Sunday, October 31, 2021

Halloween Heath

Well, the weather wasn't as bad as I feared it might be yesterday -- in fact in the afternoon we even had some sun. I wound up taking Olga to the Heath. That's Golders Hill Park, above, which is looking quite autumnal. You can see the arc of Wembley Stadium on the horizon, center-left.

But before I got out with the dog, I wrestled with a few projects. I packaged up and mailed some Christmas presents for my nieces, and that wound up being an odyssey that required a shopping trip for packing peanuts and tape, and then a schlep down to the post office in Swiss Cottage. (Both of our local post offices are closed on Saturday, for some reason.) It cost me about £35 to mail the box, and if I'd added tracking it would have been another £15 -- so I didn't. I may regret that. The clerk said it would take three weeks to arrive, so I told my brother to expect it in six.

Then I got the broken screen on my iPhone replaced. I'm not sure where I broke it, but it's been cracked for ages, and I'd hesitated to replace it because I thought it would cost a fortune. (When I had my phone screen replaced at the Apple Store back in New Jersey I think I paid something like $100.) I took it to the local computer repair shop and he only charged me £5! If I'd known it would be that cheap I'd have done it months ago.

Finally, I tried to buy one of those scandalous books I mentioned the other day -- "Lawn Boy" by Jonathan Evison. Not only did my local bookshop not have it, but apparently even the publisher is out of stock, as is Amazon. See what I mean about censorship boosting sales?

Just before lunch I trimmed back a lot of dead overgrowth in the garden, and filled two yard waste bags. Then, after eating, Olga and I headed out. We walked all of the West Heath and Sandy Heath, and briefly ventured onto the Extension. I was worried she'd push herself to go too far and suffer for it later, but she seemed fine and enthusiastic about the squirrels, as usual.

With all this damp weather the mushrooms are out in profusion.

Can you see that crescent of white mushrooms in the leaves? A fairy ring, I believe it's called.

On Sandy Heath, someone was having (or already had) some kind of Halloween event. There were pictures of ghosts and evil-looking pumpkins tacked to the trees, and this spray-painted onto the ground...

Maybe it was a ghost party, because I didn't see any people around. Hopefully someone will come back and take the signs down, at least.

Oh, and of course, I found a few interesting things on our walk, including an old brown glass Schweppes bottle and a potted prayer plant that someone had discarded. The bottle cleaned up well -- I'll try to remember to photograph it for a future post. The plant is a bit bedraggled but I think with some recovery time it will bounce right back. (Wasn't I just saying we have too many potted plants?)

So, all in all, it was a good day and I got a lot done. Tonight, as is our custom, Dave and I are laying low to avoid trick-or-treaters (even though we never get any).

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Pumpkins and Not Much Else

When I was at school yesterday I saw this row of carved jack-o-lanterns lined up in a hallway. They were all numbered, as if for judging, so I'm thinking we must have had a pumpkin carving contest. This one was my favorite, even though the carving itself seems a bit simplistic. A Covid-o-lantern!

I'm not sure my walking plan is going to work out this weekend. We're supposed to have pretty miserable weather both days. We'll see how it goes. I have plenty to do here at home, so I'll keep myself busy either way.

I found this image of an old Halloween greeting card online and thought it was pretty great. I'll blog it today just in case I do walk and tomorrow I have pictures to share!

Friday, October 29, 2021

Old Leaves and an Old Man

So, after blogging about everything under the sun yesterday, I have not much to say today. I should learn to pace myself better!

I printed out some walking maps yesterday for the Green Chain walk in South London, which I hope to do over the weekend. It's a strange path -- not a continuous, linear route but an interlinked "chain" of short walks that connect to each other at random points. So I'm not quite sure yet how I'm going to walk it, unless I just do the segments one at a time, because the end of one segment may leave me in the middle of the next. Then I'd have to walk to the beginning of the next segment, turn around and walk back again to do the whole thing. Does that make sense? (If you click the link above and look at the map you'll see what I mean.)

