John Evelyn on how the Thames froze in January 1684

You think the London weather’s cold now? (I do.) Then try reading this (as I just did), from The Mammoth Book of House If Happened (my version looks to be this one), in which John Evelyn describes “The Great Frost of London”, of January 1684 (pp. 164-5):

[Sunday] Jan.1st, 1684. The weather continuing intolerably severe, streetes of booths were set upon the Thames; the air was so very cold and thick, as of many years there had not ben the like. The small pox was very mortal …

9th. I went crosse the Thames on the ice, now become so thick as to beare not onely streetes of boothes, in which they roasted me ate, and had divers shops of wares, quite across as in a towne, but coaches, carts and horses, passed over. So I went from Westminster Stayres to Lambeth, and din’d with the Archbishop …

16th. The Thames was fill’d with people and tents, selling all sorts of wares as in the Citty.

24th. The frost continuing more and more severe, the Thames before London was still planted with boothes in formal streetes, all sortes of trades and shops furnish’d and full of commodities, even to a printing presse, where the people and ladyes tooke a fancy to have their names printed, and the day and yeare set down when printed on the Thames: this humour tooke so universally, that ’twas estimated the printer gain’d £5 a day, for printing a line onely, at sixpence a name, besides what he got by ballads, &c. Coaches plied from Westminster to the Temple, and from several other staires to and fro, as in the streetes, sleds, sliding with skeetes, a bull-baiting, horse and coach races, puppet plays and interludes, cookes, tipling, and other lewd places, so that it seem’d to be a bacchanalian triumph or carnival on the water, whilst it was a severe judgement on the land, the trees not onely splitting as if lightning-struck, but men and cattle perishing in divers places, and the very seas so lock’d up with ice, that no vessels could stir out or come in. The fowles, fish, and birds, and all our exotiq plants and greenes universally perishing. Many parkes of deer were destroied, and all sorts of fuell so deare that there were great contributions to preserve the poore alive. Nor was this severe weather much less intense in most parts of Europe, even as far as Spaine and the most southern tracts. London, by reason of the excessive coldnesse of the aire hindering the ascent of the smoke, was so filled with the fuliginous steame of the sea-coale, that hardly could one see crosse the streets, and this filling the lungs with its grosse particles, exceedingly obstructed the breast, so as one could hardly breath. Here was no water to be had from the pipes and engines, nor could the brewers and divers other tradesmen worke, and every moment was full of disastrous accidents.

Feb. 4th. I went to Says Court to see how the frost had dealt with my garden, where I found many of the greenes and rare plantes utterly destroied. The oranges and mirtalls very sick, the rosemary and laurells dead to all appearance, but ye cypress likely to indure it.

5th. It began to thaw, but froze againe. My coach crossed from Lambeth to the Horseferry at Millbank, Westminster. The booths were almost all taken downe, but there was first a map or landskip cut in copper representing all the manner of the camp, and the several actions, sports, and pastimes thereon, in memory of so signal a frost . . .

8th. The weather was set in to an absolute thaw and raine, but
ye Thames still frozen.

But before you jump to too many conclusions, based only on this, about how the temperature was lower at that time, note that Evelyn makes it clear how very unusual this weather was. That’s the problem with the average temperature. Few people notice it and write about it. It’s the unaverage stuff that gets most of the attention.

Photoers in October 2014

The majority of them being men.

Do you think that my only real interest in photoing photoers is that it is an excuse to photo ladies adopting pretty poses? That’s definitely part of it. As I’ve said several times before, someone should do a ballet based on digital photoers. But me not allowing recognisable faces makes it look more of a bodily obsession than it really is. Basically, I think the entire phenomenon of mass digital photography is a fascinating moment in social and communicational history, and one that has made a lot of people, me definitely included, very happy. And photoing happy, absorbed people is fun.

Which means that photoing men is fun too:

I think there are more men featured in this photo-clutch partly because the weather, that day in October, was rather cold. When it gets colder, women’s clothing gets less interesting and men’s clothing gets more interesting, converging on a single style based on keeping out the cold and not caring about style so much. In plain English: men tend to put on interesting coats and jackets and, above all (in both senses) hats; women tend towards covering up both themselves and their best outfits. (With women’s outfits, less is often more!)

Also, in photo 8, there’s a monkey wearing only shorts.

Context needed

Some photos are very clear. Here’s a photo. You look at it, to see straight away what it’s of. And, you do see. All is clear. It may or may not be interesting, but it is at least clear.

Other photos can be almost completely baffling, like this one, which I photoed in the summer of 2014:

I say “almost” completely baffling, because you can clearly see Big Ben in there, reflected in … whatever it’s reflected in. Reflected no less than four times. But what are all those bluey-grey and shiny shapes? Is it a car? Guess: yes. But is another car reflected in an original car? Are those shiny reflective surfaces glass or metal? But which surfaces, on what sort of car? Or cars? Side window? Back window? Maybe you can tell, but I just can’t work out what the full story is there.

This is one of those times when I badly need a back-up photo to explain what’s going on, less zoomy, with context. At least we’d know which way up we are, and what the original reflecting object consists of.

What I like best are photos in between the clear ones and the baffling ones, where you can work out what you’re looking at, but only after having given it some thought. (Examples of which may, or then again my not, follow.)

This one is of interest because, simply as an abstract pattern, this does have something going for it. The colours are nice, with the yellow Big Bens brightly lit up by the sunshine of that summer day. The shapes are nice, in a Zaha Hadid sort of way. But, what is it?

Lady photoers in 2013

Once again, I am catching up with showing you photos, this time photos photoed on a sunny day in September 2013, all of lady photoers. We are in my most regular photoing-photoers places, outside Westminster Abbey, outside Parliament, on Westminster Bridge and beyond, beside or above the River:

Ignore, click through at speed, linger if any seem worth lingering at, whatever you want.

