Tuesday, March 20, 2018

His Master's Voice

This is the HMV music store on Oxford Street. That sign has been there since the 1930s -- according to Wikipedia, "HMV stands for His Master's Voice, the title of a painting by Francis Barraud of the dog Nipper listening to a cylinder phonograph."

The image was bought by the Gramophone Company in 1899 and used in England as the trademark for HMV, and in the United States for RCA. Here's an interesting photo gallery of pictures from the interior of the London HMV store over the years. I love that photo of customers -- dressed in suits for a day on the town -- sitting in the listening booths, records spinning in front of them.

I came across the sign last night as I was visiting a nearby doctor's office to consult about my painful back. The doctor seems to think I'm just suffering the effects of age, but we're going to see if my insurance will allow me to get a scan just to see exactly what's going on. Fortunately, in the last week or so, I've had very little pain and my range of motion hasn't been affected, so maybe whatever's kinked me up back there is getting better.

Our snowfall seems to be dissipating. The sidewalks near our flat were like glass yesterday morning, slick with refrozen meltwater. I was afraid Olga would pull me down during our walk. But this morning there's only a hint of snow left in the garden and there's even a bit of rain falling, so I guess the temperatures have inched up a bit.

I was amused by this person's novel approach to keeping ice off the windshield -- I wonder if it worked?

I swear I did not write that. I agree, though.

Still trying to relocate myself mentally to warmer climes, I finally read "Freddy Goes to Florida," which I recently mentioned finding in the library. It's a cute book -- very old-fashioned -- about a bunch of farm animals who travel south for the winter. I wonder if kids would go for it now?

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Painters Take Flight

I'm getting pretty sick of snow. Let me just say that.

Winter circled back upon us yesterday, with temperatures dropping as expected and snow falling steadily all day. I'd say there's a couple of inches on our patio table and potted plants. The snow on the lawn seems to have melted a bit, but still -- we're back in the deep freeze.

I took that yesterday morning, standing outside the back door. We are not amused!

On the bright side, the painters are finished. The young guy painting the flat -- who was not the boss who gave us the estimate -- worked all through the morning and into the afternoon yesterday. It was a bit awkward having him here, working in the hallway while I was lying on the couch watching TV, but given the weather I wasn't about to go anywhere. He had interesting tattoos -- outspread wings tattooed onto his forearms. I wondered if they were supposed to mean something, but I didn't ask.

Then the boss showed up and I paid him a portion of the bill. (He wanted it in cash to pay his worker.) I made him give me a receipt, even though I felt churlish for doing so. He kept talking about how nice we were and how tidy the flat is, which is hilarious because I thought the place was a wreck all week. I think he's mainly after a five-star Google review. (We'll give him one. He and his angel-winged employee did a great job.)

I tried to put up the new shower curtain rod that Dave bought, but darned if I can figure out how that thing is supposed to work. I didn't want to wrestle with it too much for fear of leaving marks on the walls. I'm leaving it for Dave to handle when he returns from Singapore tonight. I know -- I'm a terrible spouse. (In my defense, I have entirely reassembled the rest of the apartment, putting everything back in its proper place.)

Mainly I spent yesterday cinematically transporting myself to Miami -- in psychological avoidance of the snow, I suppose. I watched both Tony Rome movies and several old episodes of "Miami Vice." I took Olga to Fortune Green and the cemetery in the afternoon, and bathed her afterwards. Right now she's snoring under a blanket, tucked in with one of her tennis balls, twitching and dreaming and showing no interest in the cold, cruel wintry world outside.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Daffodils in a Tree

Last weekend, when Olga and I went to Sandy Heath, we found that someone had propped a bouquet of daffodils in this immense tree. (Olga wasn't all that interested, preferring to run around like a wild thing in the background.)

Actually, maybe they're not daffodils. Narcissus?

Yesterday was the most beautiful, bright, sunny spring day you could ever want. And today? Freezing temperatures, wind and snow! We're getting a mini version of our recent "Beast from the East" storm this weekend. The high temperature for the day is supposed to be just above freezing -- which means, once again, that walking the LOOP is probably out. I'll know more after I walk the dog this morning. If she'll go. I see flurries out there already.

The painters are here today, finishing up, so I have to do something to get out of their hair.

I woke to the news that President Trump is claiming in a legal filing that Stormy Daniels owes him $20 million for violating their confidentiality agreement. But why does that agreement exist in the first place?! Is this man really our president? I just can't stand it.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Literature and Bart Simpson

I found myself walking behind this guy on my way home from work yesterday. People make the strangest fashion choices.

I'm enjoying my alone time at home with the dog. It would be better if the house weren't still a wreck, but the painters are making progress. The kitchen is mostly done, the bathroom needs one more coat, the entrance hall is mostly done except for all the trim, and the living room is done. So now it's just a matter of the small hallway in the middle of the house, plus that trim and the extra coat in the bathroom. I think they may finish up today.

