Saturday, November 30, 2019

A Photography Exhibit

Did I shop for Black Friday, you may be wondering? The answer is no. In fact, I purposely didn't buy anything yesterday. I do shop for Christmas -- moderately -- but the whole Black Friday thing has gotten so out of hand that I make an effort not to acknowledge it. Dave bought himself some shoes online, I think.

Instead, Olga and I took a long morning walk, starting with our standard route through the nearby housing estate (above) and then winding out toward Kilburn and up into Cricklewood. We could have visited the B&Q shopping cart!

I took my big camera with me. I really need to carry it more often. My phone takes good pictures, for a phone, but they don't have the resolution and depth of the ones produced by the camera. If only it didn't weigh 10 pounds. (That's a guesstimate.)

We found that someone gave the Antony Gormley sculpture in Maygrove Peace Park a hat for the winter.

After our walk, I went down to Trafalgar Square to the National Portrait Gallery to see the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize exhibition. I don't do much portrait photography, but I'm always interested in what people achieve with a camera. I think my favorite photo is the third-prize winner here -- the colors are so beautiful (richer in person than online) and I love the joyful expression on the girl's face and her wildly windblown red hair.

I took my camera with me and afterwards walked around Soho for a while, shooting lots of pictures. You know how I've been complaining about the weather lately? Well, the weather gods heard me, because yesterday was beautiful -- clear and sunny. No doubt you'll be seeing some of the pictures over the coming week.

I got home around 2 p.m., about the time some extremist lunatic was attacking people near London Bridge. The world is insane. There are questions to be answered about why this guy was out of prison and how he was able to do what he did, given his criminal history and the fact that he was being electronically monitored.

Dave and I spent yesterday evening watching the new season of "The Crown," which we love. I've also been on a Pink Panther movie binge -- we watched "The Return of the Pink Panther" on Thursday and "The Pink Panther Strikes Again" yesterday. I loved those movies as a kid, and a lot of my early ideas about what Europe looked like -- rightly or wrongly -- came from them. Some of the humor makes me cringe now, but Peter Sellers and Herbert Lom are never tiresome.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Thanksgiving Rules

This photo, which I took a couple of weeks ago when Olga and I went to Wormwood Scrubs, is definitely not representative of our recent weather. It rained much of the day yesterday, and when it wasn't raining it was gray and gloomy.

Nonetheless I was a gardening whirlwind. I lifted two more dahlias -- the tubers are now drying in the shed. I lifted the amaryllis bulbs and soaked them for an hour in a one percent bleach solution, which is supposed to help clear the "red blotch" fungus that has afflicted them. (It sounds like an old wives' tale -- is that a sexist expression? -- but I figured I'd try it. I read it online, so it must be true.) They're also drying now and I'll  put them in some paper or cardboard to rest before replanting in fresh soil early next spring.

I raked the leaves again and did some trimming and weeding back in the wildflower garden.

Indoors, I changed all our bedding and took our sheets and blankets to the laundromat to be washed. Unfortunately I forgot to pick them up in the evening, so we had to improvise for blankets last night -- an old bedspread and a duvet we bought when we first moved to London in 2011 and were using our previous landlord's furniture. (Before our own mattress arrived from the states.) It doesn't really fit our bed, but it did the trick in a pinch.

Anyway, there were more chores, but you get the picture.

By mid-afternoon, when we went to Rules to meet Catherine, Dave's former co-worker from the states, and her husband Tom, I was in dire need of a relaxed, celebratory Thanksgiving! We had a terrific meal -- I had dandelion salad, breast of pheasant and bread & butter pudding -- and I was once again struck by how much I love that restaurant. They had a set Thanksgiving menu with turkey, which Dave got, and that seemed surprising given that Thanksgiving isn't a thing in England -- but I guess they get a lot of business from visiting Yanks!

I tried several times to call my Mom in Florida, but her phone rang unanswered. My brother tells me she often doesn't answer it, and since she moved to the memory-care unit she doesn't have an answering machine, so I can't even leave a message. It's getting harder and harder to communicate with her. She no longer uses e-mail or social media and she doesn't pick up or open her snail mail. Maybe I can write her a card via my brother. I'm running out of other options!

