Monday, July 6, 2020

Catch a Butterfly or a Tennis Ball


I took Olga to Hampstead Heath yesterday, and I am happy to report that the anti-inflammatory medicine we're giving her seems to be working wonders. She was like a young dog again! No limping, no hesitancy, no dragging her heels. She had a great time and even after we got home she didn't seem to experience the stiffness she sometimes gets after a long walk.

It was a beautiful day, sunny and comfortable. I found quite a few interesting opportunities for photography, including this dragonfly. I saw it in mid-flight and thought, "that looks weird," and then realized why -- it was carrying a cabbage white butterfly. It landed on some weeds and I watched it gnaw that butterfly apart like a paper shredder. It was pretty amazing.


We left it alone and about half an hour later, passing the same spot, I found it having a little post-prandial rest. See the white dust on its body and wings? That's butterfly shrapnel.

I tried to get a video of Olga catching her tennis ball. If I bounce it hard on the ground she'll sometimes leap into the air to catch it as it comes down:


We had mixed results as you can see, but she got a little bit of air on that second attempt. She made two really good jumps when I had the camera off -- of course.


I also saw a couple of comma butterflies, the first ones this season. 

Unfortunately we also had a sad nature experience yesterday evening. We'd just finished Zooming with Dave's friend Annie in Michigan when I went into the garden and found a dead baby bird in one of the trugs Dave uses to collect rainwater. I guess it fell in and couldn't get out again. It was fledging but didn't have full-grown wings -- either a sparrow or a dunnock. I felt terrible, and we've covered the trug to keep that from happening again. I still feel a lead weight in my chest just thinking about it.

It was super-windy yesterday afternoon and all last night. The plants all seem to have survived but I wonder if the wind had something to do with that little bird winding up in the trug. Maybe it tried to land on the edge and got blown in?

Sunday, July 5, 2020

The Tin Tabernacle, and Reopening


This peculiar building, which I often pass on the bus in Kilburn, is made of corrugated sheets of metal and used to be a church. It's known as the "Tin Tabernacle" and dates back to 1863. In the 1920s it ceased being a place of worship, and was eventually taken over by the local chapter of the Sea Cadets, a sort of scouting organization. The interior was transformed to fit a nautical theme.

When Victorian England was booming, corrugated metal churches were apparently a thing. They could be erected quickly to serve a growing population, and the technology was relatively new. Apparently this is one of the last in London, but there are plenty of others around England.

As long as I've lived here, there's been a sign in the window saying they need £250,000. I think this dates back to a fund-raising campaign in 2010 meant to restore the building and update its electrical works. I have no idea whether than ever happened, but the Sea Cadets say on their web site that they now meet at St. Augustine's, a nearby church -- if that's any indication.

Yesterday was the big reopening day for our pubs and restaurants in the UK, and I went out on the high street around noon to see what was going on. The pub I consider our local, the Black Lion, still doesn't appear to be open. But many other places were, and people were sitting inside and out. I obviously didn't measure the space between them, but they seemed fairly close together.

I went into one restaurant where I've bought take-away fish in the past, and there were about 20 people inside. I was the only person wearing a mask. None of the servers and obviously none of the customers (who presumably were eating) were masked, and no one seemed at all concerned about maintaining any distance from me. So, on the plus side, they seem to be doing a good business, but on the minus side, I felt anxious and eager to get out of there.

Then I went to the grocery store, and again, I was one of just a few people who were masked. Masks have never caught on in this country, and they seem even less ubiquitous now.

We'll see how this goes! I hope our infection rates don't spike in the next few weeks.

I have a couple more Olga pics to share with you. The first is by Francisco, the dog walker, on one of their outings together...




...and then there's this one, which I took a few days ago on our walk along Billy Fury Way. Olga, who so often seems to be smiling and is even standing beneath smiley faces, appears more wary than anything.

We didn't do anything special for July 4. I heard a couple of pops and cracks last night, as some of my fellow Yanks apparently set off fireworks here and there. But with that awful man in the White House I am not particularly feeling any national pride. If we throw him out in November, then I'll celebrate!

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Summer Colors


Yesterday was another quiet day at home. I finished a book, I walked the dog around the corner, I did some minor stuff in the garden. Ho-hum.

Doesn't Olga look regal next to those red crocosmia and pink hydrangeas? She was on high alert, keeping an eye on some squirrels rustling around in a nearby bush. 


Our fox & cubs (or hawkweed) has finally bloomed. For some reason this year we only have a few in flower, at least so far, and the plants are very small. I think the dry spring held them back.


This is one of our roses, a bright orange single. It's always an eye-catcher, and this year it's one of the last to still have blossoms. All the other rose bushes are in a kind of resting phase, gearing up for (hopefully) another flush of flowers.


Remember how I rescued a sad lupine from the grocery store a couple of months ago? It has flourished, sending out new leaves and a big purple flower spike. I believe this is a variety called "Persian slipper."

I really need to motivate myself to get out and do something. It's easy to sit around the house, doing housework and reading, but it's also stultifying. I almost took a walk yesterday, but with rain off and on, it wasn't a great day for an excursion.

At one point, while reading on the couch, I looked over at Dave, and he was blankly staring at his phone, which was sitting on the armrest of his chair. I said, "What are you doing?"

"Watching my phone update," he said, and laughed. "Things are getting dire!"

Friday, July 3, 2020

A Peacock, Soot Sprites and a Theft


A peacock butterfly passed through the garden a few days ago, and I had time to run for the camera and get some shots. We haven't seen any since the beginning of April, and I'd wondered how they fared through the subsequent cold snap and then the warm, dry spring. Short answer -- they're still around!

I took Olga for a walk yesterday along Billy Fury Way and found dozens of bales of recent newspapers (the Evening Standard) discarded in the woods beside the railroad bridge. So annoying! There must have been a thousand newspapers or more. I suspect someone is dumping unwanted copies from the nearby Finchley Road & Frognal overground stop (where they are usually handed out to passengers, whose numbers have plummeted since Covid-19). I took pictures and wrote to the Standard's head of circulation, who wrote me back fairly promptly and said there would be an investigation. I mean, they're probably paying someone to distribute those papers, and I'm sure they don't want them dumped in the woods any more than I do.

I tried to report the mess to Camden Council as well, but there are no street addresses on Billy Fury Way, so I'm not sure my litter app understood my location correctly. But I tried.


I also found a new piece of chewing gum art by Ben Wilson along the path -- new to me, at least. Wilson often lies on the sidewalk when he paints his pieces; I find the idea of lying on filthy Billy Fury Way a little horrifying, but he's apparently managed it.

One thing about walking the dog -- it always gets me out and about, which during this pandemic is incredibly beneficial. I was chatting with some of my neighbors yesterday and they talked about how cooped up they've felt. I've felt that too, of course, but perhaps not to the same degree. Both neighbors are eager to get haircuts now that salons and barber shops are about to re-open (tomorrow). Dave hasn't made a hair appointment yet, surprisingly. I think he's getting used to having it long.

Speaking of coronavirus and reopening, my new cloth mask has arrived!


I don't know if you can really see the pattern, but it depicts the soot sprites from Hayao Miyazaki's movie "Spirited Away," which I love. The soot sprites, little round black creatures with eyes, eat star-shaped morsels of food -- also shown on the mask. (I just learned that these sprites have a name in Japanese, susuwatari. Here are some images in case you can't see what they look like.)

I'm not sure they match the lobsters on my shirt, but oh well.

Someone stole one of my dianthus plants off our front porch yesterday! I was so surprised I walked up and down the street to see if it somehow wound up outside someone else's front door. It seems like such an unlikely object for intentional theft -- it still had plenty of flowers, but it was getting a bit leggy and it was only in a plastic pot. Fortunately the thief did not take two other plants (including another dianthus) or a hanging basket that we also keep out there. Very bizarre.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Two Green Creatures


Yesterday I was deadheading roses when I came across this critter on one of the blossoms. I've never seen anything like it in our garden, and when I looked it up, I discovered it's a green weevil of some kind. Apparently they're not as evil as some weevils (rhyming!) but they do eat some plants. I didn't see roses on their list, which makes me think he fell onto the rose bush from one of the trees above.

I had the most bizarre dreams last night. I don't quite remember the plot, to the extent that there was one, but I was in a sprawling modern house and it was pouring rain outside, and there were boxes everywhere and I was trying to get things organized. Dave was there and so was my mother. Other things were happening too but I don't remember them all now.

Last night for dinner, Dave made some incredibly potent (but good) French onion soup with a lot of beef stock and red wine and cheese, and I'm blaming that.

Does my life feel chaotic? Not in my waking hours, but who knows what my subconscious mind would say. I did see a recent article in the New York Times about the need to deep-clean your house if you've been sheltering at home for weeks on end. I didn't read it, though. It sounds like it would feed all my most obsessive impulses. (One of my coworkers observed several weeks ago, not long after we entered lockdown, that she found herself cleaning constantly -- and it's true. When you're home all the time it's amazing how quickly the place gets grubby.)

I got a surprise in the mail on Tuesday. Remember how I sent Brobee to Sarah of Circles of Rain? Well, she sent me a hand-painted postcard back:


Isn't that awesome? She thanked me and said Brobee has moved in next to some of the stuffed bears she's saved. Her postcard, meanwhile, has taken up residence on our dining room mantel. It's nice to have my own Brobee souvenir.

Some of you asked about Olga's ear. It seems to be healing well and she gives no indication that it bothers her at all. Francisco tells me that Olga and Rufus ignored each other the next day, kind of like two people who'd recently had a really bad date. Rufus's owner told Francisco that Rufus seemed traumatized by the incident too! Rufus is apparently still wearing his muzzle but we all agreed this was just a freak encounter and he may eventually be de-muzzled if he behaves.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Hollyhocks and Horsetails


Yesterday was the most boring day imaginable, at least in terms of stuff to blog about. I almost didn't move off the couch, except to clean the bathroom and kill aphids on the lupines. (I caught up on all our magazines, though, which was something of an accomplishment.)

So, blog-wise, how about another bunch of random photos from the ol' iPhone?

First, some huge hollyhocks not far from our flat in West Hampstead. I continue to be mystified why some hollyhocks do so well on apparently neglected, streetside patches of dirt, and ours in our nurtured flowerbeds all have about four leaves.


Some groovy Dia de los Muertos-themed tape on a bicycle seat.


A sticker in Queen's Park. I could be a vegetarian -- in fact I was one for many years -- but I don't think I could do vegan. I like my dairy products too much.


An old rattan chair with a broken leg, discarded on a pedestrian path. Once again, people, put your rubbish in a rubbish bin!


There's an area in the cemetery where the horsetails grow like crazy. They're known for being tenacious, troublesome weeds, which is why they've survived on Earth since the Paleozoic era, I suppose.


Some beautiful wild mallow thriving in the garden of a house a few streets from ours. This stuff also grows like a weed around here, but it's a nice weed.


A very tall stick-man at Fortune Green...


....and a very long shadow, with cupcake cups, on Finchley Road.


These belong to a neighbor. They're really nice lilies. I'd like to grow some of these myself, but we have trouble with lilies -- they often get eaten by slugs or snails or lily beetles. We have a few but they're not thriving like these.


The clothes make the woman?


And finally, Olga, looking happy with some hydrangeas on one of our walks. (She's actually thinking, "Why are we stopping? Would you please put that annoying black rectangular thing away?!")

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Olga Meets Mike Tyson


Dave has started collecting rainwater for our blueberry plant, which reportedly likes rain more than tap water. It has something to do with maintaining the acidity or alkalinity of the soil. Dave set these colorful trugs next to the shed at the side of the house, where they collect water that spills off the shed roof -- and look photogenic in the meantime.

We had some drama yesterday! Olga went out for her walk with Francisco as usual, and a couple hours later Francisco called me. (When I get a call from the dog-walker I always know something alarming is up.) Well, it turns out that Olga and another dog were running after a ball and apparently collided with each other. The other dog turned and bit Olga, and took a chunk out of her ear!


Francisco, of course, was mortified, and he cleaned the ear and disinfected the bite. Then he called us, probably thinking we would be livid at the disfigurement of our dog. But honestly, dogs are dogs -- they get in scraps every once in a while, and frankly I'm just glad Olga didn't start it. (Apparently she did get the ball, though!)

The other dog's name is Rufus, but we've taken to calling him Mike Tyson. Apparently Rufus will now have to wear a muzzle on his walks.