Saturday, August 31, 2019

Science Lessons

When I was a kid growing up in Florida, I lived down the street from a biology professor. He taught at the same university where my parents taught math, and I was friends with his three daughters. One, Theresa, was my age -- the other two were slightly older.

Theresa and I spent a lot of time together. Her family had a weird two-story concrete-block house with linoleum floors and an unfinished feel. Her back yard was literally a swamp, with a long boardwalk leading down to a lake. The boardwalk passed a gigantic old mossy cypress stump that her father dubbed "the old troll."

Theresa's room was always chaotic, with a ton of stuff everywhere -- toy horses, games, dishes, papers. Upstairs was the professor's office, as I recall, and I remember it being sort of rough-hewn with exposed wood beams.

Every once in a while, we'd climb up the stairs to find Theresa's father, and we'd beg him for science lessons. As a biologist, he was certainly qualified, and he had a huge set of Time-Life science books covering subjects from cellular structure to the universe. (I believe it was the Nature Series, which focused on life science as opposed to physics or chemistry, though he may have had the Science Series too.)

We'd select a Time-Life book and he'd go through it with us for fifteen minutes or half an hour, teaching us about insects or rodents or space. Those Time-Life books were full of pictures, so they were interesting to a six- or seven-year-old. I remember being fascinated. I loved our science lessons.

I've always thought this professor's attention helped boost my interest in the natural world -- that and living in a rural area with lots of swampy wilderness. I learned the names of trees and weeds and animals, and I learned to respect and preserve all that diverse life -- even the snakes and spiders. You see the evidence all the time in my posts here, when I'm writing about garden insects or the forests on Hampstead Heath.

It doesn't take much to focus a kid's attention and he did us such a favor by spending that time with us. A few years later Theresa moved to another neighborhood and I saw her much less often. By the time we were in high school our paths had diverged. She now helps run a family ranch where she works with horses, and I've seen her only once in the past 35 years -- and that was about 20 years ago. But I'm still friends with her on Facebook, and we exchanged fond messages not too long ago about our science lessons. (I think today is her birthday, in fact!)

Interestingly, when I went to college, I took a class with this same professor. He was always patient and personable at home, but in an auditorium classroom as an older man, working with college students, he seemed gruff and severe. I was struck by how different he was in that environment!

(Photos: From top, a great willowherb, Epilobium hirsutum, that grew by itself in a pot on our patio; A deep red dahlia; A better picture of our Chinese lantern, now bright orange; A Stokesia "Blue Frills" that Dave bought at the supermarket.)

Friday, August 30, 2019


Those of you who have been longtime readers will remember that Dave and I used to live in Notting Hill, in West London. This was the view from our bedroom window. I'm showing you this not because of that lovely (?) building across the street, but because of the plant on the windowsill. It's a dracaena that we bought at the Portobello Road market. This picture was taken on April 29, 2012 -- so, seven-plus years ago.

Here's that same plant today:

It still lives in our bedroom, albeit a different bedroom, and as you can see, it has become a tree. Our ceilings are almost ten feet high, and it's finally bumping up against them. (We have the same problem with our avocado tree in the living room.)

Obviously some pruning is in order, but I'm not sure yet how to do that. I'm thinking I'll cut one stalk at a time -- the tree should then branch out at that point, and once there's some greenery there I can cut another stalk. That way the tree will always have some leaves. But if I get impatient I may just cut it all at once. It's a pretty durable plant.

No doubt you've been reading that Boris Johnson intends to suspend Parliament beginning next month. His proposal has caused a lot of drama, with some people accusing him of subverting democracy. I am no expert in British politics, but from what I can tell, it's not quite as bad as it sounds -- Parliament doesn't normally sit for part of September anyway, for something called "party conferences," and he's extending that time period by about 11 working days. On the other hand, 11 days can make a difference in terms of government action before Brexit, which is scheduled for Oct. 31.

