Tuesday, June 19, 2018

A Flute, a Fox and a Philadelphus

The last few mornings, someone in a building behind us has been playing a wind instrument.  As I sit on the back garden bench reading and having my coffee, I can hear it drifting over the treetops. I romanticized it into some type of exotic Asian flute -- maybe played by a virtuoso of this obscure instrument, who otherwise plies his or her talents on stage in front of adoring multicultural fans.

But then I asked Dave about it, and he said, "Oh, that's just some kid fooling around with a recorder."

I'm not sure I agree with him. There's definitely a repeated pattern to the notes, which to me suggests deliberate playing, and this person plays for at least an hour at a time. I don't know why I think it sounds Asian, and I hope it's not offensive to anyone for me to say that, but it's definitely not "Row, Row, Row Your Boat." Listen to it in the video above -- while enjoying a serene corner of our garden featuring our gong wind chime and blooming Philadelphus, or mock orange -- and tell me what you think.

And here's another mystery.

Yes, that's me, and no, I did not kill that animal. But it is a real animal, or at least, it used to be. While walking Olga I found a discarded round hatbox-style suitcase, very fashionable in a sort of Linda Ronstadt "Lush Life" way. I looked inside, and it contained some vintage women's hats, including a nice red 1940s number with a Macy's New York tag. It also contained this fur stole, which was made to be clipped around a woman's neckline. You've seen photos of those types of furs before -- they used to be quite the thing. (You can still buy them, although I wouldn't advise it.)

Apparently it's a fox, and it's extra long because it's made from more than one. (I picked up that little fact here, a website for a museum where a nearly identical stole is on display.) Although it looks a little scraggly in the photo, it was actually in good condition.

As gruesome as it is to my modern sensibilities, I couldn't let that creature go out with the trash, could I? Some vintage clothing aficionado would be so into it! So I picked everything up, hats, suitcase and all, and later took it to Oxfam. I showed the workers there what the bag contained, so there would be no ugly surprises when they opened it.

Meanwhile, Dave couldn't resist taking a picture, because without a doubt this is one of the weirder things I've ever brought home.

Speaking of Dave, he got launched on his American odyssey yesterday, and last I heard he was in New York waiting for his connecting flight to Michigan. He's probably there by now, and probably sound asleep.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Mid-Life Heath Walk

Olga and I went back to Hampstead Heath yesterday -- the first time we've been to the main Heath since her leg injuries several weeks ago. I know! It doesn't seem that long. I'm happy to report that after a walk of more than two hours, she was fine. There was no limping and no evidence of any re-injury.

That dog is never happier than when she's running free in the forests, looking for squirrels.

Except maybe when she's lying in long grass, in the sun.

The grass on the Heath is an amazing color, green and straw-brown but with hues of pink and purple. I haven't seen a photo yet that really does it justice.

We looped through the woodlands and meadows before climbing Parliament Hill to take in the view. As you can see, lots of other people had the same idea...

...so Olga snuck off to the side to find a quieter spot.

She's still in good health, but I definitely see the effects of age on Olga. Where she used to pull me to the Heath with puppyish abandon -- I literally could not walk fast enough -- she now pauses, sniffing here and there and taking her time. She runs through the trees and chases her Kong, as always, but she takes more rest breaks. I don't mind that at all. I guess middle age catches up with all of us.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

A Broken Tooth and Lulu

Yesterday got a bit crazy, for some unpredictable reasons. As Dave was eating dinner on Friday night, he suddenly exclaimed, "I think I broke off part of my tooth!" And sure enough, he had. He wasn't in pain, but as he's about to travel to the states on Monday, he had to get the problem fixed right away.

So I walked the dog in the morning (sorry Lesley -- the boots were gone) and at 9:30 or so we set out to find a dentist. My dental clinic was dark and unoccupied, despite the fact that their front door and their website said they open at 9 a.m. on Saturdays -- and it's just as well because, let's face it, the jury's still out on the quality of their work, given my recent experiences. So we walked up to a dentist near Fortune Green, but they weren't open either.

I had to mail some stuff at the post office, so we walked to the other end of the high street and, lo and behold, across the street was yet another dentist's office! So Dave got his tooth repaired while I came home and...

...bought theater tickets!

I passed John, the used-book seller outside the train station, who had a huge portrait of Elvis Presley propped against his table. I bought a paperback that I really didn't need and gave Sugar, John's three-legged staffy, some scratches.

