Saturday, May 26, 2018

Back to the Stone Age

Our spring irises have bloomed, waving their blue flags in a corner of the flower bed beneath the faded camellia. I remember when we first moved here, that camellia dropped its blossoms and I felt obligated to try to collect them all and put them in the yard waste recycling -- just to neaten things up. This year I haven't picked up a single flower, and the garden still looks great. Why not leave them to compost beneath the bush?

Yesterday was an interesting day in the library. Our checkout system wasn't working at all. We could look books up in the catalog, but when we tried to check them in or out the system would hang up and freeze.

So we had to do everything the old-fashioned way -- with pencil and paper. I wrote down the names of kids who took materials and the bar code number of every item, and if they returned any of it later I'd just scratch them off the list. And I wrote down the numbers of all the items to check in. Hopefully, on Tuesday, when we're back at work, I can feed all this info into the computer and bring us back up to date.

It made me think of the high school librarians when I was a kid, and how they'd have to take a card from a pocket in the back of each book we checked out, and stamp it, and we'd have to sign it to show that we had the book, and then they'd file that card somehow. I suppose when books got turned in they'd put the card back in the pocket and return it to the shelf. All that fussing with cards! At least I didn't have to do that.

The kids found all my writing pretty amusing, I think. To them, not having a computer is like living "The Hunger Games."

I clipped this rose from our garden and brought it inside. It's huge! I put Solar Liz next to it for a sense of scale, but of course you don't know how big she is either, so I suppose that wasn't a very good system.

I mentioned going back to work Tuesday -- and that was not a typo! We're having another three-day weekend, our second May bank holiday. Woo hoo! Unfortunately the weather is going to be a bit damp, but not too terrible -- and dampness is good for the garden, after all. I hope to get out with the dog and also do one more leg of the LOOP. Stay tuned!

Friday, May 25, 2018

Fake Grass and Miniature Pyramids

It's Friday, and I have nothing very illuminating to say because I've been stewing about Trump and North Korea and the state of the world in general.

Maybe I'll make that the subject of a later post. But I try to be more or less positive here at S&L, so let's just look at some random photos, shall we?

Yes, that is a grass-covered car. Or artificial grass, at least. It's for a company called Easigrass, which can replace your lawn with low-maintenance fake turf. If you want. Which I don't.

I came across this brightly painted "Wasteater" garbage truck in Marylebone several weeks ago. Definitely an attention-grabber. If only some creature really did eat all our waste, and not to its detriment.

Some street art from St. John's Wood. I walked home from work on the route I usually walk to work, and I saw this on a wall that I normally don't see because I'm always coming at it from the other side. Does that make sense? In other words, walking in a new direction made a difference!

Is that Charles Blondin?

There are some gargantuan weeds growing at the base of trees on our street. This one is cow parsley, I think, and will eventually have a big Queen Anne's Lace-like bloom. There's also a big thistle, and this....

...which to me looks something like wild cabbage or broccoli.

This pigeon left its mark in history. Dave and I were watching pigeons on our bird bath last night and saying they're actually kind of pretty birds...if only there weren't so many of them.

This poster hangs in the window of a shop on the high street. Does anybody know what language that is? I'd guess Polish, but that's only a guess. Maybe they sell Polish sausages?

And finally, someone's school project on ancient Egypt has gone out with the trash. I guess things like this can't really be saved forever, can they? There was also a volcano project, underneath this one.

I hope this person got a good grade, because there's a lot of detail there -- the pyramids and the huts and the boats on the river.

There's even a little crocodile!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Foxglove Payoff

Remember that little foxglove sprout I pulled out of a seam in a pipe at the side of our house last spring? The one I rooted on our kitchen windowsill for a while before planting it out in the garden?

Well, this is what we've been working toward. After all that time and effort, here's the payoff. It's blooming!

Dave and I love foxgloves. They're very low-maintenance (once you get them growing in the right place!) and they're pest-resistant. I hope this one re-seeds so we get more in coming years. The plant itself is ginormous, with several flower stalks.

You can see it behind and to the right of Olga, with its purple spire of flowers. The roses are coming out quite vividly, too!

This is another variety of foxglove -- fancy hybrid, as opposed to our scrappy wild variety, that Dave got from a garden supplier. It's also blooming now. In fact, everything in the garden seems to be at its peak of spring lushness, a dense canyon of green punctuated by bright flowers.

