Wednesday, July 28, 2021

The Orange Fly

Well, my Day 8 Covid test came back negative, as I knew it would. I got the results just before setting out to Homebase to pick up a bag of compost, so I could walk among the public with a clear conscience. Back to real life!

While there, I also bought a couple of flats of coleus, which I love but haven't planted in ages. The monkeyflowers and calceolaria I bought back in May had both gone to seed, so I replaced them with the coleus. It's funny that Dave and I used to avoid planting annuals -- they're actually quite liberating to work with. When they start looking shabby, there's no need to go to heroic measures to save them -- they're going to die anyway. Just chuck 'em and plant something new!

I found this weird little orange fly on our wounded teasels -- which, incidentally, have collapsed again. We had some wind yesterday and that was that. Their days are numbered, but I'm leaving them for now, leaning on the bird feeder and some nearby rose bushes, while they continue to bloom and provide some insect habitat.

I have no idea what kind of fly this is. I'm sure I've never seen an orange one before.

I also saw this the other day -- a big hornet hoverfly. It looks a bit scary, which wards off predators, but it's completely harmless.

We've begun a routine with Olga where we give her a can of dog food every evening. We used to do it only occasionally, but she loves canned food so much and gets so excited that we figured, why not daily? Well, last night, as I went to fetch her food, I realized with horror that we were out -- so I had to leave her standing in the kitchen, puzzled, while I zipped down to Waitrose. I bought two cans of dog food and a bottle of red wine, and as the clerk was ringing up my purchase, I said to myself, "I hope she doesn't think this is MY dinner!"

I watched the first two episodes of a TV miniseries from the '70s called "Holocaust," featuring Rosemary Harris, James Woods, Michael Moriarty, Tovah Feldshuh and a young Meryl Streep. I remember watching it when it came out, in 1978 or '79, and finding it riveting -- and watching it again has not been disappointing. What strikes me now is the similarity of the Nazi rhetoric against Jews to the way many modern conservatives contemptuously speak about liberals and Democrats -- and let's face it, among some anti-semitic people on the far right, those are essentially code words for Jews and the old tropes about Jewish conspiracies. It was chilling to make that contemporary connection.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Jankety but Upright

I'm free! I'm free! As of today, quarantine is officially over and I am able to go out and have a life. The only complication is that I still haven't received the results of my Day 8 Covid PCR. I'm sure it's going to be negative, but I wonder if I'm supposed to wander free before I know for sure? Then again, people coming into the country from the USA just a few days after me not only got to skip quarantine but didn't even have to take a Day 8 test. So I guess I'm fine.

The NHS didn't call me at all yesterday. I've been dropped like a hot potato. Like a bad date.

Believe me, I wasn't waiting by the phone. I had plenty to do. For one thing, I decided to try to tie up the collapsed teasels one more time -- and I did so, as you can see above. I anchored them to that heavy garden chair. So now they're tied up from three sides and they seem pretty stable. I'm not sure what's going to happen in the first high wind, but at least I've tried.

To what end, I'm not sure. I guess I just want them to live and bloom a little while longer. I saw bees on the flowers yesterday evening and got some satisfaction from knowing that I'd spared the plant long enough for more insects to dine.

As Dave might say, they look "jankety" -- haphazard or badly constructed.  I love that word. It's not one I ever used until I met him, but it's very handy. My teasel rescue is admittedly jankety.

I texted Dave to tell him I'd saved them, but my phone's autocorrect changed "teasels" to "readers," with the result that I told him, "I tied up the readers again."

I guess that's YOU. I've tied you up. Sorry about that.

I haven't mentioned our canna lilies much this summer, but they're both doing fine. One of them is quite big and blooming (above). The other one -- the sad little pathetic one -- is still small, but it's looking healthier than it was last year. Hopefully by next summer it will be more established.

Food-wise, I'm surviving quite well. I haven't even had to do take-out, at least not since Dave's last night in town, when we ordered sushi. After he ordered it, he got a text saying "Eduardo" was on his way. I said, "It's so London to have your sushi delivered by someone named Eduardo!"

