Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Scary Sandy

Dave and I agree that we're seeing more Halloween decorations in London this year. I don't know whether that's because there are more, or we're just looking more closely. Last year we were under the impression that Halloween isn't much of a thing in England, where it's overshadowed by Bonfire Night. But we've heard that it's growing in popularity.

We did not carve a pumpkin. In fact, I haven't carved a pumpkin in years and years.

Of course, our Halloween here is nothing compared to what's going on in New York City and environs. Now that is some scary stuff. As a longtime New Yorker, it's hard enough to read about it -- the flooding in the East Village and Battery Park, the huge fire in Breezy Point that destroyed dozens of houses, the inundated tunnels and transit systems. I can't imagine living it. Incredible, surreal, and far beyond what I expected Sandy to deliver.

I haven't seen anyone directly address the question of climate change, but isn't this just like those apocalyptic scenes we've been told to expect from rising oceans and more intense storm systems? Wasn't Katrina the same way? It certainly makes you wonder.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Pictorial Guide to Recent Posts

Here's our pupating caterpillar. Isn't it amazing? And literally, it happened so fast. One moment, an immobile, apparently dead caterpillar -- and the next, a strange, horned little pod housing a nascent butterfly.

I don't think I've ever watched the process of metamorphosis close-up. I don't know how I missed it in grade school. In any event, the next few months should be interesting! (Well, actually, probably fairly boring, until the big reveal.)

Here are Wabi and Sabi with our new acquisition -- whom we've named Bobby.

Doesn't Bobby look like a tired tiger drag queen -- maybe a little wired on caffeine and/or Botox?

This was my other flea market purchase on Sunday. Remember our onion pot? Here's a matching container, ostensibly for celery. But who keeps celery in a vase?

In a more serious vein, I'm reading the news this morning about Sandy. I must admit I was doubtful in the run-up to the storm whether it would be as serious as predicted, but it looks like it met expectations and more. Stay safe, everybody!

Monday, October 29, 2012

I Stand Corrected

Dave was 100 percent right about our caterpillar -- it is pupating. Yesterday morning it suddenly changed shape, becoming a strange, immobile horned monster. It's amazing how fast it happened.

The day before yesterday I came home from my outing to the Tate to find the caterpillar gone. I searched everywhere around the kitchen windowsill and eventually found him up on the wall. I put him back on the horseradish plant, thinking I was helping him out. Well, it turns out that when they're about to pupate they leave their food plants and search for a vertical surface. He knew exactly what he was doing!

Now, because I was so helpful, he's attached to that amaryllis, which is in the process of dying back for the season. When that leaf turns yellow, my plan is to attach it to the wall.

I need a pet, I swear.

Dave and I went to see "Skyfall" yesterday, the newest James Bond movie. We really liked it -- the special effects were great (it certainly fulfilled Dave's explosion requirements) and the story, if a bit glib, was enjoyable. Don't examine the plot too closely, because deep down it doesn't make a whole lot of sense -- but aren't all Bond movies like that? Besides, Daniel Craig is hot.

My crankiness subsided yesterday, fortunately. I walked over to one of our local graffiti spots and did some photography, did my weekly reports for work and did some cleaning here at home. I also picked up a few fun odds & ends at the Portobello Road flea market, including a third cat in the Indonesian style of Wabi & Sabi. This one is a tiger with strangely red lips and a dingy-looking pink ribbon around its neck. We think it looks like a tiger doing drag.

(Photo: New Cross, last Wednesday.)

Sunday, October 28, 2012


I think our caterpillar is dead. He's just hanging from the underside of a leaf. Dave thinks he's pupating, but he hasn't really changed color or anything. He's just sort of shriveled in on himself. I'm leaving him alone to see what happens, but I wouldn't say the future is bright for our Cabbage White.

I was cranky yesterday, and I don't know why. We had our neighbor over for dinner, so Dave spent the afternoon shopping and cooking. I, on the other hand, went running, got a massage and watched one of my favorite movies, "A Room With A View." So why was I the cranky one?

