Sunday, May 31, 2020

California Dreamin'

Here we are in beautiful Los Angeles -- oops, I mean London. We are seriously having L.A. weather, though. Every day the temperature is in the 70s or 80s, the sky clear as a bell, the sun blazing down. It's quite comfortable and beautiful (not to mention great for drying laundry), but it's just so not England. Apparently this is the sunniest spring since anyone began keeping track of these things, in 1929, as well as the driest May in 124 years. April set records, too. Farmers are worrying about their crops.

We're watering the garden every single day. I always worry about watering things too much, but in this weather that's probably not possible. No one's talking about a watering ban yet, but if we don't start seeing some rain I suppose that could happen. None is in the forecast until June 10 at the earliest.

Above you'll see an elderberry tree down the street from us, in full bloom. We have elders at the back of our garden, too, but they're all entwined with ivy and rambling roses so they don't make a very clear picture. We also had elders in our yard when I was growing up in Florida -- as a kid I dug one up and put it in a pot and named it, for some reason, "Shorty." (Probably because it never grew very tall, being an unhappy and slowly dying plant.) I believe the Florida and UK varieties are even the same species, Sambucus nigra.

This was my view yesterday morning as I lay reading on a blanket in the garden. I was looking up into the branches of our walnut tree -- the messiest tree ever, constantly being ravaged by squirrels and raining down leaves and half-eaten nuts. It's still beautiful, though.

I'm reading "Lincoln in the Bardo," which is a good but very strange book. I admire an author who can take on such an out-there subject (the afterlife of Abraham Lincoln's young son Willie).

Here's the obligatory dog photo of the day, taken on our walk to the cemetery. We only rarely explore the rose garden there, but with everything in bloom, it seemed a good time to visit. Olga posed very patiently even though she would much rather have been walking around with her yucky tennis ball in her mouth.

We've been watching a Belgian TV show on Netflix called "Into the Night." It's a bizarre premise -- a small group of people must remain on a night jet flying ever-westward to avoid sunlight, which is suddenly killing everyone on Earth -- but we're enjoying it. It's a fun diversion, although it's a nightmare to contemplate having to essentially live on a commercial aircraft, even one with barely any passengers. I might rather be dead.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Eels and Urban Drama

I was going to take a photo walk yesterday, but I just could not get myself motivated. I wound up hanging around the house all day, reading more New Yorkers. I finally caught up on all of them and enjoyed some fascinating articles, like one about the mysterious life cycle of eels -- I kid you not. Did you know that no one has ever seen adult eels reproducing? And that they don't even have gonads for most of their lives? Apparently Sigmund Freud dissected thousands of eels in an attempt to find their sex organs -- which seems a very Freudian thing to do, somehow -- and he never did because they weren't there.

There was also an article about Shecky Greene, the comedian. Remember how I had a dream about him not too long ago? I thought that was pretty coincidental.

Anyway, in the middle of my reading, as I was sitting quietly out on the back garden bench, a blood-curdling scream suddenly issued from Mrs. Kravitz's house. It scared me to death. The Russians upstairs ran out onto their balcony, and then Mrs. K came out onto hers and screamed again. Like, literally, at the top of her lungs. Her daughter ushered her inside and closed the door, where we heard more screaming. I have no idea what that was all about, but I think maybe she was having a conflict with her maid (who is actually named Martha, believe it or not).

My heart was left pounding by the whole episode, but I saw Mrs. K later in the day and she seemed fine. So whatever happened must have been a transient thing. Talk about drama! If I hadn't seen her walking around and seen her family with her I would have called the police.

Dave and I took advantage of our continued surreally fantastic weather, drying laundry on the patio and sitting outside with our lunches. That's Dave in the photo above, sitting in the corner behind the clothes, giving Olga a tuna cracker. You can only barely see Olga, standing at his knee, paying close attention to the food.