I slept incredibly well last night. It was a bit of a struggle getting through yesterday -- at one point I was reading something at my desk and I found myself not only losing the plot, but embroidering it with a dream-state of my own. Party fatigue plays interesting games with the human brain!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018


Hooo boy. We had quite the work party last night -- our regular departmental end-of-year bash, with an additional going-away speech for one of our librarians, who is moving to Myanmar. (And how cool is that?!)

We rented an upstairs room in a pub in Kilburn, which we had all to ourselves, and it started off amazing because the room had big windows and it was a sunny evening, and then after dark it remained amazing because there was a piano in the corner and one of my co-workers can play and sing.

Those of us who work in the library all collaborated on the send-off, which basically consisted of a list of the ways -- funny and not -- that we will miss our colleague. And then we drank, and some of us drank more, and a few of us drank even more. By the time I walked home, passing pedestrians seemed like mere dark, shadowy forms, like the train passengers in "Spirited Away." Let's just say I am feeling a bit fuzzy this morning.

We caught a seventh mouse yesterday! When will it end?!

(Photo: A rainbow created by a glass ornament hanging in one of our windows.)

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Paper Thing

Remember, from school, how kids would fold a sheet of paper into a multi-sided device, with facets bearing numbers and words like yes, no and maybe? Then they'd stick their fingers into it and you'd ask a question and they'd shuffle their fingers back and forth a specified number of times until an answer was revealed?

Do you have any idea what I'm talking about?

I don't even know what to call it. Wikipedia refers to it rather blandly as a "paper fortune teller," though there are apparently some other more colorful nicknames. I seem to remember a version where you could label it with people's names and use it to choose your next girlfriend or boyfriend, but I may be making that up.

Anyway, I hadn't thought of these things for years -- I never see kids playing with them now. Then, the other day, I found this one on the sidewalk. It's a little different from your standard paper fortune teller -- not labeled with numbers or words, but rather with intricate designs. I'm not even sure the folding is the same, but it's close.

It opens up into this:

And the backside looks like this:

I don't really get the point of covering it with drawings, but I couldn't just throw it away, since someone had obviously put so much work into it. So here it is, immortalized in blogland, and hopefully it has brought you some childhood memories, as it did for me.

Just when things seemed to be quiet on the rodent front, we caught a sixth mouse last night. Am I supposed to leave these traps out in perpetuity? Hmmm...

Monday, May 21, 2018

Enfield Lock to Chigwell

I walked two more segments of the LOOP yesterday, a total of about 9 miles. Getting to the start of the trail at Enfield Lock, where I left off last time, was a nightmare -- I wound up using two tube trains, an overground train and I'd planned to take a bus as well, but the next one wasn't scheduled to arrive for half an hour. So I wound up re-walking part of the LOOP along Turkey Brook that I'd completed last time.

The benefit, though, was that I got to see these little ducklings.

Once past Enfield Lock station, I walked past houses, over canals and across the River Lea. Can you see the dog in the doorway in the photo above? He/she cracked me up. That's just what Olga does sometimes -- sit in the sun, right at the back door, and watch the world go by.

The reeds in the River Lea rippled peacefully with the flow of the current. I walked along the river...

...and past a field with some grazing sheep and lambs. This lamb was very wary of me.

From there, the path led through a marshy wildlife area loaded with blooming comfrey and cow parsley, and up a steep hill which gave me a view over North London.

Eventually I wound up at a scouting camp called Gilwell Park. This is a detail from the "Leopard Gates," carved in 1927 by a former Boy Scout named Don Potter.

I got a bit turned around in this area, because there was no waymarker and the guide was vague on where to go. I had to ask someone at the camp, and eventually I came out onto a hilltop with a wide-open view of the city.

It's a bit hazy, but you can barely see the skyline on the distant horizon at lower left. At the right is one of the reservoirs in the Lea Valley that collects London's water supply.

I wandered through some woods and then alongside a golf course in Chingford. My guide said: "All golfers on this course are forced by an ancient law to wear bright red whilst playing golf so that everyone else can see and avoid them. They still must do that!"

Although I saw a couple of people in red, many others were in other colors. Sure enough, apparently since the guide was written, the "ancient" red-clothing rule has been abolished. Sad!

