Remembrance photos

Today, to mark Remembrance Sunday, I photoed poppies outside Westminster Abbey, and got the sort of photos I usually do get at this particular time of year:

But then, I made my way along Whitehall, where wreaths had earlier been laid at the Cenotaph, and then turned right towards Embankment tube. Thus it was that I walked past the Royal Tank Regiment Memorial …:

and I photoed one of the messages that had been placed on it:

To me that brings it home more vividly.

I wonder how long that life together lasted.

A viewing platform that now isn’t

Speaking as I was of tall columns with viewing platforms at the top of them (shame about the Tulip by the way (but I live in hope that this will be uncancelled (or that something similar will arise in that spot))), what about that big column just to the north of St James’s Park with the Duke of York on the top of it?

I recall greatly enjoying a photo-session I did in 2016 with this erection, lining it up with the BT Tower, through some splendidly leafless January trees:

All these photos were photoed from Horse Guards Road, which is at the eastern end of St James’s Park.

To get to the top of the BT Tower these days, you have to win a lottery. But what about getting close-up to the Duke of York? There seems to be a viewing gallery up there, so presumably there must be some way to reach it. Yet, I pass this Big Thing often, when walking through St James’s Park to the West End, and I never see a queue outside it. What’s the story?

This:

Inside the hollow column a spiral staircase of 168 steps, lit by narrow apertures in the wall, leads to the viewing platform around the base of the statue. Given the small, fragile platform and previous high demand for climbing, this staircase has been closed to the public for many decades.

Is there any way this platform could strengthened without it becoming a disruptively different shape? The problem is that, unlike with the Monument, the column above this viewing platform is the same width as below it, probably because it supports a big old Duke of York rather than just the little bobble that the Monument has at its summit. Almost any structural engineering can be done these days, but if the viewing platform remains as small as it is now, it presumably wouldn’t be worth doing.

I hope that Tulip makes a come-back.

The Duke of York is one of my favourite British military personalities, if only because most others only know him, if they know him, as an object of derision. The Grand Old Duke of York … etc. But the point is, after his failed career as a military commander, he had a much more impressive career as an military organiser back in London, improving the supply of, well, supplies, and also of officers who were better trained than hitherto. In other words, he arrived at his level of incompetence, and then demoted himself down to a position where he good really do some good, as the Duke of Wellington always acknowledged. Impressive, I think. Being the King’s brother, he could do this. But how many King’s brothers actually would do such a thing?

I know, I’m a libertarian and war is the health of the state, etc. But, the history of war is what it is, and this Duke deserves his monument. As is well explained in the very good chapter about him in this book.

Stephen Davies on Ruling Classes and Industrious Classes

Stephen Davies is my sort of libertarian historian in many ways, and in particular in not denying the historic importance of the predator class in times gone by. It is one thing to regret the enormous power held by predators, and the comparative powerlessness of producers – the power of the taxers and the impotence of the taxed – but it is quite another to assert that the powerful predators were not in fact the people who made the historically significant decisions and that the impotent producers were actually very powerful. Libertarianism is the claim that the predators should lose their power, not that they have already lost it, or worse, never, historically, had it.

At the heart of Davies’s book The Wealth Explosion is the claim that the wealth explosion only happened because of a rather anomalous glitch in the typical behaviour of the predator class, which took the form of a non-united Europe. Normal predator behaviour throughout the rest of Eurasia meant that the wealth explosion was only able to happen in Europe.

Here (pp. 11-12) is some of what Davies says about this distinction:

There was a basic social division found in all societies after the advent of agriculture. This was between those who produced wealth by production or exchange on the one hand and those who acquired it through the use of force or fraud on the other. The first category included peasant farmers (the great majority) as well as artisans, merchants, and traders of all kinds. The second category were those who controlled not the means of production but what we may call the means of predation – organised force or systematic mystification in other words. These were the ruling classes of society such as aristocrats and clergy. The second group often did come to control and own great wealth and much productive resources, such as land for example, but this was a consequence of their privileged position rather than the cause of it. That position derived in the first instance from their greater access to the means of violence. They were not however simply parasitical because, partly for their own advantage, they came to provide what economists call ‘public goods’ such as defence against other human predators (bandits, criminals, or members of other tribes and political communities), or a means of settling disputes peacefully (so a legal system).

