Monday, October 25, 2021

Watercolor Orchid

Dave and I walked Olga to the cemetery yesterday afternoon beneath a sunny autumnal sky, complete with vapor trails. That sunshine felt great. Olga chased pigeons on West End Green and found a wrecked soccer ball in the cemetery that she determinedly carried around for a while, until she got tired of it.

Still no word on why that mysterious police helicopter was buzzing around over our house. I suppose we'll never know. Lots of people complained on Twitter, including some with much better video than me and even a route map of the copter's flight path, but no one had any answers.

I finished another Newbery -- "Flora & Ulysses" by Kate DiCamillo. It was very cute. That's not a word I often use to describe a book, but it definitely applies to this story of a "cynical" girl who rescues a squirrel after a household accident that seems to give the squirrel mysterious powers.

I also cleaned the house and watered all the plants. I discovered this:

Those are buds on a Cambria orchid that I rescued from Homebase when they gave away all their plants just before lockdown in spring 2020. The flowers had already faded by that time so we've never seen it bloom. I know they'll be red but that's all I know. Stay tuned!

I painstakingly painted that watercolor (ha!) using the Waterlogue app on my phone, because my original picture wasn't that good. Photo processing conceals a multitude of ills.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Lockbox and Helicopter

This may be an all-time record for sleeping late and, hence, posting late. But that's what Sunday morning is for, right?

We've had a busy weekend around here already. I took the dog out for a couple of walks yesterday, including a short outing to the cemetery where we found some autumnal leaves. This is how well-behaved Olga is -- I told her to stay put, and she allowed me to cover her eye with a leaf for a picture. She does trust me, that dog.

I found this mysterious lockbox, set out with some rubbish on the sidewalk. I'm really trying not to bring stuff home, because enough is enough, but I couldn't resist this. I was mostly curious about whether I could get it open (and the answer is no). It doesn't have a key. The paper label says it contained a marriage certificate and an MOT certificate (which is what you get in Britain when your car is inspected). I assume it's probably empty now, but it's surprisingly heavy and I might take it to a locksmith just to see if he can get into it and maybe even give me a key for it.

Or is that insane? I haven't decided.

Anyway, after walking the dog, Dave and I met up at the cinema with our friend Chris to see "Dune." It's a visually spectacular movie and much better than the '80s version, and I think seeing it on a big screen was worth it. I wasn't entirely clear on all the plot points, but fortunately Chris had read Frank Herbert's book three times (and it's a GIGANTIC book, so that's quite an accomplishment). He filled me in afterwards on a few things I didn't understand -- for example, how do those gigantic sand worms survive on a planet that seems otherwise devoid of almost any life? What do they eat? (I won't spoil it for you.)

I tried to read "Dune" as a teenager but it didn't do it for me. I liked light science fiction of the "Star Trek" and Ray Bradbury variety, but I could never get into classic sci-fi by Isaac Asimov or Arthur C. Clarke or Robert Heinlein. Maybe it was just too complicated. I could never do Tolkien either, aside from "The Hobbit."

Anyway, after the movie, we came back here and had pizza and gossiped about work. It was a fun evening and I didn't go to bed until midnight or so, which is why I slept so late.

And I slept soundly, except between 4:30 and 5:15 in the morning, when this thing was hovering over our neighborhood. It's a police helicopter and it was loud. I have no idea what was going on, but they were clearly looking for someone.

I made possibly the worst-quality video ever so you could experience the sound. You won't be able to see much, though, because capturing a flashing object in a dark sky was beyond the capacity of my iPhone. If I ever figure out what that thing was doing up there, I'll let you know.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

GMO Pumpkin

Some of the Michaelmas daisies are still going strong, as you can see, but others have passed their peak and I'm starting to cut them down. As much as I like these flowers I don't want them to re-seed too much. They're prolific and they'd take over if I let them.