And speaking of food delivery, here's a discarded pizza box I found while walking Olga. I was amused by the name. As far as I know, English homes don't have "yards," they have gardens, and as a result the English also don't have "yard sales." They have car boot sales, when they bring their junk to a common location like a schoolyard or car park and sell it out of their car. I suspect whoever named this pizza outfit was trying to sound American.

Finally, remember the jackhammers I've been hearing? This is what their operators are working on -- channeling the street to run fiber broadband lines. This is on West End Lane, which is normally a fairly major roadway, and Finchley Road is also closed off, which is an even bigger traffic artery. Makes me glad I don't drive.

I've been catching up on movies that I've had saved for ages because I knew Dave wouldn't want to watch them. One was "What Happened, Miss Simone?" a documentary about the troubled life and career of jazz singer Nina Simone. Last night I watched "The Treasure of San Bosco Reef," a Disney movie from 1968 that was mildly amusing. It was a mystery set in Italy and it reminded me of "The Moon Spinners" with Hayley Mills, one of my favorite childhood Disney films, which was made a few years earlier and set in Greece. I'm always up for a Disney adventure set in an exotic locale.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Walnut Bombs and Teasel Collapse

We've come to the season when I spend way too much garden time picking up walnuts -- and this is why (above). Every summer the squirrels ravage our walnut tree, racing around, chirping and squeaking, breaking off leaves and sticks and feasting on the nuts, which they drop half-eaten onto the lawn. I don't mind, really, because we don't eat them ourselves. But a green walnut is a fairly heavy thing, so I try not to linger under the tree!

I spent yesterday morning tidying up the garden, lightly trimming so I can more easily move around. I also cleaned the house and took Olga for her walk.

She got into a scrap with her nemesis the cat-behind-the-door, who managed to slash her nose. This is not the first time and believe me, it won't discourage Olga. She'll just as eagerly go after that cat next time, too. They've both been at it for years.

I thought you might like to see the results after the garage guy hammered the "No Parking" lettering off the street -- and painted it over, too, from the looks of things. Still seems like a lot of work for dubious gain.

In the afternoon, I decided to take Olga to the cemetery. After all, today's my last day of quarantine and I figured I could go that far without interacting with anyone, and she needed a longer walk at least once over the weekend. But the gods had other plans, because no sooner did we get there than it began to thunder. I brought Olga right back home again, and almost as soon as we crossed the threshold the heavens opened.

I took some video to show the intensity of the rain, and elsewhere in London there was once again flooding -- for the second time in a couple of weeks. We had some minor damage here at home. In the video you'll see that the very tall teasels by the birdbath in the garden are leaning to the left. Well, yesterday evening they collapsed entirely, RIGHT ON TOP of my dahlias!!

I went out and tied them up with twine, using the bird feeder and a nearby bush as support, which wasn't easy because I think they weigh about 30 pounds...

...but this morning I see they've collapsed again. So, sadly, I may have to just cut them down entirely. We have plenty more teasels, so it's not a crisis.

(Oh, and the dahlias, surprisingly, are fine.)

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Bon Voyage to Dave

After I posted the photo of the crocosmia buds the other day, one of my commenters mentioned that he wanted to see it when it bloomed. So here it is, with some of our hydrangea bushes in the background. This crocosmia is a popular variety called "Lucifer."

Here's a picture that might be a little clearer.

And here's some other garden stuff going on right now:

Our purple sage, a variety called "Amistad," is blooming.

Quite a bit of this has appeared alongside the cornflowers in the wildflower bed. It's called pale flax (Linum bienne) and I assume it came from that wildflower seed mix I sowed.

The spiny flowers of the burdock are blooming.

And speaking of spiny, here's a seed pod growing on the jimsonweed. It's approaching the size of a ping-pong ball.

I just saw Dave off on his trip to the USA -- a car came at 6 a.m. to fetch him and take him to the airport. (This is the difference between me and Dave. When I went to Heathrow, I took the tube. Dave called a car service! I'm a cheapskate, but Dave doesn't have a problem spending money to be comfortable.)

As I mentioned before, he'll be gone three weeks, at a professional development event in Texas, visiting family in Michigan, and going to Drum Corps finals in Indianapolis. I believe this will be the longest we've been apart since we got married 11 years ago! I felt like my own two-week trip was pretty long, so I can't imagine how he'll feel after this one.

