Friday, October 21, 2016

The Kitchen Windowsill

Remember the orchid we got in June 2015 from my retiring coworker? (I'm sure you don't, but here's a link.) It looked fantastic for a long time, but slowly the old blooms have been fading. In fact I cut off one of its two flower stalks not long ago, after all the blossoms fell off. I expected an eventually flowerless plant.

Several weeks ago, though, it sent up a new flower stalk. Ta-da! New blossoms! (The old ones are on the stalk in back.)

This is a huge triumph for me. I've never owned an orchid that I was able to get to bloom again. People say growing orchids isn't hard, and I guess that's true, once you get the gist of watering them (frequent watering, very good drainage). This one usually lives in the bathroom, where it gets good humidity, but we recently moved it to the kitchen because the bathroom radiator is so effective we feared it would roast the flowers.

Also on the kitchen windowsill: Dave recently learned it's possible to grow new lettuce leaves by putting the cut-off end of a head of baby gem lettuce in a glass of water. We're trying it, and by golly, it works! I can't imagine we'll get more than a teaspoon of salad from this venture, but it's kind of amusing.

That green thing, by the way, is something I found on Hampstead Heath. We think it's an old glass drawer pull, or maybe a bottle stopper.

In other news, I think my solar keratosis has returned. That's the tiny scaly patch on my forehead that comes from spending too much time in the sun. I went to the doctor about it last summer, and got some medicine that I was supposed to apply for two months. I stopped after about a month because I could no longer find the spot. But it seems to have come back, so now I'm using the medicine again. This time I suppose I should keep going for the full two-month period. Sigh.

Finally, did you hear about the handsome chai walla in Pakistan who has a new career as a model, thanks to an observant photographer?

Thursday, October 20, 2016

No Debate Here

We didn't watch last night's presidential debate, but I'm glad to read that it went more or less as one might expect. No massive revelations or sudden bursts of intelligence from the Republican candidate.

Oh, Donald. You are so finished.

Here's the current New York Times prediction:

This election has turned into such a ridiculous display I can't see how anyone, anyone, could still be stumping for Trump. His "very, very" inarticulate statements don't even make sense. And yet I have at least two Facebook friends, both from high school, who continue to post pro-Trump, anti-Hillary stuff. One of them is a woman. One was in the Navy. Neither went to college.

Seriously, it fascinates me. I just don't understand. And there's no doubt they represent a swathe of the U.S. electorate. Fortunately, it appears to be a losing swathe.

Here in England, we're having our own political dramas. The U.K. has finally decided to begin accepting unaccompanied minors from "The Jungle," the migrant camp in Calais, France. About 28 of them have arrived so far, and some critics have questioned whether they're really minors. Granted, some of them look older -- and coming from places where record-keeping is probably pretty lax, they don't exactly have birth certificates. I doubt even some of them know their age for certain. Then again, they've been living in harsh circumstances, and as all of us know, sometimes certain photos, certain angles, just make people look older. Does it really matter? They supposedly have family members in the U.K. already, and holding them in limbo in France serves no one's needs.

We never did figure out what was going on with that helicopter yesterday morning. My boss, who lives not too far away, heard it too and went to Twitter for answers -- but could only find tweets from people saying, "Hey, what's that helicopter up there for?" Not very helpful!

(Photo: Olga near a big brush bin just outside Golders Green Park, on Saturday.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Helicopter

I stopped by Homebase after work yesterday and bought a big terra cotta flowerpot for our convalescent fig tree, along with some potting soil, a pruning saw and some other odds and ends. What I didn't fully consider was how I was going to get it all home. I was on foot, and struggling with the big, heavy flowerpot -- until memories of Africa came to me and I hoisted the pot onto my head. Then I didn't have any trouble at all. I probably looked pretty funny walking up Finchley Road, though. Some street photographer needed to seize that moment.

Dave was working last night, once again, so I had a peanut butter sandwich for dinner and watched "Chinatown," an old favorite which I haven't seen in years.