More shelf-reading at work yesterday. I found a few more out-of-place books and realized another one, an old volume about American musical traditions, is missing entirely. I think it's one we weeded and somehow failed to remove from the catalog. I love tying up little loose ends like this!

Some of you wondered yesterday why I use a list when I'm shelf-reading, rather than simply going down the line and making sure everything's in Dewey decimal numeric order. The fact is, a list makes the job much easier and faster. When you're just looking at the shelf you've got to calculate integers and alphabetize, but with a list, you simply match. Plus it prevents mistakes. Know what I mean?

Also, one of you mentioned kids who would hide a book in the library so that only they could find it. We had that happen earlier this year -- we could not locate a particular book ("Race to the Sun" by Rebecca Roanhorse) that a boy had requested. I told him that it wasn't where it should be on the shelf and we'd keep an eye out for it. Well, a day or two later, the same boy came into the library and said, "I know where the book is." He took us to a completely different shelf et voila -- there it was. Now, he MUST have put it there. Otherwise, how would he know where it was? I don't know why he then requested it unless he was simply testing our abilities as librarians!

My brother sent this picture of what he calls his "GMO pumpkin." His family bought it at the local pumpkin patch before Halloween LAST YEAR, and it's been sitting on their front steps in Jacksonville ever since. It refuses to degrade, even in the muggy heat of a Florida summer. Apparently they had two of them, but the larger one -- which was orange -- succumbed last April. Squashes and gourds are renowned for their longevity, but this is ridiculous!

Friday, October 22, 2021

Pith Helmet

I've slept a little later than usual this morning. I looked at the clock and it was 3:30, and then I dozed and looked again and it was 4:30, and then suddenly it was 6:30! Fortunately, I can be a little more leisurely about getting to work today, since the kids aren't in school and the teachers are all having parent conferences.

I spent yesterday shelf-reading. Dave asked me last night what that means, so I'll tell you too, just in case you're not sure. It means running a report in our library system that lists all the books in the order in which they should be shelved, and then going down each shelf -- carrying an iPad displaying the list -- making sure they're all in order and none are misplaced. It may sound tedious, but I think it's fun.

I did find a few books that were nowhere near where they were supposed to be, and identified two that seem to be missing -- so I feel like I'm achieving something. As I told Dave last night, one needs a certain kind of personality to enjoy a task like that, and fortunately for me, I have it.

I also weeded some books that seem old or out of date. To wit:

"The Present Day," in this case, means 1979, when this book was published.

It's full of these strangely awkward drawings. I meant to capture the woman with the turned-up hat brim, but I decided I had to show you the other woman too. Did people really wear pith helmets with head scarves in 1970? Maybe in Rhodesia.

Every time I find a book like this, I wonder how it escaped all our previous weeding. Last spring, when we packed up and reorganized the entire library and moved all the books, we got rid of hundreds and hundreds of old volumes. How did we miss this one? It's a mystery. Anyway, it's in the charity box now.

When I came home, I cleaned up some stuff in the garden. We finally took out the lavender bush that I found several years ago -- half of it had died and it had flopped over so that it was lying on some other plants, and although we staked it up nothing seemed to work very well. Dave's been wanting to get rid of it for ages and I resisted but I finally gave in. We got five years out of it, and now I can use that space for foxgloves.

(Top photo: A fallen leaf on Abbey Road, a few days ago.)

Thursday, October 21, 2021

The Screaming Hand

Walking with Olga back from Wormwood Scrubs on Sunday, I passed these vivid posters. This is the "Screaming Hand," a well-known trademark for Santa Cruz skateboards. Kind of an interesting image to find in northwest London, but I guess skate culture is everywhere.

