Tuesday, August 31, 2021

The Heath, by Train

Yesterday morning I told Dave I intended to take Olga to Hampstead Heath. We hadn't been to the main part of the Heath in months, and although Olga is slower and creakier these days, I thought we could do it. Dave was skeptical: "Do you have five hours?" he said.

Little did he know that I had a plan. We tried something new -- taking the Overground train from West Hampstead to the Heath, which I thought would save us some walking and give Olga more energy to run around once we got there. (You may remember I tried to do this a couple of weeks ago and the trains weren't running -- yesterday I checked ahead of time!)

It was a moderately successful experiment. As it turns out, we need to walk .4 miles to get from our house to the train, and another .4 miles to get from the Heath station to the entrance gate -- and it's 1.1 miles to simply walk all the way from our house. So we're not saving a whole lot of elderly dog energy. But as Dave pointed out, the time on the train gives her a little rest and maybe that helps.

She was very excited to be back in familiar territory. There was some squirrel chasing and frustrated barking, and running after her tennis ball and rolling in the grass. Entering the Heath at a new location made us shake up our walking routine, which was good for us.

We encountered a woman near this pond (above) who asked to pet Olga, and Olga obliged by licking her cheek. "Oh, I love staffy kisses!" the woman exclaimed. (Which is fortunate.)

I noticed that another of the Heath's old trees has been roped off, allegedly to avoid compacting the roots. This hollow tree is a favorite for little kids who love to climb on and in it -- even Olga's been inside the trunk. I've rarely seen it standing alone and empty.

The Heath was heavily used during our lockdowns and there was some concern about wear and tear on the paths and woodlands. Maybe these old trees were suffering from too much attention as well.

At any rate, we had a good time and the outing did not take five hours -- more like three. I'm glad we found a way to get back to our old stomping ground.

I saw this old sign in the garden of a pub on the way back to the train. Maybe I need to invest in some Spratt's for Olga?

Monday, August 30, 2021

Garden Clearance Day

Another day, another hoverfly -- or two.

I had an insanely busy day yesterday. It suddenly seemed like there was so much to do around here. I cleaned the house, changed the sheets and took them to the laundry, and then got out in the garden, where I trimmed the neighbor's rose bush overhanging our patio -- the one we call The Monster.

I also cut down the collapsed teasels, which had begun to die back for the season. We didn't want them re-seeding and they'd stopped blooming and were turning brown, so we felt it was their time to go. I gave them another month of life at the end of July when I tied them up again, and a crucial month at that -- they fed lots of bees over the past several weeks. (We have a few more teasels in less precarious circumstances that we will allow to re-seed, so we get plants in the future.)

And then I mowed the lawn.

I removed a lot of long grass and overgrowth around the birdbath, which we can now see in its entirety. As much as I love a slightly shaggy garden, we do have to periodically rein things in! I filled four bags with garden waste, which is going to be interesting because the council will only collect two bags per week. Guess I'm going to have to parcel them out over a couple of weeks.

Anyway, I'm sure none of that is very interesting to you, but I like to keep track of when I do certain jobs and this record will help.

My niece in New Orleans marked herself safe on Facebook during Hurricane Ida, so that's a relief. I haven't heard from my stepbrother but he's in Broussard, near Lafayette, so he's farther west and hopefully will be OK there. You know, despite living 34 years in Florida and visiting almost every summer since, I've never been in a hurricane. I've had them pass close enough to get bad weather from feeder bands, but I've never endured a direct hit. Hurricanes don't often strike the west coast of peninsular Florida -- at least they didn't when I lived in Tampa and Sarasota, though storm activity has picked up in recent decades. They usually hit the east coast or the Panhandle.

Anyway, here's hoping everyone is safe from Ida.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Biscuit Tin and Turaco

It still looks summery out there, but it's starting to feel quite autumnal. The high temperature yesterday was 68º F (20º C), and I needed a sweatshirt to feel comfortable, even indoors. It's been a cool, rainy summer overall, and some say autumn is coming early and may bring more colorful foliage.