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving!

Well, here's our answer to the question of whether parrots will eat mealworms -- yes! One of our local ring-necked parakeets happily settled in yesterday and fed on the coconut stuffed with mealworm suet that I bought earlier this week. You can see a starling on the suet balls just below the parakeet, too.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! Dave and I are off today and tomorrow -- one of the perks of working at an American school. (The British schools are all still in session, because Thanksgiving isn't a holiday here.) Today we're going out to dinner with a friend of Dave's from the states who's visiting London, and then Saturday we're having some of his music department colleagues over for a traditional meal. As we speak, Dave is salt-brining a big ol' turkey in the refrigerator.

Yesterday we only worked half a day, and there were no students -- we attended staff and faculty training sessions. I went to one on cyber security and one on British sign language, both of which were fun and interesting. Turns out British sign language is very different from American sign language. Who knew?

Our weather is pretty dismal at the moment -- there's an 80 percent chance of showers today -- but I'm hoping to get some gardening done this weekend. Those aren't potatoes in the bowl above -- they're dahlia tubers! I unearthed my first pot of dormant dahlias yesterday and found these massive round roots -- I had no idea they'd be so big and well developed, considering I grew them from seeds planted in March. I was shocked. Anyway, I lifted them and now I'm waiting for them to dry before nestling them in dry compost to overwinter in the shed. I'm going to do the same with the other dahlias and I also want to lift my amaryllis bulbs.

Feeling very organized, I bought travel insurance the other day for our Egypt trip -- I found a policy with all kinds of medical coverage and additional special coverage for our gadgets (camera, computer) and it all cost about £70, which seemed pretty reasonable. And then one of our coworkers reminded me that we already have travel insurance that we buy every year through the school. Argh! Of course I should have thought of that, because I've never bought travel policies for our other trips for specifically that reason -- but Egypt seems potentially dicey so I wanted to be extra cautious. I could cancel the policy, but as long as we have it I think I'll just keep it. Better too much coverage than too little, I suppose.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

My Malian Roots

You may remember a couple of years ago, Dave and I had our DNA analyzed by Ancestry. We thought it would be cool to see where we're from genetically, just for curiosity's sake.

At the time, Ancestry said I was mostly British and Irish, with smaller amounts of Scandinavian and Western European DNA, and trace amounts from other regions including the Iberian peninsula, Italy/Greece and West Africa. My analysis also correctly pinpointed my genetic "communities," where people sharing similar DNA profiles live, in North Carolina and Missouri -- where my parents both have family roots.

Well, the other day, I got an e-mail from Ancestry saying they'd revised my profile. Apparently as more and more people get DNA testing, they have more data with which to work and they can narrow down the areas our DNA matches. So I checked out my new genetic identity (top).

It remains predominantly English, Welsh or Norman, now at an astonishing 73 percent (the brighter yellow regions above). Ireland and Scotland provide an additional 24 percent, meaning 97 percent of my DNA comes from the British Isles or northwestern France. The amount of Scandinavian DNA in my profile dropped from 20 percent to just two percent, now specifically said to be Swedish. And I still have a mysterious sliver of DNA identified as West African, specifically pinpointed to Mali.

So what does this mean?

Well, I guess not much has changed. I knew I was mostly English, based on family trees and genealogical work done by my father and grandfather. If I remember right, my Dad traced us back to Normans not long after the Battle of Hastings in 1066 -- and reportedly part of my family originated in the English region of Ely in Cambridgeshire. My profile still shows me connecting to genetic "communities" in North Carolina and Missouri, and even pinpointed my paternal cousin Linda, who is a total stranger to me but who apparently also used Ancestry, as a close relative!

The Mali thing, though, blows my mind. When my earlier profile showed West African DNA, I figured it was a prehistoric remnant of early man, or maybe just a blip, an inaccuracy. And indeed, the trace bits of DNA from regions like Iberia, Italy/Greece and Russia/Finland in that earlier profile have now vanished completely. But West Africa is still hanging in there, and to have it narrowed down to a specific part of West Africa makes it somehow seem even more certain to be a real thing.

Do I really have a tiny smidgen of African blood? Could one of my ancestors have canoodled with a slave, maybe? It seems if that happened, at least in colonial or Antebellum America, I'd have more than just one percent of that DNA, though. Maybe it was an ancestor from much farther back, a sailor or trader or crusader?

Or is it possible that my Norman DNA was also present in Frenchmen who went to serve in Mali in the Foreign Legion and canoodled there? Maybe my Malian DNA, in other words, is really French DNA transplanted to Mali? Or North Carolinian DNA transplanted to Liberia via resettled American slaves?

Or maybe it's just a mistake. My profile says that although it shows 1 percent Malian DNA, the actual level could be 0 to 1 percent.

Who knows.

But I hope I have African roots!

Dave, on the other hand, got a disappointment with his revised profile. We were tickled to learn in 2017 that he had 6 percent European Jewish DNA -- it seemed amusing given his strict Lutheran roots. Well, the Judaism has vanished completely with the latest revisions -- he's now 89 percent German and Czech, which conforms to his knowledge of his family, with a smidgen of British/Irish thrown in. (His 1 percent Finnish DNA is a curious mystery -- like my Malian DNA, it could be a mistake, or a remnant of a mysterious traveler far back in the mists of time.)

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

James Bond Super Go Cart

I went to Homebase on Sunday evening, right after Dave's concert, to pick up some fresh potting compost (for overwintering our dahlia tubers) and a suet ball for the local parakeets. I didn't find suet with seeds, but I did find half a coconut containing "mouthwatering mealworms." (At least, according to the label -- I'll take their word for it.) I don't know whether parakeets will eat mealworms, but I guess we're about to find out.

I was amused to find several pigeons inside the store, chowing down on birdseed that had fallen on the floor. Pretty enterprising, those pigeons. I don't know how the store managers will ever convince them to go back outside -- a warm, dry big-box store with a ready supply of food sounds like heaven for an urban pigeon in winter. However they get removed, I hope it's humane.

Dave and I got our vaccinations for Egypt yesterday. In my case, that meant tetanus (actually DTP, combined with diphtheria and polio) and typhoid. Dave got those plus a Hepatitis A shot. (I'm covered for that one already.) We went to a local pharmacy and travel clinic -- no doctor necessary! I updated my trusty WHO card to reflect my boosters so I won't forget I had them.

This morning I have a mildly sore upper arm, but otherwise, no ill effects.

I found these drawings lying in the rainy street around the corner from our house. The one above, of the James Bond Super Go Cart, reminds me a lot of something my brother would have drawn when he was little -- an incredibly detailed vehicle with all sorts of gizmos. It looks like we're also seeing Ben's rendition of a guitarist, dated March 29, 2003. Apparently these drawings have been hanging around for a while. I wonder if Ben himself finally decided to throw them out?

Here's David Beckham's Ferrari, from a rather complicated angle. I admire the ambition involved in drawing it more than the ambition required to purchase it!

Monday, November 25, 2019

The B&Q Shopping Cart Repatriation

For weeks now, this shopping cart (or "trolley," as the English say) has been sitting in a forgotten corner of Fortune Green, next to a wall at the dead-end of Ajax Street, behind the playground.

It's been sitting and sitting, filling up with leaves and trash. A week ago Sunday, while walking Olga, I took a closer look at it. It was from B&Q, a home supplies and hardware store, and there was a number on the handle to call if the cart turned up lost somewhere. The nearest B&Q store is in Cricklewood -- not exactly next door -- so I dialed the number.

A confused-sounding operator answered and said she would try to find out who I was supposed to call in order to report a lost cart.

"I'm supposed to call YOU," I told her. "I took this number right off the cart handle."

She put me on hold and went to consult someone about what to do with my clearly unusual call. Finally, after a few minutes, she came back and promised she would relay my message to the appropriate people.

