Saturday, March 31, 2018

Earthworm Massacre

Yesterday was one of those "rain, rain, go away" days. I took Olga for an early-morning walk, but otherwise we stayed inside almost all day. I'd hoped to go to Homebase to buy some gardening stuff but Dave wasn't feeling great, so we put that off until later.

I got outside long enough to shoot some photos of the rain on the patio (above). See how our forget-me-nots are already in bloom?

This was my major achievement for the day. We've been talking about turning the back corner of the garden into a wildflower patch. So yesterday morning, before the drizzle began, I got out there with a shovel and removed the sod, undoubtedly one of the dirtiest jobs I've undertaken in the garden ever. I killed or traumatized about a hundred thousand earthworms in the process, which I felt bad about, and I kept trying to move them out of the way, but our lawn is so thick with them that they couldn't be avoided.

(If earthworms are the sign of healthy soil, as is often said, then our soil must be supercharged.)

As you can see, I left the borage around the edges of the patch -- we like it, especially when the blue flowers emerge and the bees buzz around it in droves.

The challenge is going to be keeping Olga out of this zone. I think we may buy some garden fencing, as much as I hate it, to discourage her. We still need to get some wildflower seeds -- I'm hoping that slugs won't be drawn to them, since they survive in the wild, after all.

I also salvaged a couple of clay flowerpots from a pile of discarded construction debris in front of a neighbor's house. (There's always at least one house under renovation on our street. It's crazy.) One of the pots had some bulbs growing in it -- I think they're bluebells. More bulbs for the garden!

Friday, March 30, 2018


Well, as you can see, I slept late this morning. Spring Break officially begins today, and as I write, Dave, Olga and I are all still in bed at 7:30 a.m. In fact, the dog is snoring.

It feels so good to sleep in, even though my version of "sleeping in" is probably most people's version of a normal time to get up.

I got everything done yesterday that I needed to at work, so I left with a clean desk, which is a good feeling. The conference room books are all cataloged, the summer reading lists made, the fiction shelves weeded, the computer chargers returned and rolled neatly in their drawers. (Well, kind of neatly. Neatly enough.)

Olga and I found this car yesterday on our morning walk. I went back with my camera on my way to work to get some photos.

This is why I love living in cities -- I stumble across the creativity and wackiness of other people on a daily basis. Suburban life, while it carries its own attractions, just doesn't provide that kind of stimuli!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Drug Bags

Several months ago I read an article about a photographer who has made a project out of collecting empty drug bags in London. The bags -- little plastic zip-locks featuring simple designs -- are used by dealers and consumers of marijuana and other drugs. They can easily be found lying around on London's streets and in its parks and public spaces.

The photographer, Dan Giannopoulos, not only collects the bags -- he maps his finds and relates them to certain neighborhoods.

I found it all pretty interesting, especially since I've been known to pick up an odd drug bag here and there. Above are some examples I've found during my walks around London. It's not the drugs that interest me -- it's been more than two decades since I've had any pot and I've never tried anything stronger -- but rather the artwork.

For a long time I resisted collecting them, choosing to simply photograph them instead. But after I saw a collage of Giannopoulos' found bags, I couldn't resist making a much smaller version of my own. I'm not sure I'll do anything with them. Dave might not be amused if I were to frame them and hang them up in the house!

On a completely different note, I planted our sweet pea seeds yesterday, so that's one more spring task completed. I still need to repot some plants and clear a flower bed in the back corner of the garden -- we're going to plant some wildflowers back there for the bees. There's more trimming and pruning to be done, and -- well -- it never ends, does it? Fortunately Spring Break begins tomorrow, so I'll have more time to take care of some of these tasks!

Our amaryllis bulbs have all sprouted, but for some reason there are no flower buds this year. It's the strangest thing -- the first time that's happened. Maybe they're still to come.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Hyacinth Bouquets

Olga and I found these bulbs sprouting on Hampstead Heath on Saturday. It's like someone planted a little spring bouquet -- a Hyacinth Bouquet! (Or Bucket?)

And how is it that hyacinths planted in the open in a park grow and bloom, while ours get devoured by pigeons?

Here's another nice hyacinth-and-daffodil assortment, growing in a small patch of earth surrounded by a parking lot. Someone definitely made creative use of bulbs in this tiny space.

Finally, just to show you that we're not complete losers in the bulb department, these hyacinths are growing outside our front door. They're the ones given to us by our friends Adam and Tim a couple of years ago. Pests don't bother our front garden nearly as much as the back -- I guess commotion in the street and the fact that it's a much smaller space keep them away.

Dave and I worked in the garden a bit on Monday -- we trimmed away some dead stuff, pruned our gangly geraniums and planted some seeds that I'd been saving in envelopes all winter. Some were poppy seeds collected from the purple opium poppies that Mrs. Kravitz grows next door, and some were hogweed seeds from Hampstead Heath. I've always wanted to have some tall, dramatic hogweed plants in the garden.

(I'm not talking about giant hogweed, which is a whole different matter -- those plants are certainly dramatic but they're also apparently dangerous and invasive. This page explains the difference between the two.)

Anyway, I have no idea whether any of these seeds will grow but I'm giving it a whirl. And we have more seeds still to get in the ground, including some sweet peas I picked from our vines last year. I gotta get moving on those.

We got a nice surprise when our council tax statement arrived the other day. Apparently we've overpaid somewhere along the line, and we don't owe any payments until September! How this is possible I'm not sure, especially when our monthly bill (£215) is more than we've been paying each month (£199). (When we first moved in here, almost four years ago, I set our bank account to make regular payments and never adjusted it, so apparently the tax increased at some point.) A co-worker told me that council tax, which goes to fund municipal services like trash collection, is only paid ten or eleven months of the year -- so maybe that's where we went wrong. We've paid every month. Anyway, as I said, it's a nice surprise.

Last night Dave and I went to a book-launching party for an acquaintance who's written a new novel. I bought a copy for the library, since she's affiliated with the school, but apparently the book is quite salacious so it may not be appropriate for student reading! I read some of the sexier parts of it to Dave last night after we got home, just for laughs -- it is definitely graphic. I hope, for our friend's sake, that it sells a million copies!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Hooper Struve

Not long after I started my LOOP walk on Sunday, I saw the telltale signs of an interesting bottle sticking out of the mud.

Most of it was completely buried, but I could tell that it had embossed lettering -- which is often a sign of something old or unusual. I grabbed a stick and gradually dug it out of the muddy path. (Don't worry -- this wasn't in the asbestos area!)

Here's the result -- a vaguely bowling-pin shaped vessel, about 6 1/2 inches tall, that says "Hooper Struve" on one side and bears the royal warrant on the other. "To H. I. M. the King, by appointment," it says.

The fact that it specifies "king," and not "queen," suggests that it dates from between 1901 and 1952. It turns out that Hooper Struve was a mineral water and lemonade manufacturer based in Brighton. It operated there until 1963; I'm vague on what happened to the company after that.

There are lots of photos of old Hooper Struve bottles online, but the only one I can find resembling mine is in this photo, lower left. And there's no information about it.

So, anyway, after I dug it up, I put the bottle in a plastic bag (an unused dog poo bag, to be honest, because being a dog owner I have them on me at all times) and I stashed it in my camera bag. I could tell that the neck was broken but I saw no other glass pieces at the site, so it must have been broken long ago. If you look closely at the top photo, you'll see that the bottle was so full of dirt that tiny plants were growing inside it! Nature had turned it into a terrarium!

As much as I liked the terrarium effect, when I got home I cleaned it up -- easier than expected -- and this is the end result. Another interesting find for the kitchen windowsill!

Monday, March 26, 2018

Hatch End to Elstree

Finally, FINALLY, after weeks of bad weather and back pain and traveling, I was able to get back on the LOOP yesterday. I walked a 10-mile section from Hatch End to Elstree.

Can you believe it was almost two months ago when I last stepped off the trail and had lunch at The Moon and Sixpence pub (above) in Hatch End? Seriously, time flies. I didn't get a shot of it then but I photographed it yesterday as I headed back to the trailhead.

