Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Tree Ferns

I came across these tree ferns in front of a house in Notting Hill on Monday. They're at the corner of Portobello Road, not far from where we used to live, and they've clearly been there for years. It's amazing that such a delicate, tropical-looking plant can survive London winters -- but even in the wild, they actually live in fairly chilly places, like Tasmania. I remember seeing tons of them in New Zealand when I visited there in 2004.

Dave always says he wants a tree fern. Maybe we could keep one in a pot and take it with us, should we ever leave West Hampstead. I wouldn't want to put it in the ground and have to leave it here. I think they're kind of expensive.

It was busy in the library yesterday but otherwise uneventful. I've had two recent triumphs in getting kids to pay for lost materials -- a girl who owed us money for books due last May, and another girl who lost a computer charger in September. I always feel a sense of victory when I persuade someone to clear their account! It's the little things, right?

Oh, and I watched more Olga Cam. Yesterday's plot was the same as the day before.

How about President Obama commuting Chelsea Manning's sentence? I swear, he may be my favorite president ever.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Blue Monday Surveillance

I had to go back to Notting Hill, our old 'hood, yesterday. I happened to walk past the Skank Store, which has been rehabilitated since I last photographed it in 2012. It's looking much better these days, don't you think? A little lopsided on the top, and produce doesn't seem to be their strong suit -- but still, a definite improvement.

I was back in N.H. to visit our doctor, for reasons that are really not very interesting. (Trust me about this.) I was away from work a couple of hours, and it was drizzly and gray so there weren't even many photographic opportunities.

I did, however, amuse myself throughout the day with our new Olga Cam! I checked in on her via my phone several times during the morning, and as I suspected, her daytime life is pretty placid:

Finally, around 1:30 p.m., the dog walker showed up. By this time she'd moved into the bedroom:

He buckled her into her harness and took her out for a romp, and by the time she came back a few hours later, Dave was home. And that was pretty much that. A dog's life, in pictures!

Yesterday was supposedly "Blue Monday," the most depressing day of the year, when post-Christmas bills are arriving amid the cold, gray darkness of mid-January. And this year, news articles pointed out, we have the additional burdens of Trump and Brexit! But Dave and I put a positive spin on the current political scene by making generous donations over the weekend -- to the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center and Planned Parenthood. I still have a voice -- and combined with the Olga Cam, that fact made Blue Monday a bit less blue.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Rainy Indoor Day

We literally spent the entire day inside yesterday. It rained and rained, and even Olga couldn't be coaxed to go out -- not more than necessary, anyway. It was mostly fine, gloomy rain, which is England's winter specialty.

I cleaned the house in the morning, and Dave and I got both web cameras working properly. So today I'll be able to check on Olga from work, hopefully. We'll see how that goes! Last night, Skyping with Dave's parents, we showed them a live camera image on my phone of us Skyping with them, including their faces on my computer screen. It was like a digital ouroboros -- them looking at us looking at them looking at us. Or something like that.

I read in the afternoon and typed up old journals. Speaking of reading, have you seen the cover of this week's New Yorker? It brought tears to my eyes. To think that in terms of leadership American society has descended from the dignity of Martin Luther King to the vanity and vulgarity of Donald Trump -- well, it's tragic. I don't understand how we lost our way so thoroughly.

I can barely bring myself to read any news about Trump's upcoming administration. I read no more than is necessary. I think I'll boycott television and take a long walk on the day of his inauguration.

Finally, last night we watched the old early '80s "Twilight Zone" movie, which I hadn't seen in a long time. I believe it's the first movie in which I was conscious of John Lithgow as an actor. He definitely steals the show as a terrified airplane passenger. Always a fun one!

(Photo: Graffiti near a footbridge in West Hampstead.)

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Mildred and the Heath

Well, the snow never turned into much. We literally had about half an inch and you'd think, from the news coverage, that we'd been slammed by a blizzard. There were transit problems and photos of thousands of people standing around rail stations trying to get home.

Olga and I had no trouble going to Hampstead Heath yesterday, even though it wasn't the best day for a walk. It was cold and wet.

Remember the Tumulus, which I posted about a few weeks ago? It's been completely cleared of brush, and now we can see the underlying mound. I've never seen it so visible. It's nice, I suppose, but seems like that brush would have been valuable habitat for critters.

I spent the afternoon at home, watching Joan Crawford in "Mildred Pierce," which I hadn't seen for decades. I remember it being distastefully melodramatic, but I actually liked it a lot this time around. It's a good movie, and the cinematography is impressive, with lots of dramatic shadows designed expressly for black-and-white film. Very noir.

I also set up my Christmas presents from Dave. He got me two web cameras, which we can use to monitor the house (and Olga) in our absence. He thought it would be fun to be anywhere in the world and dial up an online image of our living room. (In theory, we could even speak to the dog through the camera, though I think that would freak her out more than comfort her.) We got one of them working, but the other one just won't cooperate. I think it may be fatally flawed.

I did hear back from my friend Katherine, who I wrote about a few days ago when I learned belatedly of the death of her partner Peter. She seemed happy to hear from me, even after such a long lapse of time. I'm glad I contacted her. It was the right thing to do.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

iPhone Photo Parade

Another series of random pictures from my iPhone, collected over the past few weeks. First, I noticed this flashy car parked near our house. It's a McLaren, whatever that is. Orange is apparently one of the brand's trademark colors. I haven't seen it since, so maybe it was just visiting.

Down the street, in front of the bathtub house, this hound sits curled on top of the garden wall. I've walked past him a million times and only just noticed that his eyes don't match.

I liked the way the streetlights reflect off this rippled fence, in waves. It's interesting how changing the conventional flat plane of a fence can have such a cool effect.

Saw this cat prowling around on my way to work one morning. Isn't that a beautiful coat? I don't think I've ever seen a cat with such nice fur. It didn't seem too happy with me, though.

My boss made these for me for my birthday. Aren't they cool? She thought they'd be a good style for me because I could continue to take pictures with my fingertips exposed! I do like them, though I've found that getting into my pockets with them on can be a challenge.

Finally, obviously this is not my photo, but a huge wall-sized advertisement in the tube. I just really like this picture. I love the graceful posture of the skater -- those relaxed hands! -- and the crystal-clear action and the warm summery sunlight. I'm probably not in the market for wireless headphones, though.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Winter Weather

Yesterday evening's forecast called for snow, and that is indeed what we got -- clumpy, wet snow that melted when it hit the ground. Our back garden is coated in a very thing sugar-dusting of white, and the cars have an icy sheen, but otherwise it didn't seem to stick. I haven't been outside yet this morning, but I guess when I walk the dog I'll find out if the sidewalks (or "pavements," as I have been instructed to call them in England) are icy.

We're supposed to get more sleet and snow later this morning, just in time to make my walk to work an adventure. I really can't complain, though -- elsewhere in England they're bracing for high winds and coastal flooding.

Two nights ago I was lying in bed when I woke to the sound of some small animal howling. The moon was bright, and I crept out to the living room to see if I could see anything in the back garden. Something was definitely paying tribute to that big bright moon, and I doubt any of my neighbors left their small dogs outside at that hour.

According to this enormously entertaining article, foxes can howl, and my guess is that's what I heard. (If you click that link, be sure to check out the videos, including the Norwegian pop song -- head-spinningly weird.)

Thanks for all your concern about Dave. He went to the doctor yesterday, and the diagnosis was virus with secondary bacterial lung infection. He's on antibiotics now. So far I'm OK, but we'll see if that lasts!

(Photo: My walk home from work yesterday.)

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Moroccan Street Sweeper

This is one of my old photos from Morocco. I came across it on a roll of negatives while looking for something else. I don't remember this picture at all and my guess is I threw out the print, because -- let's face it -- the subject IS really far away! But on seeing it again I decided I kind of like it, with the downward angle and intersecting lines.

I think it was taken in Ouarzazate, in south Morocco, in May 1994. I was interested in the street cleaner, who was using an old palm frond to sweep up trash.

I could probably get a clearer image with an enlarger, straight from my negative. But here's what he looks like in the scanned version.

In other news...

Dave is sick, this time with a cold. He came home early from work yesterday and he's coughing and snorting like crazy. He says he feels terrible. The poor guy just cannot catch a break!

Also, I had to do some more "trash intervention" yesterday morning. Our upstairs neighbors threw away a big garbage bag full of branches from a Christmas tree -- in our trash can. Well, as you can imagine, it completely filled the can. Christmas trees are recycled here in Camden borough, so I pulled the bag out of the trash and lugged it to the recycling site (Fortune Green) yesterday morning, dumping the branches into the tree enclosure. Now, at least, we have room for actual trash in the trash can.

We've been sucked in by a new TV show -- "Search Party," with Alia Shawkat. I saw it reviewed in The New Yorker and decided to give it a try. We've binge-watched six episodes and we love it. Having lived in New York as a young(ish) person, I appreciate the youthful urban sensibility.

And speaking of urban youthfulness, I was shocked to learn over the weekend that my pal Peter -- who I met up with in Paris almost four years ago -- died about a year and a half ago! I don't know how I missed this news, except that most of the people we know in common aren't on Facebook and I hadn't corresponded with him or his partner Katherine in some time. (We're not close friends, as you can tell.) I debated what to do -- was it better to say nothing and just move on, or get in touch with Katherine and let her know I'd just heard? At the risk of reopening old wounds I did the latter, via e-mail, to express my surprise and condolences. Apparently he had been ill but I don't know the specifics. I haven't heard back from her, and I may not, but I thought I should at least let her know why I hadn't said anything sooner.