Have you heard about the books that the right-wingers are having a conniption about in the USA? There's a novel called "Lawn Boy" by Jonathan Evison, and a graphic novel called "Gender Queer" by Maia Kobabe, both of which contain some sexual content that has apparently sent some conservatives over the top. Some parents in Virginia and Texas have denounced the books as "porn" and petitioned to have them removed from school libraries, despite the fact that they're both award-winners and the controversial passages, as described in the Washington Post article linked above, don't sound that bad when considered in context. We don't have them in our school library but I'm tempted to buy them personally, because I'm curious to read them myself. Censorious parents never seem to learn this lesson -- campaigning against a book is the quickest way to boost its sales and readership.

Speaking of books, I've posted in the past about some of the great old book covers I find in our library. Here's another one:

Isn't that a great cover? It's the front and back of an edition of "The Old Man and the Sea" first published by Jonathan Cape in 1952. The first edition appears to be worth a lot but this one is a mid-'60s reprint. We've had it in the library since at least 1977, when it was first checked out. Some great graphic design on our shelves!

(Top photo: Some fallen leaves caught in the dry stems of cow parsley at the cemetery, last weekend.)

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Patio Psychosis

Yes, another leaf

Dave stayed home from work yesterday because he wasn't feeling great. (Don't worry -- it's not Covid. We're both negative on our twice-weekly lateral flow tests.) He said he felt achy and tired and kind of brain-foggy, which can all be related to his Crohn's Disease.

When I got home from work in the afternoon, he said to me, "We have a psychotic squirrel in the garden."

Apparently a squirrel came to the living room window several times during the day, stood on its hind legs, put its forelegs against the glass, and then tried to jump through. Dave knocked on the glass at one point to scare it away, but it came back. Olga regarded the whole episode with detachment. Dave thinks she probably sees this squirrel every day and has become bored with its antics.

As it turns out, I had our garden-cam set up in a new position on the patio, and I was happy to see that it recorded the deranged squirrel, and even Dave's window-knocking. It also captured some footage of a grazing pigeon and a couple of little robins, and a quick view of a fox at night.

Yes, I know, our patio is in woeful condition. We have too many potted plants. Once the weather gets drier I'll move them all and sweep and weed. The dahlias will go in the shed for the winter and I probably should toss some of the primroses, which I don't think are even alive.

I'm at that stage in the annual life of the garden when I just want to throw everything away. The plants are all done blooming and they're slumping and overgrown, and I want to get out there with a machete and start clearing like an explorer hacking his way through the jungle in an old movie about Africa. I did cut the dead peonies back yesterday. Every week I'm setting out my allotted two bags of yard waste for composting by the council, although you'd never know it.

I've been feeling kind of despondent lately. I think our decision not to go home for Christmas has me in a funk. I need something to look forward to. Dave and I planned a getaway at Thanksgiving -- a couple of nights in a little village outside the city -- so that helps. And I think we might try to go somewhere at Christmas, maybe even on a quick trip to France or Belgium, depending on travel conditions at that time. Getting on a train to travel a short distance seems less risky Covid-wise than getting on a transatlantic flight.

I think I'm going to start another walking project, too, to keep myself in shape. Now that Olga has become so lazy about walking I need to get out and get more exercise on my own. Maybe I'll walk the Thames Path or the Green Chain.

Unfortunately the UK's Covid numbers are not in a good place. My brief foray into working unmasked, under the school's new mask-optional policy, lasted about three days. I'm now back to masking. Maybe when the numbers trend downward I'll feel more secure in going maskless.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Stop That Dog!

Before you get concerned, let me state right away that this post is not about Olga. Olga is fine; she's right where she belongs at this hour of the day, under the bedcovers and snoring.

No, this post is about Leo.

I was walking to work on Finchley Road yesterday morning, through St. John's Wood, and I'd almost arrived when I suddenly heard a woman screaming "HELP! HELP!" I looked across the road and I saw a brownish spaniel sprinting down the sidewalk, trailing an untethered leash behind it. The woman was trying to catch the dog, but I could already see the gap between them growing and I knew that wasn't going to happen.

I was on the other side of Finchley, which is six lanes of traffic and fairly busy in the morning, but I took off running parallel to the dog, as did another guy. The dog ran out into the road, circled around in front of the cars (which all slowed, thank goodness) and I saw a guy on a motorbike take up the chase. Meanwhile, the woman was shrieking "HELP!" and "LEO! LEO!" at the top of her lungs. The motorbike guy called to her to stop screaming, thinking (I suppose) that it was spooking the dog.

Leo, who by this time was way ahead of all of us, eventually took off down a side street.

After a couple of blocks the other running guy broke off his pursuit, and I was slowing down myself. Leo was moving so quickly I'd lost sight of him, but I ran onto the side street and looked up and down both sides. Then I turned a corner and there was the guy on the motorbike along with another guy on a bicycle, holding onto Leo's leash. I guess having wheels helps when you're trying to catch a running dog.

As I chatted with the two rescuers the woman turned the corner behind me and, seeing that Leo was safe, took a few minutes to catch her breath. I didn't stick around to watch the reunion, since I was now late for work, but as they say, all's well that ends well.

Certainly an unusual way to start the day!

(Photo: A leaf on Finchley Road, taken minutes before Leo's escape.)

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Not Quite Al Capone's Vault

As you can see, yesterday I tackled the mystery of the found lockbox.

I zipped home right after work and took it to our neighborhood locksmith. He and his assistant oohed and aahed over it when I brought it in, exclaiming about its age, and I told them that I'd found it on the street and had no idea what, if anything, was inside. They readily admitted they didn't have a key that would fit it, but after a quick examination, the locksmith suggested simply popping it open with a heavy screwdriver.

"I get fifty percent of whatever's inside," he joked. At least, I think it was a joke. I laughed but didn't quite agree.

I told him I didn't want to damage the box, though to be honest I wasn't sure I wanted to keep it -- especially if I couldn't get a key for it. But he didn't think he would hurt it. He managed to crack the lid enough to see that there was paper inside, which heightened our curiosity, and eventually he pried the box open without any trouble or obvious damage.

It was pretty much empty, as I expected. The paper turned out to be a featureless piece of brown wrapping paper. But there was also this:

It's a small gold-tone pin -- definitely not real gold, but kind of interesting. At first I thought it was broken because I couldn't figure out what the shape was supposed to depict. I brought it home to Dave and we puzzled over it. Was it a pterodactyl? I found an identical pin listed on Etsy, and the seller there called it a pterodactyl, but I wasn't convinced. It looked more like a winged deer or an antelope.

Finally, after quite a bit of Googling, I figured out that it is a lapel pin from South African Airways, featuring their old "flying springbok" logo. This is a streamlined version that the airline used between 1971 and 1997, when they rebranded and dropped the springbok altogether.

So that was kind of interesting.

And here's the best part -- the locksmith didn't charge me, since all he did was force the box. So this whole adventure cost me nothing.

I still have the box, which I'll wedge open with a piece of cardboard or something and stick in a closet. Maybe someday it will be useful to someone. And obviously I'll keep the springbok.

After all that, I celebrated by making my craft gin club cocktail of the month, dubbed "The Banshee." The recipe tested the physical limits of my martini glass, as you can see. (Yes, that is a picture of me as a kid in the background.) The Banshee was yummy and contained spiced gin, lemon juice, cocktail syrup and Polara Mandarino Verde citrus drink from Sicily. There was more than enough Mandarino for one cocktail, so once I opened the bottle I was forced -- FORCED, I tell you -- to drink two.

I suffer for my art!

Monday, October 25, 2021

Watercolor Orchid

Dave and I walked Olga to the cemetery yesterday afternoon beneath a sunny autumnal sky, complete with vapor trails. That sunshine felt great. Olga chased pigeons on West End Green and found a wrecked soccer ball in the cemetery that she determinedly carried around for a while, until she got tired of it.

Still no word on why that mysterious police helicopter was buzzing around over our house. I suppose we'll never know. Lots of people complained on Twitter, including some with much better video than me and even a route map of the copter's flight path, but no one had any answers.

I finished another Newbery -- "Flora & Ulysses" by Kate DiCamillo. It was very cute. That's not a word I often use to describe a book, but it definitely applies to this story of a "cynical" girl who rescues a squirrel after a household accident that seems to give the squirrel mysterious powers.

I also cleaned the house and watered all the plants. I discovered this:

Those are buds on a Cambria orchid that I rescued from Homebase when they gave away all their plants just before lockdown in spring 2020. The flowers had already faded by that time so we've never seen it bloom. I know they'll be red but that's all I know. Stay tuned!

I painstakingly painted that watercolor (ha!) using the Waterlogue app on my phone, because my original picture wasn't that good. Photo processing conceals a multitude of ills.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Lockbox and Helicopter

This may be an all-time record for sleeping late and, hence, posting late. But that's what Sunday morning is for, right?

We've had a busy weekend around here already. I took the dog out for a couple of walks yesterday, including a short outing to the cemetery where we found some autumnal leaves. This is how well-behaved Olga is -- I told her to stay put, and she allowed me to cover her eye with a leaf for a picture. She does trust me, that dog.

I found this mysterious lockbox, set out with some rubbish on the sidewalk. I'm really trying not to bring stuff home, because enough is enough, but I couldn't resist this. I was mostly curious about whether I could get it open (and the answer is no). It doesn't have a key. The paper label says it contained a marriage certificate and an MOT certificate (which is what you get in Britain when your car is inspected). I assume it's probably empty now, but it's surprisingly heavy and I might take it to a locksmith just to see if he can get into it and maybe even give me a key for it.

Or is that insane? I haven't decided.

Anyway, after walking the dog, Dave and I met up at the cinema with our friend Chris to see "Dune." It's a visually spectacular movie and much better than the '80s version, and I think seeing it on a big screen was worth it. I wasn't entirely clear on all the plot points, but fortunately Chris had read Frank Herbert's book three times (and it's a GIGANTIC book, so that's quite an accomplishment). He filled me in afterwards on a few things I didn't understand -- for example, how do those gigantic sand worms survive on a planet that seems otherwise devoid of almost any life? What do they eat? (I won't spoil it for you.)

I tried to read "Dune" as a teenager but it didn't do it for me. I liked light science fiction of the "Star Trek" and Ray Bradbury variety, but I could never get into classic sci-fi by Isaac Asimov or Arthur C. Clarke or Robert Heinlein. Maybe it was just too complicated. I could never do Tolkien either, aside from "The Hobbit."

Anyway, after the movie, we came back here and had pizza and gossiped about work. It was a fun evening and I didn't go to bed until midnight or so, which is why I slept so late.

And I slept soundly, except between 4:30 and 5:15 in the morning, when this thing was hovering over our neighborhood. It's a police helicopter and it was loud. I have no idea what was going on, but they were clearly looking for someone.

I made possibly the worst-quality video ever so you could experience the sound. You won't be able to see much, though, because capturing a flashing object in a dark sky was beyond the capacity of my iPhone. If I ever figure out what that thing was doing up there, I'll let you know.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

GMO Pumpkin

Some of the Michaelmas daisies are still going strong, as you can see, but others have passed their peak and I'm starting to cut them down. As much as I like these flowers I don't want them to re-seed too much. They're prolific and they'd take over if I let them.

More shelf-reading at work yesterday. I found a few more out-of-place books and realized another one, an old volume about American musical traditions, is missing entirely. I think it's one we weeded and somehow failed to remove from the catalog. I love tying up little loose ends like this!

Some of you wondered yesterday why I use a list when I'm shelf-reading, rather than simply going down the line and making sure everything's in Dewey decimal numeric order. The fact is, a list makes the job much easier and faster. When you're just looking at the shelf you've got to calculate integers and alphabetize, but with a list, you simply match. Plus it prevents mistakes. Know what I mean?

Also, one of you mentioned kids who would hide a book in the library so that only they could find it. We had that happen earlier this year -- we could not locate a particular book ("Race to the Sun" by Rebecca Roanhorse) that a boy had requested. I told him that it wasn't where it should be on the shelf and we'd keep an eye out for it. Well, a day or two later, the same boy came into the library and said, "I know where the book is." He took us to a completely different shelf et voila -- there it was. Now, he MUST have put it there. Otherwise, how would he know where it was? I don't know why he then requested it unless he was simply testing our abilities as librarians!

My brother sent this picture of what he calls his "GMO pumpkin." His family bought it at the local pumpkin patch before Halloween LAST YEAR, and it's been sitting on their front steps in Jacksonville ever since. It refuses to degrade, even in the muggy heat of a Florida summer. Apparently they had two of them, but the larger one -- which was orange -- succumbed last April. Squashes and gourds are renowned for their longevity, but this is ridiculous!

Friday, October 22, 2021

Pith Helmet

I've slept a little later than usual this morning. I looked at the clock and it was 3:30, and then I dozed and looked again and it was 4:30, and then suddenly it was 6:30! Fortunately, I can be a little more leisurely about getting to work today, since the kids aren't in school and the teachers are all having parent conferences.

I spent yesterday shelf-reading. Dave asked me last night what that means, so I'll tell you too, just in case you're not sure. It means running a report in our library system that lists all the books in the order in which they should be shelved, and then going down each shelf -- carrying an iPad displaying the list -- making sure they're all in order and none are misplaced. It may sound tedious, but I think it's fun.

I did find a few books that were nowhere near where they were supposed to be, and identified two that seem to be missing -- so I feel like I'm achieving something. As I told Dave last night, one needs a certain kind of personality to enjoy a task like that, and fortunately for me, I have it.

I also weeded some books that seem old or out of date. To wit:

"The Present Day," in this case, means 1979, when this book was published.

It's full of these strangely awkward drawings. I meant to capture the woman with the turned-up hat brim, but I decided I had to show you the other woman too. Did people really wear pith helmets with head scarves in 1970? Maybe in Rhodesia.

Every time I find a book like this, I wonder how it escaped all our previous weeding. Last spring, when we packed up and reorganized the entire library and moved all the books, we got rid of hundreds and hundreds of old volumes. How did we miss this one? It's a mystery. Anyway, it's in the charity box now.

When I came home, I cleaned up some stuff in the garden. We finally took out the lavender bush that I found several years ago -- half of it had died and it had flopped over so that it was lying on some other plants, and although we staked it up nothing seemed to work very well. Dave's been wanting to get rid of it for ages and I resisted but I finally gave in. We got five years out of it, and now I can use that space for foxgloves.

(Top photo: A fallen leaf on Abbey Road, a few days ago.)

Thursday, October 21, 2021

The Screaming Hand

Walking with Olga back from Wormwood Scrubs on Sunday, I passed these vivid posters. This is the "Screaming Hand," a well-known trademark for Santa Cruz skateboards. Kind of an interesting image to find in northwest London, but I guess skate culture is everywhere.

Here's the story of the creation of the hand, by artist Jim Phillips, in 1985. I was once in Santa Cruz myself, way back in 1991 (when the hand was only six years old!). Unfortunately I don't remember much about it. I drove through with a friend from San Francisco on the way to Big Sur. Here's what I wrote in my journal afterwards: "The drive to Santa Cruz was hell. All kinds of traffic and road blockage -- it was really irritating and my temper was short. But after Santa Cruz things opened up as we drove south through Monterey and Carmel, past vegetable fields, pastures on the coast and stylish beach homes."

That's my sole exposure to Santa Cruz -- traffic. I have even less experience with skateboarding.

Speaking of obscure sports references, take a look again at yesterday's post. Do you see on the ceramics shop window the creature at lower left saying "COYS"? I wondered what on Earth that meant. Well, through the magic of Google, I learned that it's a football (soccer) reference that means "Come on You Spurs!" It's a reference to the Tottenham Hotspur football club. Apparently our ceramics dealers are fans.

Today and tomorrow are going to be fairly low-key days at work. The teachers are all having parent-teacher conferences, which used to happen in massive face-to-face gatherings in the school gym but are now held entirely on Zoom, much to everyone's satisfaction. There are no kids around, so for me it's time to work on catch-up projects in the library. I think I'll just do some shelf organizing and weeding.

Remember how I said Dave got his Covid booster shot not too long ago? Well, after the fact, he got a very peculiar letter from the NHS saying he needed a third shot -- and that it should not be considered a booster but part of his original set of vaccinations. (This is because his Crohn's medication leaves him somewhat immunocompromised.) He was told if he'd already had a third shot, he could ignore the letter. And if he'd already had a booster, he could likewise ignore it. So we ignored it, but he's still scratching his head about whether the shot he got counts as a booster or not, and what the difference might be, if any. Mystifying!

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Spooky Ceramics

The ceramics shop on the high street has adopted a Halloween decorating theme.

I've never been in this place. It's a paint-it-yourself establishment where you buy the blank and the glazes, sit at a table and decorate your piece, and then they fire it for you and you pick it up when it's done. I see tons of people there, so it seems pretty popular.

I doubt that anything I painted would turn out this well!

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Slugs and Space Aliens

Today, a random collection of photos from my iPhone.

First, an exotic fowl seen perched on a wall on our street. I am forever finding these little toys from baby strollers littering the sidewalks. I don't know why the manufacturers can't make them so they don't fall off. (I guess that guarantees parents will buy more?)

Look! It's the Donald Trump smiley-face shopping bag!

A poem (you know it's dubious when it has to TELL you it's a poem) on the side of some discarded furniture near Willesden Junction. (Nowhere near Abbey Road, incidentally.)

Remember my shot of Olga in the tiled shop entrance? Well, the entrance has since become littered with fallen leaves, so I thought I'd do a follow-up picture. She's still not thrilled about being asked to stand there.

Some scary-looking graffiti on Billy Fury Way, just in time for Halloween.

This is an interstellar brand of "cosmic corn snacks." I would totally have eaten these a kid.

Here's another over-a-wall picture of a construction site. This used to be an old pub, and not only has it been torn down but they've excavated a gigantic pit in its place. What's going in here, next to the Finchley Road and Frognal overground station, I have no idea. I suppose I could look it up if I get motivated.

(Addendum: I got motivated. A block of flats was announced several years ago for the site, but it was supposed to be finished in 2019. So either there have been significant delays or perhaps the project has evolved into something else, or been sold to another owner. Who knows.)

A mischievous doodle some kids left on a whiteboard at work -- an astronaut, I believe, noting that there is indeed life on Mars. (Funny how life on Mars continues to be a myth that haunts our imaginations, even though we've pretty much proven there's nothing there but rocks.)

And finally, I once again came upon a parade of slugs (a dozen in this photo alone) descending this tree and crawling along the sidewalk, all in the same direction. This is the second time I've witnessed this phenomenon at this location. Do these slugs live or breed in that tree? What makes them come down to the ground? Where do they go from there? (It's mostly paved in the immediate vicinity.)

Very mysterious!

Monday, October 18, 2021

Latimer and Wormwood

A couple of nights ago, Dave and I were watching "Ted Lasso," like the rest of the planet, and suddenly I recognized where they were filming. "Hey, that's the Westway!" I exclaimed -- the soccer fields under the elevated highway known as the Westway, near a large sports center. I used to walk Olga there all the time when we lived in Notting Hill. I'd go to photograph the omnipresent and ever-changing graffiti.

Olga and I hadn't been back to the Westway since we moved, but we could get there easily by taking the tube to the Latimer Road stop. So that was our outing yesterday.

It's hard to tell with dogs, but I would swear Olga remembered the place. She seemed so comfortable there.

The area has been transformed by the Grenfell Tower disaster of 2017 -- the fire that swept up the side of a newly refurbished council-owned high-rise, killing 72 people. The Westway Sports Centre is practically in the shadow of Grenfell, and there are memorials and murals everywhere. (The criminal inquiry into the fire, incidentally, is still dragging on. The government is considering tearing down the remains of the building, over the objections of some survivors and relatives of victims.)

After that, we walked up Latimer and North Pole roads to Wormwood Scrubs, one of Olga's favorite spots to run wild and chase squirrels.

You might remember the last time we were at Wormwood, back in April, a massive utilities construction project had begun that required the clearance of some of the woodlands. There was a protest camp near the area being cleared. Well, that's gone now.

All we found at the site of the camp were some stacks of old debris and, weirdly, a grimy unicorn hobby horse.

Oh, and not too far away, some very autumnal mushrooms.

We walked through the Scrubs, enjoying the wilderness around the construction zones, and then made our way back to West Hampstead via the overground railroad from Willesden Junction. It was quite a walk for Olga at this stage of her life and she's still asleep as I write. But she had a good time and I enjoyed being able to take her to once-familiar places she knew as a young dog.

I finished "Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze," which was better than I thought it might be. Given that it was written in the 1930s I feared it would contain outdated Asian stereotypes, and it kind of does -- the author refers to workers as "coolies," for example. Still, it wasn't as scary as I thought it might be.

Whenever I hear the term "coolie" I think back to a woman my brother and I knew when we were kids in Florida who had a shrub in her yard that produced flowers she called "coolie hats." (I see that Wikipedia gives it the more acceptable names "Chinese hat" or "Mandarin hat.") I remember collecting some while visiting her and drying them for display in our house. Those things were kicking around for ages.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Begonia and Teenage Celebrity Crushes

Dave bought a begonia several months ago, and to our surprise it's now blooming. I don't know why we're surprised, exactly, because I know begonias bloom. I guess we bought it primarily for the leaves so we forgot to even consider flowers.

