Thursday, October 31, 2019

Halloween Hijinks

It's Halloween, once again, and Dave and I will undoubtedly celebrate the way we do every year -- by turning out the lights and hiding in the back of the house to avoid trick-or-treaters.

(This is actually the way we spend most nights, but never mind.)

It's unlikely we'd get any trick-or-treaters anyway. In the eight years we've lived in England, we've never had one come to our door. But apparently, in some neighborhoods, it does happen.

Halloween isn't traditionally a big deal in England. (Despite the fact that it originated here back in the time of the ancient Celts.)

Some of our neighbors have decorated, though, as you can see from these photos. You might recognize that door above -- I photographed it last year too.

I've seen several houses displaying carved pumpkins:

The Guardian ran a story the other day about the food waste associated with carving pumpkins. I must admit, as an American, I found it a peculiar article. I understand that food waste is a serious problem, but I've always considered carving to be the primary purpose of pumpkins like those above. Eating them seems purely secondary!

I don't know anyone who makes pumpkin pie, for example, using a raw pumpkin. Most people go the easy route and opt for a can of pumpkin puree. Which obviously contains pumpkins, so I guess you could argue they'd be better off canned than carved...

Anyway, they're such killjoys over there at The Guardian. (As a subscriber, I say that with affection.)

One of my neighbors has these feet protruding from her garden -- a nod, I suspect, to the Wicked Witch of the East.

Even Mrs. Kravitz has a giant black spider web in her front window! Unfortunately I can't photograph it without looking like I'm pointing a camera into her house, and I don't want the cops called on me.

Olga doesn't know what to make of any of it.

I will acknowledge the day at school by wearing special socks, which Dave bought me, that have little jack-o-lanterns all over them. That's about all the costume I can tolerate.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Autumn and the iPhone

Time for another collection of miscellaneous photos from my iPhone!

Here's what autumn is looking like around here. This is the next street over from our own, where I often walk Olga in the mornings.

This is a residential high-rise on the Chalcots Estate near Swiss Cottage. It used to be covered in white cladding, but after the Grenfell Tower fire -- which was fueled by inappropriate cladding -- the council stripped it from the buildings. People are still living there, and I believe there's an ongoing refurbishment project. I'm not sure why the floor numbers are spray-painted on the facade.

I've heard of sticking playing cards in the spokes of a bike wheel -- but apples?

A colorful fall leaf. I always wind up photographing random leaves.

Saw this near the playground in Fortune Green -- a chair strapped inside a shopping cart. Was this someone's creative way of taking their kid to the park?

This bag was lying on our street. I was initially intrigued because it's from a record shop -- and you don't see many record shops any more, do you? But it's also interesting because it's all the way from Wales. Apparently Cob Records is quite an institution.

This is a mural under the train tracks on the high road in Kilburn. It's been there for years. I've never been able to figure out exactly what's going on in this scene. Maybe it's supposed to encourage kids to get outside and away from their computers? I like the iguana at far right.

Oranges and pineapples -- a tropical fruit salad!

This is somewhat clumsy graffiti, but I like the atomic theme. It's very '50s.

Monday, October 28, 2019

O Fortuna

Yesterday we encountered what's lately become a rare commodity -- sun! I took Olga to the Heath for a good long romp.

Although many of the trees are still green, or just going yellow, the light seems different at this time of year -- mellower, with long shadows.

Olga, of course, ran around like one of Pasteur's mad dogs.

We paused for a quick photo beside the cricket batting cages on Hampstead Heath Extension.

Olga lost her tennis ball while chasing and barking at a squirrel. That's no big deal -- she's got a million of 'em. But then, tragedy! While walking through Golders Hill Park on the way home, she dropped her Kong, and it rolled under a fence and down a small hill into a pond. I have retrieved that Kong from all manner of disgusting and awkward places but I just didn't have it in me to go after it -- at least, not immediately. So as I write, it's still in the pond, and we are Kongless.

(I must admit, though, that I'm hatching a plan to go back for it. We'll see.)

