Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Reading About Florida

I promise not to talk about photography or Bleeding London today! I am becoming kind of a one-note Joe lately, but it's true that most of my spare time seems consumed by those pursuits.

I've been making a little room for reading. I just started another John Green book, "Paper Towns," which I was eager to read because it's set in Florida -- Orlando, specifically. I wouldn't say it's very complimentary about Florida, but it's always fun to read about my home state.

When I was growing up Florida seemed relatively untouched by popular culture -- at least until "Miami Vice" came along. The big news happened somewhere else. All the TV shows, with the exception of "Flipper," were set in New York or California. (Certainly nothing was ever set in Tampa -- which is still true, as far as I know!) There were some Florida books -- "The Yearling," and one I loved called "Summer Lightning" that is now apparently out of print but still available used or as an e-book.

Florida's cultural prominence, like its population, has increased greatly since then.

Anyway, I like the Green book, though I read an interesting article in Slate not long ago chastising adults for reading Young Adult literature. Even good YA books, the writer asserts, are too simplistic in their endings and too wide-eyed in their approach to love and life to be satisfying to a right-thinking adult. "If (readers) are substituting maudlin teen dramas for the complexity of great adult literature, then they are missing something," she wrote. I thought of an adult book group I heard about that read "Divergent," which I must agree is probably not the best choice. (I slogged through "Divergent" but you could not pay me to read the sequels.)

But the line between YA and adult reading does seem blurry sometimes -- just like the line between youth and adulthood seems blurry in our modern culture. I suppose our reading habits are symptomatic of a wider psychological change. (I defend my own YA reading as a job requirement!)

Speaking of Florida, I had the weirdest dream last night. My mom and I were sitting on the dock behind our family home when we saw a huge alligator welling up out of the water. I got up to run, but Mom jumped in the water (which I suspect she would not do in real life) and began swimming to shore. I had to grab her arm and pull her. We did escape the gator. What do you suppose that was all about? Why am I rescuing my mother?

(Photo: Hauling lumber on Savernake Road, near Hampstead Heath, on Saturday.)

Monday, September 29, 2014

Hendon and Finchley

Another full day out and about yesterday. I took my camera back up to the NW4 postcode, in Hendon, and photographed about 50 streets in that area before crossing over into N3, Finchley, where I found this horse in a surprisingly pastoral setting. London is full of surprises!

I met a man in Finchley who asked what I was up to, and he directed me to a few local landmarks, such as the "La Délivrance" statue by Emile Guillaume, known locally as "The Naked Lady."

With a sword, no less.

She is an allegorical representation of the victory of France and its allies in World War I, and was unveiled in Finchley in 1927. My helpful impromptu guide also reminded me that Finchley was the parliamentary constituency of Margaret Thatcher.

So thanks, Finchley voters -- said with no enthusiasm whatsoever.

It was a good day out, and a long one. I got home about 4 p.m. and spent the next couple of hours editing photos and uploading them to the Bleeding London web site. I shot 79 streets altogether. Dave keeps saying I should be paid for this -- but I really do enjoy it. Would I have ever seen Finchley otherwise? Doubtful.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Olga Gets a Long, Long Walk

Yesterday I relieved my dog-owner guilt tenfold. I took Olga with me on a photography walk through Hampstead -- first I took her to the Heath, where she ran free and chased her Kong and wore herself out, and then we walked several streets on the south and southwest sides of the Heath for Bleeding London.

We were out for at least three hours, and we'd been out more than an hour earlier that morning in another area northwest of where we live, so all in all Olga got in some serious walking yesterday. Which is why she's been asleep ever since.

Is it possible to walk a dog too much?

Anyway, as you can see, she was happy to come along, and she never showed any desire to go home. I got some good shots to boot, so all in all, a good day.

Here's a nasturtium I rooted from a cutting I found lying on Hampstead Heath several weeks ago. (Part of a discarded bouquet, I think.) It's turned into a full-fledged plant and it's bloomed several times. I love nasturtiums but in the states -- specifically in Florida -- I was never able to grow them. Here they grow like weeds!

