Friday, March 31, 2017

A Pizza Boy and a Lime Lamborghini


Another series of photos from my iPhone, captured during recent urban wandering...

First, a scarily out-of-register boy on the cover of a discarded pizza box.


As I predicted, the brave hellebore that managed to grow in an asphalt crack did not survive the recent repaving of the sidewalks on our street. Here it was just before it got cut down. On the bright side, the workers mysteriously left one leaf and a nub of stem peeping above the new pavement -- so maybe it will regrow again?


Also sidewalk volunteers, these two primroses are growing on another neighborhood street. (Happily, not in imminent danger of being cut down. As far as I know.)


A modern car with a '50s sense of humor.


The craziest color for a Lamborghini I've seen yet! (Not that I see many Lamborghinis in my daily life.)


More evidence of the sidewalk repaving project on our street.


Tulips and hyacinths growing on a council estate where I walk Olga almost every morning.


At school: "Any bags left in this area will be removed." Clearly no one takes that sign seriously!


And finally, a pub I often pass on my walks home. This place is very hard to photograph because of heavy traffic and the way the street is built. This iPhone shot is the best I've been able to do!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Vera


Do you know the song "Vera," from the Pink Floyd album "The Wall"?

Does anybody here remember Vera Lynn
Remember how she said that
We would meet again
Some sunny day...

I think I first learned of Vera Lynn through that song, when I was a teenager. We didn't hear a whole lot about her in the states by the time I was growing up in the '70s. But here in England she's still quite famous as the World War II-era singer of "The White Cliffs of Dover" and "We'll Meet Again."

Dave and I were watching TV the other day when Vera's 100th birthday was mentioned. Yes, to my shock, Vera Lynn is STILL ALIVE! And something of a national treasure. We didn't watch her birthday tribute, but we did see a short synopsis of the show on "Gogglebox." Who knew?

What we have been watching is the mini-series about the O.J. Simpson murder trial, "An American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson." It's a really good show that skillfully depicts the way O.J.'s lawyers managed to get him off. We just finished it last night on Netflix and it was riveting.

Otherwise, not much is going on around here. We've heard nothing more about the washing machine, or about our lease renewal, which the management company contacted us about last week. We told them yes, we want to renew, but knowing the snail's pace at which our landlord moves it'll be months before it comes together. (The lease isn't up until July anyway.)

(Photo: Reflections in a West Hampstead pub window, early Sunday morning.)

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Fish and Pigs


After my dad died last summer, I retrieved a couple of small mementos from his house.

One was the carved wooden fish above. I bought this fish in Ghana, when I was traveling there in 1994. I was in a little town called Winneba, on the palm-fringed coast, and I'd come down with a fever that eventually got dramatic enough to make me go to a doctor. Here's my journal entry from Oct. 21, 1994, which tells the story of the fish:

Just stayed in bed all afternoon. I’ve started a cheesy Clive Cussler book, which was keeping me pretty well entertained. And I had a visitor – a local boy named Daniel who is totally nice! I am a sucker for this kid – I don’t know why. He introduced himself yesterday and then showed up today with two little carvings to sell – a frog and a fish. I, being a sucker, bought the fish for 1,000 cedis ($1). I figured Daniel needs the money a lot more than me, and if I don’t keep the fish I’m sure I can give it to someone. We also exchanged addresses – I gave him my DeSoto address because I am suspicious of this whole address exchange thing that kids here do – I mean, WHY? Do they sell them or something? But I will send Daniel a postcard.

As it turned out, I did send him a postcard, and he sent me one back, if I recall correctly. But we didn't stay in touch beyond that. I gave the fish to Dad that Christmas, and he kept it on a shelf above the television in the living room for 22 years.

I wish I'd bought Daniel's frog, too!


My dad used to "collect" pigs. Or, more accurately, a collection of pigs was foisted onto him by other people. I don't remember how it started -- I think Dad told someone that he liked pigs, and they gave him a figurine of a pig, and pretty soon we all were giving him pigs. (Dads are hard to buy gifts for, so when a "hobby" like this arises, everyone latches onto it.)

