Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Break in the Weather

Praise Jesus! Sunshine! Yesterday the clouds and rain were blown away by a gusty, breezy springlike wind, one that propelled Londoners out of their houses and into the streets and parks. I opened the windows, aired out the flat and took the opportunity to head over to Kensington Gardens to check out the native bird life.

Backstory: While walking Olga in the park on Monday, I saw a stunning little brownish bird with an orange breast. I wasn't able to photograph it as I only had my point-and-shoot camera, and I was being jerked along by the dog. So I went back yesterday, sans dog, to see if I could find it again.

Sure enough, in the same area of the park, I saw one sitting on a fence, chirping away happily.

Isn't it cute? Funniest thing, though -- I thought perhaps I'd found some mildly exotic European bird. No. It is a robin. I kid you not. In England, robins are a completely different species from their American counterparts.

In a nearby thicket of bushes, I saw several other intriguing winged creatures. The bird above is a Great Tit -- a bit ruffled because I interrupted it in the middle of grooming.

And this little thing is a Blue Tit. Both of these tits were tiny and flitty and very hard to photograph.

Finally, on the way back home, I noticed some of the park's resident feral parakeets swooping among the treetops. They're very easy to spot at this time of year, brilliant green against the brown bark of the trees. They clearly were not made to camouflage themselves in a deciduous environment!

It felt so great to get out on a nice day. I didn't try to take Olga because I think I exhausted her on Monday. She's been having some digestive issues (perhaps related to her tendency to eat random bits of stuff off the street) so we're letting her take it easy.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Banana Pudding Crisis Response

Thanks, readers, for your feedback on my existential angst and yesterday's post. Your perspectives were all invaluable! I think it is indeed an American "disease" to build our personal identities around our careers, as one of my readers pointed out -- and our careers, in our minds, are those activities that make us money.

When I mentioned my discontent to Dave, he pointed out that I do a heck of a lot of work beyond my part-time, income-producing job. I do all the cleaning, all the laundry, I pay the bills, I manage most of the errands. Not to mention all the time I spend on photography, even if it is more of a hobby than a job. So, yes, I am doing a lot.

And I am going to be quiet about all that now, because no one wants to read ad nauseam about my personal doldrums. (As my brother succinctly but correctly put it: "How exhausting.")

I took Olga on a long walk yesterday morning in Hyde Park, beneath low gray skies. The weather has warmed but the ground is sopping wet and squishy with mud, and there are lots of standing puddles. This made for a disastrously muddy dog by the end of the walk. I had to throw her in the shower when we got home in order to hose off her undercarriage. (And she loved that -- NOT.)

Her surgery seems to be healing well, by the way. She hasn't paid any mind at all to her incision. I'm not sure she even feels it, really. I am so thankful she hasn't had to wear that awful cone.

I made a bit of comfort food on Monday -- banana pudding with Nilla wafers, a specialty of my childhood babysitter and one of my favorites! Dave and I brought some Nilla wafers and boxed pudding mix back from the states when we visited at Christmas, and I layered it all together and topped it with whipped cream. It wasn't quite my babysitter's recipe -- hers did not involve boxed pudding or whipped cream and it had meringue on top, which means time in the oven -- but it was close. We still have some wafers, so maybe I'll try a more authentic second batch from scratch one of these days.

(Photo: Camden Market, last week.)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Is This All There Is?

I've been in a bit of a funk lately -- well, not a funk, really, more like a generalized state of crabbiness. I get that way when I start feeling uncertain of my overall direction. Like, what am I doing with my life? Is it enough to be living in London with my partner and a new dog and a part-time job and an obsessive photography habit? I am essentially without a career at this point, without any larger purpose. I'm coasting along day-to-day, but I don't have any greater goals.

Well, I guess that's not exactly true. I have some goals for travel and things like that. But you know what I mean -- an overall purpose.