I haven't tried to put anything back in order. I'll wait until they're done with everything and then do it all at once.

One unfortunate side effect of the bright new paint -- it makes the kitchen cabinets look terrible. I need to do some serious cleaning in that kitchen.

Meanwhile, as I said yesterday, Olga and I are living in the midst of a garage sale, with everything crowded into the two rooms that are not being painted:

I'm not complaining. The place will look so much better when this is all done.

The magazine people finally came and collected all our donated magazines from the library, and I worked yesterday to weed more of the fiction shelves. So here's a question -- Samuel Richardson, the 18th century novelist, penned two multi-volume works, one called "Pamela" (2 volumes) and one called "Clarissa" (4 volumes). We have both, and neither has been checked out for about 15 years. Do you think it would be library heresy to take "Clarissa" off the shelves and just leave "Pamela," which is the better-known work? Are we obligated, as a library, to make all the classics available, or is it better to free up shelf space for books that are going to be more actively read?

I faced the same question with "The Mysteries of Udolfo," a classic gothic novel I hadn't heard of at all. We have a copy but it's never been checked out. Apparently it was influential to Jane Austen (whose novels do get read) but do we really need it?

I know this probably sounds horrible, given that we are a school library, but the reality is, shelf space is valuable and most of our reading patrons are middle schoolers. (The high schoolers check out far fewer books.) As I write this and think more about it, I'm leaning toward keeping them as foundational works of literature, but it's an interesting question.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Anti-Gun Walkout

Students and staff at our American school here in London participated in yesterday's anti-gun walkout. Even though Britain in general is a much more secure environment when it comes to gun laws and gun regulations, our demonstration was meant to show affinity with marching students all across the United States. I didn't participate personally, because someone had to stay in the library with the handful of students (mostly from countries other than the USA, it seemed to me) who stayed behind during the protests. But I certainly agree with the sentiment of the demonstrators.

It's great to see so many kids taking action and making their voices heard. The cynical side of me suspects it won't lead to concrete change -- at least, not immediately -- but these kids are forming opinions that will influence how they and their friends think and vote in coming years. So that's promising.

I do think public opinion is slowly changing on this issue. As older, more gun-friendly generations die off, and younger people who have been raised amid the seemingly endless parade of mass shootings grow up and become politically active, change is bound to occur. I also suspect fewer people in each new generation are participating in gun-related sports and hunting, which means many younger people see guns solely as criminal devices. Which is pretty much how I see them.

So, yeah, I'm glad to see kids taking a stand.

In other news, the painters in our flat made more progress yesterday. They removed our glass shower partition, a ridiculous (and ridiculously ugly) sort of gate which served as our shower curtain. It only extended half the length of the bathtub, which left the rest of the tub completely open to the room. I don't know who designed that thing, but Dave and I both hated it.

Our plan was to keep it and re-install it when we leave this property. Meanwhile, we'll use an actual shower curtain.

But the painters had to use some "brute force" (as one of them said to me) to remove the door, because the screws were badly stripped. So I'm not sure reinstalling it will ever be possible. We may have to eventually take our lumps for that decision. I put it in the shed in the back garden, and there it will stay.

(Photo: A bar near Tottenham Court Road, last week.)

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Morris the Entrepreneur

This used to be the side entrance to a gigantic art deco cinema in Kilburn called the Gaumont State Cinema. It seated 4,000 people! I'm not sure what's going on there these days -- apparently the main part of the cinema was purchased by a church, but I'm not sure this side venue (which eventually became an Odeon cinema) is part of that deal. At any rate, as you can see, it's closed up and not in great shape. There were two couches and a tent beneath that awning when I took that photo last weekend.

Thanks for all the mouse info yesterday. I'm (weirdly) not too concerned about it, but I like the idea of putting the dog food in a plastic container. That does seem wise. I may try to get a humane trap and release the critter outside.

I went back to the dentist yesterday to have him take a look at my root-canaled tooth, which has been giving me very mild twinges of pain. He thinks it's just routine inflammation that's part of healing, but he gave me another round of antibiotics in case there's still some infection beneath it.

You know how we were marveling the other day at all the information available on the Internet? Well, I was recently looking through old issues of my hometown newspaper, the Tampa Tribune, online. I was specifically searching for a picture that ran in 1988 or so of a bunch of reporters and candidates at the courthouse watching election returns. I was in the picture, and I don't have a copy of it.

Well, I didn't have any luck finding that particular photo -- I'm not clear on the year or the caption or the photographer or even whether it ran in the Tribune. It might have been a competing newspaper. But I did find a couple of other articles featuring me, which I already do have copies of, as well as lots of interesting old advertisements like the gem at left. I wonder if Morris is still in business?

It was fun to browse the paper and remember the ol' hometown before it became the much bigger, flashier city it is today.

The painters are still here, working their way through the flat. All is still chaos. Olga spent last night on the couch -- I think she was waiting for Dave to come home. (As I mentioned yesterday, he'll be in Singapore until Sunday.)