Dave talked to our former next-door neighbor, Chris, from Notting Hill yesterday. Chris said he spoke to our former landlord, who was staying in our old flat on a visit from the states. Apparently they're no longer selling the flat (which is weird, because it's still listed) and they're looking to rent it again, as I'd heard at school not too long ago. Dave and I agreed that we're happy we were forced to move, because we like the place we're in so much better -- but strange that our landlords have changed their mind about selling. My guess is they haven't been able to get the outrageous price they're asking.

On a related note, I read an interesting article yesterday in the New York Times about the proliferation of houseboats in London, as an alternative to the high cost of housing. Apparently house prices in London have increased 20 percent so far this year! (We will never be able to buy anything.) I once suggested to Dave that we look into living on a boat, but he promptly vetoed that idea. (Now that I've seen him at work in the garden I understand why!) Turns out there are too many boats anyway, and not enough berths.

Last night we watched two more episodes of "The Honourable Woman," a BBC spy drama about Israel and Palestine starring Maggie Gyllenhaal. We missed its broadcast and it's no longer on the iPlayer, so we have to buy each episode via iTunes, and they're released episodically. (Maybe it's being broadcast in the states now?) Anyway, it's a great show. A little confusing in that kind of "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" way, where you think you might just be able to wrap your brain around it, and you never quite do -- at least, I never quite do -- but you enjoy it anyway. (How's that for an endorsement?)

Saturday, September 27, 2014

In Lieu of Boredom, Some Pictures

Yesterday was just stultifyingly boring. The library was quiet, and Dave went out with some coworkers after school so I came home, ate leftovers and spent the evening with the dog. Which was perfect company for a Friday night, truth be told.

Rather than put you through the tedium, here's an assortment of random fun photos.

First, a now-irrelevant piece of graffiti from a Shoreditch rooftop, taken while I was at last week's RPS licenture event.

I took this especially for my bike-loving brother. I'm not sure what could have happened to this bike to warp it so horribly while it was parked. Unless some really pissed person (in either the British or the American sense) jumped up and down on it.

If we've got to have an overabundance of real estate agencies avalanching (is that a verb?) our neighborhood, it helps if they have cute storefronts.

Thank goodness for the sunroof!

An amusing wine label. The wine's not bad either.

I found this little guy on a recent walk. He looks handmade. A crab, perhaps? I left him on a wall next to the sidewalk in case someone came back looking for him. (Olga would just destroy him, in about half a second.)

And finally, a curious bottle cap that I found on one of my walks. Magnum with "vigorton" is apparently a fortified Jamaican wine that supposedly stimulates sexual excitement -- hence the image of the couple making out. Apparently the label is even more explicit. The wine has a roughly 17 percent alcohol content and has run afoul of alcohol regulators for its marketing techniques. Who knew?

Friday, September 26, 2014

Much Ado About Shelving

Well, the shelf thing worked out fine after all.

I lay in bed and worried about it Wednesday night -- how was I going to get an early afternoon delivery at home and help teach a 1:30 p.m. class about library resources at school? And then yesterday morning the delivery people called me at 10:20 a.m. and said they'd be at my house in half an hour, which was considerably earlier than their original estimate. I zoomed home from school, met them, ate lunch, played with the dog and went back in time for the class.


I guess it shows the futility of getting worked up about a conflict that may not happen. For once I am praising the inaccuracy of delivery people.

I put the shelves together last night as Dave made dinner, and they worked out well. We got them from Made.com, and although as I said I wasn't thrilled with the fact that they took two months to arrive, they seem well-made and solid.

Better yet, our books are finally out of boxes, the boxes have been put out with the recycling and our dining room looks more finished. Maybe we'll use it more now, rather than just glancing in as we pass by on our way out the front door. A squatter could set up house in there and we wouldn't know it for a week.

(Top photo: When we have actual sunshine, which is getting rarer at this time of year, we get great long autumnal shadows. There's a girl in the bottom right window, but I was zoomed out pretty far so you can barely see her.)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Free Grapefruit, and Inopportune Deliveries

The other day, as I was walking in Marylebone, I found two grapefruit lying in the street. More or less in the gutter, to be completely accurate. I was in an area where produce vendors store their carts and wares overnight in little garages. There were a couple of other grapefruit lying nearby, squashed by a passing car, and some tomatoes, too.

I debated the wisdom of picking up the intact grapefruit. They were lying in the street, after all. But they looked clean and fresh, so I grabbed them and put them in my bag. I brought them home, washed them, and ate one yesterday for breakfast. It was fine. I did not die. I decided I'd made a pretty good find, especially in this cold land where free grapefruit are not normally an option!

Now I'm wrestling with how to handle a different silly problem.

Dave and I ordered some bookshelves about two months ago, to replace the built-in shelves that we lost when we left our Notting Hill flat. (All our books are still in boxes in the dining room!) Well, these shelves have been slow in coming. Apparently they're made to order, so it takes a while. Finally, a few days ago, I learned that they're supposed to be delivered today, between noon and 3 p.m. I'm supposed to get at least a half-hour's notice before the delivery people arrive, enabling me to race home and intercept them.

On any normal day I would be able to get away from work. But today, wouldn't you know, I have to help a class of sixth graders in the library at 1:30 p.m.! And Dave is teaching then, too. So if the shelves come around that time, we're screwed. I can't really do anything about this problem except hope that by some miracle, the schedule works out and the shelves come earlier or later.

(Photo: Outside Lord's Cricket Ground, yesterday.)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Mystery Roses

I mentioned before that we hadn't seen blooms on some of the rose bushes in our garden -- particularly those formerly buried in the shadows of the surrounding foliage. Here are some of the new flowers.

This velvety red rose was once so far back in the hedge that it not only hadn't flowered, it didn't even have leaves! When we removed all the overgrowth it sent out new shoots and finally, last week, offered up this amazing deep red blossom.

This one, near Dave's firespikes, came up from the roots -- a little pink tea rose.

This one might be our favorite. It's a bright orange-red, with a simple blossom (a single, I suppose, as opposed to a double or triple). It's out in the middle of the yard but only recently worked up the energy to bloom.

And finally, we have a white one. This one was blooming when we first moved in, so I knew it was white, but then one of the branches got knocked off during our big yard cleanup. It regrew and sent out new flowers last week, like bright surveyor's flags near ground level.

All these bushes are in need of pruning and shaping. We still haven't heard any more from the landlord about sending a gardener to do the work. I suppose I should check on that.

I haven't seen any more of the large rose sawfly caterpillars that completely denuded one of our bushes and part of a few others. I killed those little devils by hand (thank god for gardening gloves) and they have not returned.

I've never been a huge fan of roses, which always seemed fussy and overdramatic to me. I'd much rather have some simple wildflowers. But now that we have them in our yard I've come to appreciate them more! And of course England has the stereotypically rose-friendly climate -- we don't have to do much to them. They just grow and do their thing.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Seven Londoners

I've stacked up quite a few portraits of people I've encountered on my walks. Here are some of them.

This woman was riding that bike at top speed on a residential street, looking like she just got off work and was late, late for a very important date. She passed me and I missed the shot, but then she turned around and came back the other way. She laughed when she saw me snap her picture.

I love the blue theme in this photo. This woman chatted me up and asked where I was from -- she told me I had a "very broad" accent, which sounds vaguely insulting. Then she asked me for a pound. I gave it to her.

Purple, purple everywhere!

A hunky window washer outside the RPS photo meeting on Sunday.

Looks like someone is having one of those days. Or weeks. Or months.

I took several shots of this woman as she walked toward me near Brent Cross on Saturday. I thanked her when she passed me. She just chuckled. I'm sure she thought I was crazy.

Last night, near Kentish Town, this man was enjoying the evening with his dog -- in kind of a Michael Jackson way.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Photo Inspiration (or Intimidation?)

Poor Dave -- I've barely seen him this weekend. I was out all day on Saturday doing photography and then taking the dog to Fortune Green and the Hampstead Cemetery, and I spent yesterday in Shoreditch at an event for the Royal Photographic Society. Fortunately Dave hasn't minded. He just did his thing, nesting at home, gardening and working on band music.

