Monday, December 11, 2017

Snow Day

We did indeed get an impressive little snowfall yesterday. And it was cold enough to stay snowy, even on the ground, throughout the day. London doesn't often get snow, so it was pretty unusual for us!

Here's what it looked like coming down in the gray light of early morning. This should finish off some of our annuals for the season -- I can't imagine the nasturtiums, for example, will pull through.

By the afternoon, this was the garden. There's still snow on the grass out there as I write this, from what I can see in the moonlight.

And this is what things looked like inside. Olga could not be budged from that position on the couch. She was utterly disinterested in even attempting to go outside. I did finally motivate her to take a walk halfway around the block, which was far enough to make things happen, if you know what I mean, but then she turned right around and pulled for home.

As usual, the snow managed to partly paralyze London's transportation network, but I nonetheless managed to go to Dave's high school band concert in the afternoon. The kids played some challenging pieces really well, including one by Dvorak, and then the band teachers and I adjourned to a pub for a celebratory post-concert drink. Dave has two more concerts this week -- eighth grade and fifth grade -- and then he's done for the season.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Frosty Leaves and Snow

Winter has descended upon us. I took Olga to the West Heath and Sandy Heath yesterday afternoon, and the fallen leaves were all coated with a thick layer of hoarfrost.

Olga, however, didn't seem to mind the cold at all, and played and chased squirrels with abandon. We even found her a frosty tennis ball...

...which, needless to say, didn't stay frosty for long.

In the morning we went walking through Cricklewood and I took the camera. I haven't been carrying it much lately, except on my LOOP walks, but I'm missing my urban street photography. Maybe I'll have a chance to get out and do more of that after the holidays.

Last night, while Dave was at school for another concert, I watched a movie called "Say Hello to Yesterday," with Jean Simmons and Leonard Whiting. It's from 1970 and depicts a daylong intergenerational romance between an older woman and younger man. I really liked it -- watched it twice straight through, in fact -- partly because of the groovy fashions and sappy music and all the old images of London in its swinging heyday. Parts of it were filmed in Holland Park and Kensington, near where Dave and I used to live. None of the characters ever revealed their names, which I thought was an interesting touch.

And as I look outside now, it's snowing! Quite a lot, actually, at least by London standards. I'm glad I got Olga some exercise yesterday, because today the chance of precipitation is 100 percent and it's supposed to be miserable out there. Unfortunately the high school band concert is today so I'll be off to school in the afternoon, to see the fruits of Dave's labor over the past several months. At least it's not an outdoor event!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

A Long Boring Post About Nothing

Olga has been downright annoying the last few mornings. She's up before the crack of dawn, whining and thumping her tail on the mattress and staring at Dave and me until we're both afraid to so much as twitch. If we do, she leaps up and all her excitement is renewed. I don't know why she's so eager to get up, because once we do she's very nonchalant about it. She usually comes out to the living room and promptly falls asleep again.

I closed the library 15 minutes early yesterday. It's the first time I've ever been able to do that -- my boss always said that if no one was around, especially on a Friday afternoon, I could lock up early. But someone -- and usually it's just one person -- is always there, or I have computer chargers still out and I need to wait for their return. (Not to get into the weeds about our library policies, but chargers are only checked out for the day, and if they're not returned by closing the borrower faces a penalty -- so I wouldn't want to close early and be the reason that person couldn't return their charger.)

But yesterday, Dave and Gordon and Carolyn and Mark came into the library at 4:40 and announced they were going to the pub. I only had one teacher in the back of the library, grading papers. So I told him he could stay without me, and I locked all but one door and turned out the lights (except where he was sitting, obviously). I still had three chargers out, but I'm pretty sure (knowing those specific kids) that they weren't coming back yesterday. If a kid complains that they tried to return their charger and I wasn't there, well, I'll give them a pass on the penalty.

Anyway, this is all very boring for you, but it was a momentous day for me. And I got to go to the pub! Woo hoo!

Afterwards, Dave had a concert, so I came home and watched several episodes of "Absolutely Fabulous" and ate peanut butter on toast and split pea soup. What a wild life I lead.

We're getting a real blast of cold weather this weekend -- subfreezing temperatures (a low of 27ºF today) and a 100 percent chance of rain tomorrow. I'll take the dog out today to work off some of that excess energy. (Right now, predictably, she's lying next to me on the couch snoring.)

(Photo: A "ghost sign" on my most recent LOOP walk. It mentions "His Majesty the King" at the top, so it must be from 1952 or earlier. I wonder what "invalid specialities" were?)

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Rosy Glow of Memory

I've found a lot of things lying in London's waterways on my various walks around town. But until my most recent LOOP walk, I had never found a sofa. At least, not that I recall.

Today is the anniversary of John Lennon's death -- 37 years ago, which is mind-blowing in itself. Almost as many years have passed as Lennon was alive. He packed an incredible amount of living into his four decades on the planet. I will never forget that awful event -- the news reports, the shock, the endless Beatles songs on the radio. I was in ninth grade, and the next year I was given Lennon's "Double Fantasy" album for my birthday.

You know, I feel like I am a forgiving person. I can see the tragedy, for example, in the women of the Manson family who were essentially victimized by Charles Manson -- as I said the other day, every time one of them comes up for parole, part of me hopes they get it. But any trace of forgiveness in me vanishes at the thought of Mark David Chapman. I hope that guy stays in prison forever.