I ate lunch (a vegetarian full English breakfast) at table outside a little cafe in the golf course clubhouse, watching golfers over a fence laden with Union Jack bunting.

From there, the trail led me to Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge, a timbered building from 1543. It's free to go inside, and it was interesting to see the timbered ceiling and walk the slightly sloping floors. Apparently it used to be a sort of open-air viewing stand from which royalty could watch the hunt on the nearby Chingford Plain, but windows were later installed and the building is now fully enclosed.

I then got thoroughly confused about where I was supposed to go, because the trail didn't seem to be where the guide said it was -- and I saw another walker who seemed to be wandering aimlessly, too, so it wasn't only me. But I found a parallel trail and eventually wound up in the right place. Near the Linder's Field Local Nature Reserve, I saw this longhorn moth with its dramatic antennae fluttering in the breeze.

From there, the path led me through the Roding Recreation Area and along the Roding River. And there, on the riverbank, I saw an EXORCISM!

I am not kidding you. I heard some yelling and growling from a fair distance away, and I thought it was a man trying to control his dog. But no -- the growling and barking and roaring was coming from that man lying on the ground, as the others stood over him repeating, "Leave him! In the name of Jesus Christ, leave him! He does not belong to you! He belongs to Jesus!"

The man on the ground thrashed around and I was, frankly, a bit terrified. It did not seem like a seizure or anything like that. I took a couple of discreet pictures and beat it out of there. And then, after walking about ten minutes, I realized I'd dropped my glasses case -- so I had to retrace my steps, and of course it was right back where I'd taken the pictures. And the exorcism was still going on!

How long does it take to get a demon to leave someone?

Anyway, it was surely one of the strangest sights I've ever come across on any of my walks.

From there I made my way into the community of Chigwell and caught a tube train back into town. I think I can finish the LOOP with just two more days of walking!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

I Can See Clearly Now

This is as close as I got to the Royal Wedding -- a window display at the opticians' on the local high street. I didn't even watch it on TV, though Dave did. Honestly, I think it's a wonderful taboo-busting development for the royal family, and society at large, and I wish Harry and Meghan every happiness.

I was too busy with practical stuff yesterday. I did laundry because it was an amazing drying day -- perfect for hanging everything outside -- and in England, believe me, those days don't come all that often! (At least it seems so now, as we near the end of a wet and chilly spring,)

I also washed the windows at the back of the flat, looking onto the garden. I'm always so happy to get that job done! I still need to do the ones in the front, and they're actually harder to get to because of shrubbery.

And, best of all, the plumber came and stopped that infernal dripping in the linen closet. It wasn't a big job -- just a matter of tightening the pipe joint, really, though I think he put some anti-leak stuff on it too. Anyway it seems dry now, and he didn't charge much. It's going to take a few days for the closet itself to dry out. We've left it standing open.

Olga and I took a long walk through Cricklewood in the morning. I considered taking her to the Heath, but I want her to take it easy on that ligament for another week or so. And of course, her cut foot is still healing, too.

We haven't seen any more mice, alive or dead. I think (dare I say it?) that we got them all. I feel bad about it, especially because I think they're the same ones I've photographed on our garden peanut feeder. If only they'd stayed outside! I cleaned out part of the "hole" (the closet under the neighbor's stairs, which I think is the official Mouse Access Point) and braced a glass mirror flush against the wall gap where I think they were getting in. Maybe that will prevent any others from getting ideas about coming inside.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Marlin Perkins, Where Are You?

Remember our mouse situation? Well, for the longest time we didn't catch anything in our single trap. I'd locked up the dog food in a plastic bin and moved most of the nibblies out of the cupboards and onto the countertop, where we'd never seen any evidence of a mouse. I thought maybe, just maybe, I'd convinced them to go elsewhere, and bloodshed would not be necessary.

And then, Thursday morning, I found a gnawed-open bag of wild rice in the cabinet, and when I got down underneath the cupboards, behind the baseboards, I saw more evidence of mouse activity.

Time to pull out the big guns. So to speak.

I had Dave buy four more mousetraps -- the old-fashioned kind -- and I set them all. Within 24 hours we'd killed four mice in the kitchen, and we got another one this morning in the front hall closet. We put the bodies in the back of the garden, and they inevitably disappear overnight, probably taken by a cat or a fox. (They're not poisoned so they shouldn't harm a predator.)

