Friday, October 15, 2021

Autumn Colors

It's that time of year again. I took Olga for a walk yesterday morning before work, and we found evidence of autumn all around us.

This tree is always one of the first on the street to change. I've photographed it several times (most recently here and here). And it always has that same blue car parked beneath it! I don't know how, with on-street parking, that person is able to maintain their possession of that same space so consistently.

The Maw is looking even more autumnal, the vine surrounding it getting redder and redder. I'm just realizing the foliage has been quite dramatically trimmed since that last post.

I managed to survive work yesterday. I was afraid I might start to feel bad in the afternoon, and I had Lemsip at the ready, but no -- I was fine. Maybe this cold really is behind me, knock on wood.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Spice World

This was Olga in the garden yesterday morning. I know she appreciates having me home during the day, partly so I can let her into the garden if the sun is shining. There's nothing that dog likes more than lying in the sun.

Unfortunately, I'm going back to work this morning, so she'll have to lie on the carpet and make do with the patches of sun coming through the dining room windows.

It was good to have one more day to take it easy. I read some, and then watched a Brazilian movie called "Nova Dubai" about overdevelopment and urban alienation with some very explicit sex scenes. I was a little paranoid that Mrs. Russia might be able to look down from upstairs and see our TV screen. "It's not porn, I swear!" (Well, it kind of is. But hey, it was screened at Lincoln Center.)

I also did laundry and discovered that our newly repaired boiler was leaking. Drops of water were falling on the kitchen counter. So, following my mom's dictum -- "everything has to be done at least twice" -- I called British Gas back and had an engineer return. Fortunately I had a different (and less talkative) engineer this time, and he corrected the problem. I told him I felt stupid calling him back for such a small thing, and asked if there was something I could easily adjust to stop the drips should they return -- but he assured me that he didn't mind an easy call and said I shouldn't try to adjust the boiler myself. Which was my instinct too.

Oh, and remember our spicy situation? That shelf of spices below the boiler that I set out a few years ago, hoping that Dave would be encouraged by their greater visibility to use them and stop buying more? Well, we did a massive clean-out there and in the spice cabinet, and threw away a lot of stuff that had expired. Some of it was very, very expired -- like, anywhere from five to ten years ago.

This is what it looks like now.

Incidentally, for the past few years I've been working my way through our oversupply of cinnamon by using it in my coffee, and we're now down to two bottles and a little box -- from six containers, originally! (Dave has used some too, obviously. I didn't consume three bottles of cinnamon by myself.)

I'm sure that some of these "expired" spices were fine, but honestly, we just don't need poppy seeds or fennel seeds or some of the other stuff we had. Some of them I don't think we even bought -- I think they were given to us here and there by departing school families who were moving back to the states.

I did not throw away this sealed container of bicarbonate of soda, even though it expired in March 2013. I mean, does bicarbonate of soda really go bad? I hate to throw it away when it's never even been opened. What do you think?

Dave, meanwhile, got his Covid vaccine booster yesterday, at the invitation of the NHS, as well as a flu shot. I'm still waiting to hear from them, but supposedly I'll be able to get my booster fairly soon.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

La Blanche Neige

I was feeling well enough yesterday that I did manage to get the lawn mowed. (As I said, it's a small lawn.) Our electric mower was acting up -- even though it was plugged in correctly, I had a terrible time getting the power switch to work. Not sure what's going on there. I suppose I'll have to deal with that problem eventually.

As I mowed and trimmed I was trailed by this little robin, snatching bugs from the new-mown grass. English robins are amazingly curious and social. They'll come within a few feet and trill their little warbling songs in anticipation of an insect or worm.

Whenever a robin is fluttering around me, I always feel like seven dwarfs will come marching out of the underbrush. (Do we still say "dwarfs"? I guess we must, at least when referring to 84-year-old Disney animation.)

About this time the repair guy showed up to fix our boiler. He showed me the part he was replacing and although I am sure he'd used the word diaphragm to describe it, it looked more like a big metal Frisbee -- a hollow disc-shaped thing that apparently had something inside meant to expand when filled with hot water. Ours was leaking and thus not expanding properly blah blah blah. (This guy talked my ear off. I not only heard about this part but also about him buying his house in Acton 30 years ago, when he met his "second missus," and how he sold it to a couple of rich city types despite all its problems with damp and poor construction, which the inspections revealed but the buyers decided to ignore, and how he's now living in a one-bedroom apartment that he's hired a decorator to repaint and the guy keeps flaking out on him and not showing up. I didn't ask where the second missus is these days -- not to mention the first one -- but I did wonder.)

Our plectranthus is blooming, trying desperately to reproduce before winter comes. These plants are sold as annuals here, and you may remember I pulled one through last winter by keeping it indoors, but it was very messy and it still looked desperate by the time spring arrived. It leafed out again in summer and it's been nice to have around but I'm not saving it again this winter. So it better bloom while it can.

Here's a Blogger question. I recently updated the list of blogs I follow, in the sidebar to the right. But now I only see the first five blogs on the list, unless I hit the tiny "show all" button below them. I used to see the complete list by default. I looked in my settings to see if I could make a change that would show the full list automatically, but I don't see anything like that. Does anyone know if there's a way to toggle that on or off? It's no big deal -- I can hit "show all" easily enough -- but it's another weird change that just seemed to happen with no warning and that I could do without.

Blogger! Oh well -- you get what you pay for, I suppose.

Dave and I have been watching an Apple TV show called "Mr. Corman," starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a fifth-grade teacher. It's a very bizarre show and we're only four episodes in, but I really like it. I literally never know what to expect. We've had episodes with musical numbers and computer-game animation and allusions to Harry Nilsson's obscure children's TV special "The Point." Unfortunately, I hear the show has been cancelled, which is a shame because I'm digging the variety. Maybe it was a little too wild for some people.

Although I am feeling better, I'm not 100 percent and I'm staying home from work because I'm still coughing and snorting like crazy. Hopefully by tomorrow I'll be ready to face the world again.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Bread Week

The bees are still out doing their thing, despite the cooling October temperatures.  They especially seem to love the Michaelmas daisies. We have a big clump of these daisies off the back patio, both white ones and purple ones, and it's humming at this time of year.

I spent yesterday in bed and on the couch, mostly reading. I hesitate to say it, but I might be feeling a little better. It's hard to tell because I've also been taking Lemsip, a cold remedy containing paracetamol, and that might be giving me a false sense of wellness. Lemsip, a powder mixed into hot water to make a lemony drink, is the absolute nectar of the gods to a sick person.

I did get up the energy to vacuum the house yesterday, so that's something. And the lawn really needs to be mowed. I might do it today if I feel up to it. (It's a small lawn!)

Dave, meanwhile, made bread from scratch yesterday. I don't think he's ever done this, at least not as long as I've known him, but he turned out a very well-formed and well-baked loaf:

Even Paul Hollywood would be impressed. If not Paul, then at least Prue. Dave has made pan bread several times before, but I really think this is the first time I've seen him bake a loaf with yeast.

In fact Dave has been on a baking binge -- he also made an apple pie on Sunday. I have pretty much restricted my food intake to soup, which is what really appeals to me now. Anything with a thin broth or anything acidic and I'm all over it. Before Dave made soup I was eating canned tomatoes with toast, and they tasted fabulous. Must be the Vitamin C? It's funny how the body knows what it needs.

Oh, but I don't mean to imply I didn't eat Dave's pie. Of course I did, and it's yummy.

The boiler inspector came yesterday and found a fault in our boiler -- nothing dangerous, just a leaky diaphragm that allows water to seep out of the system. He's coming back today to replace it. No one wants a leaky diaphragm.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Attack of the Pot-Scrubbers

This cold has laid me low. It really took hold yesterday and I felt terrible. It feels like someone has scoured the inside of my nose and throat with a plastic pot scrubber. I tried to take Olga on her afternoon walk to the cemetery but I had to cut it short and come home, I felt so fatigued. My temperature was slightly elevated -- 99.6ยบ, not really enough to be called a fever -- but I took another Covid test just in case and it was negative. So whatever it is, it's definitely not that.

On Saturday, when I felt a little better, I did some minor work in the garden, pulling weeds, cutting down the cardoon and some old globe thistles, and propping up some leaning Michaelmas daisies, which get very top-heavy when they flower. Of course I took a few more photos of things that are still blooming, like the few sunflowers that survived the squirrel offensive (top)...

...and our yellow dahlia, which I moved from the patio out to the lawn so we could see it better. The other dahlias have passed their peak, but this new one is still going strong.

The beautyberries look like brightly colored pharmaceuticals (no doubt psychedelics)...

