Friday, January 21, 2022

Deco Lines and a Garden Party

I snapped these pictures on my walk to work yesterday morning. This Art Deco block of flats stands above a Waitrose store near the Finchley Road tube station. It's a pretty cool building. A couple of my co-workers used to live there, but I never visited their flats so I've never been inside.

As you can see, we had clear skies yesterday and it got pretty cold last night.

I finally took the Christmas lights off the avocado tree. I toyed with the idea of leaving them up through the dark months until spring, but somehow they seemed a little silly after the Christmas season ended. Besides, as I told Dave, if we leave them up all the time they won't be special!

(That's also my main argument against having a martini every night.)

Also, I noticed that our local council has replaced the once-viney tree, which as you know unfortunately died last year. I'm not going near this one. Even if that damn vine comes back I am steering clear.

I'm sure you've seen all the controversy about Boris Johnson and his perfidious government having an unmasked garden party at 10 Downing Street in May 2020, at the same time that the entire UK was on lockdown. While the rest of us were told not to mingle and to stay home and to not go anywhere unmasked, Johnson and his cronies were sitting in their garden with spritzers. This revelation has infuriated the British public (or at least Johnson's opponents) to such an extent that his government is in jeopardy.

Dave and I have been amused and perplexed because of all the disastrous things that Johnson has done -- from promoting (and then mismanaging) Brexit to spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on a ridiculous plan to build a bridge across the Irish Sea -- this is what threatens to derail him. I understand why people are angered by the hypocrisy, but honestly, having an outdoor cocktail hour during lockdown just doesn't seem that terrible. I suppose people are using that event to hammer Johnson about all those other issues. Dominic Cummings, Johnson's erstwhile-aide-turned-political-enemy, is behind a lot of this opposition and he's certainly no saint himself.

Anyway, I have no insight here except to say I'm intrigued by the vehemence of the public reaction to this story. Maybe I'm just too cynical. Are people really surprised that Johnson is a hypocrite?

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Video Star

Another busy day yesterday, with my Newbery project once again taking up a lot of my mental energy. The school wanted to make a video of me talking about it to post on social media, and to promote my blog of all the reviews. So I set up a little display of some of the Newbery books as a backdrop, and we wrote a very short script (they didn't want the video to be any longer than a minute). The Facebook video is here. (I'm not sure it's public.)

The script was uploaded onto an iPhone that was positioned next to the camera as a little teleprompter. I've never read from a teleprompter in my life, so it took some getting used to, but after a few bungled takes and adjustments I made it through OK. Whew! And then, of course, we had to re-set the library shelves.

I'm glad the reviews are getting some attention, though. For a long time I was writing them with the certainty that absolutely NO ONE was reading them -- and now, perhaps, people are. Which makes me paranoid on a whole 'nother level. Did I mention everything I needed to mention? Was I fair? Was I wrong?

I also offered to go speak to the Middle School English classes about the project, so I imagine that will happen at some point.

Otherwise, it's life as usual around here. My Covid tests are still negative, knock on wood!

(Photo: A lost toy I found perched on a fence on my most recent Green Chain walk.)

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Frosty Foxgloves

The temperature dipped down into the 20s (F) on Monday night, and my backyard foxglove farm was coated with frost when the sun came up.

I grew all those from seed, and as you can see, some of them haven't made it. The squirrels dug up a few, and others simply dwindled away. But I'm taking a very hands-off approach to their survival. I have too many anyway, so Darwin needs to go to work for me here.

I know I say this every year, but this may be the last time I mess with foxglove seeds. The ones that survive will be pretty in spring, though.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Challenge Complete!

While I was walking on Sunday I crossed a footbridge adorned with some very bad graffiti. I was intrigued by this little alien, and at first thought "Kevin" had written his name...but when I got home and processed the photo I realized it actually says "No Expectations." What that has to do with an alien, I'm not sure.

