Mariah says to eat crisps for Christmas

A feature, by which I mean a bug, of Growing old is that all the heartfelt love songs of earlier times are now recycled by their original performers to sell sofas, deodorants, food, etc..

All I Want For Christmas by Mariah Carey is one of my most favourite pop songs, long before sophisticates came around to realising how good it was. (Same with Abba. I loved them from the moment they won Eurovision, before even the Gays noticed them. With the greatest pop songs of a certain vintage, the rule was: Me, Gays, Girls, The Public.)

But now, it turns out that all Mariah Carey really wants for Christmas is …:

… a packet of potato crisps.

Personally I like potato crisps, hence my possession of this crisp packet. But, I despise almost all crisp advertising. What crisp advertising ought to say is: Yes, our crisps are probably bad for you if you scoff too many of them, but they taste terrific, even the plane old salt-flavoured ones. But oh no. Instead, they bribe celebs whose successes in life have been based on not scoffing crisps or similar products, to tell the rest of us to do this, by pretending that they do too, and thereby to imply that crisps are good for you. The more you scoff them, the thinner you’ll be and the better you’ll be at football, and you’ll be athletic enough to win an Olympic medal.

The thing is, though, that Mariah Carey has had serious difficulty staying slim, and she might actually be telling the truth, in now claiming to prefer crisps to the sort of boyfriend she could have when she was young and effortlessly slim and when the world was at her feet.

Displacement

So much for logic. More World Cup torture, for England anyway. By the end, it wasn’t even close.

Looking back on it, it seems to me that what England did in this tournament was what France have done more than once in the past. England amazed everyone by beating the All Blacks and thus cleared the way for someone else to win it. Too bad it wasn’t England. I trust South Africans are suitably grateful.

I funked it again, in the sense that I watched it, but couldn’t bear to listen to what the commentators were saying. But on the plus side: my bowels were emptied more thoroughly and rather earlier than usual; I managed to set the date on a newly acquired camera; some washing up got done; various other displacement activities were accomplished, including reading early bits of this rather good book about Shakespeare; I listed more carefully than usual to parts of Record Review, which is still going now (a suitably agonised Shostakovitch string quartet). I mention such personal trivia because this is my blog, but more to the point because I have nothing to add to the rugby expertise that rugby experts will now be lavishing on this event. In a year’s time the only person reading this posting will be me, maybe.

From the look of it, England made too many mistakes, and South Africa just played better.

A beaver shadow in Oxford Street

August 18th 2017 was one of those bright-light-on-light-coloured-buildings-turning-the-sky-darkest-blue sort of a day:

But when I photoed that particular photo, in Oxford Street, the mere bright-lightedness of the buildings or the darkness of the dark blue sky were not what I was focussing on, or at any rate trying to focus on. I know this, because the very next photo I photoed was this:

What I was interested in was that shadow. And it just has to be a beaver, doesn’t it? No other creature has quite that granny-bod shape. (The shadow is clearly not of that bobble on the right, as, with my terrible eyesight, I may have been guessing at the time.)

Sadly, however, I didn’t manage to get a look at or a photo a photo of the original beaver statue that was the cause of this shadow. I think I must have been too close to the building. Or, I tried to but not hard enough, and then forgot the beaver and looked at all the other things to be seen from Oxford Street that this same light was lighting up. Yes, probably that.

But then, earlier this week, while wandering through the archives, and spotting this beaver shadow as an obvious solution to the what-to-blog-on-Friday question which I face every Friday, it occurred to my slowing old brain that I didn’t just have a mysterious photo of a beaver shadow to ponder about and never explain. I also had a word – “beaver” – and that once you have a word, the internet becomes searchable, even if all you really have is an image and a guess about a word. So, “beaver oxford street”, and bingo, all was explained, instantly.

Why Are There Statues of Beavers On Top Of This Oxford Street Shop? asked Londonist, 32 months ago. Question asked, question answered:

If you glance up at the top of 105 to 109 Oxford Street (the building currently home to Tiger and Footlocker), you’ll see a strange quartet of creatures decorating the roof.

Four beavers, the top one holding a scroll(!), have been peering down on Oxford Street shoppers for 130 years.

Ah, I should have glanced. Then, I’d have seen them, or at least one of them. All I did was look, and then give up.

