malice or the desire to wound (the one exception was the archbishop, and there, too, hatred was expressed in words rather than deeds). Da Ponte was a much more flawed creature.  He was a fearful liar, to begin with, and his various volumes of memories are not to be trusted at all. His subsequent career after he left Vienna and went to New York, becoming a trader, a bookseller, a bankrupt, a poet, and other things, shows that his commitment to the stage and to music - drama, particularly - was not total.

Moreover, it is not clear that he recognized quality in opera. He thought the best composer he worked with was Vicente Martin y Soler, and he had the most fulsome praise for Antonio Salieri.  The implication was that both were Mozart’s superiors as musicians.  Both were more successful commercially at the time, and their operas were performed more frequently than Mozart’s - so were those of many other composers, at least eleven by my reckoning.  But both were so inferior to Mozart by any conceivable artistic criteria as to cast doubt on Da Ponte’s musical understanding.  And it is a significant fact that his three Mozart operas are the only ones whose libretto he wrote that have remained in the repertoire or that anyone has heard of today.

Hence the inescapable conclusion is that Mozart was the dominant figure in the collaboration.  Da Ponte understood or learned from Mozart the need to keep the drama moving by varying the musical encounters and groupings, by altering the rhythms of vocal speech, and by switching the moods.  He may even have understood the great discovery in the writing of opera that we owe to Mozart - the way in which character can be created, transformed, altered, and emphasized by entirely musical means taking possession of the sense of words.  But the magic touch is always provided by Mozart as music dramatist.

Friday June 05 2015

Indeed.  Photoed by me in September 2005, i.e. just under a decade ago:

image

Had I known how interested I would later become in white vans, I would have done a proper picture of the white van there.  At the time all I cared about was the new Wembley Stadium, in the background there.  But it says something that I considered this particular white van to be a worthy foreground to all that Big Arch activity.  It also shows how white van graphics have progressed since then, the ones there being very straight and rectangular, like they’re done with Letraset, as maybe they were.

On the day I took that shot, I also took other shots like this one ...:

image

... and this one, which I recall especially liking at the time:

image

Blue sky.  That never fails.  Not then, not now.

Saturday May 30 2015

Paul Johnson’s appealingly brief biography of Mozart looks like being a lot of fun.  Here is a bit from near the beginning (pp. 9-11):

Mozart’s musical progress began in 1759, at age three, when he began to remember themes and pick out chords.  The next year he was taught brief pieces on the clavier and reproduced them correctly.  In 1761 he began to compose pieces, which his father wrote down.  It was essential to his father’s belief in his miracle-genius that his son should be displayed “to the glory of God,” as he put it.  In 1757, when Mozart was two, Leopold had been appointed court composer by the prince-archbishop, and as a senior musician, had opportunities to show off his son.  But in Salzburg they were limited, so in 1762, when Mozart was six, he took him to Munich, capital of Bavaria, to play before the elector.  Nannerl went with them, as a co-prodigy, and by now a very accomplished one.  But as a child of eleven, she did not raise much of a stir.  Mozart did, and was feted at many fashionable gatherings.

Next they went to Vienna, capital of Austria and of the German- speaking musical world, in so far as it had one. Maria Theresa, the empress, who had survived the attempt by Frederick the Great of Prussia to destroy her and was now a formidable woman, received them graciously but, though a robust Catholic, showed no signs of treating Mozart as a personified miracle.  She was not unmusical.  On the contrary, she was gifted, a fine singer, and had been educated musically by her vice Kapellmeister, Antonio Caldera. But her advisers were strongly against spending much on music.  Under Emperor Charles VI, her father, and his Hofkapellmeister, Johann Joseph Fux, there had been 134 musicians in the imperial chapel.  Under Maria Theresa, the number fell to 20.