The Russians returned from their holiday on Friday -- turns out they went to Sardinia and not to Russia as I'd assumed. I don't know why I expected them to go home instead of somewhere fun. They're all looking very tanned. I handed off the strawberry seedlings (which I managed not to kill), and I'm happy to be rid of them, let me tell you.

I did laundry and some light gardening and household tasks in the morning, and in the afternoon took Olga to the cemetery, as you can see.

I can't remember whether I've blogged this gravestone before or not -- it's one we always step over on the path, so I see it every time I visit. I think Charles Absalom Bromige is a great name. His poor wife's identity has been swallowed by the earth.

Parts of the cemetery have been mowed, but some areas are still quite weedy. Olga likes to roll around in the long grass (and snack on it).

I found this old biscuit tin on a grave (best before Oct. 19, 2016). I swear it wasn't there a week ago.

Most exciting of all, I heard the turaco again -- and this time, with Olga in tow, I was able to make my way to the tree where it was loudly calling and take some pictures. (The turaco, for those of you who don't know the back story, is an exotic bird from East Africa that mysteriously lives at the cemetery. No one seems to know where it came from or why it's there, but it's been around for at least three years and seems perfectly healthy. It has a leg band, so I suspect it's an escaped pet or aviary specimen.)

These are the first pictures of it I've been able to get this year.

It was way up in a tree that was surrounded by other, lower trees and shrubs, so getting a clear shot was no easy feat. I did finally capture a few good frames. Although the turaco appears mostly green and blue, you can see the hint of bright red beneath its wings. That red is displayed brilliantly when it flies. (I can never photograph it in flight -- it takes off without warning and it's fast.)

It flew to a nearby yew tree. My theory is that it eats yew berries -- I seem to see it most often in or near yews. But maybe it just likes them because they're dense and good places to hide.

Some passersby asked me what I was photographing and by that time the bird had retreated into the interior of the yew, so I couldn't point it out to them, but I showed them on my camera. Like me, they felt a little bad for it, all alone in a strange land with no companionship. Like I said, though, it seems pretty content.

In the evening Dave and I watched a documentary series about Monty Python. I've been a huge Python fan since I was a teenager, when I used to sneak out to the living room and watch it late at night, when it aired on our local PBS station. It's been interesting to watch this series (on Netflix) in which the members of the troupe explain the history of their projects and how they worked together. Everyone imagines they're all best friends, but of course that's not really the case, and it wasn't always smooth sailing!

Saturday, August 28, 2021


Dear God, what a week. It was all library, library, library, and there was a lot of physical labor involved -- moving furniture, shelving books, shifting boxes. You may remember we launched that huge reorganization project last spring, so in May and June and then continuing in August we moved pretty much every one of our 26,000 books. (My co-worker gets the credit for coming in a week early and getting almost all of the remaining re-shelving done.)

Our space was also used as a summer storage location for deliveries to many other departments, so we had to get stacks of boxed textbooks and bales of new chairs to the right places in the school. In some cases we had porters do the actual moving, but sometimes I did it myself. Whew!

The good news is, though, we are now ready to roll. The books are all shelved and organized, with accurate shelf signs. The magazines have been made available to staff and people have signed up to get the ones they want in their staff mailboxes. (They circulate among the staff after being displayed in the library for students.) Our newspaper subscriptions have been restarted. The tables and chairs are in place; we made new book displays; we ordered new materials.

I know this is isn't very exciting to all of you, but it gives me a huge sense of accomplishment and there's no better feeling than being prepared. I still have stuff to do, of course, but I can do it with kids running around.

Yesterday, after school, staff and faculty gathered on one of the playgrounds for a little drinks-and-snacks social hour. I drank four Pimm's cocktails -- the first I've had all summer, I believe. Pimm's is a British institution, a gin-based liqueur infused with fruit and usually mixed with a sweet carbonated drink like Sprite to make the eponymous cocktail, which is traditionally served on hot summer days. It was cool and cloudy yesterday, but those Pimm's still hit the spot. (They're not very strong.)

