Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
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Most recent entries
- The outdoor map next to the Twelvetrees Crescent Bridge over the River Lea
- Marc Sidwell on experts
- Guess what this is
- Robots build a bridge
- The Robert Stephenson statue at Euston
- Cruelty to a fake animal – kindness to a fake animal
- Shopping Trolley Spiral beside the River Lea
- An Underground sermon
- Rubbish blogging
- Tim Marshall on the illiberal and undemocratic Middle East
- Opera North’s Ring
- An important game and only a game
- Making blue by copying tarantulas
- An old person television set
- Battersea from Clapham Junction
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6000 Miles from Civilisation
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Category archive: France
The Londonist logo looks like this:
But under this logo, here, is an illustrated piece about how that logo might have looked rather different. London, says the piece, might have acquired itself an Eiffel Tower of its own, at Wembley. Seriously, the various towers that were apparently under consideration include at least two that look remarkably like the Parisian original, despite Eiffel himself not wanting to be involved:
Towards the close of the 19th century, rail magnate Sir Edward Watkin was intent on all manner of ambitious schemes, including a tunnel under the Channel (it’ll never work). He also dreamt of a gigantic tower, to rival the wonder of Paris and draw tourists to his rail network. Gustave Eiffel was himself unsuccessfully approached to design the behemoth, before the commission was eventually opened out to competition. Some of the entries are presented below.
The illustrations that follow are well worth a look.
In this age of primitively simulated 3D reality, superimposed upon dull old reality itself even as you wander about in reality, the day is surely approaching when you can wander around a city and see it not as it is, but as you would prefer it, at any rate as far as more distant buildings are concerned. It might be rather hard to walk along a street that has been obliterated by a huge skyscraper, or to visit a skyscraper that was never built. But your preferred view of St Paul’s could be preserved from a distance. Or, you could insert a London Eiffel Tower, and see how you like that.
The idea was that, all alone in my snuggery, I would do lots of tidying up. I have done some, but mostly I have been reading Anthony Beevor’s book, misleadingly entitled ”D-Day”, and unmisleadingly subtitled “The Battle for Normandy”. For Beevor’s story goes from the early agonising about whether (because of the weather), and if so exactly when, the landings would be launched, right up until the German catastrophe that was the Falaise Pocket. Then as now, despite much behind the scenes agonising, the short-term weather forecaster got it spot on, despite having far less to go on than his equivalents have now.
There’s nothing like the misfortunes of others to cheer you up. Which is a terrible thing to say and I wouldn’t say it if there was any chance that my bad attitude was able to reach back into the past and make the sufferings of those soldiers, and all those French people caught up in the fighting, even worse. But it won’t do that. And anyway, what I mean is, I am really just acknowledging how much worse things were for that generation than they have been for mine.
And then, come Christmas time, there was the Battle of the Bulge for all the participants in this book to put up with, if they’d not already been killed, or injured and stretchered off.
I haven’t been reading this book solidly, in its correct order. I have been dipping into it, reading about this or that episode, pretty much at random. Today I was reading about how Brittany was liberated, which until now I knew very little about. It helps a lot having been to all the towns and cities that get a mention.
Earlier, I read about what those Hawker Typhoons did, known to me until now only as an oil painting. What the Typhoons did was destroy a hell of a lot fewer counter-attacking German tanks than they claimed at the time and ever since, but they scared the hell out of the German tank guys, which was almost as effective. The counter-attack was duly snuffed out.
And when that book has finished entertaining me, I have another book, full of more evidence concerning how nice my life has been, this time about something that happened a year earlier. Kursk.
How to say that I am at home alone over Christmas without you feeling sorry for me? I can’t do it, but please: don’t. In exchange, I won’t feel sorry for you that you are reading this instead of having “fun”.
Each to his or her own, but I love it that holidays, for me, really are holidays, rather than just burdens of a different sort to the more usual ones. Don’t get me wrong, burdens are often well worth bearing, as when I visit GodDaughter 2’s family in Brittany, and must bear the burdens of living in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar facilities and unfamiliar routines and with the fear of inflicting various sorts of offence and inconvenience upon everyone, with them being too polite to say. But, these are still burdens. This Christmas, as is my usual habit, I have been ensconced in my little snuggery, with no burdens at all.
I haven’t been fobbing you people off with nothing but silly old photos because I’ve been gadding about around town, catching up with friends and family and attending swanky functions. No gadding about. I’ve been fobbing you off with photos because I have been relaxing, even more than usual.
Here’s another silly photo, to wish you all a Merry Christmas. I haven’t found any Merry Christmas messages out in the streets lately, so here is a Christmassy photo that I think I took in Oxford Street, definitely in December 2008:
Which tells me that I was fascinated by Bald Blokes Taking Photos for quite a while before I had worked this out in the fully conscious part of my head. I love how green he is.
On Christmas Day itself I will not be alone, for I am to have a Christmas lunch with friends. This will bring with it the burden of having to travel across London on Christmas Day, which basically means two very long walks. (I don’t know how to Uber, since you ask. I’d rather walk.) If I come across any Merry Christmas messages while walking, and manage to photo them, I’ll pass them on.
While searching yesterday for Brittany lighthouses, I came upon this photo of some Brittany sea:
Judging by the other photos taken at the same time, this one was grabbed through the window of a moving car. If that’s right, not bad, although I attempted some straightening, with rather imperfect results. Those programmes that can rotate in 0.1 degree increments, rather than just in 1.0 degree increments, have a definite edge, in my opinion.
Mostly, when I try to photo very bright light, my camera either tones the bright bit down or it turns everything else far too dark, one way or another trying to balance everything, and the effect is lost. By which I mean, it is not anything like what I saw. But sometimes it seems to know exactly what I wanted, and this time was, I think, one of those.
I hope to do something rather more substantial here tomorrow.
For the last week or two or more, I have been unable to reach the 6k blog, which is one of my favourites. I’ve been able to reach everything else I wanted to, but not 6k. Odd. My computer has been behaving strangely in recent weeks, so it’s almost certainly me rather than him. Or maybe, as The Guru suggests, it might be my internet provider. Whatever the reason, it’s been a frustration and a worry.
But today, for no reason that I can think of, I clicked on 6k yet again, and back it came, like it had never been away.
To celebrate, here are some more lighthouses, something which 6k likes, and which in a more ignorant and casual way I do too:
That’s a crop from the middle of a hastily snatched shop-window shot, full of reflections and general confusion. Memo to self. Next time I visit my friends in Brittany: better lighthouse shots. Of postcards, of toy lighthouses like these ones (I seem to recall entire walls of lighthouses in tourist crap shops), and of actual lighthouses.
6k likes lighthouses so much that the little square graphic at the top of the window where his blog is windowed, or whatever is the word for that, is a red, white and blue square from a red and white lighthouse picture.
Friday was the day here for cats, but now I have widened it to all kinds of creatures, cats included.
This week, a snake! On a vintage car!
I took these pictures in the square next to Quimper Cathedral, in the summer of 2008:
The snake is most clearly to be seen in pictures 1.2, 2.1, 2.2 and 3.3. I think it must be some sort of air intake, for the engine, or for something. But what do I know?
Berliet seems to be an enterprise that makes lorries these days. But if you scroll down through the images you get when you type “berliet” into google images, you start to see vintage cars, in among the more recent lorries.
If you scroll down at this site, you get to something that looks like the above vehicle. And if it is the same vehicle, or something very similar, then it is a 1907 Berliet C2 Double-Phaeton, or something very similar.
There’s a number plate on the front of my Berliet, which says: 1909 VS 29. I thought that might be a clue, rather than, you know, a number plate, so I tried “Berliet 1909 VS 29” with google images, and guess what I found. A Berliet “Double Phaeton” at a car museum in Malaga.
I even found a photo of the car in question, with a ludicrously long internet address attached to it, which I now offer you, in the hope that it works
Well, the link does seem to work, but if it doesn’t, take my word for it. Although this is not the same car as my one above, it is very similar. So similar that the car in the Andalusian museum also has, just like my car has, attached to its side, with its mouth wide open, sucking in air, … a snake. Weird.
This time last week, it was birds on an aerial. Today, more birds on another aerial:
It been very aerial here of late. What with yesterdays aerial videoers, and another aerial on Tuesday.
It’s the bright blobs of light on the TV aerial that gets me putting that here. Taken in Quimper in June 2008.
TV aerials in France appear to be exactly the same as in England.
As with cranes, what I like is the absolute functionality of aerials. They are as they are because that does the job best. Aesthetics has nothing to do with it. Yet, the result looks, to me, aesthetically most pleasing. See also: pylons.
Recently I acquired, in the remainder shop in Lower Marsh (in the basement beneath which Gramex now operates), a copy of a little book by Rod Green called Magna Carta and All That. This is now going for £0.01 on Amazon, and is well worth £2.81.
It takes the form not of a few longish chapters, but rather of lots of easily digestible chunks of verbiage, many of them biographical, and typically concerning persons I had never heard of.
Eleanor of Aquitaine, mother of Henry II, and more to the point from the Magna Carta point of view, mother of King John, I have most definitely heard of. (She was played by Katherine Hepburn in The Lion in Winter.) This (p. 22) is what Rod Green says about Eleanor’s immediate antecedents, and in particular about Eleanor’s grandmother:
Born in 1122, in the Duchy of Aquitaine, Eleanor was brought up on spellbinding tales of her family’s adventures, especially those of her grandfather, William IX of Aquitaine. William, a big man with a fiery temper, was a warrior and a renowned poet who loved to scandalize his audiences. He was never one to let tradition, custom or even the law stand in his way. He divorced his first wife, Ermengarde, and married again, his second wife, Philippa, giving him seven children before he fell in love with Dangereuse de l’Isle Bouchard, wife of the Viscount of Chatellerault.
