Sunrise on the way to Alicante (etc.)

Happy New Year to all my readers. Every time I go out to a party, I encounter people who read this thing, despite all its technical stupidities and despite the fact that the subject matter is just me musing aloud. So good morning to you all and I hope that not only I, but also you, have a good 2019. (Yes, I’m managing to keep up, approximately speaking, there also, where my musings are more structured and disciplined.)

This being Jan 1st, I offer you a sunrise:

Usually when the sky is that colour in my photos, it’s a sunset. But it all came back to me when I chanced upon these photos, of an expedition to Alicante. Basically, I visit all the bits of France and Spain that my ex-Quimper friends have or have had bits of property in. And they had a place in Alicante, or they rented it, or something. Maybe they still have it. So, I went to Alicante, in January 2010. And, the above photo was taken by me at a bus stop in Vauxhall Bridge Road, looking back across Vauxhall Bridge, while waiting for a bus to take me and all my holiday clobber in the opposite direction along Vauxhall Bridge Road to Victoria Station, where I eventually caught a bus to the airport. With much confusion, as I recall it, about exactly where the damn bus departed from. Had I not happened upon another traveller who knew, I might have missed that airplane.

All of which clarifies a fact that has for me become more and more clear over the years, that although blogs are not diaries, photo-archives are. I have photoed many photos which I would not even consider sticking up here. But they have all piled up on my hard disc. I live, you might say, a double life. There’s my, you know, life. And then there’s my photoed life, which I can relive any time I want, and see all my friends and relatives and remember all the private things we said and did, the way you people very rarely get even to hear about, never mind learn the private details of.

This blog, meanwhile, is a severely edited subsection of my diary, with some added words, added in a way that I hope doesn’t make me appear too ridiculous. Very different.

To add some words to the above photo, I realise that in addition to loving roof clutter, I am also becoming ever more fond of street clutter, which, due to the anarchic and non-mutually-communicating nature of London’s public sector, London possesses an abundance of. Much of it is, like most modern roof clutter, severely utilitarian, which I like, because nobody is trying to make it look pretty. But much ground clutter is very beautiful, especially London’s more showy street lamps.

Love the new keyboard. So solid and strong. Happiness is being able to check all the letters and symbols on your keyboard, as you type.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

The Penmarc’h Lighthouse

At the end of April and the beginning of May of 2018, I visited the city of Quimper, almost certainly for the last time. The friends I have stayed there with several times are now living in the south of France, and their Quimper home is now someone else’s. So, farewell Quimper.

On May 4th, on my last full day in Quimper, my hostess drove me to see the superb lighthouse at Penmarc’h, which is on the south west tip of Brittany. And no, I don’t know how “Penmarc’h” is pronounced, and nor do I know what is really the correct name for this mighty edifice. It seems to have many names. But, it is a lighthouse, and it is in the town of Penmarc’h, so Penmarc’h Lightbouse it is.

Although she needed to get back in quite a hurry to prepare supper, she let me take the time to climb up the Lighthouse and savour the views of the town of Penmarc’h and of the Brittany coast. Which were spectacular, as was the weather that day:

The lighthouse I went up is the furthest from the sea of three structures, which would appear to have been doing, in succession, a similar job. As time went by, they got smaller, nearer to the sea, and more dependent upon electronic technology. Photo 3.1 shows the two smaller ones, as seen from the big one.

That same morning, I also checked out a huge and totally marvellous second hand shop in Quimper, and an equally huge and totally marvellous cheese factory, which was really more like a cheese refinery.

So, a really good day. One of my favourites of 2018. Except that the day after that day, in Paris, was probably even better.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Like a bridge but not a bridge

On the same day, September 24th 2013, that I took all those artistic photos not of cranes, I also photoed something else that wasn’t a crane either. In addition to liking cranes I also like bridges, but this other something wasn’t a bridge either, despite looking a lot like one. I refer to this contrivance:

So far as I can work it out, this is a structure to protect a road against some power lines which are crossing that road. The road in question being the A1014, aka “The Manorway”, just before it runs out of puff at a roundabout.

I know. Why this one structure, there? What’s so special about these power lines? Were people about to start working on them, and were they scared that they might fall on the road and set light to a lorry laden with some highly inflammable liquid, of the sort they concern themselves with in Coryton? Could be. According to this, there used to be a refinery there (hence yesterday’s ruins). Now, there either already is or there is about to be a diesel import terminal. Yes, apparently this got going last year.

