Archives for the month of: August, 2012

Yesterday, I got a letter from Siganus Sutor in Mauritius regarding his comment in my last post:

Good morning Artur,

As promised, please find attached pictures taken at Vacoas‘s bus station (“la gare de bus”), where there is a sign saying “alighting platform”.  I always thought that it was the place where engines were fired, i.e. allumés — even if buses don’t have steam engines anymore on Mars. Silly me…



The usual greeting at the end of Sig’s letters is Salaam, which I like a lot.

Sometimes I think I would like to be living in Mauritius or Argentina.  Both are ideal for goats and horses.

To get to central London from my mother’s, you take a double-decker bus to Richmond, and then a train.  The bus stops are named after the nearest pub, “The Fox & Duck” in this case.

At Richmond, this man was on the opposite platform.  I wanted a picture because of the odd way he had wound his elbow around the back of his head, but by the time I’d got my camera out he’d stopped.

He had a bag full of machines to keep himself occupied, but he was more interested in the other man’s newspaper.  The London afternoon paper is free, and still as trashy as it always was – the 1970s Evening Standard headline I’ll never forget is “I Ate Nurse Judy”, about some travelers who had been stranded on top of a mountain after an air crash – it’s handed out at station entrances, and nowadays all its revenue comes from advertising.  Despite the free papers, most of the passengers I saw seemed to be more interested in tapping out messages on tiny telephones.  What are they doing?  Playing games?  Perhaps they’re reading newspapers online.

If I were a grumpy old man, I’d say that far too many of the passengers have their feet on the seats.

Through Sheen, Mortlake, Barnes, Putney, Wandsworth, Clapham Junction – this could be anywhere.  The only thing that marks it out as London is…well, nothing, really…

until you come to Queenstown Road (this stop for Battersea Dog’s Home).  You may remember Battersea from when I wrote about Battersea Power Station.  It’s still standing (just) derelict nearby.  My daughter suggested a new use for it, she would like to combine the two things Battersea is most famous for:

And then shortly before Waterloo comes the Shard, London’s new tallest building,

designed by the great Renzo Piano. The name comes from its top, which is composed of jagged bits of glass that extend up beyond the top storeys.

There’s nothing behind the glass but daylight, and there are gaps between the pieces, so the top is diaphanous and ephemeral.  It seems to be disappearing into the moving clouds,

like Frank Lloyd Wright’s futuristic, 1956 proposal for a mile-high skyscraper (why were his clouds lying diagonally, I wonder?)

Nowadays all over London are signs and announcements about what to do when you alight from a train or bus.  Is this word used elsewhere too?  I don’t think so, it’s a prissy, Pooterish sort of word. Anyway, at Waterloo I alighted, minding the gap, and headed for Bloomsbury, which I’ll show you tomorrow.

From Waterloo I took the Tube to Goodge Street, and walked through Bloomsbury to the British Museum, where I took many, many blurry photographs:

And an occasional sharpish one:

I wouldn’t mind spending the rest of my life at the British Museum. I think it’s my favourite. It’s not just the Rosetta Stone and the Parthenon Marbles (as they’re now called), it has so much gorgeous stuff displayed, from all over the world, that I can literally see that it’s impossible to have anything more than a superficial grasp of most cultures. Look at this gold hat with ears that I snapped as I walked past. I think it’s Assyrian:

There are clocks, canoes, a machine for printing pound notes, a painting from 1943 of the Ethiopian army fighting the Italian army whose rows of troops:

reminded my daughter that there are similar rows in the Plains Indians drawings.

At the top of the stairs was an exhibition of the full 100 etchings of Picasso’s Vollard Suite, where I took more blurry photographs:

And then I went and sat in a sunken garden – I’m not sure it has a name – that seems to belong to University College. I went down two curved flights of steps until I was one storey below Malet Street and all the noise and fumes. What a great idea, I wonder why there aren’t more sunken public squares.

Afterwards I went to some of the remaining second-hand bookshops in Charing Cross Road, and so back to Richmond, and beyond.

I saw this last week, near the British Museum.  It’s part of University College, London.  Why “Hygiene & Tropical Medicine”, what’s the connection?  London School of Hygiene is a terrible, Orwellian name.  I see a reeducation centre, prisoners in white masks scrubbing floors after having been found thinking naughty thoughts about the tropics.

A couple of weeks ago, we went for a walk across a flat plain near our cabin in the mountains.

It’s not terribly high, I think about 1,000 metres.  To the west you can see the Jotunheimen mountains national park:

We were walking towards this hole in the ground, called Dørfallet or “door falls”.  I don’t know what it has to do with doors, at first I thought it was “Dødfallet”, or “deathfalls”, which would make more sense:

It’s a deep canyon,

where the rock has been eroded

by a little mountain stream, the kind they used to deploy in menthol cigarette advertising:

I’m one of those people who are very fond of rocks, and I was reminded of these cracks when I watched the video of Jon Piasecki and Stone River that I keep mentioning.

It’s hard to get a feeling for the scale in any of these pictures, they really need Topsy in them.

All the surrounding land is covered with this very pretty…


The lichen is covering marshland, and you can suddenly find you’re in up to your waist.  In our case, it was only ankles.

Then we went home.

This is a damp path, not a stream.  It was on the way home that we met the sheep in the previous post.

I should have taken more pictures.  The sheep and lambs near our cabin in the mountains love to lie in the middle of the road, usually three or four of them together.  This one is doing it right in the middle of a blind curve.  It’s not as if they run away when a car comes, either.  They expect the cars to stop or to drive slowly and carefully around them – and they do.  Someone said they like it because the asphalt is warmer than the other ground, but it wasn’t a particularly cold day when I took this picture.

This post is definitely not about goats.

The rain continues. The good side of this for Norwegians is that the utility companies won’t be able to charge more money for water or for our hydro-electric power, this year.  Not unless they can think up a really good excuse, anyway. Normally, every autumn, they say there’s no water left and so the price is going up.  We never do run out, though.  It’s more photogenic rain than I encountered when I lived in Hamburg, where it was just awfully depressing, or London, where it was lighter but still too frequent for my taste.

Now here’s an odd effect that Dyveke saw from the garden and took a picture of the other day: a rainbow on the ground.  It must be a patch of mist that by chance was hit by sunlight.  Usually we only see rainbows on the other side of the house, behind the camera, and they’re in mid air.  In short I can’t explain this, but it was a nice bye-product of the current weather.

The other morning I saw a fox in the garden outside the kitchen.  As you can see, it was sniffing around our summer bathtub.  We never normally see foxes, though we do hear them crying out at night to one another.  This was quite early, about five in the morning, when I was making some tea.

But later in the day, round about lunchtime, it came back to the same spot.  It quickly saw there were people around, and ran away.  We haven’t seen it since. I’m pleased we haven’t got the hens anymore, but I’m nouveau-fox enough to get a kick out of seeing one.  Why now, suddenly?