Blue sky – sun – concrete – cranes – crane shadows

Every time I go to St James’s Park tube I go past the cranes that are labouring away to make The Broadway.

Yesterday these cranes were looking especially fine in the late afternoon sunshine, casting some excellent shadows on the concrete towers they are busy constructing:

And as you can see, I also got some photos of the sun hitting one of the crane towers, that approached in dazzlingness what I was seeing myself, which I usually find rather hard to do. Photography is light, and the light was especially good yesterday.

The way I see it, there’s not a lot of point in making something eternal with the magic of digital photography if the thing you are photoing is pretty much eternal to start with, especially if many others have also eternalised it. But The Broadway will already have changed from what it was yesterday.

London’s machines for living in are getting better

Le Corbusier famously described homes as machines for living in, and if this Property Reporter piece is anything to go by, it would seem that London’s machines for living in have been getting better lately:

Traditionally, period London property consistently outperformed new build in terms of desirability and price. However, times are changing and now there’s an emerging trend of buyers preferring new to old.

What this tells me is that the quality of the newest London homes has finally got better than the quality of older buildings from a hundred years ago and longer. The dark age of what can only be described as architectural incompetence, that the Modern Movement in Architecture unleashed by including so many very bad ideas about how to design things in its bran tub of ideas, looks like it may be over. In London, anyway.

This doesn’t mean that people love how the latest London “dwellings” look. They merely, given the choice between living in a picturesque building that works somewhat badly or an ugly lump of soulless modernity that works better, prefer the latter. Function trumps form. You want your life to work. If that means it looks a bit boring, so be it.

People never did hate actual functioning buildings; they merely hated “functionalism”. Sneer quotes there because “functionalism” tended not to function properly. “Functionalism” included too many bad ideas about how to design things, bad ideas like it’s: clever to turn your back on conventional designs for stuff. Housing modernity is now a bunch of design conventions that actually work, and which architects who wish to remain in employment now know not to turn their backs on. Despite many mere appearances to the contrary, architects in London are now very conformist in how they work, and that works much better.

The ideal arrangement, then, might be to have a brand new home – the very best and latest machine for living in – but for the outside of it to be old.

So this later bit in the Property Reporter piece especially interested me:

American buyers traditionally insisted on new build, but ironically they are now championing the old – but not the draughty, leaky version of old! Projects that leave the period façade in place, while replacing the rest with what amounts to brand new are top of the list for buyers from the USA.

You see a lot of this sort of thing being done in London, if you look out for it.

Two more Oxo Tower views

Here are two Oxo Tower views, as photoed by me in July of this year.

And here are two more that I photoed from the same place at the same time:

On the left, the sort everyone does, and for very good reasons. On the right, one of my favourites that day, looking down to the Oxo Tower Pier.

LATER: And oh look, is that a Photoer I see at the far end of the Pier? Yes it is:

If I ever get another camera, I now intend that it will have an even zoomier zoom.

Reflections at the top of the Shard

Two years ago to the day, GodDaughter2 arranged for the two of us to visit the top of the Shard. I paid. She organised.

Sadly, she couldn’t organise a bright cloudless day for us. It was muggy and dim, instead of bright.

I got quite a few good photos, but the photo I remember most clearly from that expedition was this nearly great near miss:

That’s the original, no cropping or photoshop(clone)ing. That was it.

And, it badly needs an extra slice of land at the horizon, so I could rotate it into perfect horizontality, and crop it to have just a small slice of land. As it is, there’s no saving it.

What I still like about that photo, and what I would have loved had it been the masterpiece that actually got away, is the way that one of the biggest problems of photoing from the Shard, the shininess of the windows, has become a feature instead of a bug. Oh well.

But now look at this. I only (re)discovered this one today, while searching out stuff that was exactly x years ago to the day where x can vary. This one was also photoed on that very same expedition and from the top of that same Shard, and it also features a reflection:

Once again, no editing, no messing. That is it, straight from the camera. And how about that?!?!

We are looking out across the River, in a north easterly direction to the Tower of London (bottom left) and beyond. But, wondrously reflected, unmistakably, bang in the middle (so I must have been doing this on purpose): the Walkie Talkie. Click. Forget. On to the next one. And I only just rediscovered it. Had no memory of this at all.

The rule with photoing, or at any rate a rule I follow, is that there can be as much confusion as you like, the more the merrier, so long as at least something is clear. And the Walkie Talkie is clear, because it is such a distinct shape. Other photos I photoed by photoing straight at the Walkie Talkie tell me that this is a genuine reflection of the thing itself, rather than – I don’t know – just picture of it or something.

And I know that you could probably do this very easily with your photoshop(clone). But, I couldn’t. And I didn’t.

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.

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.

Please do not explain this T-shirt to me

Speaking of cats, as I just was – well, of one cat – here is another cat-related photo, of one of the many photoers I photoed ten years ago to-the-day yesterday:

Photoed at the north end of Westminster Bridge, with the trees of Parliament Square in the background.

I kept that one back for today. That T-shirt looks like she might even have made it herself.

Once again we see in action one of those ultra-cheap and ultra-cheerful digital cameras, of the sort that has now been pretty much completely swallowed by the mobile phone.

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.

Oscar on high

Incoming from GodDaughter2’s Dad:

It’s a cat called Oscar, on a roof. But photo any creature from that low angle and it acquires a dignity and even a spot of master-of-all-he-surveys grandeur that it would otherwise not exude.

I took a few photos of Oscar on that roof when I was there in the south of France last April, which I have yet to show here. And I photoed other Oscar photos in other places which I have shown here. Some were quite entertaining, and a few of them even proved to be rather important. But all the Oscar photos I just linked to were from above, and none were as imposing as that recent one by GD2D, to whom thanks.

Looking at that photo some more, I think it greatly helps that the roof, its true roofness masked by the dark, looks more like a rock formation than a regular roof.