Friday, February 21, 2020

Time Travel with Madeleine


Yesterday was spent catching up on things and getting some rest. I made a quick trip to work so I could pick up a package (we have everything shipped there because someone's always around to securely receive it) and I checked in a few returned books.

The package contained a red glass vase that I ordered from an antique shop in Oklahoma. It's identical to one my grandmother used to own that my brother has now. I was reminded of it while watching the new Star Trek show, "Picard" -- one of the characters drinks out of one. Anyway, I always loved Grandmother's and now I'm glad to have my own. (They were made by Anchor Hocking decades ago but they're not expensive.)

In the afternoon, Dave and I went to the high street so he could use one of his Christmas presents, a gift card from the local cook shop. He wanted an oval gratin pan, but of course they didn't have one in stock. I like the idea of supporting local merchants, and I always try to do that, but this is the downside -- unlike the Internet, they sometimes don't have what you want! (And yet they did have an entire wall of reusable water bottles, which seemed excessive in such a small store.) Anyway, they're looking into whether they can order Dave's pan.

I've worked my way through all but two books from my February Break reading stack. I read "A Wrinkle in Time" and "When You Reach Me" on my overnight trip to the beach. I first read "A Wrinkle in Time" when I was in the fifth grade and loved it. A friend of my mom's loaned it to me, and I distinctly remember the cover (image at left, found online).

Our library copy looks entirely different, but of course I still enjoyed it. It's so interesting to re-read a childhood favorite as an adult. What was a very rich book as a kid seems a bit slim now, and there were elements I didn't detect before -- several religious references, for example. (Apparently L'Engle was quite religious herself, in a liberal New England way.) There's a very clear light vs. dark, good vs. evil, anti-authoritarian theme. I loved how she gave us just enough science to make time and space travel seem feasible, and I remembered some secondary characters, like Aunt Beast, quite clearly. Five stars!

"When You Reach Me" is a Newbery winner from several decades later that refers back to "A Wrinkle in Time," and even has a plot somewhat inspired by it. So it was fun to read it immediately afterwards. Also five stars!

We got more rain yesterday, two gusty storms that blew through in the afternoon. The garden is certainly not lacking moisture.

(Photo: A garage on Cinnamon Street in Wapping.)

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Foiled, Literally


I got back to London yesterday, after a rather exhausting, cold morning of beachcombing. Once again, I found nothing much -- just some foil packaging, some rusty nails and an aluminum can (the latter without the aid of the metal detector).

I picked it all up and took it back to the hotel, where I threw it in the trash along with Tuesday's finds.

I'm still not sure about metal detecting -- it seems like a lot of work for very little gain. But all was not lost, because it is a beautiful stretch of beach, beneath chalk cliffs. (It's not far from the famous white cliffs of Dover.) I compensated for my disappointing finds with some rewarding photography.


I found some fun graffiti scratched into the chalk. I'm sure this is against someone's rules, but fortunately the rock is pretty soft, so I imagine it wears away before too long.


And I saw some wildlife -- mainly starlings and sparrows.


It's interesting how the chalk gets eroded into unusual pillars and arches.


Finally, after breakfast, I checked out of my hotel and walked back to central Broadstairs. Along the way I passed the North Foreland Lighthouse, built in 1732 and altered to its current appearance in 1860.

It was a lengthy walk back into town, but scenic, and except for the fact that I was carrying my metal detector (which isn't heavy, but it is unwieldy) I enjoyed it. I caught the noon train for London and got back about 2 p.m. Dave was home but I wasn't reunited with Olga until 4:30, when she returned from her outing with the dog walker.


These are my only souvenirs from the trip -- two strangely shaped pieces of flint, each about the size of my fist. Aren't they cool? Like nature's own Henry Moore sculpture!

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

The Broadstairs Detectorist


Remember how I said it seemed the only place I could use my metal detector was on the beach?

Well, I've come to the beach.

I took the train to Broadstairs yesterday, where Dave and I visited a few years ago. I'm shacked up at the same little hotel, in fact -- me and my metal detector. This time around, Dave, not wanting to be part of this thrilling opportunity to encounter riches beyond measure, stayed back in London with Olga.

When I first got into town yesterday around 1:30 p.m., I had lunch at the little cafe above (a vegetarian English breakfast, actually). I then walked 30 minutes or so to Botany Bay, the area where I'm staying.


