Thursday, December 31, 2020

The Jungle Room

When Olga and I were out walking this week, we noticed this tree at Fortune Green, bedecked with ribbons and handwritten notes to Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. This tree often serves as a focal point for activities and displays supporting Nazanin, a British-Iranian woman who has been unjustly held captive in Iran since 2016. Many of the notes this time around seem to be about food and cooking, apparently a reference to Nazanin's culinary activities at her parents' home in Tehran, where she has been on house arrest since the spring. People wrote messages about their favorite holiday foods or their favorite recipes.

Here's one worthwhile wish for 2021 -- that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is freed and allowed to return to her home and family in London. She's basically being held prisoner by Iran as leverage in a decades-old dispute with the UK over money from an arms deal. It's an appalling situation and one that, in my view, the British government should be working much harder to resolve.

I had a pretty quiet day yesterday. I worked some in the garden in the morning, clearing more dead plants and trying to tame some of the overgrowth in the flower beds -- particularly the blackberry vines, which would take over if we let them. There's a lot more to do but I don't want to clear too much now, because insects and other critters could be using the foliage for winter shelter. When we get closer to the spring I'll start pulling out some of the excess ivy and other stuff that's growing along the side fence. (Apparently ivy is an important cold-weather food source for insects.)

I also brought in a few more plants, as the forecast called for temperatures as low as 26º F (-3º C) last night. I'm not sure it got that cold in the end, but still. Dave and I quibbled about his tree fern, which he hadn't taken any steps to protect -- I think he thought it would be OK because we weren't going to have snow, and Mrs. Kravitz hasn't done anything (as far as we can see) to protect hers. But I was still worried about it, and after I crankily and dramatically exclaimed, "Fine! Let it die!" he brought it inside. So this was our bedroom last night: 

Olga, as you can see, was not impressed.

In the end, as I said, I don't think it got as cold as expected. The coldest temperature I saw on my phone when I checked it in the middle of the night was 30º F. But better safe than sorry. Monty Don, on TV's "Gardener's World," always makes a big deal of wrapping up his tree ferns for winter, but he's out in the countryside where it probably gets colder. I'm just extra cautious because this is its first winter here, and I don't have a good sense of what it can withstand.

Having grown up in Florida, I am very attuned to the dangers of freezes, because there, a hard freeze can be super-destructive. Whereas Dave, growing up in Michigan, is used to brutal winters and the idea of coddling plants is sort of foreign to him -- the only plants he ever had were ones that could handle what nature threw at them.

Now, in the gray light of dawn, I do see a lot of frost out there.

So, yeah, New Year's Eve! Are you celebrating? We have a little bottle of bubbly that we will crack at some point this evening, before we go to bed as usual at 10 p.m. There are no noisemakers or resolutions here. I suggested to Dave that we make Hoppin' John, a traditional New Year's feast in the South, but he's not into that idea because there's not much meat in it. Dave is very much a meat guy. If I point out that he can use bacon, that might win him over. (Another potential barrier: I'm not sure we can get black-eyed peas here, at least not without planning ahead.)

Adios, 2020. Feel free to let the door hit you on the way out.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Inert Slug

When I was walking with Olga to Wormwood Scrubs on Sunday, I noticed that the paint job on the green house has been finished. I'm still not sure about that color, but hey, it's good to have some variety, right?

Yesterday was pretty quiet. Again, lots of reading for me. I took Olga to the cemetery for a romp, and then when we got home, Dave surprised me with the news that Olga's dog walker had shown up. I distinctly remembered that he wasn't going to return until Jan. 4, so I looked back at my e-mail and that's definitely what the company told me. I texted with the walker, though, and he said he'd come today and Thursday too -- so Olga will be off my hands, and I can be even more of an inert slug.

I notice that more and more people are wearing masks when out and about -- the UK reported more than 53,000 new coronavirus infections yesterday (more than 47,000 in England alone). Those are astonishing numbers. Maybe people are finally getting a little freaked out. I see in the news today that scientists are saying our Tier 4 restrictions aren't enough and we need a full lockdown like we had last spring.

The infection rate in our part of London isn't as high as in some areas, but still. I'll stay hunkered down on the couch!

