A viewing platform that now isn’t

Speaking as I was of tall columns with viewing platforms at the top of them (shame about the Tulip by the way (but I live in hope that this will be uncancelled (or that something similar will arise in that spot))), what about that big column just to the north of St James’s Park with the Duke of York on the top of it?

I recall greatly enjoying a photo-session I did in 2016 with this erection, lining it up with the BT Tower, through some splendidly leafless January trees:

All these photos were photoed from Horse Guards Road, which is at the eastern end of St James’s Park.

To get to the top of the BT Tower these days, you have to win a lottery. But what about getting close-up to the Duke of York? There seems to be a viewing gallery up there, so presumably there must be some way to reach it. Yet, I pass this Big Thing often, when walking through St James’s Park to the West End, and I never see a queue outside it. What’s the story?

This:

Inside the hollow column a spiral staircase of 168 steps, lit by narrow apertures in the wall, leads to the viewing platform around the base of the statue. Given the small, fragile platform and previous high demand for climbing, this staircase has been closed to the public for many decades.

Is there any way this platform could strengthened without it becoming a disruptively different shape? The problem is that, unlike with the Monument, the column above this viewing platform is the same width as below it, probably because it supports a big old Duke of York rather than just the little bobble that the Monument has at its summit. Almost any structural engineering can be done these days, but if the viewing platform remains as small as it is now, it presumably wouldn’t be worth doing.

I hope that Tulip makes a come-back.

The Duke of York is one of my favourite British military personalities, if only because most others only know him, if they know him, as an object of derision. The Grand Old Duke of York … etc. But the point is, after his failed career as a military commander, he had a much more impressive career as an military organiser back in London, improving the supply of, well, supplies, and also of officers who were better trained than hitherto. In other words, he arrived at his level of incompetence, and then demoted himself down to a position where he good really do some good, as the Duke of Wellington always acknowledged. Impressive, I think. Being the King’s brother, he could do this. But how many King’s brothers actually would do such a thing?

I know, I’m a libertarian and war is the health of the state, etc. But, the history of war is what it is, and this Duke deserves his monument. As is well explained in the very good chapter about him in this book.

When you don’t know it’s temporary

It’s all very well to say, as I often do, that it makes more sense to photo temporary stuff than stuff that will be around for ever. Sometimes, you do know that something will be temporary, like scaffolding. But often, you don’t know that something will disappear until suddenly, poof, it disappears.

Take those yellow river buses, named after various Shakespearian ladies, that once upon a time used to go up and down the River, for instance. Here is one I found in my photo-archives, photoed on a dim and dreary afternoon in February 2003, arriving at its one-and-only London landing spot, just next to the MI6 Building:

Who knew beforehand that this would stop happening, on account of London’s new super-sewer demanding this landing spot for its own purposes?

Says a rather plaintive London Duck Tours:

Please note that we are no longer able to operate our usual range of tours due to Thames Water’s compulsory purchase of our slipway to build the next phase of the Thames Tunnel super sewer.

For the present time, we will offer a selection of entertaining and informative LAND-based (road-only) tours. Please note that these tours do not have a river splashdown and we do not offer individual tickets.

Happily, long before this particular Duck Tours disaster struck, I photoed the above photos, simply because I enjoyed what I was seeing. Fond thanks to my old Canon A70, despite it having had only x3 zoom.

Are these yellow Duck Tours river buses still operating? I don’t recall seeing any of them even on dry land recently. But, what I don’t recall is a very large category nowadays.

Exploring The City: Monument thoughts

When I say exploring, I mean three kinds of exploring, rather than just the one. The “just the one” is going there, and taking photos. But the second is finding things out from the Internet about the various things I saw and photoed. And the third is exploring my photo-archives for related photos that I photoed during earlier explorations.

Here’s an internet discovery of what the place I was exploring looked like, in (guess) the late eighteenth century:

That image is one of a collection of images to be found at the top of the Website for the Parish and Pilgrimage Church of St Magnus the Martyr in the City of London.

At the back there, the Monument, and the church of St Magnus the Martyr. Note how you also see three other church spires, and a rather distant church tower. In those days, churches dominated the London skyline.

Here another Monument image, this time one which I photoed in the vicinity of the Monument, yesterday:

At the top of that, beyond, you can just about make out a horizontal slice of the Monument itself.

I’ve obviously been up this London Big Thing, but not very recently. Now, I want to look more closely at how this London Big Thing looked, when it first arrived on the scene:

I’m sure there are plenty of references to God and how he should bless and receive into heaven, or wherever, all the people who perished in the Great Fire of London, at the base of the Monument.