I should preface all this by saying I experimented with the metal detector on Monday afternoon in our garden. I'm still trying to learn which settings to use and which tones to listen for. This was the one object I found -- I'm not sure but I think it's a folded chip of aluminum. So exciting -- NOT.

I thought sure on the beach I'd have better luck. I mean, so many people gather there -- granted, not at this time of year -- and aren't coins and jewelry routinely spilling from their hands and pockets?


Apparently not, because this is all I found after two hours of beach detecting. I scanned with my detector for so long that my right arm became weak with muscle fatigue. I could barely hold my camera to take this picture. (That's an old rusty nail at lower right.)

I thought I might at least find a penny or two, to offset the cost of this £150 trip. As I told Dave, though, all joking of riches aside, I don't expect this to be any kind of profit-making venture.

The detector is still a bit of a mystery to me. Sometimes it beeps and I can't find any cause. It doesn't seem impossible that some of the beach rocks may have iron in them -- would that cause it to react? Or am I just overlooking my real target?

Anyway, I'm going to go out this morning and try some more before I head back to London. I'll let you know how it goes. I think I may be the world's worst detectorist.


At least it's kind of fun. It gives me an excuse to walk the beach!

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Wapping


I took a photo walk yesterday through the neighborhood of Wapping, east of the city on the Thames. It's one of the few places in London I'd never visited -- mostly, it seems, a collection of mid-century apartment buildings and housing estates.

That's the Shadwell Basin, above, looking westward toward Central London.


I think Wapping was heavily bombed in World War II, like much of London's so-called docklands area, which is why so much of the construction is post-war. There are a few older churches and some big warehouses by the river that have been converted into flats and offices.


I was reading my pal Sarah's blog a few days ago, when she mentioned the arrival of her new cat, Oliver. She joked that he "has his own wharf" and posted a picture of the building above. I didn't even know where it was -- and then yesterday, completely coincidentally, I found myself right outside!

I wonder if Oliver's Wharf is named for Oliver Twist? I also noticed a pub named after the Artful Dodger, and a Gulliver's Wharf. Lots of literary references in Wapping.


I walked along the Thames Path, looking out across the water to Rotherhithe and, beyond that, the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf.


It is surprisingly hard to get a good picture of a duck. They're always moving -- particularly when, like this one, they associate humans with food and keep trying to get closer and closer.


Anyway, it was a good walk. I got to work out some of my post-Dennis cabin fever!

Monday, February 17, 2020

Rainy Dennis


More rain yesterday, pretty much all day. I took Olga out for a short walk in the morning, but otherwise we stayed indoors. She got a little stir-crazy toward evening but I wasn't about to walk her in this weather. She was in and out the backdoor about ten times, and then wanted to play her "I'm-going-crazy-inside" game, which basically means keep-away with the Kong, and me chasing her around the dining room table.

(No, we did not take a video.)

Parts of England have seen flooding from Storm Dennis, and when Dave and I went out in the back garden yesterday afternoon, our lawn was under about an inch of water in places. Standing water isn't a common occurrence in our garden but the ground is so saturated.

We failed to pay any attention whatsoever to Valentine's Day. It wasn't even on my radar, to be honest. Fortunately, neither Dave nor I are big on that particular celebration. And yesterday was my Dad's birthday -- he would have been 83 if he were still with us.

The upside of the terrible weather is it's given me lots of reading time. I got through all of "The Library Book" yesterday, and I really enjoyed it. Maybe working in a library myself heightens my appreciation, but I think anyone would find it interesting -- it's basically the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, with special focus on a mysterious fire that destroyed a substantial portion of the collection in 1986. (I don't remember this fire. It occurred at almost the same time as Chernobyl, which no doubt overshadowed it in the national news coverage.)

I'd hoped to practice with my metal detector this week, but there's literally nowhere local I can go. I can't detect on the Heath or in public parks, at least not without permission. My only option (aside from our own garden) appears to be the beach, especially in this sodden weather.

(Photo: A piece of smoky glass that hangs in our window. I found it on the street a few months ago. I think it came from a light fixture or a chandelier.)

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Cemetery Tag-Along


Yesterday morning was relatively calm, weather-wise, but we knew wind and rain were coming. So we took advantage of the stillness and got some things done.

Even before breakfast we were pruning in the garden, and we finally got the roses and the buddleias cut back (above). Dave left some height on the roses, which were already budding pretty vigorously -- hopefully cutting them back now hasn't done any damage. I'm not too worried. (The landlords told me some of these rose bushes date back to the 1920s!) We cleared five yard-waste bags full of trimmings.