This is because 105 to 109 Oxford Street used to be Henry Heath’s Hat Factory and for many years, the hats made here were felted with beaver fur.

Londonist goes on to note that there is a big sign round the back of this building saying “HAT FACTORY” “HENRY HEATH Oxford Street”, and proves this with a photo. I recall taking a photo of this signage, several times. But where, in my ever more voluminous photo-archives, are such photos to be found? Search me. And I could search my V P-As, but it would take far too long.

One of the rules of blogging that I have had to learn is that if I have something to say, and want to say more but can’t, I should just say what I have to say, and leave the rest for later or never. So, the beaver shadow photos go up here, today, and any photos I have photoed of signs saying HENRY HEATH HAT FACTORY will just have to wait for another day or decade, in the event that one fine day or dark night I stumble upon them while looking for something else.

However, I do have just one more beaver photo to show you.

I occasionally visit John Lewis in Oxford Street, because it sells fine produce. Whenever I do this, I also, unless the weather is particularly bad, visit the very fine John Lewis Roof Garden, and take photos from it of the rest of London. So, I wondered if I had any photos taken from that spot, of any beavers, photoed in the direction of Centre Point, which is the big tower at the eastern end of Oxford Street, after which Oxford Street turns into New Oxford Street. Since I knew which directories to be looking in, this was a photo-archival search that made sense.

And, long story a bit less long, I came upon this photo (which I photoed in 2015):

And I took a closer-up look at this photo, in the spot where a beaver might be seen. And here, in the middle of the above photo, is that beaver, looking like a granny supporting herself with her umbrella (although this is really a “scroll(!)”):

Now clearly, even more than is the case with all the other photos of mine that I show here, this photo is no work of art. Canaletto can rest easy in his grave. But, as with so many of my photos, it’s the principle of the thing. This photo is photoable, well, because look, I actually did photo it, badly.

I could even go back to this same spot and trying to photo the same photo, better.

Memo to self: do that, some time soon.

Happy birthday

Happy birthday to me, that is, because today has been my 72nd birthday. Several emails have arrived noting that various Facebook friends have been wishing me a Happy Birthday. I find Facebook baffling and useless as a means of personal communication, so am unable to access any of these messages on my Facebook feed, where I can detect no sign of them. So let me say here, to Robert L, Bjorn, Tim, Rob F, among others: thanks for all the good wishes.

In this computerised era, everyone is prompted by their various machines to do this, but it still means something that they actually do it.

Also appreciated were various phone calls. It tells you something about the experience of Getting Old (see the category list below) that all of these conversations included, in among the birthday greetings, medical discussions of various bodily malfunctions and of the efforts of the NHS, such as they have been, to correct these. My various friends and family are also Getting Old, you see. Older, anyway.

The general lesson from these medical conversations seems to be: if you want the NHS to start being properly on your side, get yourself classified as an emergency. Let me clarify this. You need to be threatening to die. Then, the NHS seems to stir itself into action. But if you are merely rather damaged and you are able to get worse before death looms at all threateningly, the NHS can’t seem to persuade itself to be that interested. It focusses its attention instead on manipulating the various queues it puts you in, in order to made its statistics look better than they actually are. Basically, it tries to keep you in a queue before it allows you to join the actual Official Queue, the one it wants to keep short, and thereby make itself look good. One of the friends I spoke with today said he had recently photoed a bench in a hospital corridor with the words “SUB QUEUE” attached to it.

Birthdays, when you are rather old, remind you that you are Getting Old. Which might explain why, to celebrate my own birthday, I have, by way of giving myself a present, chosen to have a good old grumble.

When you don’t know it’s temporary

It’s all very well to say, as I often do, that it makes more sense to photo temporary stuff than stuff that will be around for ever. Sometimes, you do know that something will be temporary, like scaffolding. But often, you don’t know that something will disappear until suddenly, poof, it disappears.

Take those yellow river buses, named after various Shakespearian ladies, that once upon a time used to go up and down the River, for instance. Here is one I found in my photo-archives, photoed on a dim and dreary afternoon in February 2003, arriving at its one-and-only London landing spot, just next to the MI6 Building:

Who knew beforehand that this would stop happening, on account of London’s new super-sewer demanding this landing spot for its own purposes?

Says a rather plaintive London Duck Tours:

Please note that we are no longer able to operate our usual range of tours due to Thames Water’s compulsory purchase of our slipway to build the next phase of the Thames Tunnel super sewer.

