Quotulatiousness

September 26, 2017

When virtue signalling is more important than tens of thousands of jobs

Filed under: Britain, Business, Government — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

In Spiked, Brendan O’Neill slams the (mostly left-leaning) critics of Uber for their blatant two-faced attitudes:

The satire writes itself these days. For the past 16 months, ever since voters said No to the EU, the supposed liberal set has been signalling its virtue over migrant workers. These Remainer types have filled newspaper columns and dinner-party chatter with sad talk about foreigners losing the right to travel to and work in Britain. Yet now these same people have chortled as London mayor Sadiq Khan and his pen-pushers at Transport for London (TfL) have refused to renew Uber’s licence in the capital. Which means 30,000 people will lose work. Many of them migrants. They cry over migrant workers one day, and laugh as they lose their livelihoods the next.
Anyone would think their overriding concern is less with migrants’ right to work than with their own insatiable need to engage in political posturing. And right now, when it’s trendy to be anti-capitalist, to sneer at Silicon Valley fat-cats who make apps that employ people in far from ideal conditions, the posture that guarantees one’s spot in liberal circles is to be Uberphobic. Sticking it to Uber, making a spectacle of one’s haughty disdain for the vagaries of life in 21st-century capitalist society, takes precedence over concern for workers themselves. Welcome to 2017, where it’s cool to be anti-capitalist but not pro-worker.

[…]

One of the ugliest sentiments behind Uberphobia is the idea that this service is a threat to the public, especially women. Darkly, the new left is at one with the anti-migrant hard right on this question: both have cheered Uber’s licence loss on the basis that women of London must be protected from unregulated drivers. Let’s get this into perspective. Last year it was revealed that between February 2015 and February 2016 there were 32 allegations of sexual assault against Uber drivers in London. There were a total of 154 allegations against all taxi and car firms, meaning Uber made up a minority of complaints. What’s more, there are millions of Uber journeys in London every year, so the chances of assault are minuscule. It’s the same in the US. There was scandal when it was revealed that Uber had received complaints from women who said they had been raped by drivers. It received five complaints between 2012 and 2015, which means 0.0000009% of car journeys involved an alleged act of rape. Uber is very safe indeed.

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that, from both leftish feminists and the hard right, the panic about Uber is driven partly by fear of unregulated foreign men driving around our cities. The state must regulate, they say — and they mean it must regulate both business and foreigners, both fat cats and untrustworthy outsiders, both moneymen and migrants. Cheering as migrant workers lose their work and being complicit in the depiction of migrant drivers as a rapacious threat: sections of the liberal-left have really exposed their prejudices through their posturing against Uber. The tragedy of Uberphobia is that it confirms that even anti-capitalism is now virtue-signalling. It is no longer a serious call to improve working people’s lives; it is just the fleeting thrill of shouting ‘Down with Uber!’ without ever letting the issue of its drivers’ livelihoods cross your pristine, virtuous mind.

September 25, 2017

London’s foolish Uber ban

Filed under: Britain, Business, Government — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Iain Murray on the decision by London bureaucrats (backed by the Lord Mayor) to ban Uber in favour of established cab companies:

When I lived in London in the 1990s, I had to use pricey Black Cabs to get around the city at night. However, heaven help you if you wanted to go South of the Thames (as I did when I lived there) after midnight – Black Cabs would just refuse to take you. On one occasion I watched in horror as the cab driver got out and literally started a fight with a driver who had cut him off – and he kept the meter running throughout the fracas.

London’s days of high prices, uncertainty, and danger ended when Uber started operating there in 2012. It went on to dominate the London private hire car market. Today, that was all thrown out as Transport for London (TfL), an Uber competitor in that it runs the Tube and franchises bus services, revoked Uber’s license to operate.

Safety First?

The decision was ostensibly based on health and safety grounds. TfL said:

“TfL considers that Uber’s approach and conduct demonstrate a lack of corporate responsibility in relation to a number of issues which have potential public safety and security implications. These include:

  • Its approach to reporting serious criminal offences.
  • Its approach to how medical certificates are obtained.
  • Its approach to how Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks are obtained.
  • Its approach to explaining the use of Greyball in London – software that could be used to block regulatory bodies from gaining full access to the app and prevent officials from undertaking regulatory or law enforcement duties.”

These grounds are puzzling. Uber has a dedicated team responsible for working with the police regarding incidents with cars that use the Uber app – something London’s Black Cabs lack. Uber’s drivers go through exactly the same background checks and approval processes that Black Cab drivers do. And Uber denies that the Greyball feature has ever been used in London.

Moreover, accusations of violence, especially sexual violence, by Uber app drivers are overblown. As Reuters reports, “Of the 154 allegations of rape or sexual assault made to police in London between February 2015 and February 2016 in which the suspect was a taxi driver, 32 concerned Uber, according to the capital’s police force.” If Uber was uniquely bad in having drivers who attempted sexual assaults, that share should be much higher.

On Saturday night, Perry de Havilland reported on the petition to rescind the TfL decision:

The #SaveYourUber petition has, as of 10:45 pm in London, attracted 600,000+ names, and one of them is mine.

Of course the best way to save Uber is to get rid of Sadiq Khan and make the issue politically radioactive.

September 12, 2017

The River Thames: “London River” – 1941 Educational Documentary – WDTVLIVE42

Filed under: Britain, History — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 31 Aug 2017
The River Thames, Key to London’s Importance as a Centre of Commerce and Government

‘At Tilbury, near the mouth of the River Thames, liners from all over the world come into the landing stages, past long lines of barges and battalions of cranes. Higher up-river are the giant London docks, the busiest in the world, where the work of importing and exporting cargo us carried on unceasingly.

Westwards, up-river, are huge warehouses; cranes and smoking funnels line the banks. Approaching the City, ships pass beneath Tower Bridge, close to the imposing Tower of London. Nearby is the world of wharves and dockland offices, and directly linked to the river are London’s famous markets – Billingsgate for fish, Smithfield for meat and Covent Garden for fruit, vegetables and flowers. Here, too, is the world of finance – “the richest square mile in the world” – with the Stock Exchange, the Bank of England, and important banking and business houses known throughout the world. Further up-river is County Hall, magnificent headquarters of the London County Council; and on the left bank is the historic City of Westminster, home of the Empire’s government; lining Whitehall are big Government departments and, nearby, Westminster Abbey; and on the water’s edge, the Houses of Parliament with their elaborate and beautiful architecture. Beyond Westminster the character of the river is changed yet again, and giant Power Stations give way to residential houses, roads to gardens. Beyond Richmond, with its willow-lined banks, are the Tudor chimneys and turrets of Hampton Court; higher still is Windsor and its Castle, the home of the King.

As evening falls there is peace on the river at Windsor, but at the mouth of the Thames activity goes on into the night. There is no sleep for the greatest port in the world.’

(Films of Britain – British Council Film Department Catalogue – 1940)

July 27, 2017

QotD: The Blitz

Filed under: Britain, Germany, History, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

And now this stage set was illumined by incendiary bombs — their white glowings as they came down, their yellow flashes, and the rings of fire from the buildings they’d ignited. And the barrage balloons, shining bright and pink, in the clouds of pink smoke from artillery and flares. And the aircraft themselves, glowing pink, in their remorseless parade — giving the illusion they were close enough to touch. And through it all, here and there, an opening in this shroud, and a star twinkling; an old familiar star.

Seventy-five years ago; three generations. Here, you can mark them off with a ruler: 1965, 1990, 2015. And soon, not one living to remember. …

And the noise of the explosions, and the grinding of the aeroplane propellers, as if they were churning through the sea; the lady heard all this. Heard the sirens, the sirens, the sirens; heard the “all clear.” And everywhere the shouts of firemen, and of the working-class heroes in the cratered streets, dousing the flames with dirt and sand.

“It was so beautiful.”

From September to May, it was like this almost every night, and often in the daytime. It became a routine: “Oh bother, it’s the Luftwaffe again.” Fear was in the air, but compressed under boredom, and sometimes in the heat of it the fear went away. “How long can they keep this up?” Perhaps, forever.

One night, an odd thing happened. A row of old tenements came flopping down like cards, but one plumbing column remained standing. There was a man sitting on the toilet at the top, with his trousers at his knees. It was ludicrously comic. In the middle of all this pain and death, people saw him and chuckled. Somehow, eventually, he slithered down the pipes, leaping into arms as the column tilted over. Made a joke of it, the man did, when he saw his wife alive; said he was thinking about complaining to the landlord.

And people were emerging everywhere from the rubble — bloody and hurt, though patient and good-willed. Others digging, frenetically for the most part. Only names on their lips, but tears in their eyes; expecting to find corpses. “The bricklayer sounds,” the crunch of plaster, the creak of joists. But no screaming, with so much work to do. Ears being used as stethoscopes.

“We were all trying to be British,” the lady said. “One mustn’t get it started. One mustn’t be the first to wail.”

Bodies coming up from the ground; people suddenly standing. It was the end of the world, and she was watching the resurrections.

David Warren, “Seen & unseen”, Essays in Idleness, 2015-10-08.

June 8, 2017

Celebrating the Londoners who fought back against Islamist terror

Filed under: Britain, Religion — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Brendan O’Neill on the ordinary people who didn’t just run from the terrorists:

I’ve never felt prouder of London, my hometown, than I did on Saturday. When three wicked Islamists rammed a van into pedestrians and then used knives to cut down people whose only crime was to be free and happy and in the throes of nightlife, they caused chaos, yes, but they also brought out people’s heroism. People fought back, confronted the killers, hit them with skateboards, pelted them with bottles, yelled abuse at them. This was the spirit of London in action, defying theocratic violence with the hurl of a beer bottle.

There were many heroes. There was Roy Larner from Peckham who said possibly the best thing that’s ever been said to terrorists. They burst into the pub he was drinking in, shouting: ‘This is for Allah!’ ‘Fuck you, I’m Millwall!’, he fired back. He has since told the press he wanted to ‘take the piss out of these bastards’, which is about as London a response to terrorism as you will ever get. But he did more than rip the piss and give us all the brilliant image of Millwall fans having an apocalyptic showdown with soldiers of Allah: he also punched the killers to try to stop them from stabbing people, leading to his being stabbed eight times. What incredible bravery.

Others turned the paraphernalia of a Saturday night out into weapons against terror. Eye-witness Gerard told the BBC that people threw beer bottles, glasses, chairs and stools — ‘anything they could get’ — at the terrorists. Or the ‘three Muslim geezers’, as he called them, with a brilliant lack of PC that rather rattled the Beeb. There was also Romanian baker Florin Morariu, who ran out of the bakery he works in, Bread Ahead, and into the mayhem to smash one of the terrorists over the head with a crate. He threw a crate at a second terrorist. It wasn’t until the police threw a grenade that Morariu ran back into his bakery. And he took around 20 people inside with him and put down the shutters to protect them from harm. ‘I didn’t want to be a hero’, he told ProFM Radio, but that’s what he was.

A 28-year-old pub bouncer called Ozzy, who said the events outside his pub were like a ‘war zone’, describes how he and his colleagues ‘launched bar stools, bottles and glasses at them to try and disrupt them’. A cab driver called Chris swerved his car around to try to run over one of the terrorists who was stabbing a young woman. A Spanish man, Ignacio Echeverría, was returning from skateboarding in a park with friends when he saw one of the terrorists stabbing a woman. He rushed over and used his skateboard to hit the terrorist away. Tragically, Echeverría is now missing and feared dead. He ran towards danger armed with nothing but a skateboard — that takes real guts.

