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.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

A Pint at the Carlton

You may remember that I've written before about the Carlton Tavern. That's the pub in Kilburn that, on the eve of being listed as a historic building, was demolished by its owner, a foreign developer who wanted to build apartments on the site.

Basically, he thought he could bring in bulldozers and rip the building down without planning permission, pay a fine, and move on with his money-making scheme.

But Westminster government officials surprised him, instead ordering that he rebuild the pub brick by brick. He appealed the case and lost, and eventually did reconstruct an exact facsimile of the original structure, which fortunately had been well-documented by the preservationists who worked on the historic listing. I followed up on the case several times, here, here, here and here.

I must say I never imagined this pub would actually come back to life. How often, in controversies like this, do the developers flat-out lose? But I think Westminster Council felt that this was an ultimate test of their planning laws and processes, and they couldn't afford to let the guy off the hook. Besides, the community was outraged.

Last week, along with other pubs emerging from lockdown, the Carlton finally re-opened. Yesterday after work, I fulfilled a long-held ambition to have a beer there.

The Carlton has a beer garden in back and outdoor seating at the side, so that's where Dave and I sat with our friend Gordon. (That's Gordon facing us in his bright bicycling vest, and Dave facing away from the camera.) Dave's co-worker Carolyn eventually joined us, too.

(I said I had a beer, but actually, I had two ciders -- to be precise!)

The interior looks like it's still a work in progress, but you can see that they've restored period details like the fireplace and the moldings. As I understand it, they salvaged what they could from the wreckage of the original building, including the wooden bar.

This pub is only a little more than half a mile from where we work, so I hope we can go back somewhat regularly.

The good guys finally won!

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Boat Critter

I found this rather weathered painting on the side of a canal boat on Saturday. I think it's a...beaver? In a dress? With spectacles? Maybe it's a Beatrix Potter character I'm not aware of. She seems to be opening the door and greeting some insects.

So many questions.

Yesterday at work, I began our springtime library inventory, which I love to do each year. Basically it means hiding out in the stacks and scanning every single book to determine whether any have gone missing. It's meditative -- I eventually hit a rhythm with the scanner and I can just let my mind wander.

Then, in the afternoon, I took my poor ailing camera to a Canon repair place down in Vauxhall. I'm so glad to finally be getting it serviced. There's been a piece of fuzz or hair in it for years that shows up on my pictures, and I can't for the life of me figure out where in the camera that fuzz is. I usually just edit the photos to remove it, but that's a pain. You can see it in this image, and also here, crossing the upper right corner of the frame.

Anyway, when I told the guy at the camera shop about it he used a magnifying device with a light and peered into the camera body and said, "Oh, yeah, there are several fibers in there, actually." (Probably Olga fur!) They're also going to fix the lens so I don't get that problem with the contact points that I mentioned on Sunday. It's going to cost a couple hundred pounds, but considering I haven't had the camera serviced at all since I bought it in 2012, and I've used it practically every day, that's not so bad.

What made this little errand so momentous is that it required me to ride the tube, which I've done only two or three times since Spring 2020. And it was the first time I've been south of the river since our initial lockdown began more than a year ago.

To make it even more momentous, I happened to ride down with a colleague from work who lives near Vauxhall, and after I dropped off the camera we WENT TO A PUB!!! My first pub outing in more than a year! We sat out on the sidewalk in front of a place called The Doghouse and had a couple of pints, and it felt very refreshing to live so normally. We watched pedestrians and were approached by a panhandler and saw a motorcyclist yell at a bicyclist in a case of road rage. Welcome to London!

I still experience a little frisson of anxiety when I'm around groups of strangers. I suppose it will take a while for that to dissipate. It's like we all have to re-learn how to socialize, you know?

Tuesday, April 20, 2021


This is part of my walk home, along the same Abbey Road made famous by the Beatles. These plantings are at the edge of a housing estate with some interesting modernist architecture, though you can't see it in this photo. That red plant is Photinia, as reader Frances helpfully informed me, and the blue one in back is Ceanothus, or California lilac.

As you can see, we're still having beautiful (but cool) weather. I didn't get to sample it yesterday because not only was I at work, I was having a crazy day. Nothing worth writing about -- just lots of tykes needing books.

Oh, and congrats to Mr. Pudding, who was the first person to correctly name yesterday's mystery object. It's a silicone cell phone mount for a bicycle, so you can attach your phone to your handlebars and be distracted while you ride around. As I said, I initially had no idea what it was, and the only way I found out was to upload the photo into Google. (Did you do that too, Mr. P?) 

This plant in the library is known as a Monstera, which I think is a terrific name. It is, in fact, a fairly monstrous plant. This one -- which has been there for at least the eight years I've worked at the school, and probably much longer -- was once so big that the maintenance workers had to trim it. I intentionally shot the photo into the sun so you get the groovy shadow pattern on the floor, which looks like a tropical print fabric.

Oh, and RIP Walter Mondale, who was the first presidential candidate I ever voted for, back in 1984. Not a very auspicious beginning, but one that would accurately predict my ability to choose winning candidates in coming years. Clinton and Obama (and now Biden) are the only presidents who won with my vote.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Pied Wagtail and Mystery Object

When I was walking back from Wormwood Scrubs on Saturday, I saw this little pied wagtail hopping around the base of a column in front of a building on our high street. It was searching for insects in the grass, and apparently having some success.

You can't easily tell, but it has a little aphid in its beak in this picture.