Nevertheless, I wonder if The Monument was actually some sort of turning point for London architecture, in the sense that it is very tall, but not a place of worship. The Monument, from the moment it was built, was what is nowadays called a “visitor attraction”. It works by allowing people to climb up a big staircase inside to a viewing platform at the top, from which anyone who cared to make this effort could then gaze down upon London, and its many churches. No worshipping involved, unless you want it to be.

Until the Monument, I’m guessing that the last place of non-worship to dominate the London skyline so forcefully was the Tower of London.

The Monument must have caused quite a stir when it first appeared. Did some people then think it was an eyesore? (A major function of blogging, for me, is that it records questions. That’s one I don’t want to forget.)

And if the Monument was thought of by some to be an eyesore, did this make it easier for people later to argue for taller – also secular – buildings in its vicinity, the aesthetic and spiritual damage already having been done? Like the Guy’s Hospital Shard story, only this time for the entire City of London.

To bring the story up to date, here’s a photo I photoed a while back of The Monument and its immediate surroundings, from the top of the Walkie Talkie:

The Monument and St Magnus are still a bit taller than their immediate surroundings, which are nevertheless pretty bulky. But as for the Walkie Talkie, and the other Big Things beyond, it’s definitely a case of The Monument being dwarfed by modernity.

Here’s another photo of The Monument, this time from the Top of the Tate Modern Extension:

Again, dwarfed by modernity.

Walkie Talkie on the left there, behind the red crane. And since we have a crane there, here’s a roof clutter photo, also feature the top of the Monument:

Photoed from the other side of the River also. Don’t get me wrong, I love this kind of alignment/juxtaposition, as regulars here will know. But, that’s how little the view of the Monument from any sort of distance now matters to London’s aesthetic overlords.

Is this taxi advertising anything or is this just decoration?

I’m talking about this taxi:

Which I photoed in the City of London this afternoon.

In my photoing experience, if a taxi is elaborately decorated, it’s usually an advert of some sort. But on this taxi, I would see no reference to any product or service. So is this Art?

I tried some image googling, but found nothing like this taxi to click on.

BMNB QotD

Kassy Dillon:

I’m voting for Trump but I wouldn’t be friends with Trump. I’m not voting for Yang but I’d definitely be his friend.

I have no idea who or what Kassy Dillon is, but I think this is an important distinction.

Which is not the same as saying that I would definitely like having this “Yang” character as a friend, or wouldn’t like having Trump as a friend. The point is that voting for someone and befriending someone are two different things.

Trump tweets: “I’m OK with that!” Which is how I heard about this.

Vapour trails

I photoed this vapour trail in December 2005. I’m pretty sure I have others, but this was the first vapour trail I found in the archives:

And I think that it is indeed a vapour trail. But now take a look at this next vapour trail.

That’s not a vapour trail.

This is a vapour trail:

As Michael Jennings, this blog’s technical curator (to whom continuing thanks), would say, this was in Straya.

Aerodynamic contrails occur when a plane lowers the air pressure as it flies, in turn lowering the air temperature and causing condensation to form on the wings. This condensation then trails behind as the plane continues forward.

In certain humid conditions, the drop in temperature and pressure is such that the droplets of condensation will freeze at varying sizes.

When the sunlight shines through these different sized droplets, it will refract at different wavelengths, hence the variety of colours that can be seen.

Blog and learn.

An “electoral pact” is going to happen whether Boris agrees to it in public or not (which is why he isn’t agreeing to it (in public))

Steve Baker MP says that he struggles to see how Brexit can win the next general election, if Boris doesn’t do a deal with the Brexit Party:

I, on the other hand, think that I can see exactly how Brexit can win the next general election, if Boris doesn’t do a deal with the Brexit Party. And I reckon Boris does too. (Whether anyone can then “reunite the Conservative coalition” is another matter. Say I: one thing at a time. The task now is to get a Brexit Parliament, followed by Brexit.)

Farage definitely does get how to get that Brexit Parliament, election deal or no election deal.

This, which I spotted in these comments at Guido Fawkes, explains:

The important thing is that all Brexit voters need to know who to vote for in their particular constituency, come the day, to ensure Brexit. So, the Brexit Party just needs to tell them. If the Brexit Party campaigns for Conservative Brexiters who’ll win, but for its own candidates when they are more likely to win, the Brexit Party will get its deal. And Brexit will then happen.

All the Brexit Party has to do is impose its deal by keeping the Brexit voters fully informed, and the Brexit voters will do the rest.

Boris has no power to stop this.

