Friday, October 31, 2014

On Pumpkins and the Classics

This was the autumnal scene on the high street yesterday. I have vowed to try to patronize this shop more -- they have a great variety of fresh fruit and vegetables, and I like supporting the mom & pop shop rather than the big chain groceries. We bought a gray-green winter squash there two days ago that I think is a Hubbard squash -- definitely Hubbard-colored, if not Hubbard-shaped. We'll see how it cooks up!

I asked about that huge pumpkin sitting in front of the shop. The shopkeeper said it weighs more than 125 kilos, and it is for sale. At that weight I'm not sure who would buy it, but hey, it's a conversation piece!

I'm sort of dressing up today -- wearing my bug shirt (a Liberty dress shirt I own with little shield bugs all over it) and my red pants. It's the same outfit I wore on Halloween last year. I've decided I hate those red pants. Today may be the last time I wear them.

Library update: I can report some modest success in getting kids to read classic young people's books. I am forever trying to recommend the likes of Madeleine L'Engle ("A Wrinkle in Time"), Ray Bradbury ("The Martian Chronicles"), Marguerite Henry ("King of the Wind"), Scott O'Dell ("Island of the Blue Dolphins") and Esther Forbes ("Johnny Tremain"). I read all of those books when I was young and loved them. Kids today are very into books in series, like Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, and they seem much more into fantasy and magic and angsty teenage social dramas. Getting them to read one-off novels, especially older ones with historical themes, can be surprisingly difficult.

"Misty of Chincoteague," another Marguerite Henry book, has become library shorthand for my attempts.  We're always joking about poor unread Misty.

But I recently got a boy to check out "The Martian Chronicles," and with another librarian's added encouragement, a girl checked out Misty. She later said she liked it, having read it on the way to her tennis lessons. So who knows? Maybe these kids will all remember me as the crazy bald guy who encouraged them to read something they never forget. Or maybe they'll never listen to me again!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

More Candy Corn, and a Royal Explanation

Dave and I have ironed out our Thanksgiving plans. We're going to the Cotswolds, and we're bringing Olga! We found a bed & breakfast that accommodates "well-behaved dogs," and Olga usually fits into that category unless she's trying to dig a hole in the bed and tearing up the sheets. Which has been known to happen.

Anyway, it's nice to have a plan. Dave has talked about the Cotswolds for ages, since hearing about the area from a coworker. I've felt a little skeptical, fearing it would be chock-a-block with tourists, but maybe not in November. In any case it will be good to finally go, and hopefully the weather will cooperate (ha!) so we can get some outdoor time.

Meanwhile, we have Halloween to contend with -- but not really. The British don't do much for Halloween. I've seen nary a jack-o'-lantern in all my walks around town, although the produce store on the high street does have some huge pumpkins sitting outside, mainly for decoration, I think. There were lots of twentysomethings in costume -- or "fancy dress," as the English say -- on the tube over the weekend, either going to or coming home from Halloween parties, I suppose.

My brother mailed me his customary bag of candy corn (for $16 -- postage has apparently remained constant in the past year). Unfortunately this one got a bit ground up in transit, so it was more like sticky candy-corn grits by the time it reached me. But I took it to work and put it in the staff lounge, and like any food left in the staff lounge, it was devoured.

Here's the backstory on the Queen's residence in our library, which I wrote about yesterday: A parent who volunteers with us, shelving books, happened to tell me that she had a life-size cardboard figure of the Queen folded up in a closet, left over from a party. "Bring her in!" I said, thinking the kids would get a kick out of her. So the parent complied. The kids seem mostly bewildered, though -- "Why is the Queen here?" they say. I just reply that she keeps me company. They must think I'm a sad old character.

My boss came into work early one morning and was startled by the Royal Personage lurking in the dark. So she posted a picture on Facebook, taken before she turned all the lights on, and her friends took it seriously. "Wow!" they all said. "You met the Queen!" We couldn't believe it. Even if the Queen did come to school, would she really be standing in the library in the dark?!

(Photo: Shoes on a fence in Shepherd's Bush, last weekend.)

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Royal Visitor

The Queen has come to live in the school library. We do not know why she is no longer in residence at Buckingham Palace. Maybe she sneaks back there at night, but her days are spent with us.

She has visited the book collection and especially appreciates the Shakespeare. She has posed for "selfies" with students and teachers. (Mainly teachers.)

But mostly she stands behind the circulation desk, among the ridiculous quantity of extra furniture that perpetually hovers there. She does not help check out books. That would be undignified. She may have left the palace but she is not a mere serf.

Her expression never changes. I suppose it comes from years of cultivating a public persona, a mask. She does not reveal her inner self. She is mute and mysterious.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Swimming With the Fishes

I found this aquatically-themed Chevy van while walking in an East London neighborhood called Becontree on Sunday. Aside from the reefscape on the side, it has a jumping dolphin on the tire cover, American flags flying from its antennae, a "Waikiki Beach" license plate and, strangely, two Confederate flags on the back bumper.

I have no idea what any of this means, especially in London, where we are about as far from tropical fish, Waikiki and the Confederacy as possible. Waikiki and the Confederacy are pretty far from each other, as a matter of fact.

Things are a bit slow around here for the moment. Teachers are having conference meetings with parents yesterday and today at school, so there are no classes and few students. Library business is down precipitously. I'm using the opportunity to put the shelves back in order, but man, that is hard on the knees -- all the kneeling and standing and bending and crouching!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Lunch With Moby Dick

As planned, I spent yesterday wandering around two postcodes in far East London, near Dagenham. I walked my feet nearly off, photographed more than 90 streets, and uploaded everything to Bleeding London in a single final gasp. I won't be able to do any more before Friday's deadline. Whether I do any after the deadline remains to be seen. I feel kind of done with it, honestly -- though of course I'll continue to wander and take pictures in general, as I always have.

I've thought a lot about what compelled me to participate so fiercely in Bleeding London. As I think I've written before, it appeals to the collector in me -- I like things to be neat and catalogued and complete. I also love the challenge of having to look hard and find an interesting element on every street. Before this competition, I walked far and wide, but mainly on busy roads -- I rarely ventured into purely residential areas. Bleeding London showed me those neighborhoods can be just as interesting as the so-called high streets.

Anyway, I got some pretty good shots yesterday, and after hours of wandering stopped for lunch at a pub called the Moby Dick on Whalebone Lane. (Gotta love it! And it's right across the street from a Moby Dick-themed adventure golf course, with a huge fiberglass white whale, a waterfall and a replica of the Pequot.) The restaurant, which was packed, had a buffet-style lunch line with carving stations for beef, ham and turkey. I waited in the queue, got my meat and vegetables and yorkshire pudding, and was just about to ladle onion gravy onto my plate -- the final step before I could sit down -- when a hostess knocked a glass off a counter next to me. The glass hit the tile floor and exploded, showering down on me and the guy standing next to me -- I felt pieces hitting my chest and my hat. I have never seen a glass break so dramatically! We relinquished our plates of food and started fresh as the servers hauled away all the contaminated gravy.

Then, as I sat outside (it's still just warm enough for that, and as I said, the place was wall-to-wall people inside), a couple came out and sat at the table next to me. You know when you go to a busy restaurant and you're waiting for a table, the hostess sometimes gives you a plastic disk-shaped device that lights up and buzzes when the table is ready? Well, they'd been given one of those, but they had no idea what it was. The woman asked another customer, and she was also mystified. It was so funny! I guess those gizmos haven't really made it over here in England. Anyway, I explained to them what would happen. I didn't stick around to see how they reacted when it did finally buzz.

This guy (left) was walking ahead of me for a while. I don't know if you can see his ominous sweatshirt, but it says "Five Finger Death Punch" along with a set of brass knuckles. (Turns out that's the name of a heavy metal band.)

I walked another hour or two after lunch and then hopped a bus for the long slog home. After all the walking both yesterday and Saturday, my feet are numb this morning! I know Olga is looking forward to having me around more in the future to take her back to Hampstead Heath, poor neglected thing.

Oh, as for the photo exhibit at the Bleeding London wrap party, I wound up submitting two pictures -- this one and this one -- because I couldn't decide. The organizer said they'll show them both since I've done so much for the competition. Woo hoo!

