A sunset fifteen years ago

Fifteen years ago today, I did a posting at my old blog, which later got transferred to this blog, which featured the sunset, as seen and photoed by me in Hampstead.

Here is one of those photos, which I chose for the roof clutter:

Very urban picturesque.

I seldom do sunsets, if only because others do do them so much. What can I add? But sometimes the sky is just so dramatic that I can’t ignore it, and so contrasty that even I can’t go far wrong with my photos. These photos are worth another look, if you like that sort of thing.

Win a home in London!

I haven’t been getting out enough, what with my back hurting. But today, I was determined to get out and about, as well as needing to do some shopping, and I decided to do that even before doing anything here.

The plan was I might manage to photo something of interest. When I got home, and took a close look at this, …:

… which shows an advert for a lottery the winner of which gets a new home in London, I thought maybe I had. Whenever I hear that you can win something as a prize in a game of chance, I suspect that the thing in question is proving harder to sell than had originally been assumed and they’ve got some to spare for things like lotteries. Did this advert signal a London new housing slowdown?

I went to the website in the advert to investigate. And it would appear that my suspicions may have been excessively suspicious. This is an Irish fund raising operation, and apparently someone won a similar competition in 2018. But on the other hand, that could mean that even back in 2018 they were having trouble shifting newly built London homes.

One thing I will say, which is that I’ve not seen this advert on a taxi before. Maybe the number of people in London who are only able to think of owning a London home by entering a lottery has now gone up. That’s not the entire market for London homes. That’s global. But it doesn’t help, if you’re selling these places.

Whatever the truth of such speculations, I did at least, at the website in question, encounter an excellent photo of the London City Island tower cluster, photoed on a nicer and brighter day than today has been:

London City Island has already been noticed with a posting here, not so long ago.

May 30th 2020 – photography is light

One of the last really successful photo-walkabouts I had in London was on May 30th of this year. I remember having two designated destinations, rather than just the one. There was where they are starting to build these Things, as noted in this posting, and then there were some statues, of Lord Dowding and Bomber Harris, back across the River, that I wanted to check out. As I duly did.

But before all that, I did lots of photoing in the victoria Street Parliament Square Westminster Bridge part of town where I so like to photo:

Those photos are not the ones I might normally have chosen. I would have gone for more information, and less artistic impression (which quite often involves suppressing mere information thereby isolating the mere effect and making it that little bit more effective). But the light that day was so strong, and doing such amusing things that my photo-selection is strongly skewed in the direction of lighting effects and away from mere facts about statues, buildings and the like. So: lots of reflections and lots of shadows and lots of silhouettes, all of which work especially well in very strong light, and lots of light illuminating those big sheets that scaffolders like to decorate their scaffolding with these days.

Originally the photo that caught my attention was photo 12, and the original plan was just to show that one. But I soon realised that there were lots more I also felt like showing you, so there they all are. I hope that at least some coming here will be entertained.

No sport and strange sport

It is becoming clearer and clearer to me that one of the weirdest features of what you might describe as “classic Lockdown”, Lockdown when Lockdown was at its most Lockeddown, was the complete absence of professional sport for a sports fan like me to be keeping half an eye on. Nothing. Whole months would go by with nothing of a sporting nature distracting me, either in the morning (cricket), in the afternoon (soccer), in the evening (soccer again), or in the night (cricket in faraway places). A lot of the reason why this blog accelerated around then was this total lack of sport to distract me.

Now, almost equally weirdly, we are having a spell of professional sport with no studio audiences present, but with all the electronics going strong and telling the likes of me about it all.

This morning I tuned in to the final day of test match cricket this summer, the radio version, and of course it was, as predicted, rain stopped play. So instead, they were replaying that amazing last wicket stand between Stokes and Leach that won the test match against Australia at Headingley. This was apparently exactly one year ago today. At first, they introduced this, and then everything stopped. It took me a while to work out why. It was because I can’t stand listening to cricket commentaries where they have spliced in an “atmosphere” backing. I just want to hear what they’s saying with no blatantly fictional crowd noises bolted onto the back of it. And that was why the commentary from a year ago wasn’t working. The default setting for TMS includes the fake atmosphere, and only when I switched to that did the commentary from a year ago kick in.

And I listened to that whole last wicket stand. Having already watched it a while back, on YouTube. I really like radio commentaries. And I find that I get surprisingly little more from actually seeing it on television. Oh, I do get some more, but not as much more as you might suppose. And when it came to this unique passage of play, exactly one year ago, listening to the radio version, which was what I did first time around, proved at least as gripping as watching it on TV.

I think this could be the consequence of my childhood, when radio was an option, and only later in my childhood did the telly cut in. From about six to around ten, all I had was radio, and I loved it.

Something similar happened to me with classical music on the radio. That started even younger, with my mother controlling the radio nobs, not me in my baby chair. But presumably she kept it on because I seemed to like it, and also because it is universally understood, by the sort of person my mother was, that classical music is Good For You, like green vegetables and like the ancient latin and ancient greek I was made to do at school, despite the lack of moral uplift supplied by classical music to the likes of Hannibal Lecter and Adolf Hitler.