The RPS event was interesting -- it was a "licenture" event, in which photographers apply to show a panel of judges a portfolio of 10 images. The judges critique the images and decide whether to approve the applicant for licenture, a mark of distinction from the society.

I didn't apply -- I was just there as an observer. But it was interesting to see what people submit and how the judges reacted. It was a bit terrifying, actually. The slightest flaw or blemish -- a sky with too much or too little detail, an incorrect focal point or an inattentive crop job -- could sink the whole portfolio. I kept thinking about all the little flaws I notice but tolerate in my own work. Not to mention the printing! I haven't the foggiest idea how to print a photo to a professional standard.

I suppose I really ought to invest in Photoshop and shoot in RAW and bump things up to the next level. It just sounds expensive

I did feel that there was a tendency toward "pretty" photos -- bees on flowers and that kind of thing. No one was shooting cluttery storefronts and homeless people and shabby houses and filthy alleys. Were I to apply, I might have an advantage in being somewhat distinct in my subject matter! (Or would that be a disadvantage?!)

So, anyway, yes, it was a very educational day. I saw a few other Bleeding Londoners there, too. It's hard to believe we have only slightly more than a month left on this project, and we still have so much left to do! By the end of October I am going to need a new pair of shoes.

(Photo: A cafe on Baker Street, yesterday morning. I love the sign on the front: "What's this? The Sherlock Holmes food and beverages!" Holmes' office was on Baker Street in the Arthur Conan Doyle stories -- but did he appreciate a croissant?)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Land of the Shopping Carts

Yesterday proved not as rainy as I feared. I got quite a bit of walking and photography done in the NW4 postcode -- 39 streets, if I count correctly.

The region I covered surrounds a large North London shopping center called Brent Cross. As I walked through the neighborhoods near the shops I began seeing loads of shopping carts. When I was in college in Florida I worked at a hardware store -- part of a now non-existent chain called Scotty's -- and I remember how obsessive the managers were about collecting all our shopping carts. Apparently they're expensive.

So I was surprised and dismayed that these were all languishing in alleys...

and on lawns...

...and even in the streets.

I counted at least 25 carts, mostly from Marks & Spencer (with a few from Tesco thrown in). I considered pushing them back myself -- which I did once from my apartment complex in Florida, me with a long line of strayed carts -- but in this case there were simply too many and I wasn't sure where the store was.

However, I had to go to the mall to catch the bus home, so once there I found the Marks & Spencer store and told them how many carts had strayed and where they were. The people at the information counter were friendly but they didn't seem very alarmed -- every once in a while they send out a truck to collect them all, they said, and they know that neighborhood is often chock-a-block. "Lazy blighters," I believe the woman called the cart thieves.

Which is putting it nicely.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Rainy Saturday Morning

How about those Scots! I'm so glad that reason prevailed over emotion and they made the smart decision. It was such a relief to wake up to that news yesterday morning. I suspect we'll have months of political fallout from this vote, and all the last minute bargaining that led up to it, but still, it worked out the best way possible.

Oh, and thanks to those of you who responded to my recent request for links to some good male bloggers. Not that I am unhappy with the mostly women-centric blogs I currently read -- but I felt a bit out of balance! For variety's sake I'm happy with some fresh insight and the recommendations do look promising.

I've been photographing like crazy the last couple of days for Bleeding London, trying to finish all the streets in the NW8 postcode, where I work. I went out every lunch hour and each evening on Wednesday, Thursday and yesterday (well, except Thursday evening, when I went to see Joan). I think it's pretty much finished now. I can't claim to have done the entire postcode by myself, because some of it was photographed by others earlier and I didn't redo those streets.

I was going to go out today and work on NW4, north of us, where we've had no photo coverage so far. But it poured rain last night, with lightning and everything, and it's drizzling as I write now. (Olga is sitting next to me on the couch, mournfully staring outside as if willing it to stop.) I'm not sure I'm going anywhere after all.

This weekend is also the annual architecture open house, when many private buildings in London open their doors to visitors. I had considered going to see the Gherkin, but frankly I am just not motivated to go all the way into central London to stand in line in yucky weather.

Dave returned last night from leading his school trip to Paris -- apparently it went well, no one died or went missing, and he was quite ready for a glass of wine (he couldn't drink as he was in the presence of students). All is back to normal around here!

(Photo: Hall Gate, St. John's Wood, yesterday.)

Friday, September 19, 2014

Joan, Once Again

Well, Joan Baez did not disappoint last night. Even at 73, she sounds as distinctive as ever, her voice lower and throatier but still immediately recognizable. And she looked great, which you can't tell from my really pathetic iPhone photo, taken from my seat in a row so far off to the side that no one was behind me, and I had to stand up to see the stage.

Oh well. At least I was allowed to stand up, thus enabling me to take a bad iPhone photo.

The evening started on a questionable note, when a completely dotty woman sat next to me and proceeded to talk my ear off, telling me all about her musical tastes and various concert outings and the fact that she liked Joan's music but not her politics. She also threw in a reference to her own dead husband. Then she said, "So tell me about you." Which I so did not want to do. I mumbled something about my partner being away and having a night to myself, so why not see Joan for a fifth time? And then, mercifully, the show started.

Joan was dressed all in black, with a long red scarf and red-accented shoes, which you can barely see in my bad photo. (I didn't take a camera to the show because I just assumed photos were verboten, but people were taking pictures all around me, so maybe not.) She developed a bit of banter with the audience right away and even told a joke with the f-bomb in the punchline. Her son, Gabriel Harris, played drums, including a groovy conga solo.

Introducing "Long Black Veil," she said she met Johnny Cash when he was wicked and cute. "He stayed wicked -- he didn't stay cute," she said. Apparently her Johnny Cash stories are a regular shtick -- the last time I saw her, in 2008, she also joked about him. In fact she repeated her line from that show six years ago: "The first time I met Johnny he was with his first wife, and that's how he introduced her."

It's a pretty funny line. She probably uses it at every show. I don't blame her.

My dotty companion had expressed a desire to hear "Diamonds and Rust," and I assured her Joan would play it. I've heard her play it several times and I'm sure her audiences expect it. Well, Joan wrapped up the show with that song, and my dotty companion -- who by now had a fairly tall drink in her, because yes, you can have drinks in your seat at Royal Festival Hall! -- seriously wept, with tears falling and sniffling and everything. I don't mean to mock her too much, because God knows I love "Diamonds and Rust" too, and we all have certain romantic and possibly painful associations with certain songs. But that seemed just a bit overboard.

Joan did not play "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," which I kind of expected, but I can live without it. Here's the complete set list:

Handsome Molly
God is God
Farewell Angelina
It's All Over Now, Baby Blue
Mi Venganza Personal
La Llorona
I Love You Just The Way You Are*
Seven Curses
The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry
The House Carpenter
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
Catch the Wind
Joe Hill
Don't Think Twice, It's Alright
Gimme Cornbread When I'm Hungry and Corn Whiskey When I'm Dry
House of the Rising Sun
Long Black Veil
Diamonds and Rust

Gracias a la Vida
There But For Fortune

*Not the Billy Joel song!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Short Takes

-- Tonight I am off to see Joan Baez in concert at Royal Festival Hall! It will be, I believe, my fifth time seeing her in concert (not counting the time I saw her speak at the 92nd Street Y in New York.) I saw her in 2008 with my blog pal Gary, with my coworker Ann in the early aughts, with my stepmother in the late '90s in St. Petersburg, and with my friends Suzanne and a different Ann in Tampa back in the '80s. I tried to recruit some friends to go see her with me this time, but no one could make it, so I bought a ticket for myself and will be going it alone. I have no qualms about going to events by myself, and I am looking forward to this one.

