Monday, May 16, 2022

Nothing Special on a Sunday


Our orange azalea is blooming up a storm right now. Dave and I were looking around the garden a couple of days ago and he gestured to the azalea and said, "I think that might be my favorite plant." While I like the color, I'm not crazy about the rumpled texture of the flowers. They all look like they just came out of a washing machine. But it is a profuse bloomer and gives us a nice splash of color.

I was out in the garden yesterday morning, weeding and neatening some things up, when I discovered that our passionflower vine at the corner of the patio is, in fact, dead. We suspected as much. It didn't exactly prosper last year. Fortunately, we have a second one that came up from seed in the pot that houses our olive tree, so hopefully it will contribute some passion to the garden this summer.

There are a couple of other plants that haven't made it, so I think I'm going to clean out some pots sometime soon. It's incredibly liberating to throw out a potted plant that has died on its own despite my best care. It makes me feel like I get the last laugh.


And yet, I also cannot resist a challenge. I found this poor hydrangea, dry as a golf ball in Palm Springs, sitting next to a trash can on Fortune Green Road. Dave loves hydrangeas so I brought it home and soaked it in water overnight. It looks terrible but I think it will survive. The stems are healthy and green and once it puts out new leaves I'll trim it and it will be good as new.

If you're squeamish about bugs, skip the next picture!


One of our peony buds has quite a collection of aphids on it, as well as ants that seem to be "farming" them. I am always impressed at how a single flower can contain its own ecosystem. It's Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom! I suppose the aphids may stunt the flower, but if they do, c'est la vie. We have more on the way.

Around midday it began to rain -- not hard, but steady and enough to give everything a good soaking. It relieved me of any guilt I felt for not at least trying to walk the dog. I sat and listened to music and worked on my stamps, and Olga seemed happy to snooze at my feet. I'm almost finished putting the stamps in my albums, and then we'll regain the dining room tabletop, which has been covered with them for the past few weeks. (Not that we ever eat in there.)

I've been putting out four new fat balls every day for the parakeets, who devour them completely in no time. This is apparently going to be the summer of the parakeets. They're around so much I don't even bother to photograph them anymore. Occasionally something else can squeeze in for some food -- I saw a woodpecker on the feeder a couple of days ago and a robin was on it just now.


Oh, and starlings. We have no shortage of those.

Last night, we watched "Four Hours at the Capitol," a documentary about January 6. It was excellent and appalling and infuriating, and it showed exactly who did what despite all the obfuscation and conspiracy theories that right-wingers have spouted since alleging ANTIFA and FBI involvement. The producers did a great job getting a variety of people to talk, including members of Congress, policemen and protesters. Definitely worth watching, if you can stomach it.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

No-Mow May, by Accident


Remember how I said we weren't going to do "No-Mow May" this year? Well, I was wrong.

This wasn't by design so much as circumstance -- I just haven't gotten around to mowing -- but since we're already halfway through the month I plan to just let it happen. The daisies are thanking me!

I did, however, weed more of the flowerbeds yesterday, which seems perhaps antithetical to the no-mow philosophy. I simply cleared areas around some plants so we could see them better and they could get more light.

I also planted almost all the rest of my seeds, including zinnias, sunflowers and Nigella. I'm really not trying very hard with these seeds. I'm just sticking them in the ground and if they grow, so be it.

Speaking of which, I planted some a couple of weeks ago, and look at this:


There are seven seedlings within that copper slug ring (meant, as the name suggests, to keep the slugs away). I have no idea how that happened. I normally don't plant seeds that closely. I'll have to thin them, which I hate doing -- especially since many of the others I planted in that first round either didn't come up or got eaten.


In the afternoon Olga and I went to the cemetery. I'd read that one of the graves there is for children's book illustrator Kate Greenaway, and I wanted to try to find her headstone. This involved wading into a brushy area where Olga declined to follow (above). I did find it, but it's covered in brambles at this time of year so I didn't get a very good picture.

I thought maybe it would be one of the stones mysteriously decorated with children's toys, but no.


She's such a goofball.

