Yesterday, in conversation with a friend, I was introduced by that friend to a delightful mixed metaphor, which I am pretty sure she just came out with in the moment. She was saying that she, or I, or the two of us, I forget which, ought to try to make the best of a bad job, with respect to something or other that I have forgotten about. But instead of that, she said that she or I or we should “milk the silver lining”. Excellent.
Reminder: Before you type something offensive on Twitter, sit back, count to 10, and take a few deep breaths. The brief pause may give you a chance to think of something even more offensive.
Twitter is surely what you make it. If you follow lots of political mouthers-off, as I do, then the ones who get excited are the ones who Tweet the most, and who pause and consider and take deep breaths the least, and that’s a lot of what I see. But I also follow lots of people who, although often also political, are more interested in fun, truth, beauty, or (in the case of the above quote) humour, and suchlike. I tend to scroll past all the shouting and pick on the nicer and subtler stuff to savour. It can be done.
Today there was rain around mid day, followed by the brightest of bright sunshine. This is the best sort of sunshine there is, because the rain washes the air before the sun shines through it.
Also present in this photo is Pavlova, the ballerina on top of the Victoria Palace Theatre. This is a very good photo, of the crane and its shadow, but not of Pavlova. For Pavlova, Try one of these.
Yesterday’s posting got nearly all the way to the finishing line, but I failed to push the “publish” button. Which I expect threw your whole morning out of kilter. I mean, if you can’t rely on another inconsequential posting from BrianMicklethwaitDotCom, what can you rely on? Anyway, it’s up now, and here is another posting on the same theme. Yesterday’s was about a crowd of people now, and here’s another photo of other crowds:
Only this time they are crowds of people in the air, in airplanes, one of the airplanes being the one I was in.
But alas, I did not photo this photo at all recently. Judging by the sky over London nowadays, such an aerial traffic jam still could not now be happening anywhere.
The particular one in the above photo was seen over the Channel, just after these photos were photoed.
Air traffic control must be a pretty easy job just now. Let’s hope it starts getting a lot harder, very soon.
Last Thursday, late afternoon, this comforting scene was to be observed (and photoed) by me, on the other side of Victoria Street from me and a short walk from Buckingham Palace. Human beings, without muzzles on, enjoying each other’s company and drinking drinks:
Will normality ever fully return? I’ll believe what I see. But seeing that was definitely something.
A lady cleaner jacks her job in after getting a dressing down from her horrid boss. I don’t know the details, or whose fault this really was. Maybe “Julie” behaved very badly. But maybe the cleaning lady had driven Julie to distraction with her wrong ways of cleaning.
But, let’s now assume that whatever Julie’s reasons were for flipping her lid like that, it was indeed very unfair on the cleaning lady and could have been handled much better by Julie. Julie shouldn’t have bawled her out like that. Well, that means that Julie is now in some trouble, even if that trouble is only the fear of trouble. (Only!) Julie now faces being investigated by her superiors for perhaps provoking this contretemps and for making the bank look bad on Twitter.
I think the key change here is that your typical worker in a country like ours does not any longer have to take this sort of crap (assuming this was crap). Two hundred years ago, what percentage of the working population could be unemployed for a month without staring death by starvation in the face? And what is the answer to that same question now? Very different, I think we can be sure. And I think this is a very big change.
A century and more ago, this cleaning lady and all the people at her economic level, i.e. most people, just had to put up with this sort of humiliation. But not any more. Upping and leaving isn’t necessarily any fun, but for millions of workers now, it is now doable, if the alternative is made too horrible to endure.
As a result of this profound economic change, there is now a huge industry, populated by people who trained as actors and actresses (I have a couple of friends of this sort), which instructs middle managers in how to combine two things which can be hard to combine, namely being kind and polite, and yet still saying what is wanted. The danger is that if you are too nice, you’ll stop communicating clearly, which can then be torture of another kind. So you have to learn to be as kind as possible, while still being clear about what you want from your underlings and colleagues. Because such skills can be easier to describe than to master, these middle managers often have to practice doing all this, by playing out scenes, wrongly and rightly.
