Monday, June 17, 2019

More iPhone Photos


I was pretty domestic yesterday, doing errands around the house. So I don't have a lot of news for you. Let's catch up on photos from the ol' iPhone!

First, I liked these dramatic jet trails, with that big shaggy pollarded tree in the foreground. The council trims street trees like that to keep the root systems stunted so they're not as destructive to sidewalks and roads.


I found a German math textbook in the library a week or two before school ended. No idea whose it was or why it was there, but it was falling apart. I just left it and someone came and claimed it.


The takeaway restaurant with the dying plants near the tube station now appears to have closed completely. I never went to this place -- I saw somewhere online that it had dubious food hygiene ratings. Hopefully whatever replaces it will be better!


Another view of my neighbor's hugging frogs.


Olga and I found this can yesterday morning. Someone had tossed it onto the sidewalk from the nearby railroad tracks. I never drink Coke, much less Cherry Coke, but I had a hunch this was an old can. Sure enough...


...if the copyright is any indication, it's been lying around for as long as 17 years. And it's in Polish! (I think it was originally black-on-red, but the red has faded away entirely.)


Then we walked to the cemetery, where Olga lolled in the long grass -- her favorite thing to do. (Well, besides eat and sleep and chase squirrels.)


At the cemetery I saw this amazing geranium. Isn't that a beautiful variegated leaf? I've got to get some of these!

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Nature's Jewelry


Olga and I walked to the Heath yesterday, where we found this colorful pair of thick-legged flower beetles (Oedemera nobilis). I don't recall ever seeing a gold variety of this insect before -- only green ones. And so cool to find them together! I always call these "David Bowie beetles," with their glittery shiny shells and those expanded legs. They're like jewelry.

Anyway, we had a good walk. (When do we not?) Olga never used to be a barker, but now she barks all the time. It's the strangest thing. If we ever stop momentarily she drops her ball and barks repeatedly, but she won't let me pick it up or throw it. She's saying, "Ha! I have it and you don't!"


Here's yesterday's bit of found pottery. I have quite a bowl of these chips accumulating on the dining room windowsill!

Last night I subjected Dave to another old movie -- "Farewell, My Lovely" from 1975. We watched it in honor of Sylvia Miles, who died this week. I know her mainly from "Midnight Cowboy," one of my favorite movies, where she plays Cass, the high-rise glamazon who seduces Joe Buck and then wheedles cash out of him. She has some of the best lines in the film. I'd never seen "Farewell, My Lovely," which features her other most prominent movie role. It's a noir murder mystery based on Raymond Chandler and truthfully, it's over the top -- it's so noir that it's almost a parody, with the hard-bitten detective uttering crisp one-liners in between hails of bullets. (About ten people die during the course of the film.) But she's great, as is Robert Mitchum, who plays Philip Marlowe.

So, yeah, we toasted Sylvia. Or I did, anyway. Dave tolerated her.

Also on the pop culture front, I finished Jeannette Walls' book "The Glass Castle" yesterday -- an excellent read. It reminds me of Tara Westover's "Educated" in that it's about a girl with a very unconventional, isolated, even abusive family who somehow manages to extract herself and go on to great things. Definitely recommended.

This is what summer is going to be -- me, wandering around with the dog and discovering nature and reading and watching movies and gardening. After this week, that is. I haven't mentioned it yet, but this week I'm going to Germany for a five-day teacher-training course at the European Institute of Applied Buddhism, part of the Plum Village community led by Thich Nhat Hanh. One of my colleagues is leading the course, and as I used to practice Buddhism when I lived in New York, I thought it would be interesting to attend. (My professional development allowance through school even pays for it!) I leave on Tuesday, and I'll take you all with me! Should be interesting!

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Fox and Egg


Finally, FINALLY, school is out for the summer. The end of school always seems like such a protracted affair. There are assemblies and parties and speeches and more parties and then a final, all-together-now assembly for staff and faculty -- that was yesterday morning. And that entailed more speeches, and then there was another party, in the school's gym. Wine was served, but I didn't have any. After Wednesday, the very thought turned my stomach.