Here's the story of the creation of the hand, by artist Jim Phillips, in 1985. I was once in Santa Cruz myself, way back in 1991 (when the hand was only six years old!). Unfortunately I don't remember much about it. I drove through with a friend from San Francisco on the way to Big Sur. Here's what I wrote in my journal afterwards: "The drive to Santa Cruz was hell. All kinds of traffic and road blockage -- it was really irritating and my temper was short. But after Santa Cruz things opened up as we drove south through Monterey and Carmel, past vegetable fields, pastures on the coast and stylish beach homes."

That's my sole exposure to Santa Cruz -- traffic. I have even less experience with skateboarding.

Speaking of obscure sports references, take a look again at yesterday's post. Do you see on the ceramics shop window the creature at lower left saying "COYS"? I wondered what on Earth that meant. Well, through the magic of Google, I learned that it's a football (soccer) reference that means "Come on You Spurs!" It's a reference to the Tottenham Hotspur football club. Apparently our ceramics dealers are fans.

Today and tomorrow are going to be fairly low-key days at work. The teachers are all having parent-teacher conferences, which used to happen in massive face-to-face gatherings in the school gym but are now held entirely on Zoom, much to everyone's satisfaction. There are no kids around, so for me it's time to work on catch-up projects in the library. I think I'll just do some shelf organizing and weeding.

Remember how I said Dave got his Covid booster shot not too long ago? Well, after the fact, he got a very peculiar letter from the NHS saying he needed a third shot -- and that it should not be considered a booster but part of his original set of vaccinations. (This is because his Crohn's medication leaves him somewhat immunocompromised.) He was told if he'd already had a third shot, he could ignore the letter. And if he'd already had a booster, he could likewise ignore it. So we ignored it, but he's still scratching his head about whether the shot he got counts as a booster or not, and what the difference might be, if any. Mystifying!

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Spooky Ceramics

The ceramics shop on the high street has adopted a Halloween decorating theme.

I've never been in this place. It's a paint-it-yourself establishment where you buy the blank and the glazes, sit at a table and decorate your piece, and then they fire it for you and you pick it up when it's done. I see tons of people there, so it seems pretty popular.

I doubt that anything I painted would turn out this well!

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Slugs and Space Aliens

Today, a random collection of photos from my iPhone.

First, an exotic fowl seen perched on a wall on our street. I am forever finding these little toys from baby strollers littering the sidewalks. I don't know why the manufacturers can't make them so they don't fall off. (I guess that guarantees parents will buy more?)

Look! It's the Donald Trump smiley-face shopping bag!

A poem (you know it's dubious when it has to TELL you it's a poem) on the side of some discarded furniture near Willesden Junction. (Nowhere near Abbey Road, incidentally.)

Remember my shot of Olga in the tiled shop entrance? Well, the entrance has since become littered with fallen leaves, so I thought I'd do a follow-up picture. She's still not thrilled about being asked to stand there.

Some scary-looking graffiti on Billy Fury Way, just in time for Halloween.

This is an interstellar brand of "cosmic corn snacks." I would totally have eaten these a kid.

Here's another over-a-wall picture of a construction site. This used to be an old pub, and not only has it been torn down but they've excavated a gigantic pit in its place. What's going in here, next to the Finchley Road and Frognal overground station, I have no idea. I suppose I could look it up if I get motivated.

(Addendum: I got motivated. A block of flats was announced several years ago for the site, but it was supposed to be finished in 2019. So either there have been significant delays or perhaps the project has evolved into something else, or been sold to another owner. Who knows.)

A mischievous doodle some kids left on a whiteboard at work -- an astronaut, I believe, noting that there is indeed life on Mars. (Funny how life on Mars continues to be a myth that haunts our imaginations, even though we've pretty much proven there's nothing there but rocks.)

And finally, I once again came upon a parade of slugs (a dozen in this photo alone) descending this tree and crawling along the sidewalk, all in the same direction. This is the second time I've witnessed this phenomenon at this location. Do these slugs live or breed in that tree? What makes them come down to the ground? Where do they go from there? (It's mostly paved in the immediate vicinity.)

Very mysterious!