The Helter Skelter that never was

I don’t often often get close up with the Big Things of the City of London. Mostly I just admire the changing scene they have made for London over the last two decades, but from a distance.

But in December of 2012, I did get close to these Things, and in particular to the new Big Thing then under construction, known by its makers as “The Pinnacle”, and to the rest of us as the “Helter Skelter”.

Here is a smallish gallery from that expedition:

A sneaky selfie in the last one there.

The Helter Skelter turned into something else just as tall, but bulkier and duller, as recounted in this angry piece. Which means that my expedition captured a fascinating passing moment in London’s architectural history. The stump that was all it was then remained a stump, and then turned into the Biggest Thing in the top photo here.

I have mixed feelings about this story. On the one hand, the Helter Skelter would have been more elegant and recognisable. And it would also have been a great place to shoot a remake of King Kong, with KK sliding down it, carrying an English actress with him on his lap. On the other hand, the current architectural hulk that is catchily known as “22 Bishopsgate”, now nearing completion, being so very bulky and inelegant, will positively demand a much bigger Big Thing next to it, in the fullness of time. Rather in the way that Guy’s Hospital was, for its time, so big and ugly that it made the Shard happen.

Walking north to the Dome

So there I was at YOU ARE HERE …:

…, and following a bit of shipspotting, I made my way north along the wiggly pink line beside the River.

And so now here is another of those click-click-click in-your-own-time fast-or-slow-or-as-you-wish galleries, of the sort I never used to do on such a scale at the old blog, because they were so much harder to do and so much harder for you to click-click-click your way through:

Looking back, at such things as the quadruple chimneys of the Greenwich Power Station. Looking left across the River to the towers of Docklands and towers further away. Looking at the strange shore, between the River and the land I was walking on, and at the strange things people do to such shores. Looking to the right, at the new machines for living in that are being constructed next to this shore. And looking to the right further away, to catch occasional glimpses of the Optic Cloak, which I admire more and more every time I see it.

There is no theme this time, other than the theme of this being where I was and this being what I saw from where I was. Fences, scaffolding, cranes, towers, and lots of signs, and, in general, a place that will be very different in a few years time. Also, quite a lot of plant life of various sorts, which I always enjoy in moderate doses, in among all the urbanity.

The walk involved quite a bit of digressing inland, as walks alongside the Thames tend to. This being because they are constantly altering what is next to the Thames, and don’t want you getting in the way while they’re doing that.

The final photo in this gallery features a huge fence, for stopping balls escaping from a mini-golf range. I did not see that place coming.

Blue sky – sun – concrete – cranes – crane shadows

Every time I go to St James’s Park tube I go past the cranes that are labouring away to make The Broadway.

Yesterday these cranes were looking especially fine in the late afternoon sunshine, casting some excellent shadows on the concrete towers they are busy constructing:

And as you can see, I also got some photos of the sun hitting one of the crane towers, that approached in dazzlingness what I was seeing myself, which I usually find rather hard to do. Photography is light, and the light was especially good yesterday.

The way I see it, there’s not a lot of point in making something eternal with the magic of digital photography if the thing you are photoing is pretty much eternal to start with, especially if many others have also eternalised it. But The Broadway will already have changed from what it was yesterday.

Early light

Yesterday I went on the expedition I told myself yesterday I’d go on, which was good. Although, I didn’t do the Dangleway bit at the end, because I was too knackered.

Sadly, though, the weather forecast did something it never does usually. It was a bit wrong. It promised cloudless sky at the end of the expedition, but in reality, the cloudless sky came only at the start:

Cloudless sky turns almost any situation into a photo op, for me anyway, and those are four very early photos I photoed.

First, an orthodox photo with lots of blue sky, taken of the new apartments in Victoria Street that are taking shape, which I go past on my way to St James’s tube. When finished they’ll look approximately like this. That was their guess in 2016, so by now the guess will be different, but so what.

Second, the box of covered scaffolding on the right of the first photo was behaving in a particularly fun way. It is usually quite fun, but this was funner than usual.

Third, the sort of photo I quite often take when in a train. Nothing remarkable about it. Reflections in the window? Why is that a problem?

But fourth, it gets interesting. The train was travelling very slowly, because of overheating track or some such thing. And this last photo was taken when the train was stuck, immobile, between stations, next to a wall. What we see there are not shadows, they are the reflections (see above) of what is to be seen through the train window opposite. What I like is how very recognisable that building is, the one with three holes in it. To me, anyway. And that’s clearly a crane tower in the foreground of the reflected scene. Which is good.

Photography is light.

A drone at the Oval – and what drones will replace

I took this photo at the Oval (sorry the Kia Oval), on July 23rd 2012, when I and Michael Jennings were watching England lose by an innings to South Africa:

All very regrettable. England lost all twenty wickets, but South Africa only lost two wickets. Hashim Amla got a treble century. Boo hoo.

But, take a close look at the rather odd stick-like thing sticking up over that big stand in the distance. Not the big flyswatter, which is for floodlights. No, I mean the rather insect-leg-like thing to its left, as we look.

This:

That’s a simple crop-and-expand of the first photo above.

Then as now, I was interested not just in cricket, as in: Is my team winning? (It was not (see above)). I also was already interested in the means by which cricket is televised or video-intenetted. I know this, because at about the same time I was photoing the above photo, I also photoed this photo:

Imagine spending your entire day, which on that particular day was a pretty hot day, doing that.

Okay. Now, fast forward to the Oval exactly seven years to-the-day later, July 23rd 2019, when Darren and I visited the Oval, to watch Surrey get beaten by Middlesex in a T20 game.

Once again, that my team was losing was very regrettable, but once again, I consoled myself by photoing other things besides the actual cricket, as already recounted in this earlier posting.

And the most interesting thing, by far, that I photoed that evening, was this:

I owe the spotting of this contraption, which hovered throughout the entire game over the same part of the ground as the 2012 crane-photoer did, to Darren’s sharper-than-my eyes, and to the fact that he reads this blog and knew that I would be interested. I would be amazed if I discovered that it was actually not videoing the game that Darren and I were watching, even if it was only panoramic views, for now.

It is surely only a matter of time before drones start being used to video games like the one I saw at Beckenham, where I also photoed video cameras.

And scaffolding. Drones don’t need scaffolding.

I’m guessing that the drone problem just now is keeping them absolutely still, or alternatively, moving them in exactly the required manner, the way crane-photoer has long been doing. But if humming birds can solve this problem, I presume that drones can, and that actually, somewhere, they already have.

Googling for drones-cricket etc. tells me that this is a technology that is bowling ahead, so to speak. For instance, it says here, in connection with the recently concluded Cricket World Cup, that:

The drone camera provided by Batcam will also provide stunning visuals of all venues across England and Wales.

“Batcam” link added.

So, as Darren suggested, it is quite probable that the TV picture in this posting was done by a drone, rather than by a bloke at the top of a crane.

Which means that the Big Alignment described in that posting (the Shard and the BT Tower) may have been no accident. Maybe the drone lined them up right next to each other on purpose.

Big Thing alignments from Lord’s

One of the many things I like about watching cricket on the television, along with things like that I can see properly what is going on, is that in between overs, those high-up cameras often look beyond the cricket, to the surroundings beyond, a process which is especially appealing if the game is being played in London.

As last weekend’s Cricket World Cup Final was, at Lord’s:

That’s a photo I just snapped off of the TV, with a camera.

Let’s see if I can do better, by putting one of the three DVDs I made of the Final with my TV recording machine, into my computer, and then do a screen scan. It helps a lot having the score, because that way I can quickly find the same shot.

Here we go:

A bit better, I think. Not a lot, but a bit.

In the foreground there is Regent’s Park. but the particular thing I like is the way the BT Tower aligns with the Shard. The BT Tower even manages to place itself between the Shard and Guy’s Hospital.

Here’s another Lord’s photo, that I photoed myself on a more sedate Lord’s occasion. Rugby v Marlborough, on August 12th 2017;

I took that from the top of the big new stand which has a roof on it like a big tent. You can see the same alignment, of the Strata (the one with three holes in the top) and the Wheel, in the TV shot above. What this tells me is that the TV shot was taken from a lot higher up, and off to the left as we look. So, on a crane, standing at the Media Centre end.

Here is a photo of some Real Photographers …:

… whom I photoed that same day, minutes after that earlier photo. Lord’s was not exactly buzzing that day, was it? Anyway, I’d like one of those Real Photographers to be sent up to the top of the crane where the TV people took their shot from, and take some extra good stills of the same BT Tower/Shard alignment.

Alas, they probably wouldn’t be that interested. Plus, nowadays you can probably do everything you want along such lines with drones.

That earlier game, described here, had one thing very much in common with the recent World Cup Final game, which was this:

Neither side deserved to lose and cricket was very much the winner …

It was indeed a terrific contest, even if only a tiny few people watched it, compared to the crowd last Sunday, at the ground and on TV.

Trafalgar Square Things

Yesterday, I walked about in London with GodDaughter2’s Sister. We walked through Trafalgar Square. What we first encountered, on the 4th Plinth, was this:

Spot The Wheel.

