Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Found Rug

Despite a gray, cloudy sky, I successfully got in some walking yesterday and photographed 53 streets. Woo hoo! I think I'll almost finish NW9 by the end of the month. I need just one more good long day.

I found this beautiful rug on my walk. I think it's Indian. It was in a very Indian neighborhood, at any rate. No, I did not take it home.

The overall scene wasn't quite as nice.

Today my visiting friend David and I are off to Leicester to visit the Richard III Visitor's Center. (It's kind of funny there even is such a thing, isn't it?) The English -- some of them, anyway -- are gaga over the rediscovery of the body of their last Plantaganet king, and have reinterred him with all sorts of solemnity and pomp. Crowds of people lined the streets to see his coffin brought to the cathedral where he is now entombed. A king who died more than 500 years ago, and who by many accounts was a child-kiling tyrant.

Should be an interesting outing!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Lunch-Hour Photo Run

Yesterday was a beautiful day -- cool and clear and sunny. Of course, I was inside most of the time. But I went out at lunch and zipped up to Dollis Hill on the tube to photograph a handful of Bleeding London streets, and then zipped back to work again. I fit it all into my lunch hour, although I barely had time to cram a tuna sandwich into my gullet!

I wanted to get some photography done because, wouldn't you know, the next four days (at least) are supposed to be gray and somewhat rainy. I'm going to try to keep working on BL anyway. As long as the rain isn't coming down heavily.

The super-creative Girl Scout poster artist(s) at school are back at it! I guess we're supposed to turn out the lights for an hour tonight? 'It's a chance to celebrate our brilliant plant...from the desserts to the oceans." Awesome.

We haven't cancelled the dog walker for next week. Part of me thinks it might be kind of nice to just let him come as usual and take care of Olga during the day, freeing us up to do other things. And part of me thinks, "But we could save £60!" Surprisingly (for me), the former argument appears to be winning, so far.

(Top: A street in Dollis Hill, yesterday.)

Friday, March 27, 2015

Spring Break

The last day of school before Spring Break! Woo hoo!

Dave and I are off all next week. And having just returned from Singapore, we're going to stay home, which sounds pretty wonderful. We may take a day trip here or there, but right now we're just looking forward to spending time with the dog, working around the house and garden and relaxing.

We have some plans with our visiting friend David this weekend, but it looks like the weather's not going to be great. So I'm not sure how much we'll be able to do. It looks like my last days of shooting for Bleeding London (which ends Tuesday) are fated to be rainy ones.

Maybe I can stay inside and finally finish "The Moonstone." I've also picked two huge books to succeed it -- Gregory David Roberts' "Shantaram" and Richard Flanagan's "The Narrow Road to the Deep North." So I have plenty of reading to do.

We were all abuzz yesterday about the shocking news that the co-pilot of the crashed German airliner appears to have deliberately downed the plane. I can't fathom what might have been going on inside that guy's head. I hope we get some answers, though.

(Photos: There's some tree-clearing going on at Hampstead Heath. I'm not sure why. Someone wasn't happy about it and painted a clear protest on the lumber.)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Sidewalk Chalk

When I was walking in Golders Green a couple of weeks ago, I found these abstractions on the sidewalk along one street.

Apparently some kids got crazy with pastels. I like the effort!

Our friend David took Dave and me out to dinner last night at a French restaurant in West Hampstead. We've been meaning to try it, on the recommendation of one of our coworkers, but unfortunately we found it underwhelming. Still, it was fun to go out and I'm sure Dave appreciated a mid-week break from cooking!

Now we're having a quiet, rainy morning. I'm the only one awake. As the light comes up, Olga is lying on her Union Jack dog bed near the heater, and a handful of blackbirds are singing brightly out on the street. I love this time of day!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Short Takes, with Avocado and Amaryllis

-- All by itself, our avocado tree has decided to branch out! I did't pinch the top or otherwise encourage it in any way. It just did it by itself. I'm such a proud parent!

-- My French assessment yesterday wasn't as intimidating as I feared. After work I went down to the Alliance Fran├žaise in Dorset Square, and was ushered into a little room with a Frenchman who asked me some basic questions. I answered, haltingly, but it was hard for me to access even words I know. I think I'm just very rusty. He put me in the "beginner" group, but not the bottom class. I'm the next level up. So that's something, I suppose. Class begins later next month!