Johnson insists he isn't trying to stifle debate before Brexit, but clearly that's what he's doing. I think he just wants to get it done, with a minimum of further dithering. Problem is, his plan for getting it done -- to the extent that there is one -- could ultimately be fairly harmful. The verdict depends on who you ask, of course.

I think in the interest of public debate it's a mistake for Johnson to make this move, but I'm also not sure it's ultimately going to make much difference. Either way it looks like I'll be getting Brexit for a birthday present. (My birthday is Nov. 2.) If it were up to me I'd send it back, but you just have to make the best of some ghastly gifts, right?

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Hummingbird Hawkmoth

Yesterday evening I was out in the garden when I noticed a large insect buzzing around one of our flowers -- a hummingbird hawkmoth!

Some of you might remember that I saw a similar hummingbird moth when I was in Florida about a year ago. But I've never seen one here in the UK. Apparently they're fairly common at this time of year. Fellow blogger Mr. Pudding encountered the larva of a related species about ten days ago.

This one loved our honeysuckle, and then it moved on to our buddleia. Apparently these are two favorite food sources. It had an incredibly long proboscis, which it rolled up into a coil when it flew. I could get pictures as it hovered near a flower, but it was very fast zipping between blossoms -- there was no way for me to capture it in headlong flight.

An interesting fact about these moths -- they migrate to the UK from Southern France, Spain and North Africa. Apparently it's too cold for them to overwinter here. They also have good memories (!) and return to the same flowering plants repeatedly -- so we may see this one again.

Anyway, it was pretty exciting! I tried to take a video, but I clearly don't know how to operate the video controls on my camera, because I wound up with something that was mostly out-of-focus. I wish I'd had my iPhone handy.

Dave made some fabulous beef stroganoff last night -- he knows it's one of my favorite dishes, going all the way back to childhood. (I hate to say it, but no one makes it like Mom!) We rarely eat red meat anymore -- I can't tell you the last time we had beef at home. It's been months and months, and possibly more like a year. I think the last time I ate any beef at all was when I visited Ely about a month ago and had a hamburger.

The kids are all back at school now -- they arrived for orientation days Tuesday and yesterday, and as of today we'll be back on our regular schedules. I hope I run into one particular kid at some point -- he left a jacket in the library lost & found last spring and I saved it for him in the office all summer. It probably doesn't even fit him anymore!

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Butterflies and Board Games

The buddleias in our garden are still blooming, drawing butterflies of all sorts. This weekend we saw a red admiral (above)...

...and a painted lady feasting on the blossoms.

I ticked several tasks off my to-do list yesterday. I bought my ticket to Florida for late September, to visit my mom and help her move. I went to the hospital to have my pre-colonoscopy blood test and to pick up the prep kit. (Ugh -- it's scheduled for Saturday.)

I cleaned out and organized some areas of the library -- the AP and SAT study books, for example, which people donate to us but which eventually become outdated and marked up and need to be recycled. I also weeded our short story collections, because we're going to use that shelf for board games -- a new library feature! -- and we had a bunch of ancient story books that are old and sad-looking.

I hope the games become popular, though I imagine they could make some kids late to class!

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Highgate to Hackney Wick

Yesterday was another amazing day, weather-wise, so I seized the opportunity to walk two segments of the Capital Ring -- from Highgate eastward through Stoke Newington to Hackney Wick. Nine miles or so, all told.

I began on the Parkland Walk, a disused railway line that's been turned into a linear park. It passed under the arches of several bridges carrying roads overhead, covered with graffiti and street art. I stayed on the Parkland Walk for two miles.

This creature was emerging from one of the arches -- a "spriggan," or kind of goblin, according to my trusty map. "Spriggans were grotesquely ugly, found at old ruins, guarding buried treasure and generally acting as fairy bodyguards. They were also said to be busy thieves. Though usually small, they had the ability to swell to enormous size -- they're sometimes speculated to be the ghosts of old giants. They were said to steal human children and leave baby spriggans in their place."

Leaving that nightmare behind...

