Monday, July 24, 2017

Garden Engineering

We've had some storms recently, and the winds knocked down our tall teasels. As I've mentioned before, these two plants are huge -- the tallest is about eight feet. So bracing them upright is no easy matter.

When they were shorter we could simply prop them up with a stake. But now, as you can see above, we've resorted to tying them to nearby plants with twine. So far, so good.

It's strange that they need this extra support because the teasels at Wormwood Scrubs grow upright all on their own. Maybe ours have too much nutritious compost or something.

Olga, by the way, was barking at me as I took this photo because she wanted to play with her new Kong Wobble toy, sent by the generous Linda Sue. The toy has a heavy bottom and is meant to be filled with treats, which the dog accesses through a hole in the side. It's a bit like a Weeble -- remember those?

Anyway, Linda Sue sent this thing months ago and I don't know why, but we never got around to giving it to Olga until yesterday. She is indeed enthusiastic about it (as she is about anything involving food or playing) and I'm sure she'll spend many hours trying to figure out how to get those treats out of there. (She hasn't quite figured out that she doesn't need me to help -- she can play with it on her own!)

Also a couple of garden updates. Remember the rescued foxglove, which we were rooting on our windowsill for a while? It's gigantic now. It's evidently not going to bloom this summer -- I guess that comes next year. (I've read that foxgloves bloom in their second year.)

And here's the rescued fig tree, all leafed out and doing well on the side patio. I'm so happy with how well this plant has prospered!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Olga's Summer Day

Olga had a busy day yesterday! We went back to the main part of Hampstead Heath, where we hadn't been since well before I left for Florida. (According to my blog search function, the last time was June 3. Can that be right?!) It's definitely looking more late-summery there, with the long grass turning dry and the rosebay willowherb (aka fireweed, a much better name in my opinion) and ragwort blooming. I love that purple/yellow combo.

Anyway, Olga ran to her heart's content. This was immediately after she went for a visit to the vet. She doesn't mind the vet -- in fact, she gets treats there, and sometimes she tries to pull me in that direction. She pretty much demands to go.

We took her because she acts somewhat stiff after long walks, and Dave wanted to get her joints checked. She also has a skin nodule on one of her legs that I thought should be evaluated. (No doubt because of my own recent experiences!) The verdict is that her joints seem well and the skin nodule is small and not connected to anything, which is a good sign. So we're going to simply monitor both.

She weighed 24.8 kilos, or almost 55 pounds. She's put on a bit of weight -- another reason to get her to the Heath!

The bill for the exam came in at £45, which I suppose isn't too bad, and I'm happy that she doesn't need anything more.

After our Heath romp, she got a bath and a special marrow bone from a restaurant where Dave and I went with our coworker Lisa and her boyfriend on Friday night. This was a hip little place in Hackney with amazing grilled meat. Olga loved her bone, which admittedly probably didn't do her weight any favors!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Magimatic

I've mentioned before that as a kid, I had a Magimatic camera. It was a point-and-shoot device that took 126 cartridge film, and it made terrible pictures. As I recall, it took a lot of force to push the button, particularly as the camera got older, and that inevitably resulted in movement and blur.

Still, I used the Magimatic for nine years, from 1974 to 1983. I documented nearly my entire childhood on that camera.

Having bought my film scanner, I've been exploring my old negatives and retrieving some lost shots. What I've learned is that I don't have a whole heck of a lot worth retrieving! But here are a few I can share with you.

Above, my friend Theresa, pointing her Polaroid (I think?) at me, sometime in the mid-'70s. I guess we were taking a picture of each other taking a picture. How meta!

I remember taking this picture of weeds near our back porch. I was enamored with the bright sunlight on the green, leafy plants, the long strands of grass and the dark shadows. And I distinctly remember being so disappointed with the picture when it came out. It does indeed look like a picture of nothing.

When I went to summer camp in the mid-'70s I painted a toucan in ceramics class. I loved my toucan, even though it had a broken tail, and I took it with me each of the next few years when we went on beach vacations. I made it our beach mascot. Well, the year I took this terrible photo, I accidentally left the toucan behind in the condo we rented. So this is the only record of my toucan.

(A side note -- sometimes the negative scanner gives really funky color results. I wrestle with adjustments and even then I often can't get it exactly right. And look how badly that negative has deteriorated!)

Utah welcomes you! From a 1983 cross-country car trip with my dad, stepmother and brother.

From the same trip, here's the front entrance of the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas. You can barely see my dad, stepmother and brother on the steps at right. My brother is checking out the fountain, which as I recall featured statues of women with water spurting from their breasts. I don't think I'm making that up.

Finally, this bizarre photo was taken for a high school science project in the early '80s. I was trying to show the effect of various detergents on bean seedlings. As I recall, I fudged my data by simply abandoning the beans when we went on vacation and then declaring that they had died as a result of detergent exposure. I don't remember what grade I got, but I passed.

Anyway, I kind of like the picture -- I think I was photographing the beans (carefully numbered, you will notice) through a piece of glass. (Why?!) The glass picked up a dreamy reflection of our neighborhood.

Friday, July 21, 2017

God's Right-Hand Man

I'm back on the paperwork treadmill, trying to collect and organize all the documents we need for our immigration application. I had to travel to work yesterday -- where the building, during summer break, is under a crazy amount of maintenance and renovation -- to use the copier and get some file folders. I need to go back again today to do a bit more copying. Then we'll be ready for Monday.

I also took a bag of used books to Oxfam, including Bob Spitz's huge biography of The Beatles, which I loved when I read it about 10 years ago. (Let's face it -- I'm not going to read it again.) The guy at Oxfam got all excited when he saw it.

"Oh, I'm about to do a Beatles window!" he said. "Sometimes I think God really does listen."

Am I an instrument of divine intent? Who knows.

Also among life's questions at the moment: I've been getting lots of odd spam e-mails trying to find me a job in Medfield, Mass. It's the strangest thing. Every day I get two or three, and I remember several months ago getting similar e-mails about job searching in Worcester, Mass. Is someone in the Bay State using my e-mail address for their job search? Do I need to be concerned? I'm not sure. It's mostly just peculiar.

I slept pretty well last night, but not quite as well as the night before. The second night after a long trip is always harder, when the initial exhaustion of travel has been remedied. Part of the blame, though, lies with my new toy -- a negative scanner! Yes, I'm playing around with my old pictures again. The scanner arrived yesterday evening from Amazon, and I stayed up late last night scanning and adjusting some forgotten film rolls. I promise to share with you anything worthwhile I find!

(Photo: Rosebay willowherb atop a security wall in West Hampstead, a few weeks ago.)

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Blackberry Time

So, among other things, this happened in the garden while I was gone -- the blackberries began to ripen!

I went out yesterday afternoon, when I was trying to find ways to keep myself awake and fight my jet lag, and I picked a bowl of them.

Those aren't all of them, either. But I'm trying to be especially selective, leaving even slightly underripe ones for another few days, because the longer they stay on the vine the sweeter they are. I also want to leave some behind for birds and whatever else might eat them.

I wrote about blackberry time around this same date in 2014, 2015 and last year. It's a big deal to me! Picking berries wraps itself in a perfect cloak of nostalgia for my childhood in Florida, as well as an appreciation for the warm (but ordinarily not super-hot) high summer days in England.

I managed to stay awake all day yesterday, after landing at 9 a.m. I finally collapsed into bed around 9 p.m., and let me tell you, sleep is a wonderful thing. I slept right through until 6 a.m. this morning.

Today I've got to do a few more things for our immigration application before our meeting next week. I'll be glad when that's over!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Back Home Again

I'm back in England, but I can't resist giving you one more Florida picture. I took this at the Jacksonville Arboretum on Monday. It's a snapping turtle in one of the park's ponds. Isn't that an awesome eye?

Here's a close-up:

It's so green! I'm not sure I've looked closely at a turtle eye before.

My flights home were relatively uneventful. They both ran a bit late, and I wound up landing in London at 9:15 a.m. rather than 8 a.m. as planned -- but my bag made it and all in all it wasn't a bad experience. I had a fairly long layover -- about 4 1/2 hours -- at the Charlotte airport. I spent the time having barbecue (with collards!) for lunch, reading "Herzog" by Saul Bellow and getting a much-needed back massage.

I'm reading "Herzog" because I've never read anything by Bellow, and I'm loving his descriptions of New York and environs. He is definitely a writer of city fiction. It gets a bit too philosophical for me at times, musing over the human condition, but I'm working through it.

Olga is curled up on my legs as I write this. When I walked in the door she greeted me as usual, with her Kong in her mouth, ready to play! She seems very happy that I'm home. I suppose Dave is happy too. I am going to get some serious sleep tonight.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Sexy Rexy

Yesterday morning, Mom and I went to the Jacksonville Arboretum, a large forested tract with some botanical plantings. I thought our little walk there might be a miserable experience in July, but it actually turned out to be fairly cool and mosquito-free and not at all uncomfortable.

We adjourned afterwards to Red Lobster for lunch, at Mom's request. As we were driving to the restaurant we passed a big orange dinosaur standing in front of a shopping center.

Well, I turned the car right around. How could I not?

"I bet this came from an old mini-golf course," I told Mom as I prepared to photograph it. I looked it up later, as we sat in our booth at Red Lobster, and I found this article. It explains that, sure enough, this dinosaur's home used to be Gooney Golf, and it's stood in this position for about 45 years. When the golf course was torn down, there was a local effort to save "Sexy Rexy" (one of several names proposed for it), and now it is enshrined in front of a strip mall.

It stands on Beach Boulevard at Peach Drive -- yes, the corner of Beach and Peach. I am not making this up.

Those glowing red eyes!

Anyway, as we drove home, we stopped at Target to replace my mom's toilet brush, which I inadvertently broke while cleaning her bathroom. The cheap plastic handle snapped in two! Clearly I don't know my own strength. So I got a super-strong one with a metal handle.

As we pulled out of the shopping center, a man in front of us was putting up the automatic top on his convertible, which looked pretty precarious. We joked that it might fly off and kill us as we drove, leaving us the subjects of a news story: "MOTHER AND SON KILLED BY FLYING CAR ROOF. 'They just bought a very expensive toilet brush,' a witness said."

It can be fun to imagine yourself the subject of news coverage. The day before, having a beer with my brother in his back yard, an afternoon thunderstorm blew up. As we retreated inside we imagined the headline: "BROTHERS IN IDENTICAL 'WAFFLE HOUSE' T-SHIRTS KILLED BY LIGHTNING STRIKE." While drinking cans of beer, no less. That would be a Florida story.

We had dinner with my brother and his family last night (barbecued brisket sandwich!), and now today I'm getting ready to take flight for England. I've got to do a lot of hanging around in airports -- I'll try to avoid another $26 glass of wine, but there are no guarantees. When I come to you tomorrow, I should be back in Blighty with Dave and Olga.

(Bottom photo: A grove of palms at the Arboretum.)