For the present time, we will offer a selection of entertaining and informative LAND-based (road-only) tours. Please note that these tours do not have a river splashdown and we do not offer individual tickets.

Happily, long before this particular Duck Tours disaster struck, I photoed the above photos, simply because I enjoyed what I was seeing. Fond thanks to my old Canon A70, despite it having had only x3 zoom.

Are these yellow Duck Tours river buses still operating? I don’t recall seeing any of them even on dry land recently. But, what I don’t recall is a very large category nowadays.

Michael McIntyre speaks for me

And for many others, I’m very sure:

I found this here.

I am Old, but I have made enough friends among the Young for me to be able to twist Young arms and mostly get them to do all this for me. The other day a Young Person agreed to get a copy of this CD for me. (I only buy CD’s on line from Amazon, and this CD is not on Amazon.) If I had tried to buy this CD, I would probably have spent longer failing to accomplish this than I will take listening successfully to the CD.

One of the things I like about living in London is that if I want to buy tickets for something, I can go there beforehand, and buy them, the twentieth century way.

Increasingly, I find that trying to visit any “visitor attraction” is starting to resemble trying to get on an airplane. And as McIntyre explains, booking beforehand on your computer is just as bad.

A good bit, concerning those never-read “terms and conditions”:

I’m slightly worried that in five years time iTunes are going to show up at my door and say: “We own this house now.”

And don’t get me started on passwords. Just watch him speaking (for me) about passwords.

I don’t know why there are big black bits above and below Michael McIntyre. If anyone can suggest a way to get rid of these that I am capable of doing, I would be most grateful.

My fourth task was photoing the entrance to the Queen’s Gallery

Late this afternoon, I went out walking, within walking distance of where I live. I had four tasks and I accomplished all of them, and then some. I have reached the age where getting four out of four in this sort of way is reason to self-congratulate. The and then some being that I took lots of photos that I hadn’t planned on photoing.

The first task was to stock up on some canned drinks that I can only buy at one shop. The second was to stop by a cash machine. The third was to photo a building, a detail of which I needed to know about for a blog posting. And the fourth was to photo this:

This being the entrance to the Queen’s Gallery. (Interesting that the Queen’s Gallery has no website.) I have arranged to meet someone there next week, to see the Leonardo da Vinci show they are showing. And I needed to check that saying “entrance” as the place where we’ll meet is clear and unambiguous. Better yet, I needed a photo of the entrance, so I can say: there.

Don’t you just love it when a piece of personal admin can double up as a blog posting? Well, no, you probably never do that, or feel that way about it. But I do and I do.

Goodbye to some old friends

One of the many symptoms of getting old is the reluctance to chuck away things that seem complicated and hence undeserving of being chucked away, when they have nevertheless stopped working. No “finding a good home” for them. (What home would want them? They’re not pets.) No ridiculous attempts to get them mended. (Who would mend them, at a cost remotely as low as that of just buying another?) No keeping them in case someone might want them. (Who? Why?) Just get rid of them.

And these three gizmos (four if the speakers count twice) all ran out of puff within about a week of one another, after each giving me at least a decade of good service:

The phone is the one that was in my bathroom. I could still hear everything, but suddenly those at the other end couldn’t hear me. The new phone is the same, but black

The speakers were attached to my computer. One of them conked out, even though the other one, with all the knobs on, is still fine. The new speakers, also black, are much bigger and much better. Crucially, they permit me to vary the tone just like the old white ones did, and beef up the base a bit. Many such speakers refuse to do this.

And the little black screen is for watching DVDs in bed. (I like DVDs. Spare me the comments about how you don’t and how you think I shouldn’t.) The replacement is also black. Black, it would seem, is the New Black.

I like that I can memorialise such dead gadgetry with a photo.

The Mississippi Basin

I have never seen this map before:

I sharpened it a bit, so that I could read, with my Getting Old eyesight, the smaller river names with a bit less difficulty.

It is map number 7 of these 45 maps. A Twitter posting last night, now way down in my feed, showed one of these maps.

My favourite piece of geography there is probably Chicago, where it seems that they have a river which flows into the Mississippi. Blog and learn.

Attached blurb:

You may have heard that the Mississippi River is mighty, but if you ever doubted it, just take a look at this map. You’ll see that an extraordinary number of the United States’ rivers and tributaries send water into the Mighty Miss.