So, yes, theater tickets. I wanted to go see "42nd Street," because singer Lulu is performing in the show. I've always liked Lulu, going way back to "To Sir, With Love." (In fact, here is a 10-year-old photo of me playing a vintage single of "To Sir, With Love" on a Popeye record player -- what more could you want?!) So now I'm off to see Lulu on Tuesday.

And I also bought a ticket to see "Hamilton" in November -- because it's such a phenomenon and Dave doesn't want to go. He acts like it would literally kill him to sit through a rap musical. I figured I'd just take the plunge on my own. What the heck.

Our ladybirds are still at it, providing aphid relief -- but as you can see, they've got a long way to go!

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Je Suis Libre!

Well, that's it! Finito! Finis! No more teachers, no more books, etc. I am now a free agent until mid-August.

I have lots of plans for my time. I've got several projects I really want to finish, such as the seemingly endless journal transcription and photo archiving. I have a probably unrealistic stack of books to read. There are some short trips I'd like to make. And there's one big trip, in July, that Dave and I have planned to Vietnam and Cambodia. I'm surprised I haven't mentioned it before now, but I think I've been trying to convince myself that it's really going to happen. And it is -- the tickets have been bought, the plans made.

So this will be a full summer, and yet hopefully a summer in which I wrap some things up.

The last day of school went well enough, although I still have the remnants of my cold and didn't feel so great. I got through first aid training (thank goodness that's over) and did you know that when you do CPR, you're supposed to press the person's chest firmly enough to go 3/4 of the way into their body? The instructors said if you don't break any ribs, you're probably not doing it right. Good lord! I hope I never have to go there.

I also got through the recognition ceremony for departing staff members, including my colleague Lindsey, who's been at the school 16 years. She and her husband and dog helped introduce us (and Olga!) to Hampstead Heath years ago, and she's been a lot of fun to work with. I'll miss her.

I did not go to the after-work cocktail hour because I had some errands to run, including picking up Dave's repaired sandals (which look great). And last night, sitting in the garden -- where I counted five ladybirds remaining on our cardoon -- I felt so relaxed knowing that there are no demands on my time for the next eight weeks!

(Photo: Street art along the Regent's Canal near Camden.)

Friday, June 15, 2018

Ladybirds and Leather

Although I called in sick to work yesterday, I did get out of the house for one critical errand. I had to get Dave's sandals repaired, because he's taking off for the USA on Monday and he wants to wear them while he's there. One of the ankle straps, near the buckle, was broken. He even considered buying a new pair, but I did some research and found a place that would fix them in time.

So, impaired only slightly by my sniffling and hacking, I made my way to Camden Road, to the shoe repair place on the right in the photo above. (They also make keys, engrave trophies, fix luggage, repair horse saddles, do alterations and tailoring and fix watches. A "one stop shop," as the sign says.) I dropped off the sandals and they should be ready today.

Then I came home and got into bed and pretty much stayed there.

When the mail came, I was happy to find our newest order of ladybirds had arrived! We ordered 25 adult ladybirds and 50 larvae, in the hopes that they would snack on the aphids populating our cardoon and our inulas. When Dave got home from work, we took them out in the garden and set them free.

Some got to work right away...

...and some had other ideas of, I believe, an amorous nature.

We also released the larvae, which were so tiny I could barely see them. They came nestled in shredded paper, and we simply scattered the paper on the lower leaves of the plants. I could not possibly begin to verify that there were actually 50 larvae in that box.

These are Adalia bipunctata, the two-spot ladybird, one of the native varieties said to be suffering at the hands (?) of the larger and more vigorous Asian, or harlequin, variety. I'd read that buying ladybirds for the garden actually has little practical effect, because most of them fly away, but I don't mind just adding them to the environment and letting them do their thing, even if it's ultimately not on our plants.

And sure enough, when I went out in the evening to see how they were doing, I could only find two of them. So they may already be off on their ladybird adventures!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Blocked Pipes

For the past couple of days I've had a little cold. I haven't mentioned it because it was so mild, but yesterday afternoon it suddenly ratcheted up to a whole new level -- I was shivering and coughing with a low fever, and I called in sick today. I didn't have much to do at work anyway. Tomorrow I have first aid training (ironic!) so I'm hoping I can be there for that, hopefully without infecting everyone else with germs passed on via the plastic CPR dummy. (Do they still use those?)