Hence, the empress received the Mozarts, but that was all.  Her daughter, Marie Antoinette, picked Wolfgang up when he fell on the slippery parquet flooring.  Her mother listened patiently when he played a difficult piece by Georg Christoph Wagenseil.  When he jumped up onto her lap and kissed her, she made no complaint. Leopold got a bag of Maria Theresa thalers; the children, presents of court dresses, in which they were painted (not too well).  But no job was offered. Later, when her son did offer some kind of job, she objected, in a devastating letter: “You ask me about taking the young Salzburger into your service.  I do not know why, believing you have no need for a composer or useless people.  If, however, it would give you pleasure, I would not hinder you. What I say is so that you do not burden yourself with unproductive people, and even give titles to people of that sort.  If in your service, this debases the service when such people go around the world like beggars. Furthermore he has a large family.”

The last point is curious as Leopold did not have a large family.  Otherwise the letter gives a telling glimpse of how a sovereign saw music on the eve of its greatest age in history.  Musicians were exactly in the same position as other household servants - cooks, chambermaids, coachmen, and sentries.  They existed for the comfort and well-being of their masters and mistresses.  The idea that you took on a composer or performer simply because he was outstanding, when you already had a full complement of household musicians, was absurd.  And of course performing music for money, outside palace or church employment, was mendicancy.  There was plenty of it, of course.  The trade was overcrowded.  Groups played at street corners for coppers.  In London there were “German Bands.” There were also Italian street musicians, who played “Savoyards,” what we would call hurdy-gurdies, or barrel organs. All this was begging, and beggars usually had, or came from, large families: hence the empress’s error.

In short the only respectable way a musician could earn his living was in salaried employment at a court, a wealthy nobleman’s house, or a cathedral or major church.  Leopold had such a job, but it was at a low level and miserably paid.  To rise higher - at a court like Vienna or the elector’s in Munich - required interest. That was a key eighteenth-century word, usually to do with family connections.  When George Washington distinguished himself in colonial service during the Seven Years’ War, when Mozart was an infant, he aspired to rise in the British regular Army or its Indian offshoot.  But he had no interest at the Horse Guards (War Office) or the East India Company in London.  So he went on to become a revolutionary leader, and first president of the United States.  When Napoleon was a young teenager in Corsica, he greatly admired the Royal Navy ships that anchored in its harbors.  But he had no influence in the London Admiralty, and so a commission in the Royal Navy was out of his reach.  He went on to become emperor of France and conquer half of Europe.  Thus history is made.  In Mozart’s world, to become a court painter, architect, or musician required interest, and his father had none.  Fortunately in his case, he could go on “begging” by composing and performing.

Tuesday May 26 2015

Take a train from … anywhere, into Waterloo.  Exit your train, and go through the barriers.  Turn right in the big concourse and carry on walking until you have gone as far as you can go, and you get to an exit.  Step outside.  You are in “Station Approach”:

image

I’ve messed with the visuals there, to make “Station Approach” readable.

You are wisely prevented by some railings from stepping out into Station Approach itself and being run down by a taxi.  But turn right out of the exit, and make your way a few dozen yards along the narrow pavement, to the point in Station Approach where you can cross the road, to some steps that lead down into “Spur Road”.  (The steps are right next to the S of Spur Road, in the image above.) But, don’t go down these steps.  Stay at the top of the steps and enjoy the view.

To the far left, you can see the Walkie Talkie.  To the far right, the Spray Can.  Between them is the sprawl of south-of-the-river London.

It’s one of my favourite London panoramas, if only because everyone else who ever sets foot in this place is either in a hurry to get somewhere else, or in a hurry to catch a train.  Nobody talks about this view, the way they do of the view from such places as Parliament Hill or the top of some of London’s big or even not so big buildings

What stops this view being talked up as a “view” is the prominence of all the foreground clutter.  In the background, there are Big Things to be observed, but they do not tower over the foreground.  If anything, the foreground clutter dominates them.  Even the Shard is an almost diffident, even sometimes (depending on the light) spectral presence rather than a “tower”.  Recently there was a TV documentary about the Tower of London, and the impact of it and the Shard, each in and on their time, was compared.  The message was that the Tower then was like the Shard now.  But these two buildings could hardly be more different.  The Tower then was telling London then that the Tower was the boss.  The Shard now politely concedes to London now that London is the boss.

And of course I love this view, because I love London’s clutter, especially roof clutter, and I love it when Big Things can be seen between and beyond the clutter, without necessarily dominating:

image imageimage image

Those shots were all taken within moments of one another, just over a week ago, on a sunny afternoon, the same sunny afternoon I took this.