(Top photo: Colorful clothing in Becontree.)

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Jiro, and a Selfie

Yesterday turned out pretty well. Same old story -- walked a million miles, took a million photos. This is one of them -- a fun little self-portrait in a decorative mirror outside a shop in Shepherd's Bush. I dig this mirror, actually. Maybe I should have bought it. I think it might be on sale.

Today is more of the same -- my last big push to get photos done before the deadline for Bleeding London. Off to Romford!

Last night Dave and I watched a terrific little documentary called "Jiro Dreams of Sushi," which you should see if you haven't already. It's about an octogenarian sushi chef in Tokyo who has become acknowledged as the master of his craft, and his efforts to prepare his son to take over his tiny, Michelin-starred sushi restaurant in a Ginza subway station. He has what seems to me like a very Japanese approach to life -- maintain a routine, immerse yourself fully in your work, challenge yourself, master your technique. It's inspiring no matter what your craft.

But be warned: It doesn't end well for the tuna.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Urban Impressionist Parakeets

When I was walking in East London last weekend, I came across these parakeets that someone had painted on a plywood barrier around a construction site.

They're more a suggestion of a parakeet than a highly detailed realistic rendering.

Today I'm off on yet another photo outing -- as soon as the laundry finishes and I can get it hung up to dry!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Date Night

Dave and I treated ourselves to a fancy dinner last night at Galvin at Windows, atop the London Hilton on Park Lane. I got a deal on Amazon Local for a two-course dinner plus champagne for two for £66, which seemed pretty good. Of course, by the time we got out of there after having additional drinks, coffee, and a dessert, plus taxes and service, we'd tripled the bill. But hey -- you only live once, and it's almost my birthday. It was a pre-birthday celebration. Yeah. Let's say that.

The food was good -- I had a vegetarian main course of pumpkin and pearl barley -- but for me, the main attraction is the atmosphere. The views across the city through the floor-to-ceiling windows were dusky blue spiced with sparkling lights, and we could see all the way south past the Thames. I'd go back, particularly if I had visitors in town.

I've been asked to choose one of my Bleeding London photos to display at an exhibit at the wrap party on November 1. Considering I've shot more than 1,300 streets, that's a tall order! I'm going to pull out my favorites and ask Dave to help me choose. I think it's likely to be this one.

Plus, there's still this weekend to come. It's the last weekend before the deadline, so I feel compelled to get out and do as much as possible -- even though, granted, the deadline is soft and we can continue to contribute afterwards. I'm planning on Shepherd's Bush on Saturday and a couple of areas near Dagenham (far east London) on Sunday. Or maybe vice versa depending on my mood.

(Photo: Doors in Leyton, last weekend.)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

I Dreamed of Africa

Yet another closed pub. We have a million of 'em here in the UK. I shot this yesterday on my lunch hour from work. Because of my weird schedule (with choral practice) I had a slightly longer lunch, so I took the tube up to the Finchley Road stop and walked briskly south, zigzagging through Belsize Park back to school. I saw this pub from a bus window several weeks ago and I've had it in the back of my mind to photograph it, so I was glad to get that done -- even though the low-angled sunlight was terrible, coming from behind the building and shining straight into my lens. That pic still needs a bit of Photoshop.

I had a nice "lie-in," as the British would say, this morning. I didn't get up until almost 7 a.m. I had a strange dream about being back in Africa -- meeting some guys on the street, having them invite me to their mosque, thinking I probably shouldn't go to the mosque since I'm not Muslim, and instead sitting with their families while waiting for the service to end. I was walking barefoot in their backyard, thinking that probably wasn't very smart, with scorpions and spiders and whatnot.

I don't think the dream means anything, except that my neurons were firing as I was waking up. I Dreamed of Africa -- just like Kuki Gallmann.

Speaking of firing, we had some fireworks going off around the neighborhood last night. I wonder if people are already gearing up for Guy Fawkes? Olga was not happy.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Magic Mushroom, and Harvey Milk

When Olga and I were at the cemetery on Saturday, we came across this beautiful mushroom all by itself at the edge of the lawn, where the grass meets the woods. I don't remember ever seeing one like this before. I did some online research and I believe it's a shaggy inkcap, but I'm no expert. It may not be magic in the hallucinogenic sense, but it is in the nature-is-amazing sense.