Quite so.

I love the names. Milk. Yazoo. Republican. Canadian (nowhere near Canada). Powder. Smoky. In general, I love the names of American places and geographical features. They seem impossibly exotic compared to the names of places in England. (But I’m sure that, for quite a few Americans, it must work the other way around.)

England has no big rivers. The Thames would hardly merit a name on the above map. I recall that one of my better pieces for Samizdata was about how the application of steam power to river transport entirely passed us Brits by. We went straight from stationary steam engines in coal mines to steam engines on locomotives. Unlike America. Yes, here.

The curse of Having To Do Something Else The Same Day (and gauze in the early morning light)

I am writing this at 5am, and will shortly be going back to bed. That’s another Getting Old (see the “Categories” below) thing. I now typically have to get up in the middle of the night, to piss and to cool down, bladder and temperature control being two things that have cumulatively deserted me, as I have Got Older.

Also, as with most of this week’s evenings, I have something I must go out and do this evening. That always puts the kibosh (spelling?) on the day. There’s something about having Absolutely Nothing To Do For the whole day, until I next go to bed for real (i.e., at this particular time) in the very small hours of Saturday morning, that enables me to really get stuck into something, like a piece of serious writing (this not being that) or even merely thinking seriously about something, that I really like. Contrariwise, the knowledge that if I do get really stuck into something now, it might go on and on into the evening, at which point I would then have to cut it short, and go off to do something else, makes me fear getting stuck in in the first place. Even though I have many hours before I have to go off to do that other thing.

Factor in the something-here-every-day rule, and I think you can see how I need to get blogging out of the way as soon as possible. Blogging, of even the most trivial sort (this being that) is something that you can’t guarantee to finish at any particular hour. It takes as long as it takes. What if I find I want to stick up a photo? And what if that photo leads to other photos? What if I want to link back to an earlier posting, from the old blog, which I haven’t yet shovelled across to here? What if Surrey suddenly start doing really well at cricket, and demand my attention, in among me trying to contrive this blog posting? There’s so much to get complicated, and to gobble up all that now seemingly endless time.

Here is a photo that I want to stick up here, now, of the early morning light coming in through the scaffolding and the gauze outside the window of my living room:

That wasn’t actually photoed just now. It was photoed at this time in the morning, earlier this week. The time of day is the point, not the date of the day. The photo is all about how you can see through gauze if the gauze itself is not lit up, but not so much if it is.

Here is another early morning gauze photo, also one I photoed earlier:

The point of that photo being that despite the gauziness of the gauze, if you can persuade your camera to focus on the far distance, through the gauze, it’s like the gauze isn’t there. The gauze might as well be a perfectly cleaned lens of filter, for all the interruption it imposes. It changes the nature of the incoming light, but not the clarity of the photo. If anything, by reducing the mere quantity of light, it clarifies the picture, just like a regular filter. That red clutch of a table and chairs can be entirely seen, with no gauze in the picture at all, just less light and therefore, probably, less glare all over the place. But the gauze is there. Just not having any effect on what my camera seems to see. How about that?

Here is a photo of the gauze, similar to the first photo above. But this is not about the contrast between the lit gauze and the unlit gauze, merely about how very gauzy the gauze is:

Enough. (Although actually, let me add, I (LATER:) made the first version of the above gauziness even gauzier by “sharpening” it, in my photoshop-clone. Much better. (Much gauzier.))

But now, I have to photo-process the above photos, just to get them the right size, and then load them up into the blog. This all takes time. I also need to give the above a read-through and correct, which also all takes time. By the time this trivial blog posting is done, over an hour (a phrase which had to be changed from “the best part of an hour”) will have elapsed. Had I been doing all this in the knowledge that in two hours, say, I’d have had to stop and go out, it would have been very stressful. I might have had to stop before completion and just hope that that the bits of this blog posting were pickable-uppable later. As it is, all I did was delay some resumed sleep, let my feet get a bit colder than is convenient, and my bed get a bit colder than will enable my feet to warm up again, all of which is easily corrected with a hot water bottle. No problem.

Really. Enough.

I have now freed up the entire day, for important but non-urgent stuff. Bliss. Come to think of it, I have other important and urgent stuff to deal with. Now much easier to fit in. Bliss of a different kind. (ENOUGH.)