As I posted on someone’s Facebook status, Mark Steyn noted in a Daily Telegraph article in 2002 that the Millwall team anthem is sung to the tune of “Que Sera Sera”:

Mi-illwall, Millwall
Millwa-all, Millwall, Millwall
Millwa-all, Millwall, Millwall
Mi-illwall, Millwall.

(Repeat until knife fight)

June 6, 2017

Should the UK general election have been postponed?

Filed under: Britain, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Colby Cosh discusses the (relatively few) calls to postpone the British general election in the wake of the recent terror attacks on British cities:

History repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce: so said Marx. He was making a joke about the second Emperor Napoleon, and it is still the first thing everybody remembers about the man; it is thus one of the greatest bon mots in the history of journalism. And it is, incidentally, the only law of history devised by Marx that actually works.

We have seen it applied in England by Muslim fanatics this past fortnight. The May 22 attack on Manchester Arena by a radicalized local seems to have involved high technical sophistication, and possibly assistance from an international network of terrorism suppliers. The target was chosen so as to victimize children and to involve a celebrity. (Ariana Grande had been on nobody’s list of people likely to provide a shining global example of civil courage, but here we are!) The killer’s plan was followed through with heartbreaking competence.

Then came the Saturday night attack on London Bridge. I have to be careful in discussing it: seven people are dead and dozens more have suffered life-altering injuries or horror in the rampage. But we are also under an important obligation to keep these things in perspective. Next to the attack on Manchester the London Bridge assault—undertaken with a van, some knives, and fake (!?) suicide vests—looks like a poorly considered, even improvised, terrorist lark. You would say it sounded like something out of a satirical movie parody of Muslim terrorists if Chris Morris hadn’t already made Four Lions.

[…]

Even the “suspension” of political activity by the major parties was more hypothetical than real after the London Bridge incident, with both Prime Minister Theresa May and Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn using the time to needle one another in public statements. May is a former home secretary, and was thus a longtime head of a public security apparatus that seems to have been deaf to warnings about the murderers behind both terror incidents. Corbyn, meanwhile, spent decades as the sort of leftist-bookshop-haunting radical uncle who never has an unkind word for a terrorist or rogue state.

An election campaign is not a good time to stamp out talk about terrorism. And under these circumstances, the argument between the main parties could not fail to be somewhat sharp and personal. But what are the general principles for interrupting or diminishing election campaigning in the face of terror? We can imagine harder cases than this one. And the problem is not quite the same as the mere logistical issue of when an election must be delayed or prolonged because of terrorism. It is, as I say, an issue of etiquette, one that perhaps defies formula.

April 20, 2017

We now know that there are more than 30,000 registered gun owners in London

Filed under: Britain, Law — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

What’s disturbing about the knowledge is that London’s Metropolitan Police revealed that information to a private company and may have violated British privacy laws in the process:

London gun owners are asking questions of the Metropolitan Police after the force seemingly handed the addresses of 30,000 firearm and shotgun owners to a direct mail marketing agency for a commercial firm’s advertising campaign.

The first any of the affected people knew about the blunder was when the leaflet (pictured below) landed on their doormats in Tuesday’s post.

Titled “Protect your firearms and shotguns with Smartwater”, the leaflet – which features Met Police logos – advises firearm and shotgun certificate holders to “buy a firearms protection pack at a reduced price” of £8.95.

Smartwater is basically invisible ink. You mark your property using it and if you are burgled, police can use a UV light reader to see who rightfully owns stolen items. The company behind it was formed by an ex-police detective and his industrial chemist brother, and the firm has since forged very close links with a number of UK police forces. Its website boasts of the “traceable liquid’s” crime-reducing properties, something that police actively endorse.