As I recall, my stepbrother and I gave these two pigs to Dad when we were about 12. I bought one and my stepbrother bought the other. We got them at a now-defunct gift and housewares shop at University Square Mall in Tampa, next to what used to be Robinson's department store. I don't remember the occasion -- a birthday? Father's Day?

A few years ago, Dad cleaned out the pig collection. He had about 100 of them, I think, and he donated many to Goodwill. He'd set one of the pigs above aside to keep, and was going to give the other away. I told him he had to keep them together -- they're a set, after all!

When he died, with my stepmother's blessing, I tucked these little pigs into my suitcase. They now sit on our dining room windowsill, basking in the sun.

I have a few other items that belonged to my dad, most notably Blackie. But the fish and the pigs seem to represent the intersection of our two lives -- they were his, but they were also part mine. I think of him every time I see them.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A Dead PCB


The washing machine guy came yesterday morning. He looked at our sputtering machine and tried unsuccessfully to run a few cycles. The machine started and stopped, started and stopped. "It needs a new PCB," he said confidently, adding that he would describe the situation to our management company and they may elect to simply buy a new machine. He couldn't immediately fix it but will get back in touch when a decision has been made.

A PCB, I later found out, is a "printed circuit board." So for want of a computer part that seems to sell online for something like £50, they're going to throw away an entire washing machine?

Argh!

Well, it's not my machine and not my decision. But hopefully they'll choose to have it repaired rather than scrapped.

Meanwhile, I'll be hauling our laundry up to the laundromat, I suppose.

The good news is, I was able to productively use the time I spent waiting for the repairman by doing our income taxes! Woo hoo! So they're out of the way for another year. Being American, we have to file with Uncle Sam even though we don't live in the states and we pay taxes here in the UK. We don't have to pay Uncle Sam -- he just wants to know what's going on. So every year we send him a report.

It always feels great to have that done. I feel 30 pounds lighter.

(Photo: Forsythia in East London on Sunday.)

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Palladium


When Dave and I were riding the bus back from Heathrow last weekend, we passed this building in Shepherd's Bush. I was intrigued by the interesting architecture, the colorful paint job and all the posters on the front, so I went back yesterday morning for some photography.

Although it claims to be an "Australasian Bar," that was only in its most recent incarnation as Walkabout. It's really an old movie theater, the Palladium, though it hasn't shown a movie since 1981. Apparently it's been purchased by a developer who plans to turn the building into serviced apartments, while preserving its facade -- sort of like the old Queensway cinema, I guess.

Geez, everything is becoming swanky apartments -- pubs, theaters. It's crazy! And yet, ironically, London apartments are more expensive than ever!

After my brief stop in Shepherd's Bush I took the tube to East London for a photo walk in the Star Lane neighborhood of West Ham. The weather was gloriously sunny, although chilly until midday. I didn't even take that many photos -- it felt so free to keep the camera in the bag and just walk.

I got back home around noon and took Olga back to the Heath. She seemed to be raring to go, but then began dragging on the way there. She kept giving me looks like, "Are we really going all that way?" Could Olga be showing her age?

Anyway, once we got there she was fine, and she slept like a stone all last night. Dave got home yesterday, too, so now we're a family unit once again. We got dinner from Nando's, using my gift card from the South London health trust that used one of my photos on its web site (which apparently is not yet live). As fast-ish food goes, Nando's is pretty respectable -- it's basically baked (or grilled?) chicken with vegetable sides. I may be fooling myself, but I think it's healthier than the colonel.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Lapis Lazuli


This is the kind of day we had around here yesterday -- a bit on the chilly side, but bright and blue and sunny.

I started the day modestly enough, doing stuff around the house. But when I tried to run a load of laundry, the machine began making a weird noise, and then stopped working altogether. It would try to start the next step of its cycle, shut off after a moment, try again, shut off again. It did this for about two hours.

So I called our landlord, and unplugged the machine. I just left the wet laundry in it because I could not yet deal and took the dog to the heath.


