England v Pakistan: No spectators and all the time in the world

The first test match between England and Pakistan could be a terrible disappointment, for England fan me. But, as I write this now, it could get special. England are chasing 277, I think it is, in the fourth innings. Pakistan got a first innings lead of over a hundred, but then got bowled out for only 169, so England appear to have a chance. It’s the morning of the fourth day now, so England have two days to get those runs. Nobody is at the ground watching, other than the players not out on the pitch and the ground staff and the TV and radio commentators. But it turns out that mere spectators at the ground aren’t necessary for test cricket to be thoroughly absorbing. Test cricket can be played in front of a live studio audience. But if it isn’t, nothing important seems to change.

Basically, if England start losing wickets now, as they well might according to what I’m hearing about plays and misses, then Pakistan will surely win later today, by quite a lot. If England can somehow hang about until tomorrow, they have a chance.

Oh dear. England one down already.

LATER:

England are nevertheless now hurtling towards their target.

LATER: Three quick wickets. England now four down and sinking fast. Shame. Looks like being all over today. The next LATER in this looks being that.

LATER: Well if you follow the first link at the top of this you will now know what a win this was for England, and with the final day not needed. Following those dots above, England lost a flurry of wickets and were at one point 117-5. But Buttler and Woakes turned it around, first by counter-attacking (that being why the final day was not needed) and then by, well, just batting. Buttler got out before the end, but Woakes stayed to the end.

The weird thing is: It would be logical if both Buttler and Woakes now got dropped. Buttler kept wicket very badly, and his batting has not usually been nearly this good. Woakes might be dropped if Stokes is fit to bowl. Given that Stokes actually did some bowling, he surely will be able to bowl. More likely though is that Buttler will stay, and they’ll hope he keeps better in the future. And Anderson will get dropped. Wibble wibble wibble. What the hell do I know? What a game.

Purple pavement passage

Which sounds like a description of a particularly florid piece of writing about a pavement, but actually I’m talking about this:

Passages like that one are one of the oddities of modern urban life. They happen when a rather posh building is being erected right next to a narrow pavement, over which they want to get some serious work done, but beneath which they do not want to antagonise potential customers and word-of-mouthers thinking about and talking about the people doing the building, thereby threatening the subsequent selling of the apartments or offices in the building, when it’s finished. If the developers mess with the lives of passers-by while they’re building, that at least suggests that they might have a similarly casual attitude to their actual customers. There is so much money at stake here, so big a gap between feast or famine for the developers, that a bit of extra bother at ground level, just next to the site, is well worth going to. Factor in the recent intensification of health-and-safety, and the desire by developers to avoid damaging fights with local bureaucrats, and you have yourself an entire new urban form, the scaffolded pavement passage.

In this particular one, which is in Victoria Street next to and beneath The Broadway, the shininess of the cladding on the inside and the colourful lighting combine to striking effect. We’re looking south east towards Parliament Square. The right hand photo is basically a close-up of the middle of the left hand photo.

I took these photos yesterday afternoon. As with so much that happens in cities these day, if you don’t like it, you needn’t fret. It’ll soon be gone.

The Plague has brought back the Seventies

I remember when people looking like this were all over Top of the Pops:

Following a heavy dose of injury, Surrey quick bowler Reece Topley is today back playing international cricket for the first time in four years.

The one difference from the Seventies: tattoos on the arms.

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.

Antisocial Benches

Remember Jeppe Hein’s red seat sculptures outside the Royal Festival Hall. Well, when I went back there, in early May of this year, when Lockdown was getting started, to see how the red seats looked in bright sunshine (strictly for the essential exercise you understand), I discovered that what Stein called his Modified Social Benches had been modified, to look like miniature crime scenes. They had been smothered in red and white tape, thus:

However, towards the end of the time I spent photoing all these benches that had been modified to make them anti-social, I photoed this lady and her bike, resting in one of the benches:

She either didn’t know she wasn’t supposed to be sitting there, or she knew but she didn’t care.

You can see how they wouldn’t want the tape to be, to echo the name of some popular entertainers of yesteryear, simply red. (a) Too much like smothering these things in red tape, and (b) what with the benches already being red, the red tape might be rather hard to see.

Boris Johnson at Lord’s on July 17th 2006

Indeed. On that day, for the final day of this game between England and Pakistan, I was at Lord’s, photoing photos like this:

You can see what I was trying for there. A nice uninterrupted photo of that Space Pod Lord’s Media Centre, with that Spirit of Cricket sign in the foreground. The spirit of cricket having undergone a lot of modernisation lately. Something along those lines.

Only this blond-haired bloke strode past and got in the way, and it took me three goes before I had a photo I could crop down into what I was going for.

However, Boris Johnson was even then a celeb, and he grinned happily at me as I photoed him. I knew, and have known ever since, who this chap in my photos was. So, absurdly blurry though his face is, that is definitely him. Just like me, he had been watching the cricket.

Which rather gives the lie to this piece in The Critic, by John Joliffe, with this subheading above it:

What happened to Boris as a child that he hates cricket so?

