Thursday, May 6, 2021

Dandelions and Historic Preservation

This remarkable front garden is just down the street from us on Fortune Green Road. It has been entirely colonized by dandelions, and when they're all blooming it's quite a spectacle. I'm a big believer in saving dandelions, because the bees love them, but they do run rampant if they're allowed to go to seed -- as these have been.

Here's an overview. It looks more unkempt than intentionally left wild, especially with that hunk of wood or whatever lying in the middle. The bluebells always wind up looking a little baked, because bluebells are shade-loving plants suited to living under trees in a wood. I think if this were my garden I'd plow it up and start over, and plant things that like direct sun.

So, there's my armchair gardening for the day.

Speaking of plowing things up, my brother sent me a depressing article from my hometown newspaper about a historic house that's going to be demolished. This place looks beautiful and wildly eccentric and artsy and also well-preserved; I think it's a crime to allow it to be torn down. It's another example of an older home in Florida being flattened so an owner can build something bigger and more modern with a lot less character. There are more pictures on the Zillow listing.

My brother is involved in historic preservation so he could explain this dynamic a lot better than I can, but basically, in Florida, where there's a strong tradition of private property rights and relatively little appreciation for local history, communities are often unable or unwilling to flex the regulatory muscle that would prevent such destruction. City leaders, starved of civic income by successions of tax-averse Republican-leaning governments, are terrified of expensive lawsuits. I hope they find a way to stop this place being demolished, but with waterfront land at an expensive premium it's probably unrealistic to expect the city to step in and secure it for any public purpose. (It would make a great museum, though, much like the admittedly much grander Ringling Mansion in Sarasota.)

I must say, this is one cool aspect of living in London; history is all around us, and there are strong regulations to ensure that neighborhoods remain architecturally and historically consistent. There are still controversies but the government denies planning applications or requests modifications all the time. (By the way, I think the proposed Hampstead house in that linked article is actually pretty interesting -- and unlike the Florida situation, it's replacing an unremarkable structure with no historic or aesthetic significance.)

Otherwise, it's life as usual around here. I'm starting to weed more of our library collection in preparation for the big move in a few weeks. But I believe in historic preservation, so I'm saving some old stuff, as long as it has character and remains useful!

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Parakeet Sunshower

Dave and I were sitting in the living room yesterday evening when he pointed out the window to show me a parakeet on the bird feeder. As we watched a second one landed, and I went to get the camera. By the time I got back, we had a third! I don't think I've ever seen so many on our feeders at once. They were chowing on those suet balls, and all in the middle of a sunshower.

I had to take the picture through our windows, which are a bit on the grimy side, because of course if I'd tried to open them, the birds would have flown off. Photography dilemmas!

The candytuft is blooming again... is the aquilegia, or columbine. See the little ant on the middle flower?

We got some news yesterday about major changes coming to the library for the next school year. Basically the school is taking some of our space to make a classroom, and the head librarian has decided to change the arrangement of the collection as a result -- so we're going to need to pack up almost every single one of our 27,000 books and move them to different shelves. We'll do some additional weeding and reorganization as needed. It's going to be a gigantic job, and we can't begin until at least June 1, because we've got students using the resources until then. I get palpitations just thinking about it!

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Lying in the Leaves

We are finally having some inclement weather -- gusty winds and spatters of rain. Not really showers, which we need, but it's better than nothing. The winds have been blowing the loose petals out of the cherry trees, which are finishing up their blooming cycle, and there are big pink drifts on the sidewalks.

The primroses on our front porch have been looking fairly sad lately, so I walked up to Homebase yesterday morning and picked up a few trays of annuals. I also got a hanging basket of those "Night Sky" petunias I like, with the dark purple petals speckled with white, star-like dots.

On the way to Homebase, as I was passing the railroad tracks, I saw this:

I've seen similar "locks of love" in various famous places around the world, but I don't ever recall finding them in my own neighborhood. What does it say about a relationship when someone puts locks on a crap piece of fencing along the railroad tracks behind Homebase? I believe they're in Korean. Maybe Vivian can translate.

Anyway, this is the front porch now -- a pot of marigolds and something called Mimulus, or monkeyflower, which I've never bought before.

