Mick Hartley has been checking out the Alexandra Palace part of London. And his basic point in this posting is that real birds perching on the heads of pretend birds is quite amusing. But then he includes this photo, like it was an afterthought that was too good to ignore, which has nothing to do with birds perching on other birds:
So far as I can tell, this tree looks entirely different from how it would have looked if humans hadn’t constantly been decided where each bit of it would go next.
Whether that’s right or not, I for one am very sure that trees are usually much more interesting when they aren’t smothered in leaves. This one definitely is.
There were statues to be seen nearby, but there were bigger things, Big Things, further away, on the other side of the River:
Photo 1 uses the clutter associated with getting on and off of a boat to frame the Wheel. All the rest are entirely of more distant stuff.
I like the colours, warm cream when the sun hits stone or concrete, dark glass, the perfect blue of the sky. My camera makes the dark glass, of such buildings as One Blackfriars (aka the Boomerang), all the darker by not wanting bright sunlight directly reflected to look too bright.
And once again with the shadow of the Wheel (for once London “Eye” works very nicely) on the Shell Building, but this time with the shadow seeming to be the wrong way round, as seen most clearly in photo 6 and also in photo 7. It is of course the shadow of the opposite side of the Wheel.
And in the further distance, in gaps, the Shard (photo 9), and a rather handsome view of 22 Bishopsgate (photo 5) looking like a more coherent shape than I am used to seeing, a bit like a ship, front on. Move along a bit, and we then see the Cheesegrater as well (photo 8).
These strange alignments all take a bit of getting used to when you first see them. This is because, like so many rivers in the middle of great cities, this river twists and turns, that being a big reason why the city got built here in the first place. By twiddling this way and that, the river brings valuable riverside spots closer to each other, and stirs up a lot more commerce than a straight river would. (See also: Paris.) But these kinks play hell with your sense of direction, or with mine anyway. I was on the north bank of the river, but, although I was looking straight across the river, I was nevertheless looking due east, rather than south. And back across another kink in the river again when seeing 22 Bishopsgate and the Cheesegrater, which are both part of the City Big Thing Cluster, which is on the north side of the river.
It is all part of London’s charm, and the charm of its Big Things. When out-and-abouting in London you can never be quite sure which Big Thing you’ll see next, through some gap in the foreground, or from what direction you’ll see it.
Often, when out-and-abouting, I go down Victoria Street and across Westminster Bridge, before turning left and walking downstream along the south bank of the river. But last Wednesday, instead of going over the bridge, I turned left at the Boudicca Statue and walked along the north side of the River. That takes you past more statues, slightly off-the-beaten-track of the best known history. Parliament Square has Mandela, Gandhi and Churchill, to name three particularly well-known historical celebs. On the North Bank, as you walk towards Embankment Tube, you encounter: Tyndale, the first translator of the Bible into English. You see Charles Portal, who was Chief of the Air Staff during WW2, without ever doing anything that caught the popular imagination, as they say, in the manner of Dowding or Guy Gibson or Douglas Bader. There is Gordon of Khartoum, who got himself killed in Khartoum and who was a huge celeb in his own time, but is now fading into the history books.
And, just before you get to Embankment Tube, there is this handsome looking grandee:
This, proclaims the plinth under him, is “Bartle Frere”.
Even for me, with all that time and money that was spent teaching me what is now decidedly ancient history, Bartle Frere is only a name. But now, in the age of the Internet, questions like “Who on earth was Bartle Frere?” are easily answered. And it turns out that Bartle Frere, or, to give him his full name, Sir Henry Bartle Edward Frere was a late nineteenth century colonial administrator of a sort who cannot now be discussed without extreme embarrassment and censure. He first had an impact in India, following the Indian Mutiny, generally cracking the whip and centralising British power there. And then they sent him to South Africa, to do the same there. Wars followed, against the Zulus, and eventually the Boer War. He seemed to have a genius for pissing people off, so much so that even at the time, people became rather doubtful about him.
You might think that, during the recent little moment of statue-complaining that came and went a few months ago, Bartle Frere would have more than qualified for public condemnation and possible toppling. Trouble is, he is just not known about or cared about. Nobody now says: “What we now need is another Bartle Frere.” “If only politicians nowadays had the moral stature of Bartle Frere.” They say this kind of thing about Mandela, Gandhi and Churchill, so if the wokists can find something unwoke to complain about with one of those guys, iconoclasm can at least be threatened, and a rise can be got out of all the people who respond by saying: Hey, leave Gandhi alone! Hands off Churchill! But nobody cares about Bartle Frere.
Iconoclasm only works if there is an actual icon to be clasmed, or clasmatised, or whatever the word is. Bartle Frere is not an icon, not now. He is now a nobody. So, his statue stood and stands tall and proud and utterly ignored by all but weirdos like me, and the woke mob never laid a finger on him.
At no point, a few months back when all the statue toppling was going on, was it felt necessary to put Bartle Frere in a box.
Friday is my day of the week for creatures of all sorts, and today BMNB has already featured a butterfly and a bee. But now, four horses, spied and photoed by me, near my home, on my way home from shopping, this very afternoon:
The first two. brown and black, were past me before I could get my camera out from under my shopping, so I only got them from behind. But the second two, black and white, I saw coming from a distance, so I got a better photo of them. But then, another photo of the rear end of the white horse seemed in order, because the colouring of this horse was so pleasing. I seem to recall, as a kid, being told that white horses are called “grays”. This photo perhaps explains why that might be. White horses of a particular sort have a natural tendency to turn gray, in parts. Is that it? Could well be.
These were Police horses, of course, them being the only sorts of horses to be seen around London SW1. Police horses need to live near where these demos are liable to happen, but in between demos they need exercise. They can’t just be stored in a shed, like guns or truncheons or complicated cars. And, around where I live is the perfect spot for this exercise. It’s an area bounded by busy roads with names you’ve heard of, like Victoria Street, Horseferry Road, and by the River Thames. But in between these roads, nobody goes, because this place is not on the way to anywhere else. So, perfect for SW1 Police horses to stroll through without any nasty surprises or causing any traffic complications with their slow pace of movement and their preference for walking next to each other.
Whenever Friday comes around, I like to do postings that involve the other animals with whom we share our planet. I mean, this is the internet. And currently my favourite source of animal stuff is the Twitter page of Steve Stewart-Williams. He wrote a book about one of the apes, The Ape That Understood The Universe, in other words: us. And his animal tweets often illustrate stuff he has already said in that.
But then again, sometimes he is just saying, along with the rest of the internet: Wow. take a look at this. There follow links to just a few of the many creaturely tweets SS-W has done lately, ones that particularly caught my attention.
All the cute animal stuff on the internet is so cute because it shows animals plucking on our heart strings by behaving the way human children behave, often because they’ve evolved to do exactly that. Our animal pals can be unselfconsciously enthusiastic, eager to please, eager to try things. And as often as not they do all this with big round eyes.
But don’t get too carried away with the cute. Take a look at how this stork throws one of its babies out of the nest. Take that, internet. And, don’t get all superior to Mummy Stork there. Humans are only as nice as they can be, and are regularly as nasty as they feel they have to be. For many centuries, resource-stretched human parents would give up on their less promising young ones, and I bet there are out-of-the-way spots on our planet now where they still do this kind of thing. Plus, you know, wars and massacres and whatnot. So yes, Mother Nature can be a bitch.
I bang on here a lot about the use by the latest wave of modernist architects of glass, most recently in this posting. And of course there is the way that glass now fills modern life with multiple and complex reflections.
Well here is another glass based posting, this time featuring some techies who are concerned with the ever more impressive structural qualities of glass. Basically, they want to make a entire footbridge out of the stuff:
That’s it really. The details of what these particular techies are doing to the particular sort of glass they are playing around with are not my point, although the last thing I’d want to do is try to stop you pursuing this matter by reading everything at the other end of the second link above, if that’s what you now want to do. What is my point is that nobody in the glass business would be in the least bit surprised to be told about such a research effort. Making glass stronger? But of course.
Glass used to be the very definition of fragile. Not any more. The only place glass still shatters at all regularly, spewing bits in all directions, is in the movies. Try running through a big window in real life, and it will be a similar experience to running into a wall. The main difference is that you’ll probably bounce back rather more. Glass does that these days, for the same reason trees have always bent in the wind. (A fact which can do wonderful things with those reflections.)
This posting began several evenings ago as a quota photo post, with this pretty little scene being the beginning and the end of it:
But then I again got thinking about how significant it is that, typically, vapour trails look at they do above, but do not look like this, below:
That evil vapour trail (there’s another dimmer one further away) is made dark and evil by a line of cloud in the distance, in the evening, allowing the sun to continue lighting up the sky, but throwing a huge shadow over the vapour trail itself. This combination of circumstances, with everything all lined up just so, is rather rare.
Finally, here’s a fun photo, where the shadow from the evening cloud doesn’t engulf all of the vapour trail, merely some of it:
I know I keep banging on about how air travel wouldn’t be so popular if vapour trails typically didn’t look so pretty, but I really think this is true.
Equally significant is that the nastiest internal combustion engine pollution is now invisible. Just about all the actual smoke, certainly in London (where all of the above photos were photoed), has been done away with. If you do see smoke in London, chances are something’s on fire, in an undeliberate way.