This morning I woke at 5:30 a.m. (after a good night's sleep, thank god!) to hear a helicopter circling over our neighborhood. I went out into the back garden to check it out, and it was definitely a police chopper with flashing lights -- and then I thought, "Well, gee, maybe I shouldn't be outside!" So who knows what that was about. I tried to check out the news websites but there's no mention of anything.

Life in the city!

(Photo: A lost mitten, Hampstead Heath.)

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Fig Tree

I just had a terrible night's sleep. I woke up around 2:30 a.m. and I couldn't get to sleep again -- not soundly, anyway. For one thing, the covers were in disarray, with the bedspread sliding to the floor beneath the blanket, which was pulled up way too high, and the sheet was in a wad somewhere beneath it all. If it had just been me in the bed, I'd have gotten up and remade the whole thing.

Also, the dog's face was jammed into my stomach so firmly that I could feel her eyes twitching. I could have moved her, I suppose, but she weighs 40-plus pounds. And you know how even the smallest tasks seem monumental in the middle of the night.

When I finally did drift into a doze, somewhere around 5 a.m., I had very weird dreams. I dreamed that Dave was buying shrimp from a man who brought it to our back door. I said to him, "We have a walled garden. How is that man getting shrimp to the back of the house?" No answer. Par for the course in my dreams, which are not great on plot resolution.

In other news, see that dead-looking plant? It's a fig tree. I found it, in much livelier condition, while walking the dog about a week ago. It was leaning against the public recycling bins near West End Green, and even had a helpful paper label attached to one of its branches: FIG TREE. Clearly someone expected it to be adopted.

I brought it home, marveling that such a big tree could grow in such a tiny pot. But then I realized the pot once had roots growing out the bottom, and those roots were cut when the tree was moved. Which is why it promptly withered away.

I considered throwing it out, but it smells so nice. Fig trees have the sweetest, most amazing aroma. They remind me of Morocco. Besides, they're vigorous growers, and I'm thinking we may be able to save it.

Dave and I have debated what to do. I think we're going to put it in a bigger pot against the wall in the photo -- it's a southern exposure and definitely the sunniest, warmest part of our garden. I hope the tree has enough roots to keep the wood alive until it can recover from its shock and regrow some leaves. We may prune it way back so it won't have to support so much growth right away. For the time being, we've moved it to a shadier spot at the back of the garden -- our plant ICU.

(Top photo: Colorful grape leaves in a mews near the West Hampstead tube station, yesterday.)

Monday, October 17, 2016

Sunday Business

I must be having problems with time management these days. Dave has been at school all weekend, recording auditions for students who are competing to get into honor band. So you'd think, with me at home by myself, that I could be getting a lot done.

And I guess I am -- I did laundry yesterday, read the newspaper (online), worked on my journal transcriptions for the first time in about a month, and finally started "Swamplandia!" (It looks promising, I'm happy to report.) I also walked Olga in the afternoon, when most of the day's rain had passed.

But there's still so much else! For example, blogs. I am so behind on blogs. Sorry, everybody. I will get there, I promise!

(By the way, a side note: If you've been reading my blog regularly and you keep one too, and I'm not already visiting your blog, would you please leave the link in your comments? Sometimes when I click a commenter's profile it just gives me a Google-Plus page with no link back to a blog, so I can't tell whether you have one or not.)

One thing I always try to do on the rare evenings when Dave is gone is watch a movie or TV show that I know he wouldn't want to see -- usually something old. Last night I dredged up two old TV movies that I remember from the late '70s -- "A Circle of Children" with Jane Alexander and "The Children of An Lac" with Shirley Jones. I remember watching both of them when I was a kid, and now they're on YouTube! So I watched the former, about a school for autistic and special-needs kids, and got halfway through the latter, about the evacuation of a Vietnamese orphanage during the Fall of Saigon. I'll finish it off tonight. Nostalgia overload.