Adding to my rodent excitement, some squirrels dug up four pots of zinnia and cosmos seedlings on Thursday morning. I repotted them, put flowerpot shards around them to discourage digging and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they won't die.

Why is the animal world against me? I grew up on Mutual of Omaha's "Wild Kingdom" and Ranger Rick nature magazines! I'm a member of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds! I'm on YOUR SIDE, guys!

We've also had some more adventures in British plumbing. I spotted some damp spots on the hallway wall yesterday and opened our linen closet to a distinctly wet smell. When I looked around, I realized a pipe joint in the closet's back wall -- which feeds into our shower -- was leaking. A slow drip, drip, drip was coming from the joint, seeping into the plaster and running down the wall into the floor, where the unfinished floorboards were quite wet.

So we called our managing agent's emergency maintenance number and got no answer at all. I sent them an e-mail with pictures of the situation, and we called our own plumber to come today and solve the problem. Meanwhile, I've jerry-rigged a drip-collection system so no more water can seep into the wall, and I've poured three pitchers of drippage down the sink so far. I'm hoping we can deduct this plumber's fee from our rent. This really isn't something we should have to repair, but it also isn't something I want to leave until Monday (at the earliest).

Finally, I bought some hydrogen peroxide to treat Olga's paw. She doesn't seem to mind the treatment and it makes me feel better knowing it's getting disinfected, though whether it has much practical effect I have no idea. I was amused by a warning on the peroxide bottle: "Do not give to children under 12 years old as a mouthwash, unless your doctor tells you to."

Does anyone use hydrogen peroxide as a mouthwash? Is that something a doctor would recommend?

(Photo: A quiet, mouse-free corner of our entrance hall, earlier this week.)

Friday, May 18, 2018

Rage Lawyer

When I got up to walk the dog yesterday morning, it was 43ยบ F! Which is cold for this time of year. I think it may be slightly warmer today.

So where do you stand on the great Laurel/Yanny controversy? I finally had a chance to listen to the clip yesterday, and I fall squarely into the Laurel camp. In fact, I am so firmly on Team Laurel that I didn't understand how anyone could hear Yanny -- until I played around with the slider the New York Times developed to detect people's tipping point between the two. When the slider is about two notches from the far right side, I begin to hear Yanny. Dave is Team Laurel too.

Jennifer of Sparrow Tree Journal wrote a post the other day in which she discussed being unreasonably cranky. I confess I've been feeling cranky too. I told her -- and I firmly believe -- it's got to do with the end of the school year. There's just a lot to do at this time of year, and those of us who work in education are all pouring on the fuel and we're tired.

I've been feeling guilty about it, but then I watched the video clips of Rage Lawyer. Have you seen this guy -- the Manhattan attorney who launched into a tirade against restaurant workers for daring to speak Spanish? Who threatened to have them all deported? Who berates total strangers for walking on the wrong side of the sidewalk and who, not surprisingly, has appeared on video yelling and insulting people at several pro-Trump events?

He is a real gem, let me tell you. In terms of crankiness, I couldn't hold a candle to him.

I read that article and watched the associated videos yesterday, and my first thought was, "Who raised this guy?" Not to blame his behavior on anyone else, but I seriously wonder what kind of environment could produce someone so unabashedly confrontational. And paradoxically, he apparently studied abroad and speaks fluent Spanish himself! Does he not see the contradictions? Is he mentally ill?

Unfortunately, our current political climate is partly to blame. This is the kind of misdirected rage that Trump's America (and Brexit's Britain) encourages people to release. They feel justified and entitled to their malignant racism and xenophobia.

I feel more respect for the woman who relieved herself on the floor of a Tim Horton's restaurant and then threw it at the employees. At least she apparently just wanted to use the bathroom.

Seriously: Anger management, people!

(Photo: Dave and I laughed at this weathered old sweater languishing atop a bus shelter in Camden. I meant to include this picture in yesterday's iPhone gallery but I forgot!)

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Reflections with Dog, and Other iPhone Photos

Since I have nothing to write about except library inventory, here are some more iPhone photos! First, Olga and I were window-shopping at Roche Bobois (a swanky French furniture store) on Finchley Road yesterday morning. Can you see us? It's a little like "Where's Waldo?"

This is why no one should leave unattended bags of donated stuff sitting outside charity shops.

Dave has been making noise about wanting a La-Z-Boy. The other day I walked past these chairs, set out for the trash collectors, and sent him the photo, saying, "Look! Now we don't have to buy one!"

Some creepy graffiti I found on one of my walks.

Speaking of walks, I accidentally wore my dog-walking (and LOOP-walking) shoes to work the other day. About halfway there I looked down and realized they were on my feet, and I was like, "Nope. Not going back home." They were originally black. As you can see, they now have quite a patina.

Last spring there was a massive renovation project at this house, and I wondered about the fate of this bright red peony in the border of the driveway. Trucks and vans and construction materials were practically piled on top of it. But this spring, with the house finished and the workers gone, it came up again, completely unaffected.

I found a plant with huge leaves at the cemetery. (That's my size 10 1/2 EEE foot for comparison.) I think it might be burdock?

Let's be artistic with a Waterlogue version...

And finally, at the risk of overdoing the self-portrait-with-dog theme, another shot from Finchley Road yesterday. I really should be more conscientious about my facial expressions, but the sun was in my eyes. Yeah...that's my excuse.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Grass Eating on Wobbly Wheels

Here's another picture from my trip down to Westminster last week. Anyplace there are tourists, there are bound to be love locks like the ones above. Remember that bridge in Paris that was so burdened with locks that part of it collapsed, and the rest had to be removed? On Westminster Bridge there's not really any place to attach a lock -- the railings are stone -- so structures like this little metal gate off to the side appear to bear the lock burden.

We've had more Olga drama. Her back leg seemed so much better on Sunday that Dave and I put her back on her dog walkers' schedule, and then we took her out ourselves to the cemetery. She had a great time grazing on the long grass:


Olga loves her salad.

And then, somehow, she cut her front paw open! She chased a squirrel into the woods, and I think that's when it happened, because suddenly she got kind of mopey. I thought she just didn't want to go home -- and then we got back to the house and Dave noticed that her front foot was bleeding. I couldn't believe it! I thought, "What ELSE could possibly happen?!" (Never a question to ask.)

We debated taking her to the vet, but the bleeding stopped and she was walking around on it OK. Besides, I was afraid the vet would think Dave or I had a canine version of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy. So we stuck with our original plan, and she's been out with the dog-walkers this week and seems fine despite her two wobbly wheels.

As for me, it's a busy time of year for recovering library materials. We're also still working on inventory, in which we scan every item in the library to detect any that may be missing. I generally really like inventory -- it's kind of geeky and I can let my mind wander -- but I worked on DVDs yesterday, and they're probably my least favorite items to scan. I have to open almost every DVD case because the bar codes are often on the inside, or on the discs themselves. It's very fiddly work.

The garden is doing well -- all except the wildflower corner, which I believe is a complete bust. Not a thing has grown there. I'm not sure what went wrong, but I think we're going to give up and plant something else. I laughed at one of my commenters on Monday who noted that my garden is "full of tension" and that rather than grousing about slugs and black spot I should just let nature take its course. Believe it or not, I am the relaxed member of our household gardening team. Dave is the one who insists that gardening is all about control!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Advertisements, 1942

Remember how I mentioned those old Newsweek magazines we have in the school library? The ones we considered donating to an archive but instead decided to keep?

Well, I recently put them on a cart and rolled them into the main library so students could use them in a social studies project. I browsed through them to check out some of the old advertisements. Here's an assortment from October, 1942.

There are a lot of ads for wartime industrial production and materials, like these ball bearings. (I liked the dog.)

Vimm's Vitamins look like they'd pep you up! I wonder if they contained speed? What on earth is "Vitamin P-P"?

Blackie and Whitey are still "carrying on," selling Scotch which (according to the ad) had been distilled in Scotland before the war and exported  "in reasonable quantities." Whatever that means.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Parker is fighting "the Japs" with her Revere-Ware pots. Apparently by using them through the war effort, she's allowing Revere to convert its copper and steel production toward wartime purposes.

Here's an ad for good old Jacksonville, Florida, where my brother and mom now live. Apparently commerce authorities in Jacksonville thought it could manage three times as much war industry as it had, so they were advertising its availability to alleviate manufacturing bottlenecks.

And finally, a somber advertisement for Dixie Cups, touting their sanitary advantages in battling wartime disease. This was less than three decades after the disastrous Spanish Flu epidemic of 1917. Scary!