-- For Easter, Dave bought me a chocolate...hedgehog?

-- I'm sure you heard about the death of Lee Kuan Yew, the first prime minister and founder of modern Singapore. I read a newspaper while we were there that said he was "still" in the hospital in critical condition, and I thought, "Oh boy. If this guy dies while we're here it might really complicate things!" I was envisioning closed businesses and reduced services, that kind of thing. I'm not sure that happened, but in any event, he died the day after we left.

-- There's also the terrible story of the crashed German airliner. Coming so soon after our own long flight, with our own group of student travelers, that was scary news. Every trip on an airplane is an act of faith, isn't it? (But then, so is every trip in a car. So is walking out the door in the morning.) I cannot imagine how frightening an eight-minute descent from 38,000 feet must have been. Eight minutes is a long time to know your plane is going down. Those poor people.

-- On a happier note, our amaryllis are about to bloom again. I am so impressed with these flowers. In the past year they were transplanted, moved to a new house, knocked around a bit and gnawed by slugs, but they're durable! I think this year we'll keep them on the doorsill of the French doors in the living room, rather than outside. That way the slugs won't get to them. I bought a special saucer for their pot last night at Homebase on the way home from my French test, so we don't need to move them to water them.

-- I mentioned that Bleeding London is about to end, but I didn't mean to suggest that I was going to stop taking pictures. These days, taking photos is one of my main modes of interaction with my world. I wouldn't know what to do without my camera at my side!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A French Twist

Re-entry after Singapore has not been as difficult as I feared -- at least, not so far. I slept soundly on Sunday night and again last night, and yesterday at work I was only mildly tired. Maybe we weren't gone long enough to hugely alter our biorhythms.

Have I mentioned that I'm taking a French class? Starting in April, on Saturdays, for three hours, I'll be at the Alliance Fran├žaise learning how to progress beyond "Un cafe, s'il vous plait?"

We'll see how it goes. I'm supposed to meet an instructor there after work today to be "assessed" so they can fit me into the proper class. When I applied, I was asked to write a short paragraph in French introducing myself. Apparently I did well enough that they want to find out how much I can speak. But if my "assessment" is a conversation, it'll last about 30 seconds before I hit my limit. My problem is, I know a lot of words -- a byproduct of living two years in Morocco -- but I have no idea how to fit them together and I really have no idea about grammar and tenses and that kind of thing.

I'm also very, very rusty. I have used only basic "Cafe French" on our recent trips to Paris.

I would love to learn how to really speak it -- and now I'm in an environment where I can. There are French speakers all over the school, and we're close enough to France that anytime I want I could pop over there and practice. I'm not saying it will happen, but why not try? I can only get better.

Besides, now that Bleeding London is coming to a close (theoretically) I'll need another weekend hobby!

(Photo: Edgeware Road, North London)

Monday, March 23, 2015

Back to the Grind

We are safely back in Blighty, and man, is it cold here. It's no colder than when we left, but after four days of walking around in 90-degree heat and hazy humidity, a cold March spring is a bit of a shock. Then again, it's also refreshing, and Dave is much happier with this kind of weather.

The flight was very smooth, though I saw no grand pianos, no martini bars and no Lee Grant. We couldn't even go upstairs, which was reserved for business class. For all I know they had a swimming pool up there.

I read my remaining magazines and about half of "The Moonstone." It's going to take me forever to read that book, which is hugely thick and has print so tiny it looks like aphids crawling across the page. I've had to resort to a pair of my stepsister's old reading glasses to make heads or tails of it. I've taken to using these reading glasses now and then, when faced with small print, though usually I can still get away without them and I prefer not to use them. I want to keep my corneas limber for as many years as possible!

I also watched a fun movie, "Fuku-Chan of the Fukufuku Flats." It was a quirky, youthful comedy, a bit like a Japanese version of "Napoleon Dynamite." I don't know what its international distribution is like but if you get a chance to watch it, check it out.

Now Dave and I have a houseguest -- our friend David, who arrived in England last night from the U.S. A history buff, he'll be using our house as a home base while he attends events celebrating the reinterment of King Richard III in Leicester. (Remember, the English king whose body was recently found beneath a parking lot?) I'm going to tag along on one of his trips to Leicester this weekend. Meanwhile, it's back to work today for me and Dave!

(Photo: A guy waiting for the train in Colindale, north London. Love the hair!)