The cemetery, by the way, does its own version of No-Mow May, clearing around headstones with a weed-whacker (known as a "strimmer" here) on a rotating basis, which allows grass and flowers to grow up and blossom in the intervening time. The rear section (where Greenaway's grave is located) is much wilder than the front section.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Cross and Crown


About 20 years ago, my extended family sold the white wood-frame house where my great-grandparents had lived in Avon Park, a small town in Central Florida. It hadn't been occupied for years; my great-grandmother died in 1974, my great-grandfather well before that, and the house passed to my great uncle and his wife, who lived in Miami. They'd come up now and then for a short stay but I believe it was mostly vacant. Selling it made sense.

Some time afterwards, the Realtor who handled the transaction contacted my mom and said he had four boxes of stuff that had been found in the house, and did we want them? We drove over one afternoon to pick them up.

The boxes contained some moldering Masonic robes belonging to my great-grandfather, as well as some old pictures, bibles, scrapbooks and some other stuff. Most of it was in terrible condition, but inside one of the bibles I found this certificate (above). It was presented to my great uncle for completing a term of what was known as Little's Cross and Crown System.

As I understand it -- and finding information about this online isn't all that easy -- the Cross and Crown System rewarded children for perfect attendance at Sunday School. He was given this certificate in April 1919 -- just months after the end of World War I!


This is the back, which explains (kind of) how the system works. Apparently you could get a certificate for each of three 3-month terms (I suppose they took the summer off?) and at the end of that time, assuming you had perfect attendance, you'd get a bar to hang from your pin.


This is what the pin looked like. This one is in my mom's jewelry box. My grandparents were dedicated church-goers. My mom said that when they drove to Florida from their home in Massachusetts and then Maryland each year to see my great-grandparents -- which took a lot of time in those days before Interstate highways -- they would often stop at some random church along the way to attend Sunday School and church services. I suppose that kind of dedication is how Mom wound up with perfect Sunday School attendance.

Nowadays, lots of these vintage pins are available on sites like eBay and Etsy, and apparently new Cross and Crown pins are still being made. You can even get year bars going all the way up to 90 years! (I wonder how many people have those?) Apparently Cross and Crown isn't just a Presbyterian thing; I see pins for Baptists, Methodists and other denominations as well.

I don't remember a Cross and Crown system in the church we attended when I was a kid. No one ever offered me a certificate or a pin. But we were also more lax about our churchgoing -- we didn't bother when we were on the road traveling, for example.

So, anyway, there's a little slice of family history, complete with tangible evidence of our erstwhile Christianity!

Friday, May 13, 2022

Elron Says Yep


Time for another set of random photos from my phone, taken during my wandering around town.

First, a window decoration at the pottery-painting shop on the high street. It went up for Mother's Day, which is in March in the UK. I don't know what those creatures are, but I thought it was pretty cute.


I guess this sign is for delivery people -- because otherwise, whoever was ringing would probably know to wait, or it would be someone you wouldn't want to talk to anyway!


Come and join our neighborhood association. The Queen commands it!


A rather glam single shoe found on the road. I'm not sure where you'd wear a shoe like this, except maybe as a house slipper.


The anarchists have taken to stickering to spread their message of ungovernability.


Fun with light & shadow. Olga, once again, is thinking, "Why?"


Nope.


A commentary on society's treatment of mentally or physically ill people. A serious subject, but I was amused by the quote attributed to "Elron Hubbard." (Being a science fiction writer, he probably wished his name was "Elron," which sounds very intergalactic.)

Also, L. Ron Hubbard has said a lot of things, but I can't find any evidence he ever said that.


And finally, a rather disturbing framed picture set out with the rubbish on Finchley Road. Looks like glitter and birdshot in that person's mouth? I didn't take it away, but someone did -- maybe just for the frame, which was pretty nice.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Kaput


First, the dermatologist report. Everything is fine. He looked at the brown spots on my face, took some more pictures, and said not only are the spots harmless but one of them seems to have faded slightly since my general practitioner took photos a few weeks ago. I find that hard to believe, but I'm rolling with it. We're leaving them alone.

I also asked him about some actinic keratosis spots on my head, and he pulled out the dry ice and prepared to freeze them off. "Now, this will feel like a cigarette burn," he said. I thought silently, "Do enough people still smoke to even know what a cigarette burn feels like?" The freezing itself wasn't too bad, but for the next hour or two I felt (and probably looked) like I'd been stung by bees, which seems much more au courant as a comparison.