I also repotted the dying/dead ficus tree. Still no sign of any change there.

And finally, I fixed the weatherbeaten fence between us and Mrs. Kravitz. I took a hammer and box of nails over and pounded in probably way more than were necessary, but I'll be darned if I'm going to have holes blown through that fence again. I'm sure Mrs. Kravitz, who wants the whole fence replaced, is grumbling.

Now, despite heavy winds all night, the fence is still intact. I just went out and checked.


Of course we had some fun yesterday too. Dave made french toast for breakfast, an unusual treat, and then I took Olga to the cemetery despite the rain. I made a little video of our experience. You'll see Olga:

-- chasing her Kong
-- trampling daffodils
-- scratching her back on a tree
-- barking
-- being stubborn

You'll also see some of the already-blooming trees in the cemetery, and one of its more notorious headstones. And you'll hear some of Olga's nicknames, which include Oglie-Boglies, Crazy Girl, Crazy Beast, Beastie-beast, Beastmaster, Screwball and, in recent years, Sergei Screwball.

Finally, I included some clips of her post-walk bath, because I wrote recently about how she behaves in the tub. Of course this was the one day she didn't get in the tub on her own, but I swear she does sometimes.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Lava Lamp


This was my fun, groovy impulse buy as I walked home from work last night. We used to have a lava lamp, and I really liked it, but then it stopped working several years ago and I couldn't figure out why. I wound up giving the whole thing to charity.

So as I walked past Robert Dyas the Ironmongers (yes, the shop is really called that) I thought, "I'm going to see if they have any lava lamps lying around." And they DID -- on sale for £9.99, even! According to the box it has a hand-painted base and cap in a "stylish ombré effect." I had to explain to Dave what ombré meant, and I must say the world is getting a little insane when not only your hair but also your lava lamp needs to be ombré.

As the box says, "Calming. Peaceful. Relaxing." They could have added "Tacky," but I love it anyway.

And that's next week's stack of reading, beside the lamp. I'm probably being overly optimistic thinking I might get through it all. I did start "The Library Book" yesterday (which is not in the stack), so I'm no longer lying about that in my blog sidebar, and I'm about 3/4 of the way through "Dobry," my current Newbery read (which is in the stack).

"Dobry," from 1934, is a cute book about a boy growing up in rural Bulgaria. I haven't read any evidence that the Canadian-American author had even been to Bulgaria -- which nowadays would surely raise questions about cultural appropriation -- but at least the book's illustrator was Bulgarian. So that helps. Funny how our cultural standards change over time.


Here's the mystery plant -- now almost 2 1/2 feet tall. It's was a bit battered by Storm Ciara's high winds last weekend, and we're supposed to get more today and tomorrow from Storm Dennis. But I have a feeling this plant is pretty hardy.


The hairy little flower buds remain small, but I think I see hints of purple or blue at their tips. I'm still thinking this is borage, Borago officinalis. Stay tuned!

Friday, February 14, 2020

Plans for the Week


This is one of those days when I'm just going to have to start typing and hope that a blog post emerges. Sometimes I know what I'm going to write about and sometimes, like this morning, I haven't the foggiest idea.

Today is our last workday before February break. We're off all next week. It's sometimes known as "Ski Week," because many students and their families hit the slopes in France or Switzerland -- which is something I will definitely not be doing. I've never snow skied and I don't intend to start now.

Instead, Dave and I will be staying in England, and most likely not venturing far from home. I have vague plans to do some things around the house, and I'd like to get out and experiment more with the metal detector that Dave gave me a couple of years ago. I haven't used it much and I'd like to see what it can do. So far, all I've managed to find is one bottle cap.

I might take a day trip or two. I'd also like to get some reading done. See how I've declared in my blog sidebar (at right) that I'm reading "The Library Book" by Susan Orlean? That's a blatant falsehood. I haven't even started it yet. I've been meaning to start it for weeks now and yet I had to catch up on all my New Yorkers and keep going on the Newbery books and yadda yadda.

And we have to prune the roses. And fix the garden fence.

There is no shortage of tasks to occupy our time!

(Photo: Soho, a couple of weeks ago.)

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Pilgrims and Pins


Last night I went with Sally, Mike and Liz to see Seth Lakeman, a singer-songwriter from Devon whose latest album is all about the pilgrims on the Mayflower. The concert was in Southwark Cathedral, which was an interesting venue -- apparently Southwark was connected to the Mayflower's story, as were several other locations that inspired songs on the album. He also sang of the North American Wampanoag tribe, which of course was devastated by the pilgrims' arrival.

We were seated to the side of the stage, in one of the transepts, so I couldn't fully see the screens behind Lakeman, where some animated images were projected during the show. I also had a terrible time understanding him -- maybe something about the acoustics or, again, where we were sitting. (Or my ears.) But I could appreciate the music and I could hear the narration, so I got the gist of things.

Sally and I saw saw Lakeman in concert once before, three years ago. (Time flies! It seems much more recent than that!)

Before the show we went to dinner at a Middle Eastern restaurant in Borough Market. I like Middle Eastern food when I'm in the Middle East, but it's not usually something I'd search out here -- the small-plates and sharing thing can get a little, I don't know, fatiguing. Sometimes you just want your own food, you know? But this was good -- tabbouleh and halloumi and kebabs -- so ultimately I warmed to it.

See those little pins to the left? The ones that say LIBRARY ASSISTANT? They mysteriously showed up at work yesterday morning, with an invoice indicating they'd been ordered via Amazon on Saturday. Weirdly, though, none of my co-workers ordered them. They were addressed to our school and seemed to use information from our Amazon account, but there's no trace of the order in our online history. It's the strangest thing!

I'm thinking either we got some other library's order, or someone sent them to us as a promotion. (Strange that they'd include an invoice, though.) We weren't immediately able to tell whether they'd been billed to our credit card, but I doubt it. If the order isn't in our history then I'm thinking it was paid by someone else.

Anyway, we're not going to use them, thank goodness. I think I might balk at having to wear such a silly thing. After all, if I'm sitting behind the desk, checking out books and wearing my school ID badge, wouldn't it be stating the obvious?

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Steps to Nowhere


When Olga and I visited the Heath on Saturday, I snapped this picture of the long brick wall that separates part of Sandy Heath from the end of North End Avenue. Don't you love all that green, mossy texture? I wish I knew the history of this wall. It's not far from the Pitt House Gateway, and I wonder if it also dates to the 1700s.

Seems like a wall that old would have fallen down by now, so maybe not.


Nearby I noticed some steps, practically buried beneath the vegetation. In fact, they are buried and invisible under brambles and ivy most of the year. As many times as I've walked this path, I've never seen them before.

So the New Hampshire election results are interesting. Are we headed toward a Bernie candidacy? I have mixed feelings about that, as I've written before -- I like his politics but I'm not sure about him, personally. I'm glad Buttigieg and Klobuchar did well, and I wish Warren had done better. I'm not sure where this leaves her. She's looking more and more like a long shot.

Oh, and I never mentioned the Oscars, which we did not watch. Dave and I haven't seen "Parasite" yet, but we certainly will. I suppose I might even get myself to a cinema. (Ugh! Loud advertisements and trailers! Other people!) I was happy to see Renee Zellweger and Laura Dern win -- Dern has been one of my favorite actresses for years. As for the guys, I haven't seen "Joker" but I think Joaquin Phoenix is an interesting actor, so no quibbles there. And Brad Pitt was fabulous in "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood," so I can't argue with that either. I'm glad the Academy finally gave Pitt his due, rather than dismissing him as a mere pretty boy.

I haven't seen "Marriage Story" yet, but we have it saved in our Netflix queue, so we'll get to it one of these days.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Pigeons and the Dentist


When I was combing through my old pictures on Sunday, I came across this one, which I really like. I took it in January 2015 while photographing streets for Bleeding London, and although I find it hard to believe I never used it on the blog, I can't find a post that includes it. So here goes!

Where are those pigeons now, I wonder? Are any of them still out there? According to Google, pigeons live six years in the wild, so I suppose some of them could be. They're probably retired, living in Florida or Spain.

I forgot to mention that Sunday's winds blew down part of our garden fence. Mrs. Kravitz has been on us for years to get the fence replaced, and you may remember that the landlords recently visited to take a look at it. They've decided to do some repairs but not to replace it, I think. Anyway, the wind blew out three of the clapboards in one panel, so yesterday I stopped at the hardware store and bought a pack of nails, and I told Mrs. Kravitz I'd fix it temporarily. I couldn't get to it last night because we were having more rain and wind -- plus it was dark by the time I got home -- but maybe this weekend.

I also went to the dentist yesterday for a check-up. I've been having twinges of pain in my back tooth, where I got a root canal and crown about two years ago. The dentist said there's still evidence of infection in the bone beneath the tooth, so I have to go back again in a couple of weeks to see the same dentist who did the root canal and see what my options are. It's not bad pain and it's extremely intermittent, so I'm inclined to just leave it alone, unless it's going to have negative ramifications for my health otherwise.

I've said it before and I'll say it again -- this tooth is the bane of my existence. It's out to get me.

Anyway, I also needed a cleaning and fortunately they were able to squeeze me in right away, so at least I got that done. All my other teeth are in good shape, thank goodness.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Après le Déluge


To say yesterday was rainy would be an understatement. Storm Ciara brought window-rattling winds and a series of heavy downpours, drowning our patio and knocking all the daffodils flat. I tried to take a video to show you the intensity of the rain, but I'm not sure how visible it is:


Anyway, trust me -- a lot of rain! And what we got was nothing compared to some other parts of Britain, which experienced widespread flooding and power outages.

We had planned to get out into the garden and prune the roses and the buddleia, but that task will now have to wait. I'm already afraid we've let it go too long, because with our unusually warm winter, the roses are sending out new shoots.


Anyway, confined indoors, I inadvertently got sucked into a major photo archiving project. I store all my photos on a hard drive, and when I tried to upload my latest batch, I found the drive was full. I looked at my archives, though, and discovered that back when I was doing Bleeding London for the Royal Photographic Society -- that project to take a picture on every street in London -- I archived not only my pictures but also the confirming photos of the street signs, which I took just to prove I'd been there and to help keep the project organized. Surely I no longer need pictures of 2,000 London street signs?

So I spent a lot of time culling those pictures. Afterwards I think I'll download the culled albums, erase them from the drive, and upload them again -- hopefully keeping the data defragmented and making room for new photos. (Is defragmenting data even a thing anymore? I have no idea.)

Dave and I did manage to watch all of "The Irishman" on Netflix. I enjoyed it far more than I thought I would, given its three-plus-hours length and its mob themes. I'm not interested in the mafia but for some reason I find Jimmy Hoffa's disappearance very intriguing. It's an unsolved mystery – a cultural black hole.


Here's my latest haul of pottery chips, from my walk on the Heath with Olga on Saturday. I am slowly developing a plan in the back of my mind to use these for something. Meanwhile they're kind of cool all on their own.

Finally, a shout-out to reader Charlotte, who relayed a message to me via Ms. Moon about the identity of the mystery plant in our garden. We've been thinking borage, but Charlotte suggested an additional possibility. We'll see what happens when it blooms. I appreciate the information, Charlotte! (The plant survived yesterday's wind just fine, by the way -- I've got it staked up.)

Oh, and that mysterious white object by our shed yesterday morning? A yard waste bag – and even one of our own, not a neighbor's. Not very exciting. I'm sorry I even brought it up.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Another Day, Another Dog Walk


We had beautiful weather yesterday afternoon. The sun was out and the temperatures were pleasant, so Olga and I went to the Heath.


On the way home we stopped for some pictures among these dramatic shadows. I just couldn't get the shot without the sun in my lens – but then I figured, "Well, maybe that adds to it." Let's go with that.

(Olga is always on a leash when we're on the street, by the way. I just took her off for this quick picture, which is partly why I couldn't fool around with trying to get the light right. She'll "stay" when she's told, unless she sees a cat, so it was a slight gamble.)


Our daffodils are out and they're looking great -- but today we're being slammed by heavy winds from Storm Ciara, so they may all be flattened. Every time I worry about daffodils and cold or stormy weather, though, they seem to come through just fine. I guess they're made to bloom in a tempestuous environment.

(Speaking of the wind, as I write, there's some large white object back by the shed that I can't identify. It's definitely not supposed to be there. Something apparently blew into our garden from somewhere else. Mysterious! I'll report back.)

After our walk we came home, Olga had her bath and she promptly went to sleep. Dave was at work so I had a rare moment to watch some movies that I knew he wouldn't want to see. I watched "A Hatful of Rain," a '50s drama with Eva Marie Saint about morphine addiction. Pretty good, and very moody -- and filmed in Manhattan along the East River, right where I used to go running!