In addition to my walk on Sunday, I finally, FINALLY, finished my last Newbery book. Woo hoo! After eighteen months of reading 100 books -- I started the project two years ago, but I took a roughly six-month break during our first lockdown and over that summer -- it's a HUGE relief. Just think -- now I can read what I want! What a concept!

Yesterday I updated my Newbery blog on the school web site and drafted a final wrap-up post, which I'll put up today or tomorrow. I also tried to clean up and standardize the post tags, which took forever and they're still a mess, but it's progress.

My boss's husband hasn't been feeling well and tested positive for Covid over the weekend, and then yesterday my boss came to work even though she wasn't feeling great. My co-worker and I basically ordered her to go home. I feel a little bad about how harsh we were but I also think our demands were warranted. My boss argued that her own test was negative, but I think if you've had a close contact (a very close contact, in this case) and you're symptomatic, then staying home makes sense regardless of the test.

We'll see what happens today! To quote the alien graffiti, I have no expectations.

(I just took a test myself and I'm still negative, knock on wood.)

Monday, January 17, 2022

Thames Barrier to Mottingham

Yesterday I walked not one but two sections of the Green Chain, hopefully making up for some of my recent physical lassitude. My starting point was once again at the Thames, this time near the giant flood-prevention gates known as the Thames Barrier. The Thames is a tidal river, so when there's going to be a dangerous surge of water coming in from the English Channel, these gates can close and block it. Apparently it's been used 201 times since its installation in the early 1980s. Here's a page that describes how it works.

From the Thames Barrier I headed inland, toward Charlton.

Nearby I passed this ruined pub. Many old pub buildings are potentially valuable because of their beauty, history and locations, but I think this one -- which looks entirely gutted and open to the elements -- may be sadly beyond repair.

I walked through Maryon Park, and climbed up to an overlook where I could see the Thames Barrier from a distance. This is part of an area known as Gilbert's Pit, of both historic and geological interest.

It was kind of a misty morning, as you can tell.

I walked through Charlton Park again, and darned if those tree surgeons didn't cut down that tree I saw a few weeks ago! (The trunk is still there, but I'm sure that's temporary.) I hope there was a reason other than simply opening up the view of Charlton House.

I walked across Woolwich Common and eventually wound up in Castle Woods next to Severndroog Castle, which you may remember I visited a few years ago when I did the Capitol Ring walk, which follows some of the same paths as the Green Chain. It's not a true castle but an architectural monument to a naval commander who demolished a similarly named fortress in India in the 1750s.

From there the path wound down through some formal gardens to Oxleas Woods, where I've been several times on this walk. Because it's not linear, the Green Chain feels a little bit like "Groundhog Day" -- walkers find themselves again and again at the same locations. I think I am now finally finished with Bostall Woods, Oxleas Woods and the Thames.

I walked through an area known as Conduit Meadows, named for the Tudor-era conduit that brought water from the Thames to nearby Eltham Palace. (The name was confusing because the path was always wooded and crossed no obvious meadow.) Along the way I found...

...this note from 9-year-old Isobel to the Tooth Fairy. I love how she starts it with "Long time no see," but I'm a little concerned about what she might mean by question 6: "Are you normal fairies?"

I made my way past the gates of Eltham Palace. I thought I might stop there for lunch, but I was told that in order to visit the cafe I had to buy a ticket for the palace, which cost £15.70! I've already seen the palace, and I wasn't going to spend that much just for the privilege of spending more money on lunch. So I kept walking.

The path wound past horse stables and pastures with views over London, although as I said the day was misty so I couldn't see the skyline very clearly. It eventually took me to the community of Mottingham, where I caught the train back to the city. Altogether I walked about eight miles.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Molly Dodd

I was going to walk another link of the Green Chain yesterday. But the weather turned out to be so chilly and bleak that I just couldn't get motivated. We were promised some sun by the afternoon, but as you can see above, we didn't really get any.

