Christmas tree with scaffolding

When it’s finished, it will look, according to the picture on the outside of the site (which is an outdoor hard copy of the first picture here), like this:

Here is what it and its surroundings will look like from above. My home can be found in that picture, this Thing being only a short walk away from it.

But, as of now, in contrast to the above simulations, it looks like this, which I think I somewhat prefer (what with all that lovely scaffolding):

Hang on. Is that a Christmas tree I see up there (in among all that lovely scaffolding)? Yes it is:

After I started taking photos of this Thing Under Construction, together with its Christmas tree, one of the men doing the constructing made “stop doing that” gestures. I was standing on a public pavement. They were building a small skyscraper with a Christmas tree on the side of it. Did they think they could keep this secret, and impose martial law for a quarter of a mile around all this? I just laughed out loud and carried on, and of course they did nothing about it.

Can you spot why “Sculpture” is included in the category list below?

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

To Tower Bridge: Shadow selfie – Peace memorial – Big Things old and new

Yesterday, encouraged by the weather forecast (which predicted a window of weather excellence in the midst of the otherwise dark and dreary weather that had been prevailing until yesterday and that has resumed today), I went out photo-walking. The mission was to check out that viewing platform at the top of Tower Bridge. How does that look from below? I will tell you all about that later, maybe. (I promise nothing.)

Within seconds of stepping outside my front door, I knew that this was going to be a very good day for photoing, because of the light. Photography is light. I like lots of it, but I don’t like it to be too bright, and I don’t like it all going in the same direction. Yesterday was such a day.

If you are a Real Photographer, and if the sort of light that is readily available is not what you would like it to be, then you contrive what you do like, or you fake it – with clever filters, Photoshop, blah blah – processes that you know all about. I am not a Real Photographer.

On the right there is one of the very first shots I took, a shadow selfie, which included a lady walking past me in the opposite direction. It’s not really proper to stick photos of strangers up on your blog – photos of strangers complete with their faces, photos of the strangers complete with their faces who are doing nothing to draw attention to themselves – no matter how obscure your blog may be. But, photoing their shadows and sticking that up is definitely okay.

And here are two more pictures I took early on in my perambulations, just after I had emerged from Tower Hill tube station. I start with them simply because they are vertical rather than my usual horizontal, and hence it makes sense to display them next to each other:

Here is a report from when that statue was unveiled, in 2006. It is not the war memorial that it resembles, more like a peace memorial, for people killed while doing building work. Good. This is the least that such unlucky persons deserve.

As for the Shard, it was looking particularly beautiful yesterday, like a ghost of its regular self. It was all to do with that light.

The Thing in front of the Shard is the highest of the four towers of The Tower of London. The Tower of London is an odd way to describe it, what with their being so many towers plural involved. I’m guessing they built one big Thing, called it the Tower of London, and by the time they added all those little towers, the name had stuck.

However, after reading this, which says things like this, …:

It is not clear exactly when work started on the Conqueror’s White Tower or precisely when it was finished but the first phase of building work was certainly underway in the 1070s.

Nothing quite like it had ever been seen in England before. The building was immense, at 36m x 32.5m (118 x 106ft) across, and on the south side where the ground is lowest, 27.5m (90ft) tall. The Tower dominated the skyline for miles around.

… I would like to revise my guess. It would seem that the four little towers on the top were there from the start, and that to start with it wasn’t the Tower of London at all. So, what I want to guess instead is that now that the Tower of London is surrounded by London as we now know it, what we tend mostly to see of it is the four towers at the top. But, for many centuries, the Tower of London was indeed seen by all those within sight of it as the one Big Thing (which merely happened to have a few spikes on the top), London’s first Big Thing, and for many decades, its only Big Thing.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Quota ballerina with cranes photo

Indeed, I love that ballerina and her cranes:

Photoed by me this afternoon.

A little googling suggests to me that I am almost the only one who enjoys this confluence of balletic grace, old and new. But my googling is nothing to write home about and maybe the www is awash with Pavlova with cranes photos.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Back from France (plus cat photos)

Yes, I’ve been in France, and now I’m back. Have been for several days actually, but I spent my recent blogging time doing this, which is a photo-decorated ramble on various things I saw in France, or thought I did, for Samizdata.

I really want to get back into the swim of things over there, after a recent dry spell, and was accordingly determined to finish that ramble before I resumed rambling here.

Since this is Friday, here are some French cats.

Cat number one stands outside Vannes town hall:

Cat number two is impressively perched on an impressively high ledge, somewhere or other. Cat number three, the cat of the friends I was staying with, is shown here, not being very impressed with cat number two:

This photo was taken by Tony, to whom thanks, and to whom thanks also for emailing it to me.

Here, on the other hand are two further photos that I did take of cat number three:

No, I don’t know why his right ear is green on the inside. I only noticed this when I got home.

His name is Caesar (sp?), and he actually does answer to that name. It’s not tone of voice, it’s the name, because when I said this to him for the first time, he immediately looked up to see what I had in mind.

There is another cat, Basil, who drops by at the home of Tony et famille from time to time, but he is more shy. He was otherwise engaged, on my last day there which was when I finally decided I wanted to photo the two cats. Caesar showed up, but not Basil. Another time, maybe.