I also bought my ticket to Florida to visit the family during Spring Break in April. No, I won't be partying on the beach in Fort Lauderdale. (Or wherever students party now.) Those days are definitely over – and actually, for me, they never existed.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

A Yellow Ferrari and Some Hedgehogs


We've had parent-teacher conferences at work the past couple of days, so there were no classes and fewer kids in the library. A handful of people, both students and parents, came in for books – but no one asked for a computer charger, thank God! A refreshing change from the normal monotony. I did manage to snag a few parents to pay for their kids' long-lost books, which solved some problems.

One mother actually checked out the Daniel Boone book! I had it displayed on my desk along with my latest Newbery review, and she said she was distantly related to Boone. (I thought, "Uh-oh. I hope I didn't say anything critical of him in my review!" But I didn't.) Anyway, that was nice, given that when I bought the book online I never imagined anyone else would want to read it.

I also caught up on some back-office stuff in the library, like deleting duplicated patrons from the system. Sometimes our computer interfaces result in two accounts for a single person – easily corrected but I have to do it manually.

I found the card at right on the sidewalk. It's a loyalty card for Gail's, a chain of bakeries in our part of London. Even though I almost never go to Gail's I saved the card because look at those stamps -- they're little hedgehogs!

I wish we could encourage hedgehogs in our garden, but with Olga around it's a bad bet. I've never seen a wild one, though supposedly there's a small colony not too far away in Regent's Park.

Speaking of Olga, she was dramatically ill on Thursday night. She clearly ate something disgusting on her walk. I got worried because when she tried to hold her head up, it would wobble from side to side -- I've never seen that. She appeared to be dizzy. Anyway, it stressed me out, but we let her rest and cancelled her walk yesterday, and by evening she was back to her old bouncy self. That dog will be the death of me.

I finally, finally got all my Egypt photos posted to Flickr. If you're interested, the album is here, though it might be more Egypt than you'd ever want to see.

(Photo: A yellow Ferrari in Belgravia, a few weeks ago.)

Friday, February 7, 2020

Scouting


When I was going through a box to retrieve my political buttons a couple of weeks ago, I came across all this stuff too -- souvenirs from my days as a Cub Scout and Boy Scout. I enjoyed being a Cub Scout and a Webelo, which are groups for younger kids, but as I got older the appeal of scouting waned for me. Still, I saved a few reminders.

These tassels were made to hold all the pins we could earn for achievement in various subjects. I have pins for forestry, nature, drama, geology and government. God only knows what I did to earn those pins. I had big rock and leaf collections, so I'm sure those were factors.


As I recall, Cub Scouts were divided into groups depending on age and achievement. The groups took the names of various animals like wolves and bears. (I have to issue a full disclaimer that I don't remember a whole lot of this and some of it may be different now, anyway. I was scouting in the mid- and late '70s.)

The doodad above (not its official name, I'm sure!) used to hang from a button on my uniform. We were supposed to collect red and yellow beads for various activities and achievements that, I think, eventually would lead to a new rank. I remember other kids having lots of beads. I must have been an underachiever.


These things slid onto the uniform belt, showing proficiency in certain activities. I earned these during a camping trip, I believe to the Withlacoochee State Forest. I remember swimming in the river and, later, lying in a tent being gnawed by mosquitoes, wondering why the heck I wasn't home in my own bed. I drew a picture of the moon in my journal, covered by filmy clouds. (I no longer have that journal, but I distinctly remember that moon.)


As I recall, the Arrow of Light was the culmination of our Cub Scout career, pointing the way to the Boy Scouts. This is my Arrow of Light pin. I don't know what that Bobcat pin was for.


And of course there were plenty of patches, of which I saved only a few.

Cub Scouts was a fairly stress-free time for me, because kids at that age are pretty harmless. But when I moved into a Boy Scout troop, scouting got stressful. I was in a troop with mostly older boys who used to torment me and a couple of other kids my age. The scoutmasters took a very hands-off, "boys will be boys" attitude toward it all, but nowadays we'd call it bullying, plain and simple. It was both verbal and physical, and it eventually drove me out of the group.

We'd been selling donuts and doing other things to raise money for a big trip to the Grand Canyon. I did my part, but as the trip date got closer my mom could tell I was stressed about going, and she finally called the scoutmaster and told him I was staying home. I'd been looking forward to seeing the Grand Canyon, but deep down, I'd never been more relieved. Mom said I was 100 times more relaxed after we canceled, and soon after that I quit the Boy Scouts altogether.