I dunno. I should point out that Dave loves shopping and cooking, so for him, that's recreational. As for me -- maybe I'm in a mood just because it's grown colder, and October is segueing into dark November. (Our clocks changed this morning, in fact. We're off Daylight Saving Time now.)

Dinner went well, though our neighbor is a World War II history buff, and particularly after a couple glasses of wine, you sometimes find yourself on the receiving end of a long lecture about the Blitz or the Battle of Britain or Dunkirk. A little of that can be interesting, but after a while my eyes roll back in my head. He does photography too, though, so I showed him my completed photo book, and he seemed interested.

Yesterday, Mitt Romney appeared in Florida at my old high school, which just blows my mind. When I went to school there, my hometown was a tiny, sparsely populated community on the outskirts of suburban Tampa. The school itself was in the middle of an orange grove. It's grown a lot since then, though, and I just can't believe it's changed so much that it now attracts presidential candidates!

(Photo: Someone's flamingo art at the skate park at Meanwhile Gardens, Oct. 1.)

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Pre-Raphaelites

After working all morning yesterday, I decided to go to the Tate Britain and see the Pre-Raphaelites show, which I'd been told was terrific.

I didn't even know who the Pre-Raphaelites were -- I assumed, wrongly, that they were painters working before the time of Raphael. But no! They were painters of Victorian England who decided that art in the mid-1800s had grown decadent, and reached back to the early Italian Renaissance for technical inspiration. Their works are characterized by bright colors, finely detailed features and natural realism, depicting subjects such as Shakespeare's plays, Biblical stories and other tales from literature and mythology.

It was a beautiful show. Painters of the Pre-Raphaelite school include Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais and William Holman Hunt, none of whom I know well. I only knew one painting in the show on sight -- this one. I think it was in my college Humanities textbook, or maybe one of my high school literature books.

My only complaint is that the show was incredibly crowded. Entrances are loosely timed, but I still found myself bumping into people at every turn and straining to read about the paintings. I really hate that in museums. I got worn out about halfway through -- having already looked at an exhibit about Turner Prize nominees and some of the museum's permanent collection -- and skimmed the rest of the show.

By this time it was mid-afternoon and I was jonesing for coffee. Of course the museum cafe is cash only, and I'm so pathetic I didn't even have two pounds in my pocket to pay for an Americano. So I walked up through Pimlico toward Sloane Square and found an ATM and a little Italian cafe along the way, where I got my medicine along with a moist, delicious piece of carrot cake.

It's clear and cold this morning, supposedly 37 degrees according to my iPhone. I brought the plants in last night, even though we didn't quite hit freezing.

Oh, and get this -- I bought some cabbage yesterday, specifically to feed our caterpillar. (I was going on the theory that it's a Cabbage White.) And the damn thing won't eat it! Instead he appears to be nibbling the surface of one of the amaryllis leaves, but only reluctantly. He vigorously ate a piece of kale the other day, so maybe I'll try to find him some kale. Meanwhile, we're going to be eating some cabbage around here.

(Photo: Statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Tavistock Square, on Oct. 11.)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Short Takes

-- I came across two news articles within the last few days with attention-grabbing headlines. One I'm sure you've seen as it made national news: "Officer held in plot to cook women and eat them." The other appeared in my hometown newspaper in Florida: "Before fatal shooting in Spring Hill, men confronted by naked woman carrying a cross." In the latter story, it eventually emerged that the shooters (off-duty police officers at a party) believed the woman was carrying a gun. Whether that's true or not remains to be seen. Being naked, she would have had trouble carrying both a gun and a cross, wouldn't she? Anyway, tragic and bizarre as the stories may be, you gotta love the headlines.

-- I harvested the rest of our sad tomatoes, even the hard little gumball-sized ones. I decided to try them in a stir-fry as one of my commenters suggested, and by golly it worked. I still have more to eat, but at least now I won't feel like I have to throw them out. The weather is supposed to get down to 35 degrees tonight, so that will probably be the end of our tomato plants, more or less.

