Friday, January 31, 2020

Quiz Night Disaster

Last night was our annual Quiz Night at work. I was asked by the head of school to be on her team, probably because I was part of the winning team last year, so the pressure was on. I recruited a couple of other former teammates, and we all wound up -- in seventh place. Roughly the middle of the pack.


Hopefully I won't get fired today.

(Joke! I think.)

When work ended at 5 p.m. I had a couple of hours to kill before Quiz Night began at 7. I walked to the Danubius Hotel, which isn't far from work, and sat in their bar having a gin & tonic and reading. It was cool to revisit the ol' Dubious (as it's affectionately known where I work). Dave and I stayed there when we first landed in London almost nine years ago. They served my G&T in a ridiculous fishbowl-shaped glass.

Back at school, our quiz team assembled. Dave was going to be on our team of eight but he felt so unwell he left work early, and another person couldn't come due to a sick child at home. So we were down a couple of brains right out of the gate.

We got off to a bad start when asked in the first round who won an Oscar for acting and another for screenwriting. We knew from the context of our answers that the name began with an E and ended with an N. I felt like a bloody genius when I came up with Elia Kazan, and we confidently went with that -- and then the correct answer turned out to be EMMA THOMPSON! Yes, my neighbor derailed me at quiz night. And I never quite recovered.

(Elia Kazan did win two Oscars for Best Director, and he was an actor and writer, so I'm still pretty proud of my answer, even if it was wrong.)

In retrospect, one of our downfalls as a team is we were all fifty-something adults. This was a very pop-culture-oriented quiz, and we were no good on questions about rap music (my apologies to Kendrick Lamar for thinking his name was "Kenner") or at identifying the music from the film "Interstellar." (Although I did at least see "Interstellar," so I suppose that's something.)

In the picture round we were shown an image of a dashing young man with exceptional teeth and none of us had any idea who he was -- and even when the name was revealed, we had no idea. I couldn't name him even now.

So, yeah, lacking an age spread definitely hurt us. In quizzing, as in life, diversity of experience makes us stronger!

(Top photo: North Greenwich, a couple of weeks ago.)

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Cola Crisis

Someone's renovating this building on Abbey Road that I pass on my walk to work. It's looking a little bleak these days, stripped of its shrubbery and with those blue plastic patches.

Waterlogue to the rescue! Much cheerier!

I had the most peculiar day yesterday. In the afternoon I had an incredible sugar craving. I don't know where this came from -- it's really not normal for me at all. I tried to buy a cookie from the school cafeteria but they don't do cookies on Wednesdays. (Who knew?! And also, why?)

I wound up scrounging a Coca-Cola from the office refrigerator. I never drink cola. But it hit the spot. I think I might be wrestling a cold and my body wanted a little energy boost. Dave's had a cold for the past several days -- he sounds like Lauren Bacall -- so maybe I'm keeping the same bug at bay.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Hellebores and Daniel Boone

Even though it's winter, there are a few things blooming in the garden. The hellebore, above, is once again going gangbusters. We also have a little clump of snowdrops and I saw a budding crocus yesterday morning.

I also found a sad-looking ficus tree sitting on the curb across the street. The poor thing only has about six leaves left. I tried to leave it there but I just felt so bad for it. Now it's next to the back window in our living room. We'll see if it revives.

When I wrote about my goal to read all the books that had won Newbery medals, I think I mentioned that our library was missing only one -- "Daniel Boone," by James Daugherty, which won in 1940 and is apparently no longer in print. Well, a few weeks ago I found a copy online, and bought it for about £30 with the intention of giving it to the library.

It arrived on Monday, in a bedraggled plastic covering -- a book formerly housed in an elementary school library in Connecticut. It even still has the old pocket for a checkout card in the back, and a sheet of date stamps ranging from 1963 to 2000. But even though it's already spent at least 40 years in a library, it's basically in good shape. We took the old plastic cover off and put a new one on, preserving the paper dust jacket underneath, and voila -- it looks great! God only knows what it's going to say inside. I wonder if it contains a lot of politically incorrect language about Native Americans. I'll let you know when I get around to reading it.

