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

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Category archive: Travel

Tuesday January 13 2015

From time to time I go looking for pictures of bridges, preferably new ones, but seldom find anything I don’t know about.  And then, quite by chance, while clicking through these old photos, I chance upon this:

image

It’s the Golden Gate, being built, in 1937.

I recall doing a pen-an-ink type sketch (as opposed to something theatrical like a comedy sketch – odd double meaning that), when in my teens, of the Severn Road Bridge, when it only had a chunk of road in the middle, suspended in glorious isolation, going nowhere in either direction (like in the photo here).  This photo reminds me of those times.

I never actually drew any decent pictures, but I did spend a lot of time thinking about composition, by which I mean that I chose quite good pictures to do, but actually did them very badly.  Now I take good pictures, rather less badly.  How I wish there had been digital cameras when I was a teenager.  My cycling expeditions around France, and then Scandinavia, and then Iceland, would have been far more fun, and now far easier to remember.  The old cameras, with “film” in them, were ridiculous.  You had to “develop” all the damn pictures, very expensively, just to find out that about three of them weren’t total crap.  But you tell young people this nowadays they think you’re mad.  And if you did all this, guess what, you were mad.

I have never shared the contempt that most people show - or pretend to show - for Adolf Hitler’s paintings.  Okay, so they aren’t Rembrandts, but even so, I would have loved to have been as good hand-done picture-making as he was.  Could it be that people just can’t bear to accept that he ever did anything well or anything good?  Just a wild guess.

Wednesday December 31 2014

My journey from home to Quimper in Brittany involved a nervewracking change in Paris.  I only had an hour and a half to get from Paris Nord to Paris Montparnasse, during which time I had to buy a Metro ticket as well as do the actual journey.  The Metro ticket was the scary bit.  The Metro ticket selling system at Paris Nord is or at least looked that day like in-your-face fuck-you nationalisation, on full throttle.  Three windows for selling.  One imperturbably relaxed seller, at one open window, like in a British high street bank of the sort that is bullying you to do everything online.  A queue like something in old Moscow when a meat shipment was rumoured to have arrived, caused by two trains having just arrived at Paris Nord, mine being one.  Luckily there was also a slightly shorter queue for a machine, and by begging help from the lady in front of me, I managed to extract a ticket from the machine, and I then sped to Montparnasse.  On the way back, I will buy a ticket on the train from Quimper to Paris, which I can apparently do.  I will have four hours to make that work.  Should be enough.

At Montparnasse, I of course had an hour to kill, and although I had a good book with me, I killed the hour by taking photos like this:

image

That was taken quite high up in the Montparnasse station, through thick glass, hence the linear interruption and the yellow reflections.  But, being high up, I got a better view of a little of the magnificent roof clutter that Paris offers.  Those chimneys, with their pointy tops like something in a fairy tale book, are unlike anything I have seen or at any rate noticed in London.

Here is another picture which I took just before the one above:

image

Here we see a roof clutter refinement which I do not recall seeing in London much either, namely an illuminated sign right in front of whatever other roof clutter is behind it, advertising the business down below.  Given how I adore roof clutter and am also very fond of signs, this photo gave and gives me deep pleasure.

In among more formal expeditions to local beauty spots, I have got to walk around a bit in Quimper, of which I am very fond.  Back from some walk on the beach, somewhere or other, I had my hosts drop me off in the centre of town and I walked back in the amazing late afternoon sunshine.

In among much else, I took more roof clutter pictures, like this ...:

image

… and this:

image

The first is good because it shows more chimney pots.  The second I include for artistic impression.  I just like how it looks.

But what interests me about this clutter, aside from mere prettiness, is that whereas the chimney pots seem to be specific to France, the electronic stuff is the sort of thing that I recognise from the UK.  It would appear that a TV aerial is a TV aerial, anywhere in the UK or France.  Ditto a satellite dish.  How much do these things vary in the rest of the world?

