Thursday, January 17, 2019

A Leafy Forecourt

While walking Olga over the weekend I snapped a picture of the entrance to a block of flats on Finchley Road. I envisioned giving the photo the Waterlogue treatment, and indeed it makes a nice watercolor. Here's the original:

My neighbor with the bright light hasn't had it on the past few mornings -- or evenings either. Maybe someone else protested. (Or do they read my blog? Surely not.)

I got word that my high school graduating class is holding its 35th reunion this year. I probably won't go -- it's at the end of April, which isn't a great time for travel, given that we're still in school. I went to my 20th and I had a blast, but that was in the days just before Facebook. I don't feel the same need to see everyone again now that I'm in touch with them through social media, you know? I might go to my 50th, assuming I live that long.

Yesterday I finished going through all the library patrons in our computer system and removing those who no longer attend the school. If this seems like an endless task to those of you who read about it here before, imagine how it feels to me! But I took a long break between the first and last halves of the list. Overall I probably took 100 people out of the system -- some of whom had been invited to attend the school but never actually came. Why they got imported as library patrons I have no idea.

Dave and I watched most of "Bird Box" on Netflix last night. I had to see what was motivating all these crazy YouTubers to try to drive blindfolded and whatnot. It's an entertaining movie, I suppose, but far-fetched. We still have to finish it, so don't give away the ending!

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

A Meeting at London Bridge

I had a Royal Photographic Society meeting last night near London Bridge. Naturally I brought along the camera and, with a couple of hours to kill between work and the meeting, wandered around taking some night shots of London. (That's Tower Bridge and HMS Belfast in the photo above, which was taken from London Bridge.)

I haven't done anything with the RPS in a while, partly because I fell out of contact with them. I maintained my membership but last spring I stopped getting their e-mail newsletters and other electronic notifications. A few weeks ago I got word of this meeting by snail mail, in a letter that said I'd "opted not to receive e-mails." That was news to me! Turns out I got automatically removed from the e-mail list because of the EU's new data protection laws. Doh!

So I rectified that and hopefully now I'll be more involved and aware.

A speaker at last night's meeting talked about his successful street photography and showed us a series of pictures. He was interesting, and his pictures were great, but man, did he go on. He must have shown us 100 images, or it felt like that, anyway. Someone needed an editor. I don't want to look at that many pictures from even the best photographer in the world, especially on a work night when I'm tired and I've had wine and the time is approaching 10 p.m.

Dave called in sick to work today. He's feeling really fatigued again. I think he needs to go back to the doctor and have another chat about managing his Crohn's.

Meanwhile, the British government is in rebellion over Brexit and no one knows what's going to happen there. I feel sorry for Theresa May, who has tried valiantly to negotiate a way through the hellish terrain on this completely unnecessary trek. She gets points for persistence and determination, and I don't see anyone else in government -- certainly not the weasel-like Jeremy Corbyn -- who I would prefer as prime minister. Apparently most Leavers just don't believe the country will come to harm if we drop out of the EU with no deal at all. It's sort of like Trump's supporters who blindly support him despite all evidence of his buffoonery. We are in a place where reason and evidence mean nothing, and I fear we're driving over a cliff.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

What Light Through Yonder Window Breaks?

I was lying in bed this morning (wondering what on earth I was going to blog about) when I decided to get up and get a drink of water. It was about 4:30 and not quite time to get up. Olga and Dave were both snoring away.

I came out to the kitchen and noticed a lot of light spilling across the living room floor. I thought, "Wow, there must be a full moon!" But when I came to the back door, I realized what I was seeing wasn't the moon at all. It was the light from a neighbors' distant window!

They have a globe-shaped ceiling fixture that clearly contains an approximately 3,000-watt bulb -- bright enough to illuminate our bird feeders and the plants in our back garden. This is a good example of something I wouldn't even have noticed when our next-door neighbor's gigantic Leyland cypress tree was intact. But now that the tree is gone, that light comes right at us.

As you can see, they were the only lit window in the whole neighborhood. Everyone else was sensibly asleep, or at least wandering around in a dark house.

The moon, by the way, is waxing gibbous at about 60 percent at the moment, and as I write this I'm not sure it's even above the horizon. I don't see it, but perhaps I am temporarily blinded by my neighbor's chandelier. (Looking now at a moonrise/moonset timetable, I see that it slipped below the horizon at 1:14 a.m.)

Getting that picture was no easy task. I had to shoot manually and I don't have a tripod, so I had to hold the camera as super-still as possible with a very high ISO and slow exposure (3.2 seconds) while standing outside the back door with my bare feet on the patio. Brrrr!

Monday, January 14, 2019

Moon Street, a Film Crew and a Big Green Cat

I was feeling a bit cooped up yesterday morning. The sky was gray and although I briefly walked the dog, I'd resigned myself to spending the day more or less inside. But as the morning wore on the sun came out weakly, and I decided to take a walk through Islington.

I started at King's Cross and walked east on Pentonville Road and north through Barnsbury. One of my goals was Cloudesley Square, a neat little neighborhood of white townhouses surrounding a square with a church in the middle. Unfortunately what I took to be the front of the church is under construction and covered with scaffolding -- so here it is from the back.

I came across this street art of Tina Turner, which is pretty cool. I especially love the little hand-written message above the art itself: "Why did Obama go?"

I found a tiny street called Moon Street -- this is pretty much all of it. Doesn't that sound like a great address? I'd love to be able to tell someone I lived at 9 Moon Street in London. It's very Harry Potterish. (And it has the added benefit of sharing a name with Ms. Moon.)

As I walked north near Upper Street, I passed this peculiar group. The man and woman in front (not recognizable to me) were being followed by a film crew including a cameraman and someone carrying a long microphone boom. Then there's that guy in a high-vis vest with a blanket on his head (?) and the guy walking dogs and wearing headphones. It's not a great shot -- I only had time for one -- but you get the point.

For lunch, I stopped at a Starbucks near the Highbury and Islington overground station. I wouldn't normally go to lunch at Starbucks but we have gift cards given to us by Dave's students, so I'm trying to use them. The cashier was a young man, I would guess of Eritrean or Ethiopian descent, who heard my accent and asked if I was on holiday. When he heard I'm originally from Florida he said, "Seriously, man. Why would you move here from Florida?"

Florida's mythology still carries a lot of weight.

(Side note: Dave and I just watched a four-part British TV show called "Dale Winton's Florida Fly-Drive," in which the well-known British TV host travels around Florida, from St. Augustine to Miami to St. Petersburg and even Weeki Wachee. He was a funny guy, quite camp, and I got a kick out of seeing Florida through his eyes. I was shocked to read just now that he died last April -- I had no idea when we were watching the show that he was no longer with us. I probably saw news of his death at the time but didn't know who he was.)

Anyway, back to my walk. I couldn't resist photographing a shop whose URL is ""!

I walked north through Holloway and finished up in Archway, passing a rendition of Dick Whittington's Cat covered in sempervivum plants -- they're called house leeks here in England, but in the states I knew them as hen-and-bitties or hen-and-chicks. Pretty creative!

All in all, it was an excellent day out. As usual, I felt much better engaging with the city and getting some exercise!

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Days of Darkness

I always forget how little we see the sun at this time of year. The days pass in a kind of twilight gray, especially when the sky is overcast. The low light leads me to seek out other sources of photographic inspiration!

Olga and I came across the lighting store above when we walked to Childs Hill Park yesterday morning. Wonder what their electricity bill is like?

The park and the landscape are looking very wintry too, and I've been paying more attention to some of the plants. The gardening shows always advise planting species that provide "winter interest," which usually means tufts of grass or colored stems. These shrubs at Childs Hill definitely show off the latter.

We've been thinking more about our own garden, in preparation for pruning and getting it ready for action in spring. We have a tree-trimmer coming on Wednesday to give estimates for some trimming jobs we need done -- nothing too major.

Our daffodils and crocuses are sending up green spiky shoots!

Some of you asked to see Dave's new chair. Here it is, with the loveseat that it displaced pushed into the corner behind it. I suppose we need to call the council and arrange for that thing to be removed. It's not worth giving away -- part of its internal framework is broken. It's landfill-bound. (Or wherever furniture goes to die in London -- besides the street!)

Oh, speaking of debris on the street, I asked my neighbor about the abandoned Christmas tree in front of our house. He said it is indeed theirs and he'll take it to the recycling spot. I asked if he needed help and he said no, that he'd do it this weekend. As of this moment it has not moved.

Last night Dave was making dinner and he had an amazing little blue Le Creuset pot on the stove. "Where did you get that?" I asked him. "You found it for me," he said. (!) I had no memory of this pot at all, but he's right -- I found it walking the dog a couple of years ago.

I must be losing my mind.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

The Right Chair

Olga has an upset stomach this morning. There's lots of gurgling going on, and she demanded to be let out at 5 a.m. She probably ate something mysterious, as is typical for her. She seems better now, having spent twenty minutes foraging for grass in the garden.

Do you remember our wayward recliner? I'm sure you don't, because I barely remembered it myself. Last year, I ordered Dave a La-Z-Boy recliner for his 50th birthday. I placed the order in May, with his birthday at the end of June. I thought it might come in time. (Ha!)

It finally arrived at the beginning of September, and when it did, it was the wrong chair. (Click the link above for the whole story.) So we sent it back in exchange for the correct one. And we waited some more.

To be honest, I pretty much forgot about the whole thing. Every once in a while I'd think, "Oh, I've got to find out where that chair is." And then life would intervene and another week or two would pass. In late December I got an e-mail from the furniture company thanking me for my order, which seemed odd, since I hadn't recently been in touch with them.

I finally called early this week, and lo and behold, the chair was finished. (I guess that's what I was supposed to infer from that thank-you e-mail?)

The delivery guys showed up yesterday, parked illegally across the street, carried the chair past our neighbor's discarded Christmas tree and up our front steps, and through the house to our living room. They unwrapped it and set it up and voila, Dave finally has a recliner.

Last night, he ooohed and aaaahed as he sat down and reclined, and then he fell asleep during "The Romanoffs" (which I love, by the way) and he wound up sleeping in the chair at least part of the night. When I went to bed I tried to wake him up and he wouldn't budge. I guess he likes it!

(Photo: A windowsill in the library as I was locking up last night, around 4:58 p.m.)

Friday, January 11, 2019

Trash Rage

I often pass this street corner while walking Olga in the mornings. It always looks like this -- piled high with trash bags and boxes and various pieces of discarded paraphernalia. There were fax machines here for a while, and hubcaps, and now there are bags of what looks like roofing material.

This is just one of the problem areas in our neighborhood where trash seems to perpetually accumulate. I think some of it comes from nearby businesses and/or the apartment dwellers who live above the shops. They don't appear to have trash bins. Instead, they set their bags out on the sidewalk. The problem is, they don't just set them out on trash collection day. They're out there for days and days at a time.

I know I've complained about our trash collection, or the lack thereof, in the past. I maintain that London, as a whole, doesn't manage solid waste disposal very well. I realize millions of people live here in close quarters, and that's got to be a challenge. But I lived in Manhattan for a decade and I didn't see nearly as much loose trash as I do here.

A local magazine, the Hampstead Village Voice, recently did some articles about the problem. (They headlined that issue of the magazine "Dumpstead" -- you can see its front cover taped to the pole in the top photo. I didn't put it there, I swear.) The contractor responsible for trash collection in the Borough of Camden -- which includes Hampstead -- told the magazine that "Camden's approach is to use less on-street bins as they attract fly-tipping." (Fly-tipping means unauthorized dumping.)

I don't understand that rationale at all. Seems to me like we have fly-tipping now. It's not just businesses and residents lacking their own bins -- there are very few public trash cans, too. In New York there was a can on every street corner. In London, you sometimes have to walk long distances to find one. A lot of people give up, and dump their drink cups and dog poo bags and fast-food wrappers beneath the nearest tree.

It sounds like the borough doesn't want to be responsible for having to empty bins, so they resort to an almost Soviet desire to redefine reality by pretending the trash will simply not appear.

But appear it does. We're all living with it. We wade through it every morning and every evening.

At this time of the year, to make things even more exciting, we have discarded Christmas trees to step around. The council has set up tree-recycling locations throughout the borough, but many people apparently can't be bothered to carry their trees there. Instead they abandon them on the sidewalk. One has been abandoned directly in front of our house, in fact. (Perhaps by our upstairs neighbors?) Dave and I will probably wind up carrying it to the recycling collection point ourselves.

It makes me nuts that people can't dispose of trash more responsibly, and why does the borough make it so difficult? Each problem feeds the other. What we're left with is an omnipresence of filth.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

In a Rush, but Well-Rested

I went to bed well before my bedtime last night, slept solidly, woke up when Dave got out of bed at 6 a.m., then fell asleep again until 7. So now I'm feeling a bit of urgency, shall we say, to get up and get moving because otherwise I am going to be seriously late to work! I'm not sure why I was so tired.

I did have a busy day yesterday. The eighth-graders are launching their interviewing project, which means I'm doing my annual dog-and-pony show -- drawing on my past as a journalist -- about how to conduct a good interview. I spoke to two classes yesterday and I'll be facing two more today. I'll be so glad when this is over. I always feel a sense of dread when I have to get up in front of a group of students, which makes me all the more impressed that teachers do it every day.

I also had a meeting of the mission review committee. But still, it's not like I was doing anything requiring that much extra exertion.

So, who knows? Sometimes I think the conditions are just right and we catch up on our rest, even when we haven't noticed that we're behind. And now, off to work!

(Photo: A Chinese restaurant in Kensington.)

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Retro Goodies and a Doomed Apple

Since yesterday's post was so long and wordy, let's have a visual one today -- photos from the ol' iPhone!

First, a monstrous early-morning shadow on the windshield of our borrowed car in Florida. Creepy yet tropical, kind of like the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

I came across this sticker on the street in West Hampstead. Having once received a hand-poked tattoo, I'm not sure what the advantage is -- except that like film or vinyl records, it has a sort of retro romanticism. (I've mentioned my tattoo a couple of times before.)

Merry Christmas from the dog statue on Broomsleigh Street!

I came across more discarded cassettes the other day while walking Olga. This was an interesting assortment, everything from Simon & Garfunkel, The Rolling Stones and The Cult (whoever they were) to Doris Day. Someone had eclectic tastes!

This '50s dinnerware was on display in the V&A. I actually used to own a few pieces of this pattern, called "Homemaker," which was British. I bought mine at a thrift shop in Plant City, Fla., of all places. I don't have it now -- I think I gave it to some friends. Museum pieces! Who would have believed it?!

Speaking of museum pieces, I found this phone waiting for a taker on a garden wall near our flat. I didn't take it, but I bet someone did. (Actually, I don't think it's that old -- it has touch-tone buttons. It's just made to look old.)

And speaking of finding things, I came across this apple on a sink in a bathroom at work. I felt sorry for it, because although it looked fine, it was as good as garbage. Nobody, and I mean nobody, wants an apple found in a public restroom.

Finally, this was the view yesterday afternoon in our library reference room, with a blazing sun lighting up our west-facing windows. In England, a sunny day in winter is always a thing to be appreciated!

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

The World's Worst Record Reviewer

One of my blog pals, the esteemed Mr. Yorkshire Pudding, just wrote a post about the Internet and the many ways it has changed our lives. For better or worse, it has made a wealth of information quickly and conveniently available, in ways that could only have been dreamed of 30 years ago.

Here, in roundabout fashion, is an example from my own private files. When I was in college in the '80s, I was a writer on the student newspaper. The great thing about writing for student publications is that you wind up doing everything -- writing and editing news, features, headlines, editorials and columns. In my three years on the paper, I worked on every section except sports.

One day in early 1987, a colleague suggested I write a record review. I don't remember what prompted the suggestion -- I was probably enthusiastic about a new album that arrived in the office mail. What followed was an uninspired, sporadic foray into music reviewing that lasted all of about four articles.

My first outing was with Peter, Paul and Mary's album "No Easy Walk to Freedom." I began by asserting, quite incorrectly, that social comment in music was "coming back into vogue after a lengthy hiatus." Where I got the idea that it had ever left is anyone's guess. (My editor, with whom I had frequent political disagreements, snidely headlined the article "Social Comment Returns." Somehow that succinctness made my premise seem doubly ridiculous.)

I followed that up with a thumpingly idiotic review of Suzanne Vega's album "Solitude Standing," which I blithely pronounced was "unlikely to garner her any new fans." (It went on to become the biggest success of her career.) I called "Tom's Diner," one of the better-known tracks, "too long" and "irritating." The song "Luka," which became a top-ten hit and earned Grammy nominations, I called "commercial and nondescript" and I professed to be unable to tell what it was about.

In what was probably my most accurate review, I wrote glowingly of Carly Simon's album "Coming Around Again." But here's where I could have used the Internet. I suspected that Simon, singing about believing in oneself and in love, might have been inspired by her own healing after her divorce from James Taylor. I tried and tried to find out if "Coming Around Again" was her first record following that divorce. I called the record company's publicists, and they flatly refused to tell me, saying they wouldn't discuss Ms. Simon's private life.

Finally, after enduring my multiple phone calls and repeated pleading, a publicist confided on the sly that it was not Simon's first post-divorce album. Not to be daunted by mere facts, I slipped my theory into the story anyway. Now I see -- online, of course -- that she and Taylor divorced in 1983 and she released an album called "Spoiled Girl" in 1985. She did, however, remarry in 1987, the year of "Coming Around Again," so I suspect my assessment was correct.

Finally, I reviewed Tuck & Patti's album "Tears of Joy," which I called "a jazz-vocals album that deserves accolades." I wasn't wrong about that.

I went on to do occasional entertainment writing (but not reviewing) in my professional career. Let me just say, writing this blog post was so much easier than getting background for any of those articles. Album names, dates, awards, chart positions, movie casts, an actor's previous roles -- it's all there at the touch of a button. Of course, the Internet also exploded the whole concept of a music "album," and we have to worry that what we're finding online isn't true!

(Photo: A covered walkway in Knightsbridge, near the Harvey Nichols department store.)

Monday, January 7, 2019

A Weekend in Pictures

Well, here we are, in January -- another month of thin blueish daylight and chilly (although thankfully so far not frigid) temperatures. I went to Kensington yesterday, to the V&A, and found that some shops and cafes still had their holiday decorations up. (At least, I assume that doorway is a holiday decoration. Surely it's not like that all the time?)

I passed this intriguing stack of wrapped boxes next to a trash can. I'm sure they're empty, used for some type of store display, but I couldn't help having an urge to unwrap them! (I bet someone did.)

But I'm getting ahead of myself, because that was yesterday. On Saturday I stayed home and read, for the most part. I churned through a stack of magazines that accumulated during our absence in Florida, and I took Olga to Fortune Green and the cemetery.

She found her namesake!

On Saturday evening, Dave and I watched Netflix's new movie phenomenon, "Black Mirror: Bandersnatch." It's a sort of choose-your-own-ending adventure in which the viewer is presented with options at several points, and can select one or the other. I told Dave before we watched it that I was a bit nervous because I was sure I'd have to see all the possible outcomes, and indeed that's what happened. We watched it once, making our choices, and then we flipped through it again to see what would happen had we gone another route. We basically watched it at least twice, and we still didn't get to all of the endings, according to what's been reported.

Fun fact: Part of the movie was filmed at Trellick Tower, a building that has long interested me and that I once visited.

On Sunday morning, Olga and I walked through Kilburn. The gigantic scaffold covering some new housing over Kilburn Grange Park is looking a little windblown these days.

After our walk, I cleaned the house and even vacuumed under the bed, which was an involved process. I basically had to take it apart -- upend the mattress and the frame, both of which are heavy, and run the vacuum on the floor beneath before reassembling and remaking it. Now I don't have to think about it for another six months or so.

Afterwards I went for my Kensington walk. I saw this mob of rollerbladers -- at least 50 of them, I'm guessing -- rolling down Harrington Road while blaring Kim Wilde's song "Kids in America." Kind of surreal. Not something you expect to see in January!

At the V&A I explored the new photography galleries and some other areas too. It's a fun museum for getting lost -- and it's so vast it's almost impossible not to. As it got dark I took the bus back home, where I ended the day with a martini as Dave and I watched (and mocked) the Episode 2 film of "Star Wars." I'm not sure I ever saw that movie before. I'm also not sure I care.

Sunday, January 6, 2019


Remember how my stepmother gave Dave and me some old cookbooks that belonged to her grandmother? We found this little pamphlet tucked inside one of them. I love the bright color scheme and '30s graphics!

I looked up Walker's Austex to see if the brand still exists. Austex chili sauce is still available, and I assume it's the descendant of this earlier brand, having been bought and sold by different food conglomerates over the years. Apparently Austex and some related brands were connected with cases of botulism about ten years ago. Yikes!

Mexene chili powder still exists, too, produced by another manufacturer. That fun bright red devil is no longer on the label.

This is the inside. The recipes seem rather uninspired, but maybe they weren't back then, when surely Mexican food was a very exotic thing to many Americans.

(I'm just noticing that the brochure spells chili like the country, Chile. Apparently this is a Spanish-language spelling often used in the Southwest. To make things even more interesting, the British use two Ls, spelling it "chilli.")

By the way, you may notice that "NRA" logo at the bottom-right corner. It gave me pause, too! But it's not the NRA we all know and, um, love. Instead it's the National Recovery Administration, a federal agency that existed between 1933 and 1935 to curb the excesses of capitalism and ensure better treatment for workers -- a forerunner of the National Labor Relations Act.

And there you have it -- a colorful little piece of history in our cookbooks!

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Four Historic Views

Dave and I went to the Black Lion, one of our local pubs, on Wednesday with some of our pals from school. At one point I noticed the staircase was adorned with old photos of West Hampstead, including several areas I frequent. It was cool to see images of the 'hood from 100 years ago!

Above, for example, is Achilles Road, one of the "Greek Streets" adjacent to Fortune Green. (None of the pictures are dated, unfortunately.)

Here's the same view today. Cars, cars everywhere!

This is West End Lane, right near the West Hampstead tube station. In fact, you can see the "Underground" sign between the two ornately gabled roofs.

Here's that view today. Different "Underground" sign, but the buildings are pretty much the same.

This is Mill Lane, at the corner of Aldred Road. Again, no cars!

And here's the view today. The Tiffin Tin, which has replaced the "Elliott" shop on the corner, is a good place for Indian food. I can't tell from the old photo what "Elliott" was, but a sign in the window says it sold both Rowntree's Chocolates and Fry's Chocolate. Was it a grocer, or specifically a candy store? Hmmmm...

And finally, here's Fortune Green itself. I think the child on the right is pushing a hobby horse.

And here's Fortune Green today. Lots more trees! The area to the left is now a fenced, dog-free football field, while to the right are some dog-friendly grassy areas. I take Olga here for a romp fairly often.

It's remarkable how little the streetscapes have changed, overall.

Friday, January 4, 2019

My Famous Ex-Flat

Dave and I had a surreal experience yesterday.

It began at work, where I was talking to some co-workers during our morning "visioning" exercise regarding the school's mission. One told me in passing that a fellow colleague had recently been featured on an episode of the American TV show "House Hunters International." The show follows the efforts of a featured guest to find an apartment in some overseas location -- in this case, obviously, in London.

Now, I knew that this particular co-worker had been living in our previous flat in Notting Hill. So I asked her whether she'd moved. No, it turns out -- the flat featured on the show was our old one. The show simply documented her search before she moved in.


Needless to say, when we got home last night, Dave and I tracked down the episode right away. And here it is! Our flat is the no. 2 option on the show -- the one eventually chosen by my co-worker and her partner, with the help of a real estate agent and his over-anesthetized puppy.

It was so bizarre to see our previous bathroom, our wardrobes, our spacious kitchen, the view from our balcony, the fireplace that Olga loved so much -- all on TV. It's weird that the flat was mostly unfurnished, because when we rented it it had furniture, and it was all still there when we moved out in 2014. Maybe the interim renter or the owners disposed of it for some reason.

At any rate, if you feel like watching a fun and entertaining show about London real estate, as well as having a look at our former abode, click the link above. I'm just one step removed from reality TV! (And maybe a few steps closer to Kevin Bacon?)

(Photo: Graffiti on the train tracks in West Hampstead, shot during an early morning walk with Olga.)

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Afflicted, and a Ditzy Moment

I've come down with a cold. Argh! I'd blame the airplane, but I think it was already hitting before I left Florida. I was sneezing and my nose was bothering me even then. Now it's a full-on, eye-watering, nose-running extravaganza. Fun!

And of course today is my first day back at work, and I can't miss it because -- among other things -- we're meeting to discuss the school mission. (You'll remember that I'm on the committee to possibly rewrite our mission statement.) So I'll be chugging the Lemsip and toting Kleenexes in my pocket, and doing my best not to touch anyone, and hopefully that will get us all through with a minimum of hazard. (The students aren't back until Monday.)

I've been thinking of a few odds and ends about our Florida trip that I never blogged. Since I have nothing much else to report today, let me take note of those:

-- I spotted the sign above outside a motel in St. Augustine. I love its retro feel, but clearly it's pretty modern, since it references both the Internet and Airbnb! That's one tech-savvy mermaid.

-- On the plane from England, I was amused to see a woman wearing a plain gray sweatshirt bearing the words, "My dog thinks I'm cool."

-- Speaking of sweatshirts, I have one from a British tree-trimming company called Tree Wise Men. (It was abandoned on a fence years ago at the housing estate where we used to live. After I left it there for about a week and no one came back to claim it, I washed it and kept it myself.) Anyway, I was wearing the shirt in Ocala when we stopped for lunch at a Burger King. A man sitting behind me said, "I like the name of your company. Clever!" And instinctively, I said, "Thanks!" -- even though of course I had nothing to do with naming the company.

-- Dave and I saw this car in a parking lot in Jacksonville. Have you ever heard the B-52's song "Devil in My Car"?

-- Here's another rehabilitated old sign. This one stood outside a legendary downtown Tampa burger joint that closed years ago. A well-known restaurateur bought the sign and the name and resurrected the business in a fashionable neighborhood. We ate there one morning and loved it.

-- I've talked a lot about Dave forgetting his computer, but I haven't mentioned my own brainless mistake. We popped into a Winn-Dixie in Bradenton to buy Dave's mom some flowers. When we took them to a cashier, he rang them up and I chose to get $20 in additional cash from my debit card. That brought my total to $36. "Those flowers are $16?!" I said to Dave, incredulous. I was so shocked that I walked out of the store without my $20, and didn't realize it until several hours later. By then it was too late to do anything. Argh!

Wednesday, January 2, 2019


After a morning of puttering around the house, doing things like vacuuming (how does a house get dirty when no one is in it?) and adding soil to a cyclamen on the front porch that had been excavated by a squirrel, I inaugurated the new year by taking Olga to Hampstead Heath.

We passed these posters on the way. Olga had hoped to go to the NYE party at Club de Fromage. Look at her -- she's so disappointed she turned her back to it.

We found this chewed-up rainbow dog ball on the Heath. The stratified layers remind me of a class I took in college called "Geology of National Parks," in which we learned all about the rock layers of the Grand Canyon. The only one I remember now is the Vishnu schist, clearly represented here by that red area.

London's earliest clump of snowdrops is once again blooming before any others. At least they're consistent!

After all the cleaning, organizing and walking, we took it easy in the evening. While Dave worked on music for school, I watched "Buster and Billie," an old favorite, even with its ultimately tragic outcome. I like the rural Southern atmosphere, although it struck me this time that there are no black people in that movie, which is pretty bizarre considering it's set in rural Georgia in 1948. I suppose their absence conveys the depth of segregation in that society. Jan-Michael Vincent was certainly a looker; it's a shame his life later took such a turn for the worse.