Monday, January 31, 2022

Pruning the Roses

Yesterday we had sunny and relatively mild weather, so Dave and I spent a lot of time outside. We worked on the garden and I even wore shorts (though it was a bit chilly for that). It felt like the very earliest, teeniest, tiniest hint of spring was in the air.

I moved Olga's dog bed to a sunny spot on the lawn and she lay watching us. Like most dogs, she likes lying in the sun more than anything else except possibly a can of food, and she seemed relieved that her long period of indoor imprisonment was at least temporarily over.

I moved three of the foxgloves -- which seemed to be struggling in their individual pots -- to our patio planter where hopefully they'll settle in. It might look like they're close together but they have quite a bit of root space both to the sides and down, so they should do OK. The pottery shards are to prevent squirrels from digging up the plants.

We also neatened things up a little. I pulled some ivy growing into the lawn and cut down the dead loosestrife, and Dave pruned all the roses (not that you can really tell from this picture). The buddleias still need to be cut back but the mighty Internet, which knows all, says it's too early for that.

It's probably too early to transplant foxgloves too, but c'est la vie.

I also weeded our potted plants and discarded a few that had obviously died. Sometimes primroses, in particular, live through the winter and sometimes they simply vanish. We had several pots that contained nothing but dirt.

But I've buried the lede to this blog post, which is that last night Dave came down with coughing and a fever. He's testing Covid-negative by lateral flow but he's going to take a PCR, and he has just been on the phone to an NHS nurse, who advised him to self-isolate. (How does that work when we live together? Am I supposed to sleep on the couch?)

Meanwhile, I still feel fine and I'm also testing negative, but if Dave does in fact have Covid I'm sure it's only a matter of time. I'm going to work today as planned, since close contacts are no longer required to stay home. (I know that seems crazy but it's the policy.) I'm hoping he just has a cold or something but it seems unlikely. Argh!

Sunday, January 30, 2022

A Walk and a Movie

As you can see, we had actual sunshine yesterday -- so I seized the opportunity to walk another link in the Green Chain.

My walk took me through south London from Falconwood to Mottingham -- but first, as always, I had to get down there, which saw me sitting on a platform at the London Bridge train station (above), waiting for the train southward.

This was a rather strange route. After getting off the train in Falconwood, I had to walk some distance to the beginning, and then turn right around and walk back past the Falconwood station. The same thing happened at the end -- I passed the Mottingham train station, finished the route, and had to return to the station. Why don't the routes just begin and end at the train stations?

I walked along a wooded path known as Gravel Pit Lane (above)...

...which took me to Avery Hill Park. My map made much of the greenhouse known as the Winter Garden, "the best surviving example in London of such a steel and glass Victorian extravaganza." So I made a detour to see it -- and of course it's covered in scaffolding and closed for construction.

I could see some of the exotic greenery inside, pressed against the windows like it wanted to escape. (It was still green, though, so someone's apparently caring for it!)

I came across an unusual Covid memorial in Southwood Park, bearing the names of several people who had died. (The sun was really working against me for this photo!)

I then walked to an area known as The Tarn, a pond surrounded by gardens and inhabited by ducks, geese, coots and this pugilistic squirrel. Doesn't it look like it wants to punch me?

From there the path took me to the top of a high, windy ridge, where it joined a section of the walk I'd completed a few weeks ago. I could clearly see the big broadcasting tower at Crystal Palace not too far away.

I turned around and went back to the station, and took a train into London for my second adventure of the day. Although I've been telling Dave that I'm losing my enthusiasm for seeing movies in a cinema, I decided to go see Paul Thomas Anderson's latest film, "Licorice Pizza." It's a coming-of-age movie set in Los Angeles in the 1970s, which sounds right up my alley, and I've loved several of Anderson's previous films like "Boogie Nights," "Magnolia" and "Punch Drunk Love."

(Dave was not at all interested.)

The movie was showing in Leicester Square, which is pretty much the epicenter for entertainment in the West End. And let me tell you, London is open again. You would never know there's a pandemic going on except for the appearance of the occasional mask. The square was packed and the movie theater itself was completely full -- though it was also tiny, with just 23 seats. (I counted them.)

I grabbed lunch before the picture and ate it in the square, watching families with screaming children queued up at the Lego and M&M stores. The kids above seemed intrigued but perhaps also terrified by that gigantic panda. Those claws!