Here's a monkeyflower close-up. I also bought some gazanias for the back garden because I was so happy with the ones we got last summer. I didn't throw away the primroses because they'll bloom again next year -- I just moved them to the back patio.

I took Olga to the Heath in the afternoon, but she wasn't super-energetic and we didn't do our full Heath walk -- just a bit of rambling through the woods on the West Heath. We've run out of her anti-inflammatory meds so I think her arthritis is bothering her a bit.

If you're ready for the most boring one-minute Olga video in the world, you can watch her lying in the leaves and keeping an eye on things, above. Fair warning -- there's a bit of barking at the end, so adjust your volume accordingly!

Monday, May 3, 2021

I Engage With the Proletariat

Our neighbors have a couple of really nice crabapple trees, and this is what they look like from our patio on a sunny morning -- a wall of bright, vivid pink.

Yesterday felt very strange. We had two friends over for brunch, our first social guests in more than a year. First we both took Covid tests, just in case. Then I spent the morning cleaning as Dave made a frittata and a fruit salad, and by the time Colin and Warren arrived at 11 a.m., the place was as clean as it was ever going to get. We sat out in the back garden and had mimosas (or buck's fizzes as they're known in England), and although the skies were mostly gray and the temperatures chilly, we spent a couple of hours eating out there. Olga sat with us and got some bacon.

After they left, though, the rest of the day felt off. I guess drinking at 11 a.m. will do that, although I only had three mimosas over a couple of hours -- it's not like I was schnockered. My routines felt disrupted.

Some guy came to the door on Saturday selling newspapers for the Internationalist Workers' Club. Although I live on a fairly bourgeois street I'm generally sympathetic to left-wing politics -- a "limousine liberal" without the limousine -- and plus he was kind of cute, so I bought a copy. I bravely attempted to read it, but it bills itself as a "Journal of Marxist Analysis" offering "Proletarian Opposition to European Imperialism and Unitary Imperialism," and the banner headline on the front page is: "External Constriction and Materialist Theory." Doesn't that just make your eyes roll up into your head? I suppose there's a reason Communists have a reputation for being humorless. They need to leaven those pages with a little Kim Kardashian. (I know, I know, she's not even remotely Marxist, but I Googled "Marxist sex symbols" and nothing comes up.)

The camassias are blooming in the garden and looking pretty good despite our recent lack of rain. We're supposed to get rain today and into this week, and I hope it really happens because we could use it. The ground is as hard as a rock.

I scheduled my second Covid vaccine for June 3, which is almost exactly twelve weeks after my first one -- the standard waiting period between doses here in Britain. Dave and I were both told our GP would contact us to make an appointment, but we've heard nothing so I decided to be proactive and do it myself. I just wanted to get it on the calendar. I can always cancel if the doctor calls me in the interim. Dave also tried and the NHS's online platform wouldn't let him book, I suppose because he's in some special category of medically vulnerable people. But he should be getting a call any day because his first vaccine was several weeks before mine.

I tried to walk Olga in the afternoon, and she acted excited until we walked out the front door into the chilly, gray afternoon. She stopped on the front step and wouldn't budge. She turned right around and came back inside.

These are the foxglove seedlings I potted on Saturday -- plus two additional trays not in the picture. You can see the densely planted seedlings as they were originally grown in the green seed tray. I could grow a whole nursery's worth of plants if I pricked them all out into their own pots. Foxglove overload!

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Camera and Cemetery

I took the dog and the newly-repaired camera to Hampstead Cemetery yesterday and had some fun taking pictures. Although the iPhone is fine in a pinch, I much prefer my big camera, which allows me to control for things like depth of field (giving me a blurry background above, for example) and allows me to use my zoom and macro lenses.

This area is at the very back of the cemetery, where someone has recently done a lot of clearing -- basically trying to reclaim it from the forest. I have mixed feelings about this, because that forest is undoubtedly good habitat for critters, but I guess if I were there to visit the graves I wouldn't want them to be inaccessible. (I think most of the graves in this area are pretty old -- 100 years or so.)

Olga enjoyed being out, but she was feeling quite leisurely. There was a lot of lolling around in the grass. The squirrels had nothing to fear.

Here's another pattern of lichen growth and weathering on the back of one of the gravestones.

