Friday, January 24, 2020

Politics and Flower Power

Catalyst, over at Oddball Observations, did a recent post about his collection of political buttons. It made me wonder which buttons I still have. I dug these out of a box in my closet. A wide political spectrum, right?!

The Nixon button I bought at a flea market in the '80s, as kind of a joke. I've never had anything but antipathy for Nixon, although he looks like an upstanding citizen compared to what we have now.

The Reagan/Bush button is the real thing. When I was in high school (I graduated in 1984), I considered myself a Reagan supporter. I can only chalk this up to political naiveté. I think I was most impressed that the Iranian hostage situation was resolved almost the moment he came into office. (Which later led to questions.)

I remember supporting Reagan in discussions with my friends around that time, but when I went to the polls that November, I voted for Mondale. I realized at some point that I wasn't a Republican after all! My roommate was stunned. Ah, youth.

In 1988 I campaigned for Dukakis and Bentsen, whose button you see above. I also campaigned for Steve Pajcic, a Democrat who ran for governor of Florida in 1986. (I used to have his button but no longer do.) Both lost. Oh well.

I guess the anti-Bush and pro-Obama buttons are self-explanatory. I used to have a Hillary Clinton button from her Senate run in New York in 2000, but it appears to be gone.

My favorite button is this one (above left). It's an authentic vintage '60s "flower power" button, which I bought at the same flea market where I got the Nixon button. I only wore it once, as far as I can remember, when I dressed as a rather over-the-top hippie for Halloween in 1984:

Don't you like my dolphin? Her name was Myrtle. She came from Goodwill, along with the beads and clothes and groovy (?) shades, and everything went back there again not long after Halloween. The joint wasn't real, I swear. (Myrtle has a joint, too!)

Anyway, we had some drama because I went to a graveyard with some friends that night, and I dropped my "Flower Power" button. When I realized it later, I made everyone go back and help me find it. Which we did.

I'll say it again: Ah, youth. I kind of wish I still had that dashiki.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

An Apparent Reprieve

The mystery plant, which we now believe is borage, has generated a cluster of what appear to be hairy little flower buds. In the middle of winter! This plant doesn't appear to be fazed by anything. It would laugh at freezing temperatures, if it could laugh. It's also quite large -- about a foot and a half tall. I can't wait to see what it looks like when it blooms.

And this is what the teasel seedlings look like. They're not growing much, but they're not dying, either. (Despite being once pulled up by pigeons.) I think they're waiting for warmer weather, when they'll probably get more vigorously underway.

I know you're all wondering about yesterday's visit with the landlord. In short, I think we're fine. She gave no indication that we were going to be asked to move, and in fact she said several things that made me think she's happy for us to stay. It was one of those situations where I didn't want to come right out and ask, because I didn't want to invade her privacy or, God forbid, put any ideas in her head -- but I'm much more at ease.

We got off to an awkward start when, pulling into the parking space in front of the house, her husband bumped the back window of their car against the concrete overhang of the front porch. The window shattered with a bang. I couldn't believe it.

"Well, that was an entrance," he said, getting out of the car to survey the damage.

(I keep referring to her as the landlord, because her name is on our lease, but I suppose it's both of them, really.)

They seem like very reasonable people and we made some decisions about the exterior repairs that are needed -- some work on the fence, the front garden, the steps and the side gate. I also pointed out that some tree trimming may eventually be required on the walnut and the elders at the back of the property, and asked if she'd consider having our aged bathtub re-enameled. They seemed amenable to all that.

She praised our color scheme and our decorating, and said a couple of times that she was glad we were happy here and that she "wanted it to feel like our home." She even asked if we wanted a new bathtub -- but honestly I think the existing tub is fine. It just needs to be refinished.

So, anyway, I don't think she'd have said several of the things she did if we were going to be asked to move on. Whew!