Stations are great linear photo-opportunities.  This is because railway tracks have to be pretty much dead level.  If the lie of the land is high, the tracks have to be lower, and if the lie of the land is low, the tracks have to be higher, which is also convenient because it enables the railway to jump over the roads on bridges and viaducts rather than compete with them at such things as level crossings.  This causes the platforms of many a station to be at roof level rather than at ground level.

Level crossings will get road traffic across a mere double track out in the country, but are hopeless for getting past the tracks out of Waterloo, one of the world’s busiest railway stations.  The traffic would wait for ever.  So, bridges and viaducts it is, and that means that Waterloo Station itself is dragged up to regular London roof level.  So even if you can’t see anything from Waterloo Station itself, you can from just outside it.  You can from Station Approach.  Well, I can, because I want to.

The view from outside Waterloo Station
OK
A new not very big Thing in Paris
A Shiny Thing and a friend also photoing it - with an iPhone
Reading Anton Howes again
Richard J. Evans on how evidence can become more significant over time
Another from the archives
Marc Morris on how the Bayeux Tapestry ought not to exist
The receiving station at Swains Lane (and the previous version of it)
Paul Kennedy on centimetric radar
You don’t see this any more
Bizarre designer furniture in a Covent Garden window
Marc Morris on medieval evidence (there’s more of it than you might think)
How bet hedging explains the perpetual terribleness of everything
At the top of the Monument - in 2012 and in 2007
Pete Comley talking about inflation on Friday February 27th
The Bayeux Tapestry small enough to fit in this blog
True hearts and warm hands
Miniature photographic fakery
The Bayeux Tapestry – the ultimate horizontalised graphic
Anthrozoology
BMdotcom What if? of the day
A feline Friday at Guido
Hand done photos
Golden Gate being built – Severn Road Bridge ditto – C20 photography – Hitler’s paintings
Colourfully painted modernity
Knackered
Old Quimper Cathedral
Trousers keyboard
Cameras photoing the Wheel (in 2007)
Was Guy’s Tower a key building in the architectural history of London?
A link and a photo of a photographer
Matt Ridley on how technology leads science and how that means that the state need not fund science
To Tower Bridge: Shadow selfie – Peace memorial – Big Things old and new
Dominic Frisby on the Hype Cycle
Phone (and cash) box
Quota photo from Paris (also a selfie)
The Poppies (1): What they look like
Why I am a point-and-shoot photographer rather than a Real Photographer
Pictures of Guy Herbert
My chance to ride a bus almost as old as me
The illustrations for Christian Michel’s talk this Friday (plus some thoughts from me)
MicheldeMontaigne.fr
How Bill Bryson on white and black paint helps to explain the Modern Movement in Architecture
An old story about colour perception
Michael Jennings at the Rose and Crown
Rob took photos
Chippendale without Rannie
Keeping up appearances
Bill Bryson on the miracle of crop rotation
Headlights with cleaning brush
Happy Friday (eventually)
On not letting either God or (the other) God do everything
Postrel goes for Gray
Bond car
PID at the Times
Something at Samizdata
Smaller Old Thing in front of Big New Things
Round headlights equals an old car
Football comment
Russian tanks in London
Vespa GS in Lower Marsh
The Not-V2 at London Bridge Station
Emmanuel Todd talking in English (about how the Euro is doomed)
Tricycles
The Lib Dem cat is out of the box
Tower Bridge before it got covered in stone
Building as ornament
Bennett and Lotus on how Emmanuel Todd’s family provoked his Grand Theory of Everything
Lilburne on a T-shirt and Lilburne on a mug
A old bus doing regular bus stuff
Michael Jennings talking about Russia this Friday
James II dressed as a Roman
Ten years ago today
VC DSO DSO DSO DSO
Anton Howes – James Lawson – Will Hamilton
Two badly lit views of “Victoria Tower” and why Big Ben is not St Stephen’s Tower or Elizabeth Tower
South Bank signs
Green screen blue screen