Hampstead Cemetery is apparently known for its large quantity of Celtic crosses.

Finally, here's some wild garlic mustard, a common wildflower also known as jack-in-the-hedge. Some people consider it a weed but it's easy to pull up if you don't like it, and it's good food for certain butterfly species.

Speaking of weeds, I did some gardening yesterday morning, pricking out more foxglove seedlings into trays with individual compartments. I have nine trays of six plants each, so we should have plenty of foxgloves! And I still have a boatload of tiny seedlings in the original seed tray. I say this every year but WHY DID I PLANT SO MANY?!

I also planted a tray of sunflower seeds and a tray of jimsonweed. Apparently I was supposed to soak the jimsonweed seeds first, and I didn't do that, so we'll see how that goes. I have extras of both if these don't work.

Finally, I tried to thin the poppy seedlings in the pot, but they're planted so thickly I can't even discern individual plants! I just took out clumps here and there to try to create some space. I think Darwin is going to have to handle the culling in that particular situation. Hopefully they won't all die, but again, I planted too many, so let this be a lesson for me.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Shaking Things Up

Dave and I were walking to work yesterday when we passed this wall of brightly colored posters on Finchley Road. They're related to the mayoral election on May 6.

Valerie Brown is running on behalf of the anti-establishment Burning Pink party. I don't know about her policies -- she has a manifesto here, and it sounds to me like a recipe for paralysis-by-committee, but I appreciate anyone who recognizes the failures of the status quo and wants to try something new. Still, if I were voting I'd go for Sadiq Khan again. (I can't vote because I'm not a UK citizen.)

We have a three-day weekend because Monday is our early May bank holiday. Reading, gardening and walking the dog are in my immediate future. (So unusual, right?) We're also planning to have a couple of friends over on Sunday for a garden brunch, which will be exciting -- we haven't had company for more than a year!

I finished our library inventory and only ten of our regular books have gone missing this year, which is pretty amazing -- last year it was something like 65. (That doesn't count some little Spanish books we bought for the language classes. The students were all required to read one, and about 20 of them are still missing, but since we know who those kids are we might be able to round them up.)

In the middle of the day, the camera shop called and said my camera was ready for pickup -- so after work I zipped down to Vauxhall and collected it. Woo hoo! I planned to walk up to the Thames and take some pictures right away, but wouldn't you know, the battery was completely dead, so I had to bring it home and charge it up before I could use it. I'll take it out today when Olga and I go walking.

Friday, April 30, 2021

Famous Feet

It's chilly here this morning -- 38º F (or 3º C), according to the trusty weather app. I was just out in the garden and BRRRRR. One of these days, spring is really going to arrive.

You may be wondering about the results of my marathon effort on Monday and Tuesday to e-mail the parents of kids with overdue books. (I'm sure you are.) We have indeed gotten a lot of stuff back -- my overdue list is down from 18 pages to 12 -- and I expect more. Twelve pages is still a lot, so there's more to be done, but I'm hoping people will take the weekend to find whatever items they've mislaid.

I had a major victory yesterday when the kid with the dubious distinction of having the most extremely overdue books in the entire library paid for them. He checked out two books in December 2019 and January 2020, failed to return them, and then ducked every attempt I made to e-mail or contact him. I finally had to go stand outside his classroom one morning about a week ago and wait for him to emerge to talk to him in person. Anyway, he lost the books (I am consistently mystified about how this happens, but it does) and yesterday he cleared his account. Whew!

It's funny -- when I first started this job back in 2013, there was a girl (let's call her Suzie) who was terrible about returning books. I had to chase her over and over to get stuff back, or to get her to pay for lost things. I was always rolling my eyes and talking about Suzie to co-workers, and she became symbolic of the bad library patron. I was so happy when she finally graduated. But in the years since, I've come to realize that every school year, there's a Suzie.

I ordered flowers for my mom for Mother's Day, and I'm hoping they arrive because I'm not sure how deliveries work at her retirement center. We shall see.

I also bought some jimsonweed seeds for our garden. You may remember I found one growing wild last summer and tried to get its seeds to sprout without success. (I think they weren't yet mature.) So we'll try some from a seed store. Yes, I know it's a poisonous plant. Olga won't bother it -- she's not a plant consumer, with the exception of grass.

