Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Carpeting, Outside and In

The weekend's wind and rain ripped many of the red leaves off our Japanese maple and scattered them at its feet. We haven't had long to appreciate that bright color.

It's probably cliché to evoke Robert Frost at this time of year, but here goes:

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

And while red leaves are carpeting our lawn, indoors we've started our Great Carpet Odyssey. Last night Dave and I cleared all the furniture out of the dining room, cramming it mostly into the front foyer and our bedroom. Books are lining the walls of the hallway. Everything is stacked everywhere. As I told Dave, it's like those scenes in "Dr. Zhivago" when Tonya and her family have been forced into just a few rooms of their mansion because the Bolsheviks have taken over the rest of the house.

This is in preparation for the handyman to come this morning and rip out the old dining room carpet and carry it away. Then, tomorrow, the new carpet gets installed -- insha'allah, as they say in the Muslim world. (It literally means "God willing," but in this case, it really means "assuming the carpet gets delivered and the workmen show up.")

Monday, November 12, 2018

Red Poppies

Yesterday was bright and sunny, an autumnal jewel of a day. Olga and I took a longish walk in the morning, and she patiently paused for me while I took photographic advantage of the shadows.

Then Dave and I were off to the Royal Free Hospital, where he had an examination scheduled. It's interesting that they chose yesterday, which was not only a Sunday but also Remembrance Day. The NHS works all the time, I suppose. We sat in the waiting room and watched the Remembrance Day ceremonies at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, with Theresa May and the other government and Commonwealth leaders laying their wreaths of poppies.

(By the way, this is an excellent gallery of photos from yesterday's ceremonies around the world. I find that image of poppies projected onto the Sydney Opera House especially beautiful and powerful. I'm glad Macron made a point of rejecting nationalism right in front of petulant Trump and conniving Putin.)

After Dave's name was called and he disappeared into the exam room, I walked to Starbucks and sat out on the sidewalk reading Derek Jarman's "Modern Nature," his journals from the late 1980s when he lived in Dungeness and tended a garden in the windy, salty environment. It's interesting reading, but it's also slow-going, I think because journals -- like collections of letters -- don't have the narrative drive of a novel. I've been reading this book for a couple of weeks and I'm only about a third of the way through. I like it, though -- his recollections of the Soho gay scene in the '60s and '70s, his references to his film and design work and the friends he loved and lost to AIDS, his descriptions of various plants and his efforts to grow them. He died from AIDS not too many years after the book's essays conclude.

Finally I went back to the hospital, collected Dave, and we came home. His exam went fine, and they seem to have some idea why he hasn't been feeling so great lately. This may lead to some treatment changes for his Crohn's -- he has a follow-up appointment in a week or two, so we'll see.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

No More Imaginary Moths

Well, yesterday wasn't quite as chaotic as I thought it might be -- the roofers didn't show up. I guess they don't work on Saturdays.

But the the moth guy did show up, around 11:30, at which point Dave, Olga and I were banished from the house for three hours. The exterminator, Greg, who had an Eastern European accent and who seemed as unconvinced as us that a treatment was even necessary, said he would be spraying by hand. I'd envisioned more of a "room fogger" approach, but apparently not. We just had to be gone until it dried.

So Dave went to a cafe on the high street to do some schoolwork, and Olga and I went to the Heath, which was beautifully autumnal. We even had sunshine, because yesterday's rain didn't materialize until the afternoon.

As usual, Olga was a squirrel-killing machine. (At least in her own mind.) She makes passers-by laugh, she is so maniacal. At one point she was leaping around the base of a tree, barking, and a guy walking past said, "Bark it down! It will fall from fear!"

After our long walk we got home to find the flat pretty much the same. I only saw one area where spraying was obvious, and there was no smell at all. I stayed out of the dining room, where the carpet is being replaced this week and where these erstwhile moths (and hence the spray) are supposedly concentrated.

My ever-considerate spouse bought me a bottle of wine at OddBins, even though he hasn't been drinking anything himself because of his Crohn's. So I was able to have a few glasses last night as we watched TV -- a Netflix show called "Safe," with Michael C. Hall, which is pretty good! We binged three episodes!

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Urban Nature

I found this beautiful feather on the sidewalk last week. It's tiny -- maybe an inch long -- and I suspect it's from a tit but I'm not sure. The coloring is right, and tits are tiny birds.


And here are the most recent downloads from the garden cam. You'll notice that the time/date stamp on the first clip is wrong, but then I fixed it, so the rest should read correctly. Foxes, squirrels and Olga, basically.

We have a whole lot going on around here today, but fortunately none of it requires my attendance. So while the fumigators visit for the first moth treatment and the roofers pound away, Olga and I will be at the Heath. Or somewhere. It's going to be a bit dicey because it's supposed to rain, but I'm hoping we can fit our long walk in between bouts of precipitation.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Roof Repairs, and Outrageous Injustice

Here's what our humble abode looks like at the moment, all scaffolded up for roof repairs. As I said in an earlier post, Dave and I haven't been involved in arranging any of this work. It's been handled by our landlord and the owner of the upstairs flat. It's basically just happening to us.