This was our afternoon treat -- a cookie I picked up at the butcher, of all places. (I guess there is a connection between lambs and butchers, but I'd rather not think about it.) It was baked in Shropshire -- a ginger cookie.

And this was our evening treat. Well, not all of it -- just a portion of that center bottle. I went wine shopping and, of course, bought stuff based on the labels! We've had the "Boom Boom!" wine, from Washington State, before, and the white version of the "cats in space" wine on the left as well. (It's called "Felicette," after the first cat sent into space, by France in 1963. Felicette came back to Earth safely.) Anyway, we'll see what the red is like. The "two skulls" wine on the right is called "Time Waits for No One." Better drink that bottle first!

Last night we listened to our high school's annual drama production, "You Can't Take it With You." It was supposed to be a stage play, of course, but since we can't gather in the school auditorium as usual they turned it into a "radio play" and streamed it online. It was a cool idea and I enjoyed it, once I was able to differentiate the voices and figure out how all the characters were connected. (I've never seen that play so I had no clue about the storyline -- it's basically a light family "dramedy" questioning American capitalism.) Coronavirus innovation, once again!

Friday, May 29, 2020

Roses, Lupines and Current Events

We're at peak rose time in the garden. The rose above is one of my favorites -- I don't know its name, but it's a beautiful salmon pink tea rose that smells wonderful. It usually gives us only a few blossoms each year -- it's not a big bush. I like the way the flower nestles against that cascading leaf from the cardoon.

At the risk of being repetitive, here's what the rest of them look like. (I know I posted a similar photo just a few days ago. But can you have too many roses?)

I've wanted to try to write about some of what's going on in the world -- the criminal killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the criminal killing of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, the UK government's ridiculous excusal of Dominic Cummings' driving cross-country and visiting local beauty spots while ill with coronavirus when the rest of us, apparently perfectly healthy, were told to not even leave our houses. I am tongue-tied by the injustice of it all. No wonder people riot.

I am impressed by Christian Cooper, the New York City birdwatcher whose conflict with a white woman and her dog made international news. After the woman -- who without question behaved despicably -- lost her job and gave up her dog, he expressed empathy for her. I thought that was a beautiful thing. I also think it's fascinating, albeit superficially, that the two of them share a last name. That seems to be a cosmic message about our underlying commonalities as human beings, however misguided some of us may be.

I had a video chat with my co-workers yesterday and my boss said she was upset with the use of the term "Karen" to describe an entitled white woman. Her name, of course, is Karen. We had a good laugh about that. (She does not, however, have the "can-I-speak-to-a-manager" haircut.)

I handed over my bags of donated food for the food drive yesterday morning, so that little task is complete. I can now eat my one remaining can of baked beans guilt-free.

I also went to our local produce shop and picked up a few more oddities. I got a pair of avocados -- I thought I could make avocado sandwiches, as I used to when growing up in Florida. I also got another peculiar melon (possibly just a variety of cantaloupe) and a big bag of kale. Dave put the kale in some homemade bean soup and it's terrific. I love leafy greens as a rule, but Dave is sometimes hesitant to eat them because of his digestive issues. When they're in soup they're usually cooked enough that he doesn't have problems.

I'm sure he'll be glad when he can safely return to the grocery store, and no longer deal with my quirky purchases -- but who knows when that will be.

I've been interested to read on other blogs that shops are reopening in America. Our non-essential shops are supposed to reopen on June 15, so we're a bit behind but generally moving in the same direction. Pubs and restaurants will open in July at the earliest. (Here's a timetable.) I'm wary of what effect this will have and I suspect many people will continue to stay home just to keep out of harm's way -- including Dave. I'm wondering when we'll all be able to travel again. I'd really like to take some day trips this summer, and even -- dare I say it -- go to Florida. But who knows. There's no point in my flying across the ocean unless I can see my mom, and at this point, that's impossible as she's still not allowed visitors. (And rightfully so.) I certainly don't want to do anything that puts us or anyone else in danger.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

John, Sugar and Larry Kramer

I mentioned a couple of days ago that we're getting some new murals in West Hampstead, on the bridge over the railroad tracks. Well, they're finished now, and they're beautiful!

On the right side in the photo above are portraits by artist Zabou, including...

...John, our late used book vendor, and his dog Sugar. This is where they used to sit every day as John sold his books. I photographed them here a couple of times. You may remember John died last May, not too many months after Sugar.

I love the portraits, and I can't help but wonder what John would think if he could see them. When I gave him copies of the photos I'd taken, he said they were "pukka" or "a bonzer" -- but obviously these murals are on a whole different scale. They'd blow his mind.

Zabou also painted portraits of David and Amy. I don't know the backstory on these two, but the mural is supposedly meant to raise awareness of homelessness and the issues that homeless people face. So maybe they're somehow associated with that purpose. Amy's even got her coronavirus mask on, it looks like!

On the other side of the bridge are these words, which is the name of the project. The organizers are crowdfunding to help pay for the artists and their materials. I gave them a donation. I think these murals are a huge boost for the community.

In other news, I have to take a moment to mark the death of Larry Kramer. He was a giant in gay and AIDS activism when I was young, a guy who helped all of us find our voice and use it against the injustices of society and the government. To be honest, he always scared me a little -- he burned so fiercely with righteous anger.

When I saw a revival of his classic play "The Normal Heart" in New York, in 2004, I wrote this in my journal: "I'm kind of embarrassed to say I didn't like it -- in the gay world, that's a little like saying you don't like the Bible. But I don't go for Larry Kramer's brand of delivering a message -- all the anger, the yelling. I understand the source, but at this point it all seems somewhat dated. And I know it's dated partly because all that anger wrought change -- but Jesus, it's exhausting, being yelled at for 2 1/2 hours."

Sometimes, though -- like in the '80s, in Reagan's America -- you need someone angry to get the job done. RIP, Larry.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Children's Television and Repaying a Debt

Here's another of our foxgloves, grown from seed -- this one white! So now I have three colors of foxgloves from a single seed packet.

I worked in the garden yesterday and got our new plants in the ground. And then I went to the grocery store and bought yet another one, but this was purely a lifesaving measure. The plant, a blue lupine, needs some serious intensive care. Its main stalk was broken, the flower dead, the leaves withered and bent, and it was infested with aphids. It was originally priced at £17 (insane!) but I got it for £2.99. I brought it home, treated the aphids with soapy water, trimmed away the dead stuff and now we'll see what happens. If it survives it probably won't bloom until next season, assuming it overwinters successfully. It's a long-term project.

While at the grocery store, I indulged in more experimental shopping. I bought a package of pre-cooked Scottish mussels in white wine and cream sauce. We weren't initially certain that they were pre-cooked, and Dave thought they might kill us -- because how could live mussels survive in a sealed package with white wine and cream sauce? But I said, "Surely, if they're for sale at Waitrose, whoever packaged them knows what they're doing." And then we read the fine print, and yes: pre-cooked. We ate them last night as an appetizer and they were fantastic. I'd buy them again. (Our Santa Claus melon was excellent too, I'm happy to report.)

Remember those cans of baked beans I took from the food donation box at school? You'll be happy to know I'm making good on that debt. I assembled two "essential food parcels," each containing about £20 worth of canned and non-perishable goods, which I am donating to a food drive for people who are self-isolating and unable to shop. They're supposed to be picked up tomorrow.

While sitting on our garden bench I saw a little ladybug (ladybird) larva wandering aimlessly across the wood. I put it on the borage behind the bench, where there are lots of aphids. It's the first larva I've seen this season.

I sat out reading, catching up on the unstoppable avalanche of New Yorkers coming through our letterbox. One contained an excellent article about the origins and significance of the children's TV show "Sesame Street," which first aired 51 years ago. I was part of that first Sesame generation. My mom said she sat me down in front of the TV -- I had just turned three -- and I was absolutely enthralled. She knew it would be a success, based on my reaction. (She went to high school with Jim Henson, although she didn't really know him. That might be why the show was on her radar.)

And speaking of children's television, Dave and I watched "It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood," a movie based on a magazine writer's assignment to profile Mr. Rogers, last night. We enjoyed it. We're trying to catch up on recent movies and finding that a lot of them are becoming available to stream. We watched the most recent "Star Wars" (meh) and the excellent "Bombshell," about the Ailes-harassed women of Fox News. "Misbehaviour" is still on our list, as is "Parasite," which becomes available June 1 through Curzon online cinema.

Several weeks ago, just as this whole coronavirus thing was beginning, I had a consultation with my doctor. He wanted me to get a blood test and some other tests, but I delayed them all to stay out of the COVID-19 fray. I recently scheduled the blood test, finally, and I was supposed to go yesterday. But I still feel uneasy about walking into the Royal Free Hospital -- the belly of the viral beast -- for something so non-essential. So I cancelled it. I'm going to wait a while longer.

Above are our skylovers, a type of pimpernel -- we're down to just one little plant, from the original five, but it's lasted four years now! Pretty impressive for something that's usually grown as an annual.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Sunny Day Face Shield

Here's a much better "busy park" photo than the one in my last post. This is Golders Hill Park, where Olga and I walked yesterday on our outing to Hampstead Heath. Everyone seems to be hungry for sunshine, and the Bank Holiday weather did not disappoint -- we had a warm day with wide blue sky and barely any clouds.

I didn't mind the crowds, because it's a big park and I felt like there was adequate space -- although the sidewalks were pretty packed. At least we weren't as bad off as Botany Bay in Kent, where you may remember I went metal detecting a few months ago -- apparently it was crammed with holiday visitors. (I suspect other beaches were too.)

Before Olga and I walked, I worked in the garden. I finally pulled the plug on our forget-me-nots. It's always hard to know when to clear them out, but they were looking seedy and ragged so they went. I also did a general weeding of our central flower bed, which was long overdue. I discovered plants we'd forgotten we had, including two tiny hollyhocks that had been buried among all the forget-me-nots.

I mowed the lawn, washed our bedsheets and another load of laundry, and went to the grocery store. Whew!

The highlight of the day was definitely the Heath walk, where Olga got so hot she opened her panting mouth as wide as possible. When she does this, Dave always jokes that we can see straight through her, right down her gullet and out the back door, so to speak. Kind of like a shotgun house.

Anyway, she got a bit draggy until we got to the pond on Sandy Heath...

...where she had a revitalizing swim. After that, she was fine.

On the walk home, we paused in front of Rumah Malaysia, the Malaysian high commissioner's house in Hampstead, where the sign cast a reflection like a swirl of golden smoke.

I took this photo in front of the grocery store. I was amused by the guy in front of me, in his full-face plastic shield and yarn mittens. But no mask, curiously! I'm not sure how valuable that shield is by itself, but if it makes him feel better, no harm done.

Once again I picked up a couple of plants at the store -- a nicotiana and a reddish foxglove, a color I've never seen. I usually get annoyed with Dave for buying so many plants, given that we struggle to find places to put them -- and now that he's isolating and I'm the grocery shopper, I'm doing it!

Monday, May 25, 2020

Poppies, Thistles and a Bank Holiday

Our self-seeded oriental poppy (above) opened yesterday morning, and already the bees are buzzing madly. (Do bees get an opium high from poppies?) We were surprised that the flower is orange. The oriental poppies we grew a few years ago were red. I have no idea where this seed came from! Judging from the hairy buds below this blossom, there are at least two more flowers on the way.

Another of our field poppies opened, too.

The first blossom on our love-in-a-mist, or nigella, has appeared.

Dave bought these crimson brook thistles a few years ago. Last year they didn't do much, but this year they finally sent up stalks and bloomed.

Here's another plant rescue success story. When Mrs. Kravitz threw out some of her plants a few months ago (and I saved the jade plant) I also picked up a dried knot of fern knuckles from the gutter in front of her house. It had fallen out of her yard waste bag. And when I say dry I mean dry.

We put it in a pot and later in the ground, and it didn't do anything for a while. We thought it might be dead, but it wasn't decomposing, so we left it alone. And yesterday we noticed a tiny fiddlehead is finally uncurling.

The roses are looking good, too -- as are Olga's belly spots! You can see a couple of burdock plants beneath the roses, which I grew from seed last spring. They're quite impressive plants with those big leaves.

It's a bank holiday weekend in Britain, and the weather is nice, so the crowds have been out and about. I took Olga to Fortune Green and the cemetery yesterday, and we saw dozens of people. I tried to take a pano shot of Fortune Green to show how crowded it was. Because of the camera perspective it's hard to tell, but there are about 70 people in that picture. And Fortune Green is a small park!

Sunday, May 24, 2020


It was crazy windy yesterday -- we'd periodically get gusts that would knock over plants on the patio, and for one brief moment (about four minutes) we actually had RAIN! Which we haven't seen in quite a while. But it wasn't enough to matter and Dave and I had to tote our hose and watering cans around the garden as usual.

I sat out on our garden bench amid the swirling trees and finished "Amnesty," Aravind Adiga's newest novel about an illegal immigrant living in Australia. He has information about a murder -- will he go to the police, thus revealing himself to the authorities, or will he continue to live silently underground in Sydney, potentially allowing the murderer to walk free? It was a good book.

I walked Olga in the morning, and you know the expression "dumb as a box of hammers"? Well, I found an actual box of hammers. Or at least a couple of hammers. In a box.

Actually, more of a suitcase. It was sitting by a trash bin, and of course I opened it up and found it jammed with stuff -- old picture frames, cans of petrified shoe polish, bits of yellowed paper. Amid all that stuff were these:

I grabbed 'em. I think they're handmade, judging by the slightly irregular metal heads, and perhaps quite old. When I showed them to Dave, he said, "Oh, those will come in handy!" And I thought, "You can't USE my vintage handmade hammers to pound nails!"

But of course that's silly. They're hammers. They'll be fine.

(Top photo: A street scene on my walk to work last week.)

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Architectural Details

There's a house I pass on my walk to work -- a sort of Boo Radley-ish place, with peeling paint, a weedy garden and a generally unkempt air. Over the doorway to the front porch is a stained glass window, and for ages I have wondered what this window looks like. From the street, of course, you can't really tell -- it's like looking at a stained glass window in an unlit church from the outside. Everything looks mostly black.

Yesterday morning, knowing it was my last day of walking to work and thus my last opportunity to check it out, I walked right up onto the porch and took a picture of it. I tried not to be too surreptitious, because I didn't want to look creepy or suspicious, but I also tried to be as silent as possible. If Boo Radley ever knew I was there, hopefully he didn't mind.

I also took a picture of some beautiful old tiles on the outside of a vacant restaurant. Like the building around the corner from us, this is another never-ending renovation. This place has been closed and under construction ever since we moved to West Hampstead in 2014. As far as I can tell, one older guy -- presumably the building owner -- is doing all the work. At least he hasn't demolished the tile.

I braved the grocery store the other day. Dave is amused by my shopping because I sometimes buy random stuff we've never tried before. I just like to experiment. I came home with a green, oblong melon on this most recent outing. "What kind is it?" Dave asked. "I have no idea," I said. (I've since come to believe it is a Santa Claus melon, known in Spanish by the somewhat unappetizing name of piel de sapo, or "toadskin." We haven't tried it yet.)

I also bought some Cornish sardines, packaged with a parsley sauce. Not like little canned sardines -- these were fresh and much bigger, more like a good-sized carrot. Anyway, Dave made them for dinner last night, and we're not a huge fans. They tasted OK, but they're bony little devils.

We watched the movie "Moffie," a South African flick about a young gay man conscripted into the military in the early 1980s. (As apparently all South African men were at the time.) It was a good movie, but fairly hair-raising in places.

Friday, May 22, 2020

A New Mural

As I walked home from work last night I saw that we're getting a new mural in West Hampstead, on the bridge over the Thameslink railroad tracks. "Through arts we rise," it looks like?  I saw someone painting this wall black the other day but I thought they were just sprucing it up -- I didn't realize the black would be a backdrop for something more colorful. Anyway, I'll show you the finished product when it's complete!

Work was uneventful. I spent the whole day weeding the fiction section. We have so many books checked out right now that we joked we should just throw all the rest away, since clearly no one wants to read them. I'm not going that far, obviously, but I'm finishing the weeding project I started last fall.

Olga fared well with the dog-walker yesterday and she's been sleeping soundly all evening and even this morning -- which is a good sign. Like a small child, she's much happier and easier to manage when she works off some energy!

When I walked her yesterday morning, I found a set of dog steps with a "free" sign on them outside someone's house. We'd talked about getting some for Olga. She normally doesn't need them (yet) but she sometimes has trouble getting up on the bed by herself after a long walk. Problem solved! I brought them home and ran the fabric cover through the washing machine. She hasn't quite got the hang of them.

Here's my newest plant resuscitation project. The Christmas cactus in the library is many years old, and it's become quite brittle. You may remember that a chunk of it broke off last fall, and I brought home the pieces and rooted them (top plant above). Well, our maintenance staff moved all the plants in the school to one location where they could easily be watered, and the other day I noticed that another chunk broke off the cactus in that transition. So now I'm rooting those pieces (bottom plant above). Assuming they survive I'll take them back to the library in the fall.

That's also assuming we reconvene for school as usual, which is a big assumption. I talked with my co-workers yesterday (via Zoom) and we're not sure what library services are going to look like in the fall. Given that we're normally a big gathering space where objects are handled by many people, we need to make some significant changes to keep everybody safe and well.

Today is my last workday of this school year. We have a few more weeks of (online) school left, but I'm going to be furloughed during that time. My co-worker will come into the library in coming weeks and work just as I have been, but it turns out we're not going to check out more books before summer break because the school doesn't want a lot of people browsing shelves and lingering on campus. So whatever people checked out in March is what they're stuck with through August!

As Dave and I had our gin & tonics in the garden yesterday evening, we heard a noisy parakeet in one of the trees overhead. It took us a long time to find it among the leaves. It blends in really well, doesn't it? I'm hearing them now, too, swooping and squawking in the early morning.

Thursday, May 21, 2020


I don't have a whole lot for you today -- just another picture of our sage, which is blooming much more fully than it was in the last shot I posted. We had so much trouble getting this plant launched a couple of years ago, but fortunately it seems fine now that it lives in a pot on the patio, protected from slugs.

I "worked from home" again yesterday, although honestly I didn't do much of anything because there wasn't much to do. Let's just say it was not a productive day. I couldn't even get the dog walked. Same old story: She was all excited when I suggested it, and ran to get her Kong. But when I put her on her leash and we went out the front door, she dug in with all four feet and wouldn't even descend the steps. Who knows why?

The dog-walkers will try their luck with her today. They'll have her out a couple of hours this afternoon, and every weekday afternoon going forward. I'll still walk her in the mornings (if she'll let me!) and of course she'll be with us all day otherwise so you'll still see plenty of her.

Speaking of dogs, this old photo popped up on my Facebook feed the other day. A blast from the past! You may remember Ernie, one of our old boxers, who died more than eight years ago. In this photo he was sleeping on my Zen meditation cushion in our apartment in New Jersey, in 2010, I believe. God, that seems like a lifetime ago. Ernie and Ruby, our other boxer, were great dogs!

Ernie's pose captures my mood. That's exactly how I feel.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Let's Look Out

I pass this deli on my walks to work. Normally it's a bustling place, but of course it's shut down now because of the coronavirus, its windows covered with newspaper. The posters in the side windows caught my eye: "Be kind. Let's look out for one another."

I did make it in to the office yesterday, and I finished a project I was working on for one of the librarians -- a list of Middle School historical fiction, grouped by the time and place where the story is set. This was prompted by a parent who wanted fiction set in certain time periods and certain locations. It was a harder project than I'd anticipated, partly because there's a lot of historical fiction on our shelves, from books set in prehistory (like Michelle Paver's "Chronicles of Ancient Darkness" series) to those set in the relatively recent past (Jane Smiley's "A Good Horse," set in the 1960s). I guess it all depends on what you count as history.

I tried to eliminate anything based too much on magic, fantasy or legend (although now that I read about those Paver books, they're pretty magical). No King Arthur, no Robin Hood, no dragons. But admittedly, the line is vague.

I found this peculiar and somewhat amusing cigarette package on my walk home. I think it's a Belarusian brand. I assume that thumbs-down photograph is an impotence warning? Clearly it didn't stop someone from smoking the whole pack.

Olga's dog walkers contacted me yesterday and said they're ready to crank up their business again. For the past few months I've been walking her almost every day, and while it's been fun, I've seen a little too much of the cemetery. I'm ready to hand off weekday responsibility to someone else, and in turn contribute a little more to the local economy.

My hope is that not having the dog as my focus, I can get out and do more photography around town and more exploring -- though I'm still somewhat restricted because I'm not yet using public transportation. We'll see!

Tuesday, May 19, 2020


I had every intention of going to work yesterday, but when the time came for me to leave the house I was waiting for a load of laundry to finish. So I e-mailed my boss and told her I'd be in later than usual but until then I'd work from home.

I got to work on a project and, a few hours later, I was still at home and got to thinking that if I went to work now, I'd have to scrounge up lunch. Which would be a pain. So I stayed home until after lunch, and by then, of course, it seemed silly to walk all the way to work for a few hours of presence in an empty library. So I finally e-mailed the boss and said I'd just work from home the rest of the day.

"Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin' into the future," as Steve Miller and his band famously sang.

Fortunately I got quite a bit of work done -- in addition to some garden photography! See the hoverfly on one of our dianthus flowers, above?

One of our self-seeded poppies has bloomed -- the first poppy of the season! We have several poppy plants and all of them came from seeds that sowed themselves last year. I love poppies and how fertile and persistent they are.

Our borage is still blooming, as well as carrying big stalks of hairy seed pods. We'll probably have about a million borage plants next year.

Our blue iris sent up its first blossoms, too. I cleared a lot of ivy from that part of the flower bed a few months ago, so the irises are getting a lot more light and air, which hopefully make them happier.

All in all, it was a very domestic day. I did a little bit of reading and, of course, walked the dog. We only walked around the neighborhood, and I saw that the cyclamens outside a closed shop on the corner and the primroses in a pot on the steps of the tennis club were so dry they were just barely hanging on. I filled a watering can and carried it back around the corner to "water other people's plants," as I told Dave. I am a busybody! But I'm helping these businesses, right, that are closed during the coronavirus? That's what I tell myself, anyway.

Now, today, I really will go to work. I gotta take advantage of this opportunity to get out of the house!

Monday, May 18, 2020

In the Long Grass

The grass in the cemetery is long and lush, providing perfect cover for the great squirrel hunter!

(Not that she caught anything, or even came close.)

There were tons of people out yesterday. I counted more than 20 -- plus their dogs -- visiting the small field in the back of the cemetery. Olga and I often have it to ourselves, maybe with one or two others, but this time it was like a convention. People are definitely taking advantage of our new Lockdown Lite.

Kind of like Saturday on the Heath, where I saw lots of people picnicking. It's funny how the rules loosen and the first thing everybody does is pack a picnic lunch. When we have good weather in England, we need to seize the moment!

Some officials in other parts of the UK say they're not ready to lighten the restrictions and they're rebelling against the idea of sending kids back to school (which for certain grades is supposed to happen June 1). I guess the same is true in the states, where local governments differ on appropriate rules. It's hard to know what's right.

I saw this interesting plaque on a headstone yesterday. My first thought was that it looked vaguely Mayan, with all the elaborate ornamentation -- but I believe it's actually a representation of the Polish icon known as Our Lady of Czestochowa.

As I've said before, on every trip to the cemetery, I find something new.

I repaired a broken flowerpot Saturday morning and it was a comedy of errors. I used a tube of super glue called Gorilla Glue -- the kind of tube where you puncture the tip and then screw on a little nozzle to apply the glue. Well, when I made the puncture, the glue gushed out and before I knew it, both the tube and the flowerpot were stuck to my hands! And let me tell you, that stuff is strong. I lost a layer of skin detaching myself, and spent the rest of the day picking reptilian scales of dried Gorilla Glue off my fingers.

The flowerpot's fixed, though, and now it's holding some nasturtium seedlings -- they sprouted on their own in our garden, children of the nasturtiums of past seasons.

(Those are not nasturtiums above, though. They're wild geraniums at the cemetery.)

Today I'm headed back to work for one final week. Now that inventory's finished I don't have as much to do, but I'll come up with something.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Passing Strangers

Olga was bursting with energy yesterday. She took me to the cemetery in the early morning, which we never do. It was a great time to go because we were virtually the only people there. Then, after I spent several hours doing some minor gardening and finishing my latest Tana French novel, she was quivering again, barely able to contain her excitement that midday walk-time was near.

I think this is because she spent the week with Dave, who doesn't typically walk her. (Especially now that he's isolating at home, being vulnerable to coronavirus.) She'd built up a reserve of unreleased energy.

So we went on our West Heath walk, where we had two funny encounters. As we walked down a dirt road through the forest, I looked up a hill to the right and saw a man kneeling on a footpath. He appeared to be struggling to stand. "Are you OK?" I called to him -- wondering how I could help him while still staying socially distant. He had evidently been tripped by vegetation.

"A bramble got me," he said. "But I have a penknife in my pocket, and it's about to die."

Later on, a woman passed us walking her own dog. Not quite looking at me, she said, "Blah blah blah blah full blah blah."

I thought, "Is she talking to me?" By this time she'd passed me so I turned around and she turned back and said, more clearly this time, "There's a poo bin over there, but it's usually full." She pointed to the left.

Only then did I realize that Olga's Kong toy, which I was carrying in a green plastic dog poo bag, looked like a massive turd worthy of a Great Dane.

"Oh!" I said. "This is her toy! I just carry it in this bag!" I pulled out the Kong and we laughed.

While on the West Heath I found another old milk bottle. Only an edge of the bottom was protruding from the path, so I began scratching around it with my house key -- a laborious process, to say the least, because the dry ground was hard as a rock. Eventually this emerged -- a small, heavyish bottle labeled United Dairies.

United Dairies hasn't been around since 1959, when it merged with another firm to form Unigate. Pretty cool, huh? It has been added to the windowsill.

Dave and I are watching an excellent series on Amazon called 'Tales from the Loop." It's very strange -- kind of retro but also otherworldly, a little like "Stranger Things." We really like it.

Every once in a while I think I'm getting a whiff of rat, but I might be making it up.

(Top photos: Neighborhood doors, both the original photo and the Waterlogue version.)