Yesterday I did some grumbling about the light and the weather on the day that Alastair and I went walkabout, exactly one week ago, from Blackheath to the River and then beyond. But as that day went on the light got a bit better, and when I tried photoing the Optic Cloak, that came out rather well:
It so happens that the day when I first properly noticed the Optic Cloak, January 17th 2019, was also a day when Alastair and I met up for drink+chat+walkabout, in Docklands. Later I continued walking on my own, and that was when I first set eyes on the Optic Cloak. If you want to know something of why I like this Thing so much, follow that link.
I photoed the above photo at pretty much the same time I photoed Nelson, who stands outside the Trafalgar Tavern. This Nelson is another of my very favourite pieces of sculpture in London. Which shows I’m not picky about style. Modern, trad, I just like what I like.
I’ve already done several photo-postings about that walk Alastair and I did, from Blackheath to the Dome. There was that posting that rhymed. There was a cat. There was that amazing photo of the River that Alastair did. There was Lord Nelson. Well, time for some photos taken at our Official Designated Destination. Our actual first thing we decided to visit which would supply me with plenty of photo-opportunities, after we had met up at Blackheath Station, was this:
Beyond the Point Hill sign is The Point. We got to that by walking up … well, here are a couple of maps. On the left, how to get from Blackheath Station to The Point. And on the right, why you would bother, the point of The Point being what you can see from The Point:
The point of this first photo is to explain why the photos that follow are the sort that you might not consider to be that great:
This was not the first photo I photoed from The Point, but it makes my point, which is that what you can see from The Point is most of it a really long way away. The photos that follow are all very zoomy.
For me the most striking Things to be seen were the Docklands Towers. There are now quite a lot of them, compared to how many there were when I vaguely recall last visiting this spot.
First, two views of the entire Docklands Cluster:
And next up, a couple of close-ups of this same cluster:
The light could have been better, but it was what it was.
I really like how Docklands is turning out. One or two of the towers there have a bit of distinction about them, especially One Park Drive. But the sum is greater than the parts, I think. This is because almost all these towers go straight up. There are no Gherkins, Cheesegraters, Scalpels, Walkie-Talkies or Cans of Ham. Just gravity following towers done in the most efficient way possible. And the result is a classic spontaneous order of skyscrapers, all done in the modern vernacular. Without gravity, there’d be little logic. But with gravity, and without the starchitectural urge to defy it, it is all starting to look rather impressive. I like the City, with all its weirdness and eccentricity, but I’m glad London also has a classic skyscraper cluster in the form of Docklands. It can only grow and only get more impressive.
I like the idea of people looking at photos of it, and saying: Where’s that? “London.” London? I’d never have guessed.
Off to the right, we can see the Dome:
The stuff to the left of the Dome is the muddle on the other side of the River, to the east of Docklands. The sooner that muddle gets gobbled up by the Docklands Tower Cluster the better. To the right of the Dome, south of it, on the Greenwich Peninsular, there’s already more stuff rising up, with more to come.
Off to the left, all the eccentricity of central London is duly on show, but even further away:
Let’s take closer-up looks at bits of that:
The photo on the right is a different photo. But the image on the left is a detail cropped out of the bigger and more panoramic shot. In that left hand shot you can clearly see the BT Tower in the distance there, as also One Blackfriars, looking very squat and far less elegant than it might have. For which, Alastair reminded me, we can thank Prince Charles.
And speaking of way in the distance, Alastair also helped with this next photo. Basically, he directed it and I just pushed the button, what with his eyesight now being so much better than mine:
Now that I’m home and looking at a screen twenty inches or so away from me, I can clearly see both The Wheel, and … the new Wembley Arch. I could dimly perceive the Wheel on the day, but the Wembley Arch I totally took on trust. Yet, there it is, way off in the distance on the right, being hovered over, like waiters, by two cranes.
And on the right, a new central London architectural eccentricity, in the form of that strange white triangle that is often to be seen now in photos of London from the south east. It looks like something you might click on to get video to play. But that’s the Scalpel.
So, there it is. That’s how the Big Things of London are/were looking during the Lockdown of 2020. Will London continue to develope, or will it pause for a decade? Or longer? We shall see. Or I will. I hope.
Memo to self: Go back there on a sunnier day. In a few weeks time, after it’s cooled down a bit.
A few days ago, I walked beyond the top end of Victoria, beyond Victoria Station, at the top end of Grosvenor Gardens, and I saw this:
But it was getting dark when I first photoed the above scene, so this afternoon I went back, to see if I could do better. And I think I did. Roof clutter plus The Wheel. I love roof clutter, and I love to photo The Wheel in unobvious ways, that being a view of The Wheel that no longer exists. So The Wheel, only just visible above some roof clutter. Just the thing.
While searching out the exact best spot to photo photos like that one, I moved in the opposite direction of The Wheel, so as to see more of The Wheel. I found myself in a place. A place called Hobart Place. And looking back along Hobart Place, I not only got the above photo, but also discovered another view, which I had not been expecting:
Not so long ago you could see the Shard from just outside Victoria Station, looking down Victoria Street, but those days are now gone, with the new office blocks that have been built on the right side of Victoria Street looking down it, just past Strutton Ground. But it turns out that you can see the Shard from Hobart Place. For the time being, anyway.
The top of the Shard is a bit of a muddle, but it is a very recognisable muddle.
Here’s a photo I took which combines both the above views:
I should probably have another go at that one. But, you can just about make out those two Big Things, above all the stuff in the foreground. What that big grey building in the middle with the particularly excellent roof clutter, I do not know. Should be easy enough to find out, if I really want to.
In the second of the above photos, the one with the Shard in it, you can also see the rainbow flag featured in the first of these three photos, the one of the top of 55 Broadway. I promise nothing, but that’s a building that deserves a posting of its own.
All I knew about Wenlock and “Mandeville”, at the time, was that I did not approve, because I did not approve of the Olympics. My opinions on other matters determined my aesthetic preferences. But the aftermath of the Olympics was not the anticlimactic waste and squalour in the Olympic part of London that I then feared. So, now? They look like fun. How we humans do love our other creature friends, even when they’re totally made up.
It would appear that they used the same formula as they later did for buses and elephants, and suchlike. Lots and lots of copies, all identical in shape, but each decorated differently. How could I object to that?
Here we see a couple of Wenlocks, on the South Bank, in the Olympic summer of 2012, being photoed with tourists, by tourists. And by me.
There was a Wenlock decorated with an octopus and two fishes (one jelly, one regular), and I daresay with other aquatic creatures:
And there was a Wenlock dressed as Big Ben:
And, as a little image-googling quickly confirmed, many more besides.
I did some cropping to exclude some faces of kids, which meant Wenlock also had one of his faces sliced in half, while still keeping the excellent fifth finger of the left hand of a photoer. The lady waving her arms and legs in the air was making a bit of a public spectacle of herself, and is accordingly fair blogging game.
I spent this afternoon with Alastair, who often comments here. Great day. We walked from Greenwich to the Dome, with pauses for drink. So, am now knackered.
Which means that just one photo will have to suffice for now:
That was how the towers of Docklands were looking from the other side of the River, where there were flowers.
Good night. Sleep well. I will.
LATER: Well, I didn’t sleep that well, but I did get the starting point of our wanderings wrong. Blackheath, not Greenwich. Which makes it more than I said. Nobody else will care, but I like to get these things right, for myself.
Which sounds like a description of a particularly florid piece of writing about a pavement, but actually I’m talking about this:
Passages like that one are one of the oddities of modern urban life. They happen when a rather posh building is being erected right next to a narrow pavement, over which they want to get some serious work done, but beneath which they do not want to antagonise potential customers and word-of-mouthers thinking about and talking about the people doing the building, thereby threatening the subsequent selling of the apartments or offices in the building, when it’s finished. If the developers mess with the lives of passers-by while they’re building, that at least suggests that they might have a similarly casual attitude to their actual customers. There is so much money at stake here, so big a gap between feast or famine for the developers, that a bit of extra bother at ground level, just next to the site, is well worth going to. Factor in the recent intensification of health-and-safety, and the desire by developers to avoid damaging fights with local bureaucrats, and you have yourself an entire new urban form, the scaffolded pavement passage.
In this particular one, which is in Victoria Street next to and beneath The Broadway, the shininess of the cladding on the inside and the colourful lighting combine to striking effect. We’re looking south east towards Parliament Square. The right hand photo is basically a close-up of the middle of the left hand photo.
I took these photos yesterday afternoon. As with so much that happens in cities these day, if you don’t like it, you needn’t fret. It’ll soon be gone.
Lots of postings yesterday, but today, after one, other things to do. So, to make it two today, here’s a quota photo that I like:
This is another of Michael J’s, photoed, presumaably, on one of his nocturnal walks in the clear air of London (See his comment there). I copied it from his Facebook site a while back, but now cannot find it there. He has other photos up of a similar sort, including that earlier Shard photo, and including another similar view of Tower Bridge which includes the Shard, here.
I particularly like the way the surface of the water looks, like a rectangular grid of reflected light.
This is the Wuchazi Bridge, and very fine I think it looks. No wonder dezeen cannot resist showing lots of photos of it, of which the above photo is one and the below photo is another.
The design team created a continual walkable path within the Wuchazi Bridge as part of its aim to make the structure a recreational destination rather than a purely functional piece of engineering.
The sort of place, in other words, where those visiting it would behave like this:
I especially like those two bikes.
I’d be taking a lot of photos like that if I ever visited this place.
Which I surely now will never do, no matter how my circumstances change. Wuchazi is in China and politically, China is now an abomination. The world played nice with the ChiComs for forty years and now they’re shitting on us all. The idea that individual bits of shitting, like on Hong Kong, or like the Plague they unleashed while forgetting to tell us in time, can now be individually cleaned up is delusional. The HongKongers, the Uyghur Muslims, the anti-Plaguers and all others who don’t like how China is now governed need all to get together and try to change how China, all of it, is now governed. We may not succeed if we do this, but we will have fun trying and the government of China will really really not like this. On the other hand, if we do not unite against our common enemy (the ChiComs (not China itself)), we will definitely fail. So, we are now uniting. I know this, because this is the only thing now worth doing. Ergo, it is happening. Just wanted to include a bit of that stuff.
Meanwhile, on a kind of Nazi-uniforms-are-cool basis, I can still admire this bridge. Here’s hoping it outlives the ChiComs and becomes a treasured part of the truly civilised China of the future that most of us would now like to see.
So there I was, standing near the top end of Victoria Street, with two things on my mind and being photoed by me. There was Pavlova, and there was the fact that the road junction at the top end of Victoria Street is as muddled and meaningless and shapeless as the magnificent (Parliament) Square at the other end is clear and meaningful and shapely. Seriously, they’ve been hacking away at this place for the last decade, redoing Victoria Tube and much else besides. When you look at it all at ground level, you think: Why did they bother? What a missed opportunity to bookend Victoria Street with something almost as good as what happens at the other! But no, it a mess.
At which point, into this meaningless muddle there came these three persons, on their three e-machines:
That’s right, a small flock of e-scooters, driven by young persons. I knew I’d encounter such a site in circumstances that would enable me to photo it sooner or later, and that moment had arrived. The photos are not great, as photos. But, they do the job.
I vividly recall encountering my first flock of cyclists driven by young persons in hoods, and thinking: It’s only a matter of time before we are all reading about bike-by shootings. Because that was the atmosphere exuded by that cyclist flock. It is a minor but definite regret of mine that I did not record this prophecy before it was fulfilled, as fulfilled it very soon was.
However, I don’t believe that there are going to be any scoot-by shootings any time soon. E-scooters, in fact scooters of both kinds, are fundamentally different from bikes. Bikes work more safely if you keep your hands on the handlebars, but you don’t have to keep your hands on the handlebars. You can steer a bike using only your arse and your feet. You can therefore ride a bike and deploy a weapon, should you be inclined. However, it is my clear understanding that if you take both your hands off the handlebars of an e-scooter, you come an immediate cropper. Even taking one hand off one handlebar would severely endanger you.
Any assassin gang able to get their hands and feet on e-scooters can also obtain bikes, so bikes will continue to be the means of transport of choice for assassin gangs who can’t or don’t want to use a motor vehicle. (Remember, bike gangs can easily split up after they’ve done their evil deeds, and individual bikes can go places cars can’t.)
In general, e-scooters are just not as “empowering” as bikes. They are more unstable, more vulnerable, not least to bikes. I got the chance to interrogate a couple of e-scooter guys, a few days before I photoed the above photos, and this was what they told me. It wasn’t easy to explain, they said. You’ll have to actually do it to get what we’re saying, they said. But, e-scooters are kind of dangerous, they said.
This conversation is the first one I’ve had that made me less gung-ho than I have been lately about e-scooters than more. E-scooters may not be about to conquer the world after all.
I continue to see a steady and slightly increasing number of e-scooters in my local area, every time I venture out into it, and I do mean every time. But maybe this is a temporary phenomenon made possible by Lockdown and the consequent reduction in the number of threats to e-scooters. Maybe when business-as-usual resumes on all of London’s roads, as it surely soon will even as business as a whole in London takes a big hit, then maybe the e-scooters will retreat, instead of becoming ever more numerous.
What e-scooters probably need is dedicated e-scooter pathways. I have seen enough non-hooded, middle class e-scooters, and even a couple of e-scooter family flocks, to suggest that the political clout to contrive such pathways might materialise. But it will take its time, I think.