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.)

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Black Cap


I've written before about the gradual disappearance of some of London's historic pubs. With real estate prices so high and development opportunities abundant -- especially for pub buildings, which are often quite ornate and stylish -- the pubs themselves often come under tremendous financial pressure.

Here's a pub that closed back in 2015. The Black Cap had the added distinction of being a well-known LGBTQ venue, featuring drag performers and cabaret acts. The pub was made an Asset of Community Value (ACV), a government designation that's supposed to help protect pubs from redevelopment, but sadly that distinction couldn't keep it open.

I'd been reading about this pub for a while but didn't know quite where it was until I happened to walk past it on Sunday.


This rather dandy-looking fellow is perched up by the roof. (Not the pigeon, though he's dandy too.)

Apparently The Black Cap's owners had applied to convert the two floors above the pub into flats, but their application was rejected. I gotta say, those look like they would be amazing flats, although one wonders about noise levels, especially with drag performances going on downstairs!

At least they didn't simply tear the place down.

There's now a public campaign to buy out the pub and keep it open. Fingers crossed!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Rooster Express, Part 6


Longtime readers may remember that when Dave and I first moved to London in 2011, I was photographically infatuated by the rich variety of fried chicken restaurants. (Examples here, here, herehere and here.) These restaurants always have red and/or blue signage -- it's apparently an unspoken industry rule -- and their names often refer back to the southern USA.

Here's a good example with an unusually cumbersome name that I came across Sunday in Camden. I wonder if they had to pay by the letter for that sign?

And I wonder how "new" Tennesseeland differs from "old" Tennesseeland? Was there even an "old" Tennesseeland? Questions to ponder.

Anyway, what can I say about yesterday. It was Monday, and I was back at work. It may not seem like it but we're already on the downslope of the school year! (That's what I keep telling myself, anyway.)

I've tried to write a politically-themed post several times but I just don't have it in me. It brings me down and I know it would bring you down, too. Rest assured I'm thinking about it all, worrying about the stability of the American government and cringing every time I open The New York Times web site.

I'm pretty sure voters in the real Tennesseeland love Donald Trump, though.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Street Art and Old Books


Last Wednesday, when Dave and I took a taxi to get to St. Pancras train station for our trip to Broadstairs, we passed through Camden Town and saw lots of great street art. I realized it had been quite a while since I went walking in that area.

So yesterday I set out on what I intended to be a brief meander. The sky was gray, which is actually ideal for photographing street art -- you don't get distracting shadows on the walls. One of the murals I visited was this flaming spray can piece (above) by Irony.

I normally avoid the area around Camden Market because it's tourist hell and the sidewalks are packed. There are always various costumed characters (yesterday I saw The Mad Hatter) wandering around, looking to make a pound or two. But what makes the area so obnoxious to walk through can also make it fun if you're in the mood for that sort of thing.

So I walked for an hour or two through Camden and into Primrose Hill, where I became distracted by a secondary mission. I happened upon a bookshop with a bin of used books outside, and when I browsed through them I came across this volume (left). I love that cover -- those '50s graphics! "The Green Singers," from 1958, is set in Australia, and I had to have it -- and it was only £3! But of course I didn't have any cash on me, and I didn't want to try to make such a minor purchase with a debit card. (I may be wrong, but the shop didn't seem like the kind of place where they'd go for that.) So I schlepped through Primrose Hill and back to Camden Road to find an ATM, and then back to the bookshop.

In the end, success -- and I also got a second old book (right, below, just £2). I've never heard of either of these authors, but I liked the old-fashioned dust jackets so much. Apparently David Leslie wrote numerous books including some with homoerotic elements. (Score!) And Ralph Arnold's "Hands Across the Water," from 1947, is about trying to find a newly incarnated Tibetan lama in England.

So, who knows -- they might be rubbish. But maybe one of them will be another H. E. Bates -- an author I'd never heard of before I took the plunge on some thrift store books that I turned out to really like! I'll report back.

I walked from Primrose Hill up to Adelaide Road and caught the C11 bus for home. By this time it was past noon -- nothing like a good morning of urban exploration.

Dave and I spent the afternoon in the garden, continuing to prune and prepare for the new growing season. Yesterday I mentioned the crocuses coming up around town, and we found a few in our own flower beds. We also filled three lawn bags with leaves and trimmings. It's amazing how much debris a garden can accumulate.

Last night we went on a "Gogglebox" TV bender. Dave reheated his Sauce Bolognese, but added tomatoes to make it a more traditional red sauce. He was not impressed with his low-tomato-content initial attempt!

And apropos of nothing, here's the word of the day: "broigus." I saw it used in a headline in the Jewish News, which I happened to pick up for free on the high street yesterday morning. (See page 12.) Apparently it's a yiddish word meaning a fight -- in this case, between air passengers mid-flight! It's a great word -- I think I could find room for it in my vocabulary.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

En Plein Air


Olga may have seemed exhausted when we got back from Broadstairs, but after a good night's sleep she was raring to go. So we went to the Heath yesterday morning and took a long walk.

We came across this guy painting en plein air in Hampstead. He seemed to be finishing up -- I think he was cleaning his brushes.


The walk went well, and on the way home we found about a million crocuses in the Hampstead Church cemetery. Signs of spring!

Dave experimented for dinner and made a real Bolognese sauce for pasta. Apparently the red meat sauce all of us think of as Bolognese really isn't -- the authentic variety is paler, with less tomato and more veg and even a touch of milk. It wasn't bad, but I don't think either of us were a huge fan. I get why red sauce is so popular!

We also did more garden cleanup. I raked the parking space in front of our house, which was full of last autumn's piled-up blown leaves and tiny bits of street litter. (Technically the parking space is the responsibility of the upstairs neighbors, who actually park there, but we own a rake and they don't, so I didn't mind doing it. Probably should have done it weeks ago, in fact.) Dave pruned our buddleia and some other plants, hopefully getting everything ready to bush out again in a few weeks.

Last night we watched "Beginners," with Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer. It's an earlier movie by Mike Mills, the same guy who wrote and directed "20th Century Women," which Dave and I saw last week in the theater. "Beginners" is excellent. I loved it. If you haven't seen it, download it and check it out!