I've wanted to publish my photography, but I'm feeling less and less like that will ever go anywhere. There are so many people making images now -- it's a bit like journalism, my erstwhile career. These days, at least according to popular wisdom, everyone's a journalist, everyone's a photographer. We all produce content, so the value of content has fallen and it's getting harder and harder to find anyone to pay for it. Even good content.

(This feeling has no doubt been exacerbated by the frustratingly brief rejection letter I recently received from another publisher.)

Then again, was I any better off when my career was more active? Is newspaper work any more purposeful than scheduling substitute teachers? More interesting, maybe, and a bit more lucrative. But there were certainly things about it I didn't like -- the hours, the competition, the occasionally rude rejection by potential sources. For God's sake, I am living in London, with spare time and the means to just enjoy myself. I have a hell of a lot of nerve whining about anything.

Truth be told, I wasn't entirely sure of my purpose even when I was editing newspapers. I've never been a particularly ambitious person. I mostly just want to do my job well, support myself, and have enough money to enjoy my life. I'm doing all of that now, more or less.

I suppose this is just the human condition -- the current of dissatisfaction that runs through most of our lives, the feeling that we need more. It's the desire that the Buddha warned about. Maybe I should go back to sitting! Meanwhile I will keep walking Olga, and keep enjoying my evenings with Dave, and keep seeing my world, and recording it in the best way I know how. If I have a purpose, that's it, at least for now.

(Photo: Camden Market, last week.)

Monday, January 28, 2013

Everyday Trivia

Dave and I went to see "Zero Dark Thirty" yesterday. Wow! What a terrific movie. Suspenseful and riveting, and definitely worth seeing. I read that some politicians are upset by the inference that the U.S.A. obtained intelligence through waterboarding and other forms of torture, but isn't that widely accepted wisdom at this point? The film seems pretty realistic to me, not that I have any first-hand knowledge of Pakistan or intelligence work.

Going to the movie was a milestone for us because it's the longest we've left Olga by herself. We joked about coming home to a demolished apartment, but when we returned it was fine and she had clearly been asleep. Whatever anxieties she has, separation doesn't seem to be one of them.

There's not much else to report. Dave and I have been spending the bulk of our evenings working our way through "Downton Abbey" and "The Killing," both terrific shows. I'm still wondering when we can get the second season of "Homeland."

So you see, life in London really isn't that different from anywhere else!

(Photo: Charing Cross Road, on Saturday. Did you ever read Helene Hanff's book "84 Charing Cross Road," or see the movie adaptation with Anne Bancroft? It centers on a quaint little bookshop like this one, many of which line the street there.)

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Surprisingly Sunny Saturday

We had a brief burst of nice weather yesterday. The sun actually came out, unheard of lately, and since Dave was home with the dog I seized the opportunity to go walking through Mayfair, Piccadilly and Soho. I had a good time and got some good photos. This morning it's rainy again and the news says parts of England are ripe for flooding, between the rainfall and melt from the recent snows.

On a serious note: In East London a group of young men calling themselves "Muslim Patrol" have been making videos of themselves harassing pedestrians for not being compliant with Muslim laws. They harassed a woman wearing a short skirt, a man who they believed to be gay, people drinking or carrying bottles of alcohol, even a couple just walking near the mosque. The mainstream Muslim community has condemned their activities and some of them have been arrested. There are theories that the videos were made by far-righters to stir up anti-Muslim sentiment, but the guys speak Arabic and they seem pretty authentic to me. As a gay man who cherishes living in a tolerant society, I find this pretty alarming.

On a happier note: Have you ever wondered what happened to Andrew Ridgeley?

And finally: If you aren't too sick of my Morocco photos, and you haven't already seen it on Facebook, check this out. In 1992 I took a series of photos I intended to combine into a single panorama of the town where I lived, Ait Baha. Back then I would have had to Scotch tape the pictures together. But with modern technology, I can combine them digitally into one seamless image. Pretty cool, huh?

