Friday, January 30, 2015

Monkey Puzzle

My blog pal Linda Sue recently posted a photo of a Monkey Puzzle tree, which made me think of this photo, which I took a few weeks ago for Bleeding London. So we have Monkey Puzzle trees in London, and apparently they grow in Washington state, and I know they grow in Florida. They're amazingly adaptable, aren't they? And also sharp as heck.

We'd heard we might get snow last night, but from the looks of things outside, none ever materialized. I was sitting in the library yesterday afternoon when I began hearing what sounded like sand or gravel being thrown at the skylight. A ripple of excitement ran through the room, and some kids said, "It's snowing!" A few ran outside to see. I don't think it was really snow, though -- more like sleet or frozen rain. Snow doesn't make that kind of noise!

I brought our amaryllis plants inside last night. They've been sitting in the cold, dark garden shed for the past six weeks or so -- since before we went to Michigan. In fact I felt very guilty when I picked up the pot because lots of little sowbugs and a slug were underneath, keeping relatively warm, I suppose, and I hated to deprive them of their winter resort! Hopefully they'll scurry away to another shelter. I watered the amaryllis and set them next to the glass doors in the living room. We'll see if they sprout and flower again this year.

More purging of the library rolls yesterday. I'm up to the letter M, so I've still got a long way to go!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Purge, and Why I Am Terrible

The great purge of departed library patrons continues. One of my coworkers came up with a much more expeditious way to work through the list, and using that method I took dozens and dozens of people out of our computer system yesterday. Students who have moved, parents of kids who graduated years ago, departed staff members -- you name it. Some of them were families who applied to our school but never showed up. Why they have library accounts I'm not sure. We need to make some adjustments in the way people are added.

I'm going to continue that project today and probably tomorrow. I'm still enjoying it -- the intense focus and concentration -- to the point that I feel mildly annoyed when I'm interrupted by someone who wants to check out a book! (I hide it. I think.)

I found out yesterday that a guy who used to bully and torment me when we were both in middle school, and in the Boy Scouts, died a few years ago. I don't have any details. I wouldn't say I felt happiness, but I did feel a twinge of...justice, maybe. Even that may make me a terrible person. I can't help it -- that's what I felt. I hope he matured and became kinder and more reasonable in the intervening years.

(Photo: Tigger, dressed for winter and waiting outside on a council estate in Harlesden.)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Lemon Tree

So the great blizzard went bust, at least for New Yorkers. That's a good thing, though I understand why they're frustrated that the city shut down for nothing. It seems pretty remarkable that the weather people were that wrong about the direction of the storm, though they are somewhat vindicated by its severity in New England.

Meanwhile, here in London, I spent all day yesterday combing through the library computer system and removing patrons who are no longer at school. This might sound tedious, but actually I found it a lot of fun. It appeals to my sense of organization and tidiness.

The library gets lists of departing students at the end of each school year, and we remove them from the system. But we found that often the students' parents remain, and often our lists are not entirely complete. I bet I took 50 people out of the system yesterday -- people who left between 2010 and 2013 -- and I'm only up to the letter C! It's a painstaking process, but it's worthwhile and it keeps me busy.

As I was leaving work, I got a text from Dave: "I bought you a present!" I was a little worried what this present could be, but it turned out he stopped at a plant store on the way home and bought a lemon tree! So now we have a little bit of Florida here in London. It was sold as an ornamental lemon, but apparently that may be more for tax reasons than practical ones. The lemons look plenty edible to me. We'll see.

(There are four ripe yellow lemons on this tree, which is only about a foot and a half high!)

The store manager told Dave we could plant the tree outside as long as we protect it from snow. But I'm inclined to put it in a tub so we can bring it inside in the winter. We have many consecutive nights of freezing temperatures each year, and I can't believe a lemon could survive that.

(Photo: A dealer in LED signage near Wembley.)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

No Snow Here

I'm reading about the huge blizzard bearing down on the northeastern United States. Boy, do I remember those! And while I don't envy the snow, exactly, I do miss the excitement of a snow day. We almost never have snow days here. It doesn't take much snow to throw London into a tizzy, but we never get much snow, either. (I'm not sure we had any last winter -- and we definitely haven't had any this winter.)

Not to rub it in for my northeastern readers, but when I was cleaning the bird feeders on Sunday I was thinking about how spring-like the day felt. The bulbs are coming up, the sun was out, the bird bath was no longer frozen solid.

You watch -- we'll get slammed now.

It's hard to believe January is almost over! In my experience, the school year is very much a downhill coast from here. We have a couple of long breaks and several "bank holidays" and then, boom, it's June!