Dave is working part of each day this weekend, recording students who want to audition for Honor Band. This was an annual event before the pandemic, but there hasn't been an Honor Band for the past year or two -- a band composed of auditioning students from many different international schools, assembled through this organization. So it's nice that they're finally able to put one together again.

I, meanwhile, am working my way through yet another Newbery book -- "Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze," from 1932, which is OK but isn't exactly knocking my socks off. I'm about two-thirds of the way through and my goal is to finish it today. We'll see.

I also took the dog to the cemetery, where we saw:

...lots of dew on the grass...

...and the bright berries of wild arum blazing up like flaming, poisonous candles...

...and hawkweed still in bloom.

And then, while walking home, I found this (below).

It's a curious little drawing. I think it's a masked woman? Anyway, it's very small, and I'm not sure how I noticed it lying on the sidewalk, but I did.

Once home again, I watched "The Blue Lagoon," which we recorded from TV months ago. I hadn't seen it in many, many years and I remember it being quite controversial when it was first released -- Brooke Shields being 14 at the time. At least she had a body double for the nude scenes. (Her co-star Christopher Atkins was already 18.) It seems harmless enough -- mostly it made me want to visit Fiji -- but I wonder if it would be made in the same way nowadays. I suspect they'd cast an older actress, and rightly so.

I had quite a crush on Christopher Atkins when I was in high school (as did plenty of other people at that time). I remember sneaking off to the theater one afternoon in 1983 to see "A Night in Heaven," in which he played a male stripper -- it was a terrible movie but he made the ticket price worthwhile. (Plus it took place in my home state, Florida, on the so-called "Space Coast" near Titusville.) I wasn't out to anyone else back then and the whole excursion felt quite illicit. It's hard to believe he's 60 years old now. To employ a clich├ęd phrase, where does the time go?

I also had a teenage crush on Lance Kerwin. Remember him? And then he became an evangelical minister and had some legal problems. Can I pick 'em, or what?

Now he's also 60.


Saturday, October 16, 2021

Bright Leaves and Dark News

I can't resist another post featuring our coleus plants. They're so colorful and lush. I don't know why I don't grow these all the time.

I'm sure you've seen the news about the UK lawmaker who was murdered yesterday while meeting with constituents in an apparent act of terrorism. That's certainly the big news in the UK at the moment. Shocking, and coming not too many years after the murder of another MP by a right-wing extremist, it has shown that these representatives need better security. It's a shame that they can no longer safely meet with the people they represent without a posse of police alongside them, but that seems to be where we are these days.

I've said it before and I'll say it again -- the world has gone crazy. Or maybe it was always crazy. I imagine people in the late 1960s must have felt the same, amid the assassinations and the Vietnam War and the fallout from the Civil Rights era in the USA, as well as the Prague Spring and Biafran War and all the other world conflicts of the time. Whenever I start despairing about current events I try to remember that we've been here before. We've even had pandemics before. None of this is really new, except that now we have the added power of the Internet stirred into the mix.

Our mask policy at work is still scheduled to change as of Monday, to one of voluntary rather than mandatory masking. This is interesting given that England is apparently experiencing "sky-high Covid rates" (in the words of The Guardian) and boosters are still rolling out, as well as vaccines for young people. I still plan to remove my mask when I'm alone at my desk but I think I'll wear it when I'm around people -- although how effective is that when exhaled droplets can stay suspended in the air for long periods of time, as has been reported? I know some of my co-workers are nervous about the kids no longer masking, particularly, and I wonder if I owe it to them, especially, to keep my mask on. I want to be sensitive to their concerns but I really feel like I must get that thing off my face for at least part of the day. Aaaaaargh! Mask ethics!

Anyway, I did not intend for this post to be so somber. Sorry about that.

On a more positive note, I'm hoping to do some gardening this weekend, getting some foxgloves into the ground and doing some more autumn pruning and trimming. I have to ration the trimming because the council will only pick up two bags of garden waste per week. Any more than that and they leave it behind!