Bonus: He was a surprisingly sexy dermatologist! Young, fit, with alluring brown eyes above his face mask. I never saw the lower 2/3 of his face so I suppose he could be snaggletoothed or have a horrible facial tattoo or something, but I doubt it. He moved with the assurance of someone who knows he's good-looking.

Anyway, I was out of his office and back at work within an hour. I am glad to get those keratoses taken care of. They don't hurt and they're not dangerous -- although a small percentage of them can become cancerous -- but they bothered me. The last time I went to a doctor about them, I got some cream to use over a period of months to get rid of them, but it didn't work well. This doctor said that particular cream was too weak. He told me he'd write a prescription for something stronger for future use. Apparently I need the industrial-strength chemical peel to take care of these legacies of my childhood in sunny Florida.

At left is another one of the stamps I got in my mixed assortment. I liked this one (from Hungary) because it features poppies, which we have growing in our garden.

Oh, and our workplace fridge? Well, we went in yesterday morning and found it had been completely defrosted. We turned it on, put everything back inside, and soon realized that it wasn't cooling at all. Whatever was done to defrost it also completely killed it. So it looks like we need a new fridge.

The maintenance guy who did the work felt bad, but I told him it wasn't his fault -- and I really don't think it was. I suspect there was so much ice that it damaged the coils and removing it caused the system to leak coolant or otherwise go on the fritz. I had a fridge in my New York apartment that was the same way -- it was hideously frosted over when I bought the place, and I defrosted it only to find it would no longer work. It's a thing.

(Top photo: West Hampstead street scene, last weekend.)

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Nessie and a Bag of Ice


Today is my adventure at the dermatologist's office, and I have literally no idea what to expect. I assume it's just a consultation to assess the sun spots on my face and make sure no further intervention is needed. Maybe they'll want to do a biopsy or something like that. At any rate, I'm supposed to go to work afterwards, so hopefully they won't carve me up too much.

I heard from the Supervisor of Elections in Tampa about voting in the mid-terms, and I ordered my ballots. After all the recent shenanigans by Republican legislators around the USA, I thought it might be much harder for me to cast a mail-in ballot this year. I was glad to see I'm still on the voter rolls and apparently will be able to have my say.

Work is super-slow this week. The middle schoolers are all off on class trips, and although we have high school classes in doing research projects, they use most of their resources within the library and don't check much out. I'm trying to catch up on low-priority projects like:


We have a small, dorm-sized refrigerator in our office, where some of us keep random cans of Diet Coke (my boss and co-worker) or stuff for lunch (the woman who works in transportation). As you can see, it is in dire need of defrosting. That's a bag of ice wedged into the freezer, and it's so engulfed in ice itself that I can't pull it out. So I conferred with the housekeeping staff and arranged for them to defrost it last night. Hopefully when we go in today all the ice will be gone.

I joked with my boss that I hoped there was nothing behind that ice bag. I said, "Are we sure there's not a bottle of gin in there?"

(Top photo: Apparently Nessie has moved to a council house near our flat.)

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Olga and the Chippendales


I've been trying to take a picture of Olga beneath the big Ceanothus, or California lilac, that grows on the housing estate where we often walk. This was the first attempt, which is pretty good.

But then we walked by later and the bush seemed to be blooming even more:


Unfortunately Olga herself looks a little wide-bodied in this shot. (And she really isn't.) I just can't win!

Dave and I just finished a four-part documentary on Amazon about the Chippendales, the legendary troupe of male "exotic dancers" from the '80s. I remember them from their heyday but I forgot that the whole enterprise flamed out in the early '90s amid charges of murder and arson. (I think I was overseas at the time and didn't keep up with all that news.) The documentary tells the whole dramatic story as well as the personal journeys of some of the dancers and managerial staff, and it was pretty darn entertaining.

What the documentary didn't do was even utter the word "gay," which I found interesting. The Chippendales only danced for women; men were expressly barred from the clubs until the performances were over. But I'm sure they had a huge gay following, especially for their merchandise like calendars and posters, and it would have been reasonable to acknowledge that.