On the Bleeding London front, I finally bought a large London A-Z, the road atlas upon which the entire project is based. I had a small one but it didn't include outlying areas, and this one is much more comprehensive. Using it and Google Street View, I've determined that there are 22 more locations in NW10 that need a photo. Most of them are tiny slivers of streets about ten feet long, many with no street sign, so I couldn't have expected to see them otherwise. That's my project next weekend!

(Photo: Juliet's wig shop, in Harlesden.)

Monday, January 26, 2015

Butterflies in Winter

When it's too cold for butterflies, it's nice to have some street art to remind us what summer is like! These are outside an art gallery and tattoo shop called "Monsters of Art" on Mill Lane, not far from our flat. I've been meaning to get a shot of them for a while. Olga and I pass them all the time on our walks.

She likes them too!

Yesterday was a day to stay around the house. I cleaned in the morning, and tried to empty the bird feeders of last year's remaining seed. One of them I got open and cleaned out -- it wasn't too congested anyway -- but the other one is old and rusted shut and it's so full of sprouting, rooting, rotting bird seed that I'm going to just throw the whole thing away and get a new one.

I took the dog up to the cemetery in the afternoon for a run. After my walking marathon on Saturday I just couldn't face trying to take her all the way over to the Heath.

I also organized my Bleeding London spreadsheets, and found that there are actually several more tiny, tiny streets in NW10 that I have missed. I'll pick them up on my last pass through the area, probably next weekend.

Dave and I watched "Auntie Mame," one of our perennial favorite movies, last night. We're so gay. Good grief.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Very Nearly Finished

I walked pretty much all day yesterday through the NW10 postcode, photographing 77 streets I'd missed in earlier passes. I'm still not quite finished, because I was separated from five remaining streets by a railroad yard and I just didn't have the energy to figure out how to get around it. I'll have to go back for those. And I haven't yet entered everything onto my spreadsheets, so it's possible I've missed one or two more. But I consider myself basically done.

That is a huge freaking postcode.

I stopped for lunch at a sad little sandwich shop near the Willesden Junction station. It didn't look sad from the outside, but when I went in, I found just four wrapped sandwiches in a glass display case, and some random pastries, and a coffee machine, and a fridge of chilled drinks. Oh, and a bored-looking attendant who charged me twice for my tuna melt. (It was an honest mistake. I didn't pay twice.) There were a few other customers, so I figured the place wouldn't kill me, and it didn't.

The weather was perfect, thank goodness. Not too cold, with a clear sunny sky and hence lots of interesting shadows. I've said it before and I'll say it again -- shooting pictures is so much easier and more interesting on a sunny day.

I got home last night to find that Dave had taken Olga to Hampstead Heath, bathed her, and gone shopping for groceries. Now that is a good husband! He made chicken pot pies last night and we watched a movie called "Filth," with James McAvoy. Let me just say, the title does not lie. It was a mad scramble of sex and violence -- kind of Pulp Fiction-ish, but not as good. McAvoy was interesting, but I'm still confused about the ending. The impenetrable Scottish accents didn't help.

(Photo: A carpet shop in Harlesden, yesterday.)

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Freaky Friday

Yesterday was such a peculiar day. I took the early shift in the library so I was at work by 7:30 a.m., and then I had the field trip to the British Museum with 9th graders, followed by an interview with the student newspaper, followed in turn by a student meeting in the afternoon. Lots of non-routine activity!

The field trip went well, thank goodness. I wasn't quite as obsessed about keeping everyone together as I was with the fifth graders, since these kids could at least get home on their own if need be. We visited the Africa galleries, as the kids were learning about pre-colonial Africa and the ancient kingdom of Benin. (Did you ever study this in school? I'm pretty sure I didn't. at least not to any great depth. Thank goodness for more multicultural, diverse education.

(In fact, when I was in high school, I had a really woeful experience with world Social Studies. My class was taught by a coach, who was both a really nice guy beloved by students and a terrible teacher. I specifically remember him standing at the front of the room and lecturing about the discovery by "Cornipius" that the earth revolved around the sun. Fortunately I already knew who Copernicus was.)

Anyway, back to the present: I'm not sure why the student newspaper wanted to interview me -- something about staff members and how we view the school community? But most of the questions seemed to be about me and my background. I guess we'll see when the article comes out!

Dave and I were both at work about 12 hours (poor Olga, though she has her dog-walker!) and by the time we got home we were bushed and ordered pizza. The chicken wine, I am happy to report, was a good accompaniment.

(Photo: The steps at the Wembley Park tube stop.)