Caesar is now very old, and I may never meet with him again. We got on well.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Pavlova with cranes

I am very fond of the ballerina statue at the top of the Victoria Palace Theatre. I recently photoed it with a red crane behind it, that being one of my favourite recent snaps.

This afternoon, I photoed it again, again with craneness:

What I had not realised until today is that this is a statue of Anna Pavlova. Says the Victoria Palace Theatre:

From 1911, the year after its rebuilding to its present design by Frank Matcham, the Victoria Palace had a gilded statue of prima ballerina Anna Pavlova poised above it. This was owner Alfred Butt’s homage to the dancer he had spectacularly introduced to London.

The tribute was not appreciated by the superstitious ballerina, who would never look at her image as she passed the theatre, drawing the blinds in her car. The original statue was taken down for safety reasons in 1939 before the blitz and has completely disappeared. It is not known whether it is in someone’s garden or was turned to wartime military use, such as bullets.

The Victoria Palace moved into the new millennium with an adventurous building programme; enlarging the Foyer, WC facilities and increasing the dressing room space, whilst maintaining all the feel and character of a historic building.

In 2006, a replica of the original statue of Pavlova was reinstated to its original place above the cupola of the Victoria Palace and her gold-leafed figure once again gleams above us.

Blog and learn.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Rooftops

As regulars here will know, I am constantly fascinated by what goes on at the top of London’s buildings. I love the Big Tops that are built to impress, like the Shard, the Strata, the Gherkin. I love all the decorative stuff done in earlier centuries. I love chimney pots, which used to come in all shapes and sizes. And I love all the anarchic clutter that electronic communication of various sorts has placed at the top of otherwise utterly bland and forgettable blocks.

So here are some recent snaps, celebrating all that:

Those are shown in chronological order of me taking them.

1.1, 1.2 and 3.2 are are all quite near to me, taken in the vicinity of Warwick Way.

1.3 is the kind of thing you see when a big building site gets into gear, and then of course stop seeing when the work is done.

2.1 was taken in Lower Marsh, I think.

2.2 is Strata, also taken in Lower Marsh ish, peeping over a roof with a decorative knob on it.

2.3 is a bit indistinct, being roof clutter reflected off a big glass fronted building, but the clutter is there if you look.

3.1 is a bit of a cheat, because it is the umbrella that makes the picture, not the decorative roof (Parliament) behind it. But again, the roof is there.

3.2 includes the top of the big tower on the other side of the river from me, i.e. on the south side.
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3.3 is a big lump in Park Lane, as viewed from just inside Hyde Park, near Hyde Park Corner. I went with a friend to Hyde Park yesterday, hoping to view a statue of Colin Firth as Mr Darcy, emerging from the Serpentine. No luck. Gone. Or maybe just not where we looked.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Bomber Command Memorial pictures

Last week I used one of the photos I took at the new Bomber Command Memorial at Hyde Park Corner as a Samizdata Quote of the Day.

Here are some other snaps I took of the Memorial:

For some reason, I often find the little cards and photos of loved ones that people put on these memorials to be more evocative than the Big Thing itself. And given that others will of course also be photoing the big picture, I often find myself concentrating on these small things when I photo these things. And on others taking photos of course, that being a constant preoccupation of mine.

You don’t have to agree with everything Bomber Command was commanded to do during WW2 to salute the bravery of those who did it.

I for one find that prominent Pericles reference to defending freedom (the one I made into an SQotD, and which you can see in the final picture above) slightly odd. Bomber Command was an offensive weapon, as is made clear in the Churchill quote about how only the bombers could offer victory (see photo in line 3, far left). And its purpose was not just to win the war (which despite Bomber Harris’s promises it only helped to do), but to punish the damned losers of it for having started it. This was a punitive war, and everyone at the time knew it. Oh sure, the story at the time in the newspapers was that it was all precision bombing of military targets, blah blah, but if any bombs just happened to land on civilians, the attitude of civilians on our side was: serve the bastards right.

You have to realise how most British people felt about the Germans during WW2, including most of the bomber airmen. The Germans were the people who, having experienced World War 1 in all its horror, concluded from it that they needed to have a re-run of it, but this time win. Starting WW1 was forgiveable, albeit a horrible blunder, and we still quarrel about who exactly did start it. Starting WW2, on purpose, was unforgiveable.

Okay, maybe a lot of Germans were not in favour of all this. But they went along with it, very happily. Until it all started to go wrong.

WW1 ended with a negotiated German surrender. This time around, our Anglo ancestors were determined that every last German left alive would not only lose, but know that Germany had lost. Each German must taste defeat, and if they died while tasting it, that was just fine. This time, the surrender would be unconditional. No “stab in the back” crap. Stabbed from the front, with overwhelming force, by an enraged world.

Never again. You must never, never, do this again. That was what Bomber Command was saying.

In a way, the bombing offensive was a continuation by other means of the silly pamphlet dropping over Germany which was what the bombers first did. Sending a message, but this time in a form that would register.

You may not like any of this, but that is how it was.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Photo!

So. Let me see whether I can contrive to upload a photo.

It seems to have worked.

And I surely cannot be accused of misusing this lady’s likeness, stealing her soul, or suchlike.

However, more work is needed making it smaller, so the box doesn’t get bigger than it should.

Which has now been done. If anything the picture is now too narrow. But too narrow is better than too wide.

Slumps back in chair exhausted.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog