Tuesday, January 31, 2017
While walking on Edgware Road on Saturday, I noticed these artworks underneath the Westway overpass. They add a bucolic touch to an otherwise concrete jungle.
I did some Googling, but I've been unable to find out whose artworks these are*. It's a mystery. I don't remember ever seeing them before, but maybe I've just overlooked them. Or maybe they're relatively new.
I'm still working on the Michael Chabon book I'm reading, "Telegraph Avenue." It's set in Oakland, Calif., in 2004, with lots of retro references going back to the city's earlier Black Panther era. I've been reading it for a couple of weeks, and I like it -- Chabon is a fabulous writer -- but I'm only about halfway through. I don't know why it takes me so long to read a book these days.
*Intrepid blogger and Googler Yorkshire Pudding has identified the artist as Manou Bendon, whose website shows the works being created.
Monday, January 30, 2017
Olga and I were back at Hampstead Heath Extension yesterday. The weather didn't entirely cooperate -- it was gray and drizzly -- but Olga didn't mind. As I've learned, if you wait for perfect weather in England before going outside, you'll never go anywhere.
And though our garden is pretty dormant at the moment, elsewhere there are signs of life. These snowdrops were growing by the path on the West Heath. I photographed this same clump last year.
Dave and I made plans for a little trip with the dog next month. We're going to spend a few nights in Broadstairs, which is on the sea near the mouth of the Thames. We may be the only ones there -- I'm not sure anyone goes to Broadstairs in February -- but we thought it would be fun to visit a chilly, blustery beach. Olga has never seen the ocean, as far as we know!
I also Skyped with my mom and cleaned up around the house.
I'd like to say something about Trump's latest craziness, the capriciousness with which he toys with people's lives and hopes, the trauma he's inflicting on international relationships. I just can't bring myself to talk about it. I feel emotionally paralyzed. All I can say is, this is not the United States I recognize.
Sunday, January 29, 2017
I had to go to St. Mary's Hospital in Paddington yesterday for a medical test, and I was amused to find this pub a few blocks away, named after the founder of penicillin. Sir Alexander Fleming did his groundbreaking work in a lab at St. Mary's, which is now preserved as a museum. Unfortunately, it was too early for a pint, so I didn't get to patronize the pub.
I was at the hospital for an ultrasound. This all relates to my gastritis problems, which I've mentioned here before. Early last year I began having achy pain in the lower left side of my abdomen, which comes and goes for days or weeks at a time, sometimes with other symptoms like fatigue. It's the reason I had that colonoscopy last summer (in addition to the fact that I was way past due for one).
Well, the ultrasound was normal. The tech seemed impressed by my slimness. "Do you work out?" he asked. I wondered if he was trying to pick me up, but no -- he was simply marveling at my lack of an abdominal fat layer, without which he could "see" my innards quite easily. I do not have gallstones, among other positive discoveries. "You've got wonderful organs!" he said.
That's good to know.
In terms of the pain, the docs and I are sticking with the idea that it's some combination of occasional gastritis and/or mild IBS.
After the ultrasound I walked for a couple of hours around the lower part of Edgware Road, taking photos. The sun was out and I got enough to keep the ol' blog afloat for the coming week -- always my goal!
I came back home for lunch and noticed that Totoro, the Japanese forest spirit in our garden, has developed a greenish outer layer. Perhaps he's trying to conceal himself.
I also discovered that our geraniums have something called pelargonium rust, which is why they don't look so great. We'll have to either throw them out or buy an anti-fungal spray. Decisions have not yet been made.
Finally, we had our former neighbors Chris and Linda, the Brexiteers, over for dinner last night. We had a few politically fraught moments during the dinner table conversation but nothing serious. In fact, they expressed approval of my recent marching against Trump! Dave made butternut squash soup and cottage pie, and everyone parted ways on speaking terms -- a successful dinner party, in these challenging times.
Saturday, January 28, 2017
These are not our discarded shrubs. I passed them on my walk to work one day last week. They look so forlorn, don't they? Box shrubs will normally last a long time, so I don't know why these got thrown out, unless they simply weren't cared for. Or maybe they had box blight.
I just realized that around this time last year, we had flowers in our garden. The daffodils were up, and a few early grape hyacinths were already starting to appear. Crazy! This year we haven't seen anything floral yet. The daffodils are tiny shoots just coming out of the ground, and I don't know what happened to our winter aconite -- I haven't seen it at all. I think maybe the squirrels ate it.
We do have some sprouts in the front garden, next to the steps. These are the bulbs from the yellow hyacinths that our friends gave us last year. I stuck them in the ground and more or less forgot about them, but there they are, faithfully making their way. It looks like something already nibbled the flower stalk on the one in back. Are there snails out there at this time of year?!
I forgot to mention that I recently saw a boy at school wearing a blue "Reagan/Bush '84" t-shirt. I think he meant it as a subtle comment on the sad state of today's politics, but I'm not sure -- he was born in 2000 or so, and the Reagan/Bush races would be ancient history to him. I said, "Wow, that's a blast from the past!" Thinking it might have belonged to one of his parents, I asked him if it was an original shirt.
"He wishes," said his friend, sitting nearby.
I didn't tell him I voted for Mondale, though I'm still proud of it.
Friday, January 27, 2017
Thanks for all your thoughtful comments on my flight of pessimism yesterday. I had an epiphany as I was walking home from work, thinking about Trump and all the planet's ills: Maybe it's not helpful to think about these problems from too high an altitude. In other words, think about what we can manage, rather than the overall doomsday scenario.
After all, from an even higher altitude, the sun is going to explode at some point and Earth will cease to exist. Right? It's actually a bizarre source of comfort.
One of my astute commenters made this same point, I saw later, and added this fabulous quotation from Alistair Cooke: “In the best of times, our days are numbered anyway. So it would be a crime against nature for any generation to take the world crisis so solemnly that it put off enjoying those things for which we were designed in the first place: the opportunity to do good work, to enjoy friends, to fall in love, to hit a ball, and to bounce a baby.”
It emphasizes humanity's tendency to think in the short term, but it's pretty much my conclusion as well. Be here now. So thanks to Alistair, who I know only as the former host of "Masterpiece Theatre" but who apparently did and said other things too.
And speaking of dead celebrities (I know, a terrible transition) Dave and I watched four back-to-back episodes of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" on YouTube last night. (Veal Prince Orloff!) I was sorry to hear about her death this week, but how great to have left behind such a body of work. The characters from that show are like long-lost family members -- Mary and Lou and Ted and Georgette and Sue Ann and Murray and Rhoda and Phyllis -- and watching them again felt like a reunion. It's hard to believe forty years have elapsed!
(Photo: Morning on a nearby street.)
Thursday, January 26, 2017
I've sort of been staying away from the big issues here on the ol' blog. I've touched on politics here and there, but every morning when I get up and make my coffee and sit down to write my daily post, the idea of taking on the world's political and social scene just seems too huge and overwhelming. So normally, you get another post about Olga.
But yesterday I read Mary Moon's excellent post about what to do post-Trump, and she captured so well exactly what I've been feeling -- the sense of bewilderment and helplessness about our nation's direction and what to do about it. Coincidentally I was talking about this same subject with my coworkers yesterday, too. I think all of us are left, in the wake of the global anti-Trump demonstrations, wondering what our next steps should be.
Like Mary, I think writing to our Congresspeople is utterly useless. They are so entrenched and tied to their partisan agendas that, frankly, they couldn't care less what we think. I doubt those letters even get read. I think it IS important to resist when we can, to add texture to the history of this period as it's being written -- to show that not everyone was happy during this time of transformation.
What creates real despair in me is the thought of what will happen to the things we cannot replace -- mostly the animals and plants and ecosystems of the planet, which will suffer irreparable harm over the next few decades as a direct result of the dismantling of environmental regulations and falling back on our consumption of fossil fuels. I have a friend who works on coral reef research, and I shudder to think what the fate of the world's reefs will be when we simply throw in the towel on controlling global warming. I think about the elephants and giraffes that I've seen wild in Botswana, the lemurs I've seen in Madagascar, their populations all declining slowly or rapidly in the face of human domination.
And this is kind of where I run off the rails, because now I'm leaving Trump behind and entering the apocalyptic mindset that comes from thinking about issues like overpopulation and the fact that we're living in a time of relatively abundant resources -- a "resource bubble" -- and that bubble is going to burst at some point. It has to. Nothing lasts forever. I may not be around to see it, but it will happen. And then we'll see some serious misery.
Trump, and Brexit, too, are symptoms of this greater, core problem -- the world's resources, their unfair distribution and the fact that they are ultimately finite. Wealthier populations are closing their doors, building walls and protecting their own.
Remember that book I read a couple of years ago -- "10 Billion"? And the author's conclusion? "I think we're fucked." That's pretty much my conclusion, too.
But I'll also admit I don't know for sure what the future will bring, and I could be entirely wrong. Perhaps humanity will somehow magically move beyond its tendency to think in the short-term, to think about our own needs and comforts to the exclusion of all else.
I'm trying to be Zen about this situation -- both the immediate political situation and the larger, global one. I take each day as it comes, moment by moment, and try to live within that moment as fully as possible. Participate in it, and if that means participating in a movement of protest, then be there for that. Do my part. Recycle. And if it means simply enduring -- and there's going to be a lot of enduring in the coming years -- then endure. Donate to organizations that can effectively fight Trump in the courts, but also live each day. Walk the dog, because the dog is real and here.
See? Even this post is about Olga!
(Photo: An abandoned Santa mitten on a fence in West Hampstead.)
Wednesday, January 25, 2017
More on Food Recycling
Thanks for all the tips about recycling yesterday. Now that you mention it, I have heard that food waste doesn't break down in the airless and waterless environment of a sealed landfill. I don't mean to overstate my misgivings -- I believe in recycling as much as possible and will certainly do so.
I don't have qualms about vegetable peelings and other compostable vegetable matter. As I said, we can probably deal with a lot of that in our own garden. We do have a garden composting bin with a door and a lid, though we don't really use it -- I just pile garden clippings in a heap and let nature take its course.
What's giving me pause is meat and bones and cooked food, all of which is supposed to go in our recyclable food waste caddies. For example, I threw out the remains of a chicken carcass last night, and as I did so, I thought about how ideally it's supposed to go in our food recycling bin for pickup and composting by the council. I don't know how they compost meat, but they say they want "all of your cooked and uncooked food waste, from scraps and peelings to leftovers and out-of-date items." I guess having it hanging around in our caddy is no worse than having it in our garbage can.
Anyway, enough about all that. I appreciate all the feedback. It's just going to be an adjustment. I ordered our new food waste caddy this morning. Woo hoo!
Dave and I have been having fun watching recorded episodes of "Gogglebox" the last few nights. I can't believe I've never mentioned this show, but if the search function on my blog is to be believed, I haven't. It's basically a show about people watching television -- the same families each week, watching selected episodes of popular TV shows and making quips and comments about them. Kind of like "Mystery Science Theater," but with a more diverse cast and no robots. We've watched it for many seasons now and it cracks us up. It's also a really good way to get a quick tutorial on shows like "The X-Factor" and "Strictly Come Dancing" that we don't watch, but should know at least a little about. There are Gogglebox videos on YouTube if you're somewhere other than the UK and you've never seen it.
(Photo: Olga on her morning walk, last week.)
Tuesday, January 24, 2017
Recycling and Composting
We've gone from cold and clear to cold and foggy. My walk to work yesterday was completely socked in, as you can see in this photo of the Alexandra Road estate in St. John's Wood.
I haven't yet told you about our local council's plan to increase recycling, have I? They're going to collect the trash only once every two weeks. Recycling, on the other hand, will be collected weekly -- except yard waste, for which we'll now have to pay separately.
The idea is to coerce people to move more of their household waste stream into the recycling bags. Dave and I already recycle all our glass and most of our paper and plastic, but I have always balked at the idea of recycling food waste. (Yes, that is possible! The council distributes little brown bins that go under your sink and hold all your bones, potato peelings, rotten fruit, eggshells and the like. I think "recycling" actually entails dumping it all into commercial digesters, but don't quote me on that -- I'm not entirely sure what they do with it.) Anyway, it just seems gross to me, and besides, doesn't food break down in a landfill? I don't really see why food needs to be recycled.
This schedule change begins in April. You know how I am about our trash cans -- so it will be interesting to see how this alters their use. The ornery, unreasonable part of me wants to just keep putting our trash in the trash can like we always have, and if it overflows and piles up over a two-week period and the foxes distribute it all over the neighborhood, so be it! (I'm sure there are people who will take this approach -- probably more than I'd like to think.)
But the reasonable part of me says, grudgingly, "OK, we'll try to recycle more."
I never thought I'd be grudging about recycling at all. It just seems like it's reaching extreme levels!
As for yard waste, I'm not sure what we'll do about that. Rather than pay for its disposal, we could probably compost it at the back of the garden. Maybe we'll try that -- and perhaps we'll add the compostable elements of our food waste to the pile. Again, though, I feel like the foxes and critters will have a field day!
Monday, January 23, 2017
Tropical Birds on the Frozen Heath
I had a great time yesterday looking at photos on Facebook of all the women's marches all over the world. The turnout was truly astounding and energizing. And with Trump being so thin-skinned about his popularity and ability to draw a crowd, it evidently gives him fits that the marches against him were so much larger than his inaugural gathering. (Hence the press secretary meltdown and Stalinist insistence on "alternative facts.")
Our challenge now is to continue to resist, in whatever ways we can.
Meanwhile, here at Shadows & Light, it's back to normalcy. For me and Olga yesterday, that meant a long walk on Hampstead Heath, which was blanketed with heavy frost. We're having a cold spell -- temperatures down to 28º F at night, and around 41º F during the day.
When Olga and I walked a week or two ago, we saw parrots in the trees -- they really stand out at this time of year, flashing bright green in a canopy that is otherwise devoid of color. I didn't have my camera then, but I had it yesterday, and sure enough we saw them again. As I've mentioned before, these are not native birds, but they seem to live quite comfortably in London, despite the cold temperatures. This one is scratching an itch on its head.
We also saw this guy, carrying not one, not two, but three big sticks. Right after I took this, Olga snarled at him, making him drop them all. I think she was a little freaked out by all that lumber.
It was a good walk, about three hours, and the weather was beautiful. I can deal with cold temperatures under a clear sky. That's preferable to our normal wintry gray rain.
In the afternoon Dave and I debated going to a movie, but we couldn't decide on one -- I wanted "Manchester by the Sea" or something else dramatic, and Dave wanted "Passengers" or something else involving outer space. And the more we thought about it the less appealing it seemed -- sitting in a theater and paying to watch advertisements. So we stayed home and rented "Weiner," the documentary about Anthony Weiner and his attempts at a political comeback in New York. It was a really well made movie, but talk about a Greek tragedy! Sheesh. I guess I got my dose of drama.
Sunday, January 22, 2017
Women's March on London
The crowds turned out for yesterday's Women's March on London -- between 80,000 and 100,000 people, according to the estimates I saw. We gathered in Grosvenor Square, in the shadow of the U.S. Embassy (which is in the process of being vacated for more modern, secure digs south of the river).
These were the coworkers I met up with, though as it happens, I lost them almost immediately while wandering around taking pictures. So I wound up marching by myself, which was fine -- it gave me maximum freedom of movement.
Needless to say, there were many, many women and girls at the event...
...but also plenty of men...
...and even several pets.
There was also a strong anti-Brexit tone to the crowd, with people making the obvious connections between Trump's populist uprising in the states and the populist separatist "Leave" movement here.
My only complaint about the event was that, once in the square, it wasn't immediately apparent what we were supposed to do or where we were supposed to go. I was trapped in a huge crowd standing basically still for at least an hour, as we waited to trickle out of the park and begin walking. I was getting pretty cranky. But then, finally, we got moving.
I walked the entire march route to Trafalgar Square, and even ran into my boss along the way. But I didn't linger in the square, where I believe more rallying was scheduled. It was getting dark and I was hungry and cold and needed a bathroom, so I came home (which wasn't easy because our tube line was shut down for repairs!).
It felt great to take action -- to turn the alarm I feel at the rise of Trump and his ilk into positive resistance. I hope we can all continue that resistance, in whatever way possible, for the next four years.
Saturday, January 21, 2017
Well, I lied. I did watch. I couldn't really avoid it, because we set up the big TV in the library and streamed CNN from mid-afternoon on. So I watched the processions and hand-shaking, and Hillary looking great in her white coat and Melania looking amazing in her blue one, and the wonderful Obamas who I miss already.
And, of course, I watched the man of the hour, and his empty, windy speech full of non-specific language about how he's going to Make America Great Again. He's going to stop drug abuse and radical Islamic terrorism! Well, why didn't we think of that?!
And is it my imagination, or did only about 12 people attend the inaugural parade? The entire event was very low-energy, as Dave kept saying. Phalanxes of police were lined up with their backs to empty bleachers and sidewalks, doing crowd-control for crowds that weren't there. Even during Trump's speech, the attendees' responses seemed muted at best.
I did like what Trump had to say about infrastructure. If I had to pick one positive aspect of his message, that would be it. America does need to invest in infrastructure, and doing so will create jobs and boost the economy. But of course, that investment requires money, and where he's going to get that money worries me. My guess is he'll get it by essentially doing away with the Department of Education and defunding the arts.
Needless to say, I'm still planning to attend today's march.
(Photo: Scaffolding on a building under renovation on our street, photographed at night.)
Friday, January 20, 2017
These two guys were cleaning ivy off a wall on my way to work one morning. Looks like they've made substantial progress! English ivy is crazy stuff. It just consumes everything.
I learned earlier this week that there's going to be a Women's March in London tomorrow -- open to people of all genders. So I'm going to go. There are several people from work attending so I think I'll tag along with them.
I debated whether marching against a democratically elected president was the right thing to do -- especially right out of the box, when he's taken little official action. But we can all see where this is going. And no, this isn't simply a matter of being peeved about losing an election. I've voted for losing candidates many times -- more times than I'd care to admit -- but I never marched against any of their victorious opponents. It's not just that I don't like Trump -- it's that he's said and done things that endanger my fundamental values and our future on this planet. I genuinely believe that he and his strain of anti-intellectual leadership threaten life as we know it.
So, anyway, we'll see how that goes. I haven't been to a political march in years. While I worked in newspapers I was basically unable to participate, having to maintain a veneer of public objectivity about political matters. Now, thanks to my career changes, I have more freedom!
We thought about showing today's inaugural activities on the library TV, but the ceremony itself begins right when we close, so I'm not sure we'll have anything to display. Still, we'll probably experiment with that. I may not like Trump, but he is the nation's next president, and today is history being made, for better or for worse.
Thursday, January 19, 2017
More Thoughts on Manning
This was the scene last night as I walked home from work on Finchley Road, looking west toward the tube station. It's one of the least beautiful parts of West Hampstead, with the O2 Centre shopping mall, the train tracks, and Homebase, our big-box hardware and gardening store. But the sunset made it interesting!