Tuesday December 30 2014

I have swapped one kind of computing confusion, too complicated even to describe, for another, and am now using a French keyboard, but telling the computer I am using that this keyboard is really British.  This means various letters on the keyboard being in the wrong place, such as the Q and the A, which are where the A and the Q ought to be.  There are other confusions, of a more serious sort.

This is a very peculiar experience for a touch typist like me, because it means that I can now only touch type.  I cannot pause and go find the correct letters, because I do not know them, or not the ones that cause all the trouble.  Only my fingers do.

So it is touch typing, or no typing at all.

Which is better than French typing, but still very imperfect, because some of the regular British things are things which my fingers are not that good at, most notably inverted commas, both single and double.  This is why I said it is in the previous paragraph rather than abbreviating it, and why I am saying it is in this sentence, twice, without any inverted commas to indicate that I am quoting myself.

I seem to recall that faced with this dilemma on a previous French expedition, I had to make do with the computer recognising the French keyboard I was using as French, which meant switching As and Qs, etc.  The alternative arrangement is somewhat better, but only somewhat.

Luckily my fingers know how to do two important things, neither of which are in the same place on these keyboards, namely commas, and full stops.

Another oddity is that the spellchecking in my blog input process demands that all words be recognisably French, and so underlines most words, because of them not being French, thus rendering itself inutile, and yes that is how you spell inutile.  But, sorry about all the other spelling errors in this.

Monday December 29 2014

I am able to keep on posting each day, but it is proving tricky.  So best to expect interruptions during the next few days.  I have taken tons of photos, over the course of two cloudless days, but posting any of them is really complicated, and even telling which are the good ones is hard because the screen I am trying to use is too vague for me to tell properly.

To add to those woes, the text posting process has a bizarre quirk on this computer, or maybe it is with this mouse.  Which is that the cursor is liable, without warning, to jump back several words, which makes touch typing as hard as it is usually easy.  As soon as I get up any speed, I find that I am typing stuff in the wrong place, as I just did in the middle of the word “stuff” back there.  Then it did it again.  (Inverted commas are a struggle too.)

I guess it’s called home advantage.  I have not now got it.  So I am, as of now, more than usually definite about promising nothing, because nothing is what you may very well get until I am back home, and back enjoying home advantage.

Sunday December 28 2014

When in France, I have no particular desire to do as the French do.  I have my own agendas.  So, for instance, French people do not make a point of photoing French posters advertising British or American films in the Paris Metro.  But, I like to do this:

image

I am using an alien computer.  Contriving the above photo-display took some doing.  Were I using my own computer I might have cropped that photo.  As it is, it is as it was when it came out of my camera.

Mostly, I just like the thought that we are making movies that they consider good enough to show in Paris.  But I think I am also interested in what sort of picture of my country they are seeing.  I’m guessing it is one that they want to see.  In this case, for example, they are see us Anglos being, although quite good looking, also boring, disgusting, uncultured and gross, and generally behaving like people upon whom wealth is wasted.  Not wanting to see Anglos in this light myself, I have not seen this movie, so I may be entirely wrong about what it is like.

But if it is not like that, they shouldn’t have called it that.  As a general rule, it is surely good business to take your movie look in the posters (and sound in its title) the way it actually is, because that way the people who will be attracted to it by the poster will then enjoy it, and the word of mouth will be good.  Many a movie is not what they first advertised it as, and hence was denounced by its early audiences, but was good in some other way, and ended up appealing to quite other people.  Had they advertised it more accurately to start with, they’d have done better business.

Saturday December 27 2014

Indeed.  Tomorrow I will try to post something more substantial.  But as for today, I’m afraid, a posting saying that that is it is it.

Sunday November 16 2014

Something a lot of people don’t get about rather small and incremental improvements is that even if they don’t mean anything to you (by which I mean to them) they can definitely mean something to someone, and potentially a great deal, and to quite a lot of someones.  My understanding of economics is that this is one of the most basic ideas embodied in it.  (The notion even has its own intellectual revolution: the Marginal Revolution.)

