Monday, November 30, 2020

Music in the Woods

Olga and I went on a long walk yesterday through Hampstead and the Heath. The weather was gray and there were (again) tons of people out, but we had a good time.

For Olga, of course, this meant chasing squirrels up trees and barking at them frantically. Here she's jumping down after doing her best to scale the trunk of that gnarled old oak. She has never absorbed the fact that she can't climb like the squirrels can.

When we first arrived on the Heath, I heard distant music. As we walked we came upon two people playing a saxophone and a trumpet.

I didn't want to get too close and intrude. They were both really good. I made an audio recording too. I deliberately did it from some distance away so you could hear the music blending with the ambient sounds of the Heath, just as I heard it while walking:

The sax at the beginning is very faint, but the trumpet comes in clearer. I apologize for the impatiently barking Olga.

Now that the leaves have mostly fallen, we had a pretty good view of Witanhurst and, beyond it, St. Michael's Church in Highgate. Witanhurst is a huge mansion -- the largest private home in London, second only to Buckingham Palace (which I suppose isn't really private). It was built about a hundred years ago by a wealthy industrialist whose family lived there until the mid 1960's. It then passed through a string of owners including Syria's ruling Assad family before being sold to a mysterious buyer in 2008. It has since been renovated and expanded -- because why be merely huge when you could be IMMENSE -- and was the subject of a fascinating article a few years ago in The New Yorker. (The secretive buyer, it turns out, is a Russian oligarch. No surprise there.)

Olga eventually reached a point when she preferred to lie on the grass and watch the squirrels rather than chase them -- but she still wasn't ready to go home by the end of our walk. So we made another short loop through the woods before I finally coaxed her home.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

A Rainbow Of Sorts


When I was walking home from my photo outing on Friday, I found this damp piece of note paper on the sidewalk -- someone's marker doodle, washing out in the rain. It's just one piece of paper, but you see both sides above. I like the symmetrical effect, complete with grit from the street.

Getting those two images to appear side-by-side in New Blogger turned out to be no mean feat. I followed the instructions on this page, which involved dipping into the HTML code. Then I had to tweak the photo sizes and dimensions until I got something close to what I wanted. It wasn't difficult, but it was fiddly, and it's still not ideal -- I don't know why there's so much empty space above and below the images. It looks passable on my computer; I hope it also works on a phone or tablet.

Yesterday was pretty low-key. I've been debating what to do with our canna lilies over winter. They need some protection, and I briefly brought them inside, but they're big and tattered and I think they also need to die back and have a dormant period. So I put them back out. I'll wait for a frost to nip back the leaves, and then I'll cut them back and put the pots in the shed for a couple of months. Fingers crossed.

Dave and I took Olga to the cemetery together, which doesn't happen all that often. (Dave, you will recall, isn't crazy about dog walks – or any walks, really.)

Olga knows that if Dave is going to throw her Kong, she first has to give him her paw. It's just part of their routine.

At last!

While walking in the cemetery we found a nice enameled iron Le Creuset pot beneath one of the spigots, I guess for dogs to drink from. Had I been alone, I would have grabbed it for Dave and substituted some less luxurious vessel – the dogs don't care, after all – but he said he didn't want it. I was shocked! I bet it won't be there long. It's probably gone by now.

Speaking of the cemetery, remember the stained glass windows? Well, I wrote the cemetery managers last week and asked if there's some way I can gain access to the chapel to photograph them. We'll see if they respond.

Last night I had the weirdest experience. We were watching an old episode of "Unsolved Mysteries" from the '90s, and the subject was a murder case from my hometown, Tampa. All of a sudden, on the screen, was a friend of mine, a reporter at the time for the big newspaper in the area. It was so weird to be sitting in London and see someone I know well, looking like they did 25 years ago, on my television! I took a picture of the screen and shot her a note on Facebook, saying, "Look what just popped up on my TV!" We had a good laugh about it.

Finally, some of you asked for Dave's pumpkin pie recipe. He referred me to this YouTube video, which includes a link to the recipe below it. Apparently that's the one he's been following. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 28, 2020

The Old Bell

I finally got motivated to take a little photo walk yesterday -- not far, just down through Kilburn. I've never been to this pub, and although it looks a little rough around the edges, I'm reliably informed that it's a pretty good place. Unfortunately it's closed now, as all pubs are.