These ruling groups were the primary subjects of historical accounts until very recently. There is a good reason for this, quite apart from the practical point that most of the surviving sources are concerned with them, which is that they were the primary active force in human history. It was rulers and elites who had the power to actually make things happen. They were the ones with agency in other words. In addition, as Peter Laslett famously argued, they were the only social class in society with true class-consciousness, a self-conscious awareness of their own group interest. (Laslett, 2015) This and their nature meant that their relation to innovation and activities that actually changed the world in a positive way was ambivalent. On the one hand, to the extent that innovation led to actual growth in productivity, that meant more resources for them to extract from the productive part of society. On the other hand if it went on for a long enough time it would tend to weaken their position and increase the capacity of other social groups for effective action. Another aspect of the ruling classes historical role was the way that successful groups tended to expand the area of the planet that they controlled and so create an empire. Empires produced internal peace and so although they were created using (often) savage violence, once established they brought social peace to a large part of the planet’s surface. However this also meant an even stronger incentive for the successful group to keep things the same.

And mostly, except in Europe, this is what happened.

Find your way to more bits from this book by going here.

A sign with history lessons and with a map

On the 29th of last month I journeyed to Maze Hill railway station, walked north towards the river, just as I had planned, and in due course got to this spot:

I’m looking at signs. And I’m looking past the signs in the direction I intend to go. I love these signs that London has everywhere. And presumably also every great city in the rich world.

Let’s take a close look at the sign on the right in the above photo:

As you can perhaps see, this sign contains chunks of written information about places nearby. Chunks of the sort that I do not like to spend time reading direct from their signs, but which I do like to photo and then read later. Chunks like this:

So, the Isle of Dogs got its name from Henry III’s dogs, did it? Well, maybe. This is a fun maybe-fact, I think. Henry III was the one who had to escape the clutches of, and then execute, Roger Mortimer, Mortimer being the one who toppled Henry III’s Dad, Henry II. Henry II did badly. Henry III, at any rate by the standards that his subjects cared about, did very well, at least at first. What this means is that Henry II fought against his own nobles, in England. Henry III fought against the French, in France. Given how much pillaging and plundering and sheer destruction was involved in medieval warfare, in order to deny supplies to the enemy, Henry III’s wars were greatly preferred by the English.

(MUCH LATER: The above paragraph is mostly bollocks. Henry III was indeed the one with the dogs. But, I was muddling Henry III and Henry II with Edward III and Edward II. It was Edward III who fought against the French and whose Dad Edward II was deposed by Mortimer. Sorry. Now, back to the original posting, which still makes some sense, even though it is nothing to do with what it says on the sign:)

I know what you’re thinking. Why not just not have any wars, anywhere? Ridiculous. What century are you living in? This one? There you go. No wonder you just don’t get it.

However the sign is now out of date on the subject of the tallest tower in Britain. That was indeed, once upon a time, One Canada Square. But the Shard has since, metaphorically speaking, toppled it. See here for details of that story. The soon-to-be-completed 22 Bishopsgate is already also a lot taller than One Canada Square.

However, I am puzzled about whether we are at Anchor Iron Wharf, as claimed by the sign on the left in the first photo in this posting, or on Ballast Quay. Many the former ends on the left with sign on the left, and the latter begins on the right with the sign on the right.

The right sign also contains a map, which is rather faded (what with it being a rather ancient sign), but this had the effect of throwing my intended journey into sharper relief:

This map even helpfully shows, with a thin dotted pink line, the very first part of my walk from Maze Hill station to the River. Having thus arrived at where it says YOU ARE HERE, my plan was to follow the thicker squiggly pink line north, beside the River, all the way around the north of the Dome, and then either go across the River on the Dangleway, or else just go home on the tube from North Greenwich.

And that’s what I did.

Police horses outside my front window

Quite a few times, during the last few days, I’ve been hearing the clip-clop of what I already knew to be police horses, outside my home. I knew they were police horses, because those are the only horses I ever see in my vicinity. After a couple of such soundings, I tried to photo them, but by the time I got my camera going, they’d gone.

Yesterday, however, they were back, and I got luckier:

Nice of them to turn right like that, so I could get a less unflattering view of them, wasn’t it?