-- Dave is still out of town. I am trying to survive these few days without doing any grocery shopping, and so far it hasn't been difficult. We have a ton of food that hasn't been eaten, and I'm slowly making my way through it. It's kind of a game, like, "What can I whip up tonight from these few ingredients?" Chorizo sandwiches with fresh spinach and radishes, anyone? (Not bad, actually!)

-- In response to my post about Scotland yesterday, my blog pal Linda Sue pointed the way to this hilarious yet informative video where John Oliver explains the potential national divorce. Watch it! It's the best 15 minutes you could ever spend on this issue. You will be laughing out loud and perhaps learning something at the same time.

-- I had a definite Emma Thompson sighting on Saturday morning, so the information that she lives nearby appears to be accurate. She was wearing denim overalls and was unmistakable. She looks just like her pictures.

-- All those holes in our horseradish plant do, in fact, seem to be caused by cabbage whites. At least some of them. I found a couple of little caterpillars on the plant yesterday. As is my policy, I left them there to become next year's cabbage whites.

-- Does anyone know some good male bloggers who write journal-style about their lives? I have a few in my sidebar (Mark from Montana, who I've followed for years, and the sporadically posting Wayne, and the Dishwasher.) It seems to me, though, that most guys write blogs about specific topics like bicycles or their careers or politics or celebrities. All those topics have their place, but I am looking for some fellow men who write personal blogs about their lives and experiences. Bonus points for gay men! Let me know if you have any recommendations.

(Photo: Free chaise longue, anyone? And isn't Honeybourne Road the best street name you've seen in a while?)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


Tomorrow is the big Scotland vote. It's all we've been hearing about on the news here. It seems kind of crazy to me -- or did, until recently -- and I sincerely hope the Scots don't vote for independence. The vote is apparently so close that there are bound to be a lot of hard feelings either way and I hope this doesn't irreparably disunite both Scotland and the greater United Kingdom. (The way the George W. Bush / Al Gore presidential race disunited the United States for years.)

Alex Salmond, the Scottish leader who's pushing for independence, seems a bit megalomaniacal. I think he wants statues of himself as a modern-day "Braveheart."

But what I have gradually come to understand -- as an American who has only lived here for a few years and is admittedly new to much of this conflict -- is that this isn't just about flag-waving. The Scots see themselves as a progressive society chained to the more conservative causes of Westminster. I suspect this feeling gained a great deal of momentum from Britain's participation in the Iraq war, and the Scots apparently chafe at British nuclear submarines being harbored in their ports. Billy Bragg argued in an interesting piece in The Guardian that Scottish nationalism is a positive, civic cause, not xenophobic jingoism.

Scottish nationalists, he said, are "people who are no longer comfortable with the direction that Britain is travelling in; with the extremes of poverty and wealth that go unchallenged; with the dominance of the privately educated in positions of political and economic power; with the undercurrent of xenophobia that animates the Conservative party; with a Labour party that has too few MPs from working-class backgrounds."

In fact, he argues that an independent Scotland could lead to greater self-determination for working class regions within England that feel themselves marginalized by London-centric, pro-business policy makers.

I think independence is a drastic step, and one for which I suspect the Scots are not fully prepared. The cost of building international relations and trade agreements, military infrastructure (even on a small, solely defensive scale) and the like seems staggering. North Sea oil won't sustain them forever. I hope they vote to stay in the UK, and I hope Alex Salmond slinks away with his tail between his legs.

But I also hope that Westminster learns a lesson, that the Tories are chastened and that advocates for Britain's progressive, pro-labor society are galvanized in a positive way.

(Photo: A crushed flower on a street in West Hampstead.)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Adventures in Tie-Dye

Here's what our patio looked like Saturday as my coworkers and I tie-dyed some white shirts for our annual group photo at school.

As I mentioned before, we try to have a theme for the photo each year. Last year while weeding the collection -- thinning out the unread books -- one of the librarians found a vintage 1960s book on tie-dyeing. It inspired us to tie-dye for ourselves.

The book, however, is quite sophisticated and went way beyond anything we wanted to attempt in a single afternoon. So we bought a commercial tie-dye kit on Amazon. It came with squirt bottles to mix the dye, as well as spare dye packets and basic instructions.

