Waves reflected on the side of a boat in Belle Isle

Having the previous day taken off from London City Airport, I am in Belle Isle, off the coast of Brittany. It is the summer of 2014. The light is especially strong. I notice some reflections:

If I had never seen sunlight bounced off water onto another surface in this way, would I ever have imagined that it could look like that? Like some sort of net? Seriously, it’s like these reflections are constructed out of string, just like nets. The effect is particularly strong in the second of the seven photos above. There are even knots to be seen. Weird.

Reflections, eh? Make you think.

The ups and downs of Oscar

If you type “Oscar” into the bit under where it says “SEARCH” on the left, you will find your way to lots of good photos of Oscar, the cat of GodDaughter2’s family who live in the South of France. Where they are now stuck.

This latest incoming photo of Oscar (thank you GD2D) is not that good, of Oscar:

But this is a good photo of a common habit of cats, which is that of climbing to what you would think would be inaccessibly lofty spots, and only then wondering how they’re going to get back down again. Well, actually, they do have an escape strategy for all such predicaments. Yowl continuously until a human rescues them, and then forget about it. But you know what I mean, I’m sure.

How did Oscar get down? Simple, he was rescued. What I want to know is How did Oscar get up there in the first place?

I’m also not asking why he got up there. He’s a cat. That’s why.

Chairs for sale in Thuir

I don’t know why I like this photo, which I photoed a year and two days ago, in Thuir in the south of France. But here it is anyway:

Is it simply that the chairs are so nice? Is it the confident way they present themselves, confident that they are nice chairs, and confident that no vehicle will attack them?

I seem to recall being on the lookout for chairs at that time. Chairs rather like those. But of course buying some of these chairs and then trying to ship them back to England was out of the question. Any chairs I buy have to be on sale in London. Did all that have something to do with liking this photo?

Don’t know.

It occurs to me that I am fond of arguing that modernism has totally triumphed indoors. And it mostly has.

But these chairs didn’t get the memo. Maybe that’s why I haven’t been able to get these chairs out of my mind since photoing them. They contradicted, by their very existence, one of my pet theories.

Crowd scenes

I’ve never been that interested in crowd scenes, until Sod’s Law swung into action and banned them.

So I went trawling through the archives, and to see if I could find any. I found … a few:

Tate Modern 2004, Hampstead Heath 2005, Farnborough 2012;
Trafalgar Square NFL gathering 2011, Blackheath Concert 2018, View from Tower Bridge 2019;
The Dome 2019, Bryan Caplan Lecture London 2019, South of France classical concert 2020.

That’s the trick of photoing. You need to know what is, at any particular time, temporary. In a few years time, I sincerely hope, crowd scenes will seem the most natural thing in the world. Again.

One for the “You Are Here” collection

Nowadays, cameras can tell you exactly where you were when you took a photo, as well as exactly when you took it. But I can’t be doing with all that. I prefer taking photos like this one as I do my out-and-abouting, that say, as this one does, “You Are Here”:

And that one says it in French. Excellent.

We’re in the Pompidou Centre in Paris, in the bitterly cold February of 2012. Even remembering how cold that visit was makes me shudder now. But the Pompidou Centre itself was warm enough, and the views in it and from it were most diverting.

I have quite a few Paris postings here now, but have yet to transfer any of the postings from the old blog that I did about that earlier 2012 trip . My favourite, from a more recent and much warmer visit, featured my all time favourite food photo.

Wooden maps of the world’s cities

So I did rootle through the latest stuff at This Is Why I’m Broke, and came upon these rather classy looking carved wooden maps of cities:

The one on the left is London, and sadly, nobody told them that London has been doing a lot of expanding lately, in general, and in particular out eastwards. I’d have preferred wider coverage, including such things as the Thames Barrier. Not that it matters to me, because CDs and books mean I have no wall space at all for such things.

The one on the right is Brisbane. I include this map because the river that runs through Brisbane and which presumably provoked that city’s creation, is positively Parisian in its convolutedness. Apparently, this Brisbane river is called the Brisbane River. I did not know any of this.

Antony Beevor omits any reference to the forecast for June 19th 1944

I did a posting here a while back about the weather-forecasting for D-Day (June 6th 1944), and also about the weather-forecasting for the day that would have been D-Day (June 19th) if Actual D-Day (June 6th) had been postponed, quoting from this book by Peter Caddick-Adams.