A selfie taken in 1955 - another taken in 2014 - another being taken in 2014
Another photographer photo from the archives
Amusing cats versus important people
Remembering another Christian name (and flagging up another talk)
Quota quote
Feline ephemera
Don’t judge a new technology by its first stumbling steps
The Met swoops on the Adams Family
Colour photography
Omaha dead
The text of my talk for Christian Michel last night
Making sense of digital photography
Digital photography as telepathy
How hydrogen bombs work
Boris Johnson’s London
Whitewash
Old London photos
On having written about the 1958/9 Ashes series before the 2013/4 Ashes series had started
Tough going in Australia
I’m not the only one who suffers from rightward lean
Jane Austen’s naval brothers
Donald McCloskey?
Michael Jennings photoes Cape Bojador
Comrade Blimp
Digital photographers holding maps
Victor!
Daniel Hannan’s latest book(s?)
The Kelpies of Falkirk
They did not die to make us free
Heroes?
Rob Fisher on old things not looking old
Eurostar before St Pancras
Wedding photography - old and new
A vanished building and a bendy bus
A Strutton Ground shop and a Strutton Ground pub
Otherwise blogging (and a Burgess Park butterfly)
Anton Howes at the Rose and Crown
Algernon Sidney sends for Micklethwait because Micklethwait is wise, learned, diligent, and faithful
The next four Brian’s Last Fridays (including December 27)
The Times of May 24th 1940
Antoine Clarke on life and libertarianism in Britain in 1913
Billy Fury Way
The Alex Singleton blog
Views from Kings College
An old Mini and a new Mini
Craig Willy on Emmanuel Todd
Steve Davies talk last night
Emmanuel Todd links
Cassette iPhone photographer
Wedding photography (6): The Wedding and the Reception
Pictures from Georgia and Warsaw
Bookshops as Amazon showrooms
Feynman Diagrams on the Feynman van
Wedding photography (3): Technology as sculpture
So painters also used to “take” pictures
Crossrail grubbings
Me and the Six Nations under the weather
Classical CDs from Gramex
Bad times for the NHS
Crusader latrines
Steven Pinker’s description of The Enlightenment
Bomber Command Memorial pictures
How gun control works and how it will defend Libertaria
A camera in each hand
Changing views from the Monument
America 3.0
Remembrance Sunday photos
A review of Detlev Schlichter’s new book (multiplied by 4)
Kevin Dowd last night
76 operas and a monument in the wrong place for Hermann the German
Emmanuel Todd’s latest book - in English
Science can relax about the harm done to it by Climategate
Bizarre History - Johannes Brahms did not murder cats
Do not climb on the Thing!
Pictures of Detlev Schlichter
Shostakovich with cat
Gormley’s South Bank Men
Everything competes with everything
Photographing change from the Monument
Soviet health and safety posters
Let us now trash infamous men
A Spanish geography lesson
Bouncing bombs and spinning cricket balls
Me and Patrick Crozier talk about the banking crisis and its possible consequences
Lancaster
An amazon reviewer defends Alex Ross
October 2007 conversation about modern architecture with Patrick Crozier
St Valentine’s Day talk by me on architecture
Mozart might have become a criminal
Alex Ross on Hollywood film scores
Professor C. Northcote Parkinson on the Edifice Complex
Leytonstonia
More redirection
Obamanomics dod not work
English will not last for ever shock
James Waterton on a very smart very dumb Russian
Rockets are a great improvement on balloons
Defeating Islam (2): Conversion to Christianity will trump higher birth rates in Islamic countries
More bridge magic
What if the British Empire had stayed together?
St Matthew reinterpreted
Soros and his money
Happy hundredth
Links to this and that
Toby Baxendale on what went wrong and what to do about it
Anti-aircraft guns may not have killed many enemy airplanes but they did point them out
Perfectly clear politics
Obama raises the price of tanning
Everyone?
Farnborough redirect
303 Squadron in the movie and on the telly
I do love a steam train on a viaduct
Castro slams Israel
As strong and sweet as the free market itself
Soviet space leftovers
I love television
Photos of things past
Steve Davies lecture - photoing and videoing the lecture - post-lecture chat