I don't know what ever happened to my scout uniforms. I think my Cub Scout outfit went to my brother, who also did Cub Scouts, but the Boy Scout uniform, I'm not sure. Scouting sure does generate a lot of paraphernalia. Before my dad died we were going through his stuff and he had a scout uniform from his childhood, also covered with patches and badges -- useless trinkets, tangled up with memories both good and bad.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Making a Choice


I got my ballot for Florida's "Presidential Preference" primary election in the mail on Tuesday. I didn't realize I was going to be asked to make a choice so quickly! Apparently Florida runs an early presidential primary on March 17, well before the main primary elections, which are held in August. I don't remember this in the past, but maybe I've just forgotten.

I opted for Elizabeth Warren, because I love her message and I think she's got the experience and determination to be a good president. But honestly, I could just as easily have gone for several of the others -- Bernie or Pete Buttigieg or Amy Klobuchar. I'd like Buttigieg to have a bit more experience, ideally. Why doesn't he run for Congress first? And I hate to say it, but Bernie's age and health give me pause, and Klobuchar just doesn't seem to have much momentum.

I'm glad Biden came in fourth in Iowa. I think his time has come and gone. We need new leadership, not a revisitation of the same old characters -- and during the Obama years he struck me as almost as much of a liability as an asset.

But I will literally vote for whoever the Democrats nominate. They could nominate a dead, stinky cod and I would vote for it. Didn't you love Nancy Pelosi tearing up Trump's speech? Priceless!

Anyway, I mailed my ballot yesterday.

I also finished "Daniel Boone," the book I bought to complete our library's Newbery medal collection. It was a fairly pedestrian biography -- not particularly illuminating but surprisingly even-handed as far as the Native Americans are concerned, considering it was published in 1939. Part of one chapter was devoted to a speech by Red Jacket of the Seneca tribe, talking about the fears of the Native Americans and their feelings of betrayal by the white settlers. Mostly, though, it extolled Boone's heroism and there was certainly a lot of shooting and scalping and fort-building. Yawn.

I was interviewed yesterday by the editor of the student newspaper about my Newbery challenge. Maybe some of the kids will be inspired! I've also been talking to colleagues about creating a platform to post my reviews online -- so when we get that up and running, and assuming it's publicly available, I'll link to it here. (Because I know you're all dying to know what I think about 98 different children's books. Ha!)

Olga was wired this morning -- wide-awake at 4 a.m., tail thumping, staring at us and whining at every twitch or whisper of movement. I think she heard foxes outside. I finally got up at 5:15 just to get her out of our faces, and she went straight to the back door. I opened it (making a lot of noise to warn off the foxes) and she charged to the back fence, growling. The she came in and fell sound asleep. She's snoring as I type. I'm glad some of us can go back to bed.

(Photo: Soap bubbles in front of the National Theatre at South Bank, several weeks ago.)

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Midwinter iPhone Photo Parade


I did reschedule my dental appointment, you'll be glad to know. (If you're at all concerned about maintaining the health of dentists.) Fortunately this appears to be a very mild cold, so by the time I'm supposed to go next Monday I should be fine. Insha'allah, as the Arabs say.

Meanwhile, here's another collection of random photos from my iPhone!

First, the ceramics-painting studio in West Hampstead is sporting some fun wintry fox art on its front window.


Hire bikes like these have created some local controversy. They're rentals that can be left anywhere to be picked up by the next person, who locates and pays for them using an app, as I understand it. (I've never used one.) They've been a source of complaints because they're often left standing in the middle of the sidewalk and other inconvenient places. We had one parked right in front of our flat for a while, but it disappeared pretty quickly. They are colorful, I'll give them that.


Street signs anywhere near Abbey Road Studios tend to be a target for international graffiti. I see Argentina, Paris, Canada, New York City and Uruguay represented.


And who's this woman on a tiny sticker at lower left? Could it be...Lady Madonna?


In West Hampstead, a stylish reminder to remove shoes (especially polka-dotted pumps).


It's interesting that there's an entire business devoted to "nationwide mirror delivery." Talk about a niche market! Clever name, though. Very Mary Poppins.


A swanky car parked in West Hampstead. I think it's a Bentley?


I'm always on the lookout for unusual house-number plaques, like this one in South Hampstead.


And finally, another bouquet -- this one a rather motley collection of flowers left on a table at work. Sunshine makes everything better, doesn't it?