(Photo: A woman at Piccadilly Circus yesterday. We all need a little glamor in our lives!)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Fuzzy Bucket

Yesterday, while on my continuing mission to scan my old negatives, I dug into some really old stuff. These are images from the 1970s that I took as a child with my Magimatic camera.

They're certainly not good -- partly because I was a kid, and partly because the Magimatic was incapable of taking a clear picture. I remember that the shutter button was incredibly hard to press. You basically had to stand on it to get the shutter to release, and that's bound to cause shakiness!

But when I look at a picture like this one of a bucket in my grandmother's yard, I can see what I was trying to do. It's a still life, right? I knew enough to put the bucket off-center, and make the fence board parallel to the top of the frame. Not too shabby, if I may congratulate my younger self.

This is our back yard in Florida, complete with the rusted wreck of a swingset that remained for a while after my brother and I outgrew it. I remember being stung by a wasp while playing on it -- the wasps had built a nest inside the hollow metal tube at the top. Put me off that swingset forever.

As you can see, the negatives have deteriorated with time. The colors are a bit wonky.

This stunning skyline is Jacksonville, back in the late '70s when it was still a stinky paper-mill town. I shot the photo from our moving car on I-95. Why I wanted a picture of Jacksonville I'm not sure, but at least there's sort of something to see here. I have a lot of pictures out the car window of random rivers and buildings and, well, blurs.

I shot them when we used to drive to Washington, D.C., twice a year to visit my grandparents. And to be honest, I know exactly why I shot those gray expanses of river water and guardrails. I loved the drive, and each river and town became a familiar landmark that I wanted to remember.

Ironically, we didn't usually drive through Jacksonville. This must have been one of the times Mom was experimenting with an alternate route.

I'm sure I initially got prints of these three photos when I got the film developed. But I haven't seen them in many years -- maybe I was disappointed in the quality or just thought they were too mundane to save.

Friday, January 25, 2013


Olga is now back home and more or less back to normal, sans internal womanly parts.

I dropped her off yesterday at the vet without too much drama. Under the direction of the dog rescue agency, I had to pretend her name was Thelma -- the dog for whom her appointment had originally been made. (Where the real Thelma went, I'm not sure.) We not only had her spayed but also microchipped and blood tested for general health.

She was a wild, mischievous thing, a bundle of nerves, in the vet reception. When I picked her up several hours later, the difference couldn't have been more dramatic.

She was so drugged she could barely stand up, and of course she was wearing one of those ridiculous, awkward plastic cones to keep her from licking her wound. Poor girl. She wagged her tail when she saw me, but then promptly rested the wide end of the cone on the ground and fell asleep -- standing up.

She was indeed microchipped, but it turns out the chip is registered to the dog rescue agency, because we're not yet Olga's official owners. (Technically, we're still foster parents.) We have to call the rescue to have the registration transferred when the adoption is finalized. And then, I wonder, whose registration is it? Thelma's?

Anyway, the cab ride home was interesting. I had a Pakistani cab driver who was very intrigued by the dog's condition. He asked whether she was sick, and when I explained she'd been spayed, he asked how much it cost. It was free, I told him. (There are low-cost fees for some spays, but interestingly, staffys and bull terriers are spayed for free -- I assume because there are so many of them.)

"Oh, right," the cab driver said. Then: "How long you had dat bitch for?"

Just a week, I said, trying not to laugh at his usage of what I know is a perfectly acceptable word in that context.

All this time, I'm literally holding the dog up on the floor of the cab, and trying to give directions to the driver, who didn't seem to know his way around Notting Hill. (He was a private car service driver, not a black cab -- those black cab guys know how to get anywhere.)

Olga was happy to get back to the flat, but clearly frightened by her altered sense of perception. I promptly removed the cone, because she was practically unconscious anyway and no wound-chewing was likely to occur. She lay down and slept so soundly for so long that I was afraid she'd been over-anaesthetized, and maybe brain-damaged. She did manage to eat a little food before crawling into bed with us.

