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

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Saturday November 29 2014

Last June I did a rather excellent walk from Erith back towards the middle of London, along the south bank of the Thames, at the part where it is working up its determination to change from a river into an estuary, but still can’t quite be bothered.

I was taking pictures like this one:

image

A long path, which I had either walked along already or was about to walk along.  Sunlight on the river.  Mysterious, crumbling industrial infrastructure sticking out into the river, mostly to do with the processing of sewage if the smell was anything to go by.

I pick the picture above to show you because, moments after taking it, I thought I saw - way, way in the far distance - something straight ahead of me, underneath that distant bridgelike structure on its way out into the river.

I cranked up the zoom, and took this shot:

image

If you are on a long, long walk, from Erith to … London, then your first sight of London really raises your spirits.

But how can you tell that those vague shapes on the distant horizon really are London, rather than just some slightly smaller lumps, slightly nearer.  Answer, the vague shapes have to be distinctive shapes, shapes unlike any other shapes in the vicinity.

This is one of the many reasons why I have become so very fond of London’s Big Things, especially the new ones, because they are both very big and very recognisable.  In this case, of course, what we see is the Gherkin.  Had the Gherkin instead been just another rectanguloid lump, I could not have been sure.  As it is, after I had scrutinised my picture on my little camera screen, I was sure.  That was London calling.

Yesterday, I cranked up Google Maps and worked out exactly where I had been when I took that shot and all the other shots I took at around the same time.  I also worked out that I was about ten miles away from the Gherkin.

I only saw the Gherkin by chance, because at that particular spot, I just happened to have a clear view of it.  Soon, I lost sight of it, and did not encounter it again until well over an hour later, when other distinctive Big Thing shapes also elbowed their way into the view.

More zooming:

image

I deliberately chose a shot with the foliage in the foreground in focus and the Big Things far away behind them blurry.  Once again, the Big Things, despite being so blurry, are still instantly recognisable, this time the Walkie-Talkie and the Cheesegrater having joined in the fun.  People moan about how ugly they reckon the Walkie-Talkie is, and maybe it is rather ugly.  I certainly thought so when I saw the early computer graphics of it.  But now I like it.  It too is very distinctive, and big enough to see from a great distance.

Soon after taking that shot, I emerged from foliage, to be greeted by views like this one, which shows how far I still had to go before I was back in more familiar places:

image

This is now one of the best ways of looking at London from a distance.  It reminds me of some pictures that I have seen of Miami.  This next one, I think, is especially Miamic:

image

The big H-like thing on the right is the point where a huge gob of London’s processed sewage emerges into the river.

Click on that picture to get the same thing twice the size.

But perhaps more amusingly, click on this slightly closer-up and horizontalised version of the above scene …:

image

… to get a three times bigger version, and do some sideways scrolling.  For me, the particularly fun thing there is that you can see the Spraycan, way out towards Battersea, on the left, next to a pylon.  You can also see the Boris SkiLift thingy, the Dome, the Docklands Towers, the Shard, ...

Finally, more zoom:

image

That looks very like the earlier zoom snaps.  But the difference is that if you are the sort that prefers older and somewhat smaller London Things, you can now see St Paul’s in among those bigger Things, in the exact middle there.

Because my camera has better eyesight than I do, a lot of the fun I get from these expeditions comes when I scrutinise the photos afterwards, in the comfort of my kitchen.  When I took the last photo, for instance, I probably had no thought of St Paul’s.  I was merely seeing that crane.