E-scooters in Oxford Street and buying a Dyson fan in the only place I could have bought one

Today I went shopping in Oxford Street. I was photoing cranes and roof clutter and scaffolding and suchlike, when an e-scooter wizzed by, so I was able to photo that instead, and when I got home, I discovered there was another e-scooter in my photo:

Because I was swinging my camera from left to right, the invisible face would have been in focus but was invisible, but the visible face was out of focus, so it all turned out rather well.

As did the shopping. I was at the Dyson Shop in Oxford Street to try to purchase a Dyson God machine, one of those ones shaped like the a giant version of the end of a needle where the hole is. You sit in front of these magic devices, twice a day, morning and evening, chanting rhythmically, and if you do everything right, you get turned into a perfect person who will live for ever. They sell it as a machine which spits out cold or hot purified air to order, but I know better. Because London is in the grip of a heatwave, I assumed that these devices, which all you Muggles think are just devices to stay cool with, would all have been sold and I’d have to wait a month, minimum, until London is cold again. Which I was willing to do, because immortality is something that I for one am prepared to be patient about.

But no. No, I realise I’m not going to be immortal and it’s just a hot/cold fan. That was just to add some comedy to this blog. But no again, they hadn’t run out of these fans in the Dyson Shop. Everywhere else in the world had run out, on and off line, but not this one shop, the Dyson Shop, which had been boarding them for itself to sell. So I was in the one place on earth where I could have a good retail experience. how cool is that? Comfortably cool, if all goes according to plan.

These Dyson fans were selling like hot cakes. I saw three grey-haired geezers just like me taking theirs out of the shop while I was waiting for mine. Hot cake shops, meanwhile, were presumably not doing nearly such good business.

Next, I will open it and try to get it to work. Wish me luck.

The view from The Point

I’ve already done several photo-postings about that walk Alastair and I did, from Blackheath to the Dome. There was that posting that rhymed. There was a cat. There was that amazing photo of the River that Alastair did. There was Lord Nelson. Well, time for some photos taken at our Official Designated Destination. Our actual first thing we decided to visit which would supply me with plenty of photo-opportunities, after we had met up at Blackheath Station, was this:

Beyond the Point Hill sign is The Point. We got to that by walking up … well, here are a couple of maps. On the left, how to get from Blackheath Station to The Point. And on the right, why you would bother, the point of The Point being what you can see from The Point:

The point of this first photo is to explain why the photos that follow are the sort that you might not consider to be that great:

This was not the first photo I photoed from The Point, but it makes my point, which is that what you can see from The Point is most of it a really long way away. The photos that follow are all very zoomy.

For me the most striking Things to be seen were the Docklands Towers. There are now quite a lot of them, compared to how many there were when I vaguely recall last visiting this spot.

First, two views of the entire Docklands Cluster:

And next up, a couple of close-ups of this same cluster:

The light could have been better, but it was what it was.

I really like how Docklands is turning out. One or two of the towers there have a bit of distinction about them, especially One Park Drive. But the sum is greater than the parts, I think. This is because almost all these towers go straight up. There are no Gherkins, Cheesegraters, Scalpels, Walkie-Talkies or Cans of Ham. Just gravity following towers done in the most efficient way possible. And the result is a classic spontaneous order of skyscrapers, all done in the modern vernacular. Without gravity, there’d be little logic. But with gravity, and without the starchitectural urge to defy it, it is all starting to look rather impressive. I like the City, with all its weirdness and eccentricity, but I’m glad London also has a classic skyscraper cluster in the form of Docklands. It can only grow and only get more impressive.

I like the idea of people looking at photos of it, and saying: Where’s that? “London.” London? I’d never have guessed.

Off to the right, we can see the Dome:

The stuff to the left of the Dome is the muddle on the other side of the River, to the east of Docklands. The sooner that muddle gets gobbled up by the Docklands Tower Cluster the better. To the right of the Dome, south of it, on the Greenwich Peninsular, there’s already more stuff rising up, with more to come.

Off to the left, all the eccentricity of central London is duly on show, but even further away:

Let’s take closer-up looks at bits of that:

The photo on the right is a different photo. But the image on the left is a detail cropped out of the bigger and more panoramic shot. In that left hand shot you can clearly see the BT Tower in the distance there, as also One Blackfriars, looking very squat and far less elegant than it might have. For which, Alastair reminded me, we can thank Prince Charles.

And speaking of way in the distance, Alastair also helped with this next photo. Basically, he directed it and I just pushed the button, what with his eyesight now being so much better than mine:

Now that I’m home and looking at a screen twenty inches or so away from me, I can clearly see both The Wheel, and … the new Wembley Arch. I could dimly perceive the Wheel on the day, but the Wembley Arch I totally took on trust. Yet, there it is, way off in the distance on the right, being hovered over, like waiters, by two cranes.

And on the right, a new central London architectural eccentricity, in the form of that strange white triangle that is often to be seen now in photos of London from the south east. It looks like something you might click on to get video to play. But that’s the Scalpel.

So, there it is. That’s how the Big Things of London are/were looking during the Lockdown of 2020. Will London continue to develope, or will it pause for a decade? Or longer? We shall see. Or I will. I hope.

Memo to self: Go back there on a sunnier day. In a few weeks time, after it’s cooled down a bit.

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.

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.