I tried googling to find where such horses might be based, but am none the wiser. There’s a Facebook page, which keeps saying that there are stables to be found in the middle of Victoria Station, which can’t be right. I’m guessing the stables are just “somewhere in Victoria”, and that’s how they like to keep it. But, what do I know? Not even that, actually.

In this Guardian piece about the work of such horses and their riders, it says this:

The Metropolitan Police has 150 officers and 120 horses at eight stables across London who perform a variety of roles, from high visibility patrolling to appearing at ceremonial functions and carrying out public order duties such as …

Such as the football match the article describes, a friendly, between England and Sweden. And it would seem that what I observed must have been “high visibility patrolling”.

Concerning the football match, we later read this:

It is incredibly moving to watch a line of just six horses effortlessly holding back 35,000 fans. The relationship between the police and the British public may be troubled, but judging by this night at least, it seems the force’s equine members still draw a healthy respect.

Healthy respect? My guess is it’s more a case of everyone knowing that hurting human cops is okay, because all’s fair in love and rioting. But hurt a horse, and the whole world considers you scum. I remember the IRA hurting a horse, and the reaction from everyone was: right, that does it. I do not like the IRA any more. Bombing humans to death in places like Manchester and Ireland. That’s okay. But, a horse? Now they’ve crossed a line.

Stephen Davies is writing a horse book

Much as I would like to replace the late Findlay Dunachie, I don’t think I’m cut out to be a book reviewer. It takes too much focus. While you’re doing it, you can’t afford to get stuck into reading anything else. When it comes to book blogging, blog postings provoked by some particular thing in a book is probably the best way for me to go.

But, I am trying to review The Wealth Explosion (you can read bits from this book here – here and here) by Stephen Davies, and I am determined to get this done, Real Soon Now.

Part of my homework for writing this review was attending an event at the IEA last week, at which Davies spoke about this book.

Which was fun, of course. But for me the biggest and best surprise came afterwards, when I asked Steve about his next book (about the Devil), and then if he was doing any more books after that Devil book. Yes, he replied. Two more. I forget the second of these two, but the first is going to be about the history of the horse.

That being my excuse for mentioning this today, Fridays being my day for cats and/or other creatures.

Historically, I surmise that the contribution of the horse in quite recent times, like the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, is a rather neglected subject. I remember reading how horses multiplied during the early decades of the railways, to get people and goods to and from railway stations. More recently, I read, I think in one of James Holland’s book’s (this one maybe?), how the Nazi war effort, for all its much touted mechanical virtuosity, was amazingly dependent upon literal horsepower.

I’m really looking forward to Steve Davies’s horse book. Given how much people love horses, now more than ever, it just might sell very well. Consider the success of this recent horse-based show.

(Something similar applies to how much people disapprove of – yet are fascinated by – the Devil.)

Selfie couple on the South Bank last Sunday

As already recounted, I photoed many photos, on my walk back home from seeing Michael Jennings last Sunday.

Here is a little clutch of photos I photoed of a couple who were doing a selfie session:

Just about discernible the background there is HMS Belfast, the WW2 battleship that is now permanently parked on the south bank of the Thames, just upstream from Tower Bridge.

I love how the lady does a variation of the selfie hair pat, only this time she was making minute adjustments not to her hair but to her hat.

This is when doing “gallery” of this little clutch of photos is especially helpful, or so I hope. You can click quickly through from one photo straight onto the next photo, and spend no more time on these photos than you choose to.

Ladybower Reservoir and its bridge

A lot of my postings here feature photos I photoed quite a while ago, which I decide that I at least want to remember a bit better than I otherwise might. Well, here’s another such, of a reservoir in the Peak District. This photo also features an excellent bridge, which carries the delightfully named Snake Road across the reservoir:

Alas, I didn’t photo that. 6k did, in September 2017. I got to see this photo by scrolling down at the 6k flickr collection, until I chanced upon it.

I then searched for “ladybower” at the 6k blog, and found my way to a posting from 2015, recounting how 6k had visited the same spot with his father, and linking to an earlier flickr directory, which contains other views of this same reservoir, this time including views of the dam which brought it into existence.

It looks like the sort of place where these guys would have practised, although actually, this reservoir was not on their list.