Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Gigantic Dogs and Birds

I was walking in a quiet residential area near Golders Green more than a week ago when I passed this guy and his two magnificent French mastiffs. I was initially feeling shy about asking for a picture -- probably intimidated by the dogs! -- but seeing my camera, he said to me, "Don't you want a picture of my dogs?" I said, "Actually, I do!"

So there you have it. I wish I'd asked their names. I'm a bad reporter.

When I mentioned the seasons changing yesterday, I meant to point out that the blackberries are also coming to an end -- another harbinger of fall. We still have some purply-red ones on our backyard vine, but they've been red for weeks, and I suspect they'll never ripen. The berries in Hampstead Heath are looking a bit shriveled and seedy. A coworker told me she went berry picking on the Heath for a couple of hours on Sunday, and I was impressed she could find that many palatable ones. (Apparently the berries in the shady spots are still good.) She took them home and made a pie.

I read a fascinating article yesterday in The New Yorker about radical feminists and their refusal to accept transgender women as women. The feminists say that because transgender women were born as men, they enjoyed the privileges and benefits of being male and thus never suffered through girlhood and young womanhood at the hands of the oppressive patriarchy. (Apparently suffering through gender dysphoria and associated discrimination by the oppressive patriarchy isn't an analogous experience.) This stance has landed them in hot water, with many venues refusing to accommodate them for meetings and conferences.

Needless to say, I come down squarely on the side of the transgender women in this debate, despite my own pro-feminist beliefs. There are always people, in any debate, who take things too far. The "radfems" fall into that camp, I'd say. (They don't want my support anyway, I'm sure.)

People can find so many ways to draw lines and create tribes, can't they?

In trying to power through a small stack of accumulated New Yorkers, I also came across this cartoon, which reminded me so much of our own recent back yard experiences I had to laugh. It's part of the magazine's captioning contest and as such doesn't have a caption yet. How about, "I told you not to buy that birdseed from Monsanto!" (Apparently there's also a huge article about GMO food in one of these New Yorkers, as alluded to recently by fellow blogger Ms. Moon. I haven't tackled that one yet.)

Monday, September 1, 2014

Blessed Respite

Yesterday was fabulous. I did not touch the camera all day. I am on a respite from my photography, a hobby holiday. I am resting my eyes. (As my parents used to say when I was a little kid and I'd catch them falling asleep: "Oh, I'm just resting my eyes.")

I spent the day around the house. I weeded the garden in the morning and relocated a few slugs away from our better plants. Slugs are disgusting, but they're also fascinating. There are leopard-spotted slugs and brown slugs with bright orange fringes, almost like a petticoat. There are roundish slugs and longish slugs. It seems unlikely that what's essentially a snail with no shell could survive at all -- and yet they prosper.

And the earthworms! We have some big ol' earthworms. While I weeded, a robin sat in the bushes just a foot or two away, waiting for vulnerable worms to be unearthed. Dave joked that it was like a scene from Mary Poppins. And then it quickly turned into a horror film -- that tiny little bird could hoover down an entire worm in a flash.

I walked Olga over to Hampstead Heath and we had a good long wander through the woods. She had a great time. I always imagine she looks at me a bit accusingly these days, like, "Why don't you walk me anymore?" It was good to spend time with her and alleviate my guilt.

Dave bought a few more plants at the garden store yesterday afternoon -- speedwell and bergamot and I can't remember what else -- and he planted those. Things are getting a bit tightly packed along the perimeters of the garden. Slug festival!

Finally, last night, we went to the Black Lion, our local pub, for dinner. I had butternut squash wellington, which was good and autumnal. The temperatures are dipping and the air is taking on a cooler edge. We are moving into fall!

(Photos: Some sculptural hedges from Highams Park, on Saturday, and tile art in the seating alcoves at the Black Horse Road tube station.)

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Inevitably, More Sore Feet

Wow! Yesterday was a marathon of street photography for Bleeding London.

First, I took Olga for an early-morning walk and polished off a handful of forgotten streets near our flat -- another step on my endless quest to photograph every street in our postcode, NW6.

Then, at 10 a.m., I took an overground train and the tube out to far east London, to Woodford, which had not been photographed at all. There I met up with Susi, the woman I know from Flickr who introduced me to the project, and her husband Greg. We had coffee at a Costa coffee shop where we got to know each other a bit. Then we set out, Susi and Greg going in one direction and I the other. (We were in the IG8 postcode, for those of you keeping track of such things.)

It was a somewhat suburban area, with detached and semi-detached housing. Lots of cars and garages. Many of the streets I photographed were no more than cul-de-sacs, barely big enough to turn around in, which inevitably led to photos like this (above). Not terrible, but not exactly inspiring.

Occasionally I got luckier and found a quirky street feature or an interesting person, like the running girl in the top photo.

This (above) was the lamest picture of the morning. I really try to not just photograph a street sign. I hoped the hollyhock would redeem it a bit, but I'm not sure.

I walked for two hours in and around Woodford before reuniting with Susi and Greg for lunch. Then they headed back to central London, but I pressed on to the equally ignored E4 postcode, slightly to the west. I took a bus toward Chingford and got off at the wonderfully named Friday Hill, and walked southward to the Highams Park train station.

More suburbia. Lots of cats.

If there's one frustration I have with this project -- aside from the fact that not nearly enough photographers are participating -- it's that the content of the photos tends to be repetitive, at least in my case. After all, on an average residential street, you're pretty much confined to photographing the outside of houses. And what do people leave outside? Cars, garbage bins, cats, flower gardens, lawn or patio ornaments -- kind of the same stuff over and over. I try to shake things up a bit but it's a challenge.

There's always the occasional odd piece of street art.

By the end of the day, when I took a bus, the tube and two overground trains to get home, I'd photographed 43 streets in Woodford and 27 in lower Chingford. That's definitely a record for me!

By the way, I don't know if I've mentioned this, but you can browse all the photos here. Mousing over the images shows the location and photographer's name. You can't search for specific streets or photographers, but you can sort by postcode using the drop-down menu at the top. You can see the photos from me, Greg and Susi by sorting for the IG postcode.

Or you may be happy with what I've put on the blog, which is fine too!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Airing Out the Stuffed Animals

Thank god it's the weekend! I had a four-day workweek and yet it felt like forever.

Our singing at the all-school assembly went off without a hitch yesterday. I had to be at work at 7:45 a.m. for a short rehearsal, and then I had more than an hour to kill before our performance (and my official start time for the workday). So I went out for an hour and shot more streets for Bleeding London.

I know, you're sick to death of hearing about Bleeding London. Sorry about that.

Today I'm meeting up with the woman who introduced me to the project, someone I know through Flickr but have never met face-to-face. That should be interesting! We're meeting in East London -- north of Ilford, to be specific -- where there are some postcodes that have been left virtually uncovered. We're going to spend a couple of hours there and see what we can find.

As I began writing this it was pouring rain, but it's slacked off and it's supposed to be partly cloudy during the day. So hopefully we won't meet up with a deluge.

I spent about an hour in the garden yesterday evening, weeding and cutting out more blackberry sprouts. I have steadfastly resisted the use of chemicals as much as possible, but I did put down some slug pellets around our amaryllis (which are in a pot) because they're being devoured. Sorry, slugs.

(Photos: An unusual photography opportunity in West Hampstead.)

Friday, August 29, 2014

Ebola Dreams, with Roses

I had the strangest dream this morning. I was working in an airport, cleaning the floor. Hundreds of people were walking all around me, and I was down on my hands and knees, so all I could see were their ankles. As I cleaned the tile near one cluster of people, I realized from their conversation that the group consisted of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and members of her staff. My first thought was, "Wow! It's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia!" My second thought was, "Will I catch Ebola?"

I'm not saying it's right. I'm just saying that's what I dreamed -- a weird confluence of the worlds of celebrity, politics and hypochondria.