One child poster
Everybody draw Mohammed every day!
God is not One
Why my libertarianism has the look and feel of socialism
Why David Hepworth is wrong about podcasting
The cats from out of town that cleared out the rats during the siege of Leningrad
You had a hard disc?  Luxury!
Cricket talk tonight
Three more headlines and how the internet remembers it all
Photographic coup
Short posting (with short photo) about SpaceShipTwo
ClimateGate roars on and Man(n)-made warming is taking on a whole new meaning
In Gorbachev we trust?
Luxembourg church in hill and Luxembourg footbridge
How building St Peter’s Rome split the Catholic Church and how marzipan was invented in Luebeck
Frank McLynn: “Counterfactual history is the essence of history …”
Going global
Polish anti-semitism - a history lesson at last night’s dinner
Death to all who try to tiptoe past our guards while wearing giant baby costumes!
At least libertarianism is understood over there
Alex Ross on Sibelius
The concrete monstrosities of the South Bank may be about to get colourful
Changing faces of Europe
A little archaeology
What Bercow does next
Model T parts flatvert
Tienanmen + Twitter = Teheran
Hislop fluffs the rhyme
What next for Guido Fawkes?
Handel in London – and an angelic tenor aria
There weren’t a billion of them then
Patri Friedman versus Chris Tame
Lawrence H. White on the Scottish experience of free banking
Signs of the times in Belfast
My confusion about free banking
What the previous two postings here have in common
Daniel Hannan and the shape of the media to come
“Vivid characters, devious plotting and buckets of gore …”
Bike made entirely of wood
Long platform ticket
Clay Shirky on newspaper doom
Reading Kasparov
Ancient Sheffield dwarfed by modernity
Professor Dowd and I contemplate a stately home from a distance
Monsal Viaduct
Who is Arnold Leah?
Philippa Micklethwait - the Eulogy
Jennings did it
Flat train picture and regular train picture
Another strange Staines statue
Meme for the New Depression
Roll out the Lino
Milk containers ancient and modern
Commenting about the Dowd lecture at Samizdata
“Dying is a fulltime business. You haven’t time to do a lap of honour.”
Making the new look and feel like the old
My parents and my uncle and two aunts
Another antique
Four Minutes
Old postage stamps
Michael Jennings on shoring up the bad old economy versus building a good new one
What-iffing
And here is a real quotation
Quota quotes from Wodehouse
More Englefield Green strangeness
Further thoughts on Karajan’s conducting
P. J. O’Rourke confuses the average with the significant
The Official Story and the Most Confident Alternative
Thoughts concerning FDR’s warmongering nature
Lang Lang crushes Yundi Li!
Billion Monkey hits 40
“I will cause a boy that driveth a plough to know more of the scriptures than thou dost.”
Redirect
Another pendulum theory
Reasons to be a bit more cheerful
Wingtipping a V1
They aren’t complete idiots all the time
Brought?
Chinese Friday?
Rock and roll will die very soon!
Monster buildings and monster people
Mahler’s 9th in Vienna in 1938
Another great viaduct
Cricket chat
John Carey on Shakespeare and the high-art/ popular-art distinction
Keith Windschuttle on history - truth - Robert Hughes
Official bias
Billion Monkey lady! – Gherkin! – Monument!
Strange weather
Modernity dwarfed by church
Photo of some foodski
Resizing Slim with Expression Engine
Cricket misery
Switching from dumb bombing to smart bombing
Non-bio oil
A poetic Hornby
Armed is less dangerous
Star and stripe
Terence Kealey on the Wright brothers and their patent battles
Guido Fawkes gets Douglas Jardine wrong
Photos are better
Were any of them really that nice?
Pictures with words
An impulse posting about procrastination
The absurdly derided excellence of British weather forecasts
Voting for Boris?
Eusociality
Perkins photos
Slow day here
Billion Monkey Alan Little?
Dominic Lawson on Herbert von Karajan
Nothing there
Celebrating a victory
Brian Hitler!
Ed Smith on how baseball defeated cricket in America
A soundbite to describe Britain a hundred years ago
Cuba before Communism
Theodore Dalrymple on the menace of honest public officials and much else besides