And note this. The process of them learning to be nice while remaining sufficiently clear and assertive has itself to be done in a way that works, but is also nice enough for them not to up and jack in their jobs because it’s all too damn humiliating and also a load of bollocks.
Further to this earlier posting about the musical tastes of cows, incoming from Cousin David, in the form of a photo of cows being entertained by cellists:
But where was this happening? Image googling soon answered that, which was also where I found this other photo, which I particularly like:
About once a week, students from the Scandinavian Cello School in the Stevns municipality in Denmark, come to Haugaard’s farm to play calming classical music for her livestock.
“The musicians say when they play something [the cows] like very much, they get close up to the musicians,” Haugaard told As It Happens host Carol Of.
“We think that it must [mean] they like the music especially. But we cannot know, because they cannot tell us.”
Yes, it could just mean that the cows like eating more than they dislike cello music. But the getting close thing at least suggests that they like the music as well as the food.
Earlier today I had a really serious phone conversation with my Designated Best Friend about palliative care, being kept alive with scary electric shock machines (which my DBF said actually work very rarely and are far more likely to inflict painful and permanent damage like a busted rib). In short, it was a conversation about my death. And I entirely saw the point of this conversation and was very grateful to my DBF for having it with me. I need to say what sort of death I would like, before it actually starts seriously happening and I become incapable of saying anything coherent about what I want. So, important stuff.
Problem was, I had been keeping half an eye on the county cricket, and in particular on this game between Hampshire and Surrey. Surrey have had a wretched season so far, and Hampshire have been doing really well, so that was going to start badly for Surrey and get worse and worse as the next few days went by. But I was paying attention anyway, because, you know, you never know.
So, Surrey had won the toss and had put Hampshire in to bat. But then, after nearly an hour of further Surrey underachievement, and for the first time this season after three dud games, Surrey suddenly started doing really, really well. Right in the middle of the serious phone conversation, this is what I observed, on Cricinfo, being done by two Surrey bowlers called Clark and Clarke to the hitherto formidable Hampshire middle order:
For non-cricket people, that is very successful bowling by Surrey and very unsuccessful batting by Hampshire, who, in the space of thirteen deliveries, went from 44 for 2 to 44 for 6. Until this exact moment, Surrey had not been taking nearly enough wickets or taking them nearly soon enough. Then, in a blink, all that completely changed.
I want to insist that I never lost the thread of the serious conversation I was having with DBF: No please don’t resuscitate me if I have a heart attack in a hospital, but yes indeed, I’d rather die at home but how much might that end up costing, given that professional care will surely be needed?, and no you’re right it’s important to discuss all this beforehand so thanks for doing this. But also, strictly inside my head you understand, I was screaming to myself: Hey look, Surrey are doing really well!!! Look at that!!! Four wickets for no runs!!! On the first morning!!! Wow!!! Yeah yeah, I’m going to be dying soon and I know I have to get that sorted, but … wow!!! I even managed to do the above screen capture, without at any time failing to be conversationally coherent and serious with DBF about my death.
This is what I love about following sport, especially the way I have done for the last decade and a half, at a distance, via The Internet. Great moments in sport, like this moment when Surrey Actually Started Doing Well in 2021, intersect with how your life was at the time. I still remember that 1981 miracle Ashes test match fondly, and listening to it on the radio in a van with which I was (very happily) delivering number plates, a radio which only worked when the van’s engine was not running, which complicated things in a delightful way that I’ll never forget for as long as I live. Well, now, here’s another of these classic sport-meets-real-life moments. Life doesn’t get much more real than when you’ve been told that “for as long as I live” isn’t actually going to be that long, and sport doesn’t get much better than when your team has been firing blanks for a month and then suddenly does something like what’s in the picture above.
By the end of the day Surrey were totally on top. Surrey’s bowlers, particularly Clark and Clarke (there were even three Hampshire batters who got out caught Clarke bowled Clark), were unstoppable, and Hampshire’s first innings total came to a mere 92. Hampshire’s much feared foreign pace men, Abbot and Abbas, then had to bowl in quite different conditions after lunch and achieved only the one Surrey wicket in the whole of the rest of the day. Surrey are already ahead on first innings and should – should -now win comfortably. Even Hashim Amla, who got 0 and 0 in the previous game, got some runs, along with Burns, and both could make more tomorrow.
All my life people have been telling me stories of old men dying with smiles on their faces, merely because their sports team was doing well when they died. Would I still feel that way about sport when death stared me in the face? So far: yes.
One of the themes I believe I have encountered in the course of my architecture-spotting is the one I’ve been calling The Triumph of Modernism Indoors. These photos, taken from a piece about a house conversion that’s just been done in Highgate, illustrate that this may not be quite the right distinction.
Here’s a piece of classic ancientist victory, in the form of a deceptively normal looking house in Highgate. It’s had a total makeover, but you wouldn’t know this just looking at it from the street outside:
Indoors, however, modernism reigns supreme:
However, modernism has also made its presence felt out of doors, round the back, in the garden, which passers-by do not see:
The continuing dominance (not total victory by any means) of ancientism has been in “public” rather that “outdoors”, and the triumph of modernism has been in “private” rather than merely indoors. The point being that the outdoor triumphs of modernism are tending particularly to happen also in the private bits of outdoors.
What’s going on here is that the “private citizen” wants modernism in those bits of his place that he totally controls, because modernism makes more sense, and is cheaper and quicker to do. But, “public citizens” don’t care for the way modernism looks, especially if it replaces ancientism in the public realm. So the public bits of a building, if they are now ancientism, cannot be smashed to bits and replaced by modernism, if preserved ancientism is an option, as it was for this ancientist Highgate home. But if the private citizen himself positively likes the public appearance of modernism, he can do modernism outdoors also, provided he only does it in the private bits of outdoors, the bits that he experiences but which passers-by do not.
Everything will hinge on whether an ancientist house with a modernist extension out the back in the garden will sell for the same silly money as a house with no modernist stuff outdoors in the garden.
I’m guessing it will so sell, provide only that the extension does the job without silly things like a leaking roof.
I am zeroing in on another over-arching fact about “private householders”. They’d like a house that looks publicly nice, but when economic push comes to economic shove, what matters is whether their newly acquired house works properly, without having to be expensively mended. For all their aesthetic tastes. their aesthetic tastes don’t actually matter, or rather, don’t matter enough to have real world consequences. What does matter is that their machine for living in should tick over correctly, the way a properly functioning machine should.
This increasingly “private” blogging that I’ve been doing for about the last fifteen years is really starting to achieve things for me.
I can remember when e-mail became a necessity for me. I got a phone call from someone who asked: “What’s your email?” and I said “I don’t do email”. It was the way she then said “Oh” that made me realise that something had happened.
There hasn’t been a single moment like this for me with Zoom, but it has become made clear to me that making easy and regular use of Zoom has now become part of everyday life for all civilised people. Stage 4 lung cancer means you get cut some slack on these sorts of things, or you do by the people who are treating you. Nevertheless, I got, and get, the message.
And today I got an exercise lesson on Zoom from an exercise coach at the Royal Marsden. For some reason or other, the audio aspect wasn’t perfect, there being a slight delay, like the Royal Marsden was in India. But the job got done very satisfactorily nevertheless, and it’s hard to see how this could have been done by any other means than me being at the Marsden in person. Like all good teachers, he wasn’t content with showing me what he wanted me to do. He wanted also to see me doing it. Not only did Zoom enable him to show me what exercises he wanted me to do, he was also able to see that I was doing them the way I should be doing them.
All of which will be very old news to almost everyone reading this. I am well aware that when it comes to Zoom I am the ultimate late adopter, just as I was with email. Nevertheless, this posting is definite Zoom information for you, even if you’ve been using Zoom for the last two years minimum. And the information is that everyone is now using Zoom, the proof of this being that I am now using it.