We came home and finished "Mare of Easttown," which had a somewhat improbable ending, I thought -- but it's still a great show and worth watching.

(Photo: A street scene in Soho, last week.)

Friday, August 27, 2021

Winged Figure

This is a sculpture called "Winged Figure" by Barbara Hepworth. It's mounted on the side of the John Lewis department store on Oxford Street. I like the way it contrasts with the older architecture around it, but it can be surprisingly hard to photograph because of its position high up on a wall. It's dramatically lit at night.

Yesterday I took care of a couple of things that have been hanging over me for a while. I filled out a tax form for Dave that our employers asked for weeks ago -- I didn't know about it initially, and Dave mentioned it to me just before I went to Florida, and then he went traveling and he needed to sign it. So basically we couldn't get it done before now. I don't think it's super-important but hopefully the IRS won't come knocking!

I also contacted our tour company about that South America trip we purchased last year. You may remember we bought my dream trip to Brazil just in time for Covid to hit, and everything wound up cancelled. We were issued a voucher for another trip, but it has become increasingly obvious that we're not going to be able to use that credit any time soon -- and besides, it's stressing me out knowing that thousands of pounds of our money is just sort of hanging out there, when it could be in our bank account where it belongs. So in what was probably an incredibly long-overdue decision, I asked the company for a refund. Supposedly it's now being processed and will come within the next week.

The customer service person we spoke to told Dave that the deadline for collecting a refund is in September -- so it's a darn good thing I called them when I did. What would happen, I wonder, if I hadn't called? Surely they wouldn't just keep the money. I can't believe that would be legal.

The Afghanistan situation is getting even more disastrous. It's ironic that our enemies can't resist bombing us even as we're on the way out the door. If they hate us so much you'd think they'd just let us leave. Any opportunity to cause bloodshed, I suppose -- and now they've basically guaranteed that the US will have to retaliate somehow, as well as strengthen our security presence around the airport, which will simply prolong our involvement in that part of the world. I'm hardly the first person to say it, but Afghanistan is the very definition of a quagmire.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Sunflower II

By request, here's another picture of our sunflower. I didn't have my glasses on when I was out in the garden yesterday afternoon and saw this green bug on the blossom -- so I couldn't really tell what it was but I photographed it anyway. (Thank goodness for auto-focus!) When I downloaded the pictures I realized it's just an aphid. I think so -- I still can't really tell.

In the latest chapter of our book-quarantine saga, we've decided not to quarantine. If this all sounds like a crazy see-saw, that's because it is. Such is life in the time of Covid, I guess. I think it's the right decision. All indications are that the virus isn't spread that way.

Also, last year, I had these huge plexiglass screens around my desk -- I felt like a bank teller. They were precariously placed (fell more than once) and hard to keep clean. This year I asked my boss if I really needed to keep them, and she was noncommittal, so I checked with our facilities manager, and he said government regulations no longer require them. I've also read that plastic screens might actually cause more harm than good by reducing air flow. So I took them down. What a relief! It's so nice to have my old desk back! I'm still pretty much socially distanced from the kids because the desktop is so wide.

I spent yesterday labeling shelves and moving furniture. I think we've got the space pretty much the way we want it. I've got a lot more shelf labeling to do today, plus more training. Woo hoo! (That was a sarcastic "woo hoo," just to be clear.)

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Anatomically Correct

I passed this rather eye-catching shopfront in Soho last week. I thought, "Am I seeing what I think I'm seeing?" Because it's not exactly subtle. The answer is yes -- the place will be called "The Cockery," and according to their online employment ads, "we offer large waffles with a shape of penis." (It's a Spanish outfit, so English isn't their first language.)