It's funny how Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett (who I always get confused) and other such heroes of westward expansion used to be such prominent figures in American pop culture, and now I never hear about them. I suppose the whole subject of manifest destiny is seen in a new light these days -- and rightfully so -- whereas decades ago, Westerns were still big at the movies and every kid played Cowboys and Indians. Our cultural perspective changes over time, doesn't it?

Tuesday, January 28, 2020


On Sunday I got up around 3 a.m., overheated and thirsty, as I sometimes feel at that hour. I got some water in the kitchen and took it into the dining room, where I looked out the window and down the street as I drank. Our ground-floor flat is located on a hill, and this was the view in the distance, looking south.

I've often idly wondered what buildings those are. I had a vague idea they might be in the direction of King's Cross, but I wasn't sure. I decided to figure it out. So I took a few pictures and, the next morning, began plotting trajectories on Google Maps.

Here's the same view in the daytime. Estimating the direction with a ruler and using Google Street View, I finally recognized one of the buildings -- the second-tallest one in the photo, at center left. It's the Hilton London Metropole hotel, located near Paddington Station. Using that as a guide, I realized the big new building with the crane is part of the West End Gate development, just up the street from the Hilton on Edgware Road.

So basically, this is where I'm looking, with our flat the top point:

That's 3.85 km, or 2.4 miles, and it's nowhere near King's Cross (the location of the British Library on the map).

Instead, my sightline goes over St. John's Wood, very close to where I work -- and basically right over the roof of Abbey Road Studios, a place of pilgrimage for every serious Beatles fan. The studios are too low to be seen from our dining room, but the tudor-looking building in the photo is located on Hill Street, just off Abbey Road and right next to the studios.

Turning my head slightly to the left while looking out the window -- so on a slightly different sightline -- I can see the top of the round tower at St. George Wharf in Vauxhall, which is much farther away. (I took this photo yesterday evening, which is why the light is so different.)

It's right on the Thames, about 8.6 km or 5.34 miles away. (It's also a controversial residential building, with units owned almost entirely by rich absentee investors.)

Finally, while looking at the photo above, I realized I could see not only the Vauxhall tower, but beyond it, the Eiffel-tower like structure of the Crystal Palace Transmitting Station. It's a huge broadcasting antenna on a high point in South London, 16.2 km or just over 10 miles away.

It's so cool to finally understand what I'm seeing when I look out the window and down the hill!

Monday, January 27, 2020

NASA Kid and Bird Bin

Olga and I walked northward through Childs Hill yesterday, and we passed this peculiar shopfront. "Who's that kid?" I thought. "And why NASA?"

Turns out it's a showroom for an online clothing company that sells kids' clothes under license from NASA (and also Disney, Marvel and others). Seems funny that they have a showroom in Childs Hill, of all places, but who am I to question?

In Childs Hill Park we found a trash can that looks like a giant bird. There are also new benches and some landscaping changes. I guess it's been several months since we've been up that way, though it doesn't seem that long.

This seems like a wildly impractical shoe to wear stomping around in a park. Maybe that's why it was hanging on a fence.

Then we walked over to the Clitterhouse Playing Fields, where there are ambitious plans to reopen the cafe and make other changes. Meanwhile, there's a groovy mural! Just out of the frame to the left are raised garden beds, where some kids were exploring. (I think that's what Olga's watching, but there could have been squirrels over there too.)

We had a quiet afternoon, which I spent mostly reading. We also watched Renee Zellweger's movie "Judy," in which she plays Judy Garland performing some of her final concerts in London in the late 1960s. It seems wrong to say I enjoyed it, because Garland was at the messy end of her tether at that point, but it was an effective film.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Cemetery Cleanup

I meant to change yesterday's post title before I hit publish -- I started with nothing to say and then wound up saying a lot! Oh well.

Yesterday Olga and I did several circuits of the cemetery. I've been seeing a lot of trash lying around there on our past few visits, so I made an effort to do a bit of cleanup while we walked.

This rusty metal container went into the trash bins. (It features characters from the Japanese anime "Digimon" series -- don't ask how long it took me to figure that out.) Also an old blanket, a zippered sleeping bag or cushion covering of some kind, a big piece of foam rubber, a torn-up dog toy and a discarded water bottle. The food processor was already gone, thank goodness.