Dangereuse, it seems, had not earned her risky name lightly and was so called because of her beguiling, seductive manner. She appears to have been a willing participant when William decided to kidnap her while visiting the viscount. He spirited Dangereuse off to his palace in Poitiers and installed her in the tower which was the living quarters of his immediate family. This kind of abduction wasn’t unheard of among the nobility in medieval Europe - however, that didn’t mean that William’s wife was best pleased when she returned from a visit to her family in Toulouse to find another woman in her home. Eventually, she left William; later, she was instrumental in getting the pope to excommunicate both William and Dangereuse from the Church.
William, however, was a very rich and powerful man and eventually persuaded the pope to allow him back into the Church. Aenor, Dangereuse’s daughter from her previous marriage ultimately married William’s son, also called William, and it was from this union that Eleanor of Aquitaine came into the world.
Like I say, I long ago heard of Eleanor of Aquitaine, but never, until now, of Dangereuse. She is all over the internet. I have no idea if any of these many pictures of Dangereuse are in any way genuine.
Although I promise rien, expect more bits here from this most entertaining book.
So shiny it looks fake
Harley Davidson - woman playing gramophone records
Wooden Citroens and black baby dolls
A direct hit
French animals from GodDaughter 2
Modernism now works
A decade of unrecognisable photographers
More South of France bridges
South of France signs
Goodbye PhotoCat – hello PhotoPad
Incoming imagery from Antoine
A bridge in Narbonne
Horizontal French signs
A house in France that is not faceless
Safe cracks in an airplane window
Weather and weather
Mozart’s Requiem in Narbonne
Why I photo postcards
My camera can see through a Ryanairplane window better than I can
Using your crane to protect your cement mixer
The view from the roof
More drone trouble
A rejected Grand Chose that shouldn’t have been
Footbridges in the sky
Twelve 2015 photos
The culling of the Northern Hemisphere
Trois Citroens (et deux chevaux)
Credit where credit is due (in France)
A new Grand Chose for Paris
Pancake White Van
A forgotten war
A new not very big Thing in Paris
Marc Morris on how the Bayeux Tapestry ought not to exist
The Bayeux Tapestry small enough to fit in this blog
Triple Chess and a Four Wheeled Pedal Board
Proof that there are a lot of French people in Britain just now
Smartphones and tablets at the Charlie Hebdo demo
Sixty Charlie Hebdo demo signs that say something other than “Je Suis Charlie”
Charlie Hebdo demo in Trafalgar Square
Old Quimper Cathedral
Posting difficulties so see you tomorrow
Cats in Quimper shops
Quimper and its Cathedral
French roof clutter
Touch typing or no typing at all
A French film poster advertising a British film
Tired in France
Quota photo from Paris (also a selfie)
Marginal Eurostar economics
Recently on dezeen
Parisian roof clutter gets the Real Photographer treatment
Back from France (plus cat photos)
Cat photo and cat news
I need a new passport but just now passports are a problem
Emmanuel Todd talking in English (about how the Euro is doomed)
The joyful excitement of the Festival lyrique international de Belle-Île-en-Mer
Bennett and Lotus on how Emmanuel Todd’s family provoked his Grand Theory of Everything
Selfies of me – 2001, 2007 and yesterday
Three more Paris pictures
Eiffel Tower with chimney pots – La Défense ditto
Eurostar before St Pancras
Craig Willy on Emmanuel Todd
A Fleet Street lunch
Little Lady Liberty - still in France
Mon chat se tient debout tout seul
I’m Charia Hebdo!
Les Rillettes Henaff
Summer blogging break
Empty tables and empty chairs
Quimper cat on Harley-Davidson
Signs from the Frenchosphere
Rugby shirts on drugs
Pronouncing on the Six Nations
Another link enema
Great speech by Kevin Dowd in Paris which should be available to listen to soon
France falls in love with Hugh Laurie
Sailing photos – and another bridge for the collection
Happy New year (if possible)
The Fat Man is not alone
Flat viaduct and spiral bridge
Talking about St Pancras at St Pancras
Millau Viaduct with goats
Australia out! – New Zealand out! – pass forward!
Antoine Clarke on the French National Assembly elections
Lots of links
Antoine Clarke on Sarkozy
Somebody else photos Billion Monkey photo-ing Notre Dame!
Antoine on Sarko’s win
Serious tax cutting
If they don’t get who they would have preferred then silly them
“What do YOU think?” - “More -isationisation!”
“It’s a shame that copyright was infringed in a thesis about copyright itself”
Other people’s photos (6): More bridges
Other people’s photos (5): Red balloons on a monochrome bridge in Paris
Deceiving the eyes of Paris
Singing Frenchmen in stripey T-shirts
A dangerous development