Photo-question answered

There I was, sitting in a window seat of a Ryanair 737-800, trying and pretty much failing to photo photos out of the window. But I did succeed in photoing this photo:

When I looked at this photo again, I wondered just exactly what that elongated rectangular bit in the middle was, surrounded by darkness, that looks like a word spelt out in an unfamiliar alphabet? I cranked up Google Maps, and searched, all around Stansted. Nothing. The key to it was that highly idiosyncratic motorway intersection at the top. Couldn’t find it anywhere, until I started casting the net wider, and I found it, way out west of London, where the M4 and the M25 cross.

It was here:

There really is no doubt about it. All the details fit. The rectangle of weird lettering is Heathrow Airport. At first I thought this was going to be another mystery posting, for Commenter Chuck or Commenter Alastair to solve. But, no need. Already solved.

So, Ryanair planes fly from France to Stansted, right over Heathrow. I guess the airplanes landing at and taking off at Heathrow are way too low to be bothered about airplanes like the one I was in.

Churchill War Rooms gallery

One of the nice things about people coming to stay is that you often find yourself visiting touristy but interesting things that you’d never quite get around to seeing on your own. Later, maybe, but not today. It’ll always be there won’t it?

Touristy things like: the Churchill War Rooms. In February of last year, nearly two years ago now, GodDaughter2’s Dad was in town, and that’s one of the places we went.

And I took the odd photo or two. Well, more like 350, of which here are 84:

A big spread of photos like that would have been an impossibly tedious operation to stick up at Brian Micklethwait’s Previous Blog, and an equally tedious business for you to be scrutinising. But now, here they all are, and you can do the usual, clicking through as quickly or as slowly as you like. Enjoy. Especially if you rarely or never visit London, and have no plans to see this place for real.

There’s a million things I could say about it. One of the more striking of the photos above is photo 33, which shows how thick the concrete was protecting everything, from all but the most direct of direct hits, that passage that you see having been drilled through afterwards, when they were turning these working spaces into a place people could visit and circulate around.

Other talking points? Well, lots of signs and souvenirs, often signs made into souvenirs, for sale in the inevitable gift shop. And also: signs that are not Original but Modern. Signs with lots of words. Which is appropriate, given how important Churchill knew words (see photo 80) to be.

Most of the human figures that you see are not real; they’re sculpted. And “Other creatures” is in the category list because, inevitably, there are bulldogs.

I did all the bard work for this posting before I got ill, and I’m still not fully recovered. So, please continue to wish me well.

A sixteenth century map of the world

Via Twitter, and something called Map Porn, I found my way to this world map drawn by Ahmed Muhiddin Piri in the 16th century:

Yet I can only find one other reference to it on the www, in the form of a print of the above which is for sale, here, where it’s described as a “Fine Archival Reproduction”. So far as I can work it out, this is a bodged together guess about a map that “Ahmed Muhiddin Piri” (aka “Piri Reis”) did create, but which only survives in the form of a small fragment. We know he knew enough to have created such a map. So, hey, we did create it. But I could be completely wrong about this, because I’m still trying to get my head around it all. Perhaps this is a copy of a real map. Maybe the internet is full of descriptions of it, which I merely failed to find.

The reason I’m interested in this map, or the maps that enabled this map to be made, is that it illustrates how much more they knew about the geography of the world in other parts of the world than Europe. When Europe “discovered” the rest of the world, this wasn’t Europeans discovering a primitive and poverty-stricken place, which only started getting rich after they’d discovered it. What the Europeans discovered was lots of places far richer than Europe, like India and China. And that’s just what the Europeans were trying to do. Just because they also “discovered” such places as Australia and North America, which were poorer, doesn’t mean that their basic motive was to conquer the world. No, what the Europeans were trying to do was get connected with an already thriving world, with which they could import mystical luxuries like spice, and from which they could learn, but which they stopped from doing, by the conquest of the Middle East by Islam. So, the Europeans decided to go round. Round Africa. Round the world, by going west. (That being why the West “Indies” got called “Indies”. And why the people we now call Native Americans were know for many decades as “Red Indians”. Still were, when I was a kid. And still are, by some.)

