Still Thames water at the beginning of Lockdown

I think that, on balance, this was the best photo I got yesterday:

But I didn’t photo it yesterday. I couldn’t have. This was taken on April 5th, by Alastair. He showed it to me on his phone, and I said, can I stick it here. No problem.

What we see is the effect of Lockdown when it began, and when it was as tight as they could make it. The point being: no boats moving on the River. So, in the absence of wind, the surface of the Thames is ultra-smooth. Not quite as smooth as an actual mirror, but pretty close. On his phone, I had to take this on trust. But with my clunky old C20–style computer with its big C21 screen attached, I can see it clearly. Wonderful.

It is possible that in the above, April 5th should be read as May 4th, but I don’t believe so. I wish the Anglos could have a conference and agree about the order of month and day of month numbers. 4-5-2020, 5-4-2020? May 4, April 5? I never know which is which. When communicating dates, to myself or to anyone else, I try always to use English for the month, and then it’s clear.

But back to the photo, which was taken with his mobile (a Samsung). But of course. When those things learn to do x25 zoom, I’ll probably stop bothering with a camera type camera myself.

Taxi with sealant and construction adhesive advert

I continue to keep an eye out for taxis with adverts. But, taxis are a lot less busy at present, because of You Know What, and their adverts now reach far fewer people.

But, the above observations may be because I, although not myself overwhelmingly affluent, live in a rather affluent part of London. The rich are getting out a lot less these days. But in less posh parts of town, life is much more like normal because it damn well has to be, aside from all the face masks. Taxis are busier, and adverts on them count for more, than either now do in central London.

So it was that I recently spotted this fine example of the species, outside Finsbury Park Tube:

One of the trends in advertising nowadays is that, because people can now easily do no-extra-cost photoing of adverts and read them at their leisure, it therefore makes sense for at least some adverts to be far wordier and more information-packed. There is a definite whiff of that about this advert, I think.

Watch the video here. “The snag list eliminator is here to stay.”

The adverts to which Google will now subject me are about to get very weird.

Tall bike under Blackfriars Station Bridge

A all regulars here will surely know, I love weird transport, especially weird personal transport. The personal transport doesn’t get much weirder than this biker on a very tall bike.

We’re under Blackfriars Bridge, the one with the Railway Station on it, on the south bank of the River. I was walking downstream. He was biking upstream. I had just photoed some buskers, in this busker spot, and he was just about to ride past those buskers. Because he was biking from right to left through my field of vision and through my photos, it would make sense to view the above photos by clicking on the right hand photo and then clicking the left arrow, rather than in the regular way where you start on the left:

That’s the tallest bike I’ve ever seen in its metallic flesh, so to speak. I mean, how the hell do you get on and off? From some sort of platform? What a palaver. I’m guessing he was some sort of entertainer, and I’m also than guessing that he knew exactly where he was going, and that all the clearances he would encounter would be taller than him on his tall bike. Although, with something that weird, all such bets are probably off.

I photoed this biker on his tall bike in October 2017, and I don’t believe I’ve ever got around to showing it before. If I have, then it is weird enough to bear the repetition.

Despite having walked along that part of the South Bank many times, I’d never seen this biker on his tall bike before, and I’ve never seen him since.

A new bridge in China: More than just a bridge

Indeed:

This is the Wuchazi Bridge, and very fine I think it looks. No wonder dezeen cannot resist showing lots of photos of it, of which the above photo is one and the below photo is another.

Says dezeen:

The design team created a continual walkable path within the Wuchazi Bridge as part of its aim to make the structure a recreational destination rather than a purely functional piece of engineering.

The sort of place, in other words, where those visiting it would behave like this:

I especially like those two bikes.

I’d be taking a lot of photos like that if I ever visited this place.