The movie was good, a dryly funny, nostalgic ramble through the '70s featuring lots of great music like this song, which I had completely forgotten but now I can't stop singing.

After the film I made my way through Piccadilly Circus -- again, mobs of people, including the pro-Assange protesters above -- and took a fairly packed tube train home.

I really needed a relatively normal day out, so it felt good to be active and see some sights!

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Delivery Man

Now here's a picture that definitely expresses the gloom of an English winter!

You'll be glad to know (or maybe not) that my Newbery presentations went well yesterday. The kids seemed engaged and I got lots of questions at the end, which is always a good sign. There's nothing worse than making a presentation and being greeted afterwards by deafening silence or the proverbial crickets. I have two more talks on Monday but now that I've done it I'm not nearly as subconsciously stressed.

I don't know how teachers get in front of a class and lecture EVERY DAY. I guess the more they do it the less awkward it feels, but it's a bit like performing. You really do have to be ON all the time.

The only negative reaction I saw came when I urged them to give books a chance before giving up on them. I told them that reading a book is like building a relationship -- you have to give yourself time to care about the characters and develop a feel for the author's voice. Comparing reading to a relationship elicited an obvious eye-roll from one girl.

In other news, Dave and I arrived home Thursday evening to find a mysterious package on our doorstep. We were perplexed, since neither of us had ordered anything, and when we looked at the label we realized it wasn't sent to us at all. It was for someone named Tracie who lived at the same house number on a similarly named street in St. John's Wood, almost two miles away! The postcode was clearly not ours. It seemed like a very human error, but doesn't the post office have machines to read address labels?

Fortunately we work in St. John's Wood, very close to the package's intended destination. So I put it under my arm and carried it to Tracie's doorstep yesterday morning. I put it right into her hands, saying, "This came to our house by mistake." She probably thought I was one of her neighbors -- I didn't tell her how far away we lived!

I managed not to leave my phone at work this weekend -- unlike last weekend when I abandoned it on a bookcase attached to a charger cable. I didn't even go back for it. Being without a phone for a couple of days doesn't bother me in the least, and the library is pretty secure. It was sitting there waiting for me on Monday, all charged up.

Some of you asked whether I'd seen the stories about the school district in Tennessee banning the graphic novel "Maus." I saw that they removed it from classroom instruction but I can't tell from the articles whether it's still available in the school library, for example. Or has it been removed from the school entirely? At any rate, yeah, so ridiculous -- especially because it's about the Holocaust! How can someone object to eight curse words and one episode of nudity in a book about the world's worst genocide? Talk about missing the point.

As author Neil Gaiman said, "There's only one kind of people who would vote to ban Maus, whatever they are calling themselves these days."

Friday, January 28, 2022

The Slides and the Talk

I got my Google Slides presentation put together yesterday for today's Newbery talk to the 8th graders. I feel good about it -- I definitely needed a visual element and the 12 slides help me organize my remarks.

I'm starting with some information about the history of the award and the criteria before I get into my book recommendations, and I'm talking specifically about six books: "Johnny Tremain," "The Witch of Blackbird Pond," "M.C. Higgins the Great," "Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry," "The Hero and the Crown" and "Rifles for Watie." They all seem complex enough to be interesting to an 8th grader, and they're books the kids may not know. (As opposed to "Holes" or "A Wrinkle in Time," which are so famous they don't need me to tout them.)

Then I'm talking about a couple of Newbery "mistakes," or years when the award went to a forgettable book rather than to one that has since become a classic -- in 1953, when "The Secret of the Andes" triumphed over "Charlotte's Web," and in 1988 when a biography of Abraham Lincoln won over Gary Paulsen's "Hatchet."

And then I'm finishing up with the two of the Newbery books I enjoyed the least, "Tales of Silver Lands" and the readable but horribly outdated "Daniel Boone." I hope to also work in some tips on how to keep reading books that aren't grabbing us, and how to deal with older books that contain what we would now consider offensive language or ideas.

Anyway, hopefully they'll like it. I haven't timed it and I only have 15 or 20 minutes, so I hope I'm within that time frame. I have two talks today and two more on Monday, with future presentations planned for the fifth and sixth grades.

And as you can see, this is pretty much all I've been thinking about for the past 24 hours!

(Photo: Light patterns on a doorway on my way to work yesterday.)

