My last word on following (possibly)

Thursday, February 12th 2015

I recently published two posts on blog subscribers or followers, Are you following me? and More on followers. My thesis in these posts was that 1. numbers of followers of blogs have increased across the board in recent times, and that 2. I was puzzled as to why this should be. In fact, I was suspicious that followers gained, or thought they gained, some advantage from following large numbers of blogs though I did not know what this real or imaginary advantage might be.

There was a subsidiary topic to this, namely “liking”. The “like” button is a feature of social sites such as Facebook and Twittter and has found its way onto blogs and other similar facilities. Clicking the “like” button in theory enables a visitor to express approval of an item on your Facebook or blog but might there be more to it than this, I wondered? I noticed that while regular visitors to my blog sometimes clicked “like”, most of my “likes” came from people I had never seen before and who, in all probability, I would never see again. To make things more puzzling still, I saw that the “like” button was often clicked within seconds of a post being published, meaning that the “liker” could not possibly have read it. If s/he hadn’t read it, why claim to like it?

To me, this suggested some ulterior motive, though I did not know what this was. Searching on the Web, I discovered the concept of “like spam”, that is, the use of “like” by people to promote their own sites and perhaps push them further up the ladder on search engines. It is annoying to be used in this parasitical fashion and it obviously devalues the meaning of “like”. For these reasons, I closed the like button on my blog.

Imagine my surprise on discovering that, despite the disappearance of the “like” button, people went on “liking” my posts! How were they doing this and why?

Since writing the second post mentioned above, I have looked into the matter again and exchanged messages with a a few people. This has enabled me to take a somewhat different view of “following” and “liking”.

As I mentioned in More on followers, the majority of my followers arrive through the channel of WordPress Reader. I have never used this facility myself and was unaware of some of the implications of its use. If you have not used it, either, then in outline, it allows you to form a list of blogs to keep up with and presents to you any new posts on your listed blogs. It also provides a “like” button that is functional, even if “like” has been turned off on the blog. In addition, the Reader offers you two lists, “Recommended Blogs” and “Blogs You May Like”, respectively.

Even though it provides free blogs, WordPress is a commercial enterprise, based on advertising. To attract advertisers, it needs to persuade them that it has a wide audience. The more blogs, and the more traffic between blogs, the better it is for WordPress. WordPress therefore actively encourages its bloggers to visit one another’s sites. So it promotes “following” and “liking”.

With regard to “liking”, there is a nuance that I had not caught onto that was explained to me by a follower. Events ran thus: I published a post and within seconds, someone “liked” it; I emailed the “liker” curtly, asking why she had “liked” my post, as she couldn’t possibly have read it in the time. Her reply took the wind out of my sails: if you “like” a post in WordPress Reader, she pointed out, that places it in a folder called Posts I Like. In other words, “like” can be used as a “read-later” bookmark. If you see a post that looks interesting but you don’t want to read it now, “like” it and you can come back to it when you have time.

That went a long way to explaining all those “likes” from sporadic visitors. They might find my blog on one of the recommended lists, “like”-bookmark a post and, having read it, never visit my blog again… or even go on following me and reading everything!

So, now that I understand “following” and “liking” a little better, where does that leave me?

I think my attitude to “followers” and “likers” is now a little more benign. I don’t discount the possibility that some people might have an ulterior motive but I think that most probably act in good faith. It is not necessarily the case that once a person has subscribed, s/he will continue to follow my blog assiduously in future. In fact, I suspect that many of them never read more than one post, the one that caused them to subscribe in the first place.

I am also less concerned about “likes”. I still have no intention of switching on the blog’s “like” button again but if people want to use it in the Reader to bookmark my posts for later reading that’s fine by me.

While it is interesting and perhaps a little intriguing to see people signing up to follow your blog or clicking on “like”, this is not something to take too seriously. It is not a reliable indicator of the public popularity of your blog. Nor is the number of visitors. It is very tempting after a day when the number of visits has soared to think that you have finally “arrived”. The sad truth is that most visitors arrive at your blog via search engines and the number of visits you receive will depend on the topics people are currently searching for. There was one occasion when words in a post of mine accidentally coincided with a major news story. For three or four days, I had a high daily count of visitors. Then the news item was forgotten and visitor numbers subsided again to their usual level.

So, “followers” and “likers”, feel free to continue but if you really want to make an impression, why not leave a comment? After all is said and done, it is the personal touch that really counts.

Copyright © 2015 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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From Baker Street to West End Green

Sunday, February 8th 2015

The Sunday shopping dragged home and put away, tea made and drunk, computers plinked, what should we do now? Tigger, as usual, had an idea, in pursuance of which we went out and caught a bus. I don’t think that the original plan called for a stop at Baker Street but we did stop there, anyway, more or less on a whim.

Baker Street
Baker Street
A less usual view

Baker Street is a main thoroughfare and known as an important interchange point in London’s transport system. It is also known, of course, as the street in which Conan Doyle’s fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, lived.

We detected lunch
We detected lunch

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, Sherlockian influences appear here and there, often in the least obvious places. Thus, this fish & chip shop bears the name Holmes, though I don’t recall reading of the great consulting detective ever eating this archetypal English dish. We nonetheless detected lunch in the form of deep fried haloumi, chips and salad and indulged ourselves.

St Andrews, Frognal
St Andrews, Frognal

The next bus ride took us up Finchley Road and we disembarked where this meets Frognal Lane on the east and West End Lane on the west. Here sits the Church of St Andrew, built 1902-4 and Grade II listed. Despite the scaffolding, it looked rather splendid in the sunshine.

Victorian corner building Victorian corner building
Victorian corner building
Dennington Park Road

To get where we were going, we should have walked straight down West End Lane but we thought to make it more interesting by taking side streets. Tigger’s  inner pigeon must have been asleep or not paying attention because we ended up off route. Arriving somehow at Dennington Park Road, I photographed this Victorian (1892) building standing proudly on the corner. Looking down the road, we saw an even more imposing building and went to investigate.

The Hampstead Synagogue
The Hampstead Synagogue

At first sight it was not obvious what building this was but I guessed that it might be a synagogue. Sadly, there are reasons why Jewish institutions are discreet about announcing themselves. When we went closer, we found a small brass plate bearing the legend THE HAMPSTEAD SYNAGOGUE. You could be forgiven for thinking that it is a fairly modern building but it was in fact built 1892-1901 and can therefore be rightly described as Late Victorian, at least in date if not in style.

The Hampstead Synagogue
The Hampstead Synagogue
Showing the dome

This view shows that the synagogue has a dome. It has been given a Grade II* listing and I would have liked to see inside but it was closed.

West End Lane runs slightly south of west from Finchley Road but then turns sharp left and heads south. It in fact met us at Dennington Park Road so we started walking up it into an area know as Fortune Green, also called West Hampstead because of its proximity to three stations of that name.

M - Moment Espresso
M – Moment Espresso

We were in need of refreshment by now and looked for a cafe. We eventually happened upon “M” which, I believe, stands for Moment Espresso. Perhaps the other letters of the name fell off or perhaps the cafe feels a need to be discreet. Did James Bond ever come here, I wonder?

West End Lane - West End Green
West End Lane – West End Green
Click for a larger version

We continued up West End Lane towards West End Green and I took a panoramic photo of the view ahead of us. The Green (just about glimpsed in the background through trees towards the right) is a roughly triangular green space. You can see a Google Map of the area here, if you wish.

West Hampstead Fire Station
West Hampstead Fire Station

At a time when fire stations are being closed right, left and centre, it’s good to find one in working order and especially such a fine one as this. Bearing the name “Fire Brigade Station” it was built under the auspices of the old London County Council in 1901, missing the Victorian Age by a few months – the foundation stone was laid in June.

Emmanuel Church
Emmanuel Church
Astride the Victorian and Edwardian eras

At the north end of West End Green, demurely veiling itself in trees, is Emmanuel Church. This establishment is both Victorian and Edwardian as building began in 1897 but was not completed until 1903.

Miss Miles' Drinking Fountain
Miss Miles’ Drinking Fountain

On the Green itself there stands an example of that very Victorian way of showing one’s respect for the dear departed – a drinking fountain. This one is fine enough to have attracted a Grade II listing and bears the following inscription:

PRESENTED BY MISS MILES
IN MEMORY OF HER MOTHER
WHO LIVED IN WEST END 76 YEARS
1897

There are four spouts for humans (no cups remain, though) and our four-legged friends have not been forgotten because on the north side there is a basin at ground level. There are two steps for shorter people.

Looking south from West End Green
Looking south from West End Green
Click to see a larger version

I took this picture on the Green itself, looking south. The fire station is on the right and West End Lane runs away in the centre of the picture. (Click for a larger view.)

The local pigeon community at rest
The local pigeon community at rest

I was observing members of the local pigeon community relaxing on the Green (I am rather fond of pigeons, as you may recall) when I noticed that among them was one that was almost entirely white. It’s not all that unusual to see white pigeons but this one was special and I tried to get closer for a better view.

Dazzlingly white pigeon
Dazzlingly white pigeon

The pigeon watched me carefully as I approached, whether out of suspicion or in the hope I had food, I do not know. This was as closed as I risked going in case the pigeon decided to fly away. Apart from some colour on the cheeks and at the base of the beak, the pigeon is completely white but not just white, glowingly white. I have never seen a pigeon – or even a dove – this brilliantly white. I had to reduce the highlights in the photo to unusually low levels (hence the dullness of the background) in order to get any detail from the feathers which were so bright. Quite amazing.

We caught a bus at the Green and changed at King’s Cross. At the reservoir, the highest point of Pentonville Road and indeed of the local area (which is why, of course, they built the reservoir there!), we took photos of the sunset before returning home.

Sunset over St Pancras
Sunset over St Pancras
From the high point of Pentonville Road

Copyright © 2015 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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A random ramble around Brixton

Saturday, February 7th 2015

As usual, the first task of the day was to find breakfast. As we were heading for King’s Cross in any case, we thought to visit what used to be one of our favourite cafes but which we had not been to for a while.

The Station Cafe
The Station Cafe

At the lower end of Pentonville Road, opposite the old Thameslink Station (once the starting point for many of our journeys to the south but now reduced to  being a part-time side entrance to the train and tube stations), this cafe is popular with construction workers and station staff. Even French Eurostar train crew have been spotted here enjoying a “Full English Breakfast”! Fortified in our turn by Vegetarian Set Breakfast 1 and Vegetarian Set Breakfast 2, respectively, we set forth.

King's Cross Station
King’s Cross Station
Click to see a larger version

Woman with two heads

From the cafe we walked to King’s Cross Station where we would catch  a bus to our next destination. While waiting for the bus, I took a panoramic photo of the front of the station. Built in the 1850s (with recent additions), it is a fairly plain but elegant design, all the better for being fully visible now that the tatty extension containing shops that once cluttered the forecourt has been removed.

If you look carefully at the person at the bottom of the photo, about a quarter of the way along from the left, you may notice something odd: a woman with two heads! Maybe she is Zaphod Beeblebrox’s sister but a more likely explanation is that this is an artefact of my camera’s panorama function. The camera creates panoramas by stitching together several photos and between one photo and another, objects in the field of view may move and may either become invisible or appear more than once.

Lambeth Town Hall, Brixton
Lambeth Town Hall, Brixton
A place of lambs and stones

Our bus carried us well south of the Thames to Brixton Hill. If you are curious, you can situate our destination in context by looking at this Google Map. I have centred it on St Matthew’s Gardens (the old churchyard of the church), near where we disembarked. Across the road is the imposing bulk of Lambeth Town Hall. Lambeth is a London Borough and its name goes right back to Anglo-Saxon times. The borough is named after a riverside landing place attested in 1062 as Lambehitha, indicating that sheep and lambs would have been unloaded from boats here. The town hall, now a Grade II listed building, was built in 1905-8 and extended in 1935-8. The clock tower is very tall and was obviously intended to impress.

Town Hall Clock Tower
Town Hall Clock Tower

Brixton, where we spent our time, is a district within Lambeth. The name is first found in 1067 where it appears as Brixistane. This is believed to derive from an Anglo-Saxon personal name, Brihtsige and stane, meaning ‘stone’. Brihtsige was possibly a landowner or other prominent person who set up a stone, either as a boundary marker or as a meeting place.

St Matthew's Church
St Matthew’s Church

Where Brixton Road divides to form Brixton Hill and Effra Road, stands St Matthew’s Church in “Gardens” of the same name which were once its burial ground. Built in 1822-4 in Classical style with Doric columns, it is today a Grade II* listed structure.

Budd Family Mausoleum
Budd Family Mausoleum

Where this triangle of land comes to a point between dividing roads, there stands an unusual but impressive monument. Nowadays, the railings around the gardens close behind it, leaving it isolated in an open paved area. Once, however, this ground too would have been part of the church’s burial ground and the monument would have stood within it. This is not just a simple monument but is in fact a family mausoleum. Beneath the obvious superstructure and not immediately visible is the family vault, accessible by a small door on the western side.

Budd Mausoleum (detail)
Budd Mausoleum (detail)

I first saw this monument and grave in July 2013 (see One to take home) and wrote about it as follows:

The immediate motive for creating the mausoleum was the desire of Henry Budd to provide a grave and memorial for his father, Richard Budd, who died in 1834. One face of the memorial also commemorates Henry’s wife Charlotte who died in 1848. Other names include that of a second Richard Budd, son of Henry and Charlotte, and their daughter Emmeline.

The Egyptian Revival style mausoleum was built in 1835 and its place at one end of the churchyard would have made it dominate this and set the pattern for future burials. Its occupants declare even in death their important and respectable standing in their community. Whether or not we today remember the Budds, their mausoleum stands as a fascinating piece of late Georgian funeral architecture.

The Tate Library
The Tate Library

Over on the eastern side of Effra Road stands a rather handsome Victorian building. It proudly declares its purpose as the “Central Free Library” and you could perhaps be forgiven for thinking that its existence is owing to the philanthropy of either Andrew Carnegie or John Passmore Edwards. The inscription, however, calls it the “Tate Central Free Library” and the bronze bust in front of the building leave us in no doubt.

Bust of Sir Hentry Tate Bust of Sir Henry Tate
Bust of Sir Henry Tate

The philanthropist in this instance was Sir Henry Tate, of sugar fame, who also established the Tate Gallery.

Library entrance
Library entrance

The library, built in “Free Renaisance manner” (English Heritage, listing description), was completed in 1892. The decorative panels of on either side of the door bear two sets of initials, “HT” (left) and “LLC” (right). “HT” obviously stands for “Henry Tate” but what about the letters “LLC”? My best guess in that this stands for “Lambeth London Council”, which would have been the name of the local government entity at that time.

London Hotel, Coldharbour Lane
London Hotel, Coldharbour Lane

As we explored Coldharbour Lane, my eye was caught by this rather strange building. Stylistically, it looks as if it might be late Victorian or Edwardian but the unified grey colouration contradicts that.

London Hotel and shops
London Hotel and shops

It is called the London Hotel, a perfectly good name as I believe that it does indeed trade as an hotel. On the ground floor, there are three shops and the smallest police station I have seen for a long time. Renting out these properties perhaps makes up for slow times in the hotel business. So what is the secret of this building’s history? Is it perhaps an old building that has at some time received a coat of weather proofing? I have not been able to find out anything about it so far.

Brixton Village Market
Brixton Village Market

Brixton has an unusually large number of markets. In fact, I don’t think I have ever seen so many in one place. These include open-air street markets, covered markets and arcades. The one we explored was called Brixton Village, a covered market with “avenues” like street of shops. The above and next few pictures are all of Brixton Village.

Fruit and veg

All the usual goods are on sale – here fruit and  vegetables – mostly of good quality. There were a lot of food stalls and small cafes.

Buy your junk here

If you can’t find what you need in one of the regular retail outlets, perhaps you will find it in the junk-, er, I mean, second-hand emporium.

Hats and clothes

Or change your image with a new hat and set of clothes.

Unusual lamps

This avenue was sporting some unusual and very decorative lamps.

Ginger cat Ginger cat

Despite the noise and bustle, not to mention heavy feet stomping about inches from his nose, this cat seemed calm and quite at ease. He accepted our attentions with the nonchalance of one who takes these things as his due.

Reliance Arcade
Reliance Arcade

As mentioned above, there are also arcades providing interest and bargains for the shoppers of Brixton. One of the quaintest is Reliance Arcade which runs through other buildings from Electric Lane to Brixton Road. It was built in 1923-5 in an Art Deco style apparently inspired by Ancient Egyptian art.

Reliance Arcade, interior
Reliance Arcade, interior

The arcade consists of a single straight passage lined with the tiniest shops I have seen. Despites the smallness of the premises, businesses such as food shops and even hairdressers’ have managed to establish themselves. I suppose if you want something the size of a market stall but like to be indoors and able to lock up and the end of the day, these shops are ideal. The arcade has merited a Grade II listing but has unfortunately had to be placed on English Heritage’s Heritage At Risk Register. English Heritage reports that the Borough Council is looking at ways to protect this unique site.

Walton Lodge
Walton Lodge
Sanitary Steam Laundry

We spotted a couple of other historically interesting buildings that seemed to be in a vulnerable state too and I expect that throughout the borough there are many others. The first was the building above, partly obscured by builders’ fencing. It rejoices in the name Walton Lodge but has operated as a “sanitary steam laundry” since 1885. Sadly, it has recently closed and there is a question mark over its future. The reason for the noble sounding name is that that was the name of the dwelling house into which the business moved in 1885. For more information on this remarkable institution and more pictures, see this article in Brixton Buzz.

Carlton Mansions
Carlton Mansions

The other was this late Victorian (1891) tenement block, a structure that is full of character and rather splendid in its isolation. I do not know the history of this building except that recently it was occupied by squatters who have now been evicted. The building does not have an English Heritage listing but a local listing, which possibly affords some measure of protection. Let’s hope it can be saved and put to some sympathetic purpose.

Nuclear Dawn
Nuclear Dawn
Brian Barnes, 1981

Carlton Mansions is famous for another reason, namely that on its exposed eastern side it bears a large painting entitled Nuclear Dawn. Funded by the Arts Council, the Gulbenkian Foundation and the Greater London Arts Association, the painting expressed the fears and preoccupations of the Cold War period and the threat of nuclear war. For more information see the London Mural Preservation Society’s article Nuclear Dawn.

Anonymous wall painting
Wall painting
Artist unknown (to me)

After admiring Nuclear Dawn, I spotted another painting in a yard and went in to photograph it. Very colourful and competently executed, it is by an unknown artist – unknown to me, that is, as I am sure the street painting community know who paints what.

Electric Avenue
Electric Avenue
Little sign of past glories

I mentioned that Reliance Arcade runs from Electric Lane. The lane is only one of the names on an electric theme in this area. Above you see a picture of Electric Avenue as it is today and, looking at this nondescript street, you would not guess the splendours that once merited the name. This was in its heyday a prestigious shopping street, lined with shops bearing famous names, its shoppers protected from the weather by metal and glass canopies projecting from the façades of the shops, one of the first streets in Britain to be lit with electricity. To see what Brixton and London has lost, consult The rise and fall of Electric Avenue, Brixton on Brixton Buzz.

Electric Mansions
Entrance to Electric Mansions

Electric Avenue was not only a venue for affluent shoppers. It was also a street in which people lived. This doorway is one of the entrances to Electric Mansions, a once no doubt sought-after address but now fallen from grace.

Behold a Pale Horse
Behold a Pale Horse
Artist unknown (to me)

I felt that my last photo of the expedition in some strange way summed up the whole experience. The apocalyptic theme harmonized with Nuclear Dawn, a serious work, and yet the painting seems to evince a certain gruesome humour. The horse, though skeletal, has a fleshed outline drawn around it and seems to kick its back legs skittishly. Brixton has been through many changes but is a lively area and I thought to detect an energy that bodes well for the future. Perhaps Brixton’s skeleton is clothing itself anew ready for the adventures ahead.

Copyright © 2015 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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