Potentially popular with bachelorette parties, I thought? But another employment ad specifies that the place is a "quirky, funny, extroverted and slightly transgressive GAY waffles shop." So there you have it. My next birthday destination.

Well, I may have spoken too soon about our evolving library policies. We may continue quarantining returned books after all. My boss is still trying to figure it out. The problem is, there's little clear, library-specific up-to-date guidance from the health authorities, at least that we've found. The UK government says businesses can put shared reading materials in their waiting rooms, and Scotland says quarantining shared school materials is no longer necessary. Several university libraries have stopped it, but many other public libraries still do it, according to their websites. I think my boss, in an effort to make everyone as comfortable as possible, is leaning toward continuing some type of quarantine. I can live with whatever policy we adopt.

Also, I did talk her into continuing a couple of our physical newspaper subscriptions. I argued that it's important for the kids to feel that it's normal to have a newspaper around, and it helps them learn the difference between reputable news sources and online baloney. Doing my part for journalism!

We spent most of yesterday rearranging furniture, preparing shelf labels and getting the physical library space set up. More of the same today, after a diversity and inclusion meeting this morning. I've been scarce in blogland because I'm never at my computer, but when things settle down I'll be around more.

Dave and I have started another great TV show: "Mare of Easttown," an HBO detective series with Kate Winslet. We're three episodes in and loving it. We just finished "Young Royals" on Netflix, which was also good, though a bit of a teen soap opera. (It's Swedish, at least, so we could feel more multicultural while watching it.)

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Only Connect

Dave and I were walking home from work yesterday when we passed this diagram on the sidewalk. I think it has something to do with computer science -- I recognize C++, and the phrases "standard language" and "chip specific" sound pretty tech-y. But the rest is gibberish to me. It could also be insane rambling, I suppose. I was impressed by the detail, and wondered what possessed someone to sit down (presumably?) and write it all out on the sidewalk in Sharpie.

Yesterday was our all-school staff meeting to kick off the school year. Unlike last fall, when we did it virtually, this year we all gathered once again in the school auditorium. We wore masks, and some of the meeting was about our Covid protocols, but we are clearly trying to move beyond the virus. In fact, our official theme this year is (Re)Connect, which the head of school presented with the help of a famous E.M. Forster quote, from "Howards End":
“Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer.”
Everyone has been asked to wear a mask for the first few weeks of the year, but I think that policy may be re-evaluated as time passes, especially if we don't see evidence of Covid infections in school. I believe British schools will be maskless when they re-open in a few weeks.

In the library, we're no longer quarantining books and other materials and we're once again circulating magazines, since there's no evidence that Covid spreads via contact with such objects. (We decided to cancel our physical newspapers, because they just weren't being read -- which of course makes me sad as a journalist, although we do offer everyone digital access to The New York Times through a group subscription. We may try to offer something similar for a British paper if it's available.)

We're still up in the air about how to manage student checkouts. You may remember that last year we did it all electronically -- students put books on hold and we checked them out and brought them to their classrooms. This year we'll allow the students to come in and browse for books themselves, although we might do deliveries too, depending on what everyone wants.

I'm fine about all this. I was never worried about contact with the books and once again, although I know the vaccines aren't foolproof, I fall back on the fact that I'm protected.

There's still a lot of insanity out there, though -- people who see Covid as an attempt by the "globalists" to take control. I found these stickers on recent dog walks:

I find this kind of thinking bizarrely fascinating. It requires a degree of alarmism -- paranoia, I'd argue -- that I just don't share. The Klaus Schwab quote, for example, was featured in a WEF video about the future, emphasizing that we will eventually rent rather than purchase much of what we need -- and that it will be delivered to us by drone. The example they give is tools, like drills and hammers. It seemed like a pretty harmless projection. Yet it sounds so ominous the way it's presented (out of context) on the sticker.