This morning she awoke bright-eyed and more or less her normal self, if slightly less energetic. I'm still avoiding the cone. She hasn't shown any inclination to chew her wound, or even any awareness of it, so I'm just going to keep an eye on her.

(Photo: Camden Market, yesterday. While Olga was at the vet I seized the opportunity to do some photography, though it was a frigid, gray day and I had to force myself to be outside!)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Getting To Know You

During the past week, Olga and I have been learning about each other.

I have learned, for example, that Olga is basically a sidewalk vacuum cleaner. Her life as a stray has trained her to trot along the pavement and discern instantly whether a morsel of street trash is even vaguely edible. If so, down the gullet it goes. Candy wrappers, chewing gum, ice, grapes, bones; you name it and I've seen her seize on it and more than once, before I could do anything, get it into her stomach.

I know, I know -- I shouldn't be letting my dog eat that stuff. You try to stop her.

It doesn't seem to be doing her any harm, at least not yet. She's capable of walking great distances and maintaining her puppy-like energy. Yesterday we walked 3.5 miles to the Albert Memorial and back, and in Hyde Park I let her off the leash and threw sticks for her to fetch. She loves fetching, even though wrestling the stick away can be a challenge. (Oh yeah -- wood! That's another thing that ends up in her stomach.)

Then she came home and slept the sleep of the dead, until it was time to eat again. Ah, the life of a dog.

I've learned that I can't have her with me when I'm trying to take photos. She jerks and yanks on her leash, rendering every image blurry and off-kilter, and if I tie her to a post or tree, she stands on her back legs and pulls like a Volga boatman. Rather than endure that public spectacle, I've been experimenting with leaving her alone in the apartment for brief periods. She seems fine with it. I think she just naps. Hopefully soon I'll be able to get out, run errands and explore again for a few hours at a time.

I'll definitely be able to explore today, because Olga will be occupied with a visit to the veterinarian. She'll be getting spayed, and perhaps microchipped and vaccinated (if she still needs any vaccines). This is all being done by the dog rescue agency, but I have to get her into a taxi and take her to the vet. I feel guilty because I've been forbidden from feeding her this morning, and I'm afraid she's taking that as a sign that her wonderful idyll in our home is about to grind to a halt. I want to telepath into her brain: "We are not throwing you out."

It's expected to be cold and cloudy today, but at least not snowing -- a nice change from the past several days!

(Photo: Portobello Court, a large apartment complex across the street from our apartments, a few days ago.)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Meditation: Rock and Candle

Aglow, this shifting image
Shows angel-haloes, auras:

Incandescent elephant
Side-lit in silent trumpet

By standing candle lighthouse,
A navigator's hazard.

Rock, molded slow and pressured,
Root-grooved with sluices, fissured:

A wind-shaped, clay-sloped pillow
Or old man's folded elbow

Traversed with nerves and runnels,
Brain-gray, anatomical,

Life-like architecture, or
An alphabet's lost letter.


(When you're in the Peace Corps, you tend to have a lot of spare time to do things like set up an elaborate photo tableau -- and then write a poem about it! Who knew I would someday have a blog allowing me to present the two together?)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


More negative scanning! These photos are from a trip I took with two friends, Jennifer and Kim, to Asilah in northern Morocco in 1993. Asilah is a beach town with an artsy reputation, and we spent a night there on our way up to Tangier.

I remember wandering around the medina, or old city, and being captivated by all the colors and the architecture. I particularly liked this tiny, eye-shaped window with its own minuscule, metal grill.

The city sponsors a public arts festival that attracts mural painters to adorn its walls. We had a great time checking out the murals, which were months old by the time we saw them.

This trip was also remarkable because Jennifer and I shaved our heads in Asilah (a much more dramatic feat for Jennifer, who previously had long, voluminous hair). Kim, though stopping short of shaving, cut her hair very short.

I'm still in touch with Jennifer on Facebook, but I haven't communicated with Kim since Peace Corps. I don't even remember her last name. Sad!

Monday, January 21, 2013

And More Snow...

It just kept coming down yesterday, all day, keeping Dave, Olga and I indoors and stranding travelers all over London. We had a friend waiting at Heathrow Airport to take off for Beijing. I'm still not sure whether his plane got off the ground.

I went out in the afternoon and braved the falling snow for a walk down Portobello Road.

People were contending with it as best they could. That poor person trying to sell crepes -- talk about hopeful! (And persistent!)

Some of London's more temperate foliage looked a bit strange buried beneath snow.

There's a 30 percent chance of more snow today, mainly in the afternoon. By New York standards we haven't had all that much, but the English are more readily paralyzed by snow, which doesn't fall with the regularity here that it does in the northeast U.S.

Why do I have a feeling my substitute request line may be ringing off the hook?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

New Routines

Having Olga around has certainly shaken up our routines, in both positive and negative ways. For example, when I get up in the morning, my priority now is to get the dog outside. I throw on some warm clothes while she leaps around hysterically, somehow manage to wrestle her into her collar and leash, and we cram into the tiny elevator. Outside I try to take her on a fairly long-ish walk so she can work off some morning energy. So I usually go several blocks. Sometimes, we run.

Only when I bring her back do I get to make coffee. As anyone who knows me can attest, coffee in the morning is one of my greatest pleasures, so for me to forgo it even for half an hour is a considerable sacrifice!

On the other hand, it's cool to be outside at 5:30 or 6 a.m. when the streets are dark and silent. Occasionally there's a chittering bird overhead, or we might see a lone pedestrian, but for the most part the neighborhood is ours. If it weren't for Olga, I'd never be out at that time of day.

We're still trying to work out her feeding schedule. Right now she gets one can of food in the morning and one at night. But she still seems so hungry. I'm toying with giving her a third can at midday. I'd rather have her gain weight than lose it, and we could then adjust accordingly.

She's still very good-natured. Yesterday I took her to the photography store on Portobello Road, where I was having some negatives scanned, and I was mildly terrified that she would lose her cool in the shop and poop on the floor. I kept a super-vigilant eye on her, but she did very well. She seemed a little freaked out by all the people -- yesterday was the Portobello Road Market, so the street was fairly crowded -- and when some nearby church bells started clanging she put her tail between her legs and scurried for cover.

The world must be a confusing place when you're a dog.

Other than running some errands I didn't get out much yesterday. I hope to have a chance to do some more exploring today.

(Photos: Graffiti by Gee, top and bottom, and by Look, center -- all taken at Mile End when I picked up Olga on Wednesday.)

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Snow Day

Yesterday we had snow -- real snow, not just flurries or a dusting. It was about an inch, I'd say, and that was enough to throw London into chaos. School was cancelled early, and our neighbors decided not to come up to the city and their weekend pied-a-terre from their suburban Surrey home.

Olga and I walked in it yesterday morning, and she didn't seem fazed at all. She shook off the loose flakes every once in a while but didn't hesitate to bury her nose in it, and showed no discomfort from frozen paws. Dogs' paws are pretty durable. We stayed in the neighborhood and didn't venture very far.

I brought in one of our plants, our plumbago, but the rest I just left on the balcony to contend with whatever comes. Frankly it would be in everyone's best interest if the cold polished off that scraggly lavender bush on the right -- or at least killed it back to the ground. I'm not sure that will happen, though. Lavender, like dogs' paws, is durable.

And heather is from England, so I figured it could weather the storm without any intervention from me!

We have a quiet weekend planned. I believe more snow may be involved. I hope to get out and do some walking and some photography on my own, sans dog, now that Dave is home to mind her.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Extra, Extra!

A special Shadows & Light extra post to announce that Dave and I have finally arrived at a dog name we both like!

Forget Mona. Forget I ever mentioned it.

And meet Olga.

A Jaunt to the Park

Why are used furniture stores so photogenic? They're like barbers and dry cleaners. I can't get enough of them.

So, Mona is wearing me out. She's a ball of energy! Yesterday I took her on a walk to Hyde Park, which would have been an unthinkable prospect with Ruby and Ernie, old as they were. It was all I could do to get Ernie and Ruby around the block. Mona tackled Hyde Park with zest and vigor. We walked all the way to the Albert Memorial, on the park's southern edge.

She's a pretty good leash walker, though she does get enthusiastic and do a lot of tugging. She also lunges at the occasional pigeon. But she's fine with the other dogs she meets, and people always comment on how beautiful she is. That's our Mona, quite the showgirl.

(The name is still unofficial, by the way. Dave has not signed off. Last night he proposed Rosie, but I argued that Rosie is just too pedestrian. So we're still in no-man's-land.)

I gave Mona a squeaky tennis ball which she immediately shredded. So I bought her a Kong ball, which is virtually indestructible, and she loves it. We went out yesterday afternoon and chased the ball for a while in the grassy yard of our apartment complex.

That dog slept soundly last night, as did I.

Meanwhile, I've had loads of work scheduling substitutes. Everyone is planning their absences for spring, I suppose. It's fine for now, because I'm sort of stuck at home with the dog -- we don't want to leave her alone yet, even to go to the store, because we want her to feel secure here. Eventually I'll make little forays out for short periods to see how she does on her own.

One good thing -- she is not a barker. I haven't heard her bark yet. She does moan when she's happy, and she makes little squealy noises when she's excited. But no barking. Which is fine.

(Photo: Mile End, on the way to pick up Mona on Wednesday.)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Mona (We Think)

Here's the new addition to our household! Isn't she adorable? She's a Staffordshire Terrier, or "Staffy," and the people at the dog shelter named her Tinsel. (Apparently she was a stray picked up around Christmas time.) I thought that name was sort of cute, but Dave vetoed it out of hand, and the dog doesn't really know her name yet. So we're still trying to figure out what to name her.

I proposed Lola, Flora and Polly. Dave suggested Brenda, which I went for immediately, but then he backtracked and said he was joking.

While we were lying with her in the living room last night, she was making all sorts of funny, soft, satisfied sounds. She'd been fed and walked and was lying in front of the fireplace, and was basically moaning with happiness. So I suggested Mona. That's where we're leaning at the moment.

We're adopting her through All Dogs Matter, and I had to go to a shelter in Tower Hamlets, which is in East London, to pick her up yesterday afternoon. I took the tube to Mile End and walked to the shelter, which was basically a small kennel housed in a commercial arch underneath some railroad tracks. She'd already been fed and walked that morning, but she was still very excited to emerge from her cage, and I ran her up and down the parking lot a few times to work off some energy.

I wasn't looking forward to paying a taxi to drive me and the dog all the way back across London. Fortunately, I ran into a volunteer at the organization named Sharon who was transporting another dog to Camden. So Sharon invited us to ride along that far.

When we got to Camden I got out and walked toward King's Cross, and Tinsel/Mona took the opportunity to make a deposit on the sidewalk. Fortunately I had a plastic bag, but as is true in much of London there were no trash cans nearby. So I stuck the now-full plastic bag back in my larger paper tote bag full of dog-related items (treats, leash, etc.), intending to throw it away as soon as possible.

Only after I'd hailed a cab and climbed in did I realize I was still carrying that plastic bag. The cab began to smell not so great. I hoped the driver, up front behind a plastic divider, couldn't smell it. If he did, he didn't say anything -- in fact we had a nice chat about the fact that I'd just adopted this new dog.

Ah, the life of a dog owner.

When I got Tinsel/Mona home, we had a long, high-speed walk around the neighborhood. She walks fast. She's very enthusiastic on a leash!

The markings on her back are great, aren't they? With those two wing shapes across her shoulders and that one central spot, she reminds me of some kind of butterfly. (I jokingly suggested Farfalle and Papillon as names; Dave replied, "You're drunk." I had had one glass of wine, but I most certainly was not drunk.)

You may be thinking, "That dog it a pit bull!" A Staffordshire Terrier is not the same as a pit bull, although they do look somewhat similar and I believe they're related. The British Dangerous Dogs Act specifically prohibits pit bulls, but Staffies are very common in England and are one of the country's most popular breeds. We've seen no indication of aggression or temperamental behavior in Tinsel/Mona -- in fact, she's been sweet all around.

Technically, we're still foster parents. Assuming all goes well, we'll finalize the adoption in a week or two.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Essaouira, and a New Family Member

Here are a few of the photos I retrieved from my box of negatives.

I've always liked the picture above. I took it during Peace Corps training in Essaouira, Morocco, in August 1992, and I had a framed enlargement on my wall for years. When we moved to England I sold the enlargement at a yard sale and then realized with horror that I didn't seem to have a copy of the picture! Oops.

The photo shows the city walls of Essaouira. In Morocco, many cities have a characteristic hue -- often pink or rose, or perhaps beige. In this case, the rosy color of the city walls and the whitewashed buildings within are distinctive features of Essaouira, one of the most beautiful Moroccan cities.

Shift now to Tampa, in 1991. I don't remember where I took these photos, which I ham-handedly cobbled together last night even though they're not from quite the same perspective. I didn't even remember that I had them.

I'm sure I was amused by all this leftie graffiti. And just think, this was during the presidency of George H.W. Bush and the first Gulf War, which was mild compared to all the terribleness to come. (Click the photo to enlarge it. On the far right, where it gets a bit blurry, it says, "George Michael for governor.")

And finally, here's my first car, a 1977 Pontiac Sunbird. This photo was taken in our side yard in 1983 or so. (That vacant lot behind the car is now occupied by a big house.) My mom bought the car used from a friend -- it was light blue with a white interior that I could never get very clean. I don't remember the mileage, but the car seemed very heavy, with big thick doors.

I put it through two fender benders and numerous trips around the state, and I drove it all through college, plastering it with left-leaning bumper stickers, before finally trading it in in 1988. It was a great car!

In other news: We may get our new dog today! We applied for a dog online with a rescue organization and the dog people did a quick "home visit" last night to check out our accommodations. Apparently we passed, so today we may be able to retrieve the dog from the kennel and have her stay with us on a foster basis until we finalize the adoption. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Very Brief Entry

I've spent the morning combing through all the old negatives I brought back from my mom's house. I'm trying to put together some posts based on old photos that I will get reprinted -- sort of like my posts about Tangier several months ago. So I'm digging around, trying to discover forgotten oddities.

I didn't even leave the house yesterday -- I worked and read and talked to our neighbor, Chris, who's just back from a holiday in St. Lucia. I was partly avoiding the weather, which consisted of wet, gloppy, dreary snow. Today looks better, so I really need to get outside!

(Photo: Smoke break on Bayswater Road, Sunday.)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Short Takes, with Palm Trees

-- We did indeed get some snow last night, but just a dusting. I'm sure it will all be gone in a couple of hours. Nothing very dramatic or even photo-worthy.

-- Dave and I went to see "The Master" over the weekend. It was a very slow-paced, strange movie. Dave emerged convinced the whole thing was some kind of dream, a la Bobby on "Dallas." I didn't get that impression. There were some unanswered questions, but then, the writer and director is Paul Thomas Anderson, the same guy who made frogs rain from the sky in "Magnolia." He never explained that either! The cast and the performances were impressive, but I'm not sure I enjoyed the movie as a whole.

-- We also rented "Three Days of the Condor" with Robert Redford, one of my favorite films from the '70s, this weekend. And we began watching "The Killing," which looks like it will be our next series. (Since we can't rent Season 2 of "Homeland"...grrr...)

-- I cut myself on Dave's big kitchen knife last night. I was helping him make macaroni and cheese by cutting the rind off a piece of cheese. Stupidly, I was pulling the knife toward me, and it popped through the rind and into my finger. (This was the knife I just had sharpened.) Fortunately it's not a bad cut and there wasn't much blood, but I had to resort to band-aids.

-- I had a great day yesterday walking up Bayswater Road, along the northern edge of Hyde Park, and along Oxford Street all the way to Tottenham Court Road. I encountered lots of peculiar characters and sights, like an artist selling balmy paintings of beaches and palm trees on a frigid Northern European winter day (above).

-- I just have to point out that I racked up 356 blog posts last year! Since I never post more than once a day,  that means I posted just about daily. My best, most consistent year of blogging so far!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Evolution of a Shopfront

I took this photo of a shop near Golborne Road last October. I loved all the fallen leaves and the lonely bamboo plant.

When I walked past several weeks later, in mid-December, I found a painter sprucing up the place. It seemed like they were having trouble settling on a color.

This is what the shop looked like last Monday. I'm sorry they ditched the bright pink; I think I prefer it to the wine red. But at least they've kept the bamboo!

It looks like it's still in progress; we'll check back later to see where it ends.

Saturday, January 12, 2013


This was our apartment building a few days ago, at an atypically sunny moment. We've had mostly cloudy, chilly weather this week, and we're about to dip down into the 20s. Apparently we're even expected to get some snow this weekend.

I slept until almost 8:30 this morning, which is ridiculously late for me. (The British call sleeping late "having a lie-in.") I think my internal clock is still adjusting after flying back from the states. I've had a busy work week, too, plus my long urban hike on Thursday. Whew!

I don't have much else to say, without devolving into a diatribe about gun control or global warming or any of the other issues that are percolating in my mind at the moment. Frankly, I'd rather not go there. Have a happy weekend, everybody!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Freezy Water

Yesterday I took a train up to far northeast London, to a place called -- appropriately -- Freezy Water. Isn't that a great name?

Some time ago I was poking around on Google Maps when I came across Freezy Water. When I went to StreetView, I found this image of what looked like a great little cafe:

I decided I had to find and photograph that cafe for my burgeoning collection of storefront photos.

The web site Hidden London calls Freezy Water "a lacklustre residential locality," and indeed people seem to have trouble deciding even how to spell it -- sometimes it's one word, sometimes two. It was apparently named for a local pond that froze quickly in the winter, perhaps due to its depth or exposure.

Here's a map of my entire 6.5-mile walk.

I took the train up from Liverpool Street, disembarked at Turkey Street and walked north. I realized with sadness that the cafe in the Google Maps photo is now gone. (Apparently the photo is from 2008.) In its place is another restaurant more appropriate to a lacklustre residential locality. I looked around for other businesses bearing the Freezy Water name, but didn't find anything quite as interesting. Sigh.

I decided to head south along Hertford Road, which had lots of other shops and a few interesting sights. For example, there was this mural:

Jesus! With musical instruments! In the ocean!

I have no idea what it means, either.

I turned west and walked through Enfield Town, where I got a few interesting shots.

This man went to the store for milk and a giant, stuffed leopard. Makes perfect sense.

Anyway, I continued westward along the road to Cockfosters, which you may remember I visited last year at about this time. The road west of Enfield gets hilly and traverses empty farmland -- that's where I took the bus stop photo at the top. Something about that bus stop out in the middle of nowhere was amusing to me. But just before I took the picture, which makes it look so empty and deserted, a bus stopped and let off three people. Go figure.

My feet were killing me by the time I got on the tube. But overall, and despite the cafe photo bust, it was a good day of exploring!