I think she had a terrible time, don't you?

Finally, upon our return in mid-afternoon, I mustered enough resolve to load the wet clothes into a plastic bag and re-wash them at the laundromat. Someone's scheduled to come and look at the machine tomorrow morning.

Last night's screening in my '70s-movie-fest: "American Gigolo." Marginal!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Alone Time


Is it terrible that I am LOVING having the house to myself while Dave is in Belgium?! Just me and Olga, hanging out, watching what we want on TV -- or maybe I read and don't watch anything at all. The heater set where I want it. Lots of space in the bed. Soup and peanut butter for dinner. Woo hoo!

The God's honest truth is that Dave is such a homebody I very rarely have any extended time to myself at home. I'm sure it will get old by the time he gets back tomorrow, but I'm digging it at the moment.

Above is another of my street finds -- I left this item behind, though. How long has it been since you've seen a portable short-wave radio and cassette player?! It looks like something I would have had in my Peace Corps years, a quarter of a century ago. It's probably about that old.


And here's an especially noble-looking photo of Olga, captured late one afternoon with the Olga cam.

I finished "The Man in the High Castle" -- the book -- yesterday. Actually, I finished it Thursday night, but I was so tired that I had to reread the last chapter yesterday morning on my way to work, just to clarify what happened in my mind. And even now I'm not sure I understand it. It's a very bizarre book, but it was interesting to see how it differs from the TV show. The whole Obergruppenf├╝hrer John Smith and family storyline, for example, isn't in the book at all. It's mostly a mystical exploration of the I Ching.

I also finished my latest podcast, "Missing Richard Simmons," about the disappearance of the normally not-publicity-shy Richard Simmons from the public eye a couple of years ago. Where did he go? That's the question at the heart of the podcast, which was very well put together but ultimately reaches a rather anticlimactic conclusion. Life is like that sometimes, I suppose.

Last night I watched "Saturday Night Fever," which I haven't seen in decades. While recently transcribing my old journals I came across a mention of it from when I first watched it, in July 1997: "I was actually shocked at how good it was! Of course, everything depends on your expectations -- I expected a really schlocky, terrible movie. But it was pretty good, with the exception of the clothes and dancing, which were hilarious. They both made and condemned the movie!" Now, having seen it again, I would say the clothes and dancing are the real reason to watch. But be prepared to cringe.

Friday, March 24, 2017

A Potpourri of Mostly Insignificant Things


-- First, one significant thing: We now know the identity of the man behind the events on Westminster Bridge. We don't know much more than his name, but it's interesting that he's British born, thus laying to rest once again the myth of the murderous immigrant. From what I've read he sounds like a common criminal.

-- Remember the abandoned orchid that I rescued from Dave's office? (Actually, I'm not sure I ever wrote about it, so maybe not.) It had been left on a windowsill and was looking sad and withered when I brought it home last fall and rejuvenated it. Well, it has rewarded us with a blossom, albeit a slightly disfigured one. I'm not sure what happened to it but obviously the bud got injured somehow. We weren't even sure what color it would be!

-- Had some excitement yesterday morning. I was walking Olga when I found someone's wallet beneath a park bench on Sumatra Road. I looked inside and there was a tube fare card, a driver's license and a bank card. The license had a name and address on it, up in Willesden Green, just a few tube stops away. So I left for work a bit early and took the guy's wallet to his house. A woman there -- his wife? mother? -- was happy to get it back!

-- All the shed stuff is gone. Piece by piece I managed to dispose of it, as planned.


-- I found this in the school library a few days ago. Why?? Because, well, middle-school boys.

-- Our amaryllis (amaryllises? amarylli?) are way, way behind this year. Last year at this time they had long stalks and leaves. This year, only two of them have shown any sign of life so far, and they're just green nubs barely emerging from the bulbs. I think it's because they wintered in the dining room, which is cooler than the living room, where they used to be.

-- Remember when I attended London's March for Women back in January? I came across an online photo taken by another photographer that includes me! I'm about a third of the way from the right margin of the picture, wearing a green jacket and darker green hat. I was holding my camera above the crowd to try to get a wide shot, which is why my arms are up over my head. Funny!

-- I did wind up speaking some French in Luxembourg, mainly in the cafe where we had lunch. And I did OK, but I hit a wall pretty quickly. My brain just doesn't work fast enough for me to carry on much of a conversation. Still, I don't miss my French classes. I think this is as good as it's going to get.

-- The rest of this week is going to be quiet time chez nous. Dave left yesterday morning for Belgium and Luxembourg with his students, and he won't be back until Sunday. I'm trying to use the time to catch up on reading and other projects. Last night, for example, I finished my audio recording of the Arabian Nights for the 6th graders. It's nice to have that done!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

So Many Questions


I was hoping to wake this morning and learn the identity of the twisted individual who carried out Wednesday's terror attack in Westminster. I don't know why his identity even matters to me, but I'm curious to know about his background, his family, his upbringing. What kind of person could drive his car into groups of schoolchildren and tourists? What kind of mind could be so perverted by fanaticism or disease?

I was at work yesterday afternoon when I heard the news. It's particularly chilling to think that I was just at Parliament myself, chaperoning a school group, not even two weeks ago -- walking children through the same fenced yard where the police officer was stabbed and the assailant shot.

There is so much I just don't understand about the world. I don't understand religion, though I know religion isn't entirely the culprit, here. Maybe it's not the culprit at all. We still don't know.

I don't understand why we as a society don't make more allowances for identifying and treating mentally ill people. (Anyone who's in a position to do such a thing is mentally ill -- regardless of his or her reasons.)

And though there's no way to know the attacker's background, I am afraid all the conflict in the Middle East over the last two decades has produced untold numbers of hardened, scarred people with PTSD and limitless frustration and anger. This is not a reason to isolate people from that region -- rather, it's a reason to help them reorganize their societies and improve their lives. The wealthier nations of Europe and the Americas need to be far more invested and involved in stabilizing conflicted parts of the globe, rather than sealing off our borders and retreating from the world. The resources for doing so should come from proportional taxation of the wealthier people in our societies, who have instead hijacked the political process to bolster their personal prosperity.

And on a purely practical note, I'm surprised that security bollards were never installed to protect the sidewalks along the length of that bridge -- although I've walked it many times and I must admit I never noticed their absence. Easy to see in retrospect, I suppose.

Anyway, school was already over by the time the event happened, but the rest of my day went on as usual. I stayed at work until my normal time, as did many students. Today we're working as usual too. Life goes on.

(Photo: Signs of religion in Cricklewood, a few weeks ago.)

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Owl


We had some excitement yesterday evening.

First, I came home from work to find that our nosy neighbor Mrs. Kravitz cut down the hawthorn tree in her back garden. Well, I'm sure she didn't cut it down herself, but she had it cut down. Workers were hauling branches out of her garden and packing them into a truck.

This surprised me, because she's been so protective of that hawthorn. In fact, she often complained about a large holly in our back garden that she felt was interfering with her tree's growth. (She also hates the holly because it drops berries on her trampoline). Dave and I had debated taking down the holly, but since we don't own the garden and tree removal is a major expense I've balked -- and now it looks like maybe we won't need to. At least not for the first reason.

Then, after it got dark, Dave and I were in the living room when I noticed a peculiar sound. At first, with the TV on, it sounded like a dog howling. Then I thought maybe it was a fox. But it was very regular, the same tone over and over. I went out in the garden and listened:



The name of my recording gives away the mystery. Yes, it was a tawny owl.

At first, I didn't know what kind of bird it was. A nightingale? They're a British thing, right? But no, I discovered online -- nightingales really sing, more like a mockingbird. This was just that single, low call, repeated again and again. So I suspected an owl.

I found this page of various British owl sounds (isn't the Internet wonderful?) and sure enough, the male tawny owl call matched.

I couldn't see him because he was in a huge, dark cedar in another neighbor's yard. But I have seen a tawny owl before, in Hyde Park.