Dave and I went Saturday night to hear the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra perform Carmina Burana at Royal Albert Hall. We went with a bunch of other teachers -- we had access to free box seats provided by one of the families at school. (Woo hoo!) Most of us know Carmina Burana's opening and closing piece, "O Fortuna," and for years I've believed it was the music used in the film "The Omen." (I even blogged that the last time I saw Carmina Burana, when I lived in New York.)

Inspired, Dave and I rented "The Omen" yesterday. And no, the music is not "O Fortuna," although it is choral and has a vaguely similar disquieting sound. (Apparently "O Fortuna" has been used in many other movies over the years.)

Finally, I also have to correct something I said in yesterday's post -- I discovered via Google Street View that the old Kapok Tree Inn in Clearwater was not entirely demolished. Parts of it still stand, and for years it's been a music store and apparently a wedding and event space. Most importantly, the large kapok tree that stood outside the restaurant is still around!

Sunday, October 27, 2019


As you may remember, among all the other useless stuff I collect, I save old matchbooks. My collection doesn't grow anymore, because restaurants have largely stopped offering matchbooks as promotional items, but I've kept a lot of them from the '80s and '90s.

While reading Ms. Moon's recent post about going to the Ocean Grill in Vero Beach, I remembered that I went there myself in the late '90s. It occurred that I might have a matchbook. And I do!

As was my habit, I wrote inside the date of my visit and who I was with -- in this case my friend Sue, on Dec. 20, 1999. We went shopping in Vero afterwards, and according to my journal at the time, "I got some great Calvin Klein overalls at the mall there! I'm a farmer!"

(This was actually a matchbox, which is hard to scan!)

I decided to scan some others too, just for the heck of it:

Here's a quick trip down memory lane, from left to right, top to bottom:

1. Visage was a dance club on the Orange Blossom Trail in Orlando. An occasional hangout for me in my mid-20's, it specialized in "alternative" music like New Order and Violent Femmes. (From a visit with three friends on Feb. 2, 1991)

2. The Colonnade was a seafood restaurant on Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa with a fabulous waterfront view. It has since been torn down to make way for ritzy condos. (With John and Sue, October 2005)

3. Kokomo was a dance club in Lakeland. It billed itself as "Lakeland's only beach resort," even though it wasn't on water. I think they had a sort of sandpile outside. I specifically remember dancing to Janet Jackson here. (With Cherie and Arthur, June 16, 1989)

4. Hukilau was a Polynesian restaurant in Key West. I barely remember visiting there with my friends John and Barbara in 1986 or so, although I didn't write down the exact date. Lots of plants and torches and tiki gods.

5. Kasey's Cove was a beer bar near the University of South Florida in Tampa. I spent many productive hours there with friends, drinking pitchers and watching music videos by INXS and the B-52's. (With Michelle, Dec. 16, 1987)

6. Mirabella's was a well-known seafood restaurant in Tampa where I went with my family, often for my birthday. I used to love their lobster. The restaurant was torn down long ago. This is one of my oldest matchbooks -- so old I don't even know when I got it.

7. The Kapok Tree Inn was a sprawling, legendary restaurant in Clearwater. I went with Barbara in the mid-'80s. It has also been demolished.

8. Fast Eddie's was at the base of the pier in Anna Maria. I went with some friends on New Year's Eve in 1989. We were all very excited to be rounding the corner into a new decade -- the '90s! There's still a restaurant in that building, but Fast Eddie's is long gone.

9. Gary's Harborside is a lakeside restaurant with a deck in Winter Haven where I used to hang out with friends from work in the late '80s. Of all the places represented by matchbooks in this photo, this is the only one that's still open. (With John and two other colleagues, Dec. 21, 1988)

10. Coconut Joe's was another college hangout. Alcohol was a new experience when I went there a few times in spring 1985, as an 18-year-old. I remember ordering Mai Thais. What was I thinking?!

11. The Adam's Mark was a big hotel on Clearwater Beach. They had a great breakfast buffet, where I took several friends back in the '80s, including fellow blogger E. (Remember, E?) It has since been torn down.

Lots of memories are wrapped up in my matchbooks!

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Late Autumn Flowers

We're in for more gusty, wet, autumnal weather today, with lows in the 30's (F). Some of our garden flowers -- the petunias and most of the cosmos -- have given up the ghost. We have one cosmos (above) that volunteered from seed, and it grew so late in the season that I was afraid it wouldn't have a chance to bloom before winter. But it has finally produced a bright magenta flower, and it has many other buds, so who knows -- we may have cosmos until the first frost.

Two of our dahlias have also more or less packed it in, but one still looks so good that I moved it out to the front porch (on the left above). It's sitting out there with the rudbeckia, which is also going gangbusters. Hard to believe I grew those dahlias from seed this year!

Remember how I wanted to meet the parents of the boy with the wildly overdue book? Well, the father did come into the library yesterday for a chat. He didn't pay for the book, as I'd hoped, but he told me essentially that he's waiting for the kid to deal with it himself. I can understand that -- wanting to teach the kid to solve his own problems. So I suppose I'll go back to the kid, now, and tell him I've talked to his father and I've even halved the cost of replacing the book (based on what we can get it for on Amazon now that it's in paperback), and the ball is in his court.

"The Story of Harold" finally arrived in the mail yesterday -- the second copy I ordered, from the London bookseller. So I can stop complaining about that! I'll let you know if it's any good once I get around to reading it.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Competence Like Mine

I have a real feeling I might be late to work today, since it's 7:30 a.m. and I'm not even out of bed -- and I'm only just now blogging! I woke up at 7:15. How did this happen?! Olga is usually a very reliable alarm clock, but this morning she hasn't budged.

Part of the problem is, we haven't yet gone off British Summer Time, so 7 a.m. -- when she normally gets her morning walk -- is pitch dark outside. That will change this weekend when the clocks fall back an hour.

Anyway, I guess I can't entirely blame the dog for my own lethargy, can I?

I wound up not shifting books yesterday as I expected -- I had way too many customers in the library. Turns out a lot of visiting parents want to check items out or have questions about accessing e-books, audio books and periodicals online and that kind of thing. Probably more of the same today. We'll see.

Dave is battling a cold, so last night we had leftovers for dinner (thus relieving him of cooking responsibilities). We usually have chocolate McVitie's biscuits for dessert, but we were out -- so I wound up eating three sad fortune cookies left over from one of our Chinese take-away meals. No one really likes fortune cookies, do they?

That top one seems a little creepy and stalkerish. The middle one is completely false, especially today, when I'm running late! And as for the bottom -- notice it doesn't specify how competent (or incompetent) I am.

(Top photo: Olga in front of some pyracantha at Fortune Green, last weekend.)

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Library Fitness Regime

This is the building that once contained the minimalist antique store. It looks like that shop (with its two lonely chairs) is finally gone, and the owners are doing some renovations. I'll be interested to see what goes in here.

We have parent conferences over the next two days at work. Well, the teachers do -- I don't have to meet with any parents, being a mere flunky in the library. But I'd like to get a word with the parents of one particular kid, who checked out a book in April and hasn't returned or paid for it.  He was the one kid whose account was unresolved at the end of the last school year, and he hasn't been able to use the library at all since we reopened in August. My talks with him and my efforts to reach out to the parents via e-mail have been met with silence. I might try to track them down while they're in the building to see what's up.

Otherwise I think I'm going to be shifting books, which is a nightmare task. Basically, some parts of the library collection grow more quickly than others, and the books occasionally need to be redistributed on the shelves to even them out -- if that makes sense. Our nonfiction shelves are very tightly packed in places so that's going to be my focus. It'll be like going to the gym -- lots of lifting and deep-knee bending!

Yesterday I built our annual Halloween display, so at least we've got that going on:

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Bring Me a Shrubbery

The beautyberry bush in our garden is looking very autumnal. I love that yellow/purple combination.

Dave and I are preparing to have the shrubbery trimmed, both in front of the house and in back. We're responsible for the back garden under the terms of our lease, so we had a tree-trimming firm come and give estimates for pruning the mock oranges, the hazel, the neighbor's invading rose and some other stuff. It all works out to about £700, including the cost of reserving a parking spot for the trimmers and their wood chipper.

We considered having the walnut tree pruned as well, but that seems like a much more permanent change and one that probably requires landlord approval. It also requires local government approval, apparently, because we're in a conservation area. So we scrapped that idea.

The tree company is scheduled to show up on Nov. 7 for that job. I'm actually looking forward to it -- some of the plants out there, particularly around the patio, have grown monstrous. The mock orange has basically consumed the camellia and we need to free it.

The front garden, meanwhile, is the landlord's responsibility. So we've put in a request to have that done too. Here's what it looked like in mid-September, my most recent picture:

Is that Tarzan's call I hear?

The managing agent sent someone to check it out and they've agreed to a pruning, but they said something about waiting a few months for the right time of year. I don't care when they do it, as long as they get to it before the birds begin nesting. They've also warned us that they'll prune it pretty hard, but I think that's fine. It needs it.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Harold and Rock, Mia and Don

Well, my mysterious Amazon transaction has come to an end. I got an e-mail from the bookseller saying, "I have checked all the details and I can see that the item is not delivered to you it seems to have been lost in transit." She offered a replacement title or a refund. I chose the refund, and it's been issued. So I'm done with those people.

Frankly, I suspect they never had the book ("The Story of Harold") in the first place. Or perhaps they had it, then sold it, and failed to remove the listing from Amazon, so I bought it again -- leaving them in a mad scramble trying to fill my order. They sent me the Edward Gorey sticker book thinking that might pacify me (why?!) and when that didn't work they threw in the towel.

The good news is, I found "The Story of Harold" for sale on AbeBooks from a London bookshop at a similar price. So I've bought it again and unless I have extraordinarily bad luck, I should be reading it shortly.

In other news, one of my co-workers gave me a tray of foxglove seedlings yesterday! Yes, this after I gave away about 150 foxglove seedlings myself. But it's fine -- there are only six plants (or maybe eight) in this tray and they're a different color from the ones I grew. So we'll squeeze them into the garden somewhere. I'm kind of psyched to have them, actually.

Last night, Dave had to work on school stuff, so I was free to watch whatever I wanted on TV. I seized the opportunity to have a 1978 alpine disaster movie double-feature! I started with "Avalanche," starring Rock Hudson and Mia Farrow, which is truly dreadful. It feels like about an hour of script was cut, leaving a choppy mess with incomplete character development and tepid acting. The avalanche scenes (involving lots of tumbling styrofoam) were kind of fun. (Apparently there's a Mystery Science Theatre version of this film, which probably would have been a better viewing option.)

Then I moved on to "Ski Lift to Death," which I actually remember watching on TV when I was a kid. (It was later marketed as "Snowblind" after someone realized "Ski Lift to Death" is an impossibly campy title.) Starring Deborah Raffin and Don Johnson, it's a much better movie -- maybe still not quite good in the grand scheme of things, but more or less coherent. In addition to the catastrophic failure of a ski lift, the plot involved a mafia hit-man and a "t-shirt dance queen" disco contest (!). There's also a lengthy segment in which a freestyle skier awkwardly performs to omnipresent '70s tune "Nadia's Theme," which we all know from "The Young and The Restless," and she looks more like a beginning skier trying to keep herself from falling down -- upper body swaying wildly, arms flailing. Whoever thought that was a good idea?

I love my bad '70s movies.

(Photo: Autumn on a street near our flat.)

Monday, October 21, 2019

The Cafeteria

Lots of domesticity yesterday. I cleaned the apartment in the morning, including moving our potted plants from around the back door and cleaning the floors beneath them. (I usually just vacuum around them.) I did laundry, changed the bedsheets, and took some clothes to the cleaners. I took care of all the orchids, and it looks like the christmas cactus cuttings are going to bloom -- even though I planted them just a month ago! Do they even have roots yet?

By lunchtime, Olga was quivering with excitement -- as she does when she's anticipating a walk. So I had a quick sandwich and took her for a long romp on Hampstead Heath. Apparently Hampstead has been invaded by giant spiders!

We saw this handsome creature, resplendent in a fancy canine union suit. Olga wasn't jealous, though. She's more of an au naturel kind of gal.

I hauled my heavy camera with me, but I took only a handful of pictures. I was too into the walking, I guess. I also found an old R. White's lemonade bottle -- not too old, probably from the era of the famous "I'm a secret lemonade drinker" commercial. I brought it home and added it to the windowsill collection.

Some of you asked whether I saw fellow blogger Mr. Pudding on the Brexit march on Saturday. The answer is no, although I've never met Mr. P and frankly he might have walked right past without my realizing it. I took this photo with him in mind:

Are you among this group, Mr. P? I'll feel silly if you are -- although I don't see your sign, either. Maybe you weren't marching with other Sheffielders.

After Saturday's march, I went to an event with a colleague from work. The former Conde Nast magazine editor Nicholas Coleridge (a relative of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, apparently) has written a book about his publishing adventures called "The Glossy Years," and I went down to Stockwell in South London, where he was speaking at a local church. I thought it might be fun to hear some industry gossip, as well as his thoughts on the future of magazines. I bought his book afterwards, and as he signed it, I told him I used to work right across Times Square from the Conde Nast building in New York.

"You had a legendary cafeteria!" I said.

"Yes, Frank Gehry," he said, naming its architect. (It really was a hot spot in the early aughts, although Conde Nast is no longer in that building. Apparently the cafeteria now serves lawyers and techies. I never got to go there myself.)

Anyway, in the moment that we spoke, that was the cleverest thing I could come up with to say to him. Better than nothing, I suppose.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Brexit: Think Again

I did in fact make it to yesterday's big "People's Vote" march, demanding a new referendum on Brexit. The argument is that the British public didn't know or understand the true ramifications of Brexit when the original referendum was taken in 2016. Makes sense to me -- why wouldn't we want another vote, now that we have more specific (and truthful) information and can take the pulse of the British public three years later?

It was a lively but orderly and smooth procession from Park Lane, down Piccadilly and Whitehall to Parliament Square. I stayed with the march for almost its entire length -- I bailed only when the crowds came to a halt near Parliament Square (which was presumably full) and the skies opened up for a brief rain shower. I figured by then I'd done my duty and I got out, walking over Westminster Bridge to Waterloo.

Among marchers from all over the United Kingdom, there were dancers...

...and drummers.

I saw Spider-Man...

...and Emmeline Pankhurst...

...and Cher.

I have no idea what this was about.

People were quite clever with their signs...

...and also quite blunt.

I only saw one tiny group of about six frankly rough-looking counter-protesters, waving a Union Jack and singing "Bye bye, EU, bye bye" to the tune of Auld Lang Syne. A woman marching in front of me turned to her companion and said, "What, is that it?"

Anyway, apparently we really did have an effect, as several parliamentarians mentioned the cheering throngs outside when they voted yet again to delay Brexit. On the one hand, I'm sick to death of it and I wish it would all go away, but on the other, every delay is a step closer to a much-needed reconsideration of the question.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Blue and Orange

I'm debating whether or not to go to the big Brexit march today in Westminster. It's supposed to help convince Parliament that we need another referendum -- a "people's vote" -- on whatever deal (or lack thereof) that results from this lengthy sausage-mill of a political process.

I suppose the only thing holding me back is a suspicion that it's too little too late, which is a bit defeatist. And also the fact that I can't vote myself, so even if we do get a new referendum, I won't be able to participate -- in other words, maybe it's not my fight to fight. But then again, I live here, and will for the foreseeable future. So it seems like I'm entitled to a say, right?

We'll see how motivated I get.

In other news, my Amazon purchase of "The Story of Harold" is still up in the air. You may recall that after the book failed to arrive (apparently having never been sent), I asked the seller last week to ship it rather than refund my money. I hadn't heard anything more, so Thursday I emailed and asked if it had been sent and when I would receive it. Without directly answering the first question, "Mary" said she would contact the shipping company about the second and get back to me.

Meanwhile, as of yesterday the book was still listed for sale on Amazon itself -- at a slightly higher price than I paid. I wrote back and asked how this was possible, since there's allegedly only one copy, and included a screen shot of the listing. It has now been taken down. This is undoubtedly the most peculiar Amazon transaction I've ever been involved in. I probably need to simply report the seller to Amazon and demand a refund and be done with it -- but I really would like the book if possible, because it's not easy to find. (Apparently "Mary" can't find it either.)

I'll give the whole thing another week, maybe, and then I'm pulling the plug.

I brought in our one Chinese lantern, because the plant is looking pretty ragged and I think we're about to cut it back. I wonder how long the lantern will hold its bright orange color, sitting on our windowsill?

(Top photo: Autumn leaves at the tennis club around the corner from our flat.)

Friday, October 18, 2019

Rocks and Shells

Recently, Mr. Pudding in Yorkshire did a post about souvenir stones he had collected here and there in his travels. He later specifically discussed so-called "hag stones," or those with naturally formed holes in them.

I don't have any of those, but like Mr. P, I am an accumulator of stones. When I was a kid, I used to seriously collect both rocks and shells -- labeling and classifying them, learning how to tell igneous from sedimentary and cockles from clams. Most of those collections are gone now, and what stones I have left are generally travel souvenirs. Here are some I've had for a long time.

-- Two turban shells I found in 1985 while snorkeling on Spring Break in Key West with my college pal Robert. I had a huge crush on Robert, but that's another story.
-- A round piece of granite from the riverbed in the village of Tamezmoute, in the Draa Valley of Morocco. My friend Liz lived there in the Peace Corps, and I went to visit her and picked this up along the way.
-- A fossilized giant scallop from Venice, Florida. When I was a reporter at the newspaper there, I covered a story about fossil hunters digging for bones on some land near the airport and a public beach. I don't quite remember what the story was about -- maybe there was some controversy about that digging or maybe they found some cool things -- but there were dozens of these scallops lying around.

-- A conch shell from the beach in Winneba, Ghana, where I went after I got out of the Peace Corps in 1994.
-- A stone from the beach in Essaouira, probably my favorite city in all of Morocco, built on a windy promontory on the Atlantic. There's a long beach with some old Portuguese fortifications. I was told these sinking ramparts inspired Jimi Hendrix to write his song "Castles Made of Sand," but now I see that Hendrix visited in 1969 and that song came out a few years earlier. I guess it's a Moroccan urban myth!
-- A piece of pink granite from Montauk, at the far end of Long Island in New York. I used to take the train out to Montauk now and then when I lived in the city.

-- A geode, or hollow stone filled with crystals, given to me by my rock collecting mentor, Colonel Mitchell, when I was a kid. Mitchell, who we knew from church, was a serious rock hound, with glass cases all over his house full of colorful, sparkling minerals. In this case the geode is filled with purple amethyst.
-- A fossilized coral geode from Florida. Mrs. Kirkland, the woman who used to care for me and my brother after school every day, while my parents worked, gave me this stone for my birthday in 1974, when I turned 8. I was thrilled with it. I wonder if an eight-year-old today would be very enthusiastic about a coral geode? Maybe some would.

Thursday, October 17, 2019


Here's another photo from our Monday night hotel stay. That's the Garden Lodge of the Grim's Dyke Hotel on the left, where our room was located. I took the dog out that night and noticed these terrific shadows stretching across the lawn, which was encircled by dark forest and a ragged, autumnal garden. I was concerned Olga would charge into the woods and disrupt some poor wild creature's nocturnal existence, so I kept her on a leash.

Several of you asked why we had Monday and Tuesday off work. I guess I should have explained that! It was October break, a regular feature of our school calendar. I'm not at all sure why we have a two-day break in October, but we do.

We're back at work now, though, and life goes on as usual.

Speaking of nocturnal animals, you may remember several days ago I tried without success to get a video of our garden foxes. Well, I gave it another whirl, and this time had much better luck.

I set up the camera at the back of the garden, our traditional spot, and put out the same boiled egg as "bait." First a squirrel checked it out, but wasn't interested. Then the fox showed up -- and then another, less welcome visitor. Never a dull moment in our garden!

I thought I set the time and date correctly on the camera, but apparently I told it December instead of October. So just change that 12 to a 10.

Last night I had a rare opportunity to meet another longtime blog pal -- Elizabeth, from Los Angeles, whose blog I've been reading for about eight years now. She's visiting a friend in Belsize Park, which fortunately is just a stone's throw from where I work in St. John's Wood. So I walked over after work and met her and her friend Sarah at a local pub, the Washington. (An appropriate place for a meetup of expat Americans!)

It seemed amazing that I'd never met Elizabeth in person before -- as with every other blogger I've had the opportunity to meet in person, I already felt like I knew her so well. Being immersed in each other's lives in this virtual way really does create real-world connections, doesn't it? We had a good time catching up on books and movies and family news, and in a few days she'll be off to Italy to visit her son Henry. It's mind-blowing to think we two creatures who live on different sides of the planet could come together so easily. The world is much smaller than we think.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Fatigue, and a Torpedo

Well, we made it back home yesterday in one piece, but Dave and Olga were both so exhausted by the time we walked in the door that they collapsed into Dave's recliner and took a nap together. I always say I like to exhaust the dog, but I wasn't aware I was also exhausting my husband!

We had a great day, though, and a busy one, so I can see why they were tired.

Olga and I started with an early-morning walk along a rhododendron-lined path through the forest. There was plenty of running and squirrel-chasing.

Then we joined Dave for breakfast at the hotel. Olga spent so much time staring at us longingly from under the table that the waitresses brought her an extra sausage and a strip of bacon. She snarfed them down eagerly. Such a manipulator!

She got to work off the calories after breakfast with another lengthy romp through the woods. Then we all went back to the room, packed up our stuff and checked out, depositing the bags at the hotel for storage.

We made our way to the Harrow Viewpoint, across the main road from the hotel. I visited there in March 2018 when I passed through on the London LOOP walk. I remember being appalled at all the litter.

This time, it was tidier, but the view was similarly gray. I appear destined never to see the Harrow Viewpoint in good weather.

Fabian's memorial log is still there, bedecked with fresh flowers and growing its own bright orange mushrooms.

We walked in the fields below the viewpoint, and then along some nearby neighborhood streets, past quaint farms, a collapsing barn (optimistically posted "refurbishment in progress") and cottages with stained glass windows.

At noon we stopped at "The Case is Altered," a peculiarly-named pub I spotted on my last visit, for drinks and a light lunch. I had a ploughman's "sarnie," a word I've never seen before -- informal British for a sandwich, apparently. And behold, the sun came out! We haven't seen it for days and days.

The woman behind the counter said the pub is called "The Case is Altered" because it used to be two separate bars, and one of them was popular with barristers (a type of lawyer). I have no idea whether this is true but it's as good an explanation as any, I suppose.

After lunch we walked back to the hotel, picked up our bags and ordered a taxi back to Stanmore, and then took the tube home.

Here's my souvenir, which I found in the woods near the hotel. It's known as a torpedo bottle, from the Victorian era, and although the top is broken it's still pretty cool. It reads, "Codd's Patent 4, Barnetts & Foster, Sole Agents, Londonn." I have no idea why London is spelled with three n's, but it is.

A so-called Codd bottle was stoppered with a glass marble. It probably held a carbonated beverage, and the pressure generated by the fizzy drink held the marble in place against a rubber gasket at the bottle's lip. The lip and marble are gone now, but you can still see the unusual structure of the neck. A super-weird bottle and an interesting find, now resting on our dining room windowsill.