But here’s the twist.

Assume that Boris truly wants Brexit. I think he does, if only because if he doesn’t get Brexit, both he and the Conservatives will be toast. Even if he’s a pure egomaniac, his pure egomania is now, surely, fully aligned with Brexit happening, on his watch. That’s the only way Boris gets to be Churchill 2, which is his not-at-all-secret fantasy.

And, if the above is correct, all that is needed is a general election, and Brexit will follow. Deal or no deal.

The reason Boris doesn’t want to do a deal with the Brexit Party is the same as why the London/Cummings wing of the Brexit campaign in the general election didn’t want to cooperate with Farage. Because, in the event of such public collaboration, there was and is a crucial slice of Conservative but only Leave-ish voters in the affluent south who would have been put off voting Leave, and would who would now be put off voting Conservative and would switch to the LibDems.

Ergo, it is actually Boris doing a deal with the Brexit Party that might jeopardise Brexit, rather than no deal. Just as the original Brexit vote would have been lost, if the Brexit voters had all feared that voting Brexit meant voting for Farage.

Remember, Boris is cleverer than me, and probably also cleverer than you. Boris must have realised all this, if only because Dominic Cummings must have explained it all to him, several weeks or months ago. To get a Brexit win in the next general election, Boris doesn’t need a deal, and actually would be better off not doing a deal. He just has to let nature take its course, with just enough behind-the-scenes nudging to make sure, e.g., that Conservatives who are going to lose don’t campaign too eloquently, and the odd phone call to/from Team Boris from/to Team Farage to make that little bit more sure that all this happens smoothly.

I know, what the hell do I know? This could all be oh-so-clever-clever bollocks. Good point. But, Steve Baker says he’s waiting for someone to explain how Brexit can win without Boris doing an election deal with the Brexit Party. I believe I just did.

Please note also that although my pro-Brexit opinions are probably very clear in the above, the analysis still works no matter which side you are on.

Red staircases at the top of the Heron Tower

So there I was in the City of London, during the early evening of November 23rd 2012, photoing all that there ever was of The Helter Skelter that never was, and in among all that I also photoed the Heron Tower. The one that used to be called the Heron Tower, which they tried to call the Salesforce Tower, but which remains the Heron Tower:

That being a photo that wouldn’t be worth showing here, except that the reason I photoed it was that it explained and supplied context for this next photo, which I had photoed a few moments earlier:

Let’s take a look at what we see there in more closer-upper detail:

I like how we have that bloke bottom right, telling us the size of everything. It’s bigger than I’d have guessed without him there.

It’s not often you get to see inside the tops of towers like that. It helped that it was early evening, because that’s the time when artificial light starts to assert itself, but there is still enough natural light outside for the outside of the building to be clearly visible also.

I went a-googling, to try to find out what was and maybe still is going on in there.

I found my way to this photo:

Curved red staircase, clearly at the top of a tower. That had to be it. And when I googled “red staircase heron tower” and that same photo came up, that settled it.

Two names kept coming up: Sushi Samba; and: Duck and Waffle. Had Sushi Samba perhaps closed, some time around 2017, and been replaced by Duck and Waffle. Sushi Samba sounds like the sort of one-off foodery that opens, and then closes; while Duck and Waffle sounds more like a tried-and-tested formula, of the sort that replaces one-off fooderies that are closing. Was that what had happened?

These people, who did the interior design for this place, explain:

This floating “culinary village” is set in a three-story crystalline volume at the top of Heron Tower, the tallest building in the City of London. The space is home to both SUSHISAMBA London, the renowned Brazilian/Peruvian/Japanese restaurant, and Duck & Waffle, a unique 24/7 restaurant that is inspired by British artistic and culinary traditions. A sweeping sculptural orange glass and metal staircase connects all three levels, decorated by a wall of street art.

So, both tried-and-tested business recipes and both happening there from the get-go, which presumably happened when the Heron Tower really was “the tallest building in the City of London”.

Another enterprise I learned about was the guys who actually built these staircases. And oh look, they also do roof clutter. Memo to self: get back to that site and have a deeper rootle around. For instance: they built/worked on that bizarre bit of roof clutter on top of the Guy’s Hospital Tower.

But the most enticing thing I found while scrabbling about trying to work out the SushiSamba/Duck+Waffle story was this very enticing photo:

That photo being one of these.

According to GodDaughter2’s sister, you can just go up there, with no airport checking-in crap, like it’s a regular place on the ground. I guess the Heron Tower isn’t reckoned to be “iconic” enough to merit counter-terrorism theatre.

Another memo to self: go up there.