I guess it can only be a good thing to have an owl in a garden that's plagued with digging rodents! I hope he hangs around!

(Photo: Fortune Green, about a week and a half ago.)

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Japanese Magnolias and Scheherazade


The pink magnolias -- or Japanese magnolias, or saucer magnolias, whatever you want to call them -- are blooming away now. They're one of my favorite trees. I still remember from my New York years the stunning display they produce every spring around the obelisk in Central Park.

Dave is happy because "Gardener's World," perhaps his favorite BBC TV show, is back on the air. It doesn't broadcast in the winter, when British gardeners evidently give up for a couple of months. Last night we watched a segment about daffodils, which are certainly out in profusion at the moment.

The squirrels dug up one of our primroses yesterday. *sigh*

Oh, and did I mention that our yellow hyacinths are blooming by the front steps -- the ones we got as a gift from friends last year? They've had several blossoms -- none as grand as last year's, when the florist forced the bulbs, but I'm told that's normal.


I've started a new project, creating an audiobook for kids at school. Some of the 6th Grade teachers are using a version of the Arabian Nights in their classes, and they came to the library seeking an audio version for students who don't speak English as a first language. That way the kids could follow along with both their eyes and ears, and could strengthen their English. Well, an audio version of this exact book apparently isn't available -- so I told them I'd make one. My speaking style is plain ol' Middle American English, free of any regional accent (except when I slip in a Southernism now and then, y'all), so I make a pretty good narrator.

Last night I sat in the dining room with my computer and read the first three chapters, recording my reading using Garage Band. It's kind of fun, actually! I've never read the Arabian Nights, the stories of Scheherazade and Sinbad the Sailor. I don't remember what we read in 6th Grade, but it wasn't that. (Actually, I remember sitting in the back of the classroom and reading "Gone With the Wind," but that wasn't at the teacher's instruction!)

Monday, March 20, 2017

Home Again


Back in London now, where Olga is no worse for wear and all is as it was. We flew back yesterday morning, after sleeping in a bit and having breakfast at our hotel. By coincidence, we were on the same flight with all the students from our school, so it was a bit like being official chaperones, even though we weren't! We did get a free ride from Heathrow back to central London on the school bus, so that was a plus.

As I said yesterday, Dave will be going back to Luxembourg and Belgium in a few days with all his high school students -- rather than just the handpicked few on this trip -- for another series of concerts. I'll be staying home, though, just me and the dog...

...and the @$%*# squirrels, which dug up two of our newly planted plants while we were gone! (I know it was squirrels, rather than foxes, because of the size of the holes and the nature of the destruction.)

Argh!

(Photo: A shop window in Luxembourg.)

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Bible Study at the Best Western


Here we are in Luxembourg -- a tiny little place, and an easily walkable city. This has already been a crazy trip.

We landed yesterday morning and took a taxi to the Hotel Mercure, which I'd reserved and paid for on Hotels.com. Imagine our surprise when we found the hotel locked and dark, with a note on the door apologizing for having to close for "technical reasons." The note directed us to a nearby Avis office, which also proved to be locked and dark. No one answered the phones.

We did what any sensible person would do -- we went next door to the Best Western and got a room. The clerk there said the Mercure closed suddenly on Wednesday. A dispute between owners and managers, or something like that. Police were involved.

Well, I got on the horn to Hotels.com and they have promised me a refund. They also sent me a £25 voucher for use on my next reservation. Then, several hours later, they helpfully called me and said, "Are you aware that the hotel you've reserved for tonight is closed?"

Thanks for that.


Once the accommodations were sorted, Dave and I went to a cafe where we ordered some soup and croques monsieur. We each got a sandwich -- and then we each got another sandwich. I'm not sure why that happened, but we ate them all. The TV carried nonstop news about Orly airport, while a guy nearby drank a mixture of orange juice and Campari in a tall, stemmed glass. It looked like a tequila sunrise without tequila.


