My excuse for inviting myself to visit Rob and his family last Sunday was to check out the toy trains I’d given to them. For years, I had been keeping this stash of toy trains. So, when I heard that Rob and his family were acquiring their own train layout, and that it was starting to be constructed in their loft, I thought: maybe they’d like them. They did, and they now do. The ancient little tank engine that was included in this clutch is now very “analog”, while the new way to control trains is all “digital”, but apparently the analog train responds to the more primitive commands issued by the digital controller, with sufficient enthusiasm to remain welcome in its new home.
I hate just chucking stuff like that into the bin. I’m so glad these trains have a new home, where they will be loved and properly looked after.
And of course, when there on Sunday, I had to take photos. Not, alas, in the attic. A bit hard to get to. But at least in new surroundings:
As on the old blog, I want here to be able to do a blog posting where the above photo, the original, can be clicked to from a horizontal slice, of this sort:
Here at the new blog, this took a bit of contriving. But it got done, as you can tell if you click on the above slice.
Blog and learn. About everything, but in particular about how your blog works.
Laleham is a place beside the River Thames, just south of Staines. I grew up a bit beyond Egham, which is the next station on the Reading Line from Staines. But I don’t recall ever going to Laleham.
Until this afternoon, when I went walking alongside the river there, with my friend Rob and his two young sons, who live around there. We made our way to a spot near the river in the family car, got out and walked along the river and then inland a bit to a pub, ate and drank in the pub, and then retraced our steps. Rob and I walked, and his boys were on their bikes. A most agreeable way to pass a Sunday afternoon.
The road we walked and biked along is called Thames Side. On the left, as we went pubwards, posh houses. On the right, the river, and attached to the bank on the other side, rather smaller and less posh but still very desirable dwellings, mostly rather shed-like bungalows.
All of which made a pleasing change from my usual Thames-related photo-destinations, which are mostly to the east of me. Places like Laleham, out west, are basically finished. I don’t suppose the above scenes looked that much different to how things were when I was a kid, living around there. But the stuff out east, especially the stuff beyond Tower Bridge, is being constructed and reconstructed on a huge and hectic scale, even as I blog and even as you read.
This new blog makes it a lot easier to stick up a clutch of photos like this one, compared to how hard this kind of thing was to do at the old blog. And it is also a lot easier for you to view all these photos. You can just click on the first one, and then get to the next one with just one click, and then on to the next with one more click, and so on. A great improvement.
I sharpened it a bit, so that I could read, with my Getting Old eyesight, the smaller river names with a bit less difficulty.
It is map number 7 of these 45 maps. A Twitter posting last night, now way down in my feed, showed one of these maps.
My favourite piece of geography there is probably Chicago, where it seems that they have a river which flows into the Mississippi. Blog and learn.
You may have heard that the Mississippi River is mighty, but if you ever doubted it, just take a look at this map. You’ll see that an extraordinary number of the United States’ rivers and tributaries send water into the Mighty Miss.
I love the names. Milk. Yazoo. Republican. Canadian (nowhere near Canada). Powder. Smoky. In general, I love the names of American places and geographical features. They seem impossibly exotic compared to the names of places in England. (But I’m sure that, for quite a few Americans, it must work the other way around.)
England has no big rivers. The Thames would hardly merit a name on the above map. I recall that one of my better pieces for Samizdata was about how the application of steam power to river transport entirely passed us Brits by. We went straight from stationary steam engines in coal mines to steam engines on locomotives. Unlike America. Yes, here.
And you will observe that the image you end up seeing is somewhat larger, as it was yesterday evening. The original image, in other words. The square starting image is the “Thumbnail”.
Progress. It took me about an hour, but: progress.
This is a big deal for me, because I want here to be able to display a photo, or an array of photos, where the thumbnail is (thumbnails are) only (a) crop(s) from out of the original image(s), as above.
I don’t know about you, but this is the kind of progress I find I can only make incrementally. Getting everything like this sorted before this blog was even launched would have been, for me, impossible. When launched, this blog had been adequated, rather than perfected.
“Gallery” being the way I now do those little clutches of photos that I’m so fond of doing.
Here one I photoed (x4), in a place in London that now apparently calls itself “Carnaby”. Last I heard, which was about thirty years ago, there was only Carnaby Street. But now the name has spread, thanks to all the name recognition that has attached itself to “Carnaby”, over the years.
Sticking those four photos up here is about as complicated as sticking up just one photo on the old blog. Whereas on the old blog, this would take about a quarter of a day. So, I’m a happier blogger than I was. And that is bound to mean that all you massed ranks of readers of this blog will get happier, because happiness is contagious. And you will be happier for a more tangible reason, which is that you can now click on one of these photos, and then click on the arrows at the side to see all the others, with just three more clicks.
As for the sparkly Thing itself, well, I like it a lot. Ever since the Scottish Referendum, when it looked like the Union Jack could be about to die, I have admired the Union Jack itself. Actually, way before then, but especially from then on. It’s suck a distinctive thing, and will survive endless reworking and reinterpretation.
Not before time. For many years it has been too slow, too clunky and just too all round ridiculous. More recently, and longer ago than I care to think about, (my management of) the comment system went to hell, as I’m sure you noticed.
So, time for a new blog, and here it is. As of now, all new personal blogging by me goes there, and quite a lot of the old personal blogging done by me here has also started going there too, so that if I want to link back to it, nobody has to endure coming back to here.