Supposedly when we emerge in a few days from this second lockdown, we'll be in Tier 2 of the government's categories for coronavirus control. Restaurants and pubs that serve meals will reopen, but pubs and bars that don't will stay closed. There are also rules about households mixing but Dave and I have basically suspended all socializing, so no worries there.

Anyway, it was fun to get out and walk around.

I feel like this person might not understand what fascism means. Isn't it right-wing by definition? I think they're talking about authoritarian communism. So many "-isms."

Last night we had our Thanksgiving dinner -- duck a l'orange, with potato and spinach and homemade pumpkin pie. I am thankful that Dave knows how to cook! (And also for our dishwasher.)

Friday, November 27, 2020

Teasels, TV Nostalgia and Kong

Back in the spring, I mentioned three teasels that sprouted of their own accord in our lawn. At the time they were just little things with a few leaves, but as you can see, they've become monstrous. I can't wait to see what they look like when they bloom, which surely will happen next year. The ones I planted have grown too, but they're not as big as these.

Teasels are basically weeds, but I like them. Not only do they feed birds, but they're virtually guaranteed to grow. Stick 'em in the ground and off they go.

We had a ridiculously low-key Thanksgiving. Dave went off to the dentist at 9 a.m. for his root canal and was gone all morning. Olga and I spent the time in the garden, me clearing and trimming and Olga playing jungle dog amid the bare sticks of the flower bed.

I threw out several of our sadder potted plants, including our African daisy, which is looking lanky and spindly and pretty terrible. But when I pulled it out of the pot I saw that it was root-bound, and I felt lingering guilt. Maybe it would bounce back in a bigger pot? So I retrieved it from the garden waste bag and repotted it. We'll give it another year.

I also weeded our patio -- a bit ironic since just yesterday I was singing the praises of weeds. But they do have to be kept a bit in check, don't they? The biggest challenge there is Mexican fleabane, which constantly threatens to take over.

Later in the morning I watched the movie "An Early Frost," with Aidan Quinn, Gena Rowlands and Ben Gazzara, on YouTube. It aired on network TV way back in 1985, and it made an impression on me then as one of the first films to deal openly with homosexuality and the AIDS crisis. I hadn't yet come out at the time, but I knew I was gay and I knew AIDS was something I was going to deal with one way or another in my life – a terrifying disease that at that point was only barely understood and inevitably fatal. It's a well-made movie and not as sad I'm making it sound -- it's ultimately more about living with AIDS than dying from it. Anyway, I was happy to find the film online.

(There's another movie from that time period called "Family Business," which aired on an episode of American Playhouse and starred Milton Berle, that I'd also like to see. Berle played a dying patriarch and business owner with three sons, one of whom -- played by Jeffrey Marcus -- was gay. That movie made an impression too, but unfortunately, I can't find "Family Business" anywhere online. I've looked for it for years with no luck.)

Dave came home around lunchtime, a bit numb but not in too much pain, and we Zoomed with my mom and brother in mid-afternoon. My mom was being zany, laughing and making faces at the camera. Because of her dementia I'm not sure how much she follows in any given conversation, but at least I got to see her. The experience was depressing, honestly. She is so not herself these days. The Mom I know is sensible, practical, intelligent and emotionally reserved, and this Mom is downright giddy. But at least she seems happy. Things could be so much worse.

Finally, Dave announced that he didn't feel like cooking, and I could hardly press someone who'd had a root canal into service in the kitchen. (And if I cooked we'd be eating peanut butter.) So we ordered take-away. I had a turkey reuben sandwich – and it's honestly only just occurring to me now that at least I got some turkey.

At the risk of overburdening you with dog videos, here's one showing Olga chasing her Kong in the garden. You have to endure about 30 seconds of me commanding/begging her to drop it before I can actually throw it, but this is our usual routine. She has to feel like she's in charge. And she is.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Some Hardy Flowers

Not much news on this Thanksgiving day, since I spent yesterday mostly reading on the couch. I did get out and take some pictures in the garden, where a few hardy plants are still blooming, like the plectranthus (above) that Mrs. Kravitz discarded back in the spring. We have three hanging baskets full of them. I have no idea what we'll do with them in the winter, if anything. We may let them meet a natural end, but they've been pretty all summer.

