Horizontalising a toy train photo

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.

Beside the Thames at Laleham

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.

Thus:

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.

Ravenscourt Park photos

Yes, I was in Ravenscourt Park on Thursday evening, having a Libertarian Lads dinner in restaurant there.

As I usually do when visiting spots that are unfamiliar, I was anxious not to be late and so got there very early. Which meant I had plenty of time to photo.

Here are the four:

The first was, obviously, taken at the tube station when I got there.

The second was also taken from the tube station, and makes the local Premier Inn and the building nearer look like all one, with the Premier Inn itself emerging out of the roof clutter which is actually across the road from it. (I do love aligning Things, don’t I?) Premier Inns: Machines For Staying In.

Photo three, taken of and through a bookshop window, is an illustration of the strong Polish presence in Ravenscourt Park. I assume that got started right after WW2, when exiled Poles decided they’d prefer to stay that way, what with the USSR having conquered their preferred country of choice.

Photo four is a motorbike. I love to photo motorbikes, especially in France, but also in Ravenscourt Park, if Ravenscourt Park is where I am and if Ravenscourt Park is where the motorbike is. This motorbike is trying to be an abstract sculpture, but it didn’t fool me. (It should have hidden its wheels better, for starters.) This is another in my ongoing series of photos that I like, that look like works of Art of the sort that I don’t much like. This fondness of mine, for photos that look like they’re Modern Art but which actually aren’t was something which I later persuaded some of my dining companions to discuss with me, and out of that I got one answer as to why I like such photos, which I may or may not (I promise nothing) tell you about, later, in a different posting.

What have Patrick Crozier and I been doing right with our podcasts?

For quite some while now, ever since August (I think it must have been) 2017, when we talked about World War 1, Patrick Crozier and I have been doing a podcast every few weeks or so.

Here is where to find them all, that first one in the series about WW1 being
here.

But what has anyone besides us been making of these podcasts? That’s if anyone has actually been listening to them.

Anyone besides me. I find it very helpful to record interesting thoughts, and in particular big questions, in this “public” form. Questions like: Why did the rulers of Britain decide that Britain should plunge into World War 1, in the horribly destructive and self-destructive (as it turned out) way that they did? And why, having discovered how destructive the war was becoming, did all those engaged in it not put a stop to it? What the hell were they thinking? I want to remember such questions until I have something approximating to answers.

But that’s just me. I’m terrible at note-taking. Oh, I take notes, but later I can’t even read the damn things, let alone store them in a way that enables me to get back to them. On the other hand, I love to have places, in something resembling “public”, where I can shove notes, and where others can, at least in theory, help me improve on them and flesh them out, or correct them when they’re wrong. Instead of me just forgetting everything.

Once I know other people just might be noticing what I have said or written, I find I can pay attention to it also. Books, these are things I can remember that I own and keep worrying away at, not least because they have big words written on them which I can see on my walls. My own thoughts, scribbled on scraps of paper, forget about it. As in: I forget about it.

All of that being part of why I so like blogging, and also doing these podcasts with Patrick.

But that’s just me. That’s why I like listening to these podcasts. Why would anyone else want to listen to them? I don’t know, but I’d love if if someone else were to listen to some of these podcasts, like them, and then tell us why.

This was why I was so pleased when someone else recently did say they’d been listening to these podcasts, and say that he did like them.

In a comment thread attached to this First Official Posting here, and in among a lot of jibber-jabber about comment approval and RSS feeds and suchlike, “Rob” (and I know who that is) mentioned that if I and Michael Jennings (the man who set up and is still helping me with this new blog of mine) were ever to do any more podcasts, he, Rob, would listen to them. I replied that Patrick Crozier and I had been doing some podcasts. A bit of a while later, Rob said this:

I have listened to the croziervision podcasts and like them too.

Big moment. Our very first positive feedback. Someone who took no part in these conversations nevertheless liked listening to them.

My question to Rob, no disrespect at all intended, is: Why? What have we been doing right? I’d genuinely like to know. Because then we can tell other people why Rob liked listening to these podcasts, and a few further people might like the sound of them, and tune in also, and then like the actual sound of them. A comment on this from Rob might even accomplish this automatically.

What four friends told me about their experiences of architecture

I’m giving a talk about architecture, to the first of Christian Michel’s 6/20 gatherings next year, on Jan 6. By way of preparation, instead of just thinking about it all for myself, I am soliciting strongly felt architectural opinions and experiences from friends and acquaintances. I could go on the internet to seek such stuff, but internet discussions on any particular topic tend to be by a self-selected group with a particular axe to grind. I seek a collection of axes, so to speak. Lots of angles. Lots of agendas.

In this posting, I will record the opinions and recollections along these lines that I have collected, basically so I don’t forget them. So far there have four. Here are these four, in chronological order of them being told to me.

First, a friend who vehemently objected to the way that modern buldings are not built to last. Why tacky boxes that get ripped down after thirty years? Why not stuff like they used to build, that hangs around for hundreds of years, like Quinlan Terry still builds?

Second, another friend, married to the friend above, a rather high-powered nurse and manager of nurses, who has had experience working with architects on new healthcare buildings. She spoke in particular of a design for a new mental hospital, which contained, she said, several suicide opportunities built into it. Since suicide in such places is very spur-of-the-moment and opportunistic, this was inviting a regular trickle of such disasters. What my friend hated and despised was not the original design as such, but the refusal of its perpetrators to change it, once the above had been explained to them. These architects, said my friend, were more interested in getting awards from other architects than they were in designing a good building which did the job required. She kept on repeating the bit about them being “more interested in awards”.

Third, a newly acquired friend now based in London but who grew up in Dublin. He spoke about a Dublin terrace, long and elegant, violated by some electrical techies who needed a switching station. Instead of hiding their damn switching station behind the facade of the terrace, as they well could have, they insisted on bashing a gap into it, to insert their modernistical box of tricks. It was quite a cause celebre when this all happened, although I’ve not been able to track it down on the internet.

Fourth, and last so far, a friend who recalled a recent visit to Budapest. She loved it, with its tall apartment buildings, with their frontages all beautifully and individually designed, in antique or art nouveau styles, early in the twentieth century. It took her back to her childhood in Bucharest, where they had just the same kind of urban housing. Until Ceausescu smashed in all into oblivion to make way for his fascistic monstrosities.

The above experiences and recollections have in common that they involved huge anger as well as plenty of intelligent thought. Two of the four involve the destruction or desecration of old buildings, and the first is about the refusal to build in an antique style in the first place.

The second, about the award-seeking mental hospital designers, is a bit different. Modernism prides itself on being functional, but is often not functional. My sense is that things have been getting better in this respect. (They could hardly have got worse.) But if the above anecdotage is in any way typical, then there’s clearly room for improvement.

Brian Micklethwait’s New Blog starts now

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog – this was the final posting there

And this blog stops now.

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.

So, goodbye, hello and welcome.

Welcome to Brian Micklethwait’s New Blog

Yes, welcome.

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.

Welcome to my new virtual home.

Quimper Cathedral photos from a year ago

Earlier today, Patrick Crozier and I recorded another of our recorded conversations (by and by it will appear here). Patrick laid out the agenda which was Christianity, and how, although he could never believe in it, nenevertheless regrets the diminution of its influence on our world.

He mentioned the way the Western Roman Empire fell apart after it had been conquered by Christianity (echoing Gibbon, although I didn’t say that; he mentioned ecclesiastical architecture; he mentioned the intimate relationship between Christianity and secular power; and at one point we rather digressed, into the matter of French domestic architecture.

Here are four photos I photoed in Quimper, Brittany, exactly one year ago to the day, which illustrate these various talking points:

Photo 1.1 a history lesson inside Qumper Cathedral which covers the ground Patrick alluded to about the Roman Empire (protected by glass, hence the reflection of the stained glass window).. Photo 1.2 is a view of one of the towers of Quimper Cathedral, as seen from the other tower. Photo 2.1 is of an equestrian statue, from the same spot. And finally, 2.2, also from the same spot, is a photo looking out over the city of Quimper.

The weather could have been a lot brighter, but you are only allowed to the top of Quimper Cathedral on the one day each year, and April 29th 2018 was the day that it was

I will greatly miss Quimper and its Cathedral, now that my friends in France no longer live there. I won’t be going back on my own, just to see it but not them.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Quota photo of a signpost

Yes, I like to photo signposts. You know where you are, with signposts.

Here’s a signpost photo I photoed in March 2012:

But there’s more to it than just having a note of where I was, useful though that is. There’s something about actually seeing those particular names of particular places which makes the fact that this is where I really am – and then later: was – come particularly alive.

As you can tell from the previous paragraph, I don’t really know how to explain this fascination of mine. And just now, I am too knackered, having spent the day recovering from a Last Friday of the Month meeting that happened last night. Dominique Lazanski: very good. My front room: very full. Aftermath: lots of crap to tidy up.

Yesterday was a day when I had to be very energetic and alive, to get ready for that meeting. So, I was. (Hence those four blog postings yesterday.) Today, I could be knackered. So, I was.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Meeting Oscar again

One of the first things I did in France, after I got off the plane and had been driven by my hosts to their home, was to meet up with Oscar again. Remember Oscar? Oscar is the cat, who got lost and found, partly thanks to the photos I took of him, but mostly because of GodDaughter2’s social media expertise. She located him, in France, while not even being in France.

Here is one of the first photos I photoed of Oscar this time around:

I like that photo because it looks like we’re are looking at each other horizontally, but are actually …:

… looking at each other vertically, him upwards and me photoing downwards. Those being my feet, at the bottom there. On the right, the light of the south of France on the floor of the balcony outside the bedroom I was in.

The earlier photos I linked back to were taken in their Brittany home, but now my friends are more permanently in Thuir, way down south, near Perpignan. Oscar doesn’t like car journeys (stuck in a small prison hardly bigger than he is), but he has no objections to actually being in a different house. Somewhere new to explore.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog