Happy Birthday Dear GodDaughter2!

Happy Birthday is the worse song there is, because you only ever hear it sung by people who would never, never otherwise attempt choral singing. But this song, they do attempt, with a combination of extreme shitness and the excruciating embarrassment that comes with everyone knowing that they are perpetrating extreme shitness upon one another. This ghastly song reaches its nadir of ghastliness with that high note towards the end: Happy Birthday dear … whoever. Ghastly. Totally, totally ghastly. I have never heard Happy Birthday not sung ghastlily.

And then came last night. Last night I attended GodDaughter2’s birthday party, here. GodDaughter2 is studying how to sing, at the Royal College of Music, and so were the majority of those also present at the party. Oh, there were some civilians present, but the heart of it was singers. So there I was just sitting there, spouting rubbish to some poor defenceless singer, who had to listen to me because I am GodDaughter2’s Godfather, when, guess what: Happy Birthday starts up, behind me. I do not turn to look, thank goodness, because I am a very poor judge of singing when I am looking at it being sung. I just listen. And as soon as it gets under way, I realise that, for once, the Happy Birthday bit at the end is going to be sung not just non-shittily, but actually well, really well. So I don’t just enjoy that bit when it finally arrives, I am able to relish beforehand how good it was going to be. It was the opposite, in other words, of how Happy Birthday usually happens, when all present know beforehand how shit it will be, especially the last bit. and then have to listen to how shit that last bit especially duly is.

So Happy Birthday last night was … well, St Matthew Passion, eat your heart out. It was glorious. The high note was nailed to perfection by all who attempted it, and there were also harmonies. And I did not see this coming. I had forgotten all about Happy Birthday. It all happened in a rush. And when something that is usually ghastly is instead glorious, the glory is at least twice as glorious.

The entire party was, so far as I could judge after one champagne and two pints of lager (to get how that would be for you, multiply by three – I have a low alcohol threshold): really good. But even if the only thing about it that was good had been Happy Birthday, it would still have been great to have been there.

Sir Keith Park closer up

In an earlier posting here, I mentioned and included a photo of the statue of Sir Keith Park outside the Athenaeum. I like this statue, and I admire its subject. Here is another photo of that same statue, from closer up, that I photoed last October:

I am busy getting ready to give a talk about Modern Architecture this evening, so that’s probably it for today. Ancient Architecture, like that behind the above statue, will also be getting a mention. I am taking a book about Quinlan Terry with me, to wave at the audience, although I may forget to do this.

More trees (including the shadow of a tree)

This time trees of the regular sort, some even with leaves, in the vicinity of the Tate Gallery, the ancient one that’s a walk away from my home:

Lots of pollarding.

The last photo, with the tree shadow, is of the outside of the Tate Gallery itself.

Shadows are interesting for many reasons, one being that the camera registers them so much more clearly than the eye does. When a human looks at a scene, he/she makes a model of it inside his/her head. Eyes move about restlessly to build the model. Shadows are irrelevant for most purposes, so get screened out, so to speak. But when a camera looks at a shadow, it sees it and registers it. It’s eye stays in one place and looks just the once. If there is a shadow, the shadow remains. When the human looks at the photo, he/she can’t then look past it, to the scene itself. There is only the photo to be seen`dxz9

One of the skills of photography is learning to see things as a camera does, so that you can see photos worth photoing, which you would not see if you were merely looking the way a human does.

Electric tree

Last week I dined in Putney with friends. Delightful, even if it did make my coughing worse. And then, almost as delightful was the electric tree I encountered next to the big red building, aka Novaat Victoria Station, having arrived there by bus at about one in the morning.

These photos are only so-so, but I think the tree deserves celebrating nevertheless. I especially like how it looks so different from different angles:

The main reason I’m posting these particular photos, vertical ones, is to make sure I can. My Photoshop(clone) and Windows Photo Viewer between them manage to introduce confusion about whether vertical photos are really vertical, or need rotating. It turns out they need rotating through ninety degrees, and then in Windows they seem like the tree has been laid down on its side. But when I then transfer them into the blog, they come out standing upright.

By the way, the third photo is the tree reflected in a nearby shop window.