We encountered one of the cemetery's wild inhabitants at the entrance to its lair. Olga isn't interested in mice. They're too small to bother with.

Anyway, we had a good walk, and otherwise I stayed home -- vacuumed, watered plants, finished my book, tried to catch up on my New Yorkers. I cleaned out some stuff and took it to the charity shop -- including the sombrero, which we not only never used but never even had the opportunity to consider using.

Last night, we watched more "Schitt's Creek." I think I'm slowly convincing Dave to give it more time.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

I Got Nuthin'

I spent part of yesterday reading at my desk. What a job, right?! I'm working on "M.C. Higgins, the Great," which won the Newbery in 1975. It's an odd book, sort of surreal -- and one of the big ones, at 278 pages.

It's about a boy living in a poor mountain community who routinely shimmies up a 40-foot vertical steel pole in his yard and sits on a bicycle seat at the top, surveying his domain. It seems an unlikely premise, frankly, but there's a lot of other stuff going on too and somehow the atmosphere of magical realism in the book makes it all feasible.

I've had a range of reactions from kids to my Newbery reading project. Some of them are impressed: "You're reading ALL those books?!" Some of them are dismissive: "But the Newbery is for kids' books, isn't it?" The editor of the student newspaper said he wanted to write something about it, but I haven't heard back from him, so who knows whether that will actually happen. And one of my co-workers in the admissions office said she's going to join me.

The library wasn't too busy yesterday or Thursday. We had a few classes in, but most of the high-schoolers were on an altered schedule to make room for special events and presentations dedicated to human rights issues. We're back to our normal schedule on Monday.

Some kid left a lunchbox behind in the library at the beginning of the week, and I put it in the Lost & Found bin. It was still there Friday, so I opened it, and of course it was full of moldering food. I threw all the food away and brought home the plastic containers to run them through the dishwasher. Hopefully the kid will reclaim it at some point.

Dave and I started watching "Schitt's Creek" on Netflix last night. I kind of like it, but Dave wasn't impressed. I think it might be one of those shows that I have to watch when I'm alone. (And that rarely happens!) I was surprised, because he loves those Christopher Guest movies like "Best in Show" and "Waiting for Guffman" that star some of the same people. We also watched the new "Star Trek" series, "Picard," and he seemed to like that more. He's a big fan of "The Next Generation," so it's fun for him to reconnect with those characters, while for me "Star Trek" means Shatner and Nimoy and those classic red, gold and blue uniforms.

I am not paying any attention to the impeachment. I know it won't go anywhere and I just don't have the stomach to even endure the process. I'm not too worried about coronavirus, either -- it sounds like it's mostly just a bad flu, unless a person has underlying health issues, which is true for all flu bugs. And although I think Harry may eventually regret giving up his royal duties, I certainly don't begrudge him moving to Canada to be with Meghan and Archie. The British public has a lot invested in him, but he's ultimately entitled to a life, isn't he?

(Photo: Colorful buildings in St. Giles, London.)

Friday, January 24, 2020

Politics and Flower Power

Catalyst, over at Oddball Observations, did a recent post about his collection of political buttons. It made me wonder which buttons I still have. I dug these out of a box in my closet. A wide political spectrum, right?!

The Nixon button I bought at a flea market in the '80s, as kind of a joke. I've never had anything but antipathy for Nixon, although he looks like an upstanding citizen compared to what we have now.

The Reagan/Bush button is the real thing. When I was in high school (I graduated in 1984), I considered myself a Reagan supporter. I can only chalk this up to political naiveté. I think I was most impressed that the Iranian hostage situation was resolved almost the moment he came into office. (Which later led to questions.)

I remember supporting Reagan in discussions with my friends around that time, but when I went to the polls that November, I voted for Mondale. I realized at some point that I wasn't a Republican after all! My roommate was stunned. Ah, youth.

In 1988 I campaigned for Dukakis and Bentsen, whose button you see above. I also campaigned for Steve Pajcic, a Democrat who ran for governor of Florida in 1986. (I used to have his button but no longer do.) Both lost. Oh well.

I guess the anti-Bush and pro-Obama buttons are self-explanatory. I used to have a Hillary Clinton button from her Senate run in New York in 2000, but it appears to be gone.