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Fishcotheque and Some Trivia

This chippy has the best name, doesn't it? I first photographed it six years ago, when it had a different sign -- I'm always glad to see it's still there whenever I pass Waterloo station. Someday I suppose I should eat there. They've now fully embraced the disco theme, with a disco ball motif and an adjacent sign proclaiming a "Fishco Inferno"!

This morning our landlord's supposed to show up for her "site visit." I told Dave I doubt we'll learn anything, but at least it will be good to put a name with a face -- both for her and for us. She may still kick us out, but if she does, I'm more mentally prepared than I was. I've been looking at other apartment listings -- both to rent and to buy -- and there seems to be some availability in our price range, so that's a good sign.

Buying is the more strenuous undertaking, and requires a lot more preparation, of course, but it's perhaps not out of the question.

Meanwhile, life goes on as usual. Olga has been erratic in her desire to walk -- on Monday she wouldn't go out at all, but yesterday she was raring to go and we did our full loop around the neighborhood. This morning she practically dragged us out of bed in her desire to get out into the back garden, where she immediately raced to the back wall growling -- I think she must have detected foxes. She's still out there as I write, standing guard.

This was the moon yesterday morning -- a crescent sliver hanging in the sky just after dawn.

Apropos of nothing, here are two random facts I've been meaning to blog:

-- The longest Newbery book is "The Story of Mankind," the first winner, from 1922. It's something like 440 pages in its revised edition. I'm still reading the Newberys but I haven't tackled that one yet. I might save it for last. The second-longest is "Smoky the Cowhorse," the 1927 winner, which comes in at something like 300 pages. That seems pretty long for a book about a horse. I haven't tackled that one either.

-- When I visited the ABBA exhibit on Sunday, I learned that the Swedish title for the song "Ring Ring," one of their earliest hits, is "Bara Du Slog En Signal." According to Google, that translates to "If Only You Called." I can see why they retitled it. "Ring Ring" is definitely snappier in English!

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

A Heron, Three Ways

When I was at the Heath on Sunday, I came across this grey heron sitting on a branch above one of the ponds. I got to photograph it from different angles as I walked.

I think it was just hanging out and enjoying the sun, like I was!

According to Wikipedia, 400 roasted herons were served to guests when the new Archbishop of York was installed in 1465. Good Lord! And also, yuck. I bet a heron is a gamey bird.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Mud and Frost

More sunshine yesterday, a welcome development. I took Olga for a long walk on the Heath. We usually follow a circle that runs north toward Highgate and south again to Parliament Hill, but this time we changed up our routine. We avoided some of the areas near Highgate that get muddy -- in the winter and early spring, parts of the Heath are barely passable because they're so wet -- and we also skipped Parliament Hill because, frankly, Olga doesn't care about the view. She wants trees and squirrels.

So we stuck to the woodsy paths.

The leaves in the shadowy hollows were covered with frost. But despite the chill, tons of people were out, soaking up the sun. (At least as much as possible while wearing a coat.)

Holy mud-bog, Batman! See what I mean? Fortunately I have two pairs of Merrill shoes that work really well in muddy conditions -- my feet never get wet.

Back home again, I set up our new Olga-cams, which Dave bought for Christmas. They'll allow us to check on the house and the dog remotely, using an app on our phones. You may remember that we had some before, but when we got our new Internet router a few months ago, those cameras stopped working. The problem had something to do with the megahertz of the router signal -- I don't pretend to understand it, and no matter what I did, I couldn't get them to function again. Technology!

So, yeah, we have new ones.

I also finished Tina Brown's "Vanity Fair Diaries" -- finally. My slow pace wasn't Tina's fault. I loved the book.

Remember how she said "cavorting" is an underused word? Well, she later recounted writing a letter in which she called someone an "empurpled blowhard," and although she eventually regretted the letter, I think that's a fantastic term. "Empurpled" is definitely an underused word. I know several people who have a tendency to become empurpled. In fact, at times, I may be one of them.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Sun, Stars, ABBA and Owls

Finally! Sunshine! I went for a long walk yesterday through Piccadilly and Soho, along the Strand and across Waterloo Bridge. It was a fabulous day -- chilly, but with great sun and shadows and lots of photo opportunities. Olga stayed home, but I think today is supposed to be pretty nice too, so I'll make it up to her.

First, in Piccadilly, I walked past that restaurant that Chris insisted was closed. It is, in fact, still open. I think he was on the next street over, where there is a building being demolished, and he just got confused. Of course, he'll never admit it.

I walked through Soho toward Covent Garden and the area around St. Martin in the Fields. I wanted to find Cecil Court, a street of small used-book shops, which a friend recently mentioned on Facebook. I did indeed find it, and although I didn't buy anything this time (with my Newbery project, the last thing I need at the moment is more books!) I'm glad to know where it is.

I had lunch on the Strand -- a nondescript sandwich -- and then walked across the bridge to Waterloo...

...where I caught the tube for North Greenwich. I was bound for the O2 Dome to see the new ABBA exhibit, a collection of artifacts and memorabilia retracing the band's history from the mid-'60s to the early '80s. I have been an unapologetic ABBA fan all my life, so it was fun to see.

Fun fact: The song "SOS" is the only palindromic hit by a palindromic band. Now there's a trivia question for you.

My only complaint is that some of the most famous costumes on display are replicas and not the originals. Maybe the originals don't exist anymore. But I did see some of the band's gold records, some interesting footage and photos and heard plenty of ABBA music, which was carefully placed in context with other pop music and current events of the day. I was in there for almost two hours!

Self-portrait with ABBA.

By the way, although many of the other people there were about my age, some were younger and were certainly not around when ABBA was in its heyday. (One young guy was wearing a pair of fabulous gold lamé shoes.) I suppose they're evidence that "Mamma Mia" and other productions have helped create a new audience.

Anyway, I got out of there and came home and immediately watched "Muriel's Wedding" -- one of my favorite movies, as I'm sure I've said before. The soundtrack is almost entirely ABBA.

Finally, last night, as I was lying in bed, I heard an owl calling outside. Olga perked her ears up, but she didn't move. I, however, grabbed my phone and stepped out the back door to record it:

It sounded like there were two, one nearby and one farther away -- tawny owls, I believe, which I've heard before in our garden. I saw one of them fly away, dark wings against the starry sky. Yes, STARS! In London! How often do I have a chance to see those?! (Answer: Between often-cloudy weather and light pollution, not very.)

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Frowny Face

This has not been a great week. I've been in a persistently blue mood. Maybe I have Seasonal Affective Disorder? I've been feeling frustrated at work and impatient at home. I'm going to try to get out today for a photo walk and see if that makes me feel better. I was only able to walk to work one day this week, either because it was raining or I didn't leave myself enough time, so I have been seriously deprived of daylight and exercise.

To make matters worse, Dave and I have both concluded that we're about to be evicted. The fact that the landlord insisted on an early-break clause the last time we signed our lease -- a clause that takes effect this month -- and now suddenly wants to come and visit the property seems pretty suspicious. We think she's probably about to give us notice and put it on the market.

Which I suppose isn't a tragedy. It will just necessitate another change, and maybe that's not a bad thing. We've been here a while and I wouldn't mind some new surroundings, though I'd like to have just one more summer in our garden -- long enough to see the honesty and hollyhock seedlings I planted last year come to fruition. (I suppose I could dig some up and take them with me.)

I do dread the work and disruption that comes with moving. We have quite a bit more stuff than we did when we came to this flat, so the moving itself will be a bigger task, and all the changing addresses and disconnecting and reconnecting services will be tedious.

You're probably wondering, "Why don't you just buy the place where you live?" While we could probably afford to buy somewhere, I don't think we could afford this place. It's likely to be way too expensive for us. We probably should consider that option elsewhere, but all the paperwork and bureaucracy seems daunting.

Anyway, I shouldn't get ahead of myself. I don't know what's going to happen. But these are the thoughts whirling around in my head at the moment.

(Photo: Chelsea, a couple of weeks ago.)