Read more about and watch video about what the above Thing “means”, here. It’s to do with the destruction of Things in the Middle East.

However, GD2S reckoned that the best 4th Plinth Thing ever was the Blue Cock. I agree, so I agreed.

Here are some photos I photoed of this, in the Spring of 2014, when it was there:

Scrutinise the label, bottom right, and you will learn that this Big Blue Cock was unveiled, on July 25th 2013, by Mayor Boris Johnson. Very appropriate.

There was another Big Thing on view in Trafalgar Square yesterday:

That being an enlarged replica of the Cricket World Cup. The miniature original of this will be presented to the winners of tomorrow’s final at Lord’s, between England and New Zealand.

In the semi-finals, New Zealand beat India, as has already been mentioned here in passing. This was a surprise. If England had beaten Australia last Thursday, that would not have been a huge surprise. But England smashed Australia, which was a bit of a surprise. As of now, England are favourites. So, and with due apologies to the massed ranks of my readers in New Zealand, no more surprises please.

Quota gallery – June 3rd 2009

Indeed. I did quite a bit of work on another posting today, about scaffolding and video cameras and suchlike. But it’s not finished yet, and I don’t like to rush what I say about scaffolding.

So here are twenty photos I photoed beside the River, just over ten years ago:

The second one is no ordinary building site. That’s the Shard.

The scaffolding in front of the BT Tower is, I’m pretty sure, the beginnings of what is now Blackfriars Station.

Most of these scenes are of things that won’t happen again. But the Blackfriars ghost columns are still there, exactly as shown.

Photography is light.

A crane which is surrounding itself with a building

Time for one of those little photo-clutches that it now makes sense for me to show here. now that my readers can click quickly through them.

When, late last month, I took these photos …:

… I thought I was photoing the fact that neither I nor anyone else would ever again be able to photo The Wheel while walking along Tottenham Court Road towards Centre Point.

But then I realised that what I was really photoing was a crane. And no ordinary crane. A crane that was stuck in the middle of the very building that it was constructing.

I absolutely believe that there is a very good plan for extricating this crane from its self-constructed prison. Upwards, presumably. Because everything about making buildings in London is doe with plans that always go to plan.

Battersea gallery

Yesterday evening I walked over to Battersea, to see how things are going with surrounding the old Power Station with apartment blocks, with sorting out the western end of London’s Big New Sewer, and constructing a new tube station.

In the photos that follow, I concentrate on the new blocks of flats, not least because it is easier to see that, what with it having reached the stage of mostly now being above ground. Tube line and sewer construction remains largely hidden throughout, and in general they tend to be more secretive about such things.

So how are things going with all those flats? How things are going is that there is a lot of building going on, but also, already, a lot of living.

The earliest photos in this gallery show the part where they say: come on it. This is already a place, with people, and food, and a road through to other parts beyond. Then, you walk along one of the oddest bridges in London, over and through what is still a giant building site, right next to the old Power Station, and then you arrive at the bit that is finished and already containing people.

None of the photos that follow are individually that fascinating. But click, click, click your way through them at speed, and you’ll get an idea of how this passing moment in the history of London is now looking:

The photos that concentrate on life being lived, rather than merely dwellings being constructed, concern the London Seafood Festival (that being the only link I now have the time to contrive), which I had definitely not been expecting. But many others had, and were gathered in large numbers to partake.

Then I made my way to Battersea Park railway station, with the last two photos having been photoed from the train that took me to Victoria Station on the other side of the river.

My larger point is this: that the newest and most noticeable London architecture has now done a switch, from the erection of individually crafted and highly visible and recognisable Big Things, to the mass production of generic Machines For Living In and Machines For Working In. So many office blocks and blocks of flats of a certain height, all jammed together in a formerly not so very desirable location, each higher than low but each lower than really high. So much concrete and steel being hoisted into the air by so many cranes. And so many people all being crammed into these new dwellings and new workplaces, as they beaver away at their desk jobs nearby or in The City, and relax by the river in their numerous new eateries and drinkeries down on the ground floors. Yes, this kind of thing has been going on in London for many decades, but just lately, it has shifted up a gear.

That all these new Batterseans will be within walking and face-to-face talking distance of one another is bound to have creative consequences. All sorts of new urban possibilities will become possible.

A lot more of this stuff has been happening out East, in Docklands and beyond. There too (see especially: North Greenwich) things have shifted up a gear. Battersea feels a bit more upmarket than those places down East.

Welcome to the latest version of London.