From Hatch End I walked through some marginal woodlands, across fields and along a busy road before coming to this peculiar bit of land. The trail was prominently labeled with warning signs advising us that asbestos was present. (Apparently asbestos doesn't bother the teasels!)

Turns out this plot is known as Valley View Farm, a former piggery -- closed in the late '90s -- where people dumped construction waste and other debris for years. There was a plan to build houses here (!) but that sensibly got scrapped. Apparently the waste is still hanging around. I know asbestos in the ground isn't going to hurt me, unless I get down on my hands and knees and dig in it and inhale it, but still -- it felt a little unsettling to walk through this area.

And clearly dumping is still a problem. Kitchen cabinets, anyone?

From there, I walked through a wooded area near the "Grim's Dyke," an iron-age ditch that was constructed for a purpose we apparently don't fully understand today. The woods here were beautiful, with ponds and rhododendron and towering redwood trees.

At the center of it all was the Grim's Dyke Hotel, once the elegant and stately home of William S. Gilbert, of Gilbert & Sullivan fame. In fact, Gilbert died on this property, while swimming in one of the ponds in 1911. The hotel looks amazing -- I'd love to stay there with Dave and Olga! (The web site says they take "small dogs." Is Olga small? I'm not sure.)

From there I walked to a scenic overlook known as the Harrow Viewpoint. It wasn't very scenic on this particular morning, which was foggy and gray, and the place was strewn with an incredible quantity of litter. (Dave theorized that it's probably a Saturday-night hangout for local teenagers, and he's probably right -- so Sundays may be particularly messy.)

I found a memorial to "Fabian," which I think must be related to this incident, in which a young man and his girlfriend were recently found dead at the overlook. (Typical of some news articles, that one raises more questions than it answers -- the two "were found asleep," it says, with the cause of death still under investigation. How they went from "asleep" to dead I'm not sure, unless "asleep" is meant in the euphemistic sense.)

From there I passed a peculiar pub called "The Case is Altered." Strangely, it's one of several pubs in the UK with that name. Why it's called that I'm not sure -- there's a Ben Jonson play by that title from the early 1600s, but the signs showed soldiers in some kind of military campaign. It didn't appear to be open.

From there the path wound along roads and across farmland. What is that contraption?

I passed some contented-looking horses munching, and reclining on, their hay.

I stopped at a park near the Aldenham Reservoir for a completely tasteless egg and mayo sandwich. Then I pressed on to Elstree and Borehamwood, the home of film and TV studios where "Star Wars," the early Indiana Jones movies and "2001: A Space Odyssey," among others, were filmed. There's a big mural outside the train station commemorating the show-business history of the area, featuring the faces of Elizabeth Taylor, Spencer Tracy, Roger Moore and Christopher Lee.

From there I took the Thameslink train back to West Hampstead -- a straight shot and just four stops away! Probably the easiest commute to or from a trailhead I will ever have during this LOOP adventure.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Our Molested Tulips

I spent part of yesterday morning getting reacquainted with the garden. There's still not much going on out there -- our lungwort is blooming (above), and the hellebore is going gangbusters, and we're starting to see the first few forget-me-nots around the patio. The forsythia looks like a cloud of tiny yellow moths circling each other. And of course there are the daffodils, which not only survived the snowstorm but managed to right themselves again -- I took away the support stakes I put in to hold up their blossoms after the snow beat them down.

Otherwise, almost everything is either still dormant or just a tiny sprout.

Some of our bulbs are having a terrible time. The squirrels have eaten the heart out of them, and the slugs are feasting on what's left. We think these are tulip bulbs, which are apparently known for being tasty to both. You can even see a small black slug on that large leaf. (How can it be that just a week after a snowfall we have slugs eating our plants?! Where do such soft, watery creatures go when everything freezes?)

I put a few slug pellets around the wreckage, but I don't know what to do about the squirrels. It seems unlikely we'll get any tulips this year. Dave also planted camassia lilies, and I hope they aren't being eaten too -- but they might be. (It's hard to tell one bulb from another at this point.)

One of our hyacinths also got mangled by the pigeons. Sigh.

I'm sure there's a quotation out there about gardening being heartbreak, or something like that, but I can't find it right now.