...and though the zinnias, like the dahlias, are past their prime, they still have a few nice flowers.

This is a penstemon, which we planted a couple of years ago, and to be honest I thought it was long dead. My weeding revealed it deep in a flower bed, lanky and sun-starved but blooming. Persistent little devil! We used to have two of them, but I'm sure the other one is gone.

I finished a Newbery book, "Crispin and the Cross of Lead," which I really liked. And I watched a fantastic old English horror movie from the '60s called "Island of Terror," starring Peter Cushing, in which a village on a remote island is terrorized by silica-based life forms created (of course) by a wayward scientist in his laboratory. They looked like giant starfish (or maybe plastic pot scrubbers) with a single tentacle, so obviously made of latex that the attack scenes were completely laughable -- especially when the poles controlling the tentacles were visible! But terrible effects are all part of the charm of old horror movies.

When I was a kid our local TV station used to broadcast an old horror movie every Saturday afternoon, on a weekly show called "Creature Feature." I wrote about it here. "Island of Terror" would have been the perfect "Creature Feature" movie, and in fact I'd bet money that it aired there at some point.

Today, fortunately, Olga's dog walker is back on duty, so I won't have to manage the dog. (Dave would do it in a pinch, but to get him to walk her I have to overcome his belief that she doesn't need a daily walk. That's an extra psychological task that I find it easier to avoid.) We also have a guy coming over to do our annual gas inspection. I'm going to let Dave deal with him so as not to give him the plague.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Banana Bouncing Back

Take a look at our Chinese banana tree. It rebounded just fine after last winter's freezes. Now it's so lush and big we can barely get around it! We vowed to take better care of it this winter but the leaves will inevitably die back, I think. (It's so large I'm not sure how we could cover it all.)

Indoors, one of our Thanksgiving cacti is already blooming away -- at least part of it. The other three all have buds. The one at the top will be the same color as the middle one, and the one in the foreground on the floor will be a sort of salmon pink/orange. Beyond that you can see a smaller plant on the bottom shelf -- that's a rooted cutting sent to me by blog reader Frances last year. It should eventually bloom white.

I'm surprised we have flowers already. Is there such a thing as a Halloween cactus?

Yesterday, Olga got excited at the prospect of a walk, so I thought I'd take her to the cemetery. But no! She was insistent that we walk southward instead, and she took me down the gloomy and somewhat scary Billy Fury Way.

There's more vaccine graffiti on the right. Remember how I wondered earlier if a similar piece was anti-vax? Well, seeing this, it's a definite yes. That's a "No Entry" traffic sign behind the needle. (The piece I pictured in that last post has since been painted over, by the way.)

I have no idea why Olga wanted to take this particular route, but she seemed happy with it, and then we went home.

Finally, I set up the garden cam a week or so ago, and captured more footage of the local fox(es). I apologize in advance for the indelicate footage of the fox relieving itself. What can I say? Nature! There's also a nice daytime shot of one of them, showing off the color of its fur. (I'm unclear whether this is one animal or several. I know there are multiple foxes around, because we hear them quarreling at night.)

My cold is still with me. It's not terrible but it's uncomfortable. I spent most of yesterday morning on the couch reading, and I plan to do so again today.

Saturday, October 9, 2021


I was walking to work yesterday morning when I came across this attentive pooch, keeping an eye out for her owner. He was at the back of the truck, unloading a delivery. When he saw me snapping a photo, he laughed and said, "She could be a model!"

And he's right.

Let's just keep it between us that I'm blogging so much about other dogs. Olga might not like it.

Finally, finally, we have come to the end of this incredibly long work week. I don't know why it seemed like such a slog -- obviously it was no longer than any other work week, but all of my colleagues seemed to feel the same way. A common refrain yesterday was, "I'm so exhausted!" Maybe it had something to do with anticipating October Break, which has now officially begun. None of us will be back at work until next Wednesday.

Dave and I have no official plans, except that I'd like to knock out a couple more Newbery books. We talked about taking a little day trip somewhere, and we might still do that, but I'm also coming down with a sore throat so I want to take it easy. (It's not Covid. I took a test. Several of my colleagues have had colds, so there's something else -- something much more routine -- going around.) Probably sitting on a picnic blanket on a misty damp afternoon and burdening my immune system with an onslaught of alcohol didn't do me any favors.