We are in the middle of discussions with the landlord -- via the management company -- about the garden. The landlord offered to hire her own gardener to improve the garden, with the proviso that we maintain it. We explained that we'd already brought in a gardener, but we'd love it if she allowed us to deduct that cost (or part of that cost) from the rent. She got back that she is concerned about the roses, specifically. So Dave told her we'd be happy to have another gardener come and work on the roses (since neither of us are rose specialists) at her expense. We'll see what happens.

We've had quite a few roses bloom this summer, especially the yellow ones (which also smell the nicest). I put these in the Roth bowl I got from my mom's house and used it as a centerpiece during our dinner with Chris and Linda on Saturday. Linda kept commenting on how wonderful they smelled.

You can see from that picture how often I dust.


I just about can't stand to read the news. I'm sure some of you wonder if I ever get out of my little bubble of school library and street photography -- and truthfully, lately, I haven't much. But what can I say about the broader state of the world? With ISIS beheading journalists, Ebola testing the government in Monrovia and nine-year-olds killing their gun instructors with an Uzi (!), well, there seems to be a lot of madness and despair. I understand why people go on news blackouts, and I have often wondered if knowing the details of such events really benefits me at all. (Although I read the story about the Uzi, I didn't watch the video. I drew the line there.)

Here's a story I found touching in a positive way -- the account of the British volunteer nurse who went to Sierra Leone, worked in an Ebola ward when others wouldn't, ultimately became infected himself and is now (hopefully) on the mend. Now that is bravery. That's Florence Nightingale stuff, right there.

(Top photo: Kilburn Park Road, on Wednesday.)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Blue Hair and a Blue-Eyed Dog

The mornings are darker now. As I sit here at nearly 6 a.m., it's still murky outside. When I let Olga out, she raced across the yard to do her business and I could barely see her, hunched in the dark. Hard to believe just a few months ago it was daylight at this time of the morning.

Our library talent video was shown at the Middle School assembly yesterday. The sound wasn't great, so the audience didn't get the full effect of our rhythmic performance, but there were some laughs and overall I think it turned out OK.

We also had our second faculty and staff choir practice. We sound pretty good, if I do say so myself! It's surprisingly fun to sing in a group, where you're adding to the sound and yet your own little flubs and foibles don't register. It's risk-free singing. (None of us have solos!)

After work yesterday I went walking in northern Maida Vale for Bleeding London and photographed 23 more streets. It's the far southern part of our post code. I'm trying to do all of NW6, slowly but surely, in addition to occasionally striking out for other parts of town. Anyway, I got some good shots, I think, including this one:

She walked past me and I couldn't resist stopping her to ask for a picture. (I always tell people I'm working on a project for the Royal Photographic Society, and that gives me a little gravitas!) I really like that shot -- the dog's blue eyes, the woman's blue hair, her grass-stained shoes -- even though it's just a bit out of focus, which is annoying. (I took it quickly, and then the dog stood and turned so I didn't have a chance for a second one.) A galloping horse won't notice. Hopefully.

(Top: Carlton Vale, yesterday.)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Sunflowers, and No News

Another rainy day yesterday. Of course, I was at work, so looking out at the rain from the cozy shelter of the library was no hardship. The kids are back to school this week -- high schoolers yesterday and middle schoolers today -- so the halls are getting busier (and noisier).

Some of the kids greet me like they're happy to see me again, and some ignore me. I just remind myself that I am merely a minor feature of their school landscape. In many cases I can't remember their names, which I hate to admit!

A few commenters asked to see our middle school talent video, which I mentioned yesterday. I'm working on making that happen, but I can't promise anything. I don't even have a copy of it myself. It'll be on the school's web site, but behind a firewall, so the general public can't get to it. (Yes, we were THAT BAD.)

I finished "The Sea" yesterday. It wound up being good after all -- lyrically written, with a couple of twists at the end. I'd have made much shorter work of it if I'd had more spare time lately. Tonight I may get back out on the photography trail, if the weather cooperates.

(Photo: Sunflowers in Alperton, on Saturday.)