Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Moonlight and Marmalade

Here at Chez PapenReed, we didn't watch the Most Surreal Oscars Ceremony Ever. But I couldn't believe it when I read about the envelope mix-up the next day. My first thought was that some poor first-year employee was going to lose his job, because embarrassing Hollywood royalty is a bit like embarrassing Mother Nature in the old margarine commercials -- lightning and thunder and stampeding elephants ensue.

But then it turns out the person who handed Warren Beatty the wrong envelope is a head honcho at PWC, and he did indeed apparently take it from the wrong stack. So it's on him. Poor guy!

In any case, I went out and rented "Moonlight" immediately from iTunes, because now that it carries Best Picture gravitas I was afraid they'd hike the rental fee or pull it entirely in an effort to make people go to the cinema to see it. We're saving it to watch this weekend.

In other news, inspired by a few of my blogger pals, Dave and I have decided to take the Ancestry DNA test to see from whence we came. My Dad and other relatives traced my family back hundreds of years on both sides, and we're pretty much British all the way -- I doubt there are going to be any surprises on my end. Dave is allegedly German. But who knows where we came from in the eons before the roots of our traceable family trees? I hope there's a little surprise in there somewhere!

Finally, the popularity of marmalade may be on the wane in Britain, much to the consternation of this columnist. (I must agree that losing marmalade would be tragic, but I'm taking this with a grain of salt. Some Guardian columnists like to turn everything into a world-ending scenario.) And did you hear about the Great Bagel Dust-Up of Potters Bar? Complete with video!

(Photo: A cafe near the rail yards of Willesden Junction, on Sunday.)

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Rescuing the Bulbs

Dave planted our sea kale, which we'd been keeping in a big flowerpot, in the ground over the weekend. Apparently it needs lots of room so we're hoping it will be more prosperous there, though we'll have to battle to keep the slugs away from it. It is slugalicious.

Anyway, when he dug out the hole, he threw a lot of dirt back behind some shrubbery against our garden fence. He's disposed of dirt in this spot before. But when I looked at his mini dirt pile I realized it was surrounded by sprouting bulbs -- and deduced there were probably bulbs under it, too.

So yesterday morning, before work, I got out there with the trug, which is this huge garden bucket sort of thing, and collected all that waste soil. Sure enough, I uncovered about six thick yellow bulb sprouts -- they were doing their best, considering they'd been completely buried. Now that they've been exposed to daylight again hopefully they'll survive. I think they're probably bluebells.

I dumped the dirt at the back of the garden, where we usually put leaves and sticks and where nothing grows. I told Dave not to use that spot by the fence for dirt disposal anymore. He probably gets sick of me giving him directions.

(Photo: Rather than a predictable picture of yellow bulb sprouts, how about a pink cow and a broken refrigerator, found near Wormwood Scrubs on Sunday?)

Monday, February 27, 2017

Back to the Scrubs

Saturday was rainy and I spent most of it indoors, reading a terrific book -- "Breath," by Tim Winton. It's a coming-of-age book that prominently features surfing, and it reminded me a lot of William Finnegan's surfing memoir, which I read last summer. (And which I also loved.) I don't really have any interest in surfing myself, but for some reason it's fascinating to read about -- probably because both Finnegan and Winton are excellent writers.

I did successfully give away Dave's old recliner via Freecycle. The glass-topped table is still in the shed, though -- no takers so far.

Because I didn't take Olga anywhere -- except on our routine morning walk, which I documented in the previous post -- I wanted to make it up to her yesterday. I just could not face the prospect of going to Hampstead Heath again, though. I needed a new scene. So I took her back to Wormwood Scrubs, where we used to go when we lived in Notting Hill. (More like revisiting an old scene, I suppose -- but it's been years since we've been there.)

I discovered getting there via the Overground isn't hard at all -- four stops to Willesden Junction and then a short walk. Why I didn't think of this before I'm not sure. But I'm glad to know it's possible and I'm sure we'll go back now and then.