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Battleground Flower Bed

This not-very-pretty picture shows the current state of our back garden flower bed, the one nearest the back door. Obviously we haven't cleaned it out yet, so it's still full of "winterkill" and unpruned stuff from last year. That big dead-looking clump right in the middle, for example, is a lavender bush that ought to come out again in the spring.

This space has been the subject of a recent domestic battle. Olga, for some reason, decided that she no longer wanted to walk up the steps and out onto the grass to pee and instead would leap from the patio over the wall and directly into the flower bed. I wouldn't care much except that we have little plants coming up there, particularly bulbs, and I didn't want her walking on them. (Much less peeing on them.)

So the other day I got out that green garden fence and put it all the way around the bed, and I think I've broken the pattern. She's now going up the steps and onto the grass again.

Animals are so mysterious. Why did she start using the flower bed in the first place? Was the grass too muddy? I thought going up the steps might have been getting difficult for her, but surely leaping over the wall was even harder. We will never know.

Here's another view. It's a mess right now, but you can sort of see the fence running around it.

Another slow day in the library yesterday. I've decided that I'm going to put together some Google Slides (kind of like Powerpoint) to add a visual element to my Newbery talk to the 8th graders (which is tomorrow). So I'll work on those slides today.

I also pulled a cartload of books about Ancient Greece for the 5th graders, who are about to launch into that annual project. Some of our Ancient Greece books are looking pretty dog-eared and ancient themselves. This one, for example:

This book is 30 years old. Do modern 5th graders even know who Indiana Jones is? I also wonder about the wisdom of including a fictional character in a non-fiction book -- but maybe I'm overthinking it.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

The WST Mystery

I found this mosaic on a doorstep in Soho earlier this month. At first I thought it was just quirky, but then walking away I realized it guarded the entrance to a restaurant called L'Escargot. Well, that explains it!

I've had a bit of a rough morning already. I woke up at 2 a.m. and could not get back to sleep. I was thinking about my upcoming talks to the 8th graders about my Newbery reading project -- what I should say, what books I should recommend. I'm not anxious about the talks, at least not consciously, but I do want to make sure I'm prepared. Anyway, I didn't fall asleep again until about 4 a.m. and then I popped awake just a few minutes ago -- and today I've got to get to work by 8 a.m. because my co-worker and boss are both out, blah blah blah.

So, anyway, a little hectic, at least mentally.

Vivian's portraits of Olga arrived in the mail safe and sound, so I hope to get them to a frame shop this weekend.

I have a mystery that I'm hoping some of my UK readers might be able to solve.

I found this peculiar sticker (left) while on my most recent Green Chain walk. It was stuck to a lamppost. I wondered what on earth that symbol meant.

There are several "Exalt the New God" stickers featuring televisions and iPhones, apparently from a skateboarding company called Alien Workshop. But I didn't see any online featuring this symbol. Using "image search" I found that it's identical to the logo for Associated Television, an old TV network in England and part of what is now known as ITV -- but with different lettering. Their logo said ATV rather than WST.

The only reference to WST I see online is as an abbreviation for World Snooker Tour. So I guess televised snooker (similar to pool or billiards) is the new God? What do you think?

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Smiley Hair

Here's something else (besides yesterday's snowdrops) that I found blooming in the garden -- an early primrose. We have a basket of them hanging from a branch on the walnut tree, and despite being ravaged by the occasional squirrel they're back for another spring.

We have several more in pots and I think they'll come up again too, but so far they're just little sprouts.

Yesterday was pretty quiet at work. I spent much of the day reading an interesting book loaned to me by a colleague called "Straight Jacket: Overcoming Society's Legacy of Gay Shame," by Matthew Todd. It's about the ways that LGBT people are scarred by familial, social and cultural expectations while growing up, and the ways those scars prevent many people from leading healthy lives as adults. Although I grew up in a pretty accepting environment, I can certainly identify with a lot of it, from the school bullying to the paranoia that accompanied coming of age during the AIDS epidemic. (I've written about that before.) There were plenty of small humiliations in my childhood and teenage years that told me I was intrinsically broken, and although I think I've grown into a pretty healthy adult I'm sure that pain lives within me still. How could it not?

I was lucky in many ways, though, having educated parents who worked in academia and no doubt knew, or at least knew of, other gay people. The road was no doubt easier for me than for some.