This was a bird nest inhabited in the spring by dunnocks, in our forsythia bush. It no longer has the bowl shape that dunnock nests are supposed to have -- I don't know whether a predator tore it up or it naturally fell apart after it served its purpose. We did see young dunnocks flitting around, so I think some chicks survived and fledged.

Some of our primroses are still blooming, although they're also looking a little moth-eaten. The squirrels dug up one of my favorites, a bright magenta one. I'm trying to save it but who knows. (Primroses are a dime a dozen in the spring so I can always get more!)

Finally, that Chinese lantern plant I bought a month ago has died back -- hopefully to regrow in the spring. There's also a borage plant and a purple verbena in this pot that sprouted from seed. Many of our pots are like this -- all kinds of stuff growing in them. I'm not a big believer in weeding, because sometimes those "weeds" do interesting things.

Dave and I watched "Hillbilly Elegy" on Netflix last night. The movie's gotten a bad rap, but I thought it was pretty good. The book, by J.D. Vance, had a sociological side, talking not just about the author's life but about the regional issues facing many of his friends and neighbors. The movie is more strictly autobiographical, but there's footage of the shuttered shops and factories in his rather desperate little town which is surely meant to convey the wider issues. I suppose the movie could be branded classist and elitist – "redneck" lifestyle porn produced by interlopers from New York and California – but it's also Vance's story, and he's credited in its production, so that seems to weaken that argument. It's well-acted, although poor Amy Adams mostly screams and cries – she must have been exhausted when the filming was over. Anyway, I didn't think it was bad.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020


I shot this picture on our walk home from work last night. There's a pedestrian bridge right next to the West Hampstead tube station, and with two trains in the station and a spectacular sunset it gave me a nice view. The bridge is enclosed in heavy wire fencing, so I can never get a decent picture with my normal camera -- the grid of the fence gets in the way. The lens of the iPhone is so small, though, that I can shoot through it.

Can you see how few people are on the train platform? Normally it would be bustling, but I think many people (like us) are still avoiding public transportation.

Yesterday was insane at work. I was running all day, fetching books and checking them out and delivering them to classrooms. We had English classes coming in to hear book talks by the librarian; there were Spanish classes checking out Spanish-language novels; there were middle school kids stocking up on holiday reading. At the end of the day I ran a report showing 467 "circulations" which is huge for one day.

I found a little post-it note doodle in a returned book that seemed to accurately describe my state of mind:

So that's why I didn't comment on anyone's blog or respond to comments here. Just too much insanity. I'll try to catch up today.

Dave and I are now off for the remainder of the week. Woo hoo! Poor Dave has some dental procedures scheduled -- including a root canal on Thanksgiving day, which has to be the most depressing holiday plan I've heard from anyone. But since we're not eating a big feast it's a good time to do it, I suppose!

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

More Pants

I took this picture shortly after 4 p.m. You'd think it was midnight! Ah, winter. I first photographed this pair of shops several years ago when there was a little take-away restaurant on the left side called Uncle Pink. A peculiar name, but not as peculiar as Uncle Wrinkle.

As you can see, I have nothing much to blog about today.

I forgot to tell you one of the main reasons I took the dog for a long midday walk on Sunday. Dave was home working on some musical arrangements, and he'd left his headphones at school. The piece he was arranging was what we often think of as can-can music, though it's officially known as the "Infernal Galop" by Jacques Offenbach. Well, I could only listen to so much can-can. I had to get out of the house.

As I've mentioned before, his students aren't allowed to play their usual wind instruments because of Covid, so the band is working with something called boomwhackers -- long colorful tubes that produce a note when they're hit on a surface. It's kind of like playing handbells, except not nearly as delicate. Playing can-can music on boomwhackers sounds like a heck of a workout, but I guess kids have a lot of energy. Some of them are playing drums, too.

Oh, and remember how I said my new pants (trousers to you British folks) arrived on Saturday? Well, I wore a pair to work yesterday, where I was surprised to find a package on my desk containing another two pairs of pants from Land's End. I guess when I called them about my postcode mixup they sent a replacement order! So now I have four pairs for the price of two. I told Dave I felt guilty and wondered if I should call and pay for the extras, but Dave said, "Don't you DARE!"

