Churchill War Rooms gallery

One of the nice things about people coming to stay is that you often find yourself visiting touristy but interesting things that you’d never quite get around to seeing on your own. Later, maybe, but not today. It’ll always be there won’t it?

Touristy things like: the Churchill War Rooms. In February of last year, nearly two years ago now, GodDaughter2’s Dad was in town, and that’s one of the places we went.

And I took the odd photo or two. Well, more like 350, of which here are 84:

A big spread of photos like that would have been an impossibly tedious operation to stick up at Brian Micklethwait’s Previous Blog, and an equally tedious business for you to be scrutinising. But now, here they all are, and you can do the usual, clicking through as quickly or as slowly as you like. Enjoy. Especially if you rarely or never visit London, and have no plans to see this place for real.

There’s a million things I could say about it. One of the more striking of the photos above is photo 33, which shows how thick the concrete was protecting everything, from all but the most direct of direct hits, that passage that you see having been drilled through afterwards, when they were turning these working spaces into a place people could visit and circulate around.

Other talking points? Well, lots of signs and souvenirs, often signs made into souvenirs, for sale in the inevitable gift shop. And also: signs that are not Original but Modern. Signs with lots of words. Which is appropriate, given how important Churchill knew words (see photo 80) to be.

Most of the human figures that you see are not real; they’re sculpted. And “Other creatures” is in the category because, inevitably, there are bulldogs.

I did all the bard work for this posting before I got ill, and I’m still not fully recovered. So, please continue to wish me well.

Cummings wins it – Parris misses it

When Boris Johnson appointed Dominic Cummings as his behind the scenes shouter-in-chief, I started to hope that things had taken a turn for the better. I continued to fear the worst, but stopped assuming it. After the Cummings appointment, the air was thick with claims that he was a Satanist, but then it all went quiet. Presumably after Cummings had shouted at everyone then mentioning him to stop mentioning him, if they didn’t want to be set upon by Satan. But I didn’t forget. I knew that Cummings was Satanising away, behind the scenes.

So, when a link to this story at the Telegraph showed up on my Twitter feed, I clicked, hoping against hope to be able to read the whole thing. As it turned out, I was only able to read the top few paragraphs, but I got the bit that mattered to me, which was the Dominic Cummings angle:

They were the lifelong Labour voters on whom Jeremy Corbyn was supposed to be able to rely – even if he failed to sell his vision to a new market.

But to Dominic Cummings and Isaac Levido, the masterminds of Boris Johnson’s landslide victory, they became known as “persuasion ones”: a category of voter whose allegiance to Labour had been profoundly shaken by Mr Corbyn’s leadership and his party’s involvement in blocking Brexit.

Ultimately, the identification and targeting of those voters helped cause an electoral upset that shocked even some of the Conservatives’ most senior figures.

The phrase emerged from some of the most intensive use of focus groups and polling ever seen in a UK election …

I’m sure there will soon be much more to read along these lines.

From Matthew Parris (The Tories will win – but with no thanks to the North), on the other hand, there may be a rather thoughtful silence for a while.

Early election news

First, this:

Conservatives by anything from a comfortable to a cataclysmic (for Labour) majority. Well, thank goodness for that.

Soon after that, the first Portillo-esque moment happened, when a place called Blyth, where they were all raised by whippets and pigeons in cardboard boxes in coal mines and have voted Labour ever since the Romans buggered off back to Gaul, went: Conservative. The winning Conservative did not sound like he owned much in the way of rural acreage and serfs. He sounded like a Geordie. And in his rather Geordie voice, he read out what he had to say. But towards the end of it, he paused, because, it became clear, he was emotionally somewhat overcome.

Andrew Neil did an interview with Nigel Farage, and said that, what with Brexit obviously now going ahead, and what with Farage’s Brexit Party not going to get any seats at all, that makes him, Farage, a footnote. Farage disagreed, and so do I. Basically because of this:

I draw your attention to the fact that a lot of people switched from Labour, to the Brexit Party. The Conservative vote went up only a very little. In Farage’s phrase, people “who couldn’t bring themselves to vote Conservative” were still able to desert the Labour Party in a great flock, and to vote for the thing that Labour was now denying to them. In that picture, it didn’t do enough to cause the seat to change hands, but across the North, it will be more than enough.

So, some footnote. I for one am delighted that Farage, the most consequential British politician of our time, will yet again be keeping his eye on the Brexit process, and telling us all what he thinks of it.

I find that these photos I take of my TV, typically of sporting events but also of things like election coverage, can be extraordinarily memory-jogging, when I look at them months or years later.

Misery me

I don’t have many engagements, but I had a couple lined up for tomorrow, and I just cancelled both.

Flu, I think. Worse, that particular sort of flu that means that when I cough, the whole of my head and half my neck hurts horribly, in a great self-induced surge. Normally my head only hurts a bit. So there’s that, my head hurting a bit, and in addition to that, I mustn’t cough, even though I really want to, all the time. (“Healthcare” is the nearest category I can find in my list to: being ill, and just waiting for it to stop. Which fellow sufferers tell me it eventually will, in about a fortnight.)