What I see in these photos is a moment of maximum camera variety. There are big cameras with interchangeable lenses for maximum photo quality. There are bridge cameras, like the ones I use. There are little snappy-snappy but still dedicated cameras. There is even a great big tablet. And, of course, we observe the rise and rise of mobile phone photoing. As usual, I demanded facial anonymity, sometimes photoshop(clone)-cropping out recognisable bystanders. But typically, I cropped with the camera, because by then I had become pretty good at this. (Photo 4, for instance, is exactly as originally photoed.) And then I selected for artistic effect, not to make any point about cameras. Which means that the point about camera variety is made. I wasn’t going for this. It just happened.

Since then, all the major effort seems to have gone into making mobile phone cameras as good as they can be.

Lady photoer on tour bus

We are on Westminster Bridge, in October of 2017, and a tour bus comes by. The lady photoer first photos the Wheel, and then turns her attention around, towards Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament:

I especially like the light and the colours in these photos. The Wheel is in front of a dark cloud background, but is itself lit up just that bit more by the afternoon sun, because behind us the weather is brighter. The colours of the bus go very well with all that. And the railing on the bus provides facial anonymity when her camera does not. I know what she looks like, from other photos I photoed of her. But I am not telling the big computer in the sky that she was doing what she was when she was. That’s her business, not the BC’s.

I’m photoing in the rain

Contrary to English myth, and myth elsewhere for all I know, it doesn’t actually rain that much in England, and when it does, it doesn’t usually rain that heavily. The reason we fret about rain so much is that there is just enough for it to be a nuisance, and not enough for us to get properly organised to deal with it effectively. See also: snow.

Photoing rainy weather is a whole speciality in itself, caused by such things as the fact that rain makes things shinier and more reflective. Personally I don’t enjoy photoing in the rain. The light is less good, and you are liable to get rain all over the front of your lens. And yourself. For which I will not (see above) be properly organised. So, showable-here photos photoed by me, taken in rainy weather, are rare.

Nevertheless, here is a recent rainy weather photo that I photoed that I quite like:

This was photoed the same day I photoed that lady photoing her ice cream. This lady was photoing her mere companion, so not so fascinating on that front, but I do like the umbrella, the wheely-suitcase and the all round shininess of everything, reflecting the various colours bouncing around in that part of Soho, which is where I was. (Hence the massage advert top left.)

You can even see the green bike reflected in the smooth but wet pavement upon which it stands.

But the mere fact that this lady was content to have her suitcase out in the open like this is proof that this was not serious rain.

For what that is like, let us again consult a recent blog posting by 6k, who lives in South Africa:

It’s been raining for about 12 hours now, it’s still raining, and we’re already approaching an incredible 100mm. The pool is overcapacity, the gutters overflowing, the drains overwhelmed and the beagle is …

Well, it turns out the beagle wasn’t that bothered, because he was indoors. But you get the point. There’s rain like in London, in my photo. And then there’s rain, like that.

Tasting the sunshine out east last August

Yes, last summer I went on several exeditions to such places as the Dome, and beyond. Here is a clutch of photos I photoed in the beyond category. On August 11th, I journeyed to the Dome, then took the Dangleway across the River to the Victoria Docks, and walked along the north side of them, ending my wanderings at the City Airport DLR station:

There are two of these favourite sculptures to be seen, in Photo 7 and Photo 11.

There are 35 photos in all. I think maybe my favourite is 33, which includes an advert that says: “OH REALLY?” I like that, for some reason.

Photo 27 has a sign, on the side of the Tate & Lyle factory, saying “TASTE THE SUNSHINE”. It was a very sunny day. I count three that include shadow selfies (23, 24, 31).

It is so much easier doing this kind of thing than it was at The Old Blog. (My thanks yet again to Michael J, who did this new blog for me.)

I think I just photoed the end of the summer of 2019

You never know with British weather, which is why we talk about it so much. There was a heatwave last February, at any rate in London. And there could be another in October or November. But (see above), yes, I think I may just have watched the summer of 2019 end.

I was at the Oval today, courtesy of cricket buddy Darren, who is a Surrey member. It was this four day game, between Surrey and Notts.

We chose today to go to the Oval with more than half of our eyes on the predicted weather, and as is usual with British weather forecasts, the predicted weather duly turned into the real weather. The morning was, as predicted, summer. The afternoon turned autumnal, again, as predicted.

Here are a few of the photos I photoed, chosen to illustrate how the weather changed:

Photo 1 was taken at 10.42am, assuming my camera was on top of things (but that fits my memory), and photo 12 was taken at 3.16pm.

Photos 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 were taken from the top of the big OCS Stand that curves around at the north western side of the ground, looking out over London. Photo 5 is also from the top of the OCS out over the ground. Photo 7 is the only ground level photo of these. Photos 8-12 were photoed from the top of the Pavilion, where members like Darren congregate to watch the cricket, from on high, in line withe wicket, and from where I can also photo the Big Things of central London.

Between photo 4 and photo 5, the floodlights came on. But oddly, this did not prevent bad light stopping play. I guess that, what with this being “red ball” cricket, instead of “white ball” cricket, floodlights don’t accomplish much.

An elephant in a City shop

Last Sunday, I visited the Big Things of The City, up close and very impersonal. Sunday in the City is a strange time/place combination, which I like a lot. All those spaces to be occupied by thousands of people, but all the people away for the weekend. Memo to self: do this more often. Especially on great days like last Sunday was.

I photoed the Big Things very happily, and also photoed this big wooden elephant, which was in a shop window:

Shop windows are Photoshop before Photoshop, combining this scene with that scene, this wooden elephant with that Gherkin.

I recently added “Reflections” to the category list. Overdue.