Wednesday, November 25, 2020


I shot this picture on our walk home from work last night. There's a pedestrian bridge right next to the West Hampstead tube station, and with two trains in the station and a spectacular sunset it gave me a nice view. The bridge is enclosed in heavy wire fencing, so I can never get a decent picture with my normal camera -- the grid of the fence gets in the way. The lens of the iPhone is so small, though, that I can shoot through it.

Can you see how few people are on the train platform? Normally it would be bustling, but I think many people (like us) are still avoiding public transportation.

Yesterday was insane at work. I was running all day, fetching books and checking them out and delivering them to classrooms. We had English classes coming in to hear book talks by the librarian; there were Spanish classes checking out Spanish-language novels; there were middle school kids stocking up on holiday reading. At the end of the day I ran a report showing 467 "circulations" which is huge for one day.

I found a little post-it note doodle in a returned book that seemed to accurately describe my state of mind:

So that's why I didn't comment on anyone's blog or respond to comments here. Just too much insanity. I'll try to catch up today.

Dave and I are now off for the remainder of the week. Woo hoo! Poor Dave has some dental procedures scheduled -- including a root canal on Thanksgiving day, which has to be the most depressing holiday plan I've heard from anyone. But since we're not eating a big feast it's a good time to do it, I suppose!

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

More Pants

I took this picture shortly after 4 p.m. You'd think it was midnight! Ah, winter. I first photographed this pair of shops several years ago when there was a little take-away restaurant on the left side called Uncle Pink. A peculiar name, but not as peculiar as Uncle Wrinkle.

As you can see, I have nothing much to blog about today.

I forgot to tell you one of the main reasons I took the dog for a long midday walk on Sunday. Dave was home working on some musical arrangements, and he'd left his headphones at school. The piece he was arranging was what we often think of as can-can music, though it's officially known as the "Infernal Galop" by Jacques Offenbach. Well, I could only listen to so much can-can. I had to get out of the house.

As I've mentioned before, his students aren't allowed to play their usual wind instruments because of Covid, so the band is working with something called boomwhackers -- long colorful tubes that produce a note when they're hit on a surface. It's kind of like playing handbells, except not nearly as delicate. Playing can-can music on boomwhackers sounds like a heck of a workout, but I guess kids have a lot of energy. Some of them are playing drums, too.

Oh, and remember how I said my new pants (trousers to you British folks) arrived on Saturday? Well, I wore a pair to work yesterday, where I was surprised to find a package on my desk containing another two pairs of pants from Land's End. I guess when I called them about my postcode mixup they sent a replacement order! So now I have four pairs for the price of two. I told Dave I felt guilty and wondered if I should call and pay for the extras, but Dave said, "Don't you DARE!"

Monday, November 23, 2020

Reflection With Big Face

Here's a self-portrait for you -- Olga and I on our walk yesterday, passing this kitchen fixtures shop on Finchley Road. It's kind of a weird place, with that sculptural face in the window, which as far as I can tell is purely a design element with no connection to what the shop actually sells. I love the layers in photos like this -- it's hard to tell what's in the shop and what's across the street.

That was on our way to the Heath, where we had a relatively uneventful two-and-a-half-hour walk.

Here's Olga, barking at me: "STOP TAKING PICTURES!"

You wouldn't know it from that photo, but the Heath was pretty crowded. It was a nice day with sunshine and intermittent blue skies, so I should not have been surprised.

Otherwise, it was a day of domestic duties: vacuuming, cleaning the bathrooms and the kitchen, watering plants, that kind of thing. I got the dahlias tucked away in their compost for the winter, so that job is done.

Did you see that the novel "Shuggie Bain," about a boy growing up in Scotland, won the Booker Prize? By coincidence I'd bought a copy at our local bookshop just a week or so before the prize was announced, and though I haven't read it yet, I'm going to give my copy to the library so we'll have one available. I'll get around to it eventually. I've been so distracted from reading lately -- I haven't even cracked the covers of "The Pickwick Papers," which has been on deck as my next novel for a couple of weeks now, and I've got David Sedaris' new book, too. Plus several others. Plus my New Yorkers. Argh!

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Cemetery Windows

Yesterday I took Olga to Hampstead Cemetery for a walk, and the windows of the chapel buildings were cracked open. The chapels are always locked -- to my knowledge they're completely inaccessible to the public -- but I could see through those cracks little hints of the stained glass inside.

The Bible verse is from Luke, anticipating the birth of John the Baptist: "Thou shall call his name John. And thou shall have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord."

Perhaps that's John himself in the window above.

According to the building's historic listing, the windows are by J. Dudley Forsyth of Hampstead. The structures themselves (which I've photographed many times) are from 1875-76.

They look like interesting windows, depicting angels with bright red feathery wings. I'd love to get in and see them in their entirety. There aren't even any pictures online that I can find.

Anyway, we had a good walk, and I got lots of gardening done yesterday too. I trimmed back more dead stuff, cut down our bean vine, and...

...lifted most of the dahlia tubers. I'll put them in some soft dry compost and overwinter them in our garden shed. I didn't lift one dahlia -- the pink one -- because it still has green leaves, but all the others had already died back naturally for winter.

I left the tubers sitting out on the lawn after I lifted them, hoping to dry them out a bit before storage, but I was scared the squirrels would get them! Eventually I moved them to a safer space in the shed.

Remember the pants I ordered from Land's End and had sent to school, only to realize I'd given our home postcode by mistake? Well, somehow Land's End got the problem sorted and the pants came to us here at home. So that problem is solved and I finally have more than one pair of pants to wear to work.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Finding and Losing

It's already Christmas on the high street in West Hampstead! I took this yesterday morning while walking Olga. You can see how dark it is when we walk at about 6:30. There's just a hint of dawn on the horizon.

My boss lost one of her earrings yesterday at work -- a little jade leaf that her mother had given her. We all went into full-scale search-and-recovery mode, walking slowly around the library and crouching down to peer under tables and shelves. One of our teachers, who is of Pakistani descent, said a prayer that is supposed to help with the recovery of lost items. And then, after about half an hour, voila! Guess who found the earring? That's right -- eagle-eye Reed. It was lying right in the middle of the floor between two shelves. We mused about how all of us had searched that space before and none of us had seen it -- I think we were naturally inclined to search near furniture or around other obstacles, rather than right out in the open. It's a miracle none of us stepped on it.

On my way home from work I walked behind this man, whose sweatshirt amused me. I have no idea what "Against All Odds" is supposed to mean. I immediately thought of the Phil Collins song, and the movie it came from by the same name. When I started my freshman year in college, and had newly moved to the dorms, that song was on the radio all the time. I remember hearing it while lying by the pool, back when I did things like lie by pools, and while driving around in my '77 Pontiac Sunbird. I still have a soft spot for both the song and the movie, featuring a handsome Jeff Bridges and a stunning Rachel Ward and exotic locales in Mexico.

I'm sure that man's sweatshirt has nothing to do with any of that, but it sent me down a nostalgic rabbit hole.

We got some bad news from my brother in Jacksonville. Remember Queens, his dog, whose aggressive affection left me with scratches on my arms from her nibbly puppy teeth? Well, she broke two molars, and while treating her for those damaged teeth the vet discovered she had an aggressive form of lymphoma. She wasn't eating and was clearly unwell, so Queens is no longer with us. It's pretty shocking, considering she was less than four years old. This morning I re-watched the video we made last year with my Go Pro camera attached to her back. Poor crazy dog. My brother says the whole family is broken up about it.

Meanwhile, back in London, another annotation has appeared on the mural of our own deceased celebrity dog, Sugar... 

Friday, November 20, 2020


This is the flower of a Fatsia japonica growing at the back of our garden. Dave bought it several years ago and we weren't immediately sure what to do with it -- it lived in a pot for its first year but started looking yellow and peaked so, in desperation, we stuck it in the ground back by the shed. It has flourished there and now it's blooming up a storm.

The blossom reminds me of buttonbush, a wildflower from my home state of Florida. They used to grow wild at the lakefront where I grew up, and my brother and I called them "Sputniks." These are the English version, I guess. (Or Japanese, by way of England. Our globalized world!)

Yesterday was pretty quiet, for a change. I got a bunch of stuff done that's been on the back burner -- I finished another Newbery book, wrote my review and worked on some reading lists for the kids. The Newbery was called "Up a Road Slowly," from 1967, and I thought it was just OK, although some people on Goodreads have called it one of their favorites. It was written in a weirdly formal style and was vague in its setting, both time and place, which bugged me.

Here's our latest domestic conundrum. The cabinet door below our kitchen sink is sagging like crazy. It looks like it should be an easy fix, right? But it's not just a matter of tightening a screw -- there's something wrong with the hinge. I think it needs to be removed and re-anchored in the cabinet wall. It seems ridiculous to have to call a handyman, but both Dave and I have looked at it and we don't really know what to do. I may get in there this weekend with some Gorilla Glue and see if that solves the problem.

When in doubt, use Gorilla Glue. That's my motto.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Retail and Raking

I'm not sure my new "skull-shaver" device is going to work out. I've discovered that in the instruction book, we are warned in BIG CAPITAL LETTERS that we shouldn't use it to shave more than two days' worth of hair growth. In other words, if I use it, I have to shave my head every other day! I usually shave once every two weeks or so. I don't want to be a slave to my skull-shaver.

It's also not nearly as effective as a razor, which leaves my head completely smooth -- I'm still stubbly after I use the skull-shaver. Overall I'm not that impressed. But I'll continue to give it a chance and see how well I adjust.

In other adventures in retail, I bought two new pairs of chinos from Land's End. I am down to one pair of work pants, which I've been washing and wearing repeatedly for the last few weeks, and I really need a few more. They were supposed to arrive Saturday, but I got a text from the delivery company saying they'd tried to deliver them but I wasn't in. Well, that was a load of hooey because I was having them delivered to school, where there's always someone to accept a package. They didn't come Sunday or Monday either.

And then I realized I'd given Land's End the wrong postcode -- I gave the address for school but the postcode for our house. I called to correct the problem and they said they'd get the package relabeled, but I've heard nothing in the two days since and I suspect it's probably gone back to the retailer. I'll get the pants eventually, but what a hassle. Sigh.

When I got home from work yesterday, I had just enough daylight left (before it got dark at 4:30) to finally rake up all the leaves from our walnut tree and our Japanese maple. I piled them at the back of the garden, where they can break down on their own and hopefully provide some shelter for bugs and other critters over the winter. The dry walnut leaves smell really wonderful -- kind of spicy. I wish I could blog that smell so you could experience it.

On Netflix, Dave and I have finally finished "Borgen" and "The Queen's Gambit," both of which were excellent. Now, we've moved on to a BBC miniseries called "Roadkill" with Hugh Laurie, which we like -- but it's only four episodes, so we'll polish that off quickly. Then, on to "The Crown"!

The other day we watched "The Boys in the Band," which I enjoyed. (I'd meant to mention it but forgot until Ms. Moon reminded me.) It's a remake of a 1970 movie about gay men in New York -- which was itself based on a play. By our modern standards it seems a bit overwrought, but it was written when gay men faced tremendous discrimination and were still told by society that we were mentally ill. So as a product of its time, it's very effective.

It reminded me that back in 2009, when I lived in New York, I watched the original and realized it was filmed in my neighborhood!

(Photo: A lost stuffed animal in West Hampstead.)