The European economic breakthrough that made its presence felt in the late 18th century was, globally speaking, something of an end run, as Americans would say. As I learned from that book I’ve been enthusing about by Steve Davies, Europe remained disunited, developed modern guns and never stopped developing them, starting winning wars against the likes of Indians (real ones, in India), then went from inventing and improving guns to inventing and improving everything else and thus unleashed the Industrial Revolution. Europe only got out in front rather late in the story. Oh, it was special. But so were lots of other places.

As the above map illustrates. Or, I think it does.

And maybe it also illustrates something else. Interestingly, the one big thing it gets wrong, the thing only people nearby then knew about properly, was Australasia. Rumours about northern Australia made people think that Australia was part of what we call Antarctica. New Zealand? Again, locals on boats in islands to the north presumably knew about it. But people like Ahmed Muhiddin/Piri Reis, and his various informants? They had no idea.

Christmas is coming – the goose is getting illuminated (and pursued by Sherlock Holmes)

Indeed, in Marylebone Road:

The same night I photoed the car and the leaves and Sherlock Holmes smoking.

I photoed many photos of these geese, in their clutches of four on each street lamp, while waiting for the Curry Night Boys to assemble, my favourite photo being this one …:

… because it turns the four geese into something that looks more like one giant insect. If I had showed only that one, it might have taken you a few moments to work out what was going on.

Okay, so, apart from four geese on each street light, what is going on? Why these geese? And why those strange blue smudges?

It took me a while, but eventually I came across this guide to Christmas street lights, which comes complete with a street map of the Baker Street “quarter”. These Marylebone Road geese are lights clutch number one:

Inspired by the Sherlock Holmes story, The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle, the ornate lamppost columns marking the gateway to the Quarter feature illuminated geese sporting blue jewels (carbuncles).

So, Sherlock Holmes again. If you are in that particular bit of London, you can’t escape the guy.

Wikipedia summarises the plot of this story, which involves a goose getting the above-mentioned blue carbuncle stuffed in its crop, concerning which Wikipedia interpolates angrily …:

… (the fact that geese do not have a crop has been regarded as Arthur Conan Doyle’s greatest blunder) …

… and being chased across London. By Sherlock Holmes.

Lady photoers in 2013

Once again, I am catching up with showing you photos, this time photos photoed on a sunny day in September 2013, all of lady photoers. We are in my most regular photoing-photoers places, outside Westminster Abbey, outside Parliament, on Westminster Bridge and beyond, beside or above the River:

Ignore, click through at speed, linger if any seem worth lingering at, whatever you want.

What I see in these photos is a moment of maximum camera variety. There are big cameras with interchangeable lenses for maximum photo quality. There are bridge cameras, like the ones I use. There are little snappy-snappy but still dedicated cameras. There is even a great big tablet. And, of course, we observe the rise and rise of mobile phone photoing. As usual, I demanded facial anonymity, sometimes photoshop(clone)-cropping out recognisable bystanders. But typically, I cropped with the camera, because by then I had become pretty good at this. (Photo 4, for instance, is exactly as originally photoed.) And then I selected for artistic effect, not to make any point about cameras. Which means that the point about camera variety is made. I wasn’t going for this. It just happened.

Since then, all the major effort seems to have gone into making mobile phone cameras as good as they can be.

Walking north to the Dome

So there I was at YOU ARE HERE …:

…, and following a bit of shipspotting, I made my way north along the wiggly pink line beside the River.

And so now here is another of those click-click-click in-your-own-time fast-or-slow-or-as-you-wish galleries, of the sort I never used to do on such a scale at the old blog, because they were so much harder to do and so much harder for you to click-click-click your way through:

Looking back, at such things as the quadruple chimneys of the Greenwich Power Station. Looking left across the River to the towers of Docklands and towers further away. Looking at the strange shore, between the River and the land I was walking on, and at the strange things people do to such shores. Looking to the right, at the new machines for living in that are being constructed next to this shore. And looking to the right further away, to catch occasional glimpses of the Optic Cloak, which I admire more and more every time I see it.