A price increase of around fifty pence for something costing, say, thirty quid may not seem much, and it may not change your behaviour.  But for some people this will be the proverbial straw that changes a light bulb to parsnips, the difference that makes all the difference.

Consider these slightly new, slightly snazzier trains, that have been announced by Eurostar, to replace their existing trains, next year.  Their front ends, so we are now being told, will look like this:

image

The Evening Standard (where I found all these pictures) tells us that these new trains will slash the journey time from London to Paris, but it neglects to reveal by how much.  Google google.  Here we go.  The Daily Mail supplies the answer to this obvious question.  It turns out that the journey time from London to Paris will be “slashed” (their word too) by … fifteen minutes.

But this posting is not (see above) a rant about how little difference this will make to most people.  It is a rant about how much difference it will make to some people.  For some people this fifteen minute reduction will make the difference between being able to go to Paris in the morning, get the job done, and then return to London that same day in time to read a story to a daughter.  Or … not.  Connections just missed will turn into connections just made, and fifteen minutes (doubled for the two journeys) will stretch out into something more like two hours.

Not for most people.  Just for some people.  And when you consider how many people might or might not choose to use Eurostar, depending on considerations like the above, that “some” people turns out to be really quite a lot of people.

In short, fifteen minutes does make a difference.

Or consider another small improvement that these new trains will involve, this time an improvement measured not in minutes but in inches.

Here is how the new trains will look on the inside:

image

Now that may not seem very interesting.  But it interests me greatly.  It’s been a while since I travelled on Eurostar, but my abiding memory is of how small and cramped and dreary the interior of the carriage was.  For such a supposedly twenty first century experience, the whole thing had a very twentieth century feel to it, in a bad way.  The above picture immediately makes me think that these new trains will be a significantly more spacious and less soul-destroying experience than the old ones, the old ones that I will still be partaking of when I journey to France and back, just after Christmas.

Judging by this photo ...:

image

… it would appear that they have done to the design of the Eurostar what they have also been doing to some of the trains in the London Underground.  These new London tube trains now bulge outwards, over the platforms.  Not by much, but by just a bit, just enough to make a real difference to the inside.

A few days ago, I overheard a conversation between some out-of-towners who were enthusing about the new and wider tube trains that were recently introduced on London’s Circle Line.  They were rhapsodising.  It was like listening to the scripted pseudo-public babbling away on a TV advert, so delighted were these truly regular members of the public about the new train that they and I were travelling on.  And I agree with them.  Whenever a train that I am awaiting emerges from its tunnel and reveals itself to be one of these new and slightly wider trains, my spirits are lifted.

And that was just inside a tube train.  When it comes to Eurostar, we are talking about two hours.  Two hours stuck in a dreary little tube, or in a rather less dreary, rather less constricted sort of tube.  That is quite a difference.  I can easily imagine, when some future decision about a cross-Channel journey presents itself to me, that these extra few inches ("cramped" is all about inches) could be the difference that will be all the difference, to me.  At the very least, I will try to give the new carriages at least one try, when they do finally appear.

Wednesday October 29 2014

See number 4 of these mistranslations.  See also, number 2: “RACIST PARK”; number 9: “BAG OF SHIT”; number 16: “Deformity Toilet”; and number 19 (which I have seen before I’m almost sure): “Translate server error”.

Got this via here, of all places, the one he chose being number 6: “Entrance only with Herr Hitler”.