Also amazing is a little tidbit of postal news I heard yesterday via my old friend Kevin. He alerted me to a new U.S. stamp reproducing the famous inverted Jenny postal error. (But valued at $2 rather than 24 cents -- what would they have thought in 1918?!) Kevin bought some online, and sent me a link to the USPS web site. I like the new Jenny stamp, but I was more intrigued by another stamp mentioned on the same web page -- honoring Harvey Milk!

If you had told me back in the '80s that the U.S. government would someday issue a stamp honoring a political leader known primarily for advancing gay rights, I'm not sure I would have believed it. I am so impressed. The world really is moving forward. (And, predictably, it makes the religious conservatives crazy.)

Of course, no one uses stamps anymore, so who knows if it will actually be seen. But it's the issuance that counts -- the official endorsement.

I am posting a bit early this morning because I'm going to work much earlier -- as I will every Wednesday from now until late November. I'm still singing with the faculty/staff chorus, and we've just started late afternoon rehearsals for a new performance at the end of November. So I need to go in earlier to make up the time I'll spend rehearsing. I'm trying to decide if it's crazy and Sheldon Cooper-ish to take a dry bowl of cereal to work so I can eat my normal breakfast at 8 a.m., my normal time? Or should I just eat early at home and be done with it? Decisions, decisions!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Olga Returns to the Cemetery

I mentioned that I took Olga to Hampstead Cemetery on Saturday. This time I brought along the camera and took some photos.

The cemetery is full of gravestones and ornate statuary dating back to the Victorians. Some of it is really beautiful.

And some of the tributes are more modern and spontaneous.

There are lots of stories -- clearly many of them very sad.

There's a large, open area with a memorial dedicated to War dead. And there are a smattering of people who, if not exactly famous, were at least notable in their time:

Andrew Fisher was an Australian politician and its fifth prime minister.

Marie Lloyd was a popular music hall performer at the turn of the 20th century.

Kazimierz Wierzynski was a Polish poet.

This man, by the name of Wilson, worked for decades as an engineer in Egypt -- his Egyptian-style tomb declares him a "pasha."

Olga, of course, couldn't care less about the headstones. She just loves the grassy spaces, which, as I've said before, seems like it should please any of the graves' occupants.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Leyton and Hackney Wick

Yesterday was another marathon photography day! I took the tube eastward to Leyton, in the E10 postcode, which badly needed depicting for Bleeding London. I meandered around for three or four hours and got several shots I really like, including the orange extravaganza above. Leyton is an interesting neighborhood -- heavy on immigrants from all over and therefore colorful and unpredictable.

At one point I found myself on the street where our coworker and friend Gordon lives with his family -- which was a little weird. I was afraid they'd look out the window and see me and think, "Why is Steve stalking us?" But they didn't. As far as I know.

Here's a photo that made me think of my blog pal Ms. Moon and her friend Billy. I'm not sure what this place is, but there are signs on the porch advertising free items and boxes in the window, so I wonder if it's even open anymore. It looks like something you'd see on a roadside in the American South. A local greasy spoon, maybe.

Speaking of which, after several hours of wandering I ducked into a cafe for a rather greasy vegetarian English breakfast. (That's become my lunch of choice when I'm out and about. Well, not the greasy part.) Then I hopped on a bus intending to go to east Hackney (E9), but I got off the bus again almost immediately because I passed several photo opportunities that were just too good to miss. I spent another hour or so in Leyton before getting back on that bus.

I got off in Homerton, on the other side of the River Lea, and walked south to Hackney Wick, a major center for street art. I've photographed this building before, but it's evolved quite a bit since then!

I wandered around "The Wick" for another couple of hours. All told, I covered 96 streets and was quite happy with my haul at the end of the day.

I caught the train in Hackney Wick (station platform above) and came back not long before sunset. In fact, by the time I walked through the door at our flat it was completely dark. (My trip home took a ridiculous amount of time because there were numerous rail and tube closures yesterday for maintenance -- a long and not very interesting story!)

