A Strutton Ground shop and a Strutton Ground pub

Photos mature with age. The most commonplace snaps can turn into something a bit more interesting, with the passing of time.

Consider this one, one of the very first that I took with my Panasonic Lumix FZ150:

I know. It’s a shop.

But the thing is, it’s now boarded up. That photo was taken in January 2012. In January 2013, this happened:

The administrators to Jessops face a battle to rescue any of the company’s 192 shops after leading camera makers tightened the terms on which they sell products to the company following a downturn in the market.

Rob Hunt, joint administrator for PricewaterhouseCoopers, said: “Without the support of certain people, we are looking at complete closure.”

Jessops has since made a partial return to life, but so far, that Jessops, which is in Strutton Ground, near where I live, has remained shut.

In the years just before it closed it had an unbearably “helpful” shop assistant, who behaved like he’d been on some mad American training course in how to relate to customers. He wouldn’t leave you alone, and instead would engulf you in loud, totally fake bonhomie. I used to browse around in there from time to time, occasionally buying things like batteries and SD cards, and pondering my next camera. But because of this person, I stopped going there. Was I the only one, I wonder?

Talking of Strutton Ground, did you know that the Goon Show first saw the light of day in Strutton Ground? Yes, on the top floor of the pub at the far end of it from me. I saw this in a TV show about Spike Milligan.

I guess that’s probably more interesting than a Jessops closing. I’ll see if I can dig out more photos of things that have changed, that are rather better than that one, taken longer ago.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

A vanished building and a bendy bus

Last night, in the post immediately below this one, I said that photos get better with time because the things in them change. The illustration, a shop that is a shop no longer, was pretty feeble. But after posting that, I went looking for better pictorial proof, and I think I found it:

This picture is of a big London building, in the middle of the big roundabout across the river from Parliament. This building no longer exists. I then went looking for one of the numerous photos I have taken since of the swanky new hotel that has replaced this old, brutal, Brutalist monstrosity, but of course I could not find one. Follow that link to see what the new Thing looks like.

And my picture also features a bendy bus. These are likewise no longer with us.

The photo was taken on March 10th 2004, with my now antique Canon A70. I also, while on my travels through the archives, found other particularly choice old digital cameras in action. Some of them soon, probably, possibly, I promise nothing.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Alex on Quentin

Alex Singleton has sent me an advance print-out of a book he has written about how to do PR. I have reached page 59, and am so far very impressed.

When I read a book of this sort, I like to read about relevant personal experiences, as well as Big Lessons and Grand Principles. That way, you are more likely to be convinced that the Big Lessons and Grand Principles really are as good and grand as they may merely seem.

So I particularly enjoyed this bit (from page 59):

When I got my first column in 1994, in a newsstand computer magazine, I had no idea what I was doing. But it seemed like I needed to get some stories, so I wrote to all the relevant companies and invited them to send me information about what they were doing. Not all of them replied – those that failed to respond were PR idiots. Some of them wrote to me saying that they would add me to their press release distribution lists – they were amateurs.

Then some guy called Quentin got in touch. His company, Accountz, sold products by mail order and it was miniscule – just him and his wife. But he wrote me a personal two-page letter (this was before email was commonplace) explaining how he had a Big Idea to defeat the major players in his sector. Unlike some of the other companies, he had no PR agency – but he had a story. And during the 15 issues I wrote that column, I could always rely on him to take my calls and give me a good quote. When I upgraded to bigger-selling PC titles, including the market-leading ComputerActive, I kept on writing about his company. Today, his products are sold in PC World, Currys, AppleStores and Staples, and as I type this he has just made a successful exit from the company, passing it onto an investor.

What worked about that PR-journalist relationship is that Quentin – perhaps unwittingly – had good personal brand. He never tried to force a bad story on me and never wasted my time.

Alex has told me he is in the market for typos, and I think I see another blemish, to add to the two I’ve already told him about. Shouldn’t “onto” (final line of para 2 there) be “on to”? Not sure, but I think I’m right about that.

More about this book when I have finished it.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Jamie Whyte on deferring gratification less as he gets older

Quote:

I used to defer gratification when I was a teenager. Now that I am middle-aged I take it when it presents itself. Not only have the opportunities become rarer and more precious, but the benefits of deferral are always in the future. And my future is getting shorter every day.

“A moment on the lips is a lifetime on the hips.” This equation advises us to forgo the pleasure of tasty but fattening food. It may be good advice when you are 20. But as you age and your hips’ lifetime shortens, the scales begin to tip in the direction of instant labial gratification. No one counts the calories of his last supper.