Oh, someone asked on a recent post whether we'd tried feeding the squirrels to keep them away from our plants. The answer is yes -- we had a squirrel feeder for a while. But we found that they mangled the plants anyway. If anything, the feeder just seemed to attract more squirrels! We took it down.

Saturday, March 24, 2018


This is another work of student art that hangs in the cafeteria at school. It's intriguing, isn't it? I'm only showing one, but there are actually several panels of 12 faces each, all deep in shadow and somewhat caricatured. I assume the students portrayed themselves, or maybe a friend.

On my way to work yesterday I came across this glamorous woman, lying in the gutter with her diamonds. Rough night, I suppose. She's lucky she didn't get rolled for that jewelry.

Speaking of glamor, Dave and I regularly watch a TV quiz show called "Eggheads," which involves a new team of challengers each night going up against a panel of Britain's top quiz champions. Last night we watched an episode originally broadcast in January, and we were thrilled to see the challengers were a team of DRAG QUEENS! (Well, four drag queens and one woman, on the far right.)

I happened to snap that photo just as the show faded from one camera angle to another, giving the double-exposure effect. "The Queens" weren't the best quizzers, but it was the most entertaining "Eggheads" episode I've seen in a while.

I kept thinking, "Would American television show this?" And actually, it probably would. Drag queens are practically mainstream these days.

Otherwise, I don't have much to report today. When I wasn't at the circulation desk, I spent yesterday helping to compile a summer reading list for 8th graders, and weeding more books in the fiction section. Routine!

Friday, March 23, 2018

Lillie Langtry

I often pass this pub on my walk to work. It's located on the ground floor of a block of council flats called Emminster House on Abbey Road, and for years now it's been known as The Lillie Langtry. A handwritten notice recently appeared saying it's under new ownership, and yesterday I saw that part of the sign had been pulled away to reveal a bit of the pub's previous name underneath: Cricketers.

Does this mean Lillie is about to go through another name change? Or maybe she's just getting a new sign....?

Curiously, this is one of two pubs in London (that I'm aware of) named for Langtry, an actress and woman-about-town in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. The other, which I've photographed in the past, is on Lillie Road in Fulham.

And as a complete tangent, here's an interesting note about the evolution of the Internet. When I wrote in 2012 about coming across the Lillie Langtry pub in Fulham, I wondered whether Lillie Road was named for her -- but I was unable to find out. Today, Lillie Road has its own Wikipedia page that explains the origin of its name -- and it's not named for Langtry but for a local property owner, Sir John Scott Lillie. So, six years later, I have an answer to my question!

I've never actually been in either of these pubs. The one on Abbey Road looks very much like a neighborhood watering hole. I wonder what Lillie Langtry would have thought of that Brutalist architecture?

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Sunny Miscellany

We had actual sunshine yesterday, which made my walk to work much more pleasant! The snow has all disappeared and the temperatures are back above freezing (although, at night, not by much). I moved the fig and the geraniums back outside. Fingers crossed, that's the last move of the season.

Something knocked Totoro off the Japanese maple in the back garden -- probably squirrels. He was lying on the ground when I went out yesterday afternoon to change the water in the birdbath, his string broken. So now, of all bizarre errands, I need to buy new string for Totoro.

First, though, we have to have our apartment inspected as part of our annual lease renewal process. The inspector for the managing agent is going to come tonight. It's mostly a formality, but it will be interesting to see whether the changes we've made (like painting and removing the shower door) register at all on the landlord's seismometer. If anything, she should be happy, right?

One would hope.

Remember that gold dental inlay I had removed when I had my root canal? Well, it's been sitting in an envelope on our bookcase waiting for me to get around to selling it for scrap. I'd planned to take it down to one of the gold dealers in Hatton Garden, London's jewelry district. But it only weighs about a gram and I think I stand to get about £10 for it, and I'd spend half of that on tube fare! So yesterday I found a place that buys gold by mail, and I threw it in an envelope and mailed it off. (Postage costs: 65p.) Frankly, I don't care if it's a scam and I never see a penny. It's just good to get it out of my hair -- or mouth, I should say.

Finally, as I was opening magazines yesterday at work, a packet of zinnia and cosmos seeds fell out of one of them. Which reminded me that I've got to do something about planting our stash of seeds! I have poppy seeds and hogweed and sweet peas, among others, that I gathered last autumn -- and now cosmos and zinnias, too. It's probably just a touch too cold to plant them now, but hopefully in a couple of weeks...

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Everybody's A Critic

I've mentioned that I'm cleaning out and cataloging the books in our library conference room. They're housed in glass bookcases and, to be honest, mostly serve a decorative function. They're generally older volumes that were either donated to us or used to be in circulation and were discarded. (I think "Clarissa" may be going there shortly!)

No one ever reads these books. But we wanted to know what we had back there, and maybe make up a list, in case someone asks for something and it happens to be available there. We could then check it out to them.

(This begs the question, why don't we just put them all in the general catalog -- and I admit I've asked myself that!)

Anyway, this is a long lead-up to showing you this particular book, which I found yesterday. It spent a few decades in the collection, was last checked out in 1995, and then discarded and added to the conference room shelves, I suppose because of its rather antiquated appearance.

I found this note inside the back cover...

Everybody's a critic! I think this must have been written some time in the '90s, don't you? That seems like a very '90s speech pattern. (If you're really motivated to see for yourself how "interesting" the book is, there's a copy available on Amazon UK for just 42 pence!)

Most of what's in the conference room are old classics, many of them big Heritage Press editions with fancy covers -- the kinds of books that are designed to look good on bookcases. Curiously, a lot of them we don't have in the general collection -- Melville's "Typee" and "Omoo," for example, or Max Beerbohm's "Zuleika Dobson." So that's why a list will be good to have -- on the chance, however slim, that some future high school student shows up with a burning desire to read "Zuleika Dobson."

Hey, it could happen!


Tuesday, March 20, 2018

His Master's Voice

This is the HMV music store on Oxford Street. That sign has been there since the 1930s -- according to Wikipedia, "HMV stands for His Master's Voice, the title of a painting by Francis Barraud of the dog Nipper listening to a cylinder phonograph."

The image was bought by the Gramophone Company in 1899 and used in England as the trademark for HMV, and in the United States for RCA. Here's an interesting photo gallery of pictures from the interior of the London HMV store over the years. I love that photo of customers -- dressed in suits for a day on the town -- sitting in the listening booths, records spinning in front of them.

I came across the sign last night as I was visiting a nearby doctor's office to consult about my painful back. The doctor seems to think I'm just suffering the effects of age, but we're going to see if my insurance will allow me to get a scan just to see exactly what's going on. Fortunately, in the last week or so, I've had very little pain and my range of motion hasn't been affected, so maybe whatever's kinked me up back there is getting better.

Our snowfall seems to be dissipating. The sidewalks near our flat were like glass yesterday morning, slick with refrozen meltwater. I was afraid Olga would pull me down during our walk. But this morning there's only a hint of snow left in the garden and there's even a bit of rain falling, so I guess the temperatures have inched up a bit.

I was amused by this person's novel approach to keeping ice off the windshield -- I wonder if it worked?

I swear I did not write that. I agree, though.

Still trying to relocate myself mentally to warmer climes, I finally read "Freddy Goes to Florida," which I recently mentioned finding in the library. It's a cute book -- very old-fashioned -- about a bunch of farm animals who travel south for the winter. I wonder if kids would go for it now?

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Painters Take Flight

I'm getting pretty sick of snow. Let me just say that.

Winter circled back upon us yesterday, with temperatures dropping as expected and snow falling steadily all day. I'd say there's a couple of inches on our patio table and potted plants. The snow on the lawn seems to have melted a bit, but still -- we're back in the deep freeze.

I took that yesterday morning, standing outside the back door. We are not amused!

On the bright side, the painters are finished. The young guy painting the flat -- who was not the boss who gave us the estimate -- worked all through the morning and into the afternoon yesterday. It was a bit awkward having him here, working in the hallway while I was lying on the couch watching TV, but given the weather I wasn't about to go anywhere. He had interesting tattoos -- outspread wings tattooed onto his forearms. I wondered if they were supposed to mean something, but I didn't ask.

Then the boss showed up and I paid him a portion of the bill. (He wanted it in cash to pay his worker.) I made him give me a receipt, even though I felt churlish for doing so. He kept talking about how nice we were and how tidy the flat is, which is hilarious because I thought the place was a wreck all week. I think he's mainly after a five-star Google review. (We'll give him one. He and his angel-winged employee did a great job.)

I tried to put up the new shower curtain rod that Dave bought, but darned if I can figure out how that thing is supposed to work. I didn't want to wrestle with it too much for fear of leaving marks on the walls. I'm leaving it for Dave to handle when he returns from Singapore tonight. I know -- I'm a terrible spouse. (In my defense, I have entirely reassembled the rest of the apartment, putting everything back in its proper place.)

Mainly I spent yesterday cinematically transporting myself to Miami -- in psychological avoidance of the snow, I suppose. I watched both Tony Rome movies and several old episodes of "Miami Vice." I took Olga to Fortune Green and the cemetery in the afternoon, and bathed her afterwards. Right now she's snoring under a blanket, tucked in with one of her tennis balls, twitching and dreaming and showing no interest in the cold, cruel wintry world outside.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Daffodils in a Tree

Last weekend, when Olga and I went to Sandy Heath, we found that someone had propped a bouquet of daffodils in this immense tree. (Olga wasn't all that interested, preferring to run around like a wild thing in the background.)

Actually, maybe they're not daffodils. Narcissus?

Yesterday was the most beautiful, bright, sunny spring day you could ever want. And today? Freezing temperatures, wind and snow! We're getting a mini version of our recent "Beast from the East" storm this weekend. The high temperature for the day is supposed to be just above freezing -- which means, once again, that walking the LOOP is probably out. I'll know more after I walk the dog this morning. If she'll go. I see flurries out there already.

The painters are here today, finishing up, so I have to do something to get out of their hair.

I woke to the news that President Trump is claiming in a legal filing that Stormy Daniels owes him $20 million for violating their confidentiality agreement. But why does that agreement exist in the first place?! Is this man really our president? I just can't stand it.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Literature and Bart Simpson

I found myself walking behind this guy on my way home from work yesterday. People make the strangest fashion choices.

I'm enjoying my alone time at home with the dog. It would be better if the house weren't still a wreck, but the painters are making progress. The kitchen is mostly done, the bathroom needs one more coat, the entrance hall is mostly done except for all the trim, and the living room is done. So now it's just a matter of the small hallway in the middle of the house, plus that trim and the extra coat in the bathroom. I think they may finish up today.

I haven't tried to put anything back in order. I'll wait until they're done with everything and then do it all at once.

One unfortunate side effect of the bright new paint -- it makes the kitchen cabinets look terrible. I need to do some serious cleaning in that kitchen.

Meanwhile, as I said yesterday, Olga and I are living in the midst of a garage sale, with everything crowded into the two rooms that are not being painted:

I'm not complaining. The place will look so much better when this is all done.

The magazine people finally came and collected all our donated magazines from the library, and I worked yesterday to weed more of the fiction shelves. So here's a question -- Samuel Richardson, the 18th century novelist, penned two multi-volume works, one called "Pamela" (2 volumes) and one called "Clarissa" (4 volumes). We have both, and neither has been checked out for about 15 years. Do you think it would be library heresy to take "Clarissa" off the shelves and just leave "Pamela," which is the better-known work? Are we obligated, as a library, to make all the classics available, or is it better to free up shelf space for books that are going to be more actively read?

I faced the same question with "The Mysteries of Udolfo," a classic gothic novel I hadn't heard of at all. We have a copy but it's never been checked out. Apparently it was influential to Jane Austen (whose novels do get read) but do we really need it?

I know this probably sounds horrible, given that we are a school library, but the reality is, shelf space is valuable and most of our reading patrons are middle schoolers. (The high schoolers check out far fewer books.) As I write this and think more about it, I'm leaning toward keeping them as foundational works of literature, but it's an interesting question.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Anti-Gun Walkout

Students and staff at our American school here in London participated in yesterday's anti-gun walkout. Even though Britain in general is a much more secure environment when it comes to gun laws and gun regulations, our demonstration was meant to show affinity with marching students all across the United States. I didn't participate personally, because someone had to stay in the library with the handful of students (mostly from countries other than the USA, it seemed to me) who stayed behind during the protests. But I certainly agree with the sentiment of the demonstrators.