Monday, November 23, 2020

Reflection With Big Face

Here's a self-portrait for you -- Olga and I on our walk yesterday, passing this kitchen fixtures shop on Finchley Road. It's kind of a weird place, with that sculptural face in the window, which as far as I can tell is purely a design element with no connection to what the shop actually sells. I love the layers in photos like this -- it's hard to tell what's in the shop and what's across the street.

That was on our way to the Heath, where we had a relatively uneventful two-and-a-half-hour walk.

Here's Olga, barking at me: "STOP TAKING PICTURES!"

You wouldn't know it from that photo, but the Heath was pretty crowded. It was a nice day with sunshine and intermittent blue skies, so I should not have been surprised.

Otherwise, it was a day of domestic duties: vacuuming, cleaning the bathrooms and the kitchen, watering plants, that kind of thing. I got the dahlias tucked away in their compost for the winter, so that job is done.

Did you see that the novel "Shuggie Bain," about a boy growing up in Scotland, won the Booker Prize? By coincidence I'd bought a copy at our local bookshop just a week or so before the prize was announced, and though I haven't read it yet, I'm going to give my copy to the library so we'll have one available. I'll get around to it eventually. I've been so distracted from reading lately -- I haven't even cracked the covers of "The Pickwick Papers," which has been on deck as my next novel for a couple of weeks now, and I've got David Sedaris' new book, too. Plus several others. Plus my New Yorkers. Argh!

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Cemetery Windows

Yesterday I took Olga to Hampstead Cemetery for a walk, and the windows of the chapel buildings were cracked open. The chapels are always locked -- to my knowledge they're completely inaccessible to the public -- but I could see through those cracks little hints of the stained glass inside.

The Bible verse is from Luke, anticipating the birth of John the Baptist: "Thou shall call his name John. And thou shall have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord."

Perhaps that's John himself in the window above.

According to the building's historic listing, the windows are by J. Dudley Forsyth of Hampstead. The structures themselves (which I've photographed many times) are from 1875-76.

They look like interesting windows, depicting angels with bright red feathery wings. I'd love to get in and see them in their entirety. There aren't even any pictures online that I can find.

Anyway, we had a good walk, and I got lots of gardening done yesterday too. I trimmed back more dead stuff, cut down our bean vine, and...

...lifted most of the dahlia tubers. I'll put them in some soft dry compost and overwinter them in our garden shed. I didn't lift one dahlia -- the pink one -- because it still has green leaves, but all the others had already died back naturally for winter.

I left the tubers sitting out on the lawn after I lifted them, hoping to dry them out a bit before storage, but I was scared the squirrels would get them! Eventually I moved them to a safer space in the shed.

Remember the pants I ordered from Land's End and had sent to school, only to realize I'd given our home postcode by mistake? Well, somehow Land's End got the problem sorted and the pants came to us here at home. So that problem is solved and I finally have more than one pair of pants to wear to work.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Finding and Losing

It's already Christmas on the high street in West Hampstead! I took this yesterday morning while walking Olga. You can see how dark it is when we walk at about 6:30. There's just a hint of dawn on the horizon.

My boss lost one of her earrings yesterday at work -- a little jade leaf that her mother had given her. We all went into full-scale search-and-recovery mode, walking slowly around the library and crouching down to peer under tables and shelves. One of our teachers, who is of Pakistani descent, said a prayer that is supposed to help with the recovery of lost items. And then, after about half an hour, voila! Guess who found the earring? That's right -- eagle-eye Reed. It was lying right in the middle of the floor between two shelves. We mused about how all of us had searched that space before and none of us had seen it -- I think we were naturally inclined to search near furniture or around other obstacles, rather than right out in the open. It's a miracle none of us stepped on it.

On my way home from work I walked behind this man, whose sweatshirt amused me. I have no idea what "Against All Odds" is supposed to mean. I immediately thought of the Phil Collins song, and the movie it came from by the same name. When I started my freshman year in college, and had newly moved to the dorms, that song was on the radio all the time. I remember hearing it while lying by the pool, back when I did things like lie by pools, and while driving around in my '77 Pontiac Sunbird. I still have a soft spot for both the song and the movie, featuring a handsome Jeff Bridges and a stunning Rachel Ward and exotic locales in Mexico.

I'm sure that man's sweatshirt has nothing to do with any of that, but it sent me down a nostalgic rabbit hole.

We got some bad news from my brother in Jacksonville. Remember Queens, his dog, whose aggressive affection left me with scratches on my arms from her nibbly puppy teeth? Well, she broke two molars, and while treating her for those damaged teeth the vet discovered she had an aggressive form of lymphoma. She wasn't eating and was clearly unwell, so Queens is no longer with us. It's pretty shocking, considering she was less than four years old. This morning I re-watched the video we made last year with my Go Pro camera attached to her back. Poor crazy dog. My brother says the whole family is broken up about it.

Meanwhile, back in London, another annotation has appeared on the mural of our own deceased celebrity dog, Sugar... 

Friday, November 20, 2020


This is the flower of a Fatsia japonica growing at the back of our garden. Dave bought it several years ago and we weren't immediately sure what to do with it -- it lived in a pot for its first year but started looking yellow and peaked so, in desperation, we stuck it in the ground back by the shed. It has flourished there and now it's blooming up a storm.

The blossom reminds me of buttonbush, a wildflower from my home state of Florida. They used to grow wild at the lakefront where I grew up, and my brother and I called them "Sputniks." These are the English version, I guess. (Or Japanese, by way of England. Our globalized world!)

Yesterday was pretty quiet, for a change. I got a bunch of stuff done that's been on the back burner -- I finished another Newbery book, wrote my review and worked on some reading lists for the kids. The Newbery was called "Up a Road Slowly," from 1967, and I thought it was just OK, although some people on Goodreads have called it one of their favorites. It was written in a weirdly formal style and was vague in its setting, both time and place, which bugged me.

Here's our latest domestic conundrum. The cabinet door below our kitchen sink is sagging like crazy. It looks like it should be an easy fix, right? But it's not just a matter of tightening a screw -- there's something wrong with the hinge. I think it needs to be removed and re-anchored in the cabinet wall. It seems ridiculous to have to call a handyman, but both Dave and I have looked at it and we don't really know what to do. I may get in there this weekend with some Gorilla Glue and see if that solves the problem.

When in doubt, use Gorilla Glue. That's my motto.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Retail and Raking

I'm not sure my new "skull-shaver" device is going to work out. I've discovered that in the instruction book, we are warned in BIG CAPITAL LETTERS that we shouldn't use it to shave more than two days' worth of hair growth. In other words, if I use it, I have to shave my head every other day! I usually shave once every two weeks or so. I don't want to be a slave to my skull-shaver.

It's also not nearly as effective as a razor, which leaves my head completely smooth -- I'm still stubbly after I use the skull-shaver. Overall I'm not that impressed. But I'll continue to give it a chance and see how well I adjust.

In other adventures in retail, I bought two new pairs of chinos from Land's End. I am down to one pair of work pants, which I've been washing and wearing repeatedly for the last few weeks, and I really need a few more. They were supposed to arrive Saturday, but I got a text from the delivery company saying they'd tried to deliver them but I wasn't in. Well, that was a load of hooey because I was having them delivered to school, where there's always someone to accept a package. They didn't come Sunday or Monday either.

And then I realized I'd given Land's End the wrong postcode -- I gave the address for school but the postcode for our house. I called to correct the problem and they said they'd get the package relabeled, but I've heard nothing in the two days since and I suspect it's probably gone back to the retailer. I'll get the pants eventually, but what a hassle. Sigh.

When I got home from work yesterday, I had just enough daylight left (before it got dark at 4:30) to finally rake up all the leaves from our walnut tree and our Japanese maple. I piled them at the back of the garden, where they can break down on their own and hopefully provide some shelter for bugs and other critters over the winter. The dry walnut leaves smell really wonderful -- kind of spicy. I wish I could blog that smell so you could experience it.

On Netflix, Dave and I have finally finished "Borgen" and "The Queen's Gambit," both of which were excellent. Now, we've moved on to a BBC miniseries called "Roadkill" with Hugh Laurie, which we like -- but it's only four episodes, so we'll polish that off quickly. Then, on to "The Crown"!

The other day we watched "The Boys in the Band," which I enjoyed. (I'd meant to mention it but forgot until Ms. Moon reminded me.) It's a remake of a 1970 movie about gay men in New York -- which was itself based on a play. By our modern standards it seems a bit overwrought, but it was written when gay men faced tremendous discrimination and were still told by society that we were mentally ill. So as a product of its time, it's very effective.

It reminded me that back in 2009, when I lived in New York, I watched the original and realized it was filmed in my neighborhood!

(Photo: A lost stuffed animal in West Hampstead.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

There's Art in Everything

It's Wednesday and I have nothing to say that doesn't involve a school library, about a mid-November edition of randomly collected iPhone photos?

First, a rather mossy house number snapped on the way to Hampstead Heath. Moss grows like crazy at this damp time of year, but it looks kind of nice, too.

This is an Aston Martin, and as such is probably way too expensive to leave sitting out on the street collecting leaves.

A rather bizarre shelving unit left outside our local cafe, presumably for disposal. It bears the logo of a brand of pesto... a kind of funky '70s font.

Some rocks decorating a doorway in Hampstead. If it were my doorway I'd be tripping over them, which wouldn't make me smile.

Chrysanthemums at the cemetery -- much more colorful than that sorry one we had at our front door.

Food for thought from Calais, where there are camps of African and Middle Eastern migrants waiting to cross into the UK from Europe.  When I lived in Morocco in the early '90s, I used to hear similar thoughts from some of my Moroccan friends. My American roommate and I had a cat, and as she prepared to take it back to the States at the end of our two-year Peace Corps term, the Moroccans expressed amazement that the cat could easily travel to America but they couldn't.

Creative parking in St. John's Wood.

And finally, some kind of stiff plastic net packaging, standing on the sidewalk like a modern sculpture.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

HA and AM Remembered

The leaves on our blueberry bush have turned a beautiful array of yellows, oranges and purples. The bush itself grew a lot this year and Dave even collected a small harvest -- enough for maybe one bowl of cereal. Still, not so bad! It won't keep us alive in a post-Brexit food apocalypse, but it makes us feel more self-sufficient.

We were talking during our walk home from work yesterday about Thanksgiving. We're thinking we won't do a big feast this year. It seems kind of silly since it's just us. Dave might make something special but I am 100 percent certain it won't be a turkey. I asked my brother if we could set up a Zoom call with him and my mom, like we did on her birthday in July. I'd love to talk to them again, but Zooming with Mom requires someone at her retirement center to work the computer on her end, so it takes some planning.

I feel guilty that I haven't been more in touch with my mom, but it's hard. She has dementia, as I've said here before, and although she sometimes answers her phone, she can't really talk much. She mostly just laughs at everything. I rarely call her because it's so uncomfortable, and my brother is certain she doesn't remember it even when I do. But at least on a video call we could see each other, which would perhaps help ground the experience for her. It's been more than a year since I was able to visit her. Covid has stolen all of 2020 away from us.

When I was on Hampstead Heath on Sunday I saw this carving way up in a tree -- about 15 feet off the ground, I'd say. Maybe it was lower when it was first carved? Or did HA and/or AM climb into the tree way back in 1960 to memorialize themselves and their couplehood? I previously blogged another carving by the same people. Vandals!

I read a fascinating news story yesterday -- a transgendered man, who was born female, stopped his hormone treatments long enough to begin menstruating again and became pregnant. After giving birth, he's gone back on hormone therapy and now wants to be legally recognized as the baby's father. It's all kind of head-spinning, but anyway, apparently he lost that battle in court. My question is, why do birth certificates need to name fathers and mothers? Can't they just name parents? Do the parents have to be gendered?

Also, Boris Johnson, who is now self-isolating along with several other government officials because of a potential Covid exposure in a meeting last week, described himself as "bursting with antibodies" and "fit as a butcher's dog." That cracked me up. I don't particularly like his politics, but he is a character.

Monday, November 16, 2020


The rain finally stopped yesterday morning, leaving the ground muddy and the puddles deep. Olga and I set out for a slippery walk on the Heath.

The Lulu Trees have lost nearly all their leaves. It seemed to happen so suddenly -- I swear they were green just a few weeks ago.

I interacted with far more people than usual on this walk. First, I ran into a couple of my co-workers -- a married couple -- out for a stroll.

A short time later, a Polish woman waved me down and said she'd found what appeared to be a lost dog. She pointed it out -- an aged Yellow Lab -- and indeed it seemed to be wandering aimlessly in the woods. If a dog can look worried, it did. I approached it slowly and grabbed its collar, and read the tag, which said, "Codie -- If I am alone, I am lost! Please call" and gave a phone number. (Clearly this has happened before.)

So I called, and a man answered and said his wife was on the Heath with the dog, but he couldn't reach her because she'd left her phone at home. As he prepared to come and find me himself, I suggested to the Polish woman that we take Codie up onto the road that runs through Sandy Heath, where we'd be more visible and perhaps her owner would see us. And indeed, a few minutes later, a young guy showed up -- the son of the man on the phone -- and reclaimed poor bewildered Codie.

Olga, meanwhile, barked like mad through this entire ordeal. The fact that we'd stopped to help a random dog annoyed her to no end.

A short time later, another dog approached Olga and as they gave each other a sniff, Olga dropped her tennis ball. The other dog attempted to steal it, which set off a snarl-fest, and as I grabbed Olga's collar, the other dog made off with the ball. Its owner chased it around a field yelling "BAD DOG!" to no apparent effect, until he finally caught up with it and Olga got her ball back.

Ah, dog ownership.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Rain and 'Sweet Charity'

A day of domesticity yesterday-- laundry, vacuuming, running errands, walking the dog. I picked up some new books I ordered from our local bookshop, David Leavitt's newest novel and an entire book about London street signs. (Anyone who knows me knows I'm into weird stuff like that.) I also bought a big bag of compost so I can lift our dahlias and store them for the winter, but I couldn't get the job done because it rained most of the day. At least now I'm prepared. Maybe I can do it today if it's drier.

Another blogger said all this rain is the remnants of Tropical Storm Eta, from the USA. I can't find an authoritative source to verify that but it seems likely.

I managed to get Olga to the cemetery for a walk, and it rained on us pretty steadily the whole time. Surprisingly Olga seemed fine with it. If it starts to rain once she's already out, she copes -- it's only when it's raining (even a little bit) as we walk out the door that she digs in and refuses to move.

We had the cemetery mostly to ourselves, and then as we were leaving, I saw why -- about 20 people were clustered under the roof of the chapel buildings, waiting out the storm. I tried to take a video showing how peaceful it was, being alone in the cemetery with the rain falling, but the minute I took out my phone Olga started barking in protest. She really does run the show.

Someone left a floral tribute on the grave of Polish poet Kazimierz Wierzynski. I have tried to find some of Wierzynski's poetry online in English, but it's not that easy, even though he's apparently a big deal in the world of Polish poets. The best I could do was a few lines included in a book review.

Anyway, apparently he's got at least one local fan.

Did you hear that Boris has sacked Dominic Cummings? Cummings is the UK's Steve Bannon -- the evil whisperer in the ear of the national leadership. An ardent Brexiteer, he's been pulling the puppet strings for years, and meanwhile violating lockdown rules and generally being an ass. We're coming down to the wire on negotiating a trade deal with the European Union, and I wonder if Cummings and Johnson were at some sort of impasse over that. At any rate, he's out now.

Last night, Dave and I watched "Sweet Charity," the 1969 film featuring Shirley MacLaine. It was one of my dad's favorite movies, but watching it here proved to be a trial. I couldn't get it on Amazon, Netflix or iTunes, but I found it streaming on something called Sky Store. I had to buy it for £7.99. Then it wouldn't stream on our television! I could see it on my computer but when I tried to show it through our TV monitor, I got something called an HDCP error. 

Apparently HDCP is some kind of digital rights program that prevents piracy -- but can also prevent legitimate purchasers of digital content from watching that content on their televisions. Why?!

We wound up watching (ironically) a pirated version on YouTube. The screen size was reduced and the sound wasn't ideal, but we made it work. I hadn't seen that movie in many, many years. In fact I'd completely misremembered the ending. We enjoyed it, but some wine helped.