I joked to Dave after dinner last night: "Can you believe we have to go to work tomorrow, AGAIN?" It's hard to get back into the groove after a whole summer off.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Bats and Tigers

First of all, kudos to Linda and Ellen for figuring out my mystery plant yesterday! It's called a bat-faced cuphea, and I'd never seen or heard of it before. Now I'm intrigued -- I may have to try growing some! A project for next year, I suppose.

Above you can see a big hornet-mimic hoverfly on our buddleia, as well as a bee buzzing in for some nectar.

And here's an annual garden visitor who recently turned up for the first time this year -- a Jersey Tiger moth. (It's the first one I've seen this year, anyway.) I had enough time for exactly one picture before it flew off, so I'm glad I got a pretty good shot.

Finally, our sunflower has opened. It's still a bit folded in on itself in this photo, but it will spread out more.

Otherwise, yesterday was unremarkable. I repotted the new dahlia, and did lots of reading. There's an amazing article in The Atlantic about a family coping after losing a son on 9/11 -- one of the best things I've read recently. Follow the link to check it out. (And thanks to my friend Kevin for pointing it out to me.)

We took Olga to the cemetery -- Dave came too, which is a rarity. We once again heard the turaco but did not see it.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Happy Sad

Last night Dave and I went to a friend's house in Pinner, northwest of us, for a barbecue. It was a bit drizzly so in the end we all wound up eating in the kitchen, but still, it was a fun evening. Our friend Mark, a guy from work, set up a "listening room" in his house (he has a big rented house) with some very high-quality speakers and a centrally placed chair, in which we all experienced a couple of pieces of our favorite music. We all looked like that guy in the old Maxell ads. My selections: "In a Funny Way" by Mercury Rev; "God Only Knows" by the Beach Boys; "A Day in the Life" by the Beatles; "Blue" by Joni Mitchell.

In Pinner, walking to Mark's, we passed the graffiti bees above, happy and sad.

Earlier in the day, while walking Olga, I came across this very unusual plant in someone's front garden. It has utterly stumped my plant-identifier app, which first tried to tell me it was heliotrope (definitely not) and then a firecracker bush (closer but still not right). It's the first plant I've come across that the app just doesn't recognize and I still have no idea what it is. Anybody know?

Olga was funny on her walk. Because it was rainy we just wandered through the neighborhood, but she got quite obstinate about wanting to turn certain corners and go down certain streets. I suppose she was following her nose, but sometimes I don't think she knows where the hell she is -- and yet she's so CERTAIN. I ran into three more co-workers on the walk. Apparently everyone was out and about this weekend, despite the drizzle.

I mentioned earlier that we've taken to giving Olga a can of dog food every night (as opposed to canned food as an occasional treat). Dave bought a brand with a flavor called "Wild Boar with Superfoods," which just makes me laugh. Is the dog going to fly after eating that? (I read the ingredients -- the "superfoods" include sweet potato, blueberries and manuka honey.)

Saturday, August 21, 2021


It looks like one of our sunflowers is finally about to do something. This is the one that grew from bird seed, I think, in one of our other plant pots. We also have two of an apparently slightly different variety that came up from that wildflower seed packet I planted, and they don't even have flower buds.

It's hard to grow sunflowers when you barely have any sun, as has been the case in recent weeks!

We did finally get some zinnia blossoms, as I reported earlier. You can see them behind the sunflower, along with our bright pink lobelia.

Here are more zinnias, behind that second variety of sunflower I mentioned (and in the foreground, our purple loosestrife). That's a dahlia in the background on the right.

So, let's talk about Afghanistan. The chaos is continuing, and Biden is taking a lot of heat for it. I do think our exodus could have been better planned, but why should Biden bear the burden (that's a tongue twister) of criticism for what's going on there? We are in Afghanistan because of George W. Bush. We spent 20 years and $85 billion training the Afghan military, which ultimately proved to be as formidable as a package of gummy bears. And we're getting out now because of an agreement made by Donald Trump. It seems to me that Bush, Trump and the Afghan army (and president) are all far more responsible for what's happening in that country than Biden is.