Fuck the duck until exploded
My week in Brittany 2: A crane holding a bridge at Canning Town!
Back from France (plus cat photos)
GARBAGE SHED AND JUMP INTO THE SEA IS PROHIBITED
Will England get lucky?
The Not-V2 at London Bridge Station
I need a new passport but just now passports are a problem
Pylons behind fence
The joyful excitement of the Festival lyrique international de Belle-Île-en-Mer
Michael Jennings talking about Russia this Friday
A quota post (with a quota link to a post about a post about a quota photo) and another quota photo
Three more Paris pictures
Eiffel Tower with chimney pots – La Défense ditto
The text of my talk for Christian Michel last night
Digital photography as telepathy
Tough going in Australia
Mercedes-Benz W123
Big Things and small things
Michael Jennings photoes Cape Bojador
Confirmation that map use has seriously declined
Digital photographers holding maps
Sidwell (and me) on selfies
Michael Jennings photos the bridges of Porto
Two favourite photos from September 5th
London Gateway from above
Wedding photography (7): Evening
Pictures from Georgia and Warsaw
Alastair James on Blythe Hill Fields and smartphones
Michael Jennings - pictures of globalisation
What Michael Jennings has been learning about and will be saying about globalisation
Multilingual botanical gardens in Cyprus
Croydon cats
An afternoon in Croydon
Michael Jennings on why iPad photoing is not ridiculous
Little Lady Liberty - still in France
Dream and reality in Mumbai
What’s up with that?
Space launch monster
Rainbow Bridge
James Tooley discovers private schools for the poor in the slums of Hyderabad
Quota frogs
Infrequent flyer
Possible light blogging for the next week
Choosing a Clean Food Outlet in Lawas is as easy as ABC
Health and safety on a mountain in Borneo
The Armstrong Gun
Subconscious cricket
A Spanish geography lesson
Delayed action Dubrovnik cat
Alex Ross on Hollywood film scores
Another ephemeron for David Thompson?
Abandoned Bangkok tower
Rockets are a great improvement on balloons
Another link enema
Farnborough redirect
Yesterday and today
Peaceful time in war zone
Shard sitings and and an agreeably honest rabies prevention sign
A busy blogging day?
Voice and exit
Two bridges in Portugal
Chained cat in Vietnam
Two red cats
My sleep and luggage and bus and fluid travel hell
In Alicante
Possible holiday interruption
Cricket talk tonight
Towers under the weather - and a steam engine steams to the rescue
Short posting (with short photo) about SpaceShipTwo
David Farrer photos
Shadows on rings
Green eyed monster devouring cat food
Back lit by the sun
Saturnic majesty
Signs of the times in Belfast
Long platform ticket
Ancient Sheffield dwarfed by modernity
Monsal Viaduct
By bus to Sheffield
SwivelCam
TARP stuff - and a trip to Sheffield
Rock faces
Second Class power
Happy New year (if possible)
Power
A view from Vauxhall Station
Snapped in Egham
My Oxford talk on Google video – or summarised by a friendly blogger
Resized picture done with Jesus but quickly
Preparing for Oxford
Blogging elsewhere and talks elsewhere
First picture posted to this blog from the wild
Now I’m going to try to stick up a picture with Jesus
Brisbane church dwarfed by modernity and this posting behaving very strangely
A thin bridge in Wales
Euston Arch
Resizing Slim with Expression Engine
Twenty20 cricket on Sky TV
Two adverts in the tube
A new British citizen
French cats
What I have seen so far while abroad
Nanpu Bridge in Quimper
Keyboard blues
Posting here may be sporadic for the next few days
Ducks - frogs - turtles – beavers – Galaxy Quest
Self-guided photo-tour of the streets of San Francisco
Paying a visit to Mum
Billion Monkey Alan Little?
Twickenham shop attacked by the Dark Side of The Force
Posting with Jesus at the far end of the Kings Road
Moore versus Stossel on Cuban medical care
Eee PC not eeesy to get in Asia either
More St Pancras snaps
The A380 bulge
Samsung SPH-P9200
Comment is free and WiFi should be too
Adriana and Ivan in Addis
The (very) slow fade of Bolshevik Cuba
Toy train to Darjeeling
Taipei with skyscraper
Very very low cost kitten in space
DMZ