Maybe the structure I photoed is somehow a consequence of this change.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Stanford-le-Hope but not cranes

So I was looking, as I do from time to time, through one of my Stanford-le-Hope directories (the one memorialising September 24th 2013), expecting to be amazed by photos of the giant cranes of London Gateway. Instead I noticed how much else there was in the Stanford-le-Hope vicinity besides giant cranes:

There was decaying industrialisation. There was vegetation. There were pylons. There was roof clutter. Even ground clutter.

So I went all the way to Stanford-le-Hope, so far away from London that I had to pay to get there, and some of my favourite things were things that we have lots of in London. But, it was great. Out there in Beyond London, everything is all spread out, and it is easier to photo things. But, you need to check beforehand that there are things. And there were lots of things at or near London Gateway, even back in 2013

Time I checked out London Gateway again. Some time next summer, I think.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

A big kid playing with bricks

I have a friend who roams the earth working in exotic places. Friend supplies this photo of where Friend will be staying tonight:

It’s alright for some. Taken with a smartphone (what else?), in Rotterdam, earlier today.

More seriously, what this building makes me think is what I have long thought, which is that modern architecture is, a lot of it, about what kind of aesthetic experiences architects had when they were little kids. Does this Big Thing not look like big bricks of the sort given to small children, piled up rather inexpertly on top of each other, and now looking as big as it looked to a small kid? That’s what it looks like to me. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Good to have the arse of the ship there, to show how big this Big Thing is.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Transport chat with Patrick Crozier (and sorry for the delay telling you about it)

With blogging, excellence is the enemy of adequacy, and often what you think will be excellence turns out not to be.

Eight days ago now, Patrick Crozier and I had one of our occasional recorded chats, about transport this time. Train privatisation, high speed trains and maglevs, robot cars, that kind of thing. I think it was one of our better ones. We both had things we wanted to say that were worth saying, and both said them well, I think. Patrick then did the editing and posting on the www of this chat in double quick time, and I could have given it a plug here a week ago. If I have more to say about transport, I can easily do other postings. But, I had some stupid idea about including a picture, and some other stuff, which would all take far too long, and the simple thing of supplying the link to this chat here was postponed, and kept on being postponed.

Usually, this kind of thing doesn’t matter. So, I postpone telling you what I think about something. Boo hoo. But this time I really should have done better.

There. All that took about one minute to write. I could have done this far sooner. Apologies.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

The performing horses of Warwick Castle: Nice legs – shame about the faces

Over the summer, a friend of mine was performing in a show at Warwick Castle about the Wars of the Roses. And early last August a gang of her friends and family went there to see this, me among them. It was a great show, albeit wall-to-wall Tudor propaganda, and a great day out.

Warwick Castle is quite a place, being one of Britain’s busiest visitor attractions. It’s No 9 on this list.

I of course took a ton of photos, and in particular I photoed the horses in this show, the crucial supporting actors, you might say. The stage was out of doors, of course, and long and thin, the audience on each side being invited to support each side in the wars. Long and thin meant that the horses had room to do lots of galloping.

None of the photos I took were ideal, but quite a few were okay, if okay means you get an idea of what this show was like:

The basic problem, I now realise, is that the horse heads were at the same level as the audience on the opposite side to my side. As Bruce the Real Photographer is fond of saying, when photoing people, you start by getting the background right. And I guess he’d say the same of horses. Well, this time, for these horses, I’m afraid I didn’t.

So it was a case of nice legs, shame about the faces. (That link is to a pop song from my youth, the chorus of which glued itself to my brain for ever. I particularly like the bit where they sing: “Shame about the boat race”.)

I recommend the show’s own Real Photographer, for better photos, potted biogs of the leading historic characters, and a little bit about the enterprise that did this show.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Lines of birds over Rye

Busy day doing other things besides this, but here are a couple of Other Creatures snaps, the Other Creatures in this case being birds.

Last Saturday evening, I and some friends were in the southern coastal town (one of the so-called Cinque Ports) of Rye. As it was getting dark, a big line of birds flew over us. I snatched this shot, which you can get all of by clicking on this rotated and horizontalised slice:

Then another squadron of birds flew over, this time in a V shape, which means that this next horizontalisation is a bit less thin:

So, two lines, joined at the front, all following the one top dog bird.

Again, click to get the original.

Rye is a “port” that isn’t much of a port anymore, because a thousand years of river mud has pushed the sea away from it. The houses in my two photos are recent, where there used to be sea, a bit away from the centre. The centre, i.e. the whole of the old town, is on a hill, which used to be an island.