I'd only tie-dyed once before, about 25 years ago at the groovy home of my friends Kevin and Suzanne, but I don't remember anything at all about the process we used. (Back then I was ahead of my time -- in addition to t-shirts, I tie-dyed two pairs of briefs. It seemed crazy, but tie-dye style underwear is commercially available now!)

I had a vague idea that tie-dyeing would involve buckets and string and messiness. But we put down some newspaper and with the handy squirt bottles to administer the dye, it wasn't difficult or messy. We wound up with neat, cling-wrapped packages that we had to let sit overnight to allow the dye to fix.

The next morning, I hand-rinsed the excess dye out of my two shirts (my hands were blue for the rest of the day!) and washed them separately in the washing machine. I was worried about this step, as you may recall, but everything turned out fine.

The dye in the finished product is much more faint than the vivid colors in the bottles initially promised, and the green washed out so much that it looks a lot like the yellow. (Two of my coworkers hand-washed their shirts, despite the kit's directions, and their dye jobs stayed brighter.) But aside from that, I'm happy. I got a nice spiral effect, didn't I?

I did another shirt too, which you can see lying flat in the top photo, but it was less successful. It looks like a big, blotchy easter egg. Maybe I'll sleep in that one.

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Day in East London

This weekend has gone by in a flash! I spent yesterday in East London, mostly around Upton Park and Forest Gate. It's a predominantly South Asian area, with women fluttering like brilliant tropical birds and men in pristine white robes and caps.

I chose this area for a walk because it had not yet been covered for Bleeding London. I photographed 65 streets, nearly all in the E7 and E12 postcodes.

I found another French Mastiff, out for his walk!

I glanced inside this plastic garbage bag, containing an old suitcase, and was surprised to find someone's cat! It must have been awfully warm in there, sitting in full sun, but she didn't seem to mind. She came out after I took the picture. I advised her that probably wasn't the safest place to hang out and she promised not to go back in.

Even trash in the gutter was colorful.

I also happened onto a funeral procession. It reminded me of the horse-drawn carriage that came for the funeral of one of our neighbors back in Notting Hill, a couple of years ago.

I asked a couple of people for portraits, with varying degrees of success. Francis (above) complied. He was so dressed up I figured he'd go for it. He only asked that I e-mail him copies of the pictures, which I did last night. He seemed amused that his photo would represent his entire street in Bleeding London!

There were many, many more photos -- it was a very productive day!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Mystery in the Washing Machine

Dave and I took pictures during yesterday's tie-dyeing extravaganza, but I'm holding them back until my shirts come out of the wash. I want to be able to show you the finished product. I'm a little concerned that they're going to be a solid muddy brown, but we'll see.

The dyeing itself was fun, helped along with some hors d'oeuvres and a bottle of prosecco provided by a coworker. I'll describe the process, such that it is, when I show you the photos.

My problem is, the dye kit we used specified that after letting the dyed fabric sit for six to eight hours, we should hand-rinse it and then wash it in the hottest possible water with the washing machine set to a high water level. Well, our washing machine -- being one of these fancy European ecologically-minded models -- never gets very full. It sloshes the laundry around in a minimal amount of water, and already that water is bright blue.

I'm telling you, this shirt is going to be monochromatic. Stay tuned.

I took Olga for a long romp in Hampstead Heath in the morning. We were out for a couple of hours and she got exhausted. I love to see a tired dog. It gives me a sense of satisfaction, like I've done my job as a dog owner.

By the way, we didn't tie-dye her. I seriously considered making the white tip of her tail bright pink, but I was afraid the dye would be poisonous if she licked at it -- which she surely would.

(Photo: Greencroft Gardens, a street near our flat, on Aug. 16.)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Large Rose Sawfly Blues

Waking up at 7 a.m. this morning, after a work-related reception and dinner last night that ran until midnight. I haven't been out that late in ages. It was fun -- a reception at the Museum of London for all faculty and staff, where we could walk among the exhibits with our glasses of wine. Seems a bit risky -- mightn't someone spill their cabernet onto the Roman coinage? -- but as far as I know there were no incidents, at least not by the time I left. I realized that I need to go see that museum and spend some real time there!