A week passed. Saturday morning, walking past Fortune Green again, I looked to see if the cart was still there. Of course, it was. I tried to call B&Q again, but when I got through, another operator told me their systems were down and he couldn't take a report of a lost cart.

As you know, stray shopping carts are a pet peeve of mine. So yesterday morning, Olga and I decided to take care of the problem ourselves.

We retrieved the cart and set out for the B&Q in Cricklewood, rolling the rattling, clattering contraption beside us.

We rolled it along the footpath past the cemetery and the rugby fields.

We rolled it up the uneven sidewalks along Farm Avenue.

We rolled it along busy Cricklewood Lane, and beneath the train tracks that carry the Thameslink trains into London.

And finally, 1.1 miles later -- according to Google Maps -- we deposited the cart in its homeland, B&Q. I parked it next to a door where other carts were clustered. Job done!

We passed several people on the sidewalks during this adventure, but no one gave us so much as a second glance, which surprised me. I thought we made quite a spectacle. But I suppose in the grand scheme of things, a 50-ish bald guy with a rattling shopping cart and a staffy isn't that unusual in London.

Olga insisted on walking back along Cricklewood Broadway (chicken bones!) before settling in for a quiet afternoon of recovery on the couch.

I, on the other hand, had to zip out to see Dave's high school students perform their winter concert. It's early this year -- last year it was Dec. 9. That put a bit more pressure on the kids by depriving them of a couple of weeks more rehearsal time, but they did well! One of the pieces they performed was called "Endless Rainbows," a title that Dave mocked relentlessly -- in fact, he sampled the piece online on a lark, expecting it to be syrupy and awful, and was surprised to find it's actually good.

Oh, and I finished "The Story of Harold." I remain underwhelmed.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Express Dairies

Looking at this picture, which I took on Olga's walk yesterday morning, you can get a sense of why dogs (and other animals) evolved with spots. They're pretty effective camouflage. Doesn't she blend in with the urban jungle?

We had a fairly lengthy walk, around the nearby council estate and along the Black Path, and eventually to Fortune Green and the cemetery. It's a good thing we walked so much so early, because by the time we headed home, rain was coming down and it pretty much continued all day.

I found another interesting old bottle along the Black Path -- this one an Express Dairies milk bottle. I have no idea how old it is -- from some online research I learned that Express (which apparently no longer exists) used that E trademark for decades, from the '70s right into the early aughts. Here, for example, is a photo from 1978 showing trucks outside a loading dock all bearing that same logo. So I'd guess it's at least a couple decades old. It has joined the bottle parade on the kitchen windowsill.

Thanks for all your input on the mystery plant in yesterday's post. I've decided that it's borage. I was confused by that strong stalk with no basal leaves -- all the borage we have elsewhere in the garden has a bunch of leaves at the ground, with flower stalks rising up in spring. But here's what I realized during some late-night Googling: the plant I thought was borage, and which we have all over the garden, is actually green alkanet, a close relative. So the mystery plant, then, must be true borage.

I'm not sure it's going to survive for long in that pot, because apparently borage forms a taproot and doesn't do well in enclosed containers. But I'm going to let it go as long as I can, just to see what happens. The passionflower vine is mostly dormant now anyway, so I don't think it will suffer, and in spring we can pull out the borage and give the vine back its pot.

I spent almost all of yesterday afternoon reading "The Story of Harold" -- the book I suffered so much drama ordering from Amazon. I'm not sure it was worth it. It's kind of a yucky book, and George Selden's writing style -- with lots of asides, parentheticals, exclamations -- gets a bit exhausting. He was much more focused in his children's books, like "The Cricket in Times Square." I use the word "yucky" because "Harold," published in the early '70s, is definitely a dated expression of the free-love, swinger culture of the time, with a fair amount of vivid sexual adventurism. Like leisure suits and sideburns and key parties and Hai Karate, it seems kind of gross now.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

A Few Blooming Things

We had another curious parakeet visit our bird feeders a few days ago. It wanted to get to those suet balls but was frustrated by the squirrel-proof cage. The parakeets' heads are too big to fit through the cage, poor things. I should hang an uncaged suet ball just to give them something to snack on.

We still have a surprising amount of activity in the garden, even though the days are getting shorter, colder and darker.

Our Mahonia is blooming for the first time this year. Dave moved it last February and it seems much happier in its new location. It typically blooms in the fall and winter, which is pretty unusual. You can see some of the fallen leaves from our Japanese maple sprinkled over the top like jimmies on a cupcake.

Those leaves are picturesque wherever they land -- in this case on the hostas. They've just about all fallen, though.

We also have a rose that sent up a bud for some reason. It's definitely an odd time for a rose to bloom!

And the volunteer cosmos on the back patio is still going strong, though with smaller flowers than usual. When we finally get a good frost that will finish it off. The other cosmos have all died back already, but this one got a late start.

Here's the mystery plant that's growing in the pot with our passionflower vine. It's getting bigger and bigger -- that stalk has to be half an inch thick. It looks like nothing else in our garden. What on earth is that thing?

This weekend I'm planning to lift the dahlia tubers from their pots -- at least the ones that have died back -- and I'm going to lift the amaryllis bulbs too. I'll store them all in the dark shed over winter and replant them in early spring. I'm eventually going to treat the amaryllis bulbs and try to subdue the fungus that left them so unhappy this year -- but if that doesn't work we'll just have to toss them out. Time will tell!

Friday, November 22, 2019

Our Christmas Adventure

Have I mentioned that Dave and I are going to Egypt?

Some months ago we cooked up this idea for our winter holidays. Dave has long wanted to go there, so he did some research and found a tour that takes us to Cairo and then on a boat cruise up the Nile, with stops at Luxor, the Valley of Kings and a few other places. We end the trip at Aswan.

It's only seven nights, so it will all happen pretty quickly. But we'll get to see everything from Giza and the Sphinx to the temples at Karnak and Luxor and the Aswan High Dam.

When we bought this trip several weeks ago, it seemed so far off -- almost an abstraction. But now the reality is settling in, so I'm trying to get us ready. We're supposed to have some vaccinations for travel to Egypt, so I booked us in to a travel clinic on Monday. I'm not sure how essential they are -- it seems incredibly unlikely that we'd be exposed to typhoid, for example -- but why take chances, right?

Fortunately, I had a raft of vaccinations when I joined the Peace Corps in the '90s, and I've had boosters for various trips since then, so I think I'm probably in pretty good shape. In fact, I still have my World Health Organization vaccination card, which I've tried to keep up to date. (A coworker of mine saw it on my desk at work yesterday and said, "A WHO card! I haven't seen one of those in years!") Here's what it looks like:

(That's just the first page. There are plenty of shots beyond those!)

Dave, on the other hand, doesn't have the vaccination history that I have, and he's not sure if or when he's had some shots. So he may need more, but with his Crohn's there may also be some he can't take, so we have to get some advice on that.

Otherwise, I don't think we need to do much. It's still a month away, but I've already been debating whether to take the camera and/or the computer. It was awfully nice traveling in DC with just my phone. But I'm pretty sure I'll want better quality pictures from Egypt, so the camera -- heavy as it is -- will almost certainly come along. We can manage with just one computer, either his or mine.

Olga will stay with Simone, our dog boarder, during the trip. She loves Simone, who takes her with a pack of other dogs to the Heath every day, so she'll be fine.

(Top photo: Graffiti along the Grand Union Canal, last Sunday.)

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Thursday Miscellany

After some riveting impeachment testimony yesterday -- which I read about but didn't watch because I already feel certain the Republicans will do nothing, no matter what high crimes and misdemeanors are revealed -- let's have some miscellaneous iPhone pictures!

Allegedly this van smells amazing, but I'll take their word for it.

I'm not sure how the inside of this car smells, but it certainly is eye-catching!

Sidewalk refuse with plastic triceratops.

Grammatically, this sign on a council housing estate drives me crazy.

1. Why is 'Residents' in single quotation marks?
2. Why isn't "Childrens" possessive, with an apostrophe?
3. Why are the first four words capitalized?
4. Why is there a period after "Playground," but not after "use"?

Seems to me it should read "Residents' children's playground -- not for public use." Or better yet, "Playground for children of residents only."

(And honestly, why can't the public use this government-owned playground? For Pete's sake.)

This is an interesting holiday phenomenon that I've never seen before. I'm dubious, but who knows?

Sidewalk refuse with very bad painting.

The season for pumpkins is past, but I had to share these with you -- aren't they skillfully carved? I wonder if the carvers followed a template.

I liked these too.They look like they're having the time of their lives.

Here's a very autumnal looking vine on the Black Path, where I sometimes walk Olga.

And finally, the "fish & chips coming soon" shop has finally arrived!

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Iceland Two Ways

We had a chilly morning yesterday. There was frost in the garden when I looked out shortly after sunrise, and Olga acted like I was torturing her by making her go on a walk. She kept digging in her heels and trying to turn for home. Finally, after (ahem) essential bodily functions had occurred, I gave in and we went back.

She promptly got on the couch and hid almost entirely under her pink blanket. She wanted nothing to do with the cold.

Last night I went with Sally and Mike to see Björk in concert at the O2 Centre (also known as the Millennium Dome). Dave didn't come -- he's not very interested in Björk, and when I asked him to name a Björk song, he responded with a string of syllables that sounded like they came from the Swedish Chef.

But I've been a Björk fan since buying her album "Debut" back in 1994. It was widely advertised on posters in Spain when I traveled there with my friend Arthur that year -- in fact I remember being in a hotel room in Granada watching her video for "Violently Happy" on the TV. To this day it's one of my favorite Björk songs.

Anyway, her concert was a brightly colored, digitally enhanced spectacle. Photography was prohibited but I don't think Björk would mind me providing this 50-second teaser:

That's her in front, looking like a big white exotic bird or feather duster. Her voice hasn't changed a bit over the years.

She only played a few songs I knew: "Isobel," "Pagan Poetry," "Hidden Place" and a bit of "Venus as a Boy." I say that a bit reservedly, though, because although Björk doesn't sound like the Swedish Chef (and why would she -- she's Icelandic), she does have an accent and I often only understand every fourth or fifth word.

The concert, called "Cornucopia," focused on nature and the planet's ecology. A message about climate change scrolled across the screens in front of the stage, and later a video of Greta Thunberg speaking directly to the crowd. And of course everyone cheered the message, but I couldn't help thinking, here we are in this gigantic arena using untold kilowatts of electricity and drinking from our plastic cups. The message sounds good, and in fact it is essential, but acting is so much harder. It's not Björk's fault. It's just the way we live now.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Of Dubious Ecological Benefit

As I've mentioned before, one of my jobs in the library is to manage the lost & found. I usually try to keep an eye on items abandoned there and, if they're labeled with students' names, I contact the kids and try to reunite them with their property. Unfortunately, most stuff is anonymous and winds up sitting for ages until we throw it out or donate it to charity.

There's always an incredible quantity of unclaimed lost property in our school -- bins full of jackets, pairs of gym shoes, lunchboxes containing moldering food. It astonishes me. I wonder if kids are trying to get rid of jackets they don't like or lunches they don't want to eat?

I am especially frustrated by water bottles. So many kids (and possibly adults) lose their bottles and never find them again. I mean, these bottles are supposed to be an ecological benefit, eliminating the need for single-use plastic -- right? But that benefit seems wasted when the bottles themselves go unclaimed and eventually wind up in the trash or recycling.

At the moment, we only have five in the library...

...but here's the lost & found in the Middle School. You can't really tell from the picture, but there are nineteen water bottles/coffee travel cups/thermoses in and around that basket.

(See the one labeled "Dylan" at upper right? I realized right after I took this picture that I knew whose bottle it was. I took it back to my desk and sent the kid an e-mail yesterday. More proof that labeling works!)

Anyway, I posted this recent New Yorker cartoon beneath our lost-water-bottle shelf:

Monday, November 18, 2019

Back to Wormwood

I spent yesterday morning cleaning up the garden. I raked up the fallen walnut leaves, which have a wonderful spicy, aromatic smell. I wish I could describe it. I left behind the red leaves from the Japanese maple, because they look so nice on the lawn! Eventually they'll turn brown and I'll move them all to the side where they can compost.

Then I took Olga back to Wormwood Scrubs. I ran into some kids from school while waiting for the train, which was pretty funny -- introducing students to Olga. I think they liked her much more than they like me! She, of course, was mostly interested in the food they were carrying.

She and I had an extra-long walk, along the canal and through the woodsy areas of the park.

I discovered seedlings sprouting in the dry heads of the teasels, a phenomenon I don't remember ever seeing before. I'm not sure these plants will ever survive -- maybe they fall to the ground and take root? I wonder if this happened because it's been so damp. I kind of wish I'd taken a head home with me so I could try to root them for our garden.

Then we walked back along the canal and to the Willesden Junction train station, where we caught the train home. By that time Olga and I were both dragging! I have no idea how far we walked, but we don't normally do the canal twice. For once I wish I'd had a pedometer.

Last night Dave roasted a chicken and we Skyped with his mom before watching more of "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel."

Sunday, November 17, 2019

The Zip-Tied Elephant

Olga took me for a walk yesterday morning, all over Kilburn and Paddington Cemetery. I let her lead the way, and when I do that lately, we often wind up somewhere in that area. I think she likes finding chicken bones on Kilburn High Road (I don't let her eat them, but that doesn't mute her desperate desire) and she knows the cemetery contains squirrels.

We usually walk there along Iverson Road, which leads past the heavenly food-scented Saturday farmer's market and the Thameslink rail station. The past two times we've taken that route we've encountered some seriously disturbed people.

Two weeks ago, an older woman was walking a little dog and carrying a cup of coffee, and when the dog pulled and caused her to slosh her drink, she threw the paper cup to the sidewalk in a rage and began yelling at the dog and jerking it around. Another passerby and I both tried to calm her down, but she responded with a full-throated scream and made for her house, cursing all the way and dragging the poor dog behind her. It was actually pretty upsetting. I worry about that dog.

Then, yesterday, we saw a different woman with dark hair ranting at random people walking past. "I'm a professor of psychiatry!" she yelled. "So f*ck off!"

Well, okay then.

Olga and I passed houses with interesting mascots -- a one-eared pig on a couch (top photo), a zip-tied plush elephant.

Here's Olga at the cemetery, in a rare moment when she wasn't racing after squirrels and barking.

We found a beautiful hollyhock that has managed to hang on late into the season. (I did see an insect buzzing around one of our garden flowers yesterday, so I guess despite the chill and damp, there are still pollinators out and about.)

We came across this bag, lying in a hedge near the West Hampstead library. I thought, "I hope there's not a foot in there!" (I didn't look.)

When we finally got home, Dave and I went out to look at our TV dish, which -- as you may remember -- the tree-trimmers knocked askew more than a week ago, leaving us without a signal. I stood on a chair and was able to reposition the receiver enough to recover the signal. We duct-taped it in place, proving Dave correct in his practical Michigan belief that almost anything can be repaired with duct tape. I'm so glad that's fixed and we don't have to call a repair person.

Dave had scheduled a cleaning service to come and clean our oven. This is one of the few household jobs (along with tree trimming!) that neither of us feels able or motivated to do properly. The guy showed up and did an amazing job -- we now have an oven so clean we can, well, cook in it.

I spent the rest of the afternoon reading and doing little household chores, topped off with an evening martini. We started watching "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" on Amazon, and after Dave fell asleep I followed it up with "Whatever Happened to Aunt Alice?,"  a 1969 mystery/horror movie that I read about recently on someone's blog. It wasn't exactly good, but Geraldine Page and Ruth Gordon in starring roles made it worth watching. An excellent and productive Saturday all around.