I think the birds are geese, but I really do not know. For the benefit of birdophiles, this full-size crop from out of another photo I took, of the first line of birds above, should narrow it down:

Those look far too big to be – I don’t know – starlings. And, I surmise, rather too well organised. Starlings just swirl about in a big mob, like fishes, right? Come to think of it, do any fishes line up like these big birds? I ought to be asking the internet this, but I’m off to bed.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Michael Jennings explores Tehran

At my home on the last Friday of this month (Friday September 28th – which is in six days time), Michael Jennings will be speaking about Iran, and in particular about how he recently spent some time exploring its capital city, Tehran. The easiest link to learn more about Michael’s amazing globetrottings is to this list of his Samizdata contributions.

Each month, I solicit a few words from the speaker, to email to my list of potential attenders. A few days ago, Michael sent me rather more than a few words about what he’ll be speaking about, more words than I need for that email. But I don’t want all these words going to waste, so, with Michael’s kind permission, here they all are. In the email I send out tomorrow evening, I will be quoting from this, but will include the link to this posting, so that all who want to can, as they say, read the whole thing.

So, Michael Jennings on “Exploring Tehran”:

In recent years, I have done quite a lot of travelling in the Middle East.

From the western perspective – and particularly from the perspective of the western media – it is very easy to look at the Muslim Middle East and see something homogeneous. If you are inclined to see militant Islam and related terrorism as a threat, it is easy to see it as a single threat. However, there are two main strains of Islam, Shia and Sunni, and these are centred in two quite different cultures and civilisations: the first in Iran and the second in the Arab world.

These are two of the three largest cultures in the Muslim Middle East – the third being Turkey. These three cultures speak three unrelated languages – Farsi, Arabic, and Turkish – and the history and differences between these three cultures go back thousands of years – long before the time of Mohammed. These cultures are tremendously divided today. Iran fought a truly ferocious war with Arab Iraq between 1980 and 1988, the memory of which hangs over the country the way World War 1 probably hung over Europe in 1935. Much of the wars of the past 15 years in Iraq and Syria have been about Shia Iran (Persia) and Sunni Arab Saudi Arabia jostling for position in the Middle East. As to where Turkey stands in all this – I think Turkey is trying to figure this out.

I am not remotely an expert in any of this stuff. I have, however, spent a considerable amount of time travelling around the Middle East and North Africa in recent years. I love to explore cities on foot. I have done this, or attempted to do this in many places. Slightly less than two years ago I spent 10 days exploring Tehran on foot. Despite the fearsome (justified) reputation of the regime that rules Iran, I found – from my perspective as a Christian westerner – the most culturally familiar and welcoming culture that I had found travelling in the Middle East. Despite the fact that Iran is the only country in the entire world where all women are required to wear a headscarf at all times, I was struck by the fact that the role of women in public life was clearly much higher and that women are clearly much better educated and have a far more prominent role in the economy than in any Arab country I have been to. The Iranian middle class is substantial, and it is a very westernised middle class. At times in North Tehran I found myself in cafes and restaurants that easily could have been in hipster areas of Los Angeles, apart from the lack of alcohol.

I also found something that I should have known already – Iran is a trading, commercial nation. In South Tehran I found myself in shopping streets and bazaars that resembled East Asia – possibly commercial districts of Bangkok or Hanoi – more than anything elsewhere in the Middle East. I found myself sitting in stores being made tea (and being offered illicit alcohol) by merchants who wanted to tell me all about their trading trips to Shenzhen. It was fascinating.

And yet, this is a country that faces sanctions, and is cut off from the official system of international trade. What happens when you cut such a country off from the official system of international trade, and international academia, and international everything and so impoverishing the country, even though this is a culture that wants to participate? Come along to my talk, and I will speculate. Or possibly just show you my holiday pictures.

The basic point of my meetings is for people to attend them, but another point of them is for me to spread a gentle wave of information about people who have worthwhile things to say and interesting stories to tell, even if you do not actually attend. This posting now means that, this month, that second mission is already somewhat accomplished.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

La Taupe

To me, nothing says Abroad quite like a poster, somewhere in Abroad, advertising an English speaking movie, whose English title I already know, with a foreign title that is different, but with all the same star names:

La Taupe means The Mole. I preferred the TV series, but I love this poster. Photoed by me in Paris in February 2012.

As was this, on the same expedition:

In the same directory, I encountered other photos of posters advertising the following movies: Drive (Ryan Gosling), Ghost Rider (Nicolas Cage), Underworld (Kate Beckinsale), and Star Wars Episode 1 (whoever). But in those posters, the titles stayed in their original English. Why?

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog