One job running for quite some time, in the background, is work for an organisation busy helping Myanmar "develop". We bandy the phrase "Developed World" without having experience of the undeveloped world. These photographs I took, try to catalogue what development means - school buildings, roads, electrical substations, clean water - all the things that I (and probably you too) take for granted.
Humbled by those who have next to nothing.
In the Elephant & Castle, around every corner these days, is a crane. The long-awaited dismantling of all the concrete crime-ridden Council flat behemoths is happening far more rapidly than seems possible.
And what are they being replaced with? Expensive yet tiny private flats. Student accommodation (Elephant has South Bank University and the London College of Communication, that is 25,000 students). Shops. And to my delight, "pocket squares", which is the architects' name for small public spaces with trees and grass for people to enjoy, like every Georgian architect knew, but which somehow got forgotten from 1780 to 2014.
Those that used to live in the Council flats, where are they?
Eyes directed upwards.
The inimitable Stephen Bull. The house next door was Charlie Chaplin's birthplace.
Stephen repairs, restores and revivifies old buildings, especially Georgian houses, using traditional materials and methods. Close grain larch, lime plaster with horsehair mixed in, shallow dense flat bricks, he gathers what he can from the buildings themselves, and scrupulously sources what he can't.
Stephen trained and worked as a graphic designer - we were working for the same company, publisher Mitchell Beazley, just a year or two apart. But his love of fastidiousness gradually found another outlet. I visited his latest restoration in Kennington.
Minerva. Original. Stephen borrowed the dots ringing her for the cornice design.
Subsidence is so severe, they have had to 'drop' the floor by 20cms.
You can the tilt in the stairs, corrected in the floor above.
The tilt of the house showing in the structural beams.
A clever exercise using a single length of pole (instead of expensive lasers) to measure the extent of tilt in the beams. Each piece of paper drops to exactly the same level.
The entire house rests on this half-brick. But it has for about 200 years...
Lovely wooden shutters. The men who did the woodwork on houses in the eighteenth century were often the same men building boats.
The reconstituted coving or cornice (to give it its classical name) has been cast on site.
Stephen showing how he designed the cornice from acanthus leaves, with a Prince of Wales feather at every end ... in reference to the palace of one of the Prince's of Wales only metres away.
Wooden cornice on top of the "dado", the lower level wooden panelling.
Dado. Floorboard carefully cut to same width as originals, in Siberian pine, to match the fine grain of eighteenth century pine ... the weather was far colder in the 1700s and trees grow more slowly in cold conditions with tighter rings, makes for stronger wood.
Original wallpaper. Sourced from a scrap. Being reprinted. (Too busy for my liking.)
Highly decorative cornice plus wallpaper.
Original fireplace bought on Ebay.
Verdant gardens, full of palms, roses, bay trees.
Investigating the consistency of the lime plaster.
Unlovely Kennington Road.
Georgian bricks. Far flatter and denser than "London bricks". (That is how one half of one can hold up an entire house!)
Stephen, some kind of self-made historian, architect, builder, house physician, shaman.
Original paint colours. (Yuk.)
Light streams in. Giant windows everywhere, far brighter than a modern house.
The house in question.
Sneezing lime plaster dust.
You must have heard of ISIS. Even if you are like me and you don't watch television or read newspapers. It can't have failed to impress itself upon you. It has a world-class communications strategy. ISIS is the child of Al Qaeda with thousands of masked militiamen running a state now expanding like a balloon occupying a vast swathe of Iraq and Syria.
Solid introduction to it here. Although it now seems to have rebranded itself as just IS - The Islamic State.
We are becoming inured to the killing, the ice cold murderousness of the Islamists. But IS has produced something new, a way of cataloguing its murders, and communicating to the wider world. Like any company or charity or government department, it publishes annual reports.
Covers of the 2013 and 2014 ISIS annual reports, reportage style.
The 2013 annual report presented ISIS murder as an Excel spreadsheet. The clumsy acronyms are typical of the military mindset. SVBIEDs are suicide-vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices. They also deliver bombs by motorcycle, suicide vest, or the plain vanilla favourite of the Iraqi insurgents, IED by the road-side. One analyst says ISIS publishes the annual reports, with figures and self-justifying rhetoric "in order to understand its own narrative". Narrative to understand narrative.
An innovation for the 2014 report is illustration. A silhouette icon and big number in a friendly disc. (I am often asked to do this by clients, turn deadly dull numbers into something more easily graspable.) There is even a clock face that counts off the forms of murder; from suicide vests to rocket propelled grenade. The grand total of 7,681, is actually way down from 2013's 9,540. But how can this affect the stock price when there is no stock price. The worst consequence might be a drop in fundraising.
In case terrorist annual reports seems as weird as it is possible to get, in Istanbul, there is now a Jihadi retail experience. A store selling everything the young Islamist might need, from the bandannas with Koranic proclamation that look so good with full beards, to branded niqabs so your young wife can look lethal too. For the casual-minded are ISIS logo tee shirts and hoodies, and for the more intrepid Islamist cargo pants to carry lots of extra ammunition.
As well as the Turkish shop, there is a website doing fierce sales amongst the youth of South East Asia that dream of Shariah. "A caliphate is the ultimate goal for every jihadist in Indonesia" says a Jakarta-based expert. It is not illegal to belong to, or support Jihad in Indonesia, the world's biggest Muslim state. For children the website sells cuddly Jihadi dolls, with a black balaclava and plastic Kalashnikov.
It reminds me of the image of the wide-eyed Palestinian suicide bomber baby that circulated the world's press a few years ago.
At the time, that photograph and the mentality it implied seemed like a benchmark of some sort, a new low, but apparently in the Palestinian territories kids in suicide bomber garb is everyday. In fact its common everywhere in the world for kids to be included in their parents' activities. On the other side of the globe, photographer An-Sofie Kesteleyn in merely the latest to capture the way gun-toting Americans ignore the statistics of gun-death and make lethal weapons a normal part of the home.
In case we think the mother and father of the little boy dressed in a suicide belt are deficient as parents, according to the Kids' Inpatient Database (KID), 10,000 American kids are hospitalised or killed by guns every year. Often with guns bought by or owned by their parents. The KID database: it's a strange echo of the ISIS love of acronyms and figures, the calm enumerating of American child murder. American enthusiasm for guns is not called "terror", but in my eyes at least, kids with rifles is no less horrific than kids in bomb belts.
This big number, 10,000 injuries and deaths, is the same number as the injuries and deaths to date in Gaza right now (at the time of writing Israel is engaged in Operation Protective Edge) - which everyone seems to agree is an abomination - and these American children are injured and die every year, year on year on year on year.
Let me be very clear, the number of people injured and killed by guns in America in one year is 104,581 (for 2010, includes suicides). 10,000 is just children under eighteen. 100,000 is the number injured and killed in Syria, which is experiencing open warfare, yet America accepts, even embraces, this slaughter of its own citizens, by its own citizens, and supports it with the fun retail experience of thousands of gun shops and websites. A "Syria" every year for America's people. A "Gaza" every year for America's children.
Walmart delivers free over $50. I don't know much about guns, although I do know from reading about America gun death that it is the bullet's shock wave caused by its tremendous velocity, and the resultant rupturing of blood vessels and muscle tissue by this "expansion" of force that causes the injury rather than the little metal projectile itself. Of the ammunition on the Walmart site, Remington Pointed Soft Point, that "provides deep penetration" combined with "reliable expansion", seems a must for every child.
According to Walmart's annual report, it posted sales of $444 billion in 2012. This turnover is greater than the GDP of Austria. The Business Insider website speculates that if Walmart was an army - with its revenues and its 2 million employees - "it would be the second biggest in the world". It already has all the guns.
A strange note to end on, from The Islamic State to America's biggest company. But the whole post is about corporate coldness. The normal corporate materials used in going-about-business, its just that that business is slaughter. What direction are ISIS meant to go in, other than the one already laid out for them?
Dressed in Kevlar