My favorite button is this one (above left). It's an authentic vintage '60s "flower power" button, which I bought at the same flea market where I got the Nixon button. I only wore it once, as far as I can remember, when I dressed as a rather over-the-top hippie for Halloween in 1984:

Don't you like my dolphin? Her name was Myrtle. She came from Goodwill, along with the beads and clothes and groovy (?) shades, and everything went back there again not long after Halloween. The joint wasn't real, I swear. (Myrtle has a joint, too!)

Anyway, we had some drama because I went to a graveyard with some friends that night, and I dropped my "Flower Power" button. When I realized it later, I made everyone go back and help me find it. Which we did.

I'll say it again: Ah, youth. I kind of wish I still had that dashiki.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

An Apparent Reprieve

The mystery plant, which we now believe is borage, has generated a cluster of what appear to be hairy little flower buds. In the middle of winter! This plant doesn't appear to be fazed by anything. It would laugh at freezing temperatures, if it could laugh. It's also quite large -- about a foot and a half tall. I can't wait to see what it looks like when it blooms.

And this is what the teasel seedlings look like. They're not growing much, but they're not dying, either. (Despite being once pulled up by pigeons.) I think they're waiting for warmer weather, when they'll probably get more vigorously underway.

I know you're all wondering about yesterday's visit with the landlord. In short, I think we're fine. She gave no indication that we were going to be asked to move, and in fact she said several things that made me think she's happy for us to stay. It was one of those situations where I didn't want to come right out and ask, because I didn't want to invade her privacy or, God forbid, put any ideas in her head -- but I'm much more at ease.

We got off to an awkward start when, pulling into the parking space in front of the house, her husband bumped the back window of their car against the concrete overhang of the front porch. The window shattered with a bang. I couldn't believe it.

"Well, that was an entrance," he said, getting out of the car to survey the damage.

(I keep referring to her as the landlord, because her name is on our lease, but I suppose it's both of them, really.)

They seem like very reasonable people and we made some decisions about the exterior repairs that are needed -- some work on the fence, the front garden, the steps and the side gate. I also pointed out that some tree trimming may eventually be required on the walnut and the elders at the back of the property, and asked if she'd consider having our aged bathtub re-enameled. They seemed amenable to all that.

She praised our color scheme and our decorating, and said a couple of times that she was glad we were happy here and that she "wanted it to feel like our home." She even asked if we wanted a new bathtub -- but honestly I think the existing tub is fine. It just needs to be refinished.

So, anyway, I don't think she'd have said several of the things she did if we were going to be asked to move on. Whew!

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Fishcotheque and Some Trivia

This chippy has the best name, doesn't it? I first photographed it six years ago, when it had a different sign -- I'm always glad to see it's still there whenever I pass Waterloo station. Someday I suppose I should eat there. They've now fully embraced the disco theme, with a disco ball motif and an adjacent sign proclaiming a "Fishco Inferno"!

This morning our landlord's supposed to show up for her "site visit." I told Dave I doubt we'll learn anything, but at least it will be good to put a name with a face -- both for her and for us. She may still kick us out, but if she does, I'm more mentally prepared than I was. I've been looking at other apartment listings -- both to rent and to buy -- and there seems to be some availability in our price range, so that's a good sign.

Buying is the more strenuous undertaking, and requires a lot more preparation, of course, but it's perhaps not out of the question.

Meanwhile, life goes on as usual. Olga has been erratic in her desire to walk -- on Monday she wouldn't go out at all, but yesterday she was raring to go and we did our full loop around the neighborhood. This morning she practically dragged us out of bed in her desire to get out into the back garden, where she immediately raced to the back wall growling -- I think she must have detected foxes. She's still out there as I write, standing guard.

This was the moon yesterday morning -- a crescent sliver hanging in the sky just after dawn.

Apropos of nothing, here are two random facts I've been meaning to blog:

-- The longest Newbery book is "The Story of Mankind," the first winner, from 1922. It's something like 440 pages in its revised edition. I'm still reading the Newberys but I haven't tackled that one yet. I might save it for last. The second-longest is "Smoky the Cowhorse," the 1927 winner, which comes in at something like 300 pages. That seems pretty long for a book about a horse. I haven't tackled that one either.

-- When I visited the ABBA exhibit on Sunday, I learned that the Swedish title for the song "Ring Ring," one of their earliest hits, is "Bara Du Slog En Signal." According to Google, that translates to "If Only You Called." I can see why they retitled it. "Ring Ring" is definitely snappier in English!

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

A Heron, Three Ways

When I was at the Heath on Sunday, I came across this grey heron sitting on a branch above one of the ponds. I got to photograph it from different angles as I walked.

I think it was just hanging out and enjoying the sun, like I was!

According to Wikipedia, 400 roasted herons were served to guests when the new Archbishop of York was installed in 1465. Good Lord! And also, yuck. I bet a heron is a gamey bird.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Mud and Frost

More sunshine yesterday, a welcome development. I took Olga for a long walk on the Heath. We usually follow a circle that runs north toward Highgate and south again to Parliament Hill, but this time we changed up our routine. We avoided some of the areas near Highgate that get muddy -- in the winter and early spring, parts of the Heath are barely passable because they're so wet -- and we also skipped Parliament Hill because, frankly, Olga doesn't care about the view. She wants trees and squirrels.

So we stuck to the woodsy paths.

The leaves in the shadowy hollows were covered with frost. But despite the chill, tons of people were out, soaking up the sun. (At least as much as possible while wearing a coat.)

Holy mud-bog, Batman! See what I mean? Fortunately I have two pairs of Merrill shoes that work really well in muddy conditions -- my feet never get wet.

Back home again, I set up our new Olga-cams, which Dave bought for Christmas. They'll allow us to check on the house and the dog remotely, using an app on our phones. You may remember that we had some before, but when we got our new Internet router a few months ago, those cameras stopped working. The problem had something to do with the megahertz of the router signal -- I don't pretend to understand it, and no matter what I did, I couldn't get them to function again. Technology!

So, yeah, we have new ones.

I also finished Tina Brown's "Vanity Fair Diaries" -- finally. My slow pace wasn't Tina's fault. I loved the book.

Remember how she said "cavorting" is an underused word? Well, she later recounted writing a letter in which she called someone an "empurpled blowhard," and although she eventually regretted the letter, I think that's a fantastic term. "Empurpled" is definitely an underused word. I know several people who have a tendency to become empurpled. In fact, at times, I may be one of them.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Sun, Stars, ABBA and Owls

Finally! Sunshine! I went for a long walk yesterday through Piccadilly and Soho, along the Strand and across Waterloo Bridge. It was a fabulous day -- chilly, but with great sun and shadows and lots of photo opportunities. Olga stayed home, but I think today is supposed to be pretty nice too, so I'll make it up to her.

First, in Piccadilly, I walked past that restaurant that Chris insisted was closed. It is, in fact, still open. I think he was on the next street over, where there is a building being demolished, and he just got confused. Of course, he'll never admit it.

I walked through Soho toward Covent Garden and the area around St. Martin in the Fields. I wanted to find Cecil Court, a street of small used-book shops, which a friend recently mentioned on Facebook. I did indeed find it, and although I didn't buy anything this time (with my Newbery project, the last thing I need at the moment is more books!) I'm glad to know where it is.

I had lunch on the Strand -- a nondescript sandwich -- and then walked across the bridge to Waterloo...

...where I caught the tube for North Greenwich. I was bound for the O2 Dome to see the new ABBA exhibit, a collection of artifacts and memorabilia retracing the band's history from the mid-'60s to the early '80s. I have been an unapologetic ABBA fan all my life, so it was fun to see.

Fun fact: The song "SOS" is the only palindromic hit by a palindromic band. Now there's a trivia question for you.

My only complaint is that some of the most famous costumes on display are replicas and not the originals. Maybe the originals don't exist anymore. But I did see some of the band's gold records, some interesting footage and photos and heard plenty of ABBA music, which was carefully placed in context with other pop music and current events of the day. I was in there for almost two hours!

Self-portrait with ABBA.

By the way, although many of the other people there were about my age, some were younger and were certainly not around when ABBA was in its heyday. (One young guy was wearing a pair of fabulous gold lamé shoes.) I suppose they're evidence that "Mamma Mia" and other productions have helped create a new audience.

Anyway, I got out of there and came home and immediately watched "Muriel's Wedding" -- one of my favorite movies, as I'm sure I've said before. The soundtrack is almost entirely ABBA.

Finally, last night, as I was lying in bed, I heard an owl calling outside. Olga perked her ears up, but she didn't move. I, however, grabbed my phone and stepped out the back door to record it:

It sounded like there were two, one nearby and one farther away -- tawny owls, I believe, which I've heard before in our garden. I saw one of them fly away, dark wings against the starry sky. Yes, STARS! In London! How often do I have a chance to see those?! (Answer: Between often-cloudy weather and light pollution, not very.)

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Frowny Face

This has not been a great week. I've been in a persistently blue mood. Maybe I have Seasonal Affective Disorder? I've been feeling frustrated at work and impatient at home. I'm going to try to get out today for a photo walk and see if that makes me feel better. I was only able to walk to work one day this week, either because it was raining or I didn't leave myself enough time, so I have been seriously deprived of daylight and exercise.

To make matters worse, Dave and I have both concluded that we're about to be evicted. The fact that the landlord insisted on an early-break clause the last time we signed our lease -- a clause that takes effect this month -- and now suddenly wants to come and visit the property seems pretty suspicious. We think she's probably about to give us notice and put it on the market.

Which I suppose isn't a tragedy. It will just necessitate another change, and maybe that's not a bad thing. We've been here a while and I wouldn't mind some new surroundings, though I'd like to have just one more summer in our garden -- long enough to see the honesty and hollyhock seedlings I planted last year come to fruition. (I suppose I could dig some up and take them with me.)

I do dread the work and disruption that comes with moving. We have quite a bit more stuff than we did when we came to this flat, so the moving itself will be a bigger task, and all the changing addresses and disconnecting and reconnecting services will be tedious.

You're probably wondering, "Why don't you just buy the place where you live?" While we could probably afford to buy somewhere, I don't think we could afford this place. It's likely to be way too expensive for us. We probably should consider that option elsewhere, but all the paperwork and bureaucracy seems daunting.

Anyway, I shouldn't get ahead of myself. I don't know what's going to happen. But these are the thoughts whirling around in my head at the moment.

(Photo: Chelsea, a couple of weeks ago.)

Friday, January 17, 2020

The Blue Building

On Wednesday Dave went home in mid-afternoon, just after the school day ended. I got a text from him soon after: "That building behind the garden with all the scaffolding was painted today. It's blue!"

"Oh, ugh. Blue?" I wrote.

"Yup," he replied. It's always been white, which I like even though it can appear a bit stark, because it's completely neutral. But of course I couldn't see the building when I got home, because it was dark outside. Dave described it as light blue with dark blue trim.

I waited with trepidation for the sun to come up yesterday morning, and when it did, this is what I found. I don't know if you can tell from the picture, but the building isn't painted at all. It's just covered with temporary blue screening. I texted that fact to Dave, who was already at work.

"Ah, sorry, I was drunk," he said. (Which for the record is not true -- Dave gave up drinking ages ago because of his Crohn's.) I said, "You just didn't get out of your recliner to look more closely, did you?" Which he admitted had been the case.

I guess the world looks a lot different from a recliner.

Speaking of the garden, I got a call from the landlord's managing agent yesterday saying the landlord wants to arrange a "site visit," in order to inspect some outdoor work she's considering on the front garden, the steps and the fencing.

We've never even met our landlord, so I'm intrigued by this opportunity. (Assuming the landlord herself is going to be there, which is what it sounds like.) I jumped at the chance to schedule something. They're supposed to get back to me with a day and time.

When I was in the garden a few nights ago setting up the fox cam, I found this old Casio watch in the dirt beneath the Japanese maple. It was attached to the remains of a watchband that crumbled away when touched. We've lived here almost six years, so I assume it's been out there at least that long. I wonder whose it was? Probably some kid's. (In which case it's been out there more like ten years, because we knew the family who lived here before us and they had no kids of watch-wearing age.)

I'm not really a watch person, but I'm tempted to see if this thing would work again, given a new battery. It's supposedly water-resistant. Maybe I could then return it to the landlord, who would be so impressed with my diligence and generosity that she would give us a break on the rent!

Thursday, January 16, 2020

The Dark Winter

It's so dark at this time of year that a lot of my pictures get taken at night. (On weekdays, I am outdoors in daylight only on my walk to work -- which takes about 25 minutes.) I took the shot above a few nights ago, when Mrs. Kravitz left her patio spotlight on. I like the effect the light produces in our own garden. Fortunately it's on a side of the house where it can't reach our bedroom, so it doesn't disturb us.

And then I walked into the dark bedroom and took a picture of sleeping Olga, using a flashlight. She said, "What the HELL?!" (She said it with her eyes.)

This was our visitor yesterday at work. A student brought this hamster into the library so it could "get some exercise" while she worked on a project. It rolled around in this plastic ball, bonking into things. Apparently its name is Peppa. I have no idea whether it lives in the school somewhere or if she brought it from home.

When we were kids, my brother and I had gerbils -- Tivoli and Eisenhower -- and they had a plastic ball just like this one. Apparently rodent exercise technology hasn't advanced much in the last 40 years.

I wish I could say that my gerbil was named after Tivoli, Italy, home of the Villa d'Este, a UNESCO World Heritage site. But no. My gerbil was actually named for a brand of beer produced in Denver. (I collected beer cans at the time.)

Anyway, aside from night photography and visits from spontaneous rodents (fortunately just the one), not much is going on around here. Work stuff, but nothing very interesting, unless you want to know how I'm redesigning our overdue book reports. Which you don't, and I don't blame you.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

The Suit Rack

I went to the store the other night to pick up a couple of rolls of food composting bags -- the biodegradable bags we put in our waste food caddies so the council can collect it on trash day and compost it. The total came to £5.48, and I had £5.49 in change in my pocket! I love it when that happens -- when almost every penny counts. It's like my vigilance about picking up lost coins and keeping all my change finally paid off.

I've started my Newbery reading project. You can see at right that I'm showing two books in my "What I'm Reading" box on the blog -- the adult book and the Newbery book. I put all the books out on a special cart in the library with signs ("Mr. Reed reads the Newberys!") a checklist and a tray where I'll put my printed one-paragraph reviews. Some kids react with incredulity that I'm taking on this task, but I'm trying to show them that it's fun, not work. (Which remains to be seen, admittedly.)

I won't review everything here -- don't worry -- but I do have to mention that the first Newbery book I read, "The Cat Who Went to Heaven," the 1931 winner, was deeper and more interesting than the title would suggest. It was actually a dalliance with Buddhist philosophy, not just a story about a cat. Many of the Newbery winners center on different countries and cultures, although some of that multiculturalism will no doubt seem a little ham-handed and dated today. The one I'm reading now, "Call It Courage," from 1941, is about a Polynesian boy. (I'm reading randomly, not in order, obviously.)

Olga and I came across this peculiar contraption while walking the other day. It's apparently meant to hold a jacket, or maybe a whole suit, but I have no idea why it's a free-standing device. A suit can go on a simple hanger in the closet -- why would anyone want an entire piece of furniture devoted to the same purpose? (Obviously no one does, which is why it's on the street. Plus it's broken.)

(Top photo: The skyline from Parliament Hill, in December. I need to get out and take more photos!)

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

From Lava Lamps to Bathing Beauties

Time to offload another set of random photos from my trusty iPhone!

First, someone on our street appears to have a groovy purple lamp. A lava lamp, maybe.

The world's most expensive trash bag.

A mini-poll on current affairs scrawled on a bus stop near school. I admire someone's curiosity, but this seems like an ineffective way to ask the question.

Some fox graffiti on a brick path where I walk Olga. And not far away...

...a pull-chain loo, with functioning drain!

Sky TV always has interesting, colorful service vans.

Willa Cather wrote "O Pioneers!" Perhaps "Pedestrians O" is the sequel.

When I went to the panto on Saturday night, I walked through the nearby Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, a modest park with some sparkly lighting.

And finally, the Bathing Beauty down the street has lost her head! Only her purple bathing cap remains, along with her disjointed limbs. A mystery!