Dave spent the whole day gardening, and when I got home he'd abandoned his plans to make a lasagne. We ordered Chinese takeout instead and I edited pictures until just past midnight. I hope I can stay awake at work today!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

An Inspiring Photo Exhibit

Yesterday I decided to get out of the house and go to the Barbican to see a photography show that a coworker promised I would love. Called "Constructing Worlds: Photography and Architecture in the Modern Age," it was a fascinating survey of urban and architectural photography from the 1930s until today. I did love it. In fact, I bought the catalog.

It included work by Stephen Shore, who has got to be one of my favorite photographers. He often employs a straight-on style and depicts subjects similar to those that appeal to me. (Here are some samples from a past show at the ICP in New York that I wish I'd gone to see!) On the other hand, he sometimes shoots scenes that make me think, "Why?" And I love being faced with that question in photography.

So, yeah, I bought a big Stephen Shore book, too.

We were threatened with rain for most of the day, but as it turned out, it never really materialized. I was stressing a bit to get the laundry dry and get the dog out for a long walk, and in the late afternoon Olga and I finally went to play Kong in Fortune Green and walk through the cemetery. Photos to come! I was so glad to be able to spend time with her. I feel like I've been neglecting her a bit, what with all this photo stuff. She was so happy to get out and run herself ragged for an hour or two.

(Photo: Rayners Lane, west London, last weekend.)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Just Look Around

The Virginia creeper vines always look so amazing at this time of year. (Do people in England call this Virginia creeper, or is that an American thing? I'll have to ask someone.) We're having some nice leaf color all around: the red sumac, the brittle yellow-brown chestnuts, the brightly variegated ornamental pears.

Every time I post fall leaves, I laugh inwardly, remembering that post I did years ago with leaf photos that looked so pathetic -- and my brother making fun of me. "Sort of a sad little assortment, Stephen," he wrote. And they were, partly because back then I didn't know anything about adjusting the color in my photos -- so they were washed out by my point-and-shoot camera.

Yesterday I felt sort of cranky at work. Maybe because it was Friday, and I was tired, or maybe I was a bit bored -- which is inexcusable, really, because if you're alive in this world there's no reason at all to ever be bored. Just look around! I should remember to do just that, and breathe a bit, and absorb the moment. Be more open, more gentle, more mindful. I haven't done any photography this week -- I've been taking a break -- but maybe not seeing with my photographic eye has actually deprived me of that benefit of really seeing. You know?

Oh well. I did get to finish Frankenstein, at least.

I also read a fascinating article in The New York Times magazine about women's colleges and their struggle to deal with transgender students. If the raison d'etre for women's colleges is to educate and create a safe learning space exclusively for women, what happens when one of those women decides to live as a man? Turns out that some women's colleges have embraced those students, on the grounds that they are still a gender minority and subject to discrimination, but not everyone is happy about it -- and it has put a strain on the traditional terminology used at some institutions, like references to "sisterhood." Apparently some schools have been less welcoming to students born male who now live as women, perhaps for reasons alluded to in that New Yorker article I mentioned a little more than a month ago. The modern gender spectrum and the social questions it presents continue to intrigue me.

(Photos: Top and bottom, Stanmore, North London, Oct. 3. Middle, Northwood, northwest London, last Sunday.)

Friday, October 17, 2014


Yesterday I gave John the photos of him and his dogs. He said they were "pukka!" which in English slang -- apparently derived from Hindi -- means terrific or great. (Jamie Oliver uses that word all the time on his cooking shows. I always wondered what he was saying -- I thought it was "pucker!" but got clarification after I looked it up. Thank goodness for Google.)

Anyway, John especially liked the pic with Sugar in the foreground.

I'm glad to hear from one of you that "The Moonstone" is a good read. Maybe that's £3 well spent!