...I passed into Finsbury Park, where I stopped at a cafe for coffee so hot that I couldn't begin to drink it for a good five or ten minutes. (A pet peeve of mine.) Some women at an adjacent table were having a conversation about global warming and how worrying it's all become, given our occasionally high temperatures this year.

I passed through the formally planted McKenzie Gardens, and then out of the park and onto a towpath along what's known as the New River -- even though, as my map pointed out, it's neither new nor a river. It's a canal that once supplied London with fresh water from Hertfordshire.

I passed through a couple of wildlife preserves around old reservoirs, and I saw cormorants and other waterbirds. There were lots of attractive new apartment developments nearby. I eventually passed through Clissold Park, a beautiful grassy expanse with small ponds and a big house from the 1790s. 

From there I finally reached Stoke Newington, where I saw one of Banksy's famous artworks high up on a wall -- a cartoon of the royal family waving from a balcony. (It used to be much bigger, but the local council painted over parts of it while removing graffiti ten years ago.)

I passed into Abney Park Cemetery, which contains more than 300,000 closely laid graves (!), according to my map. It's now a wildlife preserve where some rare species of insects and other wildlife have been found.

One five-mile section of the walk ended at this point, but I was feeling ambitious and it was only lunchtime, so I kept going. I walked toward Springfield Park, where I stopped at a cafe and had a baked potato with beans and cheese and a side salad, with '80s retro music playing in the background ("Never Gonna Give You Up" and "Holding Out for a Hero," for example). It's funny how I always hear classic rock or retro rock/pop when I'm out and about. I'm fine with it, because I like retro, but you'd think there's no modern pop music.

The path led to the River Lea and followed the riverside for several miles. There was lots of wildlife and more interesting street art.

Eventually I wound up at a place called the Middlesex Filter Beds, a wildlife preserve that used to be a huge sand-and-gravel filtration system for London's water supply. My map promised two artworks at this location -- and I found one, "Nature's Throne," touted as Hackney's own miniature Stonehenge. (It's made of granite blocks that formed the foundations of an old building.)

The other was "Rise and Shine Magic Fish," the heads and tails of giant ceramic fish emerging from a pond. I was intrigued by the description and I really wanted to see it, so I wandered all over the place -- I bet I spent at least 45 minutes looking for those stupid fish. The map said they were there, but didn't say where, and the park's occasional signposts didn't mention them. Finally, hot and annoyed, I gave up, and only belatedly read that they were moved several years ago to another location after one of them was stolen!

I continued walking the sunny path along the river -- and by this time, mid-afternoon, it was fairly hot (90º F or so) and I was thinking I'd bitten off more than I could chew. But finally I reached Hackney Wick, which is known as a mecca for street artists. I passed under an overpass where the concrete support columns had been plastered with all sorts of items, from CDs and old computer parts to spray cans and toys. Some playful graffiti had then been sprayed overtop the materials.

Gentrification is a contentious issue in Hackney Wick, as this old closed pub colorfully points out. There's been a lot of new construction, like that apartment building to the right, and some people don't like it. (I've photographed this old pub, the Lord Napier, a couple of times before over the years. It's always changing, as street art often does.)

Finally, I made my way to the overground train station and headed home. Of course part of the train line was out, which required me to zigzag through the tube system to get back to West Hampstead -- but that's another story!

Monday, August 26, 2019

Walk With Me

Yesterday was SO beautiful -- sunny and warm, full of all the satisfaction of late summer. The season is a little bit beyond its high point, and all of nature is as green and ripe and full as it's going to get. The butterflies are flitting, the hoverflies are buzzing, the blackberries are already past their peak, the thistles and ragwort and rosebay willowherb are drifting away as fluffy seeds, and Olga and I were out on the Heath, naturally.

I usually don't walk the dog with music on, but for some reason yesterday I put in my headphones and cranked up my iTunes, and it felt fabulous to walk along in the sun-dappled forest listening to groovy tunes while Olga raced ahead with her Kong toy. I've made a 3 1/2-minute video, a very condensed version of our 2 1/2-hour walk, so you can experience it too!

I found a couple of interesting pieces of old glass. The first is a portion of a bottle marked around the bottom "H. D. Rawlings Ltd. London" -- as you can see, it's rather dangerously jagged and cracked so I'm not going to keep it, but I like to make a record of these finds just in case they're something interesting. Rawlings was a soft-drink manufacturer in the Victorian era, it turns out.

The other is also a piece of broken bottle -- a smaller one, dark green, marked Pitt & Norrish. (I made the very un-archaeological mistake of dropping this piece on my patio, breaking it further. Argh! I had to glue it for the photo.) Pitt & Norrish was another soft drink manufacturer, from what I can gather. I don't see any bottles online that look quite like this one -- I wish it were whole. Oh well.

More great weather today -- and it's a bank holiday, which means we're off work! Woo hoo!

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Foxglove Distribution Campaign

Speaking of closed pubs -- as I was yesterday -- here's another one I came across not too long ago. It's also in Kilburn, not far from the Carlton Tavern. I've never seen any activity here, and although there's no official "closed" sign, apparently it's been shuttered for many years. One source I found online said it closed in 2003.

Too bad -- it looks like a quaint little neighborhood pub, and I like the name.

Remember my foxglove seedlings? They've prospered and grown pretty large, at least for the seed trays they're in now. Not a single plant died, so I wound up with 160 of them (!) and I'm starting to try to find them homes.

I've been asking around at work, and yesterday morning I delivered 28 of them to co-workers who live nearby. I'm like Johnny Appleseed! I think I'll take the rest to work and try to hand them out there. We'll hang on to 20 or 30 for ourselves -- still more than we need.

Dave and I were walking Olga through the nearby council estate several weeks ago when I spied this little toy in a trash bin. It's Peppa Pig! In a rocket ship! How could I not pick it up?! Yes, I know, I am a 52-year-old man -- DO NOT make fun of me.

(Well, OK -- go ahead. I'm used to it.)

Peppa now lives on our kitchen windowsill.

Speaking of age, last night I watched an episode of "Gilligan's Island" while Dave cooked dinner. (I was drinking wine, which is pretty much the only way to tolerate "Gilligan's Island" as an adult.) Anyway, I realized with horror that I am now older than any of the actors when they appeared on that show, with the exception of the Howells -- and I'm exactly the same age as Jim Backus when he played Thurston Howell. Even the Skipper was younger then than I am now. Crikey!

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Checking Up on the Carlton

Here's the latest update on the Carlton Tavern, the historic pub demolished without permission and then ordered rebuilt by local government. It seems almost finished and it looks pretty good, I must say. The signage looks very accurate and you'd almost never know that it's not the same building.

You can see the change in color between the surviving bricks of the older structure, at right, and the new ones at left. But even that will fade over time, I suppose.

The developers are significantly behind the time frame imposed by the council for completion of the project, and apparently the building is for sale, although I didn't see any obvious signs while I was there. When I posted these pictures to the Facebook group dedicated to rebuilding the Carlton, several people speculated it wouldn't reopen at all -- that although the rebuilding was required, reopening it as a pub was not. I don't know whether that's true, but I guess time will tell. Hopefully we'll all be able to get a pint there soon.

At least there's no longer a big hole in the streetscape, like a jagged missing tooth.

You'll be glad to know that Olga appears to have recovered from her bout of stomach illness. She seems more or less back to normal. We took her to the vet yesterday afternoon -- coincidentally we'd already planned the visit for another reason, because she tore her dew claw on her right front foot. The vet snipped off the torn nail and otherwise Olga seemed fine. She downed several salmon treats and we didn't even get charged!

Friday, August 23, 2019

Coming Soon...or Not

This place has been promising for months that fish & chips will be "coming soon." I'm not sure what their definition of "soon" is. I blogged this shop back in January and it looked exactly the same -- maybe tidier. In fact I wondered if the project had been abandoned entirely, but those little signs by the door say "staff wanted," so they appear to be hiring.