I also wonder about all the Afghan refugees that we see flooding the airport. Are these really all people who worked with Western countries during the occupation, or are they also economic migrants who want to get out and find a better life in the West? I can't blame them for that, but I also don't think we can simply keep airlifting until the people stop coming. We'll wind up taking two-thirds of the population.

The USA couldn't stay there forever. The Afghan army and its institutions of government had their chance to take control, and they failed miserably. That's squarely on them.

And although I was against invading Afghanistan from the very beginning, I disagree with people who say our military presence over the past few decades has now been rendered completely purposeless. It could be argued that we helped stabilize that part of the world for a couple of decades, and that's not nothing. What we've hopefully learned, both here and in Iraq, is that nation-building as envisioned by the Bush administration DOESN'T WORK. We can't occupy and impose our will on other cultures. We need to help friendly cultures grow more organically, and we simply have to cultivate better relationships with unfriendly ones. Diplomacy and foreign aid -- those are our only options with the Taliban now, and those are the tools we need to use to help the Afghan people.

Here's one more wildflower -- a crown daisy, or Glebionis coronaria. This one finally got around to blooming. I'm not sure why it's lopsided, but maybe it will open up more over time.

Friday, August 20, 2021


I passed this strange storefront on the way home from work yesterday. I even looked on the Air BnB website to see if it really is listed, and I couldn't find it -- so I guess that's a joke. Let's hope so!

Work was fine yesterday. The library is chaos, but as I said earlier, we have some time before students arrive to get things in order. We need to shift some of the books to more evenly distribute them on the shelves, but the good news is, our library reorganization and weeding has left us with plenty of shelf space. We were afraid everything might not fit in the new, slightly downsized library, but that doesn't appear to be the case.

Dave and I are experimenting a bit with our evening meals. It isn't quite by choice. When the Russians went out of town, they forgot to cancel a food delivery box they get every month with various ingredients and recipes. Mrs. Russia wrote me and told us to use the box, I suppose in exchange for babysitting her strawberries. (Which makes it doubly imperative that I not kill them!)

Last night Dave made chicken taquitos with avocado and feta. If, like me, you aren't sure what a taquito is, it's basically a smallish burrito. Or at least it was in this case. Dave initially didn't want to follow the recipe -- he just wanted to make his own thing using the ingredients. But because the ingredients we received are specifically tailored to these recipes, I thought we should follow them to make sure we use them all.

Anyway, it's kind of a fun little experiment. I'm tempted to plant the avocado pit, but I suppose the last thing we need is another avocado tree. We can't even figure out what to do with the one we've got.

Of course this food box arrived just as we put in our own grocery order (delivered by "Gary in the Cabbage Van," according to Ocado, our online grocer). So now our refrigerator is overflowing and I'm stressed about whether we're going to be able to eat everything.

I read a Newbery book that I loved, called "Miracles on Maple Hill," from 1957. It's about a girl whose family moves to the country in Pennsylvania, and she learns about rural life -- the animals and plants in the woods surrounding her house, and about making maple syrup in early spring. It's a positive, joyful book, and that's somewhat unusual in the world of Newbery. So many of them seem pretty bleak.

We're watching "The White Lotus" on TV, which is terrific. We had to get a subscription to another TV streaming service to do it -- so now we have three subscriptions, Netflix, Amazon and Now TV -- but this show is so good it was worth it. Unfortunately it's a limited series and we only have two more episodes.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Lot and the Red Admiral

Well, today is the official end of summer vacation -- for me, anyway. I go back to work this morning. I'm actually looking forward to returning to routine and helping to get the library settled after our big reorganization. Students won't return for a couple more weeks.

Yesterday, I decided to have a little adventure on my last day of freedom. I went down to the National Gallery to see some art. I don't think I'd been in an art museum since Covid began.

The gallery is hosting an event called "Sketch on the Square" (above) which allows people to sit at outdoor easels overlooking Trafalgar Square and create their own artistic masterpieces.