I ducked out of the party after about half an hour, and came home to work in the garden. I picked up a ton of squirrel-gnawed walnuts from our tree, and deadheaded the roses. I admired our big yellow lupine (above), which is new. For some reason our blue lupine died over the winter, so we got yellow and red ones to replace it.


I also discovered our Solomon's seal was once again infested with sawfly larvae, which (as you can see) were making quick work of eating the leaves. We don't spray, so I had to get rid of them the old-fashioned way -- squashing them with a paper towel. Probably the least appealing of all gardening tasks.

I hate to kill anything, and will usually go out of my way to avoid it, but those guys are just too "belligerent and numerous," in the words of Morbo. Well, OK, maybe not belligerent, but certainly destructive. If I let them live our plant would be stripped bare.


This is blooming now in the wildflower garden, amid the blue borage and the bright pink valerian. I haven't a clue what it is. Anybody know?


Finally, I'm posting late today because I wanted to edit and upload this video from our garden cam. We had an egg in the fridge that was a bit past its expiration date -- still perfectly good, but we thought rather than eat it ourselves, we'd give it to our garden fox. So we boiled it, cooled it and set it out in the back of the garden by the shed.

As you can see, our little fox appreciated it! I'm pretty sure this is the same fox that ventured into our house several days ago. You can see he appears in the video even before I put out the egg -- just his tail, disappearing behind the shed. Then I set the egg out and about an hour later, the fox discovers it and nibbles away for several minutes. (As usual, the dates and times on the garden cam videos are wrong. I just can't be bothered to reset them every time I turn on the cam. The real time was about five hours behind what you see there -- so the fox discovered the egg around 10:45 p.m.)

Doesn't "Fox and Egg" sound like the name of a pub?

Friday, June 14, 2019

One More Day


Well, we're down to just one more day, and then it's "No more teachers, no more books!" Today isn't even really a workday. It's our year-end assembly, where we recognize all the people who are leaving or retiring, and then we have a buffet lunch -- usually out on the playground, but the weather is so terrible we'll probably wind up in the gym instead.

And then we're free!

I survived yesterday, but only barely. I felt like the walking dead -- so tired and fuzzy-minded and burdened with toxins! It's been a long time since I've had a true hangover. I don't know what I was thinking, spending eight hours at an office party. On a boat. In the rain.

My former co-worker Lindsey stopped by yesterday to say hello. She and her husband now live in Yangon, Myanmar, where they both work at a school. It was great to see her and hear about her adventures. She's going to be in and around London for part of this summer, so we'll get together again before she heads back to Southeast Asia.


This is Olga's morning nap spot, on the rug in the dining room. That's when there's any sun -- which, at the moment, there's not. I took this picture about two weeks ago.

Dave and I started watching "When They See Us," Netflix's show about the Central Park Five, last night. It's excellent. I remember that case, and the scary depictions of "wilding" (whatever that meant) in the press at the time. I didn't immediately realize what a miscarriage of justice it was -- few people did -- although some of the players dispute the facts as presented in the series. It makes me want to find a good objective account (does such a thing exist?) to read about what really transpired. There's certainly no doubt those kids were wrongly convicted, and seeing the trial and dearth of evidence as depicted by the show, it's hard for me to imagine how a racially mixed jury reached a guilty verdict.

(Top photo: A colorful driveway at a construction site in Hampstead.)

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Wine and More Wine


Yesterday was our last day with students, and the library was surprisingly busy through the morning. (The girl with six overdue books returned them, by the way. Whew!) But school ended at noon, and business dropped off by 1 p.m., so I closed up shop and walked with a colleague to Little Venice, where our department held its end-of-year party on a canal boat in the Paddington Basin.

It was an interesting venue -- a colorful bar and restaurant docked canalside. It would have been a lot nicer if the weather had cooperated. The door was open onto the boat's deck, and though there was an awning it was pouring rain and not very warm out. But I drank enough wine that I eventually didn't care. The party started at 2 p.m., and I wound up staying well into the evening.

I feel like a zombie this morning. Fortunately, although I have to go in an hour early, I don't think much will be expected of me today. And I'll get to leave earlier in the afternoon. Maybe by then my headache will be gone.

(Photo: Isleworth, West London.)

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Mock Orange


We've had a lot of rain over the past few days and we're supposed to get more. It hasn't been a problem for us personally, but some areas have experienced flooding and transportation breakdowns. The worst Dave and I have seen is that the rain has beaten down some of the plants in the garden. A big branch on our mock orange, already heavy with blossoms, is now drooping low over the lawn with the added weight of water droplets.


The library has continued to be busy with people coming in to get books for the summer. Fortunately the kids are pretty much done so I'm no longer being pestered by demand for computer chargers! We still have middle school students around for half of today, but then they're finished and the next two workdays are just for staff and faculty.

I'm boxing up all the discarded biographies. I went through them with my boss and coworker yesterday, just to make sure I wasn't tossing anything of value, and they agreed with almost all my decisions. I am quite proud of how good the section looks now, I must say!

We had some very strange stuff -- a never-used biography of the band Black Sabbath, for example. Who bought that?

You may be wondering (I'm sure you are!) how well we did getting overdue materials back from kids. As of now, there are still a handful of students with books out -- maybe eight? So not a complete victory (and in fact my worst year so far in terms of retrieving stuff), but not a disaster, either. One ninth-grade girl still has six overdue books, but I'm not seeing any sign that she's going to bring them back until fall. All I can do is ask, write the parents, that kind of thing -- and I did all that. So unless they turn up today, these kids will start next year with frozen accounts. Oh well!

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Weeding the Biographies


I spent yesterday weeding the biography section in the library. It hadn't been done in years and the shelves were getting so full that it was hard to put away books -- full, I should add, of volumes that in many cases no one reads.

Our biographies seem to fall into two categories. There are the gigantic, 800 page tomes that relate every possible detail of their subjects' lives and families. And then there are the slim 40-page books for young readers about famous scientists or musicians or whatever.

Many of those 800-pagers were old and yellowed, and frankly unappealing. What high school student, for example, wants to launch into a gigantic 30-year-old biography of Baudelaire? And some biography subjects are just a little too obscure -- like Jane Boleyn, sister-in-law of the famous Anne. I don't want to seem anti-intellectual, but who cares?

Then there's the stuff that's out of date and needs to be replaced. We had books on Marie Antoinette and Mary Shelley, but they were both at least 40 years old and sadly decrepit.

Some people's legacies have been re-evaluated over time. Frank Lloyd Wright, for example, is still considered a great architect, but his personal life has been the subject of recent scrutiny. We need a new biography that addresses his reputation for womanizing.


The slim volumes, on the other hand, are also ignored, because nowadays, good cursory biographies of most famous scientists, explorers and musicians are available online. Kids just don't check out those skinny books anymore.

So basically, I pulled a heck of a lot of stuff. Maybe a quarter of our biographies overall.

I saved the newer ones that are still getting read, and the classics -- like Robert K. Massie's "Nicholas and Alexandra," or Antonia Fraser's "Mary, Queen of Scots," or Billie Holiday's "Lady Sings the Blues." I still have to go through everything with my boss to make sure she's comfortable with the weed, but I think she will be.

I got so absorbed in the task that I worked all the way through lunch and into the afternoon. When I finally came up for air, it was 3 p.m.! I thought the clock was wrong, but no. I haven't lost track of time that significantly in ages.

(Photos: A shuttered pub in Richmond, southwest London -- reportedly one of the oldest in the area. Hopefully someone will reopen it!)

Monday, June 10, 2019

More Flowers, and a Furry Visitor


Saturday evening, I was lying on the couch reading, with Olga snoozing next to me. The back door was open, and Dave was somewhere else in the house. I saw movement out of the corner of my eye, and at first I thought it was a trick of my glasses -- it was right at the point where the corner of my lens met "real life." I turned slightly, and it was a fox -- INSIDE THE HOUSE, about five feet from the back door and two feet from me!

The fox was watching Olga, whose eyes were (fortunately) closed. I wish I'd thought to try to get a picture with my phone, but instead I said, "Get out!" and waved my arms. The fox scrambled, just like a character in a Bugs Bunny cartoon -- it ran in place for half a second on our smooth wood floor before its feet found purchase. All I could think was, "Oh my God, Olga is going to kill this fox in our living room." I was picturing the blood and wondering how I would clean it up.

But by the time Olga looked up from her nap, none the wiser, the fox had shot out the door. She didn't pursue it. I don't think she realized what happened.

I've heard of foxes coming indoors, but we've never before had it happen here. It was a young fox, maybe even a first-year cub. I had a package of cookies sitting on the floor, and I wonder if that's what brought it in.


I spent yesterday in the garden. As you can see, there's still a lot going on. Our first poppy bloomed (top), and the first flowers opened on the hawkweed (above). Yes, that photo is oriented the right way -- the stem was bent sideways by the weight of the blossom.

The pink petals of our "Bowl of Beauty" peonies unfolded to reveal the shredded coleslaw at their centers:


I mowed the lawn and did some weeding, and I FINALLY planted out the rest of my seedlings -- three burdocks, five honesty plants and three hollyhocks that had been growing in pots. All my seedlings are now in the ground, and it's sink or swim. The honesties seem to do pretty well once they're planted, so I have high hopes for those. The burdocks, on the other hand, tend to get nibbled by snails (or something) -- which is surprising since burdock is basically a weed. Some hollyhocks do better than others -- a few have been eaten -- but we have enough (18!) that at least a couple of them ought to grow big enough to bloom next summer.


Our blue skylovers, a type of pimpernel, are flowering once again. They're supposed to be annuals, but this is their third year! They live in a pot on our patio and just keep coming back, and we haven't been doing anything to protect them in the winter.

Dave and I are watching a terrific TV show called "Chernobyl," a dramatization of the events following the explosion at the Russian nuclear reactor in 1986. It's a British production so I don't know if it's on in the states, but it probably will be at some point. I remember the day Chernobyl blew up -- I was a college student, working as a clerk in the tiny Tampa bureau of the St. Petersburg Times. (That's St. Petersburg in Florida, not Russia!) One of my colleagues heard about it and I think we turned on the TV to find out more. No one was sure how bad it was or what would happen -- there had never been a nuclear accident that big, but we'd all seen movies like "The China Syndrome" that predicted the worst. I don't know that I felt any sense of personal risk, but that might be because I was young and stupid.

I'm also still watching "Bloodline," which in last night's episode featured a murder with a conch shell -- fitting for a show set in the Florida Keys! (Key West is often known as the "Conch Republic.")

Sunday, June 9, 2019

A Jug Handle, and D-Day


Well, yesterday didn't turn out quite as planned, weather-wise. What promised to be a rainy day instead was merely windy and intermittently cloudy. So I wound up taking Olga for a long walk -- we went on our West Heath route, where we saw this ridiculous phone box advertising the "Love Island" fashion collection. Even Olga couldn't help laughing.

Is "Love Island" on in the U.S.? It's a phenomenon here. I've never seen it but my impression is that it's a reality TV show chronicling the activities of scantily-clad young people at a beach resort. I walked past a couple of senior girls in the library the other day and saw that they were watching something on their computer featuring a muscular, shirtless guy. It turned out to be "Love Island."

Being the killjoy librarian that I am, I said, "Shouldn't you be doing something more productive with your school day?" The girls laughed and one said, "Probably." But I don't think they turned it off.


I found a couple of interesting bits of old debris on our Heath walk. This pottery handle must have come from a jug or tureen of some kind, probably 100 years ago or more.


And these bits of glass, marked VER and ER, are the remnants of an old bottle. River Water? Beaver Beer? Who knows.

I also found an abandoned buddleia, or butterfly bush, plant on the Heath. Its root ball was in a tight cylindrical shape, so clearly someone had dumped out a flower pot. It was just lying on top of the ground, so I brought it home -- you can see it behind Olga in that top photo -- and put it in a new, larger pot. Butterfly bushes are a persistent weed in some areas of the UK, particularly along railroad tracks, but in gardens they're beautiful and great for insects.


Speaking of old stuff, I never mentioned the 75th anniversary of D-Day, which passed last week. In the library we put out our old editions of Newsweek from that time period, so students could see real-time news coverage of the events. That had the unfortunate side-effect of also putting on display a Seagram's whiskey ad, but oh well.


Finally, here's what our potatoes are looking like these days. They're like crazy alien plants, so robust and huge! I hope those soil bags are big enough to contain them. Dave's parents -- who come from families of potato-growing farmers in Michigan -- told us last night to wait until they'd stopped blooming, and then we could harvest. They haven't flowered yet, so we've still got some time.

I also read Halle Butler's short novel "The New Me" yesterday. I'd read about it in The New Yorker and it sounded fantastic, so I ordered it for the library. It's an interesting little book -- a portrait of a young woman who can't quite get her life launched, sabotaging herself in myriad ways and struggling with depression and emotional paralysis. It sounds bleak, and it is, but it's also weirdly funny in places. I enjoyed it.

I just watched a blackbird tear apart and eat a slug (YES!) and then an earthworm on our patio. Circle of life!

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Blooming Things


It looks like we're going to have a rainy day around here, and frankly, I'm glad. The garden can always use it, I'll have an excuse to stay in and read, and the dog won't be pestering us to go anywhere. (Though she did wake me up at 4:30 a.m. with her flapping tail, as usual.)

Here's more of what's going on in the garden at the moment:


The Peruvian lily, or alstroemeria, is blooming...


...as is the phlomis, or Jerusalem sage, for the first time ever.


This is a mixed hanging basket that I bought last summer. At the end of the season we hung it in one of the trees and left it there over winter. Some of the plants died -- notably the petunias -- but others have come back again this year, looking great!


The sweet peas are blooming away. We have purple, pink and red ones, all grown from seeds left from last year's plants.


Finally, remember Martin, the mouse on the bird feeder? We were wondering how he got up there. Well, here's the answer -- he scales the pole, better than any firefighter. He's not always successful -- on the evening I took this photo, he got nearly to the top and then slid all the way down again. But sometimes he makes it. The dedication!

Friday, June 7, 2019

The Most Boring Post Ever


Well, it's not even 6 a.m., and Dave and I are both up. We've already wandered the garden, taken out the trash, thrown the Kong toy for Olga and now Dave is having breakfast. This crazy surfeit of daylight!

I don't understand how Dave can eat this early. I can't eat breakfast until about 8 a.m. I need coffee almost immediately upon awakening, but food, for me, has to come later.

Today will be another day of rounding up library materials. Yesterday I wandered the halls between classes, buttonholing students who still have books out, and in between I wrote letters home to parents. We're slowly making progress -- at the beginning of the week our list of patrons with overdue stuff ran to 21 pages, but now we're down to about eight.

I know it must be incredibly boring to read about me tracking down wayward books. Sorry about that. It is, indeed, the focus of my professional life at this time of year. Weirdly, I enjoy it. There's an aspect of mystery and problem-solving to the process.

For example, remember how I did inventory several weeks ago and we found we were missing about 30 books from the shelves? Well, some of those have come back, having been mistakenly (one hopes) removed from the library but then returned. Yesterday, while wandering the halls, I happened to see a missing Tom Clancy novel lying on a teacher's desk! I didn't touch it but today I have to get with the teacher and either check it out to him or return it to the shelves. At least I know the book is still around, and I do feel a little frisson of excitement at having solved the mystery of its disappearance! (And there's a possible bonus -- we're also missing a second Tom Clancy novel, and I'm willing to bet he's got that one too.)

I know, I know -- so boring. Sorry.


At the same time, I'm trying to quickly weed the biographies because that section is overstuffed and someone has volunteered to remove our boxes of old books from the library during the summer. They're going to take them for charity. So we want to get as much of our old stuff into those boxes as possible.

One of the books I thought I'd weed is called "The Queen of Shaba," about a leopard raised by Joy Adamson of "Born Free" fame. It's from the early '80s and it's in pretty bad shape, and hasn't been read by anyone (except me) for at least ten years. I found it an underwhelming book. The character of Elsa the lion really comes alive in "Born Free," but somehow Penny the leopard doesn't have the same star power.

Funny thing, though -- a kid came into the library yesterday looking for books about leopards, and wouldn't you know, the only book we have specifically about leopards is "The Queen of Shaba." Argh! I still think I'm going to get rid of it. Maybe we can get a fresher book to replace it.

Isn't this a fascinating post? I don't know how you can stand it.

And now I have to walk the dog.

(Photos: Some swanky brass lettering in concrete near Sainsbury's on the high street. That company specializes in concrete with glass inlays, according to its web site. The name seems very '50s.)

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Wildflower Garden


You may remember that last spring, I cleared a patch of land at the corner of our garden and planted some wildflower seeds. There were cornflowers and poppies and scabious and some others, as I recall.

Well, none of them ever sprouted -- at least not that I could tell. Our little wildflower garden remained fallow, dusty and unforgiving. Eventually we planted a few cow parsley plants and a milk parsley, as well as some comfrey. They took hold, and toward late summer some other little plants appeared in the surrounding soil -- I couldn't tell if they belatedly came from the seeds I'd sown or were simply weeds. (I suppose weeds are wildflowers, so maybe it doesn't matter.)


This year, as you can see, the wildflower patch is insane. Most of it is borage, which was growing there already. It has seeded and spread all on its own. We also have a feathery wild carrot plant, at least three musk mallows, a few English plantains, and some other random stuff. Our milk parsley is holding its own, but the cow parsleys vanished (apparently they're annuals). We have bright pink valerian and, at the back, a large-leafed inula that keeps getting gnawed by slugs. I planted some burdock seedlings in this bed but they were promptly eaten and subsequently engulfed by the surrounding foliage.


It's not quite what I envisioned when I thought of a wildflower bed -- I imagined something much more meadow-like, with multicolored blossoms on tall, slender stems. Instead, we've got a jungle. But it serves the purpose -- it's a constant hive of insect activity. The bees, especially, love it.

They're on the blue borage all the time...


...and they crawl headfirst into the purple bell-like flowers of the comfrey.

(I can't help wondering where all these bees live. I've never seen a hive in this area, but obviously there must be one!)

There's far more bee activity in this corner of the garden than anywhere else, which proves that when it comes to insects, they like wild, native plants the most. As much as I love our roses, I've never seen much on them in terms of wildlife. Just aphids and ladybugs!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Mystery Portrait, 1969


As we were walking to the Bethnal Green tube station from Lisa and Xan's house a few weekends ago, we passed this painting propped up against a building. It's signed "E. Sharland, 1969." As an example of found amateur art, it's not terrible. You've got to wonder who that girl is. She'd be my age by now, if not older.

Anyway, I hope someone rescues it. I like its battered wabi-sabi look. I'd have taken it myself, but we were headed to lunch and I didn't really want to carry it around.


One of my readers helpfully posted an update about the restaurant in yesterday's photo, with information from its web site. Apparently the place is closed for renovation after a "kitchen accident." That tweaked a dim memory in my mind. I did some more Googling and sure enough, the Gung-Ho was involved in a fire almost exactly a year ago. I didn't mention it on my blog at the time, I don't think, even though it happened right around the corner, and I'd since forgotten about it. But anyway, that's why it's closed. (In addition, one suspects, to the fact that it was always empty -- although maybe it did a booming takeaway service. Clearly they were cooking something.)

I am still cranky about work. This time of year, when you'd think we'd all be happy with vacation right around the corner, is always so stressful for me. I had a mini-meltdown yesterday, in which I had to go take a walk around the building because I got so angry at my co-workers. (It's a long and boring story.) We've still got one more week after this, although not all those days are with students.

It doesn't help that we're at the time of year when the sun comes up at 4:30 a.m., prompting Olga to begin whining and beating her tail against the bed in an effort to wake us up so we can HUNT SQUIRRELS which, after all, is the meaning of life, as far as she's concerned. So I've been awake since shortly before 5 a.m. And darkness doesn't fall until almost 10 p.m., and I'm lying awake at night strategizing about how to get back all the rest of our materials within the next few days (which sounds silly, I know, but it's a fact) -- which all adds up to not getting enough sleep. Which makes me cranky.

At least we got some rain yesterday, which was much needed. The garden is still going gangbusters. Pictures to follow!