-- The other day I discovered a little caterpillar on our kitchen windowsill. I think he came in on some cavolo nero that Dave brought home from the store. I brought our horseradish plant inside, put it on the kitchen windowsill, and put him on that. He's been living (and growing) there ever since, although he doesn't seem thrilled with the horseradish, which had begun to yellow with the approach of fall. Now I have to think about how to feed this freakin' caterpillar. I think it's yet another Cabbage White. (The caterpillar we previously hosted on that same plant mysteriously vanished. I think he got eaten by something while the horseradish was out on our balcony.)

-- Every year I compile and publish a book of my favorite photography using the Web site Blurb. I finished this year's book yesterday. Whew! What a task! It's about twice as long as last year's, but much better, I think. I ordered a copy to check it out firsthand, and if all the typography and photo placement looks good, I'll offer the books for sale, as usual. Here is last year's, in case you're interested in checking it out. I can't say enough about how good these Blurb books look when they're completed. They come in a variety of styles -- hardcover with a dust jacket, hardcover "image-wrap," softcover or even e-books -- and the quality is great. You'd think you've been published by Simon & Schuster.

-- Speaking of which, someone commented on yesterday's post that I should do a book of storefronts. That's one of my plans, though I'm still working on how to make it happen!

(Photo: Deptford, on Wednesday.)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Uncle Wrinkle, and Others

I went down to New Cross and Deptford yesterday on a quick photography outing. When I was down that way a couple of weeks ago, I photographed this priceless storefront, but I didn't really like the light. So I went back on a cloudy day -- and unfortunately this time the gate was completely closed. You just can't have everything!

Which photo do you prefer? (Click the link above to see the earlier one.)

I would love to know how people come up with names for their businesses. I suppose Kungfu makes some sense, culturally speaking. According to Wikipedia, it's "a Chinese term referring to any study, learning or practice that requires patience, energy or time to complete." So, Grasshopper, it's not just a '70s TV show or a martial art practiced by cartoon pandas.

Oddy Fashion I'm not sure about. Maybe it's the proprietor's name? It seemed to sell primarily African cloth.

Hairdome makes me think of Callista Gingrich.

The Egg Shop. That's pretty straightforward, isn't it? And so decisive that it needs a period.

I love the green-on-green action at the Star Jerk Hut!

I just can't get enough of these little mom-and-pop shops. Surprisingly, chain stores don't predominate in many parts of London -- not yet, anyway. On this entire route I saw nary a McDonald's, KFC or Subway.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Ah, Democracy

I've become increasingly numb to the U.S. elections, and the possible outcomes. As much as I would like to see Obama win a second term, part of me thinks, "Well, this is a Democracy. If more people disagree with me than agree, that's just the way the system works."

And then I just kind of shrug. Mentally.

Maybe I should feel more passionate and committed, but it's just too exhausting. I have to believe that even if Mitt Romney gets elected, the country won't implode. I think Romney, deep down, is relatively moderate, even as he plays to the right -- and as such, he's bound to be better than George W. Bush. Heck, if we can survive Bush, we can survive anyone -- right?

Dave and I have watched some of the debates (we turned off the second one halfway through), but I seem to have hit my limit. Dave asked the other day if I wanted to watch Rachel Maddow, and I surprised myself by saying, "I really don't!" And I like Rachel. I've just had it up to here with political banter.

As usual around election time, there's a lot of animosity out there. I've seen friends defriending other friends on Facebook, and getting into arguments that range from healthy to not-so-healthy. Remember when people didn't talk about who they voted for? As a child, I remember my mom declining to tell me how she voted -- she said voting was private.

What's really fascinating is how evenly divided the country is. We've seen this in past elections, too -- like in the legendary election of 2000. And yet American political candidates seem to lean more and more rightward -- even the Democrats. Which suggests that the country overall is drifting to the right. Which is what happens when people get scared.