It's great to see so many kids taking action and making their voices heard. The cynical side of me suspects it won't lead to concrete change -- at least, not immediately -- but these kids are forming opinions that will influence how they and their friends think and vote in coming years. So that's promising.

I do think public opinion is slowly changing on this issue. As older, more gun-friendly generations die off, and younger people who have been raised amid the seemingly endless parade of mass shootings grow up and become politically active, change is bound to occur. I also suspect fewer people in each new generation are participating in gun-related sports and hunting, which means many younger people see guns solely as criminal devices. Which is pretty much how I see them.

So, yeah, I'm glad to see kids taking a stand.

In other news, the painters in our flat made more progress yesterday. They removed our glass shower partition, a ridiculous (and ridiculously ugly) sort of gate which served as our shower curtain. It only extended half the length of the bathtub, which left the rest of the tub completely open to the room. I don't know who designed that thing, but Dave and I both hated it.

Our plan was to keep it and re-install it when we leave this property. Meanwhile, we'll use an actual shower curtain.

But the painters had to use some "brute force" (as one of them said to me) to remove the door, because the screws were badly stripped. So I'm not sure reinstalling it will ever be possible. We may have to eventually take our lumps for that decision. I put it in the shed in the back garden, and there it will stay.

(Photo: A bar near Tottenham Court Road, last week.)

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Morris the Entrepreneur

This used to be the side entrance to a gigantic art deco cinema in Kilburn called the Gaumont State Cinema. It seated 4,000 people! I'm not sure what's going on there these days -- apparently the main part of the cinema was purchased by a church, but I'm not sure this side venue (which eventually became an Odeon cinema) is part of that deal. At any rate, as you can see, it's closed up and not in great shape. There were two couches and a tent beneath that awning when I took that photo last weekend.

Thanks for all the mouse info yesterday. I'm (weirdly) not too concerned about it, but I like the idea of putting the dog food in a plastic container. That does seem wise. I may try to get a humane trap and release the critter outside.

I went back to the dentist yesterday to have him take a look at my root-canaled tooth, which has been giving me very mild twinges of pain. He thinks it's just routine inflammation that's part of healing, but he gave me another round of antibiotics in case there's still some infection beneath it.

You know how we were marveling the other day at all the information available on the Internet? Well, I was recently looking through old issues of my hometown newspaper, the Tampa Tribune, online. I was specifically searching for a picture that ran in 1988 or so of a bunch of reporters and candidates at the courthouse watching election returns. I was in the picture, and I don't have a copy of it.

Well, I didn't have any luck finding that particular photo -- I'm not clear on the year or the caption or the photographer or even whether it ran in the Tribune. It might have been a competing newspaper. But I did find a couple of other articles featuring me, which I already do have copies of, as well as lots of interesting old advertisements like the gem at left. I wonder if Morris is still in business?

It was fun to browse the paper and remember the ol' hometown before it became the much bigger, flashier city it is today.

The painters are still here, working their way through the flat. All is still chaos. Olga spent last night on the couch -- I think she was waiting for Dave to come home. (As I mentioned yesterday, he'll be in Singapore until Sunday.)

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Color My World

Have I mentioned that Dave and I have embarked on a redecorating project?

You may remember that we've been nagging our landlord for months to paint certain parts of the flat -- the kitchen and bathroom, mainly. Our nagging came to naught, so we decided to go ahead and pay for it ourselves. It's an investment that I hope the landlord appreciates (doubtful) and one that will make living here much more enjoyable.

Well, the painter's first day was yesterday -- and honestly I don't know if it's just one guy or a whole crew, because they come after we've gone to work and they leave before we get home. He (they?) painted the bathroom and asked us to move all the plants out of the living room, which he (they?) are going to "touch up."

It looks so bare without our jungle, doesn't it? Moving that avocado tree was no small feat. (We put it in our bedroom where I hope it won't kill and eat us in our sleep.)