A decade of photos – one from each year

I originally got together these photos, one for each year of the decade now ending, with Samizdata in mind. But then I did a posting looking back at Christmas Day for there, with lots of photos, and another posting there with lots of photos felt a bit superfluous. So, here they are here.

Left below: February 2010 – Piccadilly Circus.
Right below:January 2011 – Beyond the Thames Barrier.

Left below: July 2012 – A South African gets ready to bowl against England at the Oval.

Right below: September 2013 – London Gateway takes shape.

Left below: March 2014 – Detlev Schlichter speaks about Austrian Economics.
Right below: July 2015 – Sunshine bounces off the Broadgate Tower and lands outside Tate Modern.

Left below: August 2016 – The Oval Pavilion (see above) as seen from the top of the Tate Modern Extension.
Right below: Also at the top of Tate Modern, a photoer photos the Shard through a ball.

Left below: April 2018 – The statue of Sir Keith Park outside the Athaeneum.
Right below: September 2019 – A model of Old London Bridge.

I didn’t spend a huge amount of time picking these photos out from the archives. Aside from trying to pick out photos that I hadn’t blogged before, I just had a rootle around until I found a nice one for each year. But a different day doing the rootling, and there’d have been ten entirely different photos. But I like these ones, and I hope you do too.

I have been named in the New Year Honours list 2020

Or so it says in this headline:

Every Londoner named in the New Year Honours list 2020

Let me spell it out for you. This means that every single Londoner has been named on the New Year Honours list. All ten million of us, or however many it is these days. I’m a Londoner, so …

What services are they honouring me for? Services to blogging, presumably.

Scene and screen mystery

Also photoed on Christmas Day:

And there it was, a seemingly unattended screen, staring impassively at The Wheel. I took lots of photos, including many close-ups, but nobody identified themselves as being in charge of this thing. Was this some sort of experiment? Was I being photoed myself? Was I not being photoed, but was I supposed to guess, as I did, that I might be being photoed myself?

And look, the screen is broken. Recent?

Sometimes you never find out what you were truly photoing.

A Christmas taxi

Whatever the date when you’re reading this, Happy Christmas. Hope you’re having one. Hope you had one. Whichever applies.

Today (as I blog) I did what I have often done on Christmas Days past. I went for a photo-walk. It will probably delay the moment when I stop wanting to cough, but it was good.

I went down Victoria Street to Parliament Square, and then along the Embankment, the plan being to take the tube back from Embankment to St James’s Park. Trouble was, I had forgotten about the tube being shut, so I had to walk back, and by the time I got home I was exhausted. So, just the one photo, for now.

The one I have picked wasn’t the best photo I photoed, but it was one of the most Christmassy (sp?) photos I photoed:

That this was one of the most Christmassy (sp?) things I saw was because this part of London, unlike the West End, doesn’t seem to go in for ostentatious Christmassy (sp?) lighting effects.

That taxi is about the nearest London is going to get this year to a White Christmas.

There were lots of tourists wandering about doing what I was doing, taking photos, mostly with their mobile phones. But I felt like I was the only local, and that’s a big reason why I like going out photoing on Christmas Day.

A selection of 2019 newspaper headlines

I find that newspaper headlines, photoed in such places as shops from which I purchase other goods but not newspapers, can make pleasingly evocative souvenirs, as time goes by. Things that loomed large once upon a time, but which are now forgotten, can instead be remembered. Ah yes, that! Whatever happened to that ruckus? Good lord, him. Good grief, her.

So, here is a gallery of such photos, celebrating the amazing diversity of dramas that London’s various newspapers splashed all over themselves during 2019:

January 17, February 14, March 14, March 29, April 21;
May 28, June 28, July 29, August 9, August 21;
August 21, August 27, August 27, September 13, October 2;
October 2, October 2, November 12, December 6, December 13.

Just kidding. Variety, not.

Most pundits seem to agree that this argument has now been won and lost, following the recent General Election result (also noted in the final photo above). I’ll believe that when I see it. I now expect that there will be plenty of Leaving still to be done, after January the whenever it now is. Much depends, I think, on whether any substantial number of Remainers decide to become Rejoiners; or whether, to use a favourite phrase of such persons when they were winning this argument, the Remainers, aside from an insignificant rump, will now “move on”.