Those are the first two paragraphs of the first column in a collection of columns entitled Free Thoughts, by Jamie Whyte. All available on line.

I found them while looking for this (about housing subsidies being a bad idea), which is by Preston Byrne. Byrne is my next Brian’s Last Friday speaker (about housing subsidies being a bad idea), this coming Friday, as I’ve already written about on Samizdata.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Cranes seen through Cardinal Place

Yes more cranes, which I spotted yesterday afternoon, at the top end of Victoria Street. So again, very near to Victoria Station.

I’m afraid that, yet again, I had to do some twisting to get that vertical and horizontal. I am cursed with the desire to photograph verticals and horizontals, but not to be able to get them looking right straight out of the camera.

Cardinal Place has a pointy end, which is basically just two huge windows, so you can see right through that. Below this paragraph, on the right, a photo from the exact same spot in the exact same direction, but with the zoom not operating, so you can see better what this is of.

Perhaps there are some readers wondering what the hell is so fascinating about cranes. Well for one thing, they’re cranes, with all that this entails, in terms of structural magnificence, aesthetic beauty, functional just-so-ness. Also, cranes mean new Things, coming soon. Not necessarily good Things, but … Things. Cranes are a vote of confidence in whatever place they are operating in. Cranes in London say: hurrah for London.

Also, cranes are, unless something has gone badly wrong, temporary. It will be great fun to stand, in two years time, in the exact same spot, and see how different things then look.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Smaller is more legible – big is more fun

Sometimes mistakes caused by not holding the camera still can be interesting.

Today I took several photos (at Victoria Station, like the previous photo featured here) of the station electronic notice board saying where my train was about to go. Basically, I was taking notes to remind myself later of where I had been. But one of these photos went wrong. On the twiddly little screen on my camera it looked, on account of me having moved my camera vertically at the critical moment, approximately like as you see it, top right.

That one won’t last a second when I go through all these at home, I thought. If I was in the habit of deleting snaps on the fly, which I am not, I would have deleted that one straight away.

But now look at how it looked on my big screen, back home on my desk, this evening:

That’s the middle of the picture, to get how big it is when spread out sideways all over my big screen. Click on that bigger picture to get an even bigger version of the original.

I don’t think it’s just me. The smaller picture is much more legible. But the bigger picture is a lot more fun, on account of being less legible. It stops being annoyingly blurry writing, and instead becomes Art.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Anton Howes at the Rose and Crown

Anton Howes spoke earlier this evening to Libertarian Home, about what made the Industrial Revolution get started. I took this photo of Howes, as he relaxed afterwards:

Howes really is a class act, as I already knew from when he addressed my Brian’s Last Friday, in July. What he has to say about the Industrial Revolution is already fascinating, and full of fascinating detail. When he has done all his research, then this talk will turn into something very formidable.

Meanwhile, a way to understand where Howes is coming from, and what kind of thesis he is exploring the further biographical and other detail of, is to read a book called Bourgeois Dignity, by Deirdre McCloskey. Howes recommended this book at the talk he gave in July. I bought a copy and am reading it now.

McCloskey’s basic thesis is that the thing that made the difference was ideas. The Industrial Revolution was not merely a bunch of people responding to economic incentives. It was people doing something they had come to believe in, surrounded by other people who also got the point, enough to let them get on with it. The Industrial Revolution was an ideology, brought to life by a core community of industrial inventors and creators, and sufficiently bought into by the wider society for those creators not to be suppressed.

The Industrial Revolution had plenty of chances to happen far earlier, in such places as China and Imperial Rome. That it did not happen earlier in such places is because, although the material conditions seemed to be all present and correct, they just weren’t thinking the right way to make the breakthrough. So McCloskey says, anyway.

As to what Howes said, well, the good news is that, unlike the talk he gave at my place, tonight’s talk was recorded on video by Simon Gibbs, and will accordingly materialise at Libertarian Home, by and by.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Algernon Sidney sends for Micklethwait because Micklethwait is wise, learned, diligent, and faithful

Incoming (“A quote you may like”) from Richard Carey, who gave a great talk at my home last Friday, at my latest Last Friday, about The English Radicals at the time of the Civil War:

Here’s a quote from Algernon Sidney’s ‘Discourses on Government’, which lost him his head but gained him the admiration of Jefferson and others. Somewhere into the second paragraph, you will know why I have sent this!

The book is a riposte to one by a fellow named Filmer who wrote in support of the Divine Right of Kings, a notion Sidney found odious and false.