So here we are, on the last day of Obama's presidency. I was serious when I said yesterday that he may be my favorite president. For someone who's been mercilessly harassed by political opponents every step of the way, he's been amazingly effective and dignified. He has never failed to be presidential, never wandered from the high road. His wife, too. She's been great. I'll miss them both.
I didn't elaborate on Chelsea Manning yesterday, but here are my thoughts on that subject: She released state secrets, yes. No one disputes her guilt. But she was also punished and clearly had, at the time, some mitigating psychological issues. Compassion demands that she be removed from a dangerous prison environment and be allowed to sort out her life, particularly since she has already served more prison time than any other leaker and did not reveal any critically classified information.
I don't feel the same way about Edward Snowden. Although I'm sympathetic to his motives as a whistleblower, he hasn't been through any judicial process -- and I think an official, judicial assessment of his actions and their consequences needs to occur before we talk about a pardon or commutation. I wouldn't rule out a plea bargain to allow him to return to the United States, because that would address any charges against him. Simply freeing him would be premature.
We had a very frosty morning yesterday. I noticed that the grape hyacinths have sprouted, though I don't see any blooms yet. With all the digging Dave does in the garden, I'm always afraid the hyacinths are going to be uprooted and yet, every spring, they appear by the hundreds. I'm glad they're so durable and he's able to successfully work around them! Our daffodils are beginning to show little sprouts, too.
Wednesday, January 18, 2017
I came across these tree ferns in front of a house in Notting Hill on Monday. They're at the corner of Portobello Road, not far from where we used to live, and they've clearly been there for years. It's amazing that such a delicate, tropical-looking plant can survive London winters -- but even in the wild, they actually live in fairly chilly places, like Tasmania. I remember seeing tons of them in New Zealand when I visited there in 2004.
Dave always says he wants a tree fern. Maybe we could keep one in a pot and take it with us, should we ever leave West Hampstead. I wouldn't want to put it in the ground and have to leave it here. I think they're kind of expensive.
It was busy in the library yesterday but otherwise uneventful. I've had two recent triumphs in getting kids to pay for lost materials -- a girl who owed us money for books due last May, and another girl who lost a computer charger in September. I always feel a sense of victory when I persuade someone to clear their account! It's the little things, right?
Oh, and I watched more Olga Cam. Yesterday's plot was the same as the day before.
How about President Obama commuting Chelsea Manning's sentence? I swear, he may be my favorite president ever.
Tuesday, January 17, 2017
Blue Monday Surveillance
I had to go back to Notting Hill, our old 'hood, yesterday. I happened to walk past the Skank Store, which has been rehabilitated since I last photographed it in 2012. It's looking much better these days, don't you think? A little lopsided on the top, and produce doesn't seem to be their strong suit -- but still, a definite improvement.
I was back in N.H. to visit our doctor, for reasons that are really not very interesting. (Trust me about this.) I was away from work a couple of hours, and it was drizzly and gray so there weren't even many photographic opportunities.
I did, however, amuse myself throughout the day with our new Olga Cam! I checked in on her via my phone several times during the morning, and as I suspected, her daytime life is pretty placid:
Finally, around 1:30 p.m., the dog walker showed up. By this time she'd moved into the bedroom:
He buckled her into her harness and took her out for a romp, and by the time she came back a few hours later, Dave was home. And that was pretty much that. A dog's life, in pictures!
Yesterday was supposedly "Blue Monday," the most depressing day of the year, when post-Christmas bills are arriving amid the cold, gray darkness of mid-January. And this year, news articles pointed out, we have the additional burdens of Trump and Brexit! But Dave and I put a positive spin on the current political scene by making generous donations over the weekend -- to the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center and Planned Parenthood. I still have a voice -- and combined with the Olga Cam, that fact made Blue Monday a bit less blue.
Monday, January 16, 2017
Rainy Indoor Day
We literally spent the entire day inside yesterday. It rained and rained, and even Olga couldn't be coaxed to go out -- not more than necessary, anyway. It was mostly fine, gloomy rain, which is England's winter specialty.
I cleaned the house in the morning, and Dave and I got both web cameras working properly. So today I'll be able to check on Olga from work, hopefully. We'll see how that goes! Last night, Skyping with Dave's parents, we showed them a live camera image on my phone of us Skyping with them, including their faces on my computer screen. It was like a digital ouroboros -- them looking at us looking at them looking at us. Or something like that.
I read in the afternoon and typed up old journals. Speaking of reading, have you seen the cover of this week's New Yorker? It brought tears to my eyes. To think that in terms of leadership American society has descended from the dignity of Martin Luther King to the vanity and vulgarity of Donald Trump -- well, it's tragic. I don't understand how we lost our way so thoroughly.
I can barely bring myself to read any news about Trump's upcoming administration. I read no more than is necessary. I think I'll boycott television and take a long walk on the day of his inauguration.
Finally, last night we watched the old early '80s "Twilight Zone" movie, which I hadn't seen in a long time. I believe it's the first movie in which I was conscious of John Lithgow as an actor. He definitely steals the show as a terrified airplane passenger. Always a fun one!
(Photo: Graffiti near a footbridge in West Hampstead.)
Sunday, January 15, 2017
Mildred and the Heath
Well, the snow never turned into much. We literally had about half an inch and you'd think, from the news coverage, that we'd been slammed by a blizzard. There were transit problems and photos of thousands of people standing around rail stations trying to get home.
Olga and I had no trouble going to Hampstead Heath yesterday, even though it wasn't the best day for a walk. It was cold and wet.
Remember the Tumulus, which I posted about a few weeks ago? It's been completely cleared of brush, and now we can see the underlying mound. I've never seen it so visible. It's nice, I suppose, but seems like that brush would have been valuable habitat for critters.
I spent the afternoon at home, watching Joan Crawford in "Mildred Pierce," which I hadn't seen for decades. I remember it being distastefully melodramatic, but I actually liked it a lot this time around. It's a good movie, and the cinematography is impressive, with lots of dramatic shadows designed expressly for black-and-white film. Very noir.
I also set up my Christmas presents from Dave. He got me two web cameras, which we can use to monitor the house (and Olga) in our absence. He thought it would be fun to be anywhere in the world and dial up an online image of our living room. (In theory, we could even speak to the dog through the camera, though I think that would freak her out more than comfort her.) We got one of them working, but the other one just won't cooperate. I think it may be fatally flawed.
I did hear back from my friend Katherine, who I wrote about a few days ago when I learned belatedly of the death of her partner Peter. She seemed happy to hear from me, even after such a long lapse of time. I'm glad I contacted her. It was the right thing to do.
Saturday, January 14, 2017
iPhone Photo Parade
Another series of random pictures from my iPhone, collected over the past few weeks. First, I noticed this flashy car parked near our house. It's a McLaren, whatever that is. Orange is apparently one of the brand's trademark colors. I haven't seen it since, so maybe it was just visiting.
Down the street, in front of the bathtub house, this hound sits curled on top of the garden wall. I've walked past him a million times and only just noticed that his eyes don't match.
I liked the way the streetlights reflect off this rippled fence, in waves. It's interesting how changing the conventional flat plane of a fence can have such a cool effect.
Saw this cat prowling around on my way to work one morning. Isn't that a beautiful coat? I don't think I've ever seen a cat with such nice fur. It didn't seem too happy with me, though.
My boss made these for me for my birthday. Aren't they cool? She thought they'd be a good style for me because I could continue to take pictures with my fingertips exposed! I do like them, though I've found that getting into my pockets with them on can be a challenge.
Finally, obviously this is not my photo, but a huge wall-sized advertisement in the tube. I just really like this picture. I love the graceful posture of the skater -- those relaxed hands! -- and the crystal-clear action and the warm summery sunlight. I'm probably not in the market for wireless headphones, though.
Friday, January 13, 2017
Yesterday evening's forecast called for snow, and that is indeed what we got -- clumpy, wet snow that melted when it hit the ground. Our back garden is coated in a very thing sugar-dusting of white, and the cars have an icy sheen, but otherwise it didn't seem to stick. I haven't been outside yet this morning, but I guess when I walk the dog I'll find out if the sidewalks (or "pavements," as I have been instructed to call them in England) are icy.
We're supposed to get more sleet and snow later this morning, just in time to make my walk to work an adventure. I really can't complain, though -- elsewhere in England they're bracing for high winds and coastal flooding.
Two nights ago I was lying in bed when I woke to the sound of some small animal howling. The moon was bright, and I crept out to the living room to see if I could see anything in the back garden. Something was definitely paying tribute to that big bright moon, and I doubt any of my neighbors left their small dogs outside at that hour.
According to this enormously entertaining article, foxes can howl, and my guess is that's what I heard. (If you click that link, be sure to check out the videos, including the Norwegian pop song -- head-spinningly weird.)
Thanks for all your concern about Dave. He went to the doctor yesterday, and the diagnosis was virus with secondary bacterial lung infection. He's on antibiotics now. So far I'm OK, but we'll see if that lasts!
(Photo: My walk home from work yesterday.)
Thursday, January 12, 2017
Moroccan Street Sweeper
This is one of my old photos from Morocco. I came across it on a roll of negatives while looking for something else. I don't remember this picture at all and my guess is I threw out the print, because -- let's face it -- the subject IS really far away! But on seeing it again I decided I kind of like it, with the downward angle and intersecting lines.
I think it was taken in Ouarzazate, in south Morocco, in May 1994. I was interested in the street cleaner, who was using an old palm frond to sweep up trash.
In other news...
Dave is sick, this time with a cold. He came home early from work yesterday and he's coughing and snorting like crazy. He says he feels terrible. The poor guy just cannot catch a break!
Also, I had to do some more "trash intervention" yesterday morning. Our upstairs neighbors threw away a big garbage bag full of branches from a Christmas tree -- in our trash can. Well, as you can imagine, it completely filled the can. Christmas trees are recycled here in Camden borough, so I pulled the bag out of the trash and lugged it to the recycling site (Fortune Green) yesterday morning, dumping the branches into the tree enclosure. Now, at least, we have room for actual trash in the trash can.
We've been sucked in by a new TV show -- "Search Party," with Alia Shawkat. I saw it reviewed in The New Yorker and decided to give it a try. We've binge-watched six episodes and we love it. Having lived in New York as a young(ish) person, I appreciate the youthful urban sensibility.
And speaking of urban youthfulness, I was shocked to learn over the weekend that my pal Peter -- who I met up with in Paris almost four years ago -- died about a year and a half ago! I don't know how I missed this news, except that most of the people we know in common aren't on Facebook and I hadn't corresponded with him or his partner Katherine in some time. (We're not close friends, as you can tell.) I debated what to do -- was it better to say nothing and just move on, or get in touch with Katherine and let her know I'd just heard? At the risk of reopening old wounds I did the latter, via e-mail, to express my surprise and condolences. Apparently he had been ill but I don't know the specifics. I haven't heard back from her, and I may not, but I thought I should at least let her know why I hadn't said anything sooner.
Wednesday, January 11, 2017
The former jazz club being renovated in West Hampstead has gained a sign and presumably some interior walls since I photographed it last March. At first I didn't pay attention to all that newspaper covering the windows. It's fairly common practice for businesses being renovated to cover up this way while the work is being done.
But then I took a closer look and realized the "newspaper" actually consists of pages from old '70s magazines -- teenybopper fan mags, from the looks of things.
There's some fashion advice about colorful underwear...
... and a comic strip from the folks who made "Bionic" a word.
Beauty tips from Marie Osmond? A "personal letter" from David Cassidy? What more could we want?
I got such a kick out of all this that I stood in front of the shop reading until Olga got really impatient and began pulling me along the sidewalk. I'm going to have to go back without her and take a closer look!
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