Then Dave went off to the concert hall where that night's honor band concert would be held. He not only has students in the honor band, he and other teachers from our school are bringing all their music students back to Luxembourg later this week on their annual "Music Tour." So Dave wanted to see how the concert space sounds and functions.

I, meanwhile, went for a walk.


I strolled through the city's downtown to the bluffs above the River Alzette, where the old fortified walls, or "casemates," are (top). And I browsed the streets and descended from the bluffs into the "Grund," an old neighborhood along the river.


Finally, after a couple of hours, I wound up back at the hotel, where I edited my pictures and read for a while. Dave ditched me for dinner -- he wanted to stay at the concert hall, which annoyed me. But I wasn't hungry anyway (two sandwiches!) so I wound up just skipping dinner and buying a packet of peanuts on the way to the concert.


After the performance, which went really well, we chatted for a while with kids and parents from our school, and then bummed a ride back to our hotel -- where, of course, the kitchen was closed. So we had a beer, and then another beer. Peanuts and beer -- that was my dinner.

I told Dave that I'd found a bible in the nightstand in our room. "We can have bible study!" he joked. "Bible study at the Best Western," I said -- and he declared, "That's the title of your next blog post."

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Curling Iron


I'm sitting in Terminal 3 of Heathrow airport at 6 a.m., sipping my Americano, having just eaten an almond croissant. There's a shop here called "Glorious Britain," and there's "World of Whiskies," and "Rolling Luggage" and "Sunglasses Boutique -- tax free." (How much tax is usually imposed on a pair of sunglasses, I wonder?)

I am not doing any shopping. In fact, I'm bleary-eyed from getting up at 4:30 a.m. and also from inspecting dog vomit in the middle of the night. (I'll spare you that story.)

Before we took a car to Heathrow this morning, we got the house ready for Warren, our friend and dog-sitter, who's coming over later today. I covered up the Olga cams so he doesn't think we're spying on him. Downside: We can't watch Olga from Luxembourg.

Oh well.

Free curling iron, anyone? I found it on the street, perched atop someone's trash bin, but I couldn't make use of it, personally.

Friday, March 17, 2017

A Sculpture, and My Beating Heart


Another shot of daffodil season -- this time in St. John's Wood, near the school where I work -- and a very mysterious sculpture. I can't find out anything online about this piece of art, located in the Boundary Road estate. It seems to be called "Ideas," by Leo somebody, if I'm reading the words around its base correctly. I'll try to take a closer look today.*

Our yellow daffodils are actually looking a bit tired, and our white ones are about to come out. They're always a couple weeks behind.

Have I mentioned that Dave and I are off to Luxembourg this weekend? There's an honor band concert there on Saturday night, so we're going to fly out early tomorrow, check out the (very small) country and go to the concert. Then we'll be back here on Sunday. Miss Olga will be cared for by one of Dave's coworkers, who's going to house-sit.

Yesterday evening we fulfilled a bit of medical bureaucracy, registering with a new doctor in our neighborhood. You may remember we've been going to our old doctor in Notting Hill every time we've gotten sick. Well, that situation became untenable, and there's an NHS clinic right around the corner in West Hampstead, so we switched. I gathered all the required paperwork and numbers and picture ID, and we both walked over there after work. We had to do a little health assessment that included getting our blood pressure taken -- mine was 99 over 77, with a pulse of 60 beats per minute. Dave's was 109 over 76, pulse 95 bpm. Why does my heart beat only 2/3 as much as Dave's? Am I dead?

* I went back on my lunch break. It seems to say "'Ideas' : Leon U : 1970."

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Toys and Politics


When I walked Olga yesterday morning we came across this pile of small toys, sitting on someone's garden wall. They were all quite dirty, as if they'd just been dug out of a garden. Which I'm betting is what happened. Some kid probably moved and left them behind, and the new resident of that flat found them and put them out for others to take.


I didn't take any, though I was tempted by that giraffe.


I got the weirdest stack of mail on Tuesday -- about six identical envelopes from the investment company holding my 401K. They turned out to be proxy ballots for selecting the board of directors and making changes to some of the funds. Why I got six envelopes I'm not sure -- one for each fund, maybe? I tried to skim the documents but I couldn't make heads or tails of them, so I went online and voted the board recommendations. At the end of the day I have to hope these people know what they're doing, and aren't leading me down the Lehman Brothers path.

Speaking of voting, I'm glad to see the Dutch didn't go for their far-right candidate in their elections yesterday, though his party did apparently gain some seats in government. And the Scots, meanwhile, want another independence referendum. They don't want to be dragged along into Brexit, and I don't blame them.

It's funny -- when the first Scottish independence referendum was held, I was so happy when they stayed. Now I hope they vote to go, just to give the finger to this agonizing, unnecessary Brexit process. That comes from my own anger about Brexit, though -- deep down, I'm still not sure independence is economically the best thing for Scotland.

Meanwhile, Trump has been thwarted again by the courts for his racist travel ban. Good!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

No More Clark Gable


It's foggy out this morning -- the back of the garden is shrouded in white so I can't tell whether the marauding foxes visited our new plants again. Yesterday morning we found one dug up for the second time. We put it back in the ground, but surely every time it's unearthed its chances for survival grow slimmer.

There's lots of yellow out there now -- the daffodils, the mimosa/acacia tree that I walk past every day, and now the forsythia by our bedroom window too. And trees like the ones I posted Monday, like big pink clouds.

Dave and I finished the second season of "The Man in the High Castle." I've decided to read the book, by Philip K. Dick. I'm curious to see how much of the TV show is in the original work. It's a pretty complex show and the book is slim enough to be called a novella, so I'm thinking the TV folks have beefed it up. Which is fine -- I just want to compare.

Speaking of books, we're weeding the biography section in the library. We have a parent volunteer who was a librarian in a past life, and she's doing it for us -- she's been making good choices so far, though we have final approval. Jennifer Love Hewitt? Out! A gigantic, tiny-type, read-only-once, 40-year-old biography of Cromwell by Antonia Fraser? Out! Clark Gable? Out!

We have a lot of old biographies, especially of Hollywood types, that I think were probably donations at some point. The fact is, students are not likely to ever use them for research -- especially now that we have the Internet. And kids just aren't going to read huge tomes like Ms. Fraser's, as authoritative as she is. (I did save her book on Henry VIII's wives, and of course we have her classic "Mary, Queen of Scots" around somewhere.)

In photo news, Lonely Planet used a couple of my pictures in a feature about buildings that look like faces. (For free, natch, but I did give permission.) I also allowed a health-care authority in South London to use one of my pictures on their web site (which isn't live yet). I gave it to them for free, but they've now offered to give me a £25 restaurant voucher, so that's a nice little unexpected reward.

(Photo: Restocking a pub in West Hampstead, a few days ago.)

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Deconstructing a Cadillac


Yesterday was not a good lunch day in our cafeteria at work. Mushroom stroganoff -- which tastes good, but looks like a pool of lumpy brown goo. Dave, ever erudite in his assessments, said when I sat down at our lunch table: "That looks like a big pile of sick." The alternative to the stroganoff was a shiny, viscous-looking hamburger that I couldn't bear to look at, much less consume.

Normally our lunches are pretty good. The stars just weren't aligned yesterday.

I think I've solved my problem about what to do with the items from our garden shed that are too large for the trash bin but too small to call the council to take away. When I walk Olga in the morning, I'll take one item with me each day, and I'll put it in a dumpster along the way. It's not really the correct thing to do, I suppose, but I figure just one item a day won't get anyone's hackles up, especially when spread among different dumpsters ("skips" to you British readers). We'll be rid of it all in a week or two.

When I told Dave my plan, he likened it to the Johnny Cash song about the man who works in a Cadillac factory and takes a part home each day in his lunchbox to build himself a car. I'm simply reversing the process!

(Photo: A party supply shop I passed on my walk home from work yesterday evening. I photographed the devil here a couple of years ago.)

Monday, March 13, 2017

Urban Spring


Olga took me on a long, mysterious walk yesterday morning. She followed her inner compass, or scents on the wind or voices in her head or something, to an area near Child's Hill where we haven't been before. I just let her lead the way, and darned if she didn't find a park!

Because I'd been negligent and left the Kong at home, she monopolized another dog owner's game of tennis-ball-fetch with his labrador, Spidey. (The guy was very nice about it, and fortunately had multiple tennis balls with him.)

And we saw all sorts of signs of spring, like pink trees (above)...


And flowers...


And bunny rabbits. Well, spray-painted ones, anyway.

I had a busy weekend, doing some spring cleaning. On Saturday I cleaned out and organized our garden shed, and threw away a big bag of stuff. (Nothing chemically dangerous -- I got rid of all that a few summers ago!) We have some awkward items like broken long-handled tools that won't fit in the trash bins, and I haven't yet figured out what to do with those.

I also found a huge bag of peanuts we bought for the squirrels and birds. The peanuts look OK -- maybe a little buggy, but probably still suitable for wildlife consumption.

Then I purged our kitchen pantry drawer, where I found two bags of flour that expired in 2010! We moved to England in 2011, and we didn't haul any expired flour across the ocean, so this is a bit of a mystery. I think they were given to us years ago by the parent of one of Dave's students when she cleaned out her pantry in preparation for returning to the U.S. They must have already been expired at that point. Anyway, they went in the trash, along with a rusty can of condensed milk that I know we've had at least five years. I'm not a strict adherent to expiration dates, but 2010 is beyond the pale.

The foxes left our garden alone last night. Maybe after all that digging they realized there are no bones there. Or maybe having Olga streak into the darkness after them gave them a fright!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Fox Damage


Success! I gave away the glass-topped table yesterday morning. A guy named Simon contacted me via Freecycle and sent his phone number, which told me that he was the real deal and not just an e-mail collector. So I made arrangements with him.

This table was not small -- the oval glass top was 4.3 feet by 2.8 feet. It was too large for me to carry easily by myself. I posted the measurements in the ad, but nonetheless, the optimistic Simon showed up with his wife (I guess) in a Smart car! It was interesting to see them wrestling to fit that table into what is essentially a golf cart, but somehow they managed. The wife had to take a bus home.

Dave, meanwhile, spent the whole day in the garden, planting his new acquisitions -- a couple of foxgloves, some lavender and hydrangeas. He put bone meal in the holes to nourish the plants. Well, a four-legged vulpine critter visiting in the night was sure interested in that bone meal. Olga woke us at 4 a.m. in a state of red alert, and when I let her out she streaked across the garden, chasing something. When dawn arrived, we saw that the garden had been transformed into a miniature version of a World War II bomb site.


To quote Dave: "Bastards!"

This morning, we'll be replanting. We also have slugs already attacking our sea kale and our teasels. Didn't someone once say that gardening is a continual process of pleasure and heartbreak? If not, I'm saying it now.

(Top photo: A launderette in Pimlico.)

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Pink Camellias and Green Garages


I've been so lazy about carrying my camera lately. All I have from this week are iPhone photos! And that's also pretty much all I have for this post, because there's just not much news around here. Work, work, work.

I did go to a wine tasting event last night at a colleague's house. A guy brought around a selection of 10 different wines -- 4 whites, 4 reds, 2 sparkling -- and we sampled them all. I ordered three bottles, and then we drank the remainder of the samples. It was quite fun!

But anyway...on to the photos...like this one of the colorfully lit exterior of Cadogan Hall on Thursday night.


Workers are still renovating that big ol' house I pass on the way to school. But the scaffolding has come down and it's looking closer and closer to completion. (And when I look back to its appearance a few years ago, it's obvious how much has been done!)


I like that pot of daffodils in this otherwise rather forlorn doorway. I've got to get some high-res shots of this with my real camera.


The pink camellia is blooming brightly outside the synagogue.


This is a neighbor's garage. I've long been intrigued by this building. I think it's all those shades of green. Again, I need to get my real camera on it.


Conspiracy theories at the ATM machine!