Sunday, October 13, 2019

Along the Knotweed Trail

It rained all day yesterday, but that didn't stop Olga from wanting a morning walk. I swear, I don't know who this dog is -- normally Olga would sooner die than take a walk in the rain. She must really be feeling cabin fever!

We walked all the way over to Kilburn, and then Olga insisted on going into the tube station. At first I resisted, but then I figured we could just take the tube one stop back to West Hampstead -- so that's what we did. Olga loves a good tube ride.

Still refusing to go home, she took me down Billy Fury Way (above), where we saw these workers engaged in the Sisyphean task of removing Japanese knotweed along the train tracks. Knotweed is a terribly invasive species here in Britain, so everyone does their best to contain it. It looked to me like they were both chopping the stalks and spraying them with herbicides. I got out of there quickly -- I don't want to be exposed to that stuff.

For Olga, the rest of the day was comprised of this:

Sleeping, covered in her pink blanket. When I took that photo, her paw was the only visible part of her. Her snoring was audible, though.

I got a lot of reading done. I finished off another New Yorker, including an interesting article about a photographer who has spent the last few decades traveling around the perimeter of the Atlantic Ocean with a large-format camera on a tripod. He sets it up in locations so remote that, in some cases, virtually no one has ever been there -- and they're often locations that are destined to disappear, because of melting sea ice. He takes one picture, and then moves on.

What's interesting is, his pictures -- to me -- sometimes look like blurry accidents. There's white foamy water and mist and rocks, sometimes a black sky with a white splash of moon. I'm not sure I understand why the photos themselves are so significant. Maybe they're not -- maybe the art is in the making, the process of traveling to these remote outposts with clunky equipment at great effort and expense. Maybe the picture itself is secondary. It makes you think about the nature of art -- is it the doing, or the end product?

I also read "Octopussy," the James Bond book I posted several days back. "Octopussy" itself is really just a short story, and Bond is a peripheral character. (It bears absolutely NO resemblance, plot-wise, to the Roger Moore Bond movie of the same name.) Now I can say I've read Ian Fleming. It's smooth and fast-paced, as one would expect from such a popular writer.

Finally, I watched a movie I recorded weeks ago on our DVR -- "Fair Wind to Java," with Fred MacMurray and Vera Hruba Ralston, from 1953. It was one of those mid-century technicolor costume dramas I love, in which the Czechoslovakian Ralston had to pretend to be Indonesian -- mainly by wearing severe Spock-like eyebrows. I was more entertained than I thought I might be at the outset. Dave put on his noise-cancelling headphones and blocked it all out.


  1. In the 1940's America led us to believe that they and their allies had defeated the devilish Japanese. However, that military victory was evidently incomplete as you guys did not defeat the dreaded knotweed! There is even a patch of it by a brook that I often walk by. In the past ten years that patch has got bigger and bigger. I blame The Yanks!

    P.S. Love the picture of Olga's paw.

  2. Thanks for the New Yorker link.
    The article on the photographer is fascinating. You could say he is crazy or driven or both. I have a sneaking admiration for someone who pursues such an outlandish but dedicated idea.
    I'm not sure I would class this as art, more of a record of one mans vision. Oh well, maybe that is art after all. And the camera! You have to be dedicated ( or mad ) to haul that around...
    What a story.

  3. I'm just looking for a vintage movie to watch
    Sunday afternoons scream out for one

  4. Well at least someone is getting rain.
    Knotweed/Kudzu-we all battle our invasive plants, don't we?

  5. We think we train dags, but I wonder how much training goes the other way. Olga got her way!

  6. A movie starring Fred MacMurray made me think about one I saw when I was barely a teenager called "The Rains of Ranchipur". It was made in 1955 but I saw the movie on TV so it was probably 1958 when I saw it. It was the first time I'd seen MacMurray play a "leading man" role so it impressed me.
    Olga and I have something in common....nothing beats a good tube ride!

  7. I think art is in the doing, the making. the resultant work is just the physical manifestation of the thought process and labor.

  8. Oooh--loved the article about Thomas Joshua Cooper!
    Made me think of how photography is "shadows and light"... and, story!
    Like Ansel Adam's quote:
    "There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer."

    A batch of Ian Flemings just donated to the thrift store––new releases, with new versions of the old covers. Cool!
    Amazingly, we had a couple old paperback eds. too--I'm just about to post a side-by-side for you!
    (Not sure I'll bring myself to read one though...)

  9. Ian Fleming wrote on the north coast of Jamaica. How have I never read him?

  10. P.S. I looked up that lurid cover of Octopussy--looks like the 1st ed., 1966, Jonathan Cape. If it is, they sell for a bit...

  11. Wow, those weeds look awful! It's a shame they have to use pesticides. As for Olga, she's awesome! She has you wrapped around her paw, and that's how it should be! I love the photo of her under her pink blanket. That's how my Pogo sleeps a lot too. You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

  12. That photo of Olga's paw and her pink blanket is very special in some way I can't even explain. I absolutely love it.

    We have knotweed along our river banks too. From what I've read, cutting it very short encourages more growth, and it has a horrendously deep root system that makes digging it up impossible. But what can you do? You have to try to keep it at least under control, if you can't eradicate it.

  13. I like that picture of Olga's paw, too.

  14. We all need a pink blanky now and then, snuggled down after a long day of walking. Lucky Olga!

  15. Billy Fury Way always seems like one of those unlucky places. They painted a mural to cheer it up then the mural got painted over by accident. Now it's full of herbicide as they're trying to eradicate a plant that you can't eradicate, at least not by chopping it down. There is a surprising amount of photography around that isn't about the image itself. I guess it's conceptual.