Backed up by this in the text, in which Joliffe speculates, without really meaning it, why the Johnson government has smothered cricket in social distancing regulations:

One wondered about the motives of a government which was willing to foist these futile regulations on a harmless amateur game. It seemed unlikely that Simon and his sanitiser was all that kept us from an early death. Perhaps 40 years ago at Eton, Boris Johnson was overlooked to play for the Colts 4th XI on Agars Plough and has never forgotten the slight or forgiven the game.

If Johnson has hated cricket ever since he was a kid, he had a weird way of showing it back in 2006.

I don’t think Johnson hates cricket. More likely, he hates what he has been doing, for over-riding political reasons he was and is powerless to resist, to cricket and to the country, because of this damn Plague, and what both the press and the “experts” were and are still telling him he has to do about it. As a Prime Ministerial predecessor of Johnson’s is said to have said: “Events, dear boy, events.”

The third and deciding game of this summer’s weird test series between England and the West Indies begins tomorrow morning. Weather permitting.

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.

Poetic perfection in a reopening pub

Rebecca Day tweets:

I’ve spoken to regulars Chris and Jimmy. Jimmy hasn’t gone to bed after his night shift tarmacking the roads. He had a shower and came straight here. He described the taste of his first Carling as being like an ‘angel pissing on the tip of my tongue’.

In her original tweet, Rebecca Day put “p***ing” and “his” tongue, so I’ve restored what Jimmy said to its original state of perfection. You’re welcome.

One of the services this blog supplies to its regular readers is to pluck occasional pearls of perfection like that (or that (or that)) from the torrent of swine shit that is Twitter, or at any rate what Twitter seems to turn into for many people.

On how I may now not resume buying classical music magazines

Every month for as long as I can remember, I’ve been buying paper copies of Gramophone and the BBC Music Magazine, “Music” being how the BBC refers to classical music.

All over my home, these magazines have accumulated in shelves and in heaps:

I haven’t had these magazines on order, because I don’t trust my neighbours not to let in burglars through the front door we all share, and because I like the exercise of actually walking to a shop and buying these magazines.

Which means that during the recent Plague, I’ve not been getting either of these magazines. The shops where I would have bought them have all been closed.

One of the many changes I am now contemplating in my life is: Not resuming buying these magazines. Are many people now contemplating a similar decision with regard to these or other such printed publications? Surely, they are. Are many people contemplating buying printed publications they do not now buy? I doubt this very much.

If “normal” ever returns, it will, for most of us, in big ways and in small ways, be a different normal, not least among those who publish the magazines like the ones in my photo. It’s not just the obvious ways in which we will remain nervous of the Plague returning, though that will definitely happen also. It’s that by being jolted into doing this for the first time, and not doing that any more, we are all now shedding old habits and being pushed towards acquiring different habits. I try to resist generalisations involving words like “we all now …”, but I really do think that the above generalisations are largely right. (You need only look at the recent numbers for postings here per month at this blog, on the left, to see this kind of thing happening to me and maybe therefore also for you.)

So, habits are being dropped, and acquired. And, are you, like me, and provoked by the above experiences, going beneath and beyond such changes of habit, and asking yourself: What other habits should I now decide to shed, and decide to acquire?

After all, and especially for the likes of me, life has just got shorter.

Civilised disagreement works better face-to-face (therefore cities have a future)

The present dose of Plague History we’re having has caused much pessimism concerning the future of big, densely packed cities. Being an enthusiast for big city architecture, especially the seriously big and eye-catching sort, I am now more than ever on the lookout for people saying things about why cities confer, and will continue to confer, an advantage upon all those who live and work in them.

So, I particularly noticed this Bo Winegard tweet, when I encountered just now:

It depresses me how quickly a person on twitter can go from disagreeing with you to cursing and insulting you. Strikes me that there’s probably an evolutionary mismatch because almost all of our interactions were face-to-face. People are much nicer when they have to look at you.

I think that captures a key advantage of face-to-face communication, which is that it makes it more likely that those face-to-face communicating are that bit more likely to do it like ladies and gentlemen rather that like loutesses and louts.

I think people on twitter shout, so to speak, partly because they can. But also, maybe, because they feel they have to, to get their point across. If you do one of those oh-so-gently meaningful and very politely phrased criticisms, on Twitter, or for that matter during a conference-at-a-distance, you are liable to fear that your point will get lost. Your iron fist will be completely smothered by the velvet gloves you chose to wear. Face-to-face, you can literally see and hear and feel your point getting across. Or not, in which case you can politely rephrase it.

Being able to disagree in a civilised manner, in a way that doesn’t leave lasting scars or permanent feuds, is fundamental to the successful functioning of any organisation.

My dad was a barrister, in American: a trial lawyer. British barristers are always careful to call each other “my learned friend”, and the more fiercely they are quarrelling, the more they are careful to scatter these words upon all the insults they trade. That always used to amuse me, when my dad talked about it. But an important point was embodied in such drollery, not least because dad often spelled it out explicitly. When arguing, be polite. The more fiercely you argue, the more important politeness becomes. Twitter seems to make that harder. Face-to-face communication makes it easier.

So, cities will survive. Face-to-face communication is now one of their core purposes.