Which I surely now will never do, no matter how my circumstances change. Wuchazi is in China and politically, China is now an abomination. The world played nice with the ChiComs for forty years and now they’re shitting on us all. The idea that individual bits of shitting, like on Hong Kong, or like the Plague they unleashed while forgetting to tell us in time, can now be individually cleaned up is delusional. The HongKongers, the Uyghur Muslims, the anti-Plaguers and all others who don’t like how China is now governed need all to get together and try to change how China, all of it, is now governed. We may not succeed if we do this, but we will have fun trying and the government of China will really really not like this. On the other hand, if we do not unite against our common enemy (the ChiComs (not China itself)), we will definitely fail. So, we are now uniting. I know this, because this is the only thing now worth doing. Ergo, it is happening. Just wanted to include a bit of that stuff.

Meanwhile, on a kind of Nazi-uniforms-are-cool basis, I can still admire this bridge. Here’s hoping it outlives the ChiComs and becomes a treasured part of the truly civilised China of the future that most of us would now like to see.

Splashdown for SpaceX

John Stossel:

2 Americans just landed safely after spending 2 months in space.

11 years ago, an Obama committee concluded that would take 12 years and cost $26 billion. Elon Musk did it in 6 years– for less than $1 billion.

Private competition is always better.

On the other hand, says the LA Times:

Elon Musk’s growing empire is fueled by $4.9 billion in government subsidies

Los Angeles entrepreneur Elon Musk has built a multibillion-dollar fortune running companies that make electric cars, sell solar panels and launch rockets into space.

And he’s built those companies with the help of billions in government subsidies.

Tesla Motors Inc., SolarCity Corp. and Space Exploration Technologies Corp., known as SpaceX, together have benefited from an estimated $4.9 billion in government support, according to data compiled by The Times. The figure underscores a common theme running through his emerging empire: a public-private financing model underpinning long-shot start-ups.

“He definitely goes where there is government money,” said Dan Dolev, an analyst at Jefferies Equity Research. “That’s a great strategy, but the government will cut you off one day.”

Like the government is liable to cut Boeing off. Because now, it can.

I’m guessing Musk reckons he could find other customers, if the government stopped paying. But I’m guessing further that a chunk of all that money goes to schmoozing the government to keep on paying. In a decade or two, Musk could be no better than Boeing.

This is “privatisation”, and privatisation isn’t the same as a real market, hence the sneer quotes. Private competition is always better. So are lots of customers spending their own money, instead of just the one, getting its money at gunpoint. Let’s hope that in this case it will turn out to be a step in the right direction. As big as it now feels.

A trio of e-scooters – why there’ll be no scoot-by shootings – why I’m now less gung-ho about e-scooters than I was

So there I was, standing near the top end of Victoria Street, with two things on my mind and being photoed by me. There was Pavlova, and there was the fact that the road junction at the top end of Victoria Street is as muddled and meaningless and shapeless as the magnificent (Parliament) Square at the other end is clear and meaningful and shapely. Seriously, they’ve been hacking away at this place for the last decade, redoing Victoria Tube and much else besides. When you look at it all at ground level, you think: Why did they bother? What a missed opportunity to bookend Victoria Street with something almost as good as what happens at the other! But no, it a mess.

At which point, into this meaningless muddle there came these three persons, on their three e-machines:

That’s right, a small flock of e-scooters, driven by young persons. I knew I’d encounter such a site in circumstances that would enable me to photo it sooner or later, and that moment had arrived. The photos are not great, as photos. But, they do the job.

I vividly recall encountering my first flock of cyclists driven by young persons in hoods, and thinking: It’s only a matter of time before we are all reading about bike-by shootings. Because that was the atmosphere exuded by that cyclist flock. It is a minor but definite regret of mine that I did not record this prophecy before it was fulfilled, as fulfilled it very soon was.

However, I don’t believe that there are going to be any scoot-by shootings any time soon. E-scooters, in fact scooters of both kinds, are fundamentally different from bikes. Bikes work more safely if you keep your hands on the handlebars, but you don’t have to keep your hands on the handlebars. You can steer a bike using only your arse and your feet. You can therefore ride a bike and deploy a weapon, should you be inclined. However, it is my clear understanding that if you take both your hands off the handlebars of an e-scooter, you come an immediate cropper. Even taking one hand off one handlebar would severely endanger you.

Any assassin gang able to get their hands and feet on e-scooters can also obtain bikes, so bikes will continue to be the means of transport of choice for assassin gangs who can’t or don’t want to use a motor vehicle. (Remember, bike gangs can easily split up after they’ve done their evil deeds, and individual bikes can go places cars can’t.)

In general, e-scooters are just not as “empowering” as bikes. They are more unstable, more vulnerable, not least to bikes. I got the chance to interrogate a couple of e-scooter guys, a few days before I photoed the above photos, and this was what they told me. It wasn’t easy to explain, they said. You’ll have to actually do it to get what we’re saying, they said. But, e-scooters are kind of dangerous, they said.

This conversation is the first one I’ve had that made me less gung-ho than I have been lately about e-scooters than more. E-scooters may not be about to conquer the world after all.

I continue to see a steady and slightly increasing number of e-scooters in my local area, every time I venture out into it, and I do mean every time. But maybe this is a temporary phenomenon made possible by Lockdown and the consequent reduction in the number of threats to e-scooters. Maybe when business-as-usual resumes on all of London’s roads, as it surely soon will even as business as a whole in London takes a big hit, then maybe the e-scooters will retreat, instead of becoming ever more numerous.

What e-scooters probably need is dedicated e-scooter pathways. I have seen enough non-hooded, middle class e-scooters, and even a couple of e-scooter family flocks, to suggest that the political clout to contrive such pathways might materialise. But it will take its time, I think.

Two fearless cats

First, a cat I met during Lockdown in June, enjoying the almost empty road, and strolling across it like he owned it:

If Lockdown ever ends, the urban animal tendency is going to be mysteriously baffled as to why things became so mysteriously nice, before going back to being regular old nasty.

And second, Oscar, the cat of GodDaughter2’s family, as photoed perching on some railings by GD2’s Dad, earlier this month, in the south of France:

I bet it’s hot down there just now.

Actually, Oscar is being quite careful, and is perched in such a way that if anything did go wrong, he’d fall onto the balcony, not to the ground outside.

Nice pics there GD2D, but I think this photo, also illustrating Oscar’s fearlessness of heights, is even better.

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.

The Broadgate Tower … etcetera

The Broadgate Tower, because I like it. This particular City of London Big Thing is in a slightly different style to the more celebrated Big Things just to its south, in that it is one of those towers that is pretending to be a little clutch of separate towers. No one of these towers is that distinctive, but together they make a pleasing aggregate. (Also, the late afternoon sun can bounce off this Thing in a way that is downright spectacular, but that’s for a different posting.)

The “etcetera” bit of this posting is because although the Broadgate Tower was my officially designated destination for the afternoon, the weather was rather grim and as you will see, my photos of the Tower itself didn’t come out that well. Better were the close-up views of diverting things that I also photoed that day. My taxis-with-adverts habit had by then kicked in, and the adverts on taxis look pretty good whatever the state of the light is. And adverts in general were a source of photo-fun on that particular day, what with that part of town being so very different from the part where I live:

We start at whatever station that was that I went to to get started. Hoxton? Shoreditch High St? Don’t know? Didn’t take (but should have taken) a photo-note. Then we get several photos of the Broadgate Tower, and in among them, the real fun starts, in the form of the signs and adverts and other curiosities I encountered. I ended up in the City, where quite Big Things are reflected in other Bigger Things.

There’s even a bridge, of a sort that I really like, one that joins two buildings across a narrow street. It’s a double-decker bridge, which I particularly enjoy.

Today’s weather is rather grim. However, these photos were all photoed on July 27th 2015, exactly five years ago to the day. The weather was, as already stated, rather grim on that day also. But, I hope you agree that I worked around it okay.

Food and drink makes it into the categories list because of the bottle tops, which adorn a pub and which add up to a male figure, in the manner of a Gormley project. But: not. Also, one of the taxis says to just eat.