In that posting, I surmised that real D-Day experts would surely be familiar with the tale that Caddick-Adams told, about how, had the forecast weather for June 6th not been good enough, as it so nearly wasn’t, the attempt to do D-Day would have then happened on the 19th, and would have been a catastrophic failure.

Later, it occurred to me to delve into another D-Day book that I also possess, but have also only been dipping into. And on page 216 of D-Day: The Battle For Normandy by Antony Beevor, we read this:

The storm continued until the evening of Thursday, 22 June. The destruction on the beaches defied belief. More ships and materiel had been lost than during the invasion itself. Yet those involved in the planning of D-Day could not help remembering with grateful relief the decision to go ahead taken on 5 June. If the invasion had been postponed for two weeks, as had been feared, the fleet would have sailed into one of the worst storms in Channel history. Eisenhower, after he had seen the damage on the beaches, took the time to write a note to Group Captain Stagg: ‘I thank the gods of war we went when we did.’

Caddick-Adams makes no mention of this note, so score one to Beevor for that.

However, I searched before and after the above passage for any reference to what Beevor says the weather forecast had been for the 19th, and found nothing. Caddick-Adams quotes one of Stagg’s forecasters saying that all the forecasters had in fact forecast, very wrongly indeed, good weather for the 19th. Beevor, unless I am badly mistaken, makes no reference to this later and wrong forecast. He only needed to include about one more sentence to do this, but no such sentence is to be found.

Had the forecasters foreseen the dreadful storms of June 19th-22nd, D-Day (had they been contemplating it then) would surely have been postponed yet again, no matter what inconvenience and frustration that would have caused. But, they did in fact miss this storm, and would have missed it. So it’s a crucial detail.

So, I would say that in this particular engagement between historians, Caddick-Adams edges it.

Double decker and single decker trains in France

While rootling through the archives today, I came upon these two photos, of a single decker train and a double decker train, photoed within a few minutes of each other in Quimper, Brittany, in 2018:

On the left, a single decker train. On the right a double decker train.

Earlier this year I did a posting in which I ruminated upon the appeal of, but the disadvantages of, double decker trains. The above photo illustrates the problems of double decker trains rather well, I think.

Basically, a lot of bother, to achieve an only rather small increase in capacity.

That earlier posting was also about how much less clunky trains have become since when I was a kid in the fifties and sixties. But double decker trains must necessarily remain clunky, to support that upper deck, and to get people up to and down from it. Commenters Crozier and Jennings concurred, which was reassuring.

It’s a different story when it comes to long distance trains. For them, where there’s not so much getting on and off per journey, double decker carriages make more sense.

WW1 ends and immediately the birds start shouting at each other again

Here.

I’m afraid this posting says it all for me, about birds and their incessant “singing”.

LATER: Plus, these owls don’t think they’re being cute at all.

Peter Caddick-Adams: If D-Day had been postponed it would have been a catastrophe

I have been reading the recently published book by Peter Caddick-Adams about D-Day, entiled Sand and Steel: A New History of D-Day, the follow-up to Snow and Steel, which was about the Battle of the Bulge. James Holland, quoted on the cover of Sand and Steel, calls it “Magisterial”, which is his way of saying that it is a huge book, with a huge amount of judiciously presented detail. The book is, I’m afraid, too “magisterial” for me now to be ploughing through it from start to finish. What I am now doing is feeling my way into it by looking up, in the index of Sand and Steel, people involved in D-Day whom I already know a little about, and then seeing what Caddick-Adams has to say about them.

I already know, for instance, a bit about Captain James Stagg, the one who supplied Eisenhower with that famous weather forecast, of a break in the bad weather on June 6th 1944, which enabled Ike to say: Go.

Caddick-Adams disapproves of how a little too much honour for this has been heaped only upon Stagg. Stagg was not himself a professional weather forecaster. He did summarise and pass on to Ike what the real forecasters, half a dozen of them, were telling him. That is honour enough for Stagg, but the real hero was the elaborate system that gathered together all the relevant information. Also, the German forecasters told pretty much the same weather story to their superiors, contrary to what Stagg-fans like me had been assuming.

Caddick-Adams is very good about somewhat misleading tales of this sort. His passion for detail, and for tracking down absolutely everyone and anyone who could tell him those details, is all mixed up with him wanting to know what really happened, as opposed to the stories that some people have been in the habit of telling one another, in movies for instance. This great generation of warriors, you can hear Caddick-Adams insisting, deserves nothing less than the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. That being why his books are typically so long. The whole truth of something like D-Day can’t be told in a hundred and fifty pages. Sand and Steel is one thousand and twenty five pages long.

Of a lot more interest, to me, than who exactly we should be praising for that most famous and famously accurate of weather forecasts, is what Caddick-Adams says about what might have happened if the weather on June 6th not been so favourable, and if Ike had consequently been forced to say: No. Not yet. Or for that matter if, given the forecasts he did get, Ike had simply said no anyway.

To know this, you have to know what range of dates the Allies considered suitable for the D-Day landings, weather permitting, and why. The relevant passage from Sand and Steel goes thus (pp, 346-347):

Given the specific moon and tidal requirements for the landing, Hogben recalled …

… Hogben being one of Stagg’s weather forecasters …

… they had just six possible days to invade in June: 5th-7th and 19th-21st. ‘We worked out the odds on the weather on any one of those four days conforming to our needs as being 13-1 against. So meteorologically, D-Day was bound to be a gamble against the odds.’ Admiral Alan G. Kirk, commanding the Western Task Force, recorded the factors that needed to come together for the invasion: ‘The night before D-Day had to be reasonably light so that convoys could keep station with ships darkened: he wrote. ‘Airborne operations also required this, necessitating a night with a full moon, or nearly so.’ Next, Kirk identified that ‘H-Hour needed one hour of daylight before the initial landings to enable bombarding ships to neutralise German batteries and drench the landing beaches’, but it needed to be ‘sufficiently before high water for the demolition parties to remove beach obstacles while still dry’.

However, it also had to be ‘sufficiently after low water in order to permit the landing on certain British beaches where sand bars prevented an assault until two or three hours later’. Ideally, the day would be fixed to ensure ‘a second high water in daylight to permit maximum unloading’. In conclusion, wrote Kirk, ‘the only dates on which all these factors were available were 21-23 May; 5-7 and 19-21 June, or 3-5 July’, though Stagg later observed that if they waited for the perfect set ‘it would take 140 years’.

So, if June 6th had not been the right day to be D-Day, what day would have been?

Here is what Hogben said about that (p. 351):

In speculating what would have happened if the poor weather had persisted on 6 June, leading to postponement until the nineteenth, the New Zealander Hogben stated, ‘As it happened, on 17 June, all six of us produced a forecast for the nineteenth for almost perfect conditions – the invasion would definitely have gone ahead, and would have been an utter catastrophe. Complete failure – for on 19 June the biggest storm of the twentieth century lashed the Channel and I doubt many landing craft would have even made it to the beaches. They would all have been swamped with the high winds. It does not bear thinking about.’

Says Caddick-Adams:

Recent statistical analysis supports this. The storm was a ‘once in forty years’ event, a tempest of slightly less ferocity having lashed the Calvados coast in February 1905, emphasising how lucky Eisenhower was to have opted to go on 6 June. …

Under a photo from his own (presumably vast) collection, of a huge wave crashing over the sea wall at Arromanches-Les-Bains, Caddick-Adams hammers home the same point (also p. 351):

The Overlord meteorologists were aware that violent storms often blew in from the Atlantic to batter the Normandy coast. Much documented was the hurricane of February 1905, which threw huge columns of water at the future invasion beaches and sites for the two artificial harbours. In June 1944, the Allied weathermen spotted a lull in the bad weather, but the tempest that began on 19 June replicated the violence of 1905. Postponing the invasion from 6 June to the nineteenth would thus have been disastrous for D-Day and the landings would have failed.

The point being, although the Allied forecasters got their forecast for June 6th right, they got the forecast for June 19th totally wrong, and unanimously so. They would definitely have said: Go. Ike would surely have concurred. And, it would have been a disaster.

The USSR conquering a whole lot more of Europe than it did. No President Eisenhower. Maybe the atom bomb being ready before the end of the war in Europe? The alternative history ramifications are endless.

Maybe D-Day buffs have long known about this June 19th aspect of the D-Day story, but it was all completely new to me.