We live on the ground floor, with the green door. The white door leads to the upstairs, where the Russians live. Mrs. Kravitz lives in the house on the left. I don't even know the name of the woman who owns the house on the right -- the one connected to ours -- but I believe she has the whole structure. It's not divided into separate flats like ours is.

Here's another view, so you can see how extensive the scaffold is. It runs down the side of the house and also around the back. It went up pretty quickly -- I was impressed, considering the workmen had to navigate our jungle of a front garden. (We don't maintain the front -- that's the landlord's responsibility, probably in conjunction with the Russians.)

That big hole in the roadway, with the blue barriers, is a separate project entirely -- something to do with Thames Water. I have no idea what's happening there.

Once again, I read a fascinating article in The New Yorker yesterday, this one about a team of New York lawyers who moved to Oklahoma to represent poor women entangled in the criminal justice system. Apparently Oklahoma incarcerates women, particularly poor women, at above-average rates. The article mentioned the case of Tondalao Hall, a woman whose abusive male partner broke their infant son's leg and ribs. The man was sentenced to eight years of probation for inflicting the abuse. But Hall, who wasn't even home when the child was injured and who called a doctor when she saw that something was wrong, was charged with failing to protect her children -- and sentenced to THIRTY YEARS IN PRISON! Have you ever heard of a greater miscarriage of justice? The ACLU is fighting her case, but really -- it's perhaps the starkest example I've ever seen of a woman being made to pay for the crimes of a man. Appalling!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Red and Blue, Red and Yellow

The consensus seems to be that the election news is brighter than I initially believed yesterday. I thought it was sort of a "meh" result for the Democrats, but The New York Times called it a "rebuke" of Trump's policies -- maybe even a "stinging rebuke," though I can't remember their exact wording. Nate Cohn has a column (with a very hard-to-understand graphic) explaining why the election was better for the Democrats than it appears. I'm not sure I buy it, frankly -- I'd hoped for a much bigger and bluer wave -- but it's an interesting perspective.

At least Nancy Pelosi is now back to annoy the Republicans even more. This thrills me to my bones, knowing how much they complain about her.

Trump's behavior is going to be fun to watch. Now that he doesn't have to tiptoe around to pacify mid-term election voters, he's going to become even more autocratic. Jeff Sessions is just the first step.

Interesting times!

Look how red our Japanese maple has gone, seemingly overnight! Less than two weeks ago it was a dark bronze color. It really stands out at this time of year. Apparently it's a hemispheric phenomenon, as Lorianne in New England said hers just went bright red, too.

I went back to Starbuck's yesterday and collected my free coffee via my health insurance. This time, they had hot water. Yay!

Oh, and I rolled our carts of discarded library DVDs into the staff lounge at work, with "free" signs on them. I figured that would help us get rid of them, and it has -- several shelves' worth have disappeared. Less for us to throw away!

(Top photo: An autumn leaf  in Queen's Park, on Sunday.)

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Elections, and Scaffold Man

I woke up at 4 a.m. to read the American election results. Nationwide, they're not a total disaster. It's great that the Democrats won control of the House, as expected, and there were a few bright spots -- like the defeat of the far-right gubernatorial candidate in Kansas, of all places. Even in Florida, where I voted, it's terrific that a long-standing discriminatory law banning ex-felons from voting has been eliminated. That will have a significant effect in upcoming years and is another step toward true justice.

Of course I was sick to see the Democrats lose the governor's race and a Senate seat in Florida -- but frankly, I kind of expected it. I was just telling a co-worker yesterday that I thought those losses were likely. It's still Florida, y'all -- the "Gunshine State." I'm so used to voting on the losing end of statewide elections that I don't bat an eye anymore.

To the extent that it's all a referendum on Trump, the fact of the matter is, while he turns my stomach and those of a lot of urban, educated voters, many, many people do not care what he says or how he says it. If anything, they like his plain-spokenness and his bluster. They find him entertaining and they don't feel preached to or looked down upon. There are many ironies there, but that's how it is. The economy is up and he's pledged resistance to immigration, and many people respond to those issues. I just have to swallow the fact that I think differently.

So, onward. I hope having a Democratic House at least imposes some checks and balances.

I went back to the dentist yesterday evening to get my crown adjusted again. The good news is, it seems to have really helped. My tooth feels much better than it did. We'll see what happens over the long haul, but I am hopeful.

Oh, and Dave -- who stayed home from work yesterday morning for a doctor's appointment -- texted me to say the scaffold was going up around our house, enabling the roof work to proceed. He sent me this picture:

I was like, "Ummmm....is that really a picture of the scaffolding?"

Dave swears he was not photographing Hunky Scaffold Man, and in fact he said the guy's not all that hunky in real life. Whatever!

In all seriousness, I was glad Dave was home, because I worried about how Olga would respond to workmen clambering over the house and clanking around with those huge metal poles. Dave said she didn't like it, but I hope now that she's been introduced to the disruption she'll be comfortable here on her own.

(Top photo: A chicken place in Queen's Park, on Sunday. I'm always intrigued when I see 'Southern' fried chicken advertised in England. Is it from Southampton?)