I was supposed to Skype with my mom yesterday, but she couldn't get her computer to work. I haven't yet heard her first-hand account of the Hurricane Matthew drama! So I'm hoping we can come up with an alternate method of communication. Or that she'll get a new computer, which she sorely needs.

(Photo: A fallen leaf on Hampstead Heath Extension, on Saturday.)

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Yellow Bus

Once again, I got my butt to French class yesterday morning. Right up until I left the house I entertained notions of playing hooky -- I hadn't done my homework for a variety of stupid reasons, and I just didn't feel motivated. But I worked on it while I ate breakfast and I got enough done that I thought I could justifiably put in an appearance. I don't know why I fight myself about this every week.

(And then whine about it, which I'm sure you love.)

I was going to do a photo walk afterwards, but the weather looked dicey and I was carrying my books so I came home. Instead I put Olga on a lead and took her to Hampstead Heath, where she ran and ran after squirrels real and imaginary, working off a lot of accumulated energy.

Which is a good thing, because today's forecast calls for a 100% chance of rain. Photo- or dog-walking will probably be impossible.

Olga and I found a groovy VW bus on our walk. Olga even figured out a clever way to get herself into the picture:

Such an attention hog.

I was just reading the Times and marveling at Trump's latest attempts to get attention by inferring that Hillary Clinton was on drugs during the last presidential debate. The man is insane.

I do, however, approve of Cover Girl's recent move to hire a makeup-loving boy as its newest "face." The modern embrace of gender fluidity is a fabulous thing -- it more truly reflects us all as humans, and any time we break down lines and barriers we're moving toward that common humanity. (I'm sure some suits at the corporate level are more interested in developing the gigantic, untapped male makeup market! Being generally anti-makeup for everybody, I can't see it on myself, though. Or maybe just a little eyeliner?)

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Dylan, Clowns and Bottle-Flipping

Yesterday I read a column about why Bob Dylan doesn't deserve the Nobel Prize. The gist of it was that Dylan's winning takes the prize away from real literature -- and besides, he's already got all his Grammys. His work isn't true literature because it's so deeply intertwined with his music, the columnist argued.

I don't buy it. I'm not a huge Dylan fan -- the only albums of his I've ever owned are his greatest hits compilations and "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan," with that groovy cover shot of a boyish young Dylan walking down a snowy New York street with the seemingly adoring Suze Rotolo. Many of the ones that people mention as cultural touchstones, like "Blonde on Blonde" or "Nashville Skyline" or "Blood on the Tracks," I've never even heard. But come on -- Dylan is a poet. Of course he is.

So is Joni Mitchell, or Bruce Springsteen. So are any number of other songwriters. The division between poetry and music seems like a soft line to me. Poetry is music, and vice versa. In fact, music may serve as modern poetry even more so than traditional poetic forms -- certainly in terms of accessibility and public appreciation.

Speaking of literature, you may have noticed that for a couple of weeks now my "What I'm Reading" box on the right side of this page has said that I'm reading "Swamplandia!," a Florida novel given to me by my friend Sue in Tampa. It's true that the novel is sitting on our end table, with my reading glasses on top. But the god's honest truth is that I haven't even looked at the first word. What with studying French and staying on top of the incessant flood of New Yorkers I haven't had time. My goal this weekend is to finally start that book.

I'm sure you've also heard about this bizarre clown fad -- people dressed as scary clowns trying to frighten other people in public, sometimes with weapons. It's been all over the headlines here in London, another one of those puzzling American cultural imports. (This one really is puzzling.) I told Dave if someone dressed as a clown ran at me with a knife I think I might laugh. Although I'm not sure.

Another fad that's been making the rounds is bottle-flipping. The kids in school do this all the time, and a recent article about how it drives adults crazy really resonated with me. I'm constantly telling them to knock it off in the library. I didn't even know what they were doing at first. Apparently it all took off with videos on YouTube, and I have to say, some of them are pretty amazing. I just don't want it going on around me, or the library books!

(Photo: A rather patriotic drug bag on Hampstead Heath, last weekend.)