Olga seems under the weather. Last night she acted so strangely when she came back from her outing with the dog-walker -- mopey, wandering and listless. Eventually she went in to the bathroom and curled up on the rug. She never goes in there! I think she wanted a small, dark place with a cool floor. I went in and sat with her for a while, and she eventually fell asleep, and then I moved her to the bed and she slept all night. I won't really know how she's doing today until I walk her, but she still seems a little mopey. I wonder if she ate sticks while out with the dog-walker. She loves chewing up a good stick, but if she swallows the bits they tie her in knots.

Today is the last day Dave and I have to both get ourselves to school by 8 a.m. It's always such a trial during opening week, because we're on the same timetable and competing for the same bathroom space, and I often wind up not getting a shower or eating breakfast because I just don't have time. (It's going to be even more complicated if Olga starts sleeping in there regularly!) Next week I move to my regular shift, 9:15 to 5:15, so I'll have slightly more leisurely mornings.

It looks like I'm going to be back in Florida in a couple of weeks, to help my mom relocate to another unit in her retirement community. Right now she's in an independent living unit, but she needs a place that offers more supervision. My brother is making the arrangements and although he's told my mom, we're not sure it's really sunken in. So that will be interesting. I think it's important for my mom to see that we're both involved in this change and that we think it will benefit her -- hopefully that will help her adjust. My boss and co-workers have been great about agreeing to give me the time off.

Oh, and it's a good thing I took that picture of our last caterpillar that I posted yesterday -- because now it's gone. We're officially caterpillar-less, as far as I can tell. I'll let you know if any moths emerge!

Thursday, August 22, 2019

A Passionflower and a Lantern

A few more garden milestones...

First, our passionflower vine -- the one I almost killed -- has shown that it is truly forgiving. It's blooming again, and it has lots of other flowers on the way.

We're down to one last cinnabar moth caterpillar. I don't know if he's behind all the others developmentally, or if the others were simply eaten and he's the last survivor. At any rate, he doesn't seem to be in any hurry to go anywhere. He's still hanging out on the ragwort, munching away at the leaves. (Could be a she, admittedly.)

And remember our Chinese lantern plant? Well, it finally produced a lantern! We only have one -- for some reason our plant sets lots of blooms, and then 99 percent of the flowers fail to turn into seed pods. Maybe they're not being fertilized. This one somehow managed to do the job, so at least we're not completely lanternless.

Remember how I spent hours on Tuesday deleting the records of hundreds of departed students and parents from the library circulation system? (Seriously -- hours and HOURS.) Well, yesterday morning I discovered that all those deleted records were back again. They had been faithfully restored to the system by the overnight backup -- which isn't supposed to happen when people are no longer current students or family members. I went to the tech department and said, in effect, "What the HELL?!" Turns out the system was backing itself up with an old student list! ARGH!

So now I have to delete all those people all over again. Sisyphus, anyone?

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Gandhi in Reverse

Dave and I saw this window from the bus in Kilburn on the way to Notting Hill on Saturday. I went back yesterday to get a photo. It took me a while to figure out what it said. To save you the trouble...'s the same picture, flipped around.

I wonder if they wrote this message on purpose so that it would be seen backwards from the street, to make people think about it while deciphering it, or if they just didn't consider how it would look through the glass?

I spent all day yesterday at my computer, deleting old library customers from the last school year. I think I'm pretty much caught up with most of our opening tasks now. We're ready for the kids to arrive on Tuesday. (Monday is a holiday.)

I have consulted with doctors about my recent abnormal medical screening test. It's called a FIT test, and it looks for tiny amounts of blood in the stool as a sign of colon cancer. My test came back positive for blood, but not much -- there's certainly nothing visible. The gastroenterologist I spoke to Monday didn't seem unduly concerned, but I have to be super careful given my family history -- my paternal grandfather died at 59 from undiagnosed colon cancer. So yes, I am to be scheduled for a colonoscopy, and I should hear today when that will be -- some time within the next two weeks. Ugh.