Oh, and the electrician stopped by on Wednesday evening and picked up his forgotten drill. So at least that's gone. The roofers still haven't come for their abandoned ladder.

While I was cleaning out my clips several days ago I came across this one, which I saved just for the photo. Yes, my feet are in that lineup! A friend recruited me and several other people to be "foot models" to illustrate this wire story about foot health. It's kind of funny, given that the story appears to be about older feet, and at the time we were all in our early 30's -- not quite the intended demographic. Every once in a while I'd find myself in a picture published in a newspaper, which is inevitable when you're a reporter and turning up at well-covered news events, but this is the only time my feet got published!

(Top photo: A blooming tree along the Grand Union Canal, about two weeks ago.)

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Potpourri with Bathing Beauty

Here are some random iPhone pictures that I've collected over the past few weeks!

First, you may remember the bathing beauty on our street. She began to fall apart and then her head disappeared; but now she has a new one, complete with bathing cap! Unfortunately it seems to be located a bit too far from her legs.

Someone's driveway has grown quite jungly.

Thoughts of love for passers-by in Hampstead.

Someone must have gone to a climate march, and then put their sign out for the trash collectors.

Dave and I were watching an episode of Perry Mason not too long ago when this woman appeared on the stand in the courtoom. What a getup! The character worked in a gallery so I guess she was supposed to be artsy. To make matters even more peculiar, her name was Cho Sin and I think she was supposed to be Asian. The actress is Allison Hayes, better known to us all from "The Attack of the 50-Foot Woman."

I think this is another Covid hoax sticker, although it's so subtle I'm not sure. At least it's somewhat artistic.

Our amaryllis flowers have finally opened.

Lastly, I shot this on the way to work yesterday -- the pink trees on the adjacent campus of one of the state schools (we in the USA would say "public," but a public school in England is something else entirely).  They also have lots of ping-pong tables. I wonder if the kids use them?

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Pears and Elephant Ears

Today's photos are a blast from the past -- I took them back in 1978 or so, using my dad's camera. I know I've written about this before, but he's the one who introduced me to photography and we occasionally went out in the yard with his Minolta and took pictures. On this particular day, I believe, we took a whole roll of film, including shots of his geese and a mushroom and some other stuff, but these are the only two shots I still have and as far as I know the only ones that still exist. The negatives vanished years ago.

I never had these negatives -- my dad kept them, and I remember seeing them in his darkroom at some point, but after he died I tried to find them and had no luck. Over the years, in fits of cleaning, I've thrown away other negatives from various photo projects, and without fail I now wish I hadn't. Negatives don't take up much room, after all.

For years I kept negatives from a photo class I took in the 8th grade, as well as negatives from college that I took on an outing to Caladesi Island for the school paper, and a photo walk I took in downtown Tampa in the mid-'80s. I threw all of them out about 20 years ago. I could kick myself for it now. I mean, I don't think any of the images were prize winners, but I'd love to see them again (and maybe blog them!).

Oh well. Live and learn.

These are pears in my dad's yard. When he first bought his property north of Tampa, it included some fruit trees that had been planted by the previous owner. I don't think we ever ate these pears, at least not that I remember. Up top, those are elephant ears, a type of taro that was introduced to peninsular Florida and, like so many exotic species, now runs amok there.

Anyway, there's not much interesting going on around here. I had a super-busy day yesterday. I realized with horror a few days ago that the library was WAY behind on collecting long-overdue materials -- when I ran a report listing books overdue more than a month, it came to 18 pages! With only about six weeks left in the school year! Gasp!

So I spent the last two days, pretty much every spare moment, churning out personalized e-mails to the parents of all the offending students -- about 50 altogether. Hopefully this week we'll see some of that backlog cleared up.

I guess just as I've let slip the task of writing to parents, the kids have let slip their obligation to return books. With our crazy school year -- lockdowns, weeks of distance learning, that kind of thing -- it's no wonder they've lost track of stuff. I always try to get all books back or accounts settled by the end of the school year, but this year, that might be optimistic.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Dahlia Day

We're at the time of year when the glass prisms in the living room throw little rainbows on the walls. This one caught my eye, making feathery shadows as it passed through our maidenhair fern.