Speaking of reading, I'm about three quarters of the way through Frankenstein. Turns out it's a very sad book! It's not a bloody horror tale -- more like a cautionary story about science run amok, and the monster's own desire to be appreciated and loved. I haven't seen the Frankenstein movies in ages and ages -- like, decades -- so I don't really remember them, but they must have been hard to conceive in the beginning. Mary Shelley never gives a very precise description of the method of the monster's creation, or of his appearance. She refers to his pale yellow eyes, looming stature, black lips and overall ugliness, but the rest we have to imagine for ourselves. Also, the monster in the book moves with great speed and agility, not the stiff-armed gait depicted in popular culture. And the poor guy is deeply lonely. You really feel sorry for him.

(Photo: Land Rovers in Northwood, northwest London.)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

John, Sugar and Rocco

This is John, who sells used books near the West Hampstead Thameslink rail station. He sets up on the sidewalk with his three-legged staffy Sugar, who's lying on her green mat in the background. On this particular day he also had his friend's big black dog Rocco with him.

Sometimes he has interesting books, and he lets you pay whatever you think the book is worth -- I think I gave him £2 for "Gone Girl."

I've often thought John would make a good picture, but he's usually surrounded by masses of pedestrians on the sidewalk. Finally, on Sunday, as I was on my way out to the HA postcodes, I caught him at a quiet moment. I browsed his books and bought a slightly sticky Penguin Popular Classics edition of "The Moonstone," a thick Victorian tome by Wilkie Collins that I might or might not eventually read. (According to the dust jacket, Collins was "a master in the art of the English detective novel," and this particular book brings "a sense of attending upon the birth of the detective story.") I paid £3 for it, and then asked for a photo.

Then I asked if Sugar -- who really is very sweet, by the way -- could stand up and join him. He called her over -- she's very agile, despite her three legs -- and I took a few more shots. Rocco decided to play hide-and-seek in the background.

John has such a thick accent that he pronounces his name in two syllables -- "Jo-ahn." At first I thought he said his name was Jordan. Finally I figured it out!

Anyway, I'm going to make prints of these two pictures and drop them off for him.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Adored By Decorators

Yesterday evening I had a reunion with my Aunt Mary, who is visiting London with her second husband as part of a two-month trip through Europe. They cruised over the Atlantic to Amsterdam, went through most of Western Europe and now, after experiencing London in all its raininess, they're about to head home.

Aunt Mary surprised me by bringing along this letter, which I wrote to her in 1978, when I was 11. The funny thing is, I remember writing it -- cutting the pictures out of the J.C. Penney catalog and dreaming about buying all those items for my room. I was especially obsessed by the big dramatic dry grass fronds ("adored by decorators"). I think that ad came from the back of Southern Living magazine, if I remember correctly.

I suppose I was pretty much advertising my gayness with my enthusiasm for interior design. It cracks me up that she saved that letter all these years! (The backstory: I was supposed to go on a Boy Scout trip to Arizona, and I had raised money to pay for my share. But I dreaded it, because I was relentlessly bullied by some of the other boys in the group. The scoutmasters had a very "boys will be boys" attitude about it, and finally my parents said I didn't have to go. I was relieved!)

I never bought any of the items in that letter. (And hey -- what happened to my money?!) What possessed me to send this to my aunt I'm not sure, except that she had been remodeling some rooms in her own house around that time. (Pumpkin orange walls -- very '70s!) I suppose I thought she would identify with my nesting instincts.

Anyway, yesterday evening, I walked Olga up to the hotel in Golders Green where Aunt Mary and her husband Randy were staying with their tour group. (Coincidentally, very close to where we live -- basically just the other side of Hampstead Cemetery, where I walk the dog all the time.) We got a cab back to our house, and they came in for a chat and to meet Dave before we all went to dinner at the Black Lion, our local pub. I got caught up on the lives and activities of my cousins, and we had a fun time.

At about 9 p.m. we bundled them into a cab for the trip back to their hotel, and the driver seemed perplexed about how he was supposed to get them there. (For some reason he was befuddled by the fact that they were staying on a divided highway and he couldn't cross the median. I have no idea why this was an issue.) Anyway, hopefully they made it!

Finally, the photo at left is my long-promised tie-dye portrait, part of the group photo of me and my fellow librarians. I don't want to post the entire picture because I'm not sure how they'd feel about being on my blog, but I'm sure they wouldn't mind if I show you their shirts:

Fun, right? And you can see the '60s themed books we held for the photo. I especially like my coworker Joanna flashing her peace sign!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

It's a Buffet!