We have a work-related event today, too -- the librarians are coming over to our flat to tie-dye t-shirts in our back garden. (Doesn't that sound like the plot of a farcical movie? "The Groovy Librarians," or something like that?) Every year we take a group photo and we try to have a theme. This year, tie-dye is the theme. I can't even remember why.

We have jokingly threatened to tie-dye Olga, who is after all mostly white, and thus the perfect canvas.

Daniel, our gardener, came back yesterday to mow the lawn. Dave had him plant some bulbs, even though we already have about a million dormant bulbs in our garden. So next spring will be bulb-a-palooza. I suspect we've overdone it, actually.

Also, I just realized that some of our roses are being devoured by tiny green caterpillars. I'm thinking these. I'm going to go out this morning and pick them off by hand.

(Photo: Reflections in West Hampstead, a few weeks ago.)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Leopards and Hippos

Yesterday morning as I went to work, two boys sat down in the seat across the aisle from me on the bus. They looked about 12 years old, had proper British accents, and were clearly on their way to school. During the five minutes we rode together, they had the most hilariously wide-ranging conversation.

When they got on, they were talking about Nazis, and how some had fled to Argentina after World War II. They debated where Hitler was when he and Eva Braun killed themselves -- one said Berlin, the other argued for Poland. (Answer: Berlin.)

"I could never kill myself," one said.

They then proceeded to discuss the worst way to die. One decided the electric chair had to be pretty bad, and described in great detail the employment of the wet sponge that helps deliver the electric current to the chair's occupant. (This led to a digression into the plot of the movie "The Green Mile.") The other argued that being mauled by an animal would be worse. And of the big cats, being mauled by a leopard would be worse than a tiger or lion, he said.

"Tigers and lions go for the neck, but leopards go right for the brain. They have special teeth that can go right through your head," he said.

Then they debated whether or not it was possible to drown a hippo. One said yes, of course, but the other argued that hippos can hold their breath so long, it would be impossible to drown it before it killed you.

And then, much to my chagrin, I had to get off the bus.

(Photo: A sunny evening in Kilburn, last week.)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Goings-On in the Garden

While I've been out madly traipsing around London, Dave has been continuing his work in the garden. Things are looking pretty good out there.

The rose bushes are flourishing, now that we've cut back the surrounding greenery. Some bushes back in the shadowy hedge are seeing sun for the first time this year, and all have put out new growth. Many are blooming. You saw before that we have yellow and red ones -- and here are pink and salmon ones. We've got white, too, and several that we haven't yet seen bloom, so we don't know what color they might be.

All of the rose bushes are very gangly. I think it's been ages since they were pruned, and Dave is chafing to get at them, but we've been holding back because it's not pruning season. I suppose it's still possible that the landlord will hire a gardener to do it, but we haven't heard any more from her about that.

The horseradish plant is quite gigantic. Its lower leaves are looking a bit ratty and spent.

Something has been gnawing the hell out of it, but I haven't been able to find many creatures. I did find a slug once, and I just left him there -- why disturb his dinner? -- so maybe he's what created these holes. I've seen cabbage whites flitting around the plant but no caterpillars so far this year.

The firespikes that Dave planted are blooming healthily. Out of all the plants that we've put in the ground, they seem to have adapted best. Some of the others have barely grown at all or -- like our lilies of the valley -- have been trampled by the dog.

Finally, our hebe bush is blooming. This is another plant that we freed from encroachment by the surrounding forest. It's definitely looking more healthy and happy.

After I turned out the lights last night and prepared to go to bed, I sat in the living room for ten minutes or so, enjoying the moonlight. Lo and behold, the neighborhood fox returned, trotting through the grass and right up to the back door. He circled the patio and seemed to pause beneath the bird feeder, but I can't imagine he found much to eat in our yard. He was much prettier than our Notting Hill foxes -- red and glossy. I think if we'd left the back door open he'd have been in bed with us! (Well, maybe Olga would have fended him off.)