Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Saturday 31 December 2016

It's party time...

.. in fabulous Hackney - it must be fabulous because the Council says so, and here's their idea of why:
Click to enlarge
All good advice in theory, but the people who need to be told won't take any notice of notices, and those who don't need to be told might think twice about whether this is, after all, quite their sort of place.

Tuesday 27 December 2016

Tip-top tap

If you're feeling a little over-full after the festivities,  and that your get up and go has got up and gone, here's some encouragement:

Saturday 24 December 2016

Christmas lights

This year, the main displays in central London seem to have moved away from the heavily commercial and promotional styles of recent years. Regent Street is all angels:

even if the crowd outside Hamleys looks like as mad a scrum as ever. The small streets around are getting in on the act as well, and Oxford St has gone to town on a starry theme as a charitable promotion:
Carnaby Street is reviving its 1960s reputation:
Not to be outdone, Covent Garden has seized on a mistletoe theme:
Seven Dials was severely modernistic for several years, but is now back with a more traditional sort of look:
but down on the Strand, they've gone for something more abstract, perhaps echoing the traditional austerity of the Norwegian donors of the Trafalgar Square tree:
 In the shops, some have gone for similar restraint, and John Lewis doesn't go much beyond imagining woodland animals' burrows full of everyday products:
 but Selfridges has Santa on an expensive winter sports holiday, which seems to include a hot tub full of champagne:

And up in Soho, your friendly neighbourhood sex shop is keeping up with the season:

Friday 23 December 2016

More inches

How quickly the relief of taking a decision - any decision - in the fog of options gives way to a realisation that bringing in a larger TV screen demands a bit more thought.

No surprise, perhaps, that it needs to be further away - especially when there are close-ups of talking heads that appear more than lifesize. The few inches further away of this arrangement aren't enough yet: it will need the courage to trust wall mounts on these walls.

It's interesting to see how much has changed in just a few years. The underlying concept of the latest smart TVs is that they are a sort of super-tablet; live TV may still have "channels", but streaming over the internet requires "apps", and the interface to get to them is kept simple (to the point of simplistic, with brightly-coloured and minimally-labelled buttons, which on a screen this size appear huge). What with that and the idiot-proof quick set-up, you don't need an eight-year-old to explain how to use it - you become one.

An additional surprise is that this particular manufacturer (Panasonic) has managed to secure access to apps for news in French and German from their primary broadcasters, and one for documentaries in several languages from Arte, the Franco-German culture channel. That's quite enough to explore without taking on the ones that require additional subscriptions.

Friday 9 December 2016


This is not some overrated piece of modern art, simply an attempt to mock up different sizes of TV screen to see how they might fit in. The existing one (temporarily parked on the floor) has taken to grumbling and wheezing on being asked to start up. It's served me well for eight years, and plugging in a replacement digital recorder/tuner that can take high-definition channels and internet services has given it a new lease of life - when it at last settles down after a few minutes. Realistically, though, it may give up altogether sometime soon.

Looking for the next advance in technologies reveals that simply to replace what I have now and to add some on-demand internet services means upgrading from the old 26" to a 32" screen; but for the full high-def, scroll-back/catch-up set-up, there's nothing less than a 40" (and even then it may not have the connectors for all the old technologies I'd want to plug in). Do I really want a window on the world (especially with the world as it is) to dominate my living room to that extent? Would it help to mount it on the wall (if I trusted the wall to hold it), or would there be room room if the clutter around it were tidied up and rearranged? Talk about a First World problem.

Somewhere in the back of my mind there's the sound of Miss Jean Brodie on the opening of a more literal window - "Six inches is perfectly adequate. More is vulgar."