Admission to the museum is limited to keep the galleries from being too crowded, and of course I'd failed to realize this and book a ticket in advance. Fortunately it's also possible to get a walk-up ticket if there's room, and yesterday, there was.

Everybody loves Canaletto's landscapes (or, more accurately, canalscapes) of Venice (above). I also saw Holbeins, Brueghels, Caravaggios, Rembrandts, Van Goghs, Cezannes and plenty more.

Here's Abraham Bloemaert's painting "Lot and his Daughters," from 1624. This one caught my eye not because of the subject matter -- although the story of Lot is certainly dramatic -- but because of a tiny detail at right.

It's a red admiral! Just like the ones we see in our garden now. Kind of interesting to glimpse a familiar insect from 400 years ago. You can see Lot's wife just to the right, already turned into a pillar of salt for looking back at the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

After I wandered around the museum for a couple of hours, I grabbed a sandwich in the cafe and then went walking down The Strand. I wanted to go to Stanley Gibbons, a renowned dealer of collectible stamps, because they recently bought the rarest stamp in the world and have promised to "democratize its ownership" and put it on display. It's not on display yet, but I will definitely check it out when the time comes and may even buy a share. Anyone who collected stamps as a child will recognize that stamp, which is legendary in the world of philately. (You can click the link above to see it.)

I haven't actively collected stamps for years but it was a lot of fun to look around that shop. Maybe one day I'll begin again.

Then I took a long walk from the Embankment all the way to Baker Street, winding through Soho and Marylebone. As you can see above, the crowds are out and about once again in Leicester Square...

...and also in Chinatown. (And everywhere else.) I wasn't too concerned being around people, since we were all outside, and in the museum and in Stanley Gibbons I was masked and pretty much everyone else was too.

And now, I gotta get ready for work!

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

iPhone and Not

You know how I often make a post out of all the random recent photos on my iPhone? Well, that's what we're doing today, except that some of these are also camera shots. It's miscellaneous photo day.

First, an intriguing piece of street art I found a few weeks ago on Finchley Road.

Olga has taken to lying beneath the garden bench while I sit on it and read. I guess it's cool under there.

This was the featured cocktail in my most recent craft gin club box. It was something involving cherry juice, lime, a special syrup and gin from Singapore. It was good, but once again, I found myself simply wanting a plain ol' gin & tonic. I'm a creature of habit. (As you can see, when I took this I was still in the middle of reading "Smoky the Cowhorse.")

On the nearby housing estate, someone has grown some exuberant gladioli. I don't often see gladioli in gardens. These seem to be doing just fine in pots.

Also on the estate, someone has turned this planter into a pretty impressive little garden. Those lilies are particularly nice. I think I've photographed them in previous years.

Remember the apple-tree-in-a-bag? Not only is it alive, it appears to be thriving and bearing fruit. I never knew a tree would grow in a bag of dirt. (Its owners appear to have added dirt to the bag over time.)

An anti-Covid message in Golders Green. I don't agree with most of what this organization touts, which includes some hoaxy, conspiracy-laden thinking. But I do agree, as I've already said, that we have to find a way to live our lives with this bug.

The morning light looked nice in our entrance hall.

And finally, this is a hoverfly hovering. It's pretty hard to focus on these guys in mid-air, but fortunately they DO hover so if you're fast, there's enough time to snap a picture while it's still in one place!

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Russian Strawberries

When Olga and I walked down to the Overground station on Sunday, on our fruitless quest for a train to take us to Hampstead Heath, I noticed that the little cafe across the street now has a brightly painted security gate. (I'm assuming this is by arrangement with the artist, Festa.) It looks much better than it did previously.

Dave came home yesterday morning as planned. He was exhausted from his long flights, first from Indianapolis to Atlanta and then on to London. We looked around the garden and re-watched our episode of "Gardener's World" from a few weeks ago. I know he's glad to be back on his home turf, and I'm relieved he's safe and sound.

After the garden tour he climbed into his chair and promptly fell asleep for several hours, joined by the equally exhausted Olga (who apparently needed the security of her tennis ball during her nap).

So, yeah, back to life as usual around here! I don't know if I can stand the excitement.

I even made dinner last night, a scrambled egg concoction with shallots, olives and sun-dried tomatoes, which happened to be just about all we had left in the refrigerator. I was pretty impressed with my food ingenuity during his absence. I can make a meal out of almost anything.

The Russians have gone on vacation for a few weeks, and before she left, Mrs. Russia asked me to take care of her strawberry seedlings (above). She handed me these pots covered with plastic wrap, with instructions to mist them regularly. I've never grown strawberries and I'm a little terrified I will kill them, but after reading about them online I took the plastic wrap off. I think they need more light and air than that mini-greenhouse provides. I hope I'm not wrong about this, but it's been a few days and they seem healthy enough. Oh, the burden of responsibility!

I should probably put them in the dining room, which gets morning sun. I just did a massive cleaning of the windowsill in there, treating all the orchids for scale (with rubbing alcohol) and wiping and washing everything, and now there's a little extra space.

I forgot to mention my movie of choice on Sunday night: "Against All Odds," with Jeff Bridges and Rachel Ward. I've written before about my soft spot for this film, even though it's not the greatest. The ever-incisive Roger Ebert said it best: "There is a lot of plot in this movie -- probably too much. The best thing to do is to accept the plot, and then disregard it, and pay attention to the scenes of passion. They really work." I also love the footage of Mexico, early '80s Cozumel and the Mayan ruins at Tulum and Chichen Itza.

Last night I watched "Pray Away," an interesting Netflix documentary about gay conversion therapy and the fact that many leaders of the movement have since renounced it and resumed their gay lives. I'd been saving it to watch with Dave, but of course he fell asleep -- poor guy!

Monday, August 16, 2021

More Late-Summer Flowers

Even though we're well into August, new types of flowers are still emerging in the garden! 

Above, our passionflower produced its first blossom of the season, and there are some more buds coming along. This vine hasn't been looking so great -- perhaps because I've allowed a lot of other stuff, like poppies and borage, to grow in its pot. It might be time to give it some fresh compost.

Our red-hot pokers finally sent up flowers. This one's the farthest along.

The phlox are blooming. Don't you love how the flowers open in that perfect little spiral?

OK, the teasels aren't new, but I couldn't resist one more picture. Those tall teasels that I battled to keep upright have been standing just fine, but now they're starting to die back. The leaves are yellowing and many of the flowers are spent. We'll probably cut them down soon -- but I want Dave to see them first.

We have zinnias! Woo hoo! It took long enough, but finally a few flowers have appeared. I only have a handful because I planted them in pots -- and I still have plenty of seeds for next year.

Another look at the "night sky" petunias. The squirrels really did a number on them. They're in a hanging basket on the walnut tree, and the squirrels would run up into the tree to collect nuts and then sit in the middle of this plant to eat them. Consequently a bunch of the stalks were broken and the top is flattened into a perfect little squirrel couch. The flowers are still plugging away, though.

We finally got a single nasturtium. Many of our nasturtiums haven't really prospered for some reason -- at least, not yet.

I tried to take Olga to the Heath yesterday. We were going to try a new approach, hopping on the Overground train and getting off at the Hampstead Heath station, and then walking the short distance onto the Heath. My thought was that it would save my elderly dog the walk to and from (although by the time we walk to the station and then up onto the Heath, I'm not sure we'd be saving that much effort). Anyway, wouldn't you know it -- we walked to the station to find the Overground closed. So we turned around and although Olga had initially seemed excited for a walk, she took me back home again.

I guess Sunday is a day of rest, right?

And big excitement -- Dave finally comes home today! Woo hoo! In fact he should be in the air right now. I know he's ready to get back to real life.