I'm even wondering whether I should delay my planned endoscopy on Jan. 7. My stomach is feeling much better now than it was a few weeks ago -- I took Nexium and that seemed to help. I'm not crazy about reporting for a medical procedure in the middle of all this.

Here's an unusual headstone from the cemetery. C. Maxwell Cade was apparently an interesting guy -- trained in Zen Buddhist meditation, he became a scientist who studied brain waves and biofeedback patterns, and tried to integrate his observations with what he knew of Eastern meditative techniques. He helped invent a device called the Mind Mirror EEG to measure brain waves.

This is perhaps the most peculiar feature of his grave. What is that thing? At first I thought it was a Mind Mirror EEG, but no -- those don't look anything like this. On closer inspection, I believe it's just a piece of unusual sculpture. It doesn't seem to be functional. Maybe Max Cade was a sculptor on the side? Or perhaps one of his friends made it for him.

As I always say, every time I go to the cemetery I see something new!

Tuesday, December 29, 2020


We are finally, barely, getting some freezing weather. When I went out yesterday morning, there were icy crystals sprinkled like sugar over the leaves of the phlomis...

...and the bird bath was frozen over.

I hadn't brought in any plants, because the weather forecast didn't call for freezing temperatures, but obviously we got there anyway. Most things survived unscathed. Our little ornamental pepper plant got nipped, but I think it will leaf out again. Last night I brought everything inside or put it in the shed -- we're supposed to be pretty cold through the end of the week, with a possibility of snow showers.

Everything, that is, with the exception of our Chinese banana and Dave's tree fern. The banana is too big to move, and although its leaves will die back, it's frost hardy. Supposedly the tree fern requires some protection, but I'm leaving that up to Dave. Right now its fronds are still long and lush and it looks good; Mrs. Kravitz never does anything to hers and it's fine year after year. I wonder if we just don't get cold enough here in the city to do it any real damage.

While moving the smaller plants I realized that we have eight geraniums. How did that happen?!

Dave and I took Olga to the cemetery for her walk yesterday. It's always an extra bonus when Dave feels like accompanying us. I've also been plowing through my ridiculous stack of accumulated New Yorker magazines. I almost never read the fiction -- which is strange because I love novels, but anyway -- I came across a riveting short story by Rebecca Curtis called "Hansa and Gretyl and Piece of Shit." (I admit it caught my eye because of the title. William Shawn is rolling over in his grave!) There was also a fascinating piece about a couple of renegade metal detectorists in England (who sound like jerks, to put it mildly).

I still have four more issues to go!

Monday, December 28, 2020

Reflections and Scrubs

Yesterday I mentioned some of the issues I'm still having with New Blogger and photos. Some commenters said they hadn't noticed those problems lately, so to test the system, this morning I tried to upload all of my photos at once. And again, they wound up in the post in reverse order. Argh! I'm back to uploading pics one at a time.

Yesterday Olga and I took a long walk along the Grand Union Canal and through Wormwood Scrubs. We hadn't been out that way since early September, so it was good to have a change of scenery, and the day was sunny and bright with lots of great reflections on the water.

Even a discarded can of spray paint made an interesting (to me, anyway) photo.

The coots were splashing around the brightly painted narrow boats moored along the canal. Some of them were clambering over each other and squawking amorously. "That's starting early!" exclaimed a man as he walked past. "They usually wait until February!"

Some of the boats were covered with artistic murals...

...or curious objets.

There were messages everywhere.

Olga and I walked all the way to Ladbroke Grove (1.6 miles along the canal) and then doubled back to visit the Scrubs. Altogether we must have walked about four miles.

We weren't the only ones who were exhausted!

Once on the Scrubs, Olga chased her tennis ball and, when available, the resident squirrels.

Now, to abruptly change the tone of this post (and sorry about that): I learned from signs posted in the park that parts of it are to be torn up to relocate a sewer line for HS2, the high-speed rail project (some say boondoggle) being built from London to Northern England. This will involve cutting down trees and running heavy equipment across the wildlife sanctuary, where animals such as foxes, bats and badgers live and migratory birds nest. I'm sick about it and I signed a petition to resist it, but work is supposed to start soon so it may be too little too late. (Apparently campaigners did have some success in re-routing a planned access road across the Scrubs to a shorter, less damaging route, so that's good.)

Anyway, the Scrubs will not look the same the next time Olga and I visit.

This HS2 project has been a nightmare for nature nationwide. In other parts of the country they've cut down ancient forests and even chopped down a recent tree of the year in order to plow through the rail line. The government views it as essential to boosting northern economies (which admittedly need boosting), but must so much damage be done along the way?

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Boxing Day

Is anyone else still wrestling with the peculiarities of New Blogger? My lingering problem is that when I upload photos, Blogger inserts empty spaces above them. I have to go into the html code and remove the spaces (indicated by a letter P in brackets). Weirdly, it only happens with the first two pictures in a post. Also, I have to upload pictures one at a time, because if I do them all at once, Blogger reorders them. Rather than appearing in the order I select, they get shuffled.

I suppose it's no big deal, especially for a completely free blogging service, but just for the record, I still have to make those minor tweaks in my workflow.

Yesterday was Boxing Day, which in the UK is a significant holiday -- so named, as I understand it, because this is when household staff and servers would receive their Christmas boxes and tips. (Along with the poor.) We took the opportunity to watch the Queen's Christmas message, which was broadcast the afternoon of Christmas day:

She basically reiterated key parts of the Christmas story from a religious perspective -- while being inclusive of other faiths, too -- and encouraged us all to be kind to each other during these trying times.

Dave pointed out that it's beneficial to have a figure like the Queen who represents a centering morality in the national culture. In America there is no national figure who can remind us all to be kind. There's the president, but depending on who that is, they may or may not be an authoritative moral voice (!). The Queen is very much that, and while political players come and go she remains, an unshakeable figure of stability. I wonder how well that sense of foundation will carry into the next generation -- I think people like Charles now more than they once did, but only time will tell.

I'm not necessarily a royalist -- it's an expensive system, although at least now they pay taxes. It does provide benefits, though. It definitely brings in tourist dollars.

The big news for me, yesterday, was that I finally reached page 803 of "The Pickwick Papers," and thus the magical words, THE END. I enjoyed the book once I finally got focused enough to read it, which didn't happen until about a week ago! It was funny in places and a bit peculiar, almost a collection of short stories, which makes sense when you consider that it was written to provide a narrative for a collection of drawings. As I wrote before, my biggest challenge was keeping all the characters straight.

I also Skyped in the afternoon with my friend Kevin, who I've known since middle school. It was good to catch up with him and compare notes on, among other things, our latest acquisitions of Joni Mitchell swag. (For me, a t-shirt; for Kevin, a CD anthology of all her earliest recordings. Which I intend to buy too.)

Here's what the glittery drag-queen hyacinths are looking like these days. They smell very sweet. I'm really enjoying them. They're smaller than a normal hyacinth blossom and plant -- I suppose growing from a dry bulb, as they were, doesn't provide the resources for them to get very large. I intend to keep them planted, so maybe next year (assuming they survive) they'll be more normal-sized.

(Top photo: Late afternoon sun on St. Andrew's United Reformed Church, on Finchley Road near our flat.)

Saturday, December 26, 2020

A Christmas Quest

Well, Christmas is over for another year. Ours was pretty quiet, as predicted. I gave Dave his two gifts in the morning -- a new knife for the kitchen and a t-shirt from Four Seasons Total Landscaping in Philadelphia, the site of one of Giuliani's shambolic press conferences for Trump. (I was pretty proud of that one.)

Around noon, while Dave happily stayed home and cooked, Olga and I went for a long walk on the Heath.

On our way through Hampstead village, we saw these two police officers on horseback, their horses kitted out with special Christmas gear. Festive!

There were quite a few people on the streets, taking advantage of a rare sunny day. I overheard one woman complaining about coronavirus restrictions preventing her from visiting her apartment in Tenerife. Cry me a river, lady!

The Heath was also crowded with families out for some fresh air, probably after a frenzied morning of unwrapping presents. One little girl, no doubt exhausted, was having a full-scale screaming meltdown. Her parents were trying to bribe her into behaving by offering her chocolate, and she wasn't having it.

Olga, in a frenzy of squirrel fever, demonstrated her tree-climbing skills. (At one point she was up on the highest part of the log on the left, barking wildly, but I didn't get the picture fast enough.)

Perhaps craving a new experience to mark the holiday,  we veered off our normal route...

...and went through the grounds of Kenwood, the grand 18th Century house on the northern edge of the Heath. You can see in the background some of the people out enjoying the sunny weather. The ground was as wet as a saturated sponge, though. I squished with every step.

Eventually I got it into my head that I wanted some mulled wine. Unfortunately the restaurant at Kenwood was closed because of Covid.

So we walked up Hampstead Lane to the historic Spaniards pub, but alas, it was shuttered too.

(Coincidentally, as I was reading "The Pickwick Papers" yesterday afternoon after returning home, I came across a scene that takes place in the Spaniards' tea garden! One character says to another, "I'm sure you ought to feel very much honoured at you and Tommy being the only gentlemen to escort so many ladies all the way to the Spaniards, at Hampstead." I escorted a female staffy, and I felt honoured too.)

Anyway, I pretty much gave up on the mulled wine idea and Olga went squirrel-chasing through Sandy Heath on our way back to Hampstead village.

And then, walking down a secluded street, we found...

...this lovely little place, which answered my mulled-wine prayers! I drank it as we ambled through the nearby Hampstead churchyard in the chilly afternoon air.

Back home again, Dave and I Zoomed with his family, which was fun. I also phoned our British friend Chris, who we haven't been able to see in months. He and his wife are both in their 70s and he's not in great health, so they need to be particularly careful about Covid. He mentioned what a terrible year it's been, and I told him I'm firmly convinced things are getting better. And I really am, too. We've dumped Donald Trump, we have Covid vaccines.

The sun is coming out, people!

Friday, December 25, 2020


We are having a very damp December. I mean, December's always damp in England, but this seems rather extreme even for here. Yesterday morning -- our first sunny day in what seems like ages -- I wiped down a corner of our living room where we sometimes get spots of black mold on the walls from dampness seeping through from the outside. And then I washed the windows and wiped the sills and the window frames, and this morning there's still more condensation on the glass.

I took Olga to the cemetery yesterday, where the moss is running riot over all the stonework. It finds a little crevice and takes hold, and with all this rain, pretty soon it's as lush as a shag rug or as round and plump as a pincushion.

It's kind of amazing, really.

Our patio looks like we've installed green carpeting. I'll spare you a photo of that.

After our cemetery walk I bathed the dog and then made hot chocolate, which seemed like a good Christmas Eve thing to do. (I got some fancy hot chocolate packets as a very kind gift from one of the students at school, flavored with caramel, orange, ginger, mint and that kind of thing.) Then Dave got to cooking, and made a pumpkin pie and a stuffed chicken dish with rice and herbs.

Last night we watched comfort TV -- "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and "The Sound of Music" -- while Olga snored on the couch.

Merry Christmas from our house to yours!

Thursday, December 24, 2020

The Simple Christmas that Wasn't

Here's another ghost sign that I pass often, just off Abbey Road in St. John's Wood. Unlike the one in Kilburn that I wrote about not too long ago, I can't find any information online about this one, which also seems to mention several products and is probably a layered melange of ads from over a period of years. I see Army Club cigarettes at the bottom, for sure, and then some kind of "elastic skin dressing" in the middle. (Moles?) I can't figure out the wording at the top -- it looks like something "SHTRIM."

Echoes of the past!

Speaking of which:

Here's a picture of me, from 1982 or so, wishing you a Merry Christmas! That's my grandmother's house in Hyattsville, Md., where we spent every Christmas season from the late '70s through the '80s. Christmas there was a very subtle affair -- just my mom, my brother, my grandmother and me, and we always put up Grandmother's little artificial tree, and we'd get each other one or two gifts, and that was pretty much that! It was minimalist, which was nice.

But I can't pretend to be Laura Ingalls Wilder, satisfied with a shiny penny and an orange. We usually spent Christmas day with my aunt, uncle and cousins in Virginia, and it was always a madhouse of the more traditional American Christmas variety: mountains of presents, lots of commotion, church and a big dinner which my aunt pulled together with probably inadequate acknowledgement or appreciation. And then, after going back to Florida, my brother and I had another Christmas at my dad's house, which also entailed many more gifts and dinner made by my stepmother. So as much as I like to reflect back on our simple family Christmases, the truth is they weren't all that simple.

I was 16 in that picture. That shirt I'm wearing? My mom bought it one year for my birthday, and I hated it. She was always buying me those stupid plaid flannel shirts from J. C. Penney. Granted, they're what a lot of boys wore in my corner of the South, but they were not my thing at all. I don't even remember that gray sweatshirt/jacket.

Here's my latest street find -- not the onion pot, which we've had for years (and never use for onions), but the felt cat on top. At least, I think it's a cat. Dave thinks it's a mouse. I found it on Finchley Road while walking back from school on Tuesday, and it has now taken up residence on the kitchen windowsill.

I didn't do much of note yesterday. I wrapped Dave's presents (both of them -- our Christmas this year really is simple) and read more of "The Pickwick Papers." I took Olga for a walk but she wasn't interested in going far, so we just ambled around the neighborhood.

I did convince Dave to let me help him clean out and organize his closet. I knew he had clothes in there he didn't wear, and he just bought a bunch of new pants and shirts, so the time was right. He ultimately surprised me by wanting to get rid of a big stack of shirts -- so many, in fact, that his zealousness gave me anxiety. I'm thinking of putting a few of them back!

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Two Foxes

I actually got some things done yesterday. Woo hoo!

First, when Dave and I are working, we routinely have our packages sent to the school, because it's easier and more secure than having them delivered to an empty house. So when I ordered one of his Christmas presents many weeks ago, that's what I did -- thinking that by the time it arrived, school would still be in session. But of course the present took much longer than expected, and finally, on Monday, I got an e-mail saying it had arrived, so I had to walk to school to get it.

"Why didn't you have it sent here?" said Dave, still in his pajamas, before I left home.

"Because I didn't know it would take so freakin' long!" I replied.

I hope he appreciates the lengths I've gone to in order to provide him with a festive Christmas.

I took some pictures on the way, of delivery men on Finchley Road (top) and a festive house in St. John's Wood. What is that thing in the lower left of the house photo? I think it's a football goal, or some similar piece of sports equipment, but I wouldn't swear to it. It looks like the Japanese flag.

Anyway, I had to scurry all over the school building to find the package, but eventually I collected it. Then I made my way to the post office, where I expected to find a gigantic line like I did Monday. But the post office in St. John's Wood was EMPTY! No waiting at all! I got my mom's Christmas card mailed. I suppose she'll receive it in time for Valentine's Day.

Back home again, I made substantial progress with "The Pickwick Papers" and I'm happy to say that after carrying this book around for almost two months, the end is in sight. I am enjoying it, and I love Dickens' skill with the language and his humorous descriptions, but there are a lot of characters and I have trouble keeping (for example) Mr. Weller and Mr. Winkle and Mr. Wardle straight in my mind.

Here's some more garden-cam footage of the foxes in our garden. There are four brief clips spliced together, and in the second one (about 15 seconds in) we got footage of two foxes together! This is a first for the ol' garden cam. They even talk to each other a bit.

In the third clip, I'd left a pork chop bone in the back of the garden, and you can hear the fox crunching on it. Unfortunately I didn't put it far enough away from the camera so you can't really see the critter eating. Oh well.

The fourth clip, as you will see, is not a fox at all. In fact it's probably what the foxes are hunting. (Lest you think my leaving food out is attracting vermin, I haven't done that in months and months -- so they're living back there quite on their own.)

Tuesday, December 22, 2020


We have three large hanging baskets in the garden, filled with the plectranthus plants that Mrs. Kravitz threw away back in the spring. Don't they look nice? It's also called Mexican mint, apparently.

We haven't had a freeze yet, but I don't think they're cold hardy so they probably won't fare well when cold finally comes. I think plectranthus is normally planted as an annual, but I've toyed with the idea of bringing at least one of them inside to tide it over until spring.

I'm thinking I could hang it from the curtain rod in the living room, though that might be a recipe for disaster.

Dave and I had to run some errands yesterday morning, and we took Olga along. It was damp outside but not rainy, and we walked all the way down to the post office to mail my mother's Christmas card, only to find it closed! Apparently there was a case of Covid among the staff so it's shuttered until Jan. 4.

We walked up to the produce market, where people were buying huge bags of fruit and veg. I don't know whether they were preparing for Christmas dinner or stocking up in case there are shortages. We've been told that because some of the European countries have closed their borders to the UK, given our new variant of coronavirus, we may see shortages of things like citrus fruit, broccoli, cauliflower and salad leaves. Of course, these are not things one can easily preserve, either, so I don't see how buying bags of it can help.

Dave moved on to the butcher and I took Olga and the vegetables home. She was ready to get out of the damp. I then decided to schlep down to the next closest post office, on Mill Lane, but when I got there, I was greeted by a line of at least 40 people. I don't need to mail my card that badly. I came home.

(I'm not sure my mom is even aware that it IS Christmas, so if she gets the card late it's not a crisis.)

Dave, meanwhile, popped in to the pharmacy where he wound up having a chat with one of our famous neighbors as they both waited. He said she actually initiated the conversation, and was very friendly. She told him she'd seen me walking Olga, and called her a "fabulous animal," or something like that. (Maybe she was actually talking about me?) He said he'd have asked for a selfie but his phone was dead. I was quite jealous -- although I've seen this neighbor out and about several times I've never spoken to her. (I'm not mentioning her by name to avoid appearing on her Google news feed like a common gossip-monger, but you can click the link above if you're curious about her identity.)

I hope Dave was properly distanced during the exchange. I wouldn't want him catching celebrity coronavirus.

Monday, December 21, 2020


Well, you'd never know from walking around that our coronavirus restrictions have been tightened. I took Olga to the Heath yesterday and tons of people were out, the playground was packed with kids climbing over each other, the park benches full. One woman came up to me and started talking about Olga, asking her age and so forth, and although she stayed a respectable distance, alarm bells went off in the back of my mind. Even six feet seems too close for comfort when it's more than just a momentary passing.

The Heath is a real mud bog after all our recent rain. At least I wore the right shoes. When I took Olga to the cemetery on Saturday I accidentally wore my leather work shoes -- and although the cemetery wasn't as muddy, they need some cosmetic surgery as a result.

Someone had a fantastic time, and required a bath, a can of wet food and a half paracetamol when she got home. She's still flat-out in bed with Dave.

It's 7:10 a.m. and still pitch dark outside on this winter solstice, the darkest day of the year. According to my weather app, sunrise will be at 8:04 a.m. and sunset at 3:53 p.m. I can't believe we're only four days from Christmas. I feel completely ill prepared for even this curtailed holiday. I bought two small things for Dave and sort of intended to get more, but haven't yet. I bought a couple of gift cards for my nieces and wrote a card to my mother that I haven't even mailed. Where has the time gone?

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Tier 4

You've probably seen the news that southeastern England, including London, is moving into "Tier 4" coronavirus restrictions. There was no Tier 4 until yesterday, at least not referred to by that designation, but it's basically total lockdown. Non-essential businesses must close, we're told not to travel, and there will be no household mixing over Christmas.

Apparently the new variant of the virus that recently popped up in the UK, while no more lethal or severe in terms of illness, is much more infectious, which is partly why our numbers have been going up so much. The vaccines supposedly still work against it, but we certainly don't want to spread it around. School got out just in time!

For me and Dave, this doesn't mean much, except that any plans I had for short trips over the break are probably kaput. We weren't going to visit with anyone anyway, and we're experts at staying home. I suppose if anything it may call into question whether we'll be back at school in January as planned.

One of my co-workers flew back to the USA on Friday, and it looks like she got out just in time. (Hopefully not taking that new virus strain with her.) I wonder what this means for other families who had intended to travel. Looks like that might not be happening, although I don't know how all this will be enforced. If I had a ticket and showed up at Heathrow, would someone prevent me from boarding my plane?

Apparently there's also going to be "significant policing" during New Year's Eve. Again, Dave and I have no plans, so for us, no big deal. We have a mini-bottle of champagne that came with my most recent craft gin club shipment, so we'll probably celebrate with that.

Yesterday I whipped the house into shape, vacuuming and doing laundry. I also took Olga for a two-hour walk to the cemetery. I don't know how we spent that much time there, but we did.

Olga nearly wore out her barker challenging the squirrels!

Dave and I have started a new TV series called "Halt and Catch Fire," about the early days of personal computer development, and it looks promising. I'm also on Season Five of "Bosch," which Dave doesn't like for some bizarre reason that I can't figure out. He's funny about some cop shows. He didn't like "The Wire" or "Southland" either, and I loved both of those. We've essentially given up on Netflix's "Star Trek Discovery" series -- we're both Trekkies but I just don't understand what the heck is going on half the time!

Saturday, December 19, 2020

No More Pencils

When I was down in Westminster on Thursday, it was sort of sad seeing the businesses dressed up for Christmas, and yet closed by Covid. The pubs are only able to offer take-away. You can see the take-away window at the Cavendish, above, between the red ropes next to the Christmas tree. If you're really set on having a pint, I guess take-away is better than nothing, but it's just not the same. Part of what's so wonderful about pubs is the warmth, the conviviality, especially when it's cold and wet and blustery outside.

Oh well. We do what we must. Hopefully we'll all be past this soon enough.

Our last day of school was yesterday, and now we're off until Jan. 11. Our break is slightly longer than usual this year because some people are traveling, and with all the quarantines and whatnot it takes more time. Most people I talked to are staying put, though.

We had another handful of Covid cases in school this week, bringing our grand total of positive tests for the semester to something like 35. From what administrators said, they appeared mostly unrelated to each other, but of course it's hard to tell. With cases ramping up in London, I think we're taking a break just in time – and I believe the government is going to allow a certain degree of household mixing over Christmas itself, so we may have a backlash from that in January. In which case, the rumor is, our school reopening may even be delayed. Who knows what to expect?

The best part of not being at work? I don't have to wear a mask all day! Woo hoo!

My boss and I took down the library Christmas tree yesterday, which is always kind of a sad task, especially before Christmas. I considered bringing it home like we did one year, but it's such an ordeal (and such a needly mess) that I ultimately passed. It looks like Dave and I will remain treeless, which is fine with me.

Remember the glittery hyacinth bulbs given to all the faculty and staff by the school's parent organization? Well, quite a few of them went unclaimed, so I adopted five more. I brought them home and planted them yesterday, next to the three we already received. They're already flowering, making the entire living room smell like spring.

Friday, December 18, 2020

London Christmas Lights

I had to go down into Westminster yesterday afternoon for my doctor's appointment. As long as I was there, I went sightseeing with my camera and took in some of the holiday decorations. I haven't been down in that part of town for months, and it was nice to walk around a bit.

That's Piccadilly above, with Fortnum & Mason acting like 2020 was actually something to celebrate.

The tony shopping district of Bond Street was decorated with peacock-themed holiday lights – appropriate for a strip dedicated to expensive fashion. 

(A shop assistant stopped me and gave me a packet of fancy hand lotion, and tried to convince me to come inside and check out their products. I demurred, being about as likely to routinely use hand lotion as Godzilla. I'll give the sample to Dave.)

Meanwhile, on the Cartier building...

...a giant panther was toying with a bow.

And Tiffany was decorated with neon trees. (You can't quite tell, I'm sure, but the woman on the left is holding up her pug for a photo. I guess her photographer is standing outside the frame.)

Angels are flying over Regent Street and the other streets around Piccadilly Circus.

As you can probably tell in the photos, quite a few people were out and about, and the shops are open. Apparently under Tier 3 you can still go shopping at Louis Vuitton, but you can't go to the pub. Vuitton was the only shop I saw with a line of people waiting to get in (for distancing purposes, I suppose). Maybe they're having a sale.

Debenhams is definitely having a sale. The entire department store chain is in the process of shutting down after talks to save it from bankruptcy recently collapsed. It's been struggling for years, but Covid certainly didn't do it any favors.

And the doctor? Well, it was just a preliminary consultation, but it went fine. I told him about my chronic indigestion and cough and he doesn't think I have much to worry about, but he's going to do an endoscopy just to be sure. I just have to schedule it. Interestingly, although I wore a mask throughout our appointment, he did not!