I did manage to walk the dog twice, though, so that's something. And I kept myself busy around the house, doing laundry, vacuuming, going to the vet for dog food, taking shirts to the cleaners, blah blah blah. I also finished about 125 pages of "The Story of Mankind," so the end is within reach! I'm now up to the emancipation of slaves. I intend to finish that book today, but I also intend to walk the Green Chain, and how those two goals fit together I'm not sure but I'll make it work.

These are our snapdragons on the front porch. They've proven to be quite persistent, still blooming well into January. I'd only intended to plant them as annuals but I wonder if they might even make it through the winter. As you can see some of them have gone to seed but others still have flowers.

In the evenings, I've been watching...

..."The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd," an '80s sitcom starring Blair Brown. Do you remember this show? I loved it when it was on network TV in 1987 or so -- I was in college in Florida and fantasizing about having a cool urban life, just like Molly Dodd, who was a sort of singer/poet and had no consistent job yet lived on the Upper West Side in a doorman building (!). That's an image from the opening credits, above, and every time I saw it I yearned to be sitting in my own apartment on my own hardwood floor with my own cup of coffee, reading The New York Times. And then, years later, I wound up not just reading the Times but working there, and I did sit on my hardwood floor reading the paper and thinking of this very image. Funny how things happen.

Anyway, it's a good show -- I've never forgotten the wacky dream sequence where Molly is dancing with a Hasidic Jew as her mother glides around the room dressed as the Statue of Liberty on roller skates -- and it has a very progressive outlook, with Molly dating a black cop and being the object of an infatuation by her female therapist. I wonder if "Seinfeld," which came along just a year or two later, sort of eclipsed it. After all, how many clever, bantery, wacky, sophisticated New York sitcoms can a culture support? But it's on YouTube and I'm happy about that.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Paint and Sequins

Another picture from Croydon, this one showing the very '60s office building known as AMP House. (It's named for the Australian Mutual Provident insurance company, its original occupant when it opened in 1968.) The Croydonist has some more good images, featuring some recent interior art installations, and author John Grindrod calls it "one of my favorite buildings in the town, chiefly because of the amazing atomic-age relief above the entrance, and the concrete chevron panels surrounding it."

Mid-century architecture often gets short shrift, but I tend to like those '60s clean lines. Grindrod does too, and his post (linked above) shows many other similar buildings of that vintage. Apparently Croydon went through some boom years for office development in the '60s and '70s partly because of laws restricting tower construction in Central London.

Thank goodness -- the weekend! I know it's kind of ridiculous for me to complain of fatigue given that I've only worked one week, after three off. But man, what a week. My mission this weekend is to finally finish my last Newbery, "The Story of Mankind" -- I'm up to the Reformation -- as well as take some walks with the camera.

In other news, my brother reports that his GMO pumpkin is finally rotting. He said: "Be sure to tell your blog readers so they understand that I do in fact know the difference between real and plastic pumpkins! Ha!"

And blogger Vivian Swift, who is a skilled watercolor artist, has painted a portrait of Olga! You can see the process here (scroll about a third of the way down). Vivian contacted me a couple of weeks ago with a request for photos of Olga, so I sent her some including one we'd taken on the beach in Broadstairs. That's the one she chose to use as a model, and it's interesting to read how she assessed the image and the difficulties posed by painting a mostly white dog with pink skin tones, and to see the process she used to bring Olga to life on paper.

She's promised to send me the paintings, so I can't wait to see them in person.

Finally, in the "clothes I wish I owned when I was a kid" category, my co-worker had a shirt with her yesterday belonging to her kindergarten-age son. Have you seen these shirts with sequins that you can brush one way for one color and another way for another? My thrilling video demonstrates the effect. Apparently you can also buy shirts where the sequins are printed with portraits of your spouse or child or pet, so you can brush them one way to reveal the picture and another to conceal it. And I thought Pupsocks were impressive! (So last year, now.)