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Keeping My Head Down


This restaurant is a very peculiar place. It's right around the corner from our flat, and it's been there since we moved in five years ago. It used to fill three (if I'm not mistaken) shopfronts. It eventually downsized to two, and now it seems closed altogether. In all of that time I never saw more than a handful of customers in the place. I don't get why it started so BIG and why it took so long to vanish. (And it's really not vanished yet -- they could be remodeling!)

Weird.

I am staying out of the Trump fray. I've demonstrated against him in the past and I'm certainly in agreement with the throngs of protestors who are expected to choke London's streets today, during his state visit. But I'm not going to participate in this round of the fight. For one thing, I have to go to work!

You probably heard how Trump and London Mayor Sadiq Khan were exchanging barbs before Trump's plane even landed. They're both playing politics. Khan knows cosmopolitan, globally minded Londoners -- his bread and butter -- don't support Trump. And Trump knows none of his voters are going to identify with someone named Sadiq. There's no danger for either of them in rattling each other's cages.

Honestly, the whole Trump horror show is so exhausting that I can't bring myself to watch it too closely. Seeing that bloated, orange bully, that "short-fingered vulgarian," standing next to the Queen just makes me want to die of embarrassment. He has his fans in England, certainly among the Brexiteers -- I've even seen them wear "Make Britain Great Again" red baseball caps on TV, although that slogan doesn't have the same ring as MAGA -- but I feel a constant need to apologize for him.

As I was lying in bed last night, I had the horrible realization that at that very moment, Trump was just a few miles away. He and Melania are apparently staying at Winfield House, the home of the U.S. Ambassador in Regent's Park. That's way, way too close. I can feel his bad juju.

I just want this visit to be over. I want this next election to be over. I want this whole Trumpian nightmare to be over. I want a leader who's presidential and diplomatic and worthy of respect. Seems reasonable, doesn't it?

Monday, June 3, 2019

Richmond to Boston Manor


Remember how I'm walking the Capital Ring path around London? I wouldn't be surprised if you've forgotten, because it's been almost a month since my last walk. Between the Surprise Party Flu, all our gardening tasks and the chaos of the end of the year at work, I've let my walking slide. But yesterday I got out and completed a shortish segment -- five miles -- between Richmond and Osterley Lock near Boston Manor.

The path began in Richmond along the Thames, where the water reflected rippling shimmers on the underside of Twickenham Bridge.


I passed this intriguing bench along the river. Turns out it's in honor of a family member of Lord Richard Attenborough,  who directed "Gandhi" and who lost several relatives including his daughter and granddaughter in the tsunami on Boxing Day 2004. The bench honors the daughter's mother-in-law, also killed that day.


Near Isleworth, the river splits and flows around a large island. The tide was incredibly low, as you can see. The view is looking downstream toward All Saints Church and a historic crane once used (I assume) in shipping.


I passed The London Apprentice pub, which dates from the Tudor era, according to my map. "By tradition, city apprentices would be rowed with their senior craftsmen to this famous inn to celebrate the receipt of their indentures, entitling them to full journeymen's wages," it said. This sounds like an old wive's tale -- why row all the way from the city upstream to Isleworth rather than go to a pub around the corner? But I could be wrong. Crazier things have happened.


The path went through Syon Park, a 200-acre estate belonging to the Duke of Northumberland. (Apparently there still is one.) It passed the crenellated house, expansive lawns and grand, glass-domed conservatory. The house and gardens are open to the public, but I didn't go in.


From there the path wound past Brentford Lock, where there's a boat basin once used for shipping and now surrounded by fancy apartments. The structure above is the one remaining canopied warehouse, once used for sheltered loading and unloading of cargo. It appears to have been more recently beautified by that decorative metal screen.


The path then led along the Grand Union Canal to Osterley Lock, which is close to the Boston Manor tube station -- and that's where I caught the tube home.

I stopped at Homebase on the way back and bought some petunias and some potting soil to revive the plantings on our front porch -- our pansies from the spring were a sad shadow of their former selves. Then, in the afternoon, Dave and I took Olga on a walk through Fortune Green and the cemetery, so she got her exercise too!