So, Richard having already supplied me with this excellent SQotD, penned by John Lilburne, we now have this:

Implicit Faith belongs to Fools, and Truth is comprehended by examining Principles

Whilst Filmer’s business is to overthrow liberty and truth, he, in his passage, modestly professeth not to meddle with mysteries of state, or arcana imperii. He renounces those inquiries through an implicit faith, which never enter’d into the head of any but fools, and such, as through a carelessness of the point in question, acted as if they were so. This is the foundation of the papal power, and it can stand no longer than those that compose the Roman church can be persuaded to submit their consciences to the word of the priests, and esteem themselves discharged from the necessity of searching the Scriptures in order to know whether the things that are told them are true or false. This may shew whether our author or those of Geneva do best agree with the Roman doctrine: But his instance is yet more sottish than his profession. An implicit faith, says he, is given to the meanest artificer. I wonder by whom! Who will wear a shoe that hurts him, because the shoe-maker tells him ’tis well made? or who will live in a house that yields no defence against the extremities of weather, because the mason or carpenter assures him ’tis a very good house? Such as have reason, understanding, or common sense, will, and ought to make use of it in those things that concern themselves and their posterity, and suspect the words of such as are interested in deceiving or persuading them not to see with their own eyes, that they may be more easily deceived. This rule obliges us so far to search into matters of state, as to examine the original principles of government in general, and of our own in particular. We cannot distinguish truth from falsehood, right from wrong, or know what obedience we owe to the magistrate, or what we may justly expect from him, unless we know what he is, why he is, and by whom he is made to be what he is. These perhaps may be called mysteries of state, and some would persuade us they are to be esteemed arcana; but whosoever confesses himself to be ignorant of them, must acknowledge that he is incapable of giving any judgment upon things relating to the superstructure, and in so doing evidently shews to others, that they ought not at all to hearken to what he says.

His argument to prove this is more admirable. If an implicit faith, says he, is given to the meanest artificer in his craft, much more to a prince in the profound secrets of government. But where is the consequence? If I trust to the judgment of an artificer, or one of a more ingenuous profession, ’tis not because he is of it, but because I am persuaded he does well understand it, and that he will be faithful to me in things relating to his art. I do not send for Lower or Micklethwait when I am sick, nor ask the advice of Mainard or Jones in a suit of law, because the first are physicians, and the other lawyers; but because I think them wise, learned, diligent, and faithful, there being a multitude of others who go under the same name, whose opinion I would never ask. Therefore if any conclusion can be drawn from thence in favour of princes, it must be of such as have all the qualities of ability and integrity, that should create this confidence in me; or it must be proved that all princes, in as much as they are princes, have such qualities. No general conclusion can be drawn from the first case, because it must depend upon the circumstances, which ought to be particularly proved: And if the other be asserted, I desire to know whether Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Vitellius, Domitian, Commodus, Heliogabalus, and others not unlike to them, had those admirable endowments, upon which an implicit faith ought to have been grounded; how they came by them; and whether we have any promise from God, that all princes should forever excel in those virtues, or whether we by experience find that they do so. If they are or have been wanting in any, the whole falls to the ground; for no man enjoys as a prince that which is not common to all princes: And if every prince have not wisdom to understand these profound secrets, integrity to direct him, according to what he knows to be good, and a sufficient measure of industry and valour to protect me, he is not the artificer, to whom the implicit faith is due. His eyes are as subject to dazzle as my own. But ’tis a shame to insist on such a point as this. We see princes of all sorts; they are born as other men: The vilest flatterer dares not deny that they are wise or foolish, good or bad, valiant or cowardly like other men: and the crown doth neither bestow extraordinary qualities, ripen such as are found in princes sooner than in the meanest, nor preserve them from the decays of age, sickness, or other accidents, to which all men are subject: And if the greatest king in the world fall into them, he is as incapable of that mysterious knowledge, and his judgment is as little to be relied on, as that of the poorest peasant.

My googling abilities are wayward, to put it politely, but based on a fleeting mention of a Micklethwait who was the grandson of “the physician”, the physician Micklethwait does appear to have been quite distinguished. And since he’s a Micklethwait, spelt Micklethwait (without, that is to say, any terminal e), that makes him a relative of mine, or so I have always assumed.

In the course of this googling for ancient Micklethwaits, I also came across this picture, which the National Portrait Gallery has in its collection, of my paternal grandfather, who was a lawyer. Hopefully the sort of lawyer whom Algernon Sidney would have been content to consult. Grandpa Micklethwait died when I was four and I think I must have met him, or at least been shown to him, but I have no recollection of this.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog