I have been reading The Mighty Continent by John Terraine, which is a history of Europe from 1900 to the 1970s when it was published, being a spin-off book from a TV show.
On page 145 of my 1974 paperback edition, Terraine describes yet another example of the tendency of an organisation to lose its way at the very moment it constructs its custom-built headquarters. In this case, it’s the League of Nations, which collapsed into impotence when Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935 and the League did nothing about this:
The organisation lingered on and, with a final irony, it was now that it assumed the outward shape that is generally associated with it. The Palace of Nations, begun in 1929, was finished in 1936, just in time to become a mausoleum. Here at last were the necessary offices, 700 of them, and the fitting conference rooms for the words that no longer meant anything. There was a floor of Finnish granite, walls and pillars faced with Swedish marble, enigmatic and forbidding murals, depicting Technical Progress, Medical Progress, Social Progress, the Abolition of War, and so on, by the Catalan artist Jose Maria Sert. Under their sombre painted sermons, the Assemblies still met a passed their resolutions; everyone was still very busy. But underneath it all the mainspring was broken.
This building, the Palais des Nations in Geneva, is now occupied by the UN, which has its own custom-built headquarters building in New York. This is also a very busy place.
Just over a year ago, in May 2020, I went walkabout, across the River, after Lockdown had really started to kick in. At the time, I wrote here about how I crossed Lambeth Bridge, and then …:
… wandered in the general direction of Waterloo, and made a strange discovery, which I’ll tell you all about some other time, maybe, I promise nothing.
Just as well I said that, because nothing further materialised here about that strange discovery, until now:
I love that these galleries are now so much easier to contrive, and so much easier to click through for those on the receiving end of them, than they used to be with the Old Blog.
As for the photos in this gallery, I remember at the time thinking that maybe if I wrote here at the time about this discovery and how I wandered about in it, I might get myself into trouble, for, I don’t know, trespassing or something. The place was totally deserted, and I remember getting the distinct impression at the time that the front gate at the top of those stairs was only unlocked because whoever should have locked it forgot to lock it. So, I hesitated to show photos like these, and then the photos sank into the ocean that is my photo-archives, and I forgot about them.
I suspect that my then undiagnosed lung cancer was already making me a much more timid soul, less inclined to just barge into whatever places I felt like barging into (provided only that nobody physically stopped me), and more inclined to fear being filmed and then arrested. Silly, but as you get older, the answers you get when you ask yourself the question “What’s the worst that could happen?” start getting a lot worse. At that stage, I was still willing to do dodgy things, but was already reluctant to brag about having done them here. What if some legit inhabitant of this strange place were to google its name and encounter all my photos? What if I then got blamed, however unfairly, for some disaster that happened there, at around the time I visited?
Until I stumbled upon it, and stumbled up the stairs into it, I had no idea at all that this place even existed. I imagine these “creative” little districts eking out their existence where the owners are still making up their minds what they will really be doing with their property, and in the meantime could use a trickle of rent from the kind of people who are trying to get started in this or that line of “creative” business, but who don’t have a lot of heavy and complicated kit that they’ll have to shift if they make any sort of success of what they’re doing and then need to move somewhere smarter. I plan to return there to observe any changes I can, although I promise nothing.
In among all the creatives, there seemed to be some railway inspectors of some sort. Like I say, a very strange place indeed.
In several of the murals, there are strange creatures, as well as people. Hence this posting appearing on a Friday.
Castelnou is a small and impossibly picturesque hill town in the lower reaches of the Pyrenees, in the far south of France. GodDaughter2’s parents and I went by car, just over five years ago now, in May 2016, to check it out. And yes, the weather was as marvellous in Castelnou as it has recently been unmarvellous in London.
Nowadays, I find that my expeditions have as their officially designated destination a spot where I have arranged to meet up with a friend and exchange chat, rather than just a particular physical place I especially want to check out. But as my death approaches, not as fast as I feared it would last Christmas but still faster than I had previously supposed that it would, I find that mere Things, in London or anywhere else, aren’t enough to make me get out of the house at the time previously determined. Partly this is because if I fail to arrive at the Thing at the planned time, the Thing won’t ring me up and ask me where I got to, whereas people are inclined to do just that. And partly because the Internet tells you lots about Things, whereas actually meeting people bestows knowledge and pleasures more profound and subtle than you could obtain by any other communicational means.
The point of this Castelnou expedition was that it was with GodDaughter2’s parents, not that it was to Castelnou. Castelnou was just an excuse for us all to spend time with each other, plus it gave us things to talk about.
But of course, once in Castelnou, I photoed photos galore, of which these are just a few:
A few more things to say.
First, there are cats and dogs involved (as well as a bird statue), hence this posting appearing here on a Friday. The cats were very friendly and sociable. The dogs were more cautiously proprietorial, but none were aggressive. Which I think reflects well on us tourists. We all behave well towards these creatures, and they behaved towards us accordingly.
Second, what’s wrong with being a tourist? I am sure that “tourists” have been featured on the popular TV show Room 101. But if I was ever on Room 101 I would want to banish from the world “tourists who complain about all the other tourists”. Tourism is a fine thing, enjoyable for those of us who do it or we wouldn’t keep doing it, and profitable for those who cater to our needs. Many good things happen because of us tourists. Besides all the deserving people who get to earn a living from it, there are the conversations that tourists have with the locals whom they encounter, and with each other, which can sometimes have have wonderfully creative consequences. Many an economic success story has started with a conversation involving tourists. Tourists bring the world, as it were, to particular places, and places into contact with other places, and thereby are able to provoke creative thoughts that would otherwise not have occurred to anyone.
Does tourism “spoil” places like Castelnou? Hardly. I’ll bet you Castelnou is a much happier, prettier and more interesting place than it was before it started attracting tourists.
And finally, Castelnou is a fine example of an aesthetic process that fascinates me more and more, which is the way that when an architectural style first erupts, it is hated, but then when it settles back into being only a few surviving ruins, people find that same style, to quote my own words in the first sentence of this posting, impossibly picturesque. Castelnou began as a castle, which then gathered dwellings around it. And you can bet that the people in the vicinity of this castle hated it and feared it, that being the whole idea. But once the castles stopped being built in such numbers and when the castles that survived began turning into ruins, they then also turned into objects of affection, first for locals, and then, even more, for visitors from many miles away.
Tangenting somewhat, I was yesterday predicting that the next wave of architectural fashion is going to be a lot more colourful. And it is. But, lots of people will, for as long as this new fashion lasts and seems to be on the march (the military metaphor is deliberate), hate that fashion, and regret the passing of the drearily monochromatic tedium that they now only grumble about (because that is now still on the march).
Is Castelnou perchance the French, or maybe the Catalan, for Newcastle? Sounds like it to me.
Andrew Lilico tweets:
People seem to imagine there’ll be a “Yuck!” factor barrier to lab-grown meat. But a) in a sausage or burger are you even going to notice? And b) if you think “Yuck!” about lab-grown meat, wait til you find out how they produce non-lab-grown meat!
And “Discount Davy Jones” immediately responds thus:
Step 1: vat grown meat is a luxury, rich people eat it to look better than animal-killing proles.
Step 2: vat grown meat is cheap enough for everybody and becomes a staple of fast food.
Step 3: rich people start eating expensive animal meat because it’s more authentic.
That’s exactly how it’ll work.
Me: Yes, probably. But add in that at some point regular meat will be made illegal, at which point there will be a thriving black market in it.
When good things happen, “progressives” (the sneer quotes because these people typically get in the way of progress rather than make any significant contribution to it) always try to get on the front of the trend by making whatever it is illegal, compulsory, whatever, thus … well, getting in the way of progress, in this case by bullying the old and recalcitrant, and by introducing criminals into the mix.
Nevertheless, I do think it will be progress when we mostly become much nicer to animals, by not imprisoning them and then eating them on the huge scale we do now.
ISIBAISIA, although I couldn’t quickly find where (that link is to a posting about Modern Art): The planet earth is becoming one gigantic zoo.
I am awaiting warmer weather, in the hope that I will then feel up to taking a photo-walkabout, somewhere in London town.
Meanwhile here are some photos from a walkabout I did, walking (about) from the Angel Tube to the Barbican, as late sunshine was replaced by early moonshine, back in April of 2016:
The final photo there is of how a stretch of Oxford Circus Tube was looking on that day.
The lady seen smiling through a window of reflections (photo 10) is the then only very recently (March 31st 2016) deceased Zaha Hadid (as you can maybe guess from photo 11). This was the lady whose buildings only had straight lines in them at all because people will insist that the floors they walk about on and work on are mostly flat rather than curving up and down. Clients eh? Philistines the lot of them. ZHA has (or had in 2016) a building in Goswell Road, and I walked right past it that day, and also had a nose around in it. I remember being surprised, because I had no idea this place even existed.
See also the photo of another portrait picture, this time of actor Charles Dance, which I photoed on this very same walkabout.
What I find so entertaining about this chunk of history is how this new way of selling and consuming books oscillated wildly between Very Low Art (“Penny Dreadfuls”) and Very High Art (classic (hence out of copyright) novels, Shakespeare, etc.). Low Art created the format. High Art discovered that it could use the format.
My Dad collected Penguins before and after WW2, and probably also during. I still have some of those. None of them were Penny Dreadfuls.
Also interesting was the claim that paperbacks are now thriving, better than ebooks are. My suspicion about that one: give it time.
I am suffering email problems just now. I can send them, but I can’t receive them.
As of now, I am relying on The Guru to ensure that …:
… which it surely will, eventually.
Meanwhile, the only other thing I did here today was to add a publication to this list of Chris Tame writings that I had missed. Political Notes 148: The Case Against a Bill of Rights. (My thanks to Professor Bryan Niblett for pointing out this omission.)
LATER: Email sorted. Thank you The Guru.
Yes. Spent the day chasing details, and keeping half an eye on the Six Nations. In an empty Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, the crowd was not missed much and Wales beat England. Oh well, it’s only a game.
So, another quota advert, photoed very recently, this time for an enterprise which, I am guessing, needs all the help it can get just now:
Something looked wrong about to me about this bike. The handle bars seemed like they had been turned round and are pointing backwards. Then I got it. They had been turned round. They are pointing backwards. Together with the front wheel that is attached to the handle bars.
The Cave website. I see there’s a cafe. Memo to self: Check it out when you know what stops.
Ever since doing this posting, I have had that photo up on my computer screen, and I remain very fond of it.
Here are two more photos of that same piece of art/signage, photoed around the same time, although on two different days. Slightly more creatively photoed in that there are other things going on also:
I look forward to getting back to the top of the Tate Modern Extension, which is where this is. It’s one of my favourite spots in all of London.