Olga was nervous when the suitcase came out. I think she's relieved that I'm still here.

Meanwhile, I'm going to have to re-learn how to feed myself, since Dave usually does all the cooking. I'm seeing a lot of peanut butter in my immediate future.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

White Teasels

The teasels have started putting forth their tiny blossoms -- and all of our large teasels appear to be blooming white, which means they're probably descended from the ones we planted several years ago. Those had white flowers too. All the wild-type teasels I've seen around London are purple.

So, more of the same yesterday. I read, did some light housework and spent time in the garden, where the temperatures have cooled. It's 61º F out there now (16º C) and rainy. I'm staying inside.

At least Olga had some high-quality garden time yesterday:

As you can tell, things were quieter -- the jackhammers weren't going for some reason. One of the Russian boys upstairs was whooping it up, though.

I am so sick of this quarantine. Today I'll take my Day 8 test, and assuming it's negative, I'll be set free on Tuesday. You never really realize how long ten days is until you have to stay home all that time, not even going out to the store. At least during last year's lockdown I did the grocery shopping and made occasional runs to the gardening center!

Friday, July 23, 2021

Jackhammer Summer

Another day in the garden. This hoverfly landed to rest on some crocosmia buds...

...and one of our gazanias offered up a big, beautiful blossom.

It was kind of noisy around here yesterday. There's some utility work going on (again) on the streets surrounding our flat -- something about installing fiber-optic broadband -- so there are jackhammers and all manner of groaning equipment rumbling around.

Dave and I always joke that whenever we try to have a quiet moment in the garden, something disrupts it -- Mrs. Kravitz's gardeners begin mowing her lawn, or the gardeners for the neighbor on the other side bring out the hedge trimmers, or a police helicopter starts circling overhead, or someone fixing up a nearby apartment starts running a power saw. (All of this has happened within the last few days.) Evidence that although we have a fairly bucolic back garden, we do in fact live in a big city.

I was telling Dave yesterday that I haven't seen many butterflies this summer -- only cabbage whites and, as I recall, one peacock and one common blue. I wondered if the dramatic weather about ten days ago, when I was in Florida but there was flash flooding in London, affected them. Not long after I said it, we saw a red admiral flutter past, so maybe they're around after all. (We're supposed to have more dramatic rain this weekend. Fortunately, Dave and I live on a hill.)

When I walked Olga yesterday morning we came across this guy, who owns a garage up the street. Evidently he's trying to remove the "No Parking" sign from the pavement, and rather than paint over it, he's trying to hammer it off. That seems like a lot of work, not to mention potentially damaging to the pavement. Does this mean he's going to let people park there now?

The NHS only called me once yesterday!

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Cornflower and Inula

Holy cow, did I sleep well. I just got up about half an hour ago and I'm still kind of dazed. I must be catching up after all my traveling and jet lag. Despite the fact that we have no air conditioning and the daytime temperatures have been pretty warm, at night they're almost perfect, especially when accompanied by the soft white noise of the whirring fan.

More flowers today, because that's basically my ENTIRE LIFE at the moment. Our first cornflower opened (above).... did our first inula.

Our upstairs neighbors, the Russians, have been wrestling with getting a small leak in the roof repaired. You may remember that they hired one team of roofers who did some shoddy work and abandoned a ladder. Well, yesterday another couple of guys came, and they tried to use the abandoned ladder to reach the roof -- and finding that it was too short, they simply left again. They were here for ten minutes, tops.

No word on whether they're returning or whether they have their own ladder (one would think), but we're told they may need to erect another scaffold. Argh!

Dave, meanwhile, is preparing for a journey of his own. He's leaving Monday for a teaching conference in Texas, a visit with his family in Michigan and Drum Corps finals in Indianapolis. He'll be gone three weeks, right up until the start of the new school year in mid-August. I think he has mixed feelings about traveling now, given the high Covid infection rates both here and in the USA, but as I've told him, we have to live our lives. And he is vaccinated, so even if he catches Covid, God forbid, he shouldn't be severely affected.

It makes me nervous even to say that, but we can't hide out forever. Right?