[…]

The front and reverse of the Metropolitan Police Smartwater firearms leaflet

Questions were immediately raised as to whether the Met had broken the law. The data protection statement that both police and certificate holders agree to is found in Firearms Form 201 (PDF), the application form for a firearm certificate. It says:

    I understand that all information submitted will be handled in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and connected legislation. I understand and give consent for information contained within my application form or obtained in the course of deciding the application to be shared with: my GP, other government departments, regulatory bodies or enforcement agencies in the course of either deciding the application or in pursuance of maintaining public safety or the peace.

    Note: Any information shared will be shared in accordance with data sharing protocols. We do not share your personal or company details with other applicants or members of the public and treat information in connection with the application in confidence, but individuals should be aware that we may be required to disclose some information in accordance with the legislation referred to above.

The Register has made the Information Commissioner’s Office aware of the breach and is awaiting a statement from the data watchdog.

November 23, 2016

The History of Paper Money – III: Barebones Economy – Extra History

Filed under: Britain, Economics, History — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on Oct 15, 2016

Poor England. First Charles I and civil war, then losing to the French, then the Great Fire of London in 1666. Luckily, Nicholas Barbon comes along to help. And make obscene amounts of money. Who says you can’t do both?

June 8, 2016

WW2: The Resource War – IV: Strategic Bombing – Extra History

Filed under: Economics, History, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Published on 26 Apr 2016

*Sponsored* Hearts of Iron IV comes out on June 6!

A series of missed airstrikes resulting in the death of civilians sparked the no-holds-barred Battle of Britain. Germany launched a Blitz to bomb London into submission, but inadvertantly sparked more resistance and gave British industry a chance to bounce back.

On August 25, 1940, a group of German bomber planes got lost on a night-time mission over England. They wound up dropping bombs not on their industrial target, but on the city of London itself. Winston Churchill ordered a retaliatory strike against Germany, but this time it was the RAF who missed their target and hit civilians. Hitler was convinced this was intentional, so he rescinded his prohibition against targeting civilians. The Luftwaffe organized a massive attack against London, intending to break the British people’s will to fight. The Blitz backfired in several respects. First, it diverted Germany’s attention from strategic targets, which meant they were no longer putting real pressure on the British industrial war efforts. Second, they wound up bringing the British together and strengthening their will to fight on in the names of those who’d been lost to German bombs. Ultimately, the cost in men and material for Germany to wage the Battle of Britain exceeded the cost of damage they inflicted.

February 14, 2016

Was Cocaine Widely Used During World War 1? I OUT OF THE TRENCHES

Filed under: Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 13 Feb 2016

Indy sits on the Chair of Wisdom again and answers two more surreal questions about cocaine and zombie attacks this week.

January 17, 2016

Tabatha Southey is getting nostalgic for plates

Filed under: Europe, Humour — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Perhaps I’ve been lucky to have (mostly) avoided this restaurant serving trend:

I’ve been away seven weeks now, travelling, working, researching a book, seeing friends, but it’s time to come home; I miss plates.

I’ve been staying in London mostly, visited other cities from there, and then I was in Dublin for a while. In all these places I ate out a lot, and I can report that the restaurant industry is in the midst of a tableware crisis. There’s barely a plate to be found any more, and the first time you’re served a dry-aged rump of beef with celeriac gratin, chanterelles and red wine jus on a cutting board, it’s possible to be charmed.

After all, you are not a tablecloth, but soon the tide of things being served on other things that were just not meant to be served on starts to wear on you.

I have a high whimsy-tolerance. Doctors have often remarked upon it. Sometimes half an hour into a puppet show involving a talking reflex hammer and a musical stethoscope, a doctor will say, “This is very unusual,” and make a note on my chart, but recently my whimsy-tolerance has been tested.