Me talking about the great twentieth century musical divide
Flat viaduct and spiral bridge
“At that moment I suddenly started to view Nagi as an enemy …”
Blogging – the end of the beginning
Holiday
Fifty million Bible bombs
Books on the go and on a machine
Probably not right - but definitely written
The romance of new technology – or the drudgery of it
Operation Cat Drop and some Hello Kitty Bags
The bridge that was going to make Westminster a fine city and London a desert
Remembrance photos
Fourteen British viaducts
She’s alive I tell you! Alive!
Socialising with the Social Media
Understanding is the booby prize exclamation mark
Architecture talk
Will China fail?
The Emperor Jones
Yes this is cat blogging
Smelling the smoke in the Microsoft machine
A train called Professor George Gray
Che Guevara was a murderer and your T-Shirt is not cool
New word alert
Did Hitler have a plan to conquer the USA?
A conversation - and another outage
A dreadful age
Juan Bautista Alberdi
American war memorial by the sea at St Nazaire
Three … thirty six … sixty one … a hundred a forty eight …
Blogs are not cacophonous
At the dogs
Lots of links
Test match special
Four Billion Monkey snaps!
Cold War winner
Islam was peaceful and tolerant until the Christians attacked it
Lost Bach
Mean bombers
Emmanuel Todd (5): A CrozierVision podcast
Emmanuel Todd (4): From ideology to economic progress
Zong
Lebrecht daily?
Alan Turing – dead earth and cold wires
Thomas Edison - from cheat to creator
Alessandro Volta feels electricity on his tongue
The Great Global Warming Swindle debate now begins
Random London snaps from last year
Church dwarfed by modernity
Will twentieth century aerial warfare be repeated by toys?
Susan Hill on not having to be up-to-the-minute about book blogging
Svensmark – for and against
Gandhi on equality for all … except …
Harold C. Shonberg on how to perform Bach
Emmanuel Todd (2): The eight family systems
Micklethwait’s Four Star Theory of the Internet
Emmanuel Todd (1): Anthropology explains ideology
Another link to a friend and that’s your lot today
DMZ
And further talk at Christian Michel’s about water and power
World War One talk at Christian Michel’s
Islam is evil - and that’s me carrying on normally
Geoffrey Blainey on Ivan Bloch - the man who predicted World War One
Back to the future with the virtuoso violinists
Billion Monkeys and people waving blue things!
Happy day after Christmas Day
History of the Middle East as a moving map
Sullivan and Grove find some Schubert diamonds
Rubble
Pictures of and from Albert Bridge
Geek girl I like your thinkings - are nice - I want have sex with it
I really hope that the Samsung SPH-P9000 catches on
Admiral Coward
Alex talks (clearly) with me (not so clear) about classical music
The West disunited versus the Pesky Muslims
Sssssssss!!!! White man!  Take my photo!!
The extreme memes spread by moderate Muslims
“Liberty might be defended, after all” - Tom Holland’s account of the Battle of Marathon
A little transport history
A digital SLR that a Billion Monkey could lift!
Alex and Brian’s latest classical music mp3 – Saint-Saëns etc.
Shaftesbury Avenue over half a century ago
Patrick and Brian mp3 about libertarianism and spreading libertarianism
Quota quote – Victor Davis Hanson on the Western way of war
Adriana’s Thing mp3
Debussy denounces Massenet but Puccini follows him
Roll playing
Theodore Dalrymple is an Islamic Fundamentalist and so am I
On trust and obviousness
Brian and Antoine number 9
Giving up rouge for Lisbon
Four stars at Amazon
Skill and Post-Skill
Quoted but not linked to
The dilemmas of defence
Some economics
Charles Rosen on Richard Taruskin and on the socially unbound nature of some of the greatest music
The problem of long blog postings
Talking about my generation
The Great Gulf War?
Last night’s talk
Still ill
Thoughts after watching Abbado’s Lucerne Resurrection Symphony
What we eat but not what we say
Rylance’s Richard again
“They needed one another”
Two faces of Horatio Nelson and the excellence of Findlay Dunachie
Civilisation turns its attention to Chinese despotism
iPods From Space
Mitchum - MacLaine – Fonda – and Cota
The old USSR: good for thirty more years . . . then it collapsed