Anyway, theorizing aside, I still think Democrats and Republicans generally have more in common than not. Women's health care may be the single issue that most clearly divides them. I think the best thing for all of us would be to stop talking about our differences, stop name-calling ("libtards") and arguing, go to the polls and accept that our favored candidate might lose.

What can you do? This is the danger inherent in a system built on following the will of the people. Those in the minority are relegated to becoming dissenters. If Obama loses, it certainly wouldn't be the first time in my life I've played that role.

(Photo: Portobello Road, last week.)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


You're looking at the tail end of our tomato crop -- the hard little tomatoes that will probably never mature, still hanging on the vine like green gumballs. I've left them to grow and ripen as long as possible, but the process is pretty much at a standstill. I guess it's just too chilly. My prediction is that they will become mulch.

This is the last batch I actually picked, and have you ever seen a sadder clutch of tomatoes in your life? I thought I'd try ripening them on our windowsill, so there they lie, battered and scarred after weeks of wind knocking them against our balcony railing. I'm trying to decide whether I would ever want to eat them. They might be better off as mulch, too.

As much as I like autumn, I can appreciate its melancholy reputation. Who couldn't, looking at tomatoes like that? And the tomato plants have inexplicably put forth a few more tiny yellow flowers, like they're not quite through. I feel like telling them, relax. It's over.

As long as we're talking about sad and pathetic, here is the saddest store in our neighborhood. It's right up by Notting Hill Gate, and it never looks better than this. It doesn't even have a name. I call it the Skank Store, and yes, I have been known to get a liter of milk there from time to time, when everything else is closed.

The Moroccans have a great word for poor, pathetic people or things: "miskeen." That is a miskeen store, and our tomatoes are miskeen, too. No two ways about it.

Yesterday was damp and gray. I walked up to Notting Hill Gate to buy some razors (not at the Skank Store) and a man stopped me and asked for directions to Victoria Gardens. I'd never heard of Victoria Gardens, so I pulled up a map on my iPhone. We scrutinized the map and couldn't find it anywhere. "Well, I know it exists, because I work there," said the man.

I resisted asking him why he needed directions to his place of business. It seemed a bit fishy, but he did not try to sell me a ring. Maybe he'd just spent too long at the pub. Eventually we determined that he was headed in the wrong direction entirely. He walked off disconsolately, carrying his briefcase into the mist.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Kew Gardens (Again)

Dave and I went to Kew Gardens yesterday to see the autumn leaves. I went there last year in early October, and it was just a little too early to catch the colors (such as they are) at their peak. I think we gauged it about right this year. As you can see, they're not quite like the spectacular displays of the northeastern United States, but still nice.

We began our outing with lunch at a vegetarian-ish restaurant near the gardens called The Kew Greenhouse, where I had a pie filled with root vegetables and beans and assorted side salads. Just the kind of rabbit food I like. Dave was glad to see a few meat items on the menu, and he wound up with chicken and leek pie.

Once we entered the gardens we were surprised to see the crocuses (crocus? croci?) out, just as they were in Gunnersbury Park when I went there a couple of weeks ago. These crocuses were huge, like some kind of irradiated science project.

I really wanted to try the treetop walkway, which involves climbing a staircase and walking a narrow metal platform (with railings) that winds through the treetops. I thought that might be an especially nice place to see leaves. As it turns out, most of them in that area were just sort of colorful, but we had a great view of the greenhouse.

We also saw some interesting birds -- a roosting peacock preening his feathers, flocks of chattering feral parakeets, and an astonishingly colorful wood duck.

The weather wasn't the greatest -- it was chilly, raw and gray for the first half of the day and got misty and rainy by late afternoon. All the more reason to retreat to the cafe for coffee and a slice of chocolate cake!

Sunday, October 21, 2012


As I'm walking around my neighborhood in the crisp fall air, among the swirling, fallen leaves, I can't help thinking of Ernie and Ruby. It was a little more than a year ago that we brought them to England, so I associate the cooling weather with their presence -- taking them for walks, bundling them up under blankets by the fireplace, strolling up to Tesco to buy their little pork sausage treats.

In a few weeks it will be Guy Fawkes Night, which literally scared the pee out of Ernie last year.

Some of you will remember they were both old and frail, and as it turned out, they only lived with us here for about three months. During that time we struggled with all sorts of old-dog maladies, from incontinence to dementia. We finally put them to sleep on Dec. 30. I still miss them, and think about them all the time.

Dave has been watching boxer dog videos on YouTube, a sure sign that he's pining for another dog. And I definitely want one too. We've talked about how to go about it and when, but we want to hold off another few months at least. We have a friend visiting in November, plus two trips coming up -- Belgium at Thanksgiving and Florida over Christmas -- and we want to wait until those are past.

We've taken to calling our future dog Pickles. As in, "When are we going to get Pickles?" "If we go on that trip, what would we do with Pickles?" "Pickles would love this leftover bone."

We'll definitely get a rescue dog of some sort. Dave really wants a boxer again, while I would probably be less restrictive on my own. (In fact, I might get a cat! But Dave is allergic.) So I'm rolling with the boxer idea. We're going to contact a local boxer rescue organization. Failing that, we'll probably go to the local shelter, though Dave knows taking me to a shelter would be dangerous. We'd probably emerge with five dogs.

(Photo: Waiting patiently outside the frame shop, yesterday on Westbourne Grove.)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Red Dress

Did I ever know that Steve Jobs dated Joan Baez in the early 1980s? I'm not sure. I was surprised to read it in Walter Isaacson's biography of Jobs, yet there's a niggling little voice in the back of my brain telling me that I'd heard it before.

Isaacson relates an amusing (and revealing) story about Jobs and Baez, who, as you all know, is one of my heroes:
He was a sudden multimillionaire; she was a world-famous celebrity, but sweetly down-to-earth and not all that wealthy. She didn't know what to make of him then, and still found him puzzling when she talked about him almost thirty years later. At one dinner early in their relationship, Jobs started talking about Ralph Lauren and his Polo Shop, which she admitted she had never visited. "There's a beautiful red dress there that would be perfect for you," he said, and then drove her to the store in the Stanford Mall. Baez recalled, "I said to myself, far out, terrific, I'm with one of the world's richest men and he wants me to have this beautiful dress." When they got to the store, Jobs bought a handful of shirts for himself and showed her the red dress. "You ought to buy it," he said. She was a little surprised, and told him she couldn't really afford it. He said nothing, and they left. "Wouldn't you think if someone had talked like that the whole evening, that they were going to get it for you?" she asked me, seeming genuinely puzzled about the incident. "The mystery of the red dress is in your hands. I felt a bit strange about it." He would give her computers, but not a dress, and when he brought her flowers he made sure to say they were left over from an event in the office. "He was both romantic and afraid to be romantic," she said.
 I am getting such a kick out of this book.

(Photo: Autumn colors in Putney, Oct. 4.)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Daily Express Building

This is one of my favorite London buildings -- the Daily Express Building on Fleet Street, which dates back to 1932. It looks so sleek and modern, it's hard to believe it's that old! It's a classic example of Art Deco at its finest.

I first saw it when I took that interminable open-top bus tour with Jennifer and Jesse during their visit in June. I went downtown to take a closer look at it yesterday. I much preferred seeing it from the sidewalk rather than the frigid, windy roof of a bus!

I found it incredibly hard to photograph, though. Fleet Street is very crowded with both cars and people, so waiting for a break in both foot and auto traffic was difficult. And the building's highly reflective sheen made photography doubly challenging.

And then there was that stupid "keep left" sign. Sigh.

Apparently the lobby is also spectacular, but the building isn't routinely open to the public, so I didn't try to go in.

My original intention was to go on to the Tate Modern, but I was having so much fun walking around that I abandoned that plan. I bought a sandwich and sat out by the Thames Path, eating lunch as all the joggers laboriously huffed and puffed past. (Not that I'm making fun of them, being a huffer and puffer myself.) I had a good photography day and came home tired.

Dave and I originally planned to attend a media panel discussion about the presidential election at school last night, but we were both worn out so we stayed home instead. Like everyone else, I'm sick of hearing about the election anyway!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

All About Apple

Not a whole lot of riveting news to share. I've mostly stayed home the last few days, working and reading Walter Isaacson's mammoth biography of Steve Jobs. I never knew Jobs could be such a pill. I like his exacting standards and tendency toward minimalist, beautiful product design and packaging -- but I'm really, really glad I didn't work for him.

It's interesting reading about the early days of Apple -- especially since my family bought an early Apple computer in 1983, the Apple IIe. I remember writing programs for it when I was in high school, using the computer language Basic. I even created an Atlas, writing paragraphs and compiling facts about dozens of countries -- drawn from what were even then our dramatically outdated encyclopedias. I wrote programs to draw the countries' flags on the screen, even though our monitor produced only green lettering on a black background and was incapable of rendering anything in color. The many tricolor flags of Europe all looked roughly the same: three stripes of varying shades of green. Man, I put a lot of work into that project. And I did it for fun!

I suppose it was a way of traveling the world at a time when I couldn't pull up stakes and do it physically, being an unemployed teenager. (My McDonald's job came later.)

I wonder what ever happened to my computerized Atlas? We tossed all the software and floppy discs that went with the computer -- I'm sure it was in among all that. Yes, this computer used those big 5-inch floppies. They look incredibly antiquated now, but at least they kept us from having to wrestle with those horrible screechy cassette-loaded programs, like the ones used by Calfitzmus. (Oh, look at that. I wrote about some of this already -- almost exactly four years ago!)

My mom kept the Apple IIe itself for many years, long after it had outlived its usefulness. I think it had stopped working entirely by the time I finally hauled it to Goodwill about ten years ago. If the people at Goodwill were smart they sold it as a collectible -- but I suspect they probably put it out with the trash.

Steve Jobs, of course, went on to drive the creation of the MacIntosh before being driven out of Apple in 1985. He launched a company called NeXT that produced this thing, which I don't even remember. And that's as far as I've gotten in the book so far!

(Photo: Shops on Pembridge Road near Notting Hill Gate. This is the area that everyone walks through to get to the Portobello Road market, so there are lots of quirky shops catering to the tourists.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Famous of Kensal Green

There are plenty of well-known and accomplished permanent residents of Kensal Green Cemetery. I made an effort to find some of them when I visited on Monday.

One is Charles Blondin, a French acrobat whose real name was Jean Francois Gravelet, and who made a name for himself by walking a tightrope across Niagara Falls in 1859. He performed a series of increasingly elaborate stunts at the falls and elsewhere before dying at 72 of diabetes, at home in London. I remember reading about Blondin as a kid, but I was never all that into daredevil stuff.

This might be the most famous person I found: William Makepeace Thackeray, the writer of "Vanity Fair." Curiously, he appears to be buried with his mother.

After I visited his grave, I realized I'd never read any Thackeray, so on the way home from the cemetery I picked up a copy of "Vanity Fair" at the Oxfam used book shop for £2. We'll see how ambitious I get.

This is the grave of the Brunel clan, including the man with perhaps the best name in English history, Isambard Kingdom Brunel. He was a railway and transportation engineer responsible for bridges, tunnels, ships and other structures during the Industrial Revolution, and is still much esteemed. (You may remember Kenneth Branagh played him in the opening ceremonies for the Olympics this summer.)

Anthony Trollope was a Victorian novelist. I read (and complained about) his book "Doctor Thorne" last fall. (It wasn't bad -- just long.)

I'm not sure Tom Clarke, a screenwriter and director, is famous, but he does have a Wikipedia page. I just happened to notice his headstone and appreciate its minimalist approach. He mainly wrote for British television.

John Murray Easton is an architect whose works include the Loughton tube station and the Royal Horticultural Society's Lawrence Hall. Again, maybe not exactly famous, but his grave marker caught my eye.

Harold Pinter was a playwright and Nobel Prize recipient known for a vast array of dramas and dark comedies. Of his works, I think I've only seen one: The movie "Turtle Diary" starring Glenda Jackson, for which he wrote the screenplay. I don't remember a thing about it.

I did meet his wife, Antonia Fraser, at a book signing several years ago.

And finally, Kelso Cochrane, who is famous mainly as the unwitting catalyst of race riots in London in the late 1950s. Cochrane was a carpenter from Antigua who was murdered by white thugs in Notting Hill; I read a book about the crime earlier this year and wrote about it here.

Apparently Cochrane's grave was originally marked only with a stone slab; the mosaics were added recently. This was the only grave I needed assistance to find -- and when I asked at the Kensal Green Cemetery office, they weren't immediately aware of it. They had to look up its location. I appreciated their helpfulness, but it seems like it should be on any standard cemetery tour, doesn't it?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Kensal Green Cemetery

I finally had an opportunity yesterday to go explore Kensal Green Cemetery, which bills itself as "one of London's oldest and most distinguished public burial grounds." I don't dispute it. I wandered around for a couple of hours and found all kinds of fascinating stuff.

The cemetery is located not far from our flat, and it's kind of amazing that I haven't made it over there before now. I run past it all the time along the Grand Union Canal, which forms its southern border. (Running to keep myself out of a cemetery, I suppose, though as Rose says to Cosmo in "Moonstruck," "I just want you to know that no matter what you do, you're gonna die, just like everybody else.")

That's the gas works in Ladbroke Grove across the canal from the cemetery. (You've seen it before in this post, but I wouldn't expect you to remember!)

Kensal Green Cemetery dates back to 1833 and covers 72 acres, including several chapels, a crematorium and a rose garden. It was supposedly inspired by Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris. I saw all sorts of gothic, mossy and generally illegible headstones dating back to the mid-1800s, some tilting at crazy angles. Walking off the main footpaths was challenging, as the ground is very uneven.

I also saw new headstones, and a few relatively recent graves. Kensal Green is still an active area for burials.

It's interesting how people choose to be remembered -- a writer, a gardener, a cat lover. I saw graves decorated with toys, pinwheels, flags and figurines of pixies and fairies.

Some graves were decorated with wildlife -- just pigeons and squirrels. (I've always heard cemeteries are great places for birdwatching but this is the best I did. Still, he is a very handsome pigeon.)

The tombs and mausoleums along the cemetery's central thoroughfare are especially grand. Still, I don't really get burial -- I would much rather be cremated and scattered somewhere. Spending eternity in a tomb -- even one of these fancy boxes -- just seems so static.

I did find a few famous people -- I'll tell you about them tomorrow!

I didn't even begin to cover the entire cemetery. It's just too big. It warrants a repeat visit.

Monday, October 15, 2012

This World

I would like to write a poem about the world that has in it
nothing fancy.
But it seems impossible.
Whatever the subject, the morning sun
glimmers it.
The tulip feels the heat and flaps its petals open
and becomes a star.
The ants bore into the peony bud and there is a dark
     pinprick well of sweetness.
As for the stones on the beach, forget it.
Each one could be set in gold.
So I tried with my eyes shut, but of course the birds
     were singing.
And the aspen trees were shaking the sweetest music
     out of their leaves.
And that was followed by, guess what, a momentous and
     beautiful silence
as comes to all of us, in little earfuls, if we’re not too
     hurried to hear it.
As for spiders, how the dew hangs in their webs
     even if they say nothing, or seem to say nothing.
So fancy is the world, who knows, maybe they sing.
So fancy is the world, who knows, maybe the stars sing too,
     and the ants, and the peonies, and the warm stones,
so happy to be where they are, on the beach, instead of being
     locked up in gold.

(Photo: Rainy day autumn fountain in Russell Square.)