I totally forgot about the Oscars when I wrote yesterday's post. Not that I have much to say. I haven't seen any of the movies, although I am eager to see "Nomadland" when it finally becomes available here. (Apparently we'll have to stream it on Disney Plus.) Cinemas in England are all still closed, but can reopen on May 17.

This is undoubtedly the most disconnected I've felt from any Oscars ceremony in my lifetime. Partly, it's age -- I just don't keep up with movies as fervently as I used to. But it's also hard to get excited about films when you're not able to see one! The only nominated film I've seen is "Hillbilly Elegy," on Netflix.

Yesterday was crazy busy at work -- lots of re-shelving, book deliveries and other routine stuff. And then, because I hadn't run around enough all day, I went to Homebase after work to buy compost, and wound up with two gargantuan bags -- 120 litres each! They were so big I had to call a taxi to bring me home. It made me realize I haven't ridden in a car in ages. It felt very luxurious. Imagine! Hopping in a little metal box with soft seats and being taken anywhere you want! What will humans think of next?

This is why I needed the compost. It's dahlia time again! I brought them all out of their winter slumber in our shed and potted them up. Some of them had tiny sprouts and root systems, even though they were sitting in utterly dry compost. Durable little devils.

How did I get seven dahlias?

Here they are installed in their new homes. We have to keep them in pots because otherwise they're slug chow.

I also have a little problem with the poppy seedlings in a pot on the patio. I sprinkled seeds there a few months ago but I didn't realize I'd planted them that thickly! I'm going to have to do some thinning. I don't think poppies like being transplanted, unfortunately, so I'll just have to pull them. There's also a borage plant, some forget-me-nots and a few corncockles in that pot -- in addition to the passion flower vine that is its main occupant.

Finally, I realized yesterday that I took so many pictures of Olga at the cemetery on Sunday that I could make a little animated GIF with them:

I shot a lot of frames because I was trying to catch her in mid-bark. But now, watching this, I'm thinking I should have just made a video!

Monday, April 26, 2021

Culling the Clips

This is a rather dramatic growth of lichen on a tombstone at the cemetery. Did you know that British cemeteries (and probably those elsewhere too) are valuable habitats for lichen? It makes sense -- they offer a variety of stone surfaces which then sit exposed for, in some cases, hundreds of years. There's even a page on the web site of the British Lichen Society devoted to lichen conservation in churchyards.

This example is kind of unusual because lichen often form an irregular patch or circular spot on the stone -- but in this case, the circle appears devoid of lichen, which is growing everywhere else as a sort of backdrop. I even tried to figure out what kind it is -- I think it's a variety of Caloplaca, but I am no expert and that's definitely just a guess.

You didn't know you were here for a biology lesson, did you? And from a completely unqualified teacher!

It was another spectacular but chilly day yesterday, and you can guess from the lichen photo where Olga and I took our walk. The blooming trees are really out in force.

With the exception, I must sadly note, of the once-viney tree. I was so happy to see it sprouting new leaves a couple of weeks ago, but sprout is all it's done. The tree is still mostly sticks, the leaves tiny, the buds unopened. All its identical crabapple siblings are leafing out and blooming like mad. I am once again convinced it's dying. I have no idea why, and I've hauled a couple gallons of water to it here and there, hoping to pull it through whatever crisis it's having.

Honestly, it's ridiculous that I've metaphorically wrapped myself around this tree. It's not even mine, but having removed that gigantic vine I now feel responsible for it. Could the shock of being exposed to the elements on the street really be killing the tree? Is that possible? I never imagined it would do anything but flourish.

This definitely falls into the "no good deed goes unpunished" category.

Also yesterday, I went through my old newspaper clippings and culled about 2/3 of them. You know what's interesting? The serious news stories I wrote as a reporter -- the investigative projects, the news of criminal conspiracies, car crashes, murders, government processes -- are all far less interesting and memorable to me than the lighter feature stories. The lost dog found many miles from home; the police officer accused of driving carelessly and running over the mayor's cat; the woman who won a needlework competition; the baby named after a gas station; the woman who taught African dance in schools; the firefighter who got a dalmatian as a mascot for the fire house. Those are the stories I remember. I always liked feature writing better than so-called "hard news."

I saved some of the serious stuff too, the prize-winners or things that took a lot of work. But getting rid of the rest has opened up a lot more room in the file box!

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Successes and Failures

It was this kind of a day yesterday -- blue, clear, cool and sunny. As it turns out I didn't work on cleaning out our files at all. Instead I was in the garden almost all day, weeding, mowing and repotting plants. I repotted our living room dracaena, and a lily I bought last year that seems to be on the verge of blooming again. (Woo hoo!)

I had another interesting exchange with neighbor Mrs. Kravitz, who was in her garden talking to her garden designer. (Yes, she has a garden designer.) She called me over to the fence and suggested that we trim one of our bushes because it blocks her view of our Japanese maple.

Now, maybe I am overreacting, but doesn't that seem completely insane to you? Would you ever approach your neighbor and ask them to trim a shrub -- entirely on their property -- so that you can see more of THEIR landscaping?

I told her no. I said we were growing that bush partly as a barrier for privacy. She petulantly returned to the matter of the garden fence and began asking when it would be replaced. I came inside and told Dave, if it were up to me, I'd install a fence ten feet high topped with razor wire.

I hope I'm not being unreasonable in reacting so strongly to her suggestions, but to my way of thinking, the woman has no boundaries.

Here's Olga at the side of the house. I really took this picture to show the ladder recently abandoned by the roofers. They didn't respond to the Russians' letter asking them to come back and get it, so I guess it's here to stay. I told Mrs. Russia that as far as I'm concerned it's theirs and they can do whatever they want with it, including leave it at the side of the house -- it's not bothering me, and it's aluminum so I don't think it will deteriorate outdoors. (We don't really have any indoor storage for something that big.) If I were her, I'd sell it.

They also left behind a roll of roofing lead (at lower right), which, despite being relatively small, weighs a ton -- because, lead.

The electricians never came back for their drill, either. Weird.

Here's how I spent the afternoon -- reading on a blanket while Olga snoozed nearby...

...before she moved to the flower bed next to the patio. Fortunately she's not lying on anything important.

Finally, these are our amaryllis. They're a mixed bag this year. We have a few flowers that look like they'll be successful, but several of the blossoms and two entire flower stalks have failed. It's that "red blotch" fungus. Despite their bleach-water bath and a fungicide treatment, they're still afflicted. So, sadly, I think this will be their last year. It's just too much trouble to try to fight this battle, and they take up a lot of valuable houseplant real estate. When they're done blooming, they're going into the garden waste.

See? We really do have garden failures -- I just don't write about them as much as the successes. Also dead this year is the curcuma that I bought last summer. It died back to the ground last fall and completely failed to re-sprout, and the root seems rotten. So it goes.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Blue on Blue

I think some people might have misunderstood what I wrote yesterday about Blogger e-mail subscriptions. Blogger itself is NOT going away -- at least, not that I've heard. Just the ability for people to sign up for an e-mail subscription to blogs via Feedburner. Does that make sense? I hope so. DO NOT PANIC!

I'm a little late this morning because I set out to do a very simple thing that suddenly became a much more complicated thing. I wanted to find my NHS number, so I opened the file box where I store all our paper records and discovered a big pile of loose paper on top -- basically accumulated stuff that I've been shoving in the top of the box for God knows how long, without organizing or filing it in any way. I decided to put it all away, so I spent a half an hour buried in the file box.

Honestly, I don't know why I'm saving any of that stuff. Beyond a few key documents, like passports and birth certificates and marriage licenses, why do I need any of it? I'm paraphrasing here, but I'm pretty sure when I read Marie Kondo's organizing book years ago, she said most paper documents are useless, and I suspect she's right. If I needed any of that stuff I bet I could get it online in two or three clicks.

As an extreme example: life insurance policies. I have a thick folder containing pages and pages of documents all carefully sealed in plastic sleeves -- the insurance policies my parents bought on my life way back in the 1960s and '70s. (They did this as an investment, but don't ask me to explain why life insurance is a savings vehicle. They were much smarter about these things than I am.) The accounts themselves are valuable and can be redeemed or borrowed against should I need money. But do I really need the actual, physical policies? Would the insurance company really turn me away if I came to them and couldn't produce this yellowed stack of paper? Don't they have computers?

Don't worry -- I'm not throwing them out. I'm just asking. And most of the documents I have are a heck of a lot less potentially valuable than that. Old receipts, instruction manuals for the vacuum cleaner, medical records from doctors' appointments five years ago, blah blah blah.

I still have four or five file folders full of yellowed newspaper clippings that I wrote during my journalism years. At this point, they're so old I can't imagine they'd be valuable to any potential career I could pursue henceforth, even assuming I went back into journalism. I should go through them and just save a few favorite articles and toss the rest.

Hmmmm...I may have discovered a task for the day.

Otherwise I have some Newbery books to read and some gardening to do. Olga is snoring next to me but will no doubt want an outing later. Life as usual!

(Photos: Another shot of the amazing Ceanothus on my walk home from work; our tree fern through the bedroom window, with layers of reflections.)

Friday, April 23, 2021

A Neighborhood Spat

These trees are right outside the school where I work. Pretty impressive display, huh? They don't seem to be at all bothered by our chilly nights (37º F last night).

I heard back from the camera shop. They said my repairs would take 10 to 12 working days, so for a couple of weeks you're going to be getting pictures from my phone. I'm just pointing it out in case they're not up to my usual standards. I don't want you thinking, "Gee, Steve used to be such a good photographer, but now he's slipping." (Or, worse, "Steve used to be a mildly adequate photographer, but now he's really slipping.")

It's ironic, isn't it, that my camera would die mere days after I gave away my old Canon camera, which I hadn't so much as touched in a decade? But that's OK. The phone will do.

In other news,  I downloaded a list of all the e-mail subscribers to my blog, in case I do eventually adopt another subscription service. (Blogger's is going away, in case you missed their recent update.) I was astonished to find that I had something like 1,300 subscriptions! But then I started looking through them, and many were obviously the work of a spambot. The "subscribers" all had Outlook e-mail addresses and signed up at the rate of four or five a day back in 2017. I don't quite understand what anyone gains from subscribing potentially fake e-mail addresses to my blog, but the mysteries of the Internet are legion. Turns out I have about 50 legitimate subscribers, and I'm cool with that.

Remember how the maintenance man was supposed to come and take a look at our garden fence? Well, he called me from our front door on Monday morning, and of course I was at work -- somehow he'd gotten the time of our appointment wrong. (It was supposed to be that evening.) He let himself in and while he checked out the fence I talked him through the issues that next-door neighbor Mrs. Kravitz has raised. I still don't know what the landlord is going to do about that situation, but I'm staying neutral. If they want to replace the fence, fine; if not, fine.

I talked to upstairs neighbor Mrs. Russia last night, and apparently she and Mrs. Kravitz had an altercation the other day. (There is no love lost between those two, for a variety of reasons too complicated to go into now.) Mrs. K's maid (yes, she has a maid) accepted a package that was meant for Mrs. Russia. When Mrs. R went to collect it, it had been opened. Mrs. K told her they opened it by mistake because her maid doesn't speak English, and according to Mrs. R she was quite nasty and challenged Mrs. R's language ability too. Mrs. K wound up throwing the box at Mrs. R, who ordered her not to accept any more packages on her behalf. In response, Mrs. K allegedly stuck out her tongue. I am not kidding! Mrs. R was so incensed she considered calling the police, though I'm not sure what in that exchange could possibly be considered criminal.

As they used to sing on Sesame Street, "These are the people in your neighborhood..."

For some reason, fellow blogger Mitchell's post yesterday about items we keep reminded me of the bowl on my desk at work, where I put all the various doodads that I find in the library. It's a sort of lost & found in case anyone says, "Where's my fidget spinner?" or "Have you seen my rainbow-colored friendship bracelet?" (So far, no one has done so. The kids who lost some of that stuff have probably graduated by now.) As you can see, it contains items as diverse as a plastic bumblebee, a star-shaped Secret Service pin, a unicorn guitar pick, bits of (I assume) costume jewelry and a seashell engraved with the word "courage."

Of course, Mitchell's post was about treasured belongings; I'm not sure why it prompted me to think about junk on my desk.