I am also inclined to cancel this engagement, the one that says I have to blog here today. I couldn’t go that far, but the above is why I am confining today’s blogging to this perfunctory piece of self-pity. However, at various times for the next few days, things might go silent here. You have been warned. (Although, they may not. I promise nothing.)

Tomorrow, I do want to vote, beacause things in my constituency could get close, and because I am very clear in my mind which of the two potential winners I detest a bit less than the other. It isn’t far to go, thank goodness.

Wish me well.

A sixteenth century map of the world

Via Twitter, and something called Map Porn, I found my way to this world map drawn by Ahmed Muhiddin Piri in the 16th century:

Yet I can only find one other reference to it on the www, in the form of a print of the above which is for sale, here, where it’s described as a “Fine Archival Reproduction”. So far as I can work it out, this is a bodged together guess about a map that “Ahmed Muhiddin Piri” (aka “Piri Reis”) did create, but which only survives in the form of a small fragment. We know he knew enough to have created such a map. So, hey, we did create it. But I could be completely wrong about this, because I’m still trying to get my head around it all. Perhaps this is a copy of a real map. Maybe the internet is full of descriptions of it, which I merely failed to find.

The reason I’m interested in this map, or the maps that enabled this map to be made, is that it illustrates how much more they knew about the geography of the world in other parts of the world than Europe. When Europe “discovered” the rest of the world, this wasn’t Europeans discovering a primitive and poverty-stricken place, which only started getting rich after they’d discovered it. What the Europeans discovered was lots of places far richer than Europe, like India and China. And that’s just what the Europeans were trying to do. Just because they also “discovered” such places as Australia and North America, which were poorer, doesn’t mean that their basic motive was to conquer the world. No, what the Europeans were trying to do was get connected with an already thriving world, with which they could import mystical luxuries like spice, and from which they could learn, but which they stopped from doing, by the conquest of the Middle East by Islam. So, the Europeans decided to go round. Round Africa. Round the world, by going west. (That being why the West “Indies” got called “Indies”. And why the people we now call Native Americans were know for many decades as “Red Indians”. Still were, when I was a kid. And still are, by some.)

The European economic breakthrough that made its presence felt in the late 18th century was, globally speaking, something of an end run, as Americans would say. As I learned from that book I’ve been enthusing about by Steve Davies, Europe remained disunited, developed modern guns and never stopped developing them, starting winning wars against the likes of Indians (real ones, in India), then went from inventing and improving guns to inventing and improving everything else and thus unleashed the Industrial Revolution. Europe only got out in front rather late in the story. Oh, it was special. But so were lots of other places.

As the above map illustrates. Or, I think it does.

And maybe it also illustrates something else. Interestingly, the one big thing it gets wrong, the thing only people nearby then knew about properly, was Australasia. Rumours about northern Australia made people think that Australia was part of what we call Antarctica. New Zealand? Again, locals on boats in islands to the north presumably knew about it. But people like Ahmed Muhiddin/Piri Reis, and his various informants? They had no idea.

Shy Labour?

Dan Hannan:

Will this be the first election to see a “shy Labour” factor? How many voters are embarrassed to admit that their hostility to Brexit, or their tribal anti-Toryism, trumps their concern for their Jewish fellow citizens?

Scary times, for every political obsessive in Britain. Because every political obsessive, me included, is terrified that their preferred tribe will lose.

How London is moving downstream

What do you suppose this is?:

Okay, no silly games, this is Disneyland London. They have in mind to construct this during the next few years, out east, on the south bank, on that bit of land that sticks upwards into the beginnings of the Estuary (“Swanscombe Peninsula”), just this side of Tilbury.

The details don’t interest me. I’m pretty sure I’ll never go, not to the finished object. I don’t know when or even if they’ll build this.

What does interest me is that this huge project, even if it never gets beyond being thought about and puffed in the media, illustrates how the centre of gravity of London is moving inexorably downstream. The only other Thing as big as this in that part of London is London Gateway, the big container port now being built on the north side of the Estuary, a long walk beyond Tilbury.

Another podcast I just listened to that was good


It’s Bryan Caplan (the guy who gave this lecture that I recently attended), talking to Darren Grimes of the IEA. Caplan disagrees with most voters, but in an ingratiating way. As he himself says towards the end of the conversation, if you have disagreeable things to say, say them agreeably and people will be more likely to listen.

LATER: Now, I’m listening to another interview. Scott Adams autobiographising. Terrific.

Anton Howes interviewed about his research

I spent my blogging time today concocting a posting about the opinions and discoveries of Anton Howes, and in particular this piece. My posting will be ready and up at Samizdata Real Soon Now. In the course of doing this I encountered this podcast which an American guy did with Howes. I’m now half way through this. So far: recommended.

That’s it for today.