At the Willesden Junction station, we discovered a big advertisement for the Mayhew Animal Home, where we got Olga spayed when we first adopted her from All Dogs Matter. I couldn't resist posing her next to it. They took her uterus, but she doesn't seem to hold a grudge.

Anyway, we had a great time at Wormwood Scrubs. There were lots of kids out playing football, and while we were walking, a kid kicked a ball into the bushes near me. I got it out of the brambles for him, and handed it back, but then he threw it to a friend who failed to catch it. You guessed it -- Olga grabbed it and did some damage. The ball didn't seem punctured but she definitely left the surface tattered. The kids weren't upset -- if anything, it amused them. "Look, she's tearing it up!"

They had other footballs, and I suppose they see them as fairly disposable. They must kick balls into trees and whatnot all the time. Still, once I got Olga to drop it, I got the heck out of there before the coach could yell at me.

The dry, rattly pods of the teasels were standing tall all over the Scrubs. I've tried to get some teasels to seed in our garden, apparently without success. Maybe they'll come up later in the season.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Walking Olga with the iPhone

I brought my iPhone along on Olga's walk yesterday morning and found some interesting odds and ends.

First, the quirky house down the street where the lions used to be. It's been vacated and now it's under renovation. I wonder if the painted purple flowers and old bicycle will be preserved?

Nearby, this tenacious hellebore has taken root in the space between the sidewalk pavement and a garden wall -- and has even produced a flower. Unfortunately our sidewalks are due to be upgraded beginning next month, so I'm not sure what that hellebore's future will be.

A rather unfortunate graffiti tag.

Many of the houses on nearby Sumatra Road have these decorative tile panels next to the front door. They're common on English houses of a certain vintage, but the designs can vary widely. I like this urn-and-flowers motif.

Olga was mesmerized by these op-art front steps.

Barriers -- to keep in the other barriers?

During Storm Doris a few days ago, a tree fell and knocked down a fence, revealing some accumulated rubbish behind it -- including ABBA Gold! (I happen to love ABBA, for the record. But the CD was broken, and I have it already anyway.)

Olga checked out the colorful rows of crocus and other flowers planted on West End Green. (I photographed these last year, too.) Spring is on its way!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Free Stuff

It got downright chilly after Doris Day -- a low of 37ยบ F yesterday. I'd put some of our plants outside earlier in the week -- our geraniums, for example, which I'm trying to revive after their rust infestation. (I sprayed them with an anti-fungal and they are looking much better.) It was nice to have the area around the back door all clean and open, but then the plants came in again for this burst of bad weather.

It is only February, so I guess I can't expect them to be able to stay outside permanently. Not yet. I'm just being a weather optimist.

Last night I went on a pub outing with Dave and some coworkers. Why, oh why, did I have that third pint? I should know by now that if I have two pints, I feel no ill effects, but a third one always leaves me feeling fuzzy the next day.

I have a few projects for the weekend -- cleaning out the garden shed, offering some old furniture on freecycle. We have Dave's old recliner, which we bought for our flat in Notting Hill but which he doesn't really like and never uses, and we have a glass-topped coffee table left by the former tenants of our current flat. I'm hoping to give them away. We'll see!

(Photo: Colorful houses near Camden Road.)

Friday, February 24, 2017

Doris Day

Thanks for tolerating my rant yesterday! I'm glad many of you agree with me and have experienced similar levels of political and social frustration. I feel less alone.

Yesterday was much better, fortunately. Whenever I found myself feeling agitated, whether with library issues or political ones, I tried to go back to some of my Zen practice -- conscious breathing, slowing down -- and that really did help alleviate the stress.

I read a fascinating article that a colleague posted to Facebook about a certain variety of young, male Trump supporters -- the Internet-addicted gamer types who frequent the website 4chan -- and why many of them have funneled their frustrations into right-wing politics. It's a long article, so be prepared to invest some time if you check it out, but I found it quite interesting and worthwhile.

Meanwhile, we had quite a bit of excitement in Great Britain yesterday with Storm Doris, a big spiraling windbag that blew across the island and caused a considerable amount of damage and at least one death. People were calling yesterday "Doris Day," which was kind of cute, although the real Doris Day certainly wouldn't want to be associated with this storm. (She's still with us, by the way, and either 92 or 94 years old, depending on which source is cited.)

While Doris wreaked havoc across England and Scotland, here in West Hampstead she wasn't too fierce. We had a terrific burst of wind and rain as I got ready for work, but it passed within about 15 minutes, and then it was just a windy day. Very windy, admittedly. The only damage we suffered was to a potted poppy plant that Dave bought over the weekend at Waitrose -- it was sitting on our patio table, and when he got home from work, the empty pot had blown over to the other side of the house and the plant was nowhere to be found. I eventually located it, wedged against the patio table leg, with nearly all the soil blown away from its root ball. I think it may actually survive, poor thing.

At some point we lost electricity -- our digital clocks were blinking -- and when Dave went to Waitrose in the evening the refrigerated food cases were all closed and the store said it couldn't sell the food within because the power had been out. I hope Doris feels well-fed, having consumed all the perishables in our supermarket!

(Photo: Camden town, on Sunday.)

Thursday, February 23, 2017

A Long Rant, with Redeeming Street Signs

I have been super-cranky lately. Yesterday morning I snarled at Dave for taking so long in the bathroom that I was afraid I'd be late for work. (To be fair, he was in there a really, really long time.) And then I just had this big, snarling grizzly bear of a day where everything seemed difficult.

On the surface, it was the little things -- having to remind the same kids to turn in their computer chargers by the end of the day, and then having them not do it; having the five-zillionth fifth grader ask me for a book recommendation, and then having them reject all my suggestions; having yet another brand-new book disappear into an alternative universe when it was supposed to be on the shelf.

But then there are deeper frustrations. I'm sick to death of news. I'm sick of the stomach-churning pseudo-administration of Donald Trump and I'm sick of hearing arguments about what is and isn't "fake news" and I'm sick to death of "populism," which seems to imply in its name that it's somehow beneficial for people when it's actually their enemy. I'm sick of ignorance and misinformation.

I don't understand when being polite became a bad thing. Where I come from, being polite is a virtue -- as is being intelligent. But these days, being careful about other people's feelings and tolerant of others' perspectives gets sneered at as "political correctness." If being courteous and respectful and understanding and caring continues to be mocked as eggheaded weakness, well, that's the downfall of our civilization, isn't it?

But ironically, I'm sick of being tolerant, too. The other day a coworker came and stood over my desk and launched into a monologue about the difference between economic conservatism and Trump conservatism, and after about ten minutes I thought, "WHY am I being subjected to this? It's not a discussion, it's a lecture."

Which maybe displays my own anti-intellectual, intolerant, impolite impulses. What goes around comes around. I silently endured the rest of the lecture, biting the inside of my cheek.

Remember those old Robert Young commercials from the '70s? "Relax, Jim! You should drink Sanka-brand decaffeinated coffee!"

I am feeling like Jim.

In transcribing my old journals recently, I've been struck by how certain I seemed about so many things when I was in my 20s. I guess that's the province of being young -- being certain. The older you get, the more you realize that nothing is certain and you actually know much, much less than you thought. That's wisdom, right?

Well, I'm feeling cranky and feeling like nothing is certain. Our governments, our Democratic ideals, all the things we learned going back as far as "Sesame Street" about the value of cooperation and working together. Instead we're just pulling apart and apart, getting more and more extreme, and we reward the most extreme people -- no matter how clueless -- with wealth and fame and political office.

I am not going to put the name of this person on my blog, but the recent downfall of his career has been gratifying in that it at least proves it's still possible to go too far. We'll see whether the downfall is merely temporary.

How did we get here?

On a positive note, at least I don't have French class to contend with anymore. I must say, I am not missing it at all. It's been really great to have my Saturdays free. When I hit that wall, I hit it hard.

Also, I found this intersection on Google Streetview, in Fort Myers, Florida -- how I found it is a long story -- and I'm thinking Dave and I need to visit the next time we go to the Sunshine State!

(Top photo: A discarded doll in Margate, last week.)