Yesterday was the last day of school for students, and I got asked to sign a couple of yearbooks, which always makes me feel good. I'm glad I make enough of an impact for kids to want to remember me!

When I was in elementary school, I remember one year trying to get everyone to sign my yearbook. All the teachers, the secretaries, the lunch ladies, the custodians. Some of them thought I was pulling their leg, but I wonder if secretly they were flattered?

Anybody want a fax machine? Yeah, me neither.

We had a repairman come yesterday to fix our leaking dishwasher. He dismantled the pipes in the back and found a hunk of old pipe inside the other pipes, blocking the outflow. He thinks it's been there since the dishwasher was installed, and only lately, with the accretion of old soap and lime and other materials I'd rather not think about, did it become a blockage serious enough to cause leaking.

Fortunately, no mice came rocketing out from under the machine when he moved it.

I think the problem is now resolved and my hope is that the warped kitchen floor will flatten out a bit once it gets good and dry. Meanwhile, we paid for this repairman -- £72 -- and I'm going to approach the management to try to take it off our rent. We'll see!

(Top photo: A colorfully planted fire escape near school.)

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

More Poppies and Pests

Some volunteer poppies have grown in the little pocket park at the top of our street, the same place where the pot plant grew last summer. We always assumed the pot plant appeared because someone rolled a doobie while sitting on that bench, tossing the seeds on the ground. Do you think someone was sitting there more recently doing opium?

Probably not. I know nothing about doing opium, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't come with viable seeds. I like the poppies, though. That's the same variety I tried to grow in our garden with seeds from my neighbor, and for some reason, mine have grown no higher than about two centimeters. They're stuck in eternal sprout-hood. Yet these feral ones seem to spread effortlessly.

Yesterday as I was re-reading my blog post in the afternoon -- which I do sometimes when I go through my blogroll to read everyone else's blogs -- I realized that I'd made an ellipsis ( ... ) with four commas rather than three periods.

I corrected it, but good grief! Are my eyes that bad?! I think I've reached the point where I need to wear my glasses to work on my computer.

Here's another dramatic stand of poppies in the 'hood.

Not to drone on and on about our mouse situation, but we're up to ten or possibly eleven (I've lost count) that we've trapped in the house. And the other day, as Dave and I were watching TV with the back door open, one ran inside from the garden! I chased it back out again. I'd thought our peanut feeder might be responsible for a household mouse explosion, but now I suspect it's on a larger scale. Mrs. Kravitz told me weeks ago that she'd trapped six or seven in her house, and that was before we set any of our traps.

I wonder if it's related to Camden Council's rubbish collection schedule, which a little more than a year ago changed to once every two weeks for non-recyclables? That leaves a lot of trash sitting around for a long time. In theory, people are storing it in mouse-proof bins, and the vermin-attracting rubbish -- food waste -- is collected weekly to be recycled as compost. But I bet a lot of people don't bother to separate their trash, and even separated, some household garbage (paper towels, cling film, non-recyclable containers) is bound to contain traces of food.

A Camden "mouse surge" is kind of a creepy thought, but in the four years we've lived here we never saw or heard indoor mice until mid-March of this year, and since then it's been crazy. (We had seen a few in the garden, though.)

I'd get a cat, but Dave is allergic and Olga would never tolerate a feline companion.

Anyway, I think the situation is better now, since we've killed so many, locked up the dog food and rodent-proofed the peanut feeder. But stay tuned!

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Dental Bling

I've been trying to figure out how to photograph this dry cleaning shop -- I love the name and those jazzy dancers on the sign. (I don't think cotton typically requires dry cleaning, but who am I to quibble?) Unfortunately there's a bus shelter in front of it, so a straight-on photo in my normal fashion is out of the question. Hence, the angled shot, which isn't terrible.

I went back to the dentist yesterday to have my new crown, um, installed? (Is that the right word?) I got there promptly at 9 a.m. and as I sat in the waiting room reading David Sedaris I realized I was hearing the song "Show Me Love" again, just like last week. What are the odds? They must have a mix CD on repeat, which probably makes the receptionist crazy. Or maybe there's a different mix for each day of the week and I just happened to hear the Monday mix twice.


There's my crown, on what I believe is a scary model of my own teeth. The dentist acted as if it were the most natural thing in the world for me to want a picture of it. The crown itself is kind of pretty, isn't it? Very shiny. I feel like I should walk around with my mouth open so people can appreciate it.

And unfortunately I may have to, because now that it's installed I can barely close my mouth. I think the crown is too high, because seriously, my other teeth don't quite come together the way they did before. I initially felt like it was even affecting my speech, as if I were holding a marble in my cheek. The dentist says it will feel large for three or four days, but because it's gold and somewhat soft, my chewing will reshape it slightly and it will become more comfortable. If not, he said, I can always go back.

As much as I'd like to hear "Show Me Love" one more time, I want to do my best to stay away from the dentist for a while.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Puttering and Finding Things

Another lazy day. We got some things accomplished -- laundry and a bit more puttering in the garden. Dave came home with a plant from Waitrose and said, "Look! A daylily!" And I looked and it wasn't a daylily at all -- it was a Peruvian lily. Which is fine, except that slugs reportedly like Peruvian lilies. So part of yesterday's puttering was putting it into a pot on the patio. (Lots of alliteration in that sentence. Plosives, to be precise.)

I also took Olga for a long walk in the morning, which was terrific because it negated the need for me to take her to the Heath in the afternoon. She was all walked out by 10:30 a.m. and lay on the lawn for the rest of the day, moving back and forth between shade and sun.

On our walk we looped around West Hampstead and up to Cricklewood, and then over towards Childs Hill. We visited the Cricklewood Millennium Green, where some dodgy-looking guys were drinking cans of something alcoholic at approximately 8:30 a.m. They kept to themselves, though, and the dog and I explored the hills and long grass and then moved on to the Clitterhouse Playing Fields.

Along the way, we found some shoes (top) which were pretty fabulous but looked like they'd suffered a bit in the weather. We also found:

...a (possibly) useful toaster oven, and...

...a Scooby Doo doll, keeping company with a gleeful emoji pillow. (We did not bring any of this stuff home.)

Olga meanwhile, made a find of her own...

...a hard rubber ball that kept her occupied all morning and afternoon. The picture above shows her celebrating its return after it sank to the bottom of (fortunately shallow) Dollis Brook, next to the playing fields. When Olga couldn't get it herself, I managed to retrieve it using a long stick, but only after teetering across a makeshift weir and almost losing my balance on the narrow path on the creek bank. It's a miracle I didn't wind up in the water myself.

After all that trouble, you can bet we kept that ball.

Dave and I have been watching "The Americans" in the evenings. I like it, but it's one of those shows that makes me feel stupid. I keep thinking, "What's happening now? Who is that person? Do these two characters know each other? Have we heard any of this before?" Sometimes they start in on a story line and you really don't know what's happening because they haven't jumped to the backstory yet -- but I expect to know because I am (I guess) a linear thinker. Anyway, it keeps me on my toes.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Bees of Chester

I didn't leave the house yesterday, except to walk the dog in the morning and then work in the back garden. It was fabulous. I can't remember the last time I had a day like that.

I got our three cow parsley plants into the ground, as well as a few primroses that I bought in the spring for a hanging basket and that have now gone to seed. I'm hoping they'll take root and come up next year. I see all those wild primroses growing in the cemetery, so I don't see why we can't get some going in our garden.

While I was digging (more holes -- ugh) in the wildflower area I encountered the usual debris we find back there -- broken bricks, broken glass. It was evidently a trash heap for the construction of this house. Among the detritus I found this:

It's a plastic tag. I figured it came off a piece of garden equipment -- a beehive, maybe? When I brought it inside and washed it off, I found this on the other side:

Turns out that Bees of Chester was a plant nursery, apparently well known for breeding roses. (As I gather from trusty Google.) It's been out of business for years, but this tag must have come from one of their plants, probably the rose hybrid known as Princess Margaret of England.

The Princess Margaret is a big pink tea rose, and we do indeed have two pink rose bushes at the side of the garden. (I picked one recently, remember?) At least one, if not both, must be a Princess Margaret. Et voila -- mystery solved!

Anyway, I got a lot done in the garden. Everything is in the ground that needs to be, and I picked up all the half-eaten green walnuts that the squirrels have gnawed off our walnut tree (a daily springtime task) and dead-headed the roses and mowed the grass. I also finished a depressing issue of The New Yorker, detailing how Donald Trump is destroying the American civil service and the diplomatic corps -- I cannot wait for the mid-term elections, and yes, I have already requested my overseas ballots.

Then I moved on to David Sedaris's new book, "Calypso," because after that Trumpian reading experience I needed something light and humorous. And I managed to take a nap, to make up for Olga's early wake-up call yesterday morning.

Dave, meanwhile, was at our school's graduation ceremony in Westminster. I never go to graduation, and every year I feel guilty for skipping it -- but I'm not a teacher and I don't have the same relationship with many of the kids that the teachers do. Beside, someone needs to stay home with the dog, right?

Saturday, June 9, 2018

The Crutch Mystery

I'm remembering, now, one of the chief disadvantages of this otherwise beautiful time of year. There's WAY TOO MUCH daylight. Dawn comes before 4:30 a.m., dusk lingers after 9:30 p.m., and Olga begins vibrating and standing over us in bed, tail wagging, as soon as there's enough morning light outside for her to believe (deludedly) that she can catch a fox or a squirrel.

Which means that today, I got up at 5 a.m.

So here I am, half an hour later, in broad daylight, doing laundry.

The garden is still doing amazing things. Here are some of our peonies. They're a variety called "Bowl of Beauty," and don't they look like ornate chopped salads from a fancy Asian restaurant?

And here's the sage that was gnawed to nothing by slugs not even two months ago. It recovered well after I put it in a pot, and now it's blooming!

Not much news from the library, except that someone left a single crutch standing against one of the bookcases the other day. It's been in the lost-and-found ever since. How did a person who needed a crutch to walk into the library not need it to walk out? Does the library have healing powers? Did they hop out?

(Top photo: A grassy path through Buckhurst Hill, East London, on May 20.)

Friday, June 8, 2018

Joseph Pintauro

This little green bug was recently clambering about on one of our roses, but when I got out the camera to take a picture he was clearly intimidated. He scooched backwards to hide between the petals, as if they were blankets. I wonder if he was hunting that little aphid in the foreground?

I read yesterday that Joseph Pintauro died. He was a poet, novelist and playwright who touched my life in several ways. I've written already about the groovy books of art and poetry that he co-wrote in the late 1960s and that I still treasure. He also wrote numerous plays, including one that I saw when I lived in New York -- and apparently I even met Pintauro that evening, although I wouldn't have remembered it if I hadn't written it on my blog. (My mind is going, I swear.)

I most associate him with the period when I was coming out in the mid-'80s. I used to go to Washington, D.C. every year with my family to visit my grandmother and other relatives, and on those trips, when I was 19 or 20, I would travel into the city alone on the Metro for a day of exploration. I'd tell my family I was going to the Smithsonian, and maybe I did -- but I also went to Lambda Rising, a famous gay book store on DuPont Circle, where I would buy a novel. I remember doing this twice -- once it was John Fox's "The Boys on the Rock," and once it was Pintauro's "Cold Hands." I'd sit for hours on the Metro, riding around Washington and its suburbs, reading my gay book. And then I'd return to my family with an at least partly fictional account of seeing the Air and Space Museum for the fiftieth time.

In those days, if there were gay bookstores where I lived in Florida, I wasn't knowledgeable or courageous enough to visit them. (I'm talking about real bookstores that sold literature, not porn vendors using a euphemistic name.) Somehow, in the anonymity of the big city, I could explore that aspect of my being, if only through reading.

I loved "The Boys on the Rock" -- in fact, I still have my copy -- but I was less enthusiastic about "Cold Hands." It had something to do with two Italian-American cousins and their exotic Mame-like aunt, who was named Zia Fantasia, if I'm not mistaken. Still, I will always be indebted to Pintauro for writing one of the books that occupied my attention on the Metro in those days when I was coming to terms with my identity as a gay man -- not to mention his colorful books of hippie poetry.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Miami Vice

The hawkweed, also known as fox-and-cubs, that grows wild in our garden is looking good these days. We have a patch that we've avoided mowing, and as a result it's gotten taller and fuller than ever before, with many more flowers (as you can see below).

Well, where to begin. Suddenly there's a lot going on around here.

On the dental front, the temporary filling that the dentist gave me on Monday fell out on Tuesday morning. Yes, it didn't even last 24 hours. He told me if it falls out to put it back myself (?!) or just leave it out, since I'm getting my permanent crown next Monday. I've taken the latter path, because I can't for the life of me figure out how to get that misshapen blob back into its proper place in my tooth.

On the flat-maintenance front, we're having another plumbing issue. Apparently there's a leak at the back of our dishwasher. We didn't realize it immediately, but the kitchen floorboards -- which were already warped when we moved in -- have been slowly buckling more and more, and suddenly the floor was looking as wavy as the surface of a lake on a windy day. (This is not the first time we've had water problems in the kitchen.) So the managing agent sent a handyman, who identified the leak (but did not fix it) and said the floor would have to be replaced. Since then, we've heard nothing.

I used the dishwasher twice more, but the floor seemed to get worse, so I guess I need to stop and hand-wash the dishes, at least until the leak is fixed. First-world problems, I know, but dang-nabbit, we pay for a dishwasher.

Finally, work has been madness. I've been writing parents to get their miscreant children to return their books before summer vacation begins next week, and we're both collecting everything from the year and checking out for summer, meaning there's a huge volume of stuff moving back and forth. I'm not complaining. At least it's being read!

Yesterday was "decades day" at school, when kids dressed up with clothes from a decade in the past. Some kids were hippies, some were greasers. One fifth-grade boy came to my desk wearing a suit with a t-shirt underneath, and explained he was "Miami Vice." He showed us his bare ankles to prove it.

"Crockett and Tubbs!" I said. "That was a great show!"

He looked perplexed.

"You mean 'Miami Vice' was a TV show?"

We explained that "Miami Vice" was not only a show but a style-setting phenomenon in the '80s. After he left my boss and I had a good laugh. It's so obvious his parents came up with that outfit, probably because it was the easiest thing to assemble from the contents of his closet!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Bank Robbers and Dragon Dreams

It's another day for random photos, because, once again, I don't have much to write. (Consider yourselves lucky!)

I found these eggshell remnants on Hampstead Heath while walking Olga a few weeks ago. I hope this little robin -- I think it's a robin -- hatched, as opposed to being consumed.

(On a related note, I saw a brand-new robin flying in our garden on Saturday. It had little stubby wings and a little stubby tail, but it managed to stay airborne so I think its most dangerous days are probably behind it!)

This random pile of shoes has been lying near the high street for weeks. In fact, I think a few more shoes have been added to the pile since I took this picture. Why is there only one of each?

And this snazzy pair was abandoned on a bench on Finchley Road yesterday morning -- free to any takers, I suppose. They look a little worn out but they're cool. (No, I did not take them.)

Here's Olga on her morning walk, with a puddle reflecting the bright spring sun...

...and here she is with the cow parsley now blooming on the street where we live. This is the same kind of plant we're putting in the wildflower area in our back garden, and it's supposed to self-seed. It must be about four feet tall.

Found on the sidewalk on Abbey Road. Any ideas?

And I found this stuck to a post in East London. I tried to Google it, to find out if there's a backstory behind the image, and I came up only with a birthday card collage made by a woman who included the same wanted poster -- she "printed it off" from somewhere. But I guess the dude and "The Carlton Gang" are fictional...?

This new and very far-out shop recently opened in our neighborhood. I love this picture because Olga looks like she's laughing hysterically. (She was actually in mid-yawn.)

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The Muzak of My Youth

I was sitting in a dentist's waiting room yesterday morning when I heard Robin S's song "Show Me Love" faintly in the background. It made me feel old, hearing a dance-club anthem from the early '90s as, basically, Muzak in the dentists's office. This was a day after hearing both Haddaway's "What Is Love" and CeCe Peniston's "Finally" on TV commercials. Could it really be 25 years ago that I was dancing to those songs in nightclubs in Rabat?

I guess it's not that surprising, actually, since these days I'm about as likely to go to a nightclub as to climb El Capitan. And I'm fine with that.

I was at the dentist for the second-to-last appointment in the long root-canal-and-crown saga that I've documented here already. The dentist removed what was left of my temporary filling, prepared the tooth for a crown and took an impression. The final crown is supposed to be ready next week -- another hunk of gold, and a bigger one than the inlay I had before. At least I get more bling out of the deal! (It will be in the very back of my mouth, so, alas, no one will see it.)

Meanwhile, he put in another temporary filling and I feel like I have a wad of chewing gum stuck to my back tooth. I've said it before and I'll say it again -- I'll be glad when this is over.

We caught an eighth mouse yesterday in one of our household traps! Just when I thought those little devils had moved on. I wonder if I forced it inside when I relocated the bird feeder?

I read an article yesterday in BBC Wildlife magazine that explored the advantages of feeding wildlife like foxes and badgers -- apparently some people do it and it can be beneficial. (I think this may be one of many issues where the British and Americans think differently, because in the states I remember being strictly warned never to feed wild animals, both for their sake and ours.) Anyway, it made me wonder if I should have left that bird feeder where it was -- but I doubt the magazine means to advocate feeding urban mice!

(Photo: Stables near Upminster, East London.)

Monday, June 4, 2018

Poppies and a Mud Bath

This morning I woke to find, of all things, a used diaper in our garden. I'm pretty sure it's not ours, so I guess the foxes must have been having some fun last night, transporting neighborhood rubbish across garden walls.

We've had some field poppies show up once again this year, a legacy of those (successful) wildflower seeds we planted back in the summer of 2015. Every year since, the poppies have grown in and around the pot where the wildflowers were planted. Persistent little devils! (Happily!)

Dave and I spent yesterday mostly at home, working in the garden. The weather was ideal, sunny and warm but not too warm. Our comfrey and milk parsley plants arrived, and I put those in the wildflower garden. (Can I just reiterate how much I hate digging holes? Possibly my least favorite garden activity.) The milk parsley is supposed to get very tall and impressive, so although it doesn't look like much now, hopefully by the end of the summer we'll have something photo-worthy there.

I also took Olga to the cemetery, where -- despite the fact that we haven't had any rain recently -- she was able to find a puddle:

(Yes, you can hear me whisper "Jesus!" at the very end of the video. It was meant affectionately, I swear, although someone did need a bath after that walk and it wasn't me.)

I called my mom in Florida and talked to her for half an hour or so. We usually try to Skype but it's such a pain to set a time via e-mails, and then we both have to remember and be logged in correctly and that can be harder than it sounds. So I just called her on her landline, which I can also do via Skype and it costs pennies. I told her I meant to do it more often, like every few weeks, and Mom said, "No, that's too much! Once a month!" Which is so classically something my mom would say.

So that was pretty much our Sunday. I didn't read the news and have no idea what's going on in the world, and I'm happy about that. I did read about a quarter of "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng, which I'm really enjoying. I always find myself wanting more time to read, but the truth is, there's almost always something else to do. My best reading time is between "customers" at work!

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Harold Wood to Upminster -- and DONE!

I did my final section of the LOOP yesterday -- the four miles from Harold Wood to Upminster. I sabotaged myself by accidentally leaving home without my map, but then I thought, "No problem -- I'll just call it up on my phone." (I download the maps from the TFL web site.) And then I discovered to my horror that my phone only had 25 percent battery power!

So that added a frisson of tension to the walk -- knowing that at any moment I might be left mapless. The trails are marked, but the markings aren't designed to define every twist and turn. I can't see following the path without a map. So much for my years of Boy Scout training!

But by conserving power on the phone I pulled through just fine, following the path as it wandered across a section of woodland known as Pages Wood and through forests along the Ingrebourne River.

I spotted bright blue damselflies, known as banded demoiselles, fluttering among the tall grass near the riverbank.

I walked the edges of a field full of what looked like pea plants, where a crow was barely keeping his head above the foliage.

And I passed a pair of lazy goats lounging on a raised wooden platform in a fenced yard. They didn't seem interested in me at all.

And then I was back in Upminster again, where I started this walk last August! The windmill, built in 1803, is sadly still under renovation, just as it was when I passed last time. I guess I'll have to make a special trip out there if I ever want to see it, sometime after this year when the work is scheduled to be completed.

It was cool to be back in a slightly familiar place. Remember this shop? I photographed it last year but it was closed, so I missed all the fun stuff outside that truly conveys the Unique nature of the merchandise! Dave was upset that I didn't buy the stormtrooper, but for one thing (and there are many reasons why I didn't buy it) I don't see how I could have gotten it home.

Anyway, that's that! The LOOP, all 150 miles of it, has been trod by my own two feet. Kind of crazy, right?

I had elaborate plans to throw away my LOOP-walking shoes (AKA the dog-walking shoes) when I finished, because they are very bedraggled, but they seem like they may have some life in them yet. Maybe I'll use them for gardening.