Maybe I feel this way because of my own Chippendales story, which I blogged way back in 2008. Here's what I wrote then, so you don't have to follow the link:

When I was a high school senior, my girlfriend went to Spencer Gifts at University Square Mall and bought a deck of cards showing the Chippendales in various states of undress. I remember thinking they weren’t that attractive, all oiled and kind of greasy-looking, but I still wanted a deck of those cards myself. (I’m not sure what was going on in my tangled-up psyche at the time -- girlfriend, Chippendales cards -- but whatever.)

I went in to Spencer’s, picked up the cards and bravely approached the cashier, a woman. “I think these are the cards my girlfriend wants,” I said, uncertainly.

The cashier gave me a knowing look (her brain was saying, “Gay!”) and rang them up.

I kept those cards for a year or two, but like I said, I didn’t really think any of the guys were all that great. Oily men in bow ties and thongs just don’t do it for me. Call me crazy.

I got to wondering whether I could find that deck of cards online. I hadn't seen it in almost 40 years, and I was curious whether I'd recognize any of the images. It turns out there were several different decks of Chippendales cards over the years, but I discovered the one I owned was the 1982 deck. The minute I saw this picture from an old eBay listing, I knew it was the one:


And yes, I do clearly remember all those images, even though -- as I wrote above -- the guys weren't quite my ideal. (I was into nerdier types, being a nerdier type myself.) I seem to remember liking Mr. Ace of Clubs and Three of Clubs at top left, as well as Mr. Shirt-and-Tie, who made a career on the Chippendales stage as "The Perfect Man."

It strikes me now that all those cards depict white men. There were a few black Chippendales dancers but overall it was a very caucasian enterprise, despite the fact that the owner was an Indian immigrant named Banerjee. In fact there were lawsuits not only for gender discrimination but also racial discrimination by men who weren't allowed into the clubs.

Obviously I never saw the Chippendales live. There was a similar male dance troupe in Florida called the Hollandales, though, and they did perform at the gay clubs in Tampa. I saw them a couple of times and even had a harmless infatuation with one of their dancers, who I never so much as spoke to but once tipped $5, which seemed wildly extravagant at the time.

Anyway, yes, there's the entirety of my sordid history involving male burlesque. Aren't you glad you asked?

Monday, May 9, 2022

Spring Abundance


I barely left the house yesterday -- just long enough to try to walk Olga, who once again was content with a short amble around the corner. Otherwise we hung out in the garden, where I wandered with the camera, so that's where today's photos come from.

First, our broom is flowering with its red and yellow pea-like blossoms. See that little droplet of water on the in-focus flower? I love that.


This is another honesty plant that came up of its own accord in a houseplant in the living room. I have no idea how that seed got in there, but that's the mystery of plants, right? Anyway, we moved it outside and now it's doing its thing and producing flowers.


This little bluebell came up in the middle of the lawn. I swear I've never seen a bluebell there before -- certainly not a flowering one. It's in a vulnerable place but we're doing our best to steer clear of it.


The candytuft is flowering abundantly...


...as is the aquilegia.


Every year I try to photograph our first rose. This year we had two simultaneous flowers on the same bush. (You can see one behind the other here.) The other rose bushes all have buds, so it looks like we'll get a good display.


Our brook thistle is flowering...


...as are the blue irises, despite the fact that Olga keeps walking through them.

Our banana tree, which we repotted a couple of weeks ago, has been looking terrible. I think it's been waterlogged -- the new pot comes with a saucer that's been pretty consistently full of standing water. So yesterday we removed the saucer and a bunch of water flowed out of the pot. Hopefully this will revive the plant. I'd have guessed bananas wouldn't mind soggy soil, but maybe they do.

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Scaredy Cat


This cat lives down the street from us, and every time I walk by with the dog it's crouched down on the windowsill, giving us that wide-eyed look. It cracks me up. There's just something about its expression that seems so alarmed. Maybe that's just its face -- but then again, I suppose indoor cats have all the same fight-or-flight responses as the rest of the animal world, and since they're never in any true danger they "invent" some from whatever they see out the window.

I spent yesterday at home, doing lots of little tasks. I did three loads of laundry and took Dave's shirts to the cleaners. I also picked up the blue Etienne Aigner suit from Bob Stoodley's trunk, which I'd had cleaned, and took it to a charity shop. So now that's out of my life.

I walked Olga, who I was prepared to take to the cemetery or even the Heath, but she seemed content to wander around the neighborhood. She is definitely showing her age.

I vacuumed the house and trimmed some stuff in the garden and moved the avocado tree outside for the summer:


That orchid in the avocado's pot was outside only momentarily. Speaking of orchids, as I've mentioned before, the orchids on our dining room windowsill are struggling with an infestation of scale. I gave them all a last-ditch treatment with bug spray -- I did it in our shower so as not to contaminate the garden, hopefully not poisoning myself in the process -- and gave them a good watering. I also once again cleaned the windowsill to remove the "honeydew," as the sticky excretions from scale insects is so poetically called. It's pretty disgusting and I'm on the verge of throwing them all out. I probably just need to stay on top of that situation better.

I also finally got to read some of "Bel Canto," Ann Patchett's book from about 20 years ago that I've been meaning to read pretty much ever since it came out. It got a lot of accolades at the time but I just never picked it up before now. I think I had the idea that it was some kind of opera-based romance novel, but in fact it's a hostage drama, which is much more interesting.

In the evening we watched a mediocre movie on Netflix called "How It Ends," starring Forest Whitaker. Boy, is his career in the crapper. The movie was about some apocalyptic doomsday event that causes societal collapse, and a guy who's stranded in Chicago has to make a dangerous overland journey back to Seattle to find out what's happened to his pregnant fiancee. Whitaker plays the fiancee's father, who lives in Chicago and goes along for the ride. There's a lot of tiresome macho posturing, and I was annoyed because (spoiler alert) the movie never explains the apocalyptic event -- so, despite the title, we never in fact learn "how it ends." Don't promise what you can't deliver!

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Toofy Trailer


Way back in November 2011, just four months after we moved to London, I was wandering around in the Shoreditch neighborhood of East London when I came across this peculiar trailer. It's a piece designed by the street artists Sweet Toof and Ronzo. Here's another view:


Well, when I was on my most recent Green Chain walk, what should I find sitting on the side of the road but the same trailer, pretty beaten up and looking like it's seen better days:


At some point it was a food truck for a pizza business called Streetzza, but their Facebook and Twitter pages were last active in 2013 so I'm thinking that's no longer a going concern. Perhaps it's been parked here ever since. With those flat tires, it definitely hasn't moved in a while. Sad!

I have no other news today. As I write, the parakeets have nearly polished off another feeder full of suet balls, and they're also clambering around on our birdseed feeder. They don't seem to be able to get to the peanuts. We've created monsters!

Friday, May 6, 2022

Martinique


This was the scene at the suet-ball bird feeder last night. Five parakeets, all at once! They were insistent and squawky and ravenous. I filled the feeder yesterday morning and by sunset it was completely empty.

Fortunately it looks like we'll be around to feed them for another year. The landlords have extended an offer to renew our lease, and we've accepted it. We're working on the paperwork now. As part of that process we had to get some kind of energy inspection, which happened last week when I wasn't home. Some guy came into the house -- Dave said his name was Martinique and he was wearing a Speedo, but I'm pretty sure he's kidding -- measured the windows, looked around for about five minutes and left. It sounds a bit like he was casing the joint, but fortunately we own nothing worth stealing. And besides, we trust Martinique.

I got a call yesterday from the dermatology department at University College London. When I went to the doctor a couple of weeks ago, one of the things I asked her about were some age spots on my face. She took pictures and said she'd send them off to the experts, and I'm not too thrilled that now they want to see me. I mean, it's better to face the music and get these problems addressed, but I'm a bit trepidatious.


Also, Dave and I are working on our plans for summer. We're going to go to Michigan to visit his family, which we haven't done in years. (We usually see them when they're down in Florida for the winter instead.) I'm excited about a Michigan trip. It should be beautiful there in July.

We tried to buy our plane tickets the other day, but it's a bit complicated because Dave wants to go on to Indianapolis afterwards for Drum Corps Finals, while I want to come back to London. So we need a flight together going to Detroit, but separate coming back, and Dave has the added complication of multi-city travel. Trust me when I say that working this out on Travelocity was a nightmare. Even booking our tickets separately, we couldn't get the same flight over. We're going to have to keep trying.

One of Dave's co-workers has agreed to house-sit and take care of Olga, so she'll be fine in our absence.


On a whim, I bought some roses from a street-corner flower stand on my way home last night. The woman who wrapped them up for me said, "They're beautiful roses. She'll love them." I came home and told Dave and we had a good laugh. Maybe I'll mess with his pronouns for a few days just to be annoying.

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Neighborhood News


The new apartments down the hill are beginning to take shape. They're hard up against the basketball courts for the existing housing estate, an area that I've blogged before and where Olga occasionally finds balls to play with. It certainly changes the look of the courts, and I think if I lived in one of those units I might have some misgivings -- wouldn't it be pretty easy for someone to throw a ball through a window?


Here's the side facing what's known as Potteries Path, which runs between the housing estate and the high street, where the shops, train and tube station are. It's interesting how the apartments overhang the path. There was some confusion about a year ago over the ownership of the path and improvements the developer was going to make there -- I'm not sure how that ever got resolved, if it did, but the path looks the same as it always has.


Here's another part of the path, where someone set up a tent several years ago. I usually let Olga off her leash in this area -- after all, where's she going to go?


And here's what it looks like behind the wall. As I understand it, there are eventually going to be 180 homes here.

We got a little bit of rain last night, thank goodness. It has been so dry here. The little tree that the council planted to replace the once-viney tree looks like it's struggling. I've taken it water a couple of times in a watering can, but I wish the people who live nearby would just run a hose out to it now and then. I'm not sure it's going to make it.

Speaking of our street, I noticed a couple of mornings ago that someone smashed out the windows of several parked cars overnight. I guess they were searching for valuables. Makes me glad I don't have a car.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Roe and the Honor Oak


Here's another photo from my walk on Monday. In South London there's a neighborhood called Honor Oak, and it's named after a predecessor of this tree, atop One Tree Hill. The Honor Oak was originally the southern boundary point of the Norman medieval barony known as the Honour of Gloucester.

"A legend tells that on 1 May 1602, Elizabeth I picnicked with Sir Richard Bulkeley of Beaumaris in the Lewisham area by an oak tree at the summit of a hill," according to Wikipedia. The tree above isn't the same tree; it was planted in 1905. The little plaque beneath it explains that it was meant to commemorate the opening of the hill to the public "and to perpetuate the original oak tree that stood near this spot, and under which Queen Elizabeth is said to have rested on May Day 1602."  

One Tree Hill, incidentally, has nothing to do with U2's song of the same name, which apparently refers to a hill in New Zealand. (I'm only telling you this because I wondered myself.)

Of course yesterday's big news was the leak of the U.S. Supreme Court draft opinion reversing Roe vs. Wade and ceding the abortion question to the individual states. It's not a surprise -- given the composition of the court this decision has been expected. But it was still a shock to read that it's actually happening. Americans are literally about to wake up in a world with an entirely different set of rules and priorities.

I feel a mixture of reactions -- embarrassment at the retrograde backwardness of my own country, rage that women's bodies are now effectively the property of the state, but also an angry sense of surrender. Americans have been arguing over this issue for so long, and part of me wants to say to anti-abortionists: "Fine. Let's try it your way. Let's see how miserable this makes women and families in red states. Let's see how you react when your 14-year-old daughters get pregnant or your wife gets raped or you can't feed another child on your minimum-wage job or you're going to have a child with profound medical disabilities and you have no other alternative." Because the people this decision is going to hurt the most, ironically, are poorer red-state voters who I suspect tend to be more religious and hence more anti-abortion. In other words, their campaigns have mostly hurt themselves. So, yeah, fine, let's play it your way for a while. It's no skin off my back. I'm not the one who's going to need an abortion.

Meanwhile, women in blue states, and women of means everywhere, will continue to have access to abortions and that uneven playing field is going to piss people off. And what about the economic ramifications? If I were running a business, I'd rather be in a blue state where it will be easier to attract employees who want to feel secure about their own bodily rights.

The Atlantic has a weirdly comforting article this month (what timing!) called "The Abortion Underground," about the ways in which women and pro-choice organizations have been preparing for a post-Roe world. It makes clear that these procedures are not going to end, especially given that we are much more medically advanced these days than we were when Roe was first decided. Now abortions can be induced with just a few pills.

The real outrage is the fact that in some areas and under certain economic circumstances, women will be obligated by the government to carry a pregnancy to term. We are stepping into "The Handmaid's Tale."

This is all assuming, of course, that the draft opinion leaked from the court is, in fact, the decision.

By the way, that same issue of The Atlantic has an article about social media and the ways it has fueled the society dominated by polar extremes in which we now live. Quite fascinating. It shows how this polarization led to Trump's triumph and some of the other insanity that has recently affected our world.

I find myself thinking back to the 2016 election. Isn't there some theory in the science of time and space that postulates that there are many realities, all running one beside the other? I often wonder if, in a parallel universe, Hillary Clinton is president. Can you imagine how different the world would be? How different the composition of the Supreme Court would be? How secure Roe would be?

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Beckenham Hill to Nunhead and DONE!


Yesterday morning I decided to take on another segment of the Green Chain walk. So I hopped two trains to South London (not at the same time) and soon found myself back at Beckenham Hill, ready to hoof it.

The Green Chain in this area follows the same path as the Capital Ring, which you may remember I walked almost exactly three years ago. So I'd seen this territory before. Still, I enjoyed reawakening those memories while experiencing some new frustrations, such as trying to find the much-touted Edward VIII iron pillar mailbox near Stumps Hill. (Hint: Despite what the map says, it's not on Stumps Hill. It's on nearby Brackley Road. Unfortunately I only learned this afterwards.)

In Cator Park I was passed by a kid acrobatically standing on his bicycle seat while singing Steve Winwood's "Higher Love" at the top of his lungs. It amused me that a 9-year-old kid would be singing a 35-year-old song, though granted there have been more recent cover versions.

I eventually wound up in the community of Penge, near Crystal Palace, where I found lots of interesting street art the last time I passed through. There's still lots of art, though the pieces are new. I particularly liked this mural (above) of a great tit standing on a positive lateral flow test indicator.


Here's some more interesting art. The last time I was on this street it looked much different.

From there, I passed into Crystal Palace park, where I once again visited the Victorian dinosaur display:


The 170-year-old dinosaurs have experienced a rough time in recent years, with Historic England declaring them "at risk" and one losing part of its jaw. But there's been some repair and investment since then and they are definitely crowd-pleasers. You can't tell from this photo, but there were hordes of people visiting them. (They're fenced off and can be viewed only across the pond.)


I also found this rather peculiar statue in Crystal Palace park. Looks like someone has fitted it with the head of Egyptian goddess Wenut.

Crystal Palace Park is so named because it once contained the gigantic glass structure that housed the famous Exhibition of 1851. The structure was relocated from Hyde Park to this park in South London, where it burned down in 1936. The arches in the photo above are pretty much all that's left.

Although I'd finished segment ten of the Green Chain walk at this point, I decided to press on and complete the last segment as well. I walked through beautiful Sydenham Wells Park and on into Sydenham Hill Wood.


I found this dramatic scene at the Cox's Walk footbridge. Apparently the bridge has been closed for years and an improvement project was delayed because of a public outcry over the planned removal of two oak trees at the bridge's western end. The plans have since been reconsidered but the bridge is still closed -- which caused a problem for me, because the Green Chain route crosses it.

I found an alternate route and continued on, past Peckarman's Wood and into Horniman Gardens. (It's juvenile of me, but I can't stop laughing at some English place names.) At the Horniman Museum I had lunch -- an enormous grilled cheese sandwich -- overlooking the London skyline.


From there, the path passed through another park and a couple of cemeteries. This was probably the most impressive grave I saw. That's all for one person, with each of the stones carrying a separate message from one of her children and their families. A real king-sized bed, huh?


I came across this mailbox in a nearby neighborhood with a knitted mini-Stonehenge on the top!
 

And finally, my 9.5-mile walk concluded in Nunhead Cemetery, where the woods have been allowed to take over the gravesites and many headstones are now buried deep in the foliage. It's a wonderful place and although I'm not crazy about the idea of being buried myself, if I knew my grave was going to be so enveloped by nature I might go for it. This obelisk is a monument to "Scottish political martyrs."

I exited the cemetery and walked to the nearby Nunhead train station, where I bought a couple of garden plants (a Nicotiana and a silverleaf, which looks like what I know as a dusty miller) from an amazing garden shop called the Nunhead Gardener. Then I caught two trains home (not at the same time), and now I am finished with the Green Chain!