I miss plates. Why, in one day on this trip, I was served breakfast on a chalk slate, lunch on a clip-board and dinner on a wooden cutting board shaped like a clover leaf. I’ve been served frites in a beer stein, and the ones I could reach were delicious, and so my verdict was a resolved “Fun!” – until my slow-baked quince, wild honey ewe’s yoghurt, bee pollen and almonds arrived in a vintage teacup balanced on a strip of artfully weathered barn board, and then the next morning at breakfast, I was served a waffle on another waffle with maple syrup in a stem vase.

What was under that waffle I do not care to know, but everything I’ve been served of late suggests that that non-plate waffle presenting item was handcrafted from a substance that Dwell magazine would call “reclaimed ash flooring from a demolished church in Ohio,” and the rest of us would call “wood.”

I miss plates.

September 23, 2015

QotD: The Platonic Ideal of a Guardian column

Filed under: Humour, Media, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The Guardian’s Aisha Mirza bemoans the “psychic burden” of living among white people, which is worse than being mugged.

The more I think about it, the more this may exemplify a near-perfect Guardian article, the ideal to which all other Guardian columnists should aspire. It’s haughty and obnoxious, is ignorant of relevant subject matter, is frequently question-begging, and its imagined piety is premised on a rather obvious double standard. Specifically, Ms Mirza’s belief that people who leave London do so, secretly, because they don’t feel comfortable living among people with skin of a darker hue, which is racist and therefore bad, and her own simultaneous preference not to live among people whose skin is paler than hers, which is somehow not racist at all, and is in fact aired as the last word in righteousness.

David Thompson, “Reheated (45)”, davidthompson, 2015-09-08.

July 14, 2015

Restaurant reviews … with real teeth

Filed under: Britain, Business, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

In The Guardian, Jay Rayner provides the kind of review that you rarely see in your local newspaper (because it guarantees that the restaurant will never buy advertising from you again):

Cooking a steak well is tricky, because you cannot see inside the meat. It takes experience and knowledge. Cooking chips is easy: use the right potatoes, give them a couple of runs through the hot oil, make sure they’re the right colour, perhaps even taste a couple. The job is done. At Smith & Wollensky, the new London outpost of a well-known small American steakhouse chain, we sent back the chips because they were tepid and under-cooked. They returned to us hot and undercooked. And in that one example of carelessness and lack of attention to detail, you know all you need to.

But I had to sit through the whole damn meal so I don’t see why you shouldn’t, too. This US business has swaggered into London like it thinks it’s the bollocks. The description is almost right, if you remove the definite article before the reference to testicles. It is about as shoddy an operation in separating people from inexcusable amounts of their cash as I have seen in a very long time.

[…]

The menu also mentions a list of blackboard specials – T-bones and so on – all of which have run out by 8.20pm. We order the bone-in ribeye. The char is feeble and the overwhelming taste is of salt. Worse is the texture. It’s floppy. Part of this, I think, is a cultural difference; Americans like to celebrate steaks based on tenderness, as if being able to cut a piece of dead animal with a butter knife is an aspiration. I think that if you’re going to eat beef, you want to know it has come from an animal that has moved. This steak slips down like something that has spent its life chained to a radiator in the basement.

The sauces are dire. A béarnaise is an insult to the name, lacking any acidity or the anise burst of tarragon. An au poivre sauce is just a shot of hot demi-glace. A side salad is crisp and well dressed. We take comfort in it. Many other sides are priced for two which is a quick route to higher profit margins and greater food waste. The £9 battered onion rings are good; the £10 truffled mac and cheese is dry and tastes not at all of truffle. Those terrible chips come in the kind of mini-chip-fat-fryer-basket used at chain pubs.

Service is omnipresent. Twice we ask to keep our bread and side plates when they attempt to remove them. When a third waiter lunges in I finally admit defeat. Take them if you’re so bloody desperate. How hard is it to communicate a table’s wishes to the half dozen people working a corner of the floor, especially when a meal is going to cost more than £100 a head?

H/T to John McCluskey for the link.