Here's a photo of our new buffet, as promised. Dave found it online, where it was touted as having "one lady owner" its entire life thus far. We bought it (very reasonable!) and had it brought over from Belfast, Northern Ireland. It took just a few days at nominal cost.

We put it in the dining room beneath one of my big Gaia prints, and I unpacked a few more boxes to put the black line, red dot china and the Hornsea on top, giving the whole thing a very '60s feel. Kind of "Mad Men." It just needs to be wreathed in cigarette smoke to be completely authentic -- but not in this house!

It's kind of ridiculous that we're buying furniture at the same time that my mom in Florida is trying to dispose of it -- but what can I say? We're here, she's there. Plus, she's not disposing of a '60s buffet.

Yesterday it poured rain almost all day. I couldn't get Olga to go for a walk in the morning -- I dragged her out the door just long enough to take care of business and then she zipped back inside. She hates rain, and I don't blame her. I wonder how the dog-walker manages her on rainy days? That I would love to see.

Anyway, I don't hear raindrops now (it's still dark out as I write this) so maybe we'll get a walk in this morning.

Monday, October 13, 2014

HA Crazy Day

Remember last weekend, when I had IG Crazy Day and I tromped through five IG postcodes, taking pictures all the way? Well, yesterday I did the same thing with four HA postcodes. I walked miles and miles. My feet still feel a bit numb.

HA stands for Harrow, and all these postcodes are in that vicinity in northwest London. Bleeding London had only one or two -- or in one case, zero -- photos from each one. I shot 94 streets yesterday, so now we have a representative selection from each area.

How about that patriotic balcony?

It was pretty suburban out there, and as is always true in the suburbs, I had to be flexible about subject matter. Flower gardens and cats, as always, but in some cases just an interesting group of colors.

I did find the London Zoroastrian Centre, housed in an old Art Deco movie house (I think) near the Rayners Lane tube stop. Isn't that a great building? I'm impressed that there are enough Zoroastrians in London to warrant a center.

While I was photographing the Zoroastrian Centre, this guy called me over and asked for a picture. I didn't get his name, unfortunately, but when I showed him the picture he exclaimed, "You took my movie!" And he hugged me.

Then this guy, Fred, wanted a picture too. At least I had the presence of mind to get his e-mail address so I could send him one. He did not hug me. Which is fine.

Toward the end of the day, the light began to fade, which cost me this shot. I love the colors , but my shutter speed was a bit slow and I think I moved the camera because the whole thing is blurry. Dammit!

I finally caught the tube home right about sunset. Meanwhile, Dave took Olga to the park and had a quiet day at home to work on some school stuff. He's in the middle of auditioning students for honor band, so he's got plenty to do!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Old Stuff, New Stuff

Not a whole lot to tell today. I went walking yesterday in NW9, and met these two women and their dog Skye, who greeted that boy with great enthusiasm. By the time I took the photo she had mellowed a bit. I got some good shots overall, and then came home via two buses around 1 p.m. to Skype with my mom.

I stopped off at the Apple store in the Brent Cross Shopping Center and bought a new charger cord for my MacBook Pro, as the old one was frayed and the wiring was exposed. Why are those cords so ridiculously expensive? This one cost £65, which is insane.

As I may have mentioned before, Mom is working on selling my grandmother's Steinway piano. We've talked to some Steinway dealers who claim to be interested, but they're not moving very quickly, so Mom is thinking about hiring a moving advisor to help her clear out the piano and some other family belongings that the rest of us don't want. (Mom is getting ready to downsize into more comfortable accommodations.) We talked about my grandmother's wedding china. I hate to see it leave the family, but it's very ornate and gilded and certainly isn't a style that fits my life.

However, Dave and I would have a place to store it -- at least some of it, as the set is quite huge -- because we just bought a new buffet for the dining room. Dave wanted someplace to store our dishes and hold serving plates when we have guests. He found a vintage '60s piece online for a very reasonable price, including shipping costs from Belfast. It arrived yesterday morning, allowing us to unpack a few final boxes. I'll post a picture when I take one.

Otherwise, life is pretty calm around here. Back out into the field today!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Manet's 'Olympia' I Am Not

The trash guys came yesterday, ending the saga of our neighbors' moving detritus. I'm glad to have a fresh start with an empty trash can! It's the little things, right?

I tried to go out shooting yesterday after work, but it gets dark so quickly now that it's basically not worthwhile, at least not in suburban areas. I took the tube up to Kingsbury, north of Wembley, but only had about an hour to walk around. In the city I could keep shooting after dark, but in the suburbs I think that would be hard. Not much to see.

My boss' boss offered to buy beers for everyone in the departments he oversees yesterday afternoon -- but he was starting at 4 p.m. and I work in the library until 5:15, so I would have been arriving late and I was just maxed out on work socializing. (I'd already been to a faculty tea earlier that morning.) So I skipped it. Hopefully that was not politically unwise.

Oh, and one of the art teachers at school asked me yesterday if he could paint me -- and no, not naked, which is the first question everyone asks. I am not Olympia. He said I had an interesting face and interesting bones, and went on to tell a coworker that he's not interested in painting "conventionally attractive people," which sounds vaguely insulting -- but I said yes anyway. We'll see what comes of it. I've never been painted before! Apparently he works from photos so I won't be required to sit motionless in a studio for hours.

Finally, we've had some interesting bird activity in our yard during the past week or two. A pair of Eurasian jays have been hanging around, and unfortunately I haven't yet been able to get a decent photo of them -- but they're beautiful, big and impressive and noisy, light brown with a blue wing. They're nothing special among birders, really, but I haven't seen them that often. Stay tuned!

(Photo: A workman near Swiss Cottage with some colorful plastic bins, Oct. 2.)

Friday, October 10, 2014

Evening Routine, With Sunflowers and Klingons

This was the scene in our living room yesterday evening, as Dave and I decompressed with an episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and Olga decompressed by gnawing her red Kong toy into pieces. Yes, this is the same Kong that we rescued from the rear of Yale Court. No Kong lasts very long around here.

(Come to think of it, "Kong" sounds like a Klingon name, doesn't it?)

I bought the sunflowers at Tesco a few days ago and put them in one of my grandmother's Roseville vases. Only afterwards did I remember that this vase isn't completely watertight -- it gets damp around the base. Maybe the pottery is just too porous, or too old, or maybe the glaze is too thin. Fortunately the sunflowers are sitting on a plastic surface, so no harm done -- unlike the time this vase left a ring on my grandmother's pristine mahogany furniture. I remember Grandmother being concerned that it would leak, and I assured her it wouldn't, because who ever heard of a leaking vase? And then it did. I guess I should have listened to her -- it was her vase! She should know!

Anyway, this is pretty much what every evening looks like around here.

I got my absentee ballot for the general election in Florida yesterday, and promptly voted and mailed it back. (Yes, I am still entitled to vote in the states, as a U.S. citizen living overseas.) I'm excited being able to vote in my home state once again -- as opposed to New Jersey, where I voted in the last election. And who knew there was a medical marijuana referendum on the ballot?! You can bet I gave the thumbs-up to that, after reading about how much medical marijuana has done for Sophie, the daughter of my blog pal Elizabeth. I was also much amused to see a man nicknamed "Skeeter" running for the Mosquito Control District in my home county. Of course, since Skeeter had his nickname printed on the ballot, I'm sure he expects it to work to his advantage.

This Ebola thing continues to get scary, doesn't it? Until recently, it was easy to reassure ourselves that the infectious nature of Ebola was a side-effect of medical care in Africa, where infection control and treatments are dismal. But now, with a man dying in an American hospital, and a nurse getting infected in a Spanish hospital, we have to appreciate how dangerous it really is. I felt sad about the nurse's poor dog being euthanized, too -- it seems like a minor footnote, but it underscores the need for science to better understand the virus and to set public health policies for pets.

I'm starting this year's Halloween read -- the original "Frankenstein," by Mary Shelley. After enjoying "Dracula" so much last year, I'm looking forward to it!