There is no theme this time, other than the theme of this being where I was and this being what I saw from where I was. Fences, scaffolding, cranes, towers, and lots of signs, and, in general, a place that will be very different in a few years time. Also, quite a lot of plant life of various sorts, which I always enjoy in moderate doses, in among all the urbanity.

The walk involved quite a bit of digressing inland, as walks alongside the Thames tend to. This being because they are constantly altering what is next to the Thames, and don’t want you getting in the way while they’re doing that.

The final photo in this gallery features a huge fence, for stopping balls escaping from a mini-golf range. I did not see that place coming.

A little shipspotting

A little bit of spotting I mean. The ship itself was rather big.

Remember this map, showing where I went walking from Maze Hill station to YOU ARE HERE, and then went north to the Dome:

The original idea of that posting was to say where I was, and then tell you about something rather interesting I saw from that spot. But by the time I had finished rambling on about the sign of which the above map was a part, I already had an entire posting, about the sign.

But yes, there I was at YOU ARE HERE, and rather than concentrating all my attention on the view of where I was about to go, I also looked west. Here’s what I saw:

That’s right, one of those huge and impossibly top-heavy-looking cruise ships.

I tried to think when I had ever seen such a vessel in London before. I have a very vague recollection of having once such a thing, maybe, but nothing for sure. Well, well.

I then turned right and north, and in among all the photos I took on my way north, I occasionally looked back at this ship:

Those being the same photo, one of the last I took, with, on the right, the bit of the photo on the left which shows the actual ship slightly more clearly.

And this was the very last photo I took of her, maximum zoom:

With that, I took a turn inland, dictated by the path I was following, and I saw no more of her.

When I got home, I became curious about this ship. Name? I look a closer look at one of my photos above, and found this:

The Viking Jupiter. So, basically, that would be: Wotan. Just kidding. Viking’s the line, Jupiter’s the name. Fair enough. Just because an ancient (in both senses) historian might get angry about saddling a bunch of Norsemen with a Roman god, that doesn’t mean anyone else has to fret about this.

Then, in an inspired move, I wondered what Google Maps would have to say about the spot where I saw this ship. Here’s what came up:

And in particular, closer-up, this:

So, not just a pier of some sort, an actual ship. This would appear to be a regular London thing, with a regular pier for the ship to attach itself to in a regular spot.

Google google. Here is a map of the cruise that the Viking Jupiter was about to embark upon:

I had always thought that ships like this confined themselves to places like the West Indies or the Mediterranean. London? Liverpool? Apparently so.

Yet again, what I observed, and photoed with much pleasure, was something I would not dream of purchasing myself. Cruising on a big and over-decorated cruise ship like this is absolutely not my kind of thing. If they paid me £6,340 to do a cruise like this, I might even turn that down. (Probably not, but maybe.) But, I rejoice that London is part of this business.

I was there on the afternoon of July 29th, and “departure” was supposedly the 28th. But I think that may have meant the day when you had to leave your home in the UK, get to London and check in on the ship.

Photo and learn. Blog and learn.

New category, long overdue: maps.

I now rather regret that I didn’t scrap my original plan and turn left, and take a much closer look at this ship. Maybe next year.

Google Earth and Mr and Mrs Goose

Google Earth is a source of endless fun. Here, for instance, is a famously spectacular image, suitably flattened to fit in here:

That’s a slice of the first of these, which I found via here.

I have been making ever more use of Google Earth in my explorations of London. It can’t tell you much about where you can go, but it is great at telling you where you went.

So, for example, I recently managed to get into this huge expanse of almost complete nothingness, surrounded by photo-ops on all sides, which is to the south of the Royal Victoria Docks:

I’m talking about the big grey slab there, and the more vegetated area between the grey slab and the river, where the ground rises, to keep the river in check presumably. If you want to find that for yourself on Google Earth, type in “west silvertown tube station”, which is to the top right of that vast expanse.

At the extreme westerly point of the ground I covered, I found a nesting goose, and took a photo of her. Mrs Goose is on the left:

At which point Mr Goose showed up, and drove me away. He looks happy enough there, on the right, but that’s because by then I had retreated. A real photographer would have advanced again, made him angry again, and got a shot of him being angry, while very slightly risking death, again. I only wished I had done that when I got home.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog