The view from The Point

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.

My neighbourhood – not that bad after all

Well I was in a grumpy mood the other day, calling my part of London boring. Today, after a bit of an absence from it, indoors, I visited my neighbourhood again, and found myself, eventually, to be in a much sunnier mood than I was when I did that earlier posting.

This was partly because the weather was much sunnier, and partly because my expedition began with a deeply annoying visit to a rather unfamiliar branch (which I hate) of my bank, which involved, first, pressing lots of stupid buttons on a damn machine which ended up failing to do what was asked of it, which meant that what I wanted ended up having to be done by hand, so to speak, by a bank employee behind a grill, but not before I had had to wait in a queue right behind a crazy person who was walking backwards and forwards along the line of the queue with no concern for social distancing. Sadly, he was just the sort of person you’d be concerned about, social distancing-wise, whether there was a plague happening or not. Retreating away from him at first didn’t work because he simply advanced further until standing inches away from me, before turning round and walking back to the person ahead of him in the queue and annoying her in a similar way. Eventually I just stood way off the line of his backwards-and-forwards pacing, hoping that he would stick to his straight line, which mercifully he did. I know this sounds cruel, but I didn’t say any of this to him at the time, and now I am just blowing off steam about it all. Anyway, he finally did his business (emptying a bank account of its last few pounds from what I heard (I bet they were glad to see the back of him too)) and he then left and I was then able to do all of my business. This took its time. The bank had “closed” at 2pm, just after I got there, but I didn’t get out until about half past.

The point of all that being that there is nothing like enduring an ordeal like this one, but then have it come to an end with all your purposes achieved, to put you in a good mood. And the photos I then photoed out in Victoria Street reflected my good mood, as well as involving reflections of the towers of Victoria Street in other towers of Victoria Street. Of the photos below, only the first one, of scaffolding angrily illuminated by the sun, which I could hardly ignore, were photoed before my ordeal by personal banking, and I actually think it shows:

The new towers of Victoria Street, on the north eastern side, from the Albert pub up to Victoria Station at the top end of the street, are an aesthetic shambles. I wouldn’t object if this shambles was the result of a complete indifference to “architecture” and pure concentration on having machines for working in. That would almost certainly have been highly picturesque, and aesthetically very well coordinated. But, these towers have all been architected as all hell, but each one with absolutely no thought to its neighbours, other than to get more architectural awards than the buildings by those other bastards. Each is shaped in the “iconic” style, but each iconic shape is utterly difference. The result is a total mess. (I am even now thinking of a posting about why it makes sense for modern architecture to be ugly (basically ugly architecture doesn’t suffer the nightmare of a preservation order being slapped upon it), but that’s for later.)

However, when I photoed this lumbering heard of miss-matched lumps today, such was the weather and such was my mood that even these things came out looking beautiful. Or, I think they did. The first one, the pointy one (62 Buckingham Gate) differs from the others in showing, I think, some real architectural distinction. But this can’t save the shambles that is Victoria Street now. The one thing that could savee Victoria Street now would be a huge fuck-off skyscraper, on top, say, of Victoria Station. (This would rescue Victoria Street in much the same way that the Shard rescues Guy’s Hospital.)

But that also is for that other posting about why ugly buildings are more advantageous than beautiful ones.

In the meantime, note the lorry with foundation reinforcements on it. The only reason you drive a lorry through the middle of London with foundation reinforcements on it is because you want to unload those reinforcements in London, so that some new foundations in London, perhaps for a big fuck-off skyscraper, can be contrived. So, what that lorry tells me is that London is still building biggish things. When I saw it, my mood became even sunnier.

I ended my wanderings with yet another view of Pavlova (she is also to be seen dancing up above the reinforcements lorry) in front of a crane, and a view of the flowers outside the front door of a pub in Wilton Road. And then I went home, tired but happy.

As you can tell, I then started thinking about those Victoria Street buildings and got angry again, but that was only later. Besides which, I also quite enjoyed that.

That moment when three of the statues in Parliament Square were in boxes

For a few days in June, the statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square was hidden in a box, to protect it from demonstrators.

And on June 17th, I checked it out:

I also discovered that two other statues had been thus encased.


And Gandhu:

Although strangely, what with him having been threatened, not Lincoln:

I especially treasure photos like this, of moments in London history that are very striking, yet temporary. (Another of my photo-clutches that I especially like having photoed for this reason is all the photos I photoed of this broken crane.)

I vividly recall photoing these statues-in-boxes photos, yet when I went looking for them this evening, I couldn’t find them on my hard disk. I eventually looked on the back-up SD card that I always carry with me in my jacket pocket for when I forget to insert the regular SD card that is usually in my camera, and there these photos were. Still on that SD card, not yet downloaded to the hard disc, yet all present and correct. And I experienced that particular happiness that happens when life extricates itself from extreme misery, and back only to the extreme imperfection that is life’s normal state.

I returned on June 21st. By which time these boxes had gone and all the statues were back on view.

How London is about to copy Notting Hill

Towers continue to soar upwards into the blue sky of London town:

But now, with The Plague, Lockdown, social distancing, blah blah, do cities have a future? Does London have a future?

Here’s detail of the tower on the right in the above photo, photoed by me a few days later on a much gloomier day:

There’s no getting away from it. Those are coffins. Did the architect know something that the rest of us didn’t? Are urban apartments death sentences? Is the age of urban social communion about to die in front of our horrified eyes?

For my elderly generation, well, maybe, for a short while. But cities are not going to stop happening, merely because a few oldies have died of a cough that was worse than the usual sort. History may be all about lots of people dying, but mere life is lived and will continue to be lived by those who do not die. In the short run, it will be interesting to see if London takes any sort of visible hit from The Plague. Will we finally see a London skyline bereft of construction cranes, after the current crop of projects have been finished, on a we’ve-started-so-we’ll-finish basis? Will all those eastern European construction workers be packed off back home to the country towns and villages from whence they came?

Temporarily, maybe, although even this I doubt. Permanently, not a chance. The advantages of city life are too great, too abundant, too transformative, too agglomerative.

Actually, disaster is a tried-and-tested technique for urban regeneration. Consider The Blitz. So much of the current dynamism of London can be traced back to those stressful times. The Blitz destroyed. And, by destroying, it created new opportunities. Paris is only now starting to recover from not having been bombed.

I am old enough to remember the Notting Hill Riots of the late fifties. After a short period of post-riot economic downturn, during which all the timid oldies who lived in Notting Hill fled in terror, young and adventurous types moved in, and the place has never looked back. They even made a movie about how it had become the kind of place a super-glamorous movie star would unwind in on her days off, and become acquainted with Hugh Grant.

I predict, although I may not live to see it, that The Plague will have a similar impact upon London as a whole. Many oldies will die or flee to the suburbs, to the Cotswolds or to the West Indies. At which point the young and vigorous and risk-embracing, with plenty of viral resistance or resilience or whatever it is that you need to not die of The Plague and any subsequent variations, will take the place over. In about five or six years from now, London will be buzzing again, and in a whole new way. (Preliminary detailed prediction: more colour.)

I actually, very probably, will live to see the beginnings of this. I may even be able to summon up the energy to photo some of it.

Pavlova dances – backed by a line of cranes

From 2014. Cranes, having spent the day transforming the top end of Victoria Street, relax by going out dancing with Pavlova:

The statue is carefully contrived to look beautiful. The cranes are just cranes. No aesthetics went into them at all. Yet they look beautiful also.

Spot the traffic light.

First photos with the FZ150

I can still remember the Great Leap Forward that the Panasonic Lumix FZ150 “bridge” camera was. For me if not for all of photoer-kind. For me, the best “bridge camera” I could have was my perfect camera. Tons of zoom, but no faffing about with different lenses to at once capture whatever sscene presented itself to me, near or far.

I went rootling through the photo-archives looking for some early photos I photoed with this wondrous new contrivance, looking at the first photo-expeditions I embarked upon, along the River, to the Victoria Docks, or just to Westminster Abbey and Bridge, to photo my fellow photoers, to pick out some photos that brought back the shock of pleasurable surprise I had when I first got my hands on it.

But then I realised I was looking in the wrong place. What I needed to see were not merely some “early” photos, photoed days or even weeks after I got this super-camera. What I wanted to see were the absolute first photos I took with this camera, on January 26th 2012.

And the very first one of all was this:

That scene, of my kitchen window and surroundings as seen from my swivel chair around which most of my life revolves, if you get my meaning. (It’s the chair that does the actual revolving.) I am happy to report that the big grey Thing, bottom left, which was for making ice, has been replaced by a slightly bigger black box, which also makes ice, and also looks after food of many other sorts, including in particular ice cream. Otherwise, nothing has changed.

On each side of the window are CD shelves, and the next few photos I photoed were all close-ups of CDs, edge on:

That was when it hit me, and I believe I can still remember this glorious moment. This was the camera I had been waiting for, all my life. The key point was not just that these were successful photos of distant details. I can tell from the numbering of these photos in the archive that there were no failures. None. All of my first dozen or so photos with this new camera came out fine, even the one of my pop music department, which was where it still is, way off to the left and way up near the ceiling.

Only the following day did I photo anything beyond my front door.

The first outdoor photo I photoed with my new FZ150 was this, dated January 27th, i.e. the following day, just before it got dark:

That’s looking across Vincent Square at the building activity in and around Victoria Street, which has been pretty much continuous, one place or another, for the last decade. Mmmmmm, cranes.

Since then, I have upgraded to the Panasonic Lumix FZ200 and then to the FZ330. But they are both really just the FZ150 with frills added. If my current camera, the FZ330 were to be snatched away from me, and I was given another FZ150 and told that this would be my last camera, I’d not be that bothered. Were I told that I would have to go back to the crappy camera I had before the FZ150, that would be a disaster. Soon after acquiring this FZ150, I wrote about it at some length for Samizdata. This confirms what, up until re-reading that, I had merely remembered. The FZ150 really was a huge step forward.

Hurrah for capitalism. It really is ridiculous that the world’s schools are now cranking out a whole new generation of nitwits, an appallingly significant proportion of whom seem genuinely to want to put a stop to this glorious process.

John Duffin painting on Blackfriars Bridge ten years ago

Ten years plus a few days ago, I was checking out the work that was beginning to be done making the new BlackFriars Bridge railway station. And today, I checked out the resulting photos, Here are six of them:

Photo 2: Sampson House and Ludgate House, again. Photo 4: The Shard, just getting started. Soon after those photos, I photoed that black bus.

It was a somewhat gloomy day, and my camera wasn’t as good as what I have now, so I was glad to come across a couple of photos of a painting. And because I took such a good note of the painting, in the form of a photo of the painting and of its title and creator – memo to self: always do this – I was able quickly to track down a better digital version of the painting:

Reminds me of this photo of mine, but it’s far less of a muddle.

John Duffin, it would appear, sees London in the same way I do and, I’m guessing, the way lots of others do. He pays attention to landmark buildings, and all those bridges of course, and kind of recedes everything else more into the background. Cameras don’t discriminate. You have to point them at particular things if you want them to emphasise those things. Otherwise, to emphasise this or that, you have to do bullshit graphics manipulation. Or if you can’t or won’t do that (that would be me), write an essay.

I thought: does John Duffin have a website? Of course he does.

Here are a couple more Duffins:

On the left, many more London bridges, from the Albert (I think) Bridge in the foreground, all the way to Tower Bridge. And on the right, oh look, that’s Lord’s cricket ground. Nice player shadows.

I love how, with a camera, and provided you photoed notes as well as photos, you can pick up where you left off a decade ago.

London Gateway sunrise

Four photos. Couldn’t decide, so …:


Hard to tell from those photos how many cranes there are yet at London Gateway. But in this photo I believe I see twelve. That being a photo of what they say is “the world’s biggest container ship” delivering its cargo of containers. It doesn’t look that big. I mean, not “world biggest” big. The fact it’s so wide is, I think, what is deceiving.

I’ll never know how these things don’t capsize when fully loaded. Presumably there is many tons of weight at the bottom of them, doing nothing but keeping them upright.

Now thrive the scaffolders and the craners

Quota photos, yes, but I trust amusing ones:

That’s the Tate Modern extension nearing completion, photoed by me five years and one day ago. So not really now. But the scaffolders and the craners do now still thrive.

Quota photos because I spent the morning failing to finish another piece of writing which just grew and grew. And now, I have to go out and Do Things, which always tires me out these days, so I wanted to have something here before I went out. More later. Maybe.

I hate not being able to go up that Thing and photo London and photo others photoing London. Can wait until it opens. And will. But would prefer not to be having to.