Update: An earlier review from the same series is extra-flavourful…

You could easily respond to this week’s restaurant with furious, spittle- flecked rage. You could rant about the posing-pouch stupidity of the meat – hanging cabinet that greets you as the lift doors open, and the frothing tanks of monstrous live Norwegian king crabs next to it, each 4ft across. You could bang on about the bizarre pricing structure, and the vertiginous nature of those prices; about the rough-hewn communal tables that are so wide you can’t sit opposite your dining companion because you wouldn’t be able to hear each other, and the long benches which make wearing a skirt a dodgy idea unless you’re desperate to flash the rest of the heavily male clientele. You could shake your fists and roll your eyes and still not be done.

I think this would be a mistake. Instead you should accept Beast as the most unintentionally funny restaurant to open in London in a very long time. It’s hilariously silly. The most appropriate response is to point and laugh. I don’t even think I’d advise you not to go. As long as you go with someone else’s money, because God knows you’ll need a lot of it. Got any friends who are, say, international drug barons? Excellent. They may be able to afford dinner. It’s worth going to see what the unmitigated male ego looks like, when expressed as a restaurant.

[…]

The corn-fed, dry-aged Nebraskan rib-eye, with a carbon footprint big enough to make a climate-change denier horny, is bloody marvellous: rich, deep, earthy, with that dense tang that comes with proper hanging. And at £100 a kilo it bloody well should be. At that price they should lead the damn animal into the restaurant and install it under the table so it can pleasure me while I eat.

May 21, 2015

The Brunel Museum

Filed under: Britain, History — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Brid-Aine Parnell talks about the Brunels — father, son, and grandson — and their impact on Britain during the industrial revolution:

When you mention Brunel to most people, they think of the one with the funny name – Isambard Kingdom Brunel. A few folks will know that his father Marc Isambard Brunel was the first famous engineering Brunel, but not many will know that Isambard’s own son, Henry Marc Brunel, was also an engineer and finished some of Isambard’s projects after his death.

Between the three of them, the Brunels created landmarks all over the UK; perhaps most famously the Clifton Suspension Bridge, which spans the Avon Gorge, linking Clifton in Bristol to Leigh Woods in Somerset.

That bridge, which Isambard Kingdom Brunel designed and often called his “first child,” wasn’t actually completed until after his death and only came about at all because Isambard was nearly drowned in an accident at the massive project he was working on in London with his father: the Thames Tunnel.

It is this masterpiece of engineering, which invented new methods of tunnelling underground and is why the Brunels are credited with creating underground transportation – and by extension, the modern city itself – that you see if you go along to the Brunel Museum in Rotherhithe, London.

The museum itself is in Marc Brunel’s Engine House, built in 1842, the year before the Thames Tunnel was opened, for the engines that pumped to keep the Tunnel dry. The small exhibition tells the story of the design and construction of the 396-metre-long tunnel, the first to have been successfully built underneath a navigable river. The display panels also detail the innovative tunnelling shield technique invented by Marc and Isambard that’s still used to build tunnels today, although these days it’s machines doing the hard work instead of men. Back then, labourers would spent two hours at a time digging, often while also being gassed and showered with shit.

The River Thames at that time was the sewer of London and the tunnel was constantly waterlogged, leading to a build up of effluent and methane gas. The result was that not only would miners pass out from the gas – even if they didn’t, men who re-surfaced were left senseless after their two-hour shift – but there were also explosions as the gas was set alight by the miners’ candles.

Although it’s a tidy and well-kept little exhibition, it is not really why you come to the museum. You come for the underground chamber below, which was only opened up to the public in 2010 after 150 years of being closed off by the London transportation system. This is the Grand Entrance Hall to the Thames Tunnel, used in Brunel’s day as a concert hall and fairground and now in the process of being turned into a permanent exhibition.

May 16, 2015

London on film, 1890-1920

Filed under: Britain, History, Media — Tags: — Nicholas @ 02:00

Open Culture posted this video which includes some of the oldest known footage of London:

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