I was anxious about it at first, but weirdly, a lot of my anxiety has dissipated. I think the doctors' mild reactions helped. I suppose getting all worked up about it doesn't help anything.

Dave and I watched "The Great Hack" on Netflix last night, about the role of Cambridge Analytica in parsing Facebook data about voters and feeding them targeted information to skew elections. It was an interesting movie, but I felt it focused too much on the "how" of the data collection and use -- but not enough on the "who" or the "why." Who are the people who owned and funded Cambridge Analytica, like the Mercers? What's their objective? Why does Steve Bannon advocate for Brexit or right-wing politics in Europe? Why does Nigel Farage care about the success of Donald Trump? This deeper, international manipulation of voters for right-wing causes is the story, it seems to me -- not the fact that my browsing data is out there for the taking. I know that already.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Kitchen Supplies

Dave and I were walking home from work yesterday when we passed this kitchen and appliance shop. It has closed, obviously, and with all the cabinets, countertops and dishwashers stripped away, we're left with these brightly painted walls and display areas. I like it better this way!

My Waterlogue app turns the scene into a bright fantasia of Matisse colors.

Monday, August 19, 2019


Just a short post today -- Dave and I have to get to school for a faculty-and-staff meeting to kick off the new academic year.

Thanks for all your well wishes on my post yesterday! As soon as I have anything new to report I'll let you know. I'm supposed to see one doctor for a consultation this evening, and another tomorrow.

Meanwhile, life goes on...I spent some time in the garden with the camera yesterday. I was trying to photograph our last remaining caterpillar, but he was in an awkward position behind several leaves so I didn't get any good, clear shots. A bee on the inula was much more cooperative!

I dead-headed some of our other flowers, including most of the ragwort, which has gone to seed and frankly, the last thing we need are a million fertile ragwort seeds blowing around. I don't mind a few ragwort plants, but that stuff is pretty prolific. We have to exert some control.

Our purple heart plant is blooming, just inside the back door.

In the afternoon, Dave and I went to see Quentin Tarantino's new movie, "Once Upon a Hollywood." I really enjoyed it. It's like a 1969 time capsule, with every little detail appropriate to the time period. The story is built around the Manson killings, which ended the sixties both chronologically and psychologically -- but it's also about the period when the old Hollywood of Westerns and gunslingers was giving way to new styles and genres of filmmaking. Of course, it's Tarantino, so there's some brutal violence and dark humor, too. Overall, thumbs up!

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Red-Hot Pokers and a Spa Day

Our red-hot pokers are blooming -- they're the big orange flowers in the photo above, shown with red persicaria. We were thinking they came later this year, but now that I look back on previous posts I see that they always bloom in early to mid-August. So I guess they're on the same timetable as usual. They're one of my favorite flowers.

In the photo above, I caught a bee in flight -- here's a closeup. Good timing!

Some of the pokers got knocked around by our recent windstorm. They flopped over and then began growing upright, which led to some funky shapes.

I took Olga for a walk in the cemetery yesterday, and saw the turaco -- once again in a yew tree with berries. That must be what it's eating. It doesn't seem to feel any urgency to go anywhere!

We had a pretty good walk, although it was marred by a black poodle that chased after us barking madly -- and persisted at my heels for a very long time, while the owner sat on an increasingly distant bench, calling the dog ineffectually. It kept racing up to my feet and dropping back, and I was a little afraid it might bite me. I finally walked back to the owner, the yapping dog close behind, and said, "I really don't appreciate this!" He apologized and said the dog was trying to play, which may be true, but he needs to get off his butt and put a leash on that thing if it's going to cause such a disturbance.

In the afternoon, Dave and I had a spa day -- he surprised me with an outing to get massages and a vegan lunch in Notting Hill. Fun! He knows I've been stressed out lately because of some medical uncertainty -- I had a routine test that returned an abnormal result, so it looks like I'm going to have to get another colonoscopy, and getting that arranged is proving to be a bit of a nightmare. I thought I'd use my private health insurance to get it over with more quickly, but the insurer has a lot of paperwork hurdles that require the cooperation of very busy NHS doctors -- and the NHS, being a public, nationalized health system, just isn't designed to twiddle around with insurance forms. It's always something, you know?

Anyway, I had a 90-minute massage and Dave had a 60-minute massage and a facial. (I am not a fan of facials. My face is fine being washed with bar soap.) Afterwards we sat in a cafe beneath a large visage of the Buddha (there are always images of Buddha in spas) and had avocado toast and scrambled tofu. I think this may be the first time I've had the ever-so-trendy avocado toast -- at least, marketed as such. My mom used to make avocado sandwiches on toast when I was a kid, often with bacon. She was ahead of her time!

Saturday, August 17, 2019

The Elegant Donald Duck

I spent all day yesterday sitting at my desk, compiling a binder we use to reserve library space and track the librarians' tasks throughout the year. It's much more complicated than it sounds, but now it's done -- and once I've got the magazines sorted and that binder finished I feel like I've leaped my major beginning-of-the-year hurdles. Whew!

Unfortunately sitting at my desk doesn't do much for my blog, so today, I can only pass along some more random iPhone pictures.

First, I saw this rug in the window of a swanky carpet emporium on Piccadilly. What a bizarre combination -- colorful floral carpet and Donald Duck! I bet it costs a fortune.

This is another painting from Lee Krasner's show at the Barbican, which you may remember I saw recently. It's called "Polar Stampede," from 1961. The black forms do look sort of animal-like. It made me wonder whether Krasner started with an idea or title, or if she simply went with the flow and named her creation afterwards. In other words, did she start with a blank canvas and say, "I'm going to make a painting suggesting animals in a snowstorm," or did she paint it and say, "Hey, that looks like animals in a snowstorm!" Know what I mean?

This is pretty much the predominant opinion, at least among people I know.

These are my neighbor's begonias. He's a nice older guy, very talkative, and he always has flowers on display in front of his house. He once told me he bought his place in the 1980s for something like £80,000. Now it's probably worth a million!

I saw this canned drink in the window of a shop. I think it's called Gingerella, which explains the groovy '60s cans. I immediately thought of Twiggy, but they're sort of Barbarella too.

As I was walking home from work I noticed that the church on Priory Road had trimmed its trees and finally, finally removed those mylar balloons snarled in the branches. Remember when I photographed them years ago? They've been hanging limp and discolored in the tree ever since -- once mylar gets stuck in a tree, nothing in nature gets rid of it.

You probably can't see them easily, but the balloons are in these bags of debris, faded to a weak gold color.

Unfortunately this also means that the trees have been pruned to within an inch of their lives!

Friday, August 16, 2019


Well, back to the grind! I went in to work yesterday and wrangled with an immense stack of magazines that had accumulated on my desk over the summer -- and now they're all logged in, sorted and the newest issues have been put out on the magazine rack. So at least the library looks up-to-date and the magazine covers no longer say things like, "Will Boris be Prime Minister?!"

It's kind of nice to be working again, honestly. It's fun to catch up with my co-workers and there's comfort in routine.

I can't pull the library together completely because orientation meetings are taking place there, so the tables and chairs are haphazard and the shelves are all moved around. But little by little. I think next week I'll be able to make it more orderly. The kids don't show up until a week from this coming Tuesday.

Yesterday afternoon was sunny and cool, and I walked home and mowed the lawn. (Because I can bring home the bacon and fry it up in the pan...even though I'm not a woman!) There are still three caterpillars hanging around on the ragwort, including Rupert -- what are they waiting for?! It's getting chilly out there! (A high of 67º F today.)

(Photo: Mayfair, on Monday.)