I’ve hardly mentioned this new blog here, until now. A new blog is not something you want to be promising endlessly, before it finally gets going, far later than you had been promising. You just need to get it ready, taking as long as that takes, and then launch it, and then tell people about it, just as I’m telling you now.
Not that the new blog has been perfected before its launch. It has merely been – please allow me this neologistical verb – adequated. Many tweaks and improvements, both in working and in appearance, will surely follow, especially given that my good friend Michael Jennings set up the new blog for me, and will surely continue to take – not a “proprietorial” (that would be me), but you know what I mean – interest in its workings. My thanks to him, in advance for any future help and for all the work he’s already done.
My thanks to Patrick Crozier who started this blog up for me, many years ago when it wasn’t ridiculous, and to The Guru (he knows who he is) for all the help he has given me over the years, keeping this blog afloat when it would otherwise have sunk without trace.
I’ve already shovelled quite a few postings from the old blog to here (see below), and I now intend that many more will follow (so that if I refer back to an old posting, you won’t have to be bothering with the old blog). But as of today, that old blog stops getting any new stuff, and this is where I’ll be doing all my personal blogging from now on.
The old blog didn’t completely collapse, but as the subtitle of this blog says, it stopped working properly. I was still able to do postings there. But, among many other defects and difficulties, the commenting system went to hell, as all those who stuck with that old blog will surely have been noticing for quite a while. Basically, any comment of any sort, whether authentic or from a spamster, triggered an army of sex-obsessed robot commenters, who just commented away for ever until I expunged it all. That definitely shouldn’t now be happening here. So, feel free to add your truly authentic comments now, on this or any other posting here (including on any of the old postings copied across), as and when you feel inclined.
There’s lots else I could be saying in this first real posting here, but all of that can wait, other than the one thing which I really must say now. Which is: deepest thanks to my friend Michael Jennings, who set this blog up for me. All errors of taste here are my fault rather than his, and in general, I didn’t make it easy for him. But he has made it all a lot easier for me. And I trust, for you.
About a fortnight ago, I wandered along the south bank, and although the City Big Thing Cluster wasn’t the main focus of my attention, I couldn’t help noticing that the Scalpel in particular was looking very fine:
As was the Gherkin, not least because, from that particular spot, you can still see it.
And as was One Blackfriars:
I especially like that one of One Blackfriars. Because of the contrast between what the fading light does to its glass surface and what the fading light doesn’t do to all that brickwork and concrete (to say nothing of the ship at the front), it looks like One Blackfriars has been Photoshopped in from a different photo. But as you all surely know, I could never contrive an effect like that.
I just wanted to know if ULEZ was real. It is. The details, for now anyway, interest me less. If you want to know more about ULEZ, you now have the acronym and the knowledge that it stands for something real, and you can learn all you want.
My expedition to check out the Optic Cloak got me appreciating the new version of the Greenwich Peninsula, the post-Dome version, that is now taking shape.
Here is a picture of it, one of those computer fake photo things:
The Optic Cloak is an invisible smudge of grey, just after the C of OPTIC and just above the K of CLOAK. That’s because this picture is not about the truth as such, but about new tall buildings, and the Optic Cloak, although quite tall, is not a building, so, in this picture, it is ignored.
However, what the above photo does show is the big double-barrelled road which takes traffic into and from the Blackwall Tunnel. And you get a great look at this mighty traffic artery if you climb up onto a footbridge that takes you over it. Over it if, for instance, you are walking south from North Greenwich tube station, in order to get a closer-up view, from the West, across the big road, than you’d get otherwise, of the Optic Cloak, as I was when I went there, however many weeks ago it was.
You can just about make out this footbridge in the picture above, just above and to the right of the C of COPTIC.
Here are a couple of photos that I photoed of this footbridge:
And here are a couple of views from it, of the Optic Cloak:
But I especially liked the sort of views you get from this footbridge, looking north, towards the Blackwall Tunnel:
Most of the towers in the distance there are across the river, in Docklands, and already that view, as you approach the Blackwall Tunnel is quite something. As the Greenwich Peninsula itself fills up with more towers, it will look even more mini-Manhattan-ish.
Here are photos I took from the bridge of a couple of interesting vehicles, going north (left) and south (right):
Plus, here is a close-up of that roof clutter, in the left hand of the two looking north photos, above:
This roof clutter makes a point, as do those two views looking north, and the traffic. This new Greenwich Peninsula has the feeling of old-school work getting done, just as I presume the old one had. Stuff that really hurts if you drop it on your foot is being made, modified, bought and sold, in this particular part of London, just as it always was. Noxious gasses and fluids are being propelled hither and thither, in pipes and cans and lorries. You get the feeling that this isn’t going to stop any time soon, the way it has in Docklands.
It could just be all that Blackwall Tunnel traffic thundering by which gives off that feeling. However, I don’t think so, if only because the thundering traffic creates the sort of place where the Financial Services Industry wouldn’t want to be.
Here, finally, is the kind of close-up of the Optic Cloak that I had come for …:
.. with a lorry roaring by, full of noxious fluid.
There can be no higher praise for the Optic Cloak than to say that it fits right in with all this hustle and bustle and noise. Indeed, it dominates it. It presides contentedly over it. Most “Art” in such a place would look ridiculous.