As I was transcribing my old paper journals a few nights ago, I came across an entry from Dec. 9, 2000 when I described going to dinner with coworkers at a swanky restaurant in New York. And then:

After the dinner last night, Ann and Colley and I went down to Central Park to sing at the John Lennon memorial at Strawberry Fields -- we sang a bizarre mix of Beatles songs, from "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" to "I Am the Walrus" (very hard to sing a cappella, I must say). There were huge stacks of flowers and candles. I may go over there again today to see what remains -- somehow it seemed rather carnivalesque and far less somber than I expected it to be. It wasn't the crowd-bonding experience that I anticipated, like singing "Let It Be" at the gates of the AFB at Cape Kennedy during the Trident missile protests.

(I was referring back to a nuclear missile protest at Cape Canaveral, AKA Cape Kennedy, that I attended in college in the '80s. We all sang "Let It Be" huddled around the gates of the Air Force base, to the accompaniment of some guy's boom box.)

Anyway, what's interesting about that journal entry is that I remember that evening in 2000, memorializing John Lennon in Central Park, as very much a bonding experience -- certainly with my coworker Ann and her husband Colley. I specifically remember singing "In My Life" with them, surely one of the most beautiful of all Beatles songs. I don't know why I wasn't more touched by it at the time. Sometimes it takes a while to appreciate the impact of an event, I suppose. Or maybe the rosy glow of our memories fills in the gaps in our actual experience.

RIP, John.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Avocado, and Wagon Ho!

Last night Dave and I had elaborate plans (well, not so elaborate) to go get a Christmas tree. We were going to walk up to the local lot, but just as we were about to head out the door, we began debating the possibility of adopting the library tree when school closes next week. After all, it just gets thrown away.

We figured, why buy a tree of our own when we can probably bring that one home?

How to get it here is still an unresolved question. But never mind that -- we took off our jackets and abandoned our tree-buying plan. Meanwhile, in lieu of a real tree, I dug out the Christmas lights and wound them around the avocado in the living room. It's the most festive avocado tree in London, I'm pretty sure!

In even bigger news, I finally solved a mystery that has been bothering me for years.

When I was a child, there was a restaurant on Florida Avenue in Tampa shaped like a big covered wagon, with a statue of a bearded guy at the front, his arm raised as if driving a team of horses. I remembered this place vividly, even though I never ate there. (I tried to get my parents to go, but Mom said it was "nasty." I'm not sure how she knew.)

Anyway, every once in a while -- maybe once or twice a year -- I'd do an Internet search to try to find a photo of this place. I was never successful, which seemed very strange. Wouldn't you think someone would photograph a building shaped like a covered wagon?

I seriously began to wonder whether I'd imagined it.

But finally, last night, I dredged up a couple of pictures. Turns out the name I remembered for the restaurant wasn't correct, at least not originally, which probably hampered my earlier searches. It was called Wagon Ho! and there were several of them in Florida. I don't know which location is in the photo above, but the Tampa building looked just like that.

Here's an interesting blog post about the brief history of the Wagon Ho! chain -- according to the article, it went bust in 1970, though the buildings hung around for a while after that. (Which is probably why I remember the restaurant being called Michael's.)

Whew! I'm not crazy!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Workplace Christmas Tree

On Monday I decorated the Christmas tree in the school library. (Am I supposed to call it a "winter tree"? A "holiday tree"? I'm not sure.)

It was delivered in the morning, sheathed in mesh with what appears to be a new tree stand. I cut away the mesh and dug the lights and ornaments out of our supply cabinet, and spent the afternoon putting it all together.

I have to say, though, this year's tree doesn't excite me much. It has no pizazz. Remember how last year we had flags, and a few years ago we had the dog-penis paper chain? This year we just have lights and baubles -- which is why I experimented with my camera to at least make the photo of the tree more interesting.

I think I may go down to the Lower School this morning and borrow some of their ornaments. They have much more interesting ones that a previous principal collected in her travels, and they have so many they don't even use them all.

Meanwhile, Dave and I have yet to go get our tree. I was thinking we'd do it sometime this week but we haven't been motivated yet. It sounds like we're going to have some friends over on Christmas day, though, so now we have to decorate!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Another iPhone Photo Collection

Time for another random assortment of photos from my phone. First, a strange creature in the window of a local ceramics shop. I thought it was the Cheshire Cat until I saw that it has six caterpillar-like legs. Now I'm completely confused.

Olga discovered another striped cat lounging in the window of a Cricklewood cleaners. She wasn't all that impressed, though, and neither was the tiger.

Dave and I went walking around the cemetery over the weekend, and noticed this sign along Blackberry Path. I hesitate to point it out, but I don't think it's my poo that's the problem.

The path, by the way, has been cleared of huge amounts of brush and undergrowth and is much more walkable now.

We also found this bouquet tied to a tree, which seemed ominous. When we came home I did some Googling and learned that a woman's body was found near here about a month ago. Her death was not deemed suspicious, and I'm assuming from the coverage it may have been a suicide.

(I wonder if this has something to do with why the path was so vigorously cleared?)

Another autumn leaf, found lying on the pavement in Hampstead. This may be my last leaf photo of the season, since most of them are now brown and soggy.

My coworker showed up just before Thanksgiving wearing this sweater, which I thought was hilarious. She said she got it for about £3 in a local shop. It's so ridiculous it's art.

I asked her, "Can I take a picture of your sweater in a way that doesn't constitute sexual harassment?"

And finally, a sign from the entrance of the venue where I saw Oysterband a couple of weekends ago. I thought it was hilarious, but one of the British people I was with said, "What, you've never seen that before?" I guess it's an old joke in England.

I sent this picture to my high-school girlfriend, who's a friend of mine on Facebook. ("Hello" was "our song" when we were dating back in the mid-'80s.) "It doesn't quite rhyme," she said.