I didn't know what kind of bird it was until I looked it up. They're not uncommon but I don't remember ever seeing one before. I wish it would visit our garden and eat aphids!

Yesterday morning I tried to figure out what to do about readers who have subscribed to my blog via e-mail. You may remember that Blogger has told us that function, operated by Feedburner, is going to stop working in July. They suggest we download a list of our e-mail recipients and upload that list to another service -- but they don't suggest which service. They unhelpfully leave that to us.

Apparently there are some options, one of them being Mailchimp. But when I looked at the site I was deluged with terms like "segmentation," "marketing CRM," "behavioral targeting" and "transactional e-mail using API or SMTP." Clearly I was already in over my head.

So I have returned the old-fashioned "followers" button to my sidebar and I think that may be the best I can do. I apologize to those of you who want my blog posts in your e-mail but I just can't manage all that gobbledygook. Also, I think Mailchimp costs money.

If anyone else figures out a solution to this issue, let me know.

This was my Sunday project. I pricked out some of our seedlings into little pots where they can grow on individually. The seedlings are just not prospering this year. They're still really tiny, even after two months of "growing" on our dining room windowsill. I think part of the problem is the seed compost I used -- it's very fine and even though I water fairly frequently it was dry as dust yesterday. Maybe in this new compost they'll take off.

I'm also moving them outside. I'm over having them on the windowsill, just like I'm over sheltering our geraniums in the living room. Everything is back outside now and it's going to stay there. The weather is still chilly but no more freezes are expected so we're going to say it's spring, dammit.

For a while now, this curious object has been lying beneath one of the trees on our street. I finally picked it up to find out what it is.

So here's the "Shadows & Light" trivia question of the week -- what is it? Do you know?

I know now, having done some research. But I'm curious to see if anyone else recognizes it.

Here's a hint -- it's floppy, made out of rubber or silicone, and it's not a piece of something else. It's an object in its own right, though it's used in association with another object. If that makes sense.

In any case, it's pretty cool looking, I think. If it were cast in ceramic tile or carved into furniture it would be very Art Nouveau -- a design worthy of Alphonse Mucha.

And now I am off to work.

But first I have to type just one more line so my text lines up with the bottom of my photo -- there.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

A Tennis Ball Dies

Olga and I took a long walk yesterday along the Grand Union Canal and through Wormwood Scrubs. This is the first time we've visited since last December, and we hadn't yet seen the construction work that's being done across the Scrubs to accommodate the HS2 rail project, which I briefly mentioned here. I was curious to check it out.

First, Olga paid her respects to Prince Philip at the train station.

When we got off the train and began our canal walk, my camera decided to go kaput. It's been behaving strangely for a while now, so it wasn't a surprise. I think the contact points between the camera body and the lens are dirty, or somehow not functioning properly, and it seems to be happening mainly with my regular lens. I could take pictures with the zoom and the macro but not otherwise. I really need to get it serviced.

Meanwhile, I had to used my phone to document most of our walk.

Look! Someone's painted a portrait of me on the wall by the canal towpath! This is what I look like at work. "BRING BACK YOUR OVERDUE BOOKS!"

I saw my first peacock butterfly of 2021, seeking nectar in the blossoms of this fruit tree.

I did take some photos of the construction on the Scrubs, but they don't really look like much. It's hard to photograph what's no longer there, you know? Basically, large sections of trees and shrubs have been removed along the park's northern edge and especially at the northwest corner.

What's interesting is, a couple of camps have sprung up where people appear to be staying. This camp calls itself the "Wormwood Scrubs Protection Camp." I wandered through and saw only one man there, who was nice enough and helped Olga and I find our way back to the main meadow area of the Scrubs. (In normal times we could walk through these woods, but now the path is closed by construction.)

There was some cool artwork posted on the side of the shanty at the camp.

In another area several tents and even campers were set up. "Trespass is Freedom; Transience is a Right" was painted on the side of this one. I guess they're basically challenging authorities to move them on.

Anyway, it was not our standard  Scrubs walk, but it was a beautiful day and despite the construction and the controversy we indulged in our usual activities.

Olga, for example, demolished her tennis ball. Here's a one-minute montage! (Don't worry -- she didn't ingest any of it.)

The walk, including train travel, took about four and a half hours. We were exhausted by the time we got home.

At least it looks like spring is finally happening.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Four Flowers

Just a few photos today of some activity in our still-chilly garden! This wallflower (above) is happily blooming. It was a gift from my gardening co-worker, who also gave us some foxglove seedlings last year.

A couple of years ago, one of our neighbors dug some plants out of their front flower bed and put them out at the street in a yard waste bag. There was a damaged bulb among them, so I grabbed it and planted it in one of our pots. Last year it produced leaves but no flower, but this year, we're getting a blossom. A yellow tulip!

This euphorbia, also known as spurge, is all over our garden. It's quite invasive, but it's also pretty and it works well in some areas where other plants don't readily grow.

And finally, remember the budding primrose I photographed in the frost a little more than a week ago? Well, here it is, now blooming happily.

Our landlord's property managers contacted us because they want to visit and reassess the condition of our garden fence. It seems that once again, Mrs. Kravitz has been complaining about it. (She's also embarked on some kind of garden renovation project, which is no doubt why she's refocused her laser beams on the fence. She wants everything to be perfect.) They're supposed to visit on the 20th. I'll tell them what I've told them all along -- that as far as we're concerned, the fence is fine. But if they want to replace it, that's OK too. It's no skin off our backs, except for whatever damage workmen will undoubtedly cause by stepping on our flower beds.