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Looking back at Christmas Day

It’s now that time of the year between Christmas and the New Year, when we here sometimes do big postings with lots of photos. Usually, these have been retrospective looks back at the year nearly concluded. I did photo-postings like this in 2013, in 2015, and in 2017. And see also other such photo-postings here in the past, like this one in 2014, and this one way back in 2006.

We’re not the only ones doing these retro-postings about the nearly-gone year. A few days back an email incame from David Thompson, flagging up the posting he did summarising his 2019, which will already have been much read on account of Instapundit already having linked to it. And one of Thompson’s commenters mentioned a similar posting by Christopher Snowdon, mostly about politicians wanting to tell us what not to eat, drink or smoke.

So, here’s another 2019 retrospective. But it’s not a look back at the whole of 2019, merely a look back at a walk I took in London, on Christmas Day 2019. I like to photo-walk in London on Christmas Day, especially if the weather is as great as it was that Day.

I began my walk by going to Victoria Street and turning right, towards Westminster Abbey, where I did what I often do around Westminster Abbey. I photoed my fellow digital photographers, who were photoing Westminster Abbey:

The lady on the left as we look is using one of those small but dedicated digital cameras, of the sort that nobody buys now and hardly anyone even uses now, because the logical thing, unless you want something like 25x zoom like I do, or really great photos that you could blow up and hang in an art gallery, is to use a mobile phone. But she is still using her tiny camera from about a decade ago. Odd.

Next some giant purple Christmas tree balls, outside the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre.

Again, odd:

Next up, the Crimean War and Indian Mutiny Memorial outside Westminster Abbey, and behind it, the cranes that are working on a big clutch of luxury apartments further up Victoria Street:

I like cranes.

The guy at the top of this Memorial always looks like to me like he’s scratching his back, but really he is St George and he is killing a Dragon.

Soon, I was in Parliament Square, Parliament now, as so often, being quite severely smothered in scaffolding:

I like scaffolding. I also like the statue of Oliver Cromwell, on the left there.

Next up, the top of Big Ben:

Also smothered in scaffolding. I heard recently that there’s a plan for Big Ben to ring its bell for the first time in several years, to coincide with the B-word happening. But go there for stuff like that.

Next, a totally tourist photo, but one I still like a lot and photo a lot:

That’s the Boadicea/Boudicca statue next to Westminster Bridge, with the Wheel/London Eye behind it.

On the steps next to Boadicea, I encountered another photographer, photoing his lady with The Wheel (as I prefer to call it) behind her. But guess what, not only was he using flash, he was using it to a kind of a rhythm. And I found I could kind of tune in to this rhythm. All the previous photos by me of flash photo moments like that one were almost total flukes, the “almost” there being because I was at least photoing the flasher in question, and therefore deserved to get very lucky every so often. But this time, and for the first time in my life, I managed, deliberately, with calculation and timing aforethought, to get a shot of this guy flashing his flash:

Made my day.

I then turned left along the north bank of the Thames, the plan being to get to Embankment Tube and then tube myself two thirds of the way home from there.

On the way, more photo fun and games, mostly involving The Wheel (as I prefer to call it), again. Like these two photos, and then like this:

He’s holding up The Wheel for her. You see people pretending to hold big landmarks in photos a lot, especially if like me you are looking out for such things. Some people get quite angry about this sort of behaviour. But it’s just a bit of silly fun. Where’s the harm in it? “Ooh, someone’s having some silly fun, let’s moan about how silly it is!” I prefer to join in, by photoing the silly fun and thereby having some silly fun of my own.

Next, more sculpture, and it’s another war memorial, this time for aviators who lost their lives during World War One.

I have many times tried to photo this big bird, but each time the light has been wrong, either too dazzling or too dull. But on this Christmas Day of all days, the light was just right, and I was in just the right spot to take advantage. Another first:

Then, bad news. The tube wasn’t working! I’d forgotten! So, I would have to walk all the way back home, which I did by turning north and walking back along Whitehall. (That the tube is not working is all part of why Christmas Day in London is so nice, and so unusual.)

In Whitehall, there are more statues, including those outside the old War Office, of Slim, Brooke and Monty:

By now it was getting pretty dark, and with my ever lousier eyesight I could see hardly anything. But my camera could still make things out.

Next, a happy musical memory. You can’t hear it, but I will whenever I look at this photo, of a tricycle-taxi hurtling towards Parliament Square:

Blaring forth from this tinsel-adorned vehicle was very loud music. I usually hate loud music emerging from moving vehicles, but this time the loud music wasn’t whiny rap music emerging from a black BMW driven by a gangsta. It was: All I Want From Christmas Is You sung by Mariah Carey, which is one of my particular Christmas favourites.

Back in Parliament Square, I noticed a patch of bright light on another bit of scaffolded plastic in Parliament Square, ike the bit behind Cromwell, and I tried lining statues up with it, to photo them in silhouette. This next was the best such photo, of one of my favourite statues there, the one of Jan Smuts:

I always think he looks like he’s skating.

Next, another statue, with different light behind it. This time it was Abraham Lincoln, and a chair:

As you can see, I find myself more and more noticing statues, and sculpture generally, as I walk about in London.

There is now a small tide of “educated” opinion (sneer quotes there because no way would a true education inculcate such notions) that says we should do away with all such statues in public places, of all personages of the past whose opinions do not coincide exactly with Wokeness now. War memorials may stick around for a while, because they at least commemorate the victims of history, and Wokeness says victims are good. But what of the statues that remember and even celebrate those who perpetrated history? What of the likes of Cromwell, Lincoln, Smuts, and Monty? They did history, and by Woke standards, they all did it badly. “Boudicca” was a woman so she gets a pass, provided you spell her like that. But Jan Smuts, political supremo of early twentieth century South Africa, did history very badly, by Woke standards. So, should such people be expunged from public spaces? I say: no. People fought wars, get used to it, or you might find yourself starting another. One of the many good things about Britain’s recent General Election result is that such vandalism now seems that little bit less likely to happen, at any rate in Britain, in the short run.

I was nearing my home again. But I was still able to photo those purple balls, again. Still odd. Oddballs, you might say:

It seems that purple was a Christmas theme, in that particular part of London.

Finally, amidst more purple light, I was once again able to photo two ladies photoing Westminster Abbey, this time with the images of the Abbey clearly visible on their mobile phone screens:

With that I put my camera in my bag and walked briskly home. I was by then exhausted, that being part of why it has taken me several days to get this posting done. It is especially exhausting when you think that your exertions are about to end and then you realise that you must exert yourself as much again as you already had.

But exhausted is not at all the same as unhappy, and it all added up to a very happy Christmas Day.

As always, apologies in advance for any cock-ups in the above long posting, which I hereby reserve the right to correct in the hours and days to come.

Meanwhile, I hope that all of your Christmas Days were as good as mine was, and that your New Years will also turn out as you would wish them to.

8 comments to Looking back at Christmas Day

  • Mr Ed

    Jan Smuts, not to be confused with a Dutch Carry-on star.

  • Just after WWII, Jan Smuts, PM of South Africa, drafted the UN charter text against racial oppression. Speaking about it, he said:

    I know what you young liberals think when you hear me talking like this: “Why doesn’t he treat Africans in his own country better instead of uttering these platitudes?” Well, my friends, one day you will learn what an avalanche I’ve been holding back.

    Not long afterwards, Smuts was defeated in the 1948 election and the apartheid avalanche began to roll.

    (I came across Smuts’ statement in the book “Churchill’s Empire”. I am quoting it from memory.)

    Great pictures, Brian. I have several times enjoyed the ‘son et lumiere’ effects of walking back to my train terminal after an evening in a London location, but your fading-light pictures far eclipse me.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Thanks for the photos and travelogue, Brian. Especially for those of us who are never going to see London and its faces, and certainly not at half-light.

    It seems you did indeed have a Happy Christmas. Why not follow it up with a Happy New Year!

  • pete

    I still use a dedicated digital camera and it takes much better pictures than mobile phones which cost three times as much. It is much less prone to damage too.

    I don’t carry it with me all the time because of I have not developed that odd behaviour of many smart phone users of taking photos of anything and everything all the time, most of which they never look at again.

    I don’t use a smart phone at all as I have no need to stare at its screen for hours a day and the free Nokia I use (£10 top up required on purchase) serves as a music and podcast player well enough for my needs.

  • Paul Marks

    I hope you have a Happy New Year Sir.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    If you have really got to know a particular technological device it is a wrench to replace it with a more advanced gadget that you will have to learn to use all over again.

    In fact smartphone cameras are much more intuitive to use than the digital cameras they replaced, but that lady may not know that if she is one of the still substantial number of people who do not have a smartphone.

  • I have both. I aim the smartphone using the screen – and on a bright day, I can’t see it. I specifically got a camera with a look-through eyepiece so I could see in daylight. Each has its place.

  • Mike Solent

    I disagree with Natalie completely; I find it much more intuitive to use a camera than a phone, especially if one wants to take a photo quickly. On the other hand, a camera is one extra thing to lug around and even my small Lumix G series DSLR is a significant package. I found it instructive to compare sizes of digital SLRs with their wet film predecessors; they are by and large much bulkier. I have just acquired a second hand small digital camera, tiny enough to fit in a pocket but with nice simple hard controls. we will see whether I make use of it.

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