I put all our pictures and tchotchkes in the dining room, which now looks like a crazy garage sale.

To make matters more interesting, Dave leaves for Singapore today on a school trip. So it's just me and the painters -- and poor traumatized Olga, who doesn't seem at all traumatized, actually -- until this coming weekend.

And even more interesting, we have mice! Or at least, mouse. I heard the distinct sounds of chewing last night in the entrance hall, and although it was too dark to see the culprit in action, after I turned on the light I found little tooth marks in Olga's bag of dog food. The mouse didn't break entirely through the bag, and I picked it up and put it on the table, thinking it might at least be out of reach up there. I suppose it's too much to expect that if I make it hard for them to eat, these critters will go away on their own?

Never a dull moment!

(Top photo: West Hampstead, last weekend.)

Monday, March 12, 2018

Ravenous Camellia Monster

Yesterday was yet another day it was supposed to rain...with very little rain...and yet another day I could have walked the LOOP but didn't. I don't know why I ever pay attention to the weather report. I should just do what everyone does in this land of unpredictable precipitation -- go about my business while armed with an umbrella.

Olga and I got out for another long walk in the morning, this time northward through Childs Hill. The daffodils were out in force at Fortune Green. (Yes, I've basically taken that picture before.)

Then we came home and hung around the house. We watched this squirrel sitting on the next-door neighbor's wooden rose trellis. See that bright pink thing in its hairy little paws? That's one of the buds from the camellia bush behind it. The little monster is eating the flowers before they even have a chance to open! If I were the neighbor I'd be annoyed, but it's not my bush.

I've been vowing to read more YA fiction, to keep myself professionally relevant, so this weekend I read "The Maze Runner," by James Dashner -- and I have to say it was good. I'm not sure it entirely made sense, but as long as you don't apply adult standards of physics and believability it succeeded admirably. I'd recommend it to a kid, absolutely -- not that they need my recommendation for that book, because they're all reading it anyway. (I should probably make an effort to read less well-known stuff.)

Olga and I went to the Heath in the afternoon, and I succeeded in wearing her out completely. When we came home she collapsed, and Dave and I watched the first two episodes of the newest season of "American Crime Story," about the killing of Gianni Versace in Miami Beach. I remember that episode well -- I was living in Florida at the time and occasionally drove down to Miami for a weekend, so I connected with the crime geographically and culturally. Andrew Cunanan stashed his stolen truck in the same parking garage where I used to park! Anyway, a truly horrible story and one that seemed to take the shine off Miami Beach for years to come.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Lush Lush Orange

Rain was predicted for yesterday afternoon, which bummed me out, because I really wanted to get walking again on the London LOOP. (It's been more than a month!) Not wanting to slog across wet, muddy pastures in a downpour, though, I figured I'd better not risk it.

Instead I took the dog out early for an extra-long morning walk. We headed up Mill Lane through West Hampstead, past this colorful carpet shop, and on toward Kilburn. Imagine an entire room carpeted in that hot pink, or that vivid orange! Head-splitting!

Olga loves walking through this pedestrian cage -- for lack of a better word -- because she always sees squirrels in the trees to the left. They literally drive her barking mad.

The cage exists, I think, to keep people off the train tracks below and to the right. (And to keep them from throwing things onto the tracks, probably.) It's always a little creepy walking through there.

We meandered through Kilburn, where we came across this spectacularly bizarre sweatshirt set out with someone's trash. What does "Lush Lush Orange" mean, and what does it have to do with a raccoon? At least, I think that's a raccoon. In overalls. With a bandana.

I found it hilarious, but Olga was so bored she couldn't stifle a yawn.

From there we went to historic Paddington Old Cemetery, where we'd never walked before.

We circled the elegant gothic-style chapels, which date from 1855 and, according to Historic England, are "too dangerous to use."  They're fenced off, as you can barely see in the photo above, but I got a few glimpses of the impressive stained glass windows.

And from there we headed home, where I laundered the "Lush Lush Orange" sweatshirt for our charity-shop donations bag. Someone somewhere will love it, don't you think?

And then, of course, it didn't rain all day. Argh!