Anyway, it's a very interesting book and it's making me think about my own psychological state and responses.

This kid came into the library yesterday with that completely awesome hairstyle. He always has unusual hair -- last fall he was sporting a leopard-spot effect -- but this was a whole 'nother level! I asked him if I could take a picture of it and he agreed. As those '70s yellow smiley face buttons used to say, "Have a happy day!"

Monday, January 24, 2022


Another weekend, another walk in the cemetery. The snowdrops are coming up all over the place, an encouraging early sign of  spring.

We have this little clump in our back garden, and if I remember correctly those green shoots behind it and to the right are another clump. That second one is a different type and they didn't bloom last year. Let's see what happens this year.

I did a lot of household stuff yesterday -- cleaning, watering plants -- but nothing very interesting.

Did I mention that I've postponed my trip to Florida? I'd intended to go over February break, in just a couple of weeks, but with Covid numbers so high it seems unwise. Especially since my main goal is to visit my mom, and I certainly wouldn't want to expose her to anything. I saw a report yesterday that said case numbers may decline over the next several weeks, so if that happens I'll be in good shape to go in April during spring break.

I've been monitoring my own Covid situation super-closely, given my boss's positive test last week. But so far so good -- I tested every workday and again last night and I'm still negative. I did feel weird last week, but that was probably just my own sense of heightened awareness given the situation, and I didn't have any of the telltale symptoms. Maybe I dodged that bullet, for now.

Oh, and remember the Art Deco building I wrote about a couple of days ago? I belatedly realized it has a Wikipedia page. It used to be an old department store called John Barnes, and the grocery store on the ground floor still bears a sign that reads Waitrose John Barnes, which always confused me. No other Waitrose shops use that name, at least not that I've seen, and I never knew where it came from. Anyway, the building dates from 1935 and the block of flats above it is apparently known as St. John's Court. It's been a Waitrose since the early 1980s, when the John Barnes department store closed.

And now, back to work!

Sunday, January 23, 2022

A Manual Bird, a Frozen Orchid and a Spotted Dog

This little robin was perched in our Philadelphus yesterday morning, singing its heart out. Taking the picture proved a challenge: the white sky confused the camera's auto-exposure function, and auto-focus wouldn't work because of all the branches and twigs between me and the bird. I had to turn everything off and take it manually, just like the old days.

(I usually use program mode with auto-focus, which allows me to set the focal points but does everything else automatically.)

Olga and I stayed indoors most of yesterday. We went for a morning walk, and I found some discarded plants by the curb that had obviously fallen out of someone's garden waste bag. There were a pot of daffodils and this:

Let me say outright, saving this plant is going to be a long shot. It's an orchid, and it was obviously sitting outside in the waste bag when we had our below-freezing temperatures a few nights ago. The leaves are limp and mushy. But the roots and the crown of the plant look like they might be OK. I need another orchid like I need a hole in the head, but I'm motivated by the challenge. So I put it in that pot and brought it inside.

The daffodils, sadly, will have to be thrown out because I think they got run over by a car. The bulbs are all broken.

About a week ago I showed you the portrait that blog pal Vivian painted of Olga. Well, Vivian actually did two paintings -- she also wanted the challenge of painting Olga's entire body with its intriguing spots. So I sent her a photo of Olga "splooting" in the grass -- that's what it's called when a dog lies with its belly flat on the ground, back legs out to the sides -- and she came up with this fabulous image. Once again, on her blog she discusses her process and decision making. (She actually tweaked the painting after she sent me this photo, adjusting the shading of the Kong a bit more.) I'm so happy to have these portraits. Or I will be, when the Royal Mail delivers them.

Last night, Dave and I watched "Munich: The Edge of War" on Netflix. It was a good movie, featuring a talented cast including the ridiculously handsome Jannis Niewöhner, and we also ordered some take-away hamburgers which thrilled Olga to no end. While looking over the menu before ordering I exclaimed, "Three pounds for apple and beetroot slaw? That seems crazy to me."

Dave laughed and said, "I love it when your mom comes to visit." (My mother is known for her parsimonious nature.)

I said, "Well, it's going to happen for the rest of your life, so enjoy it."

Saturday, January 22, 2022


When I was an AP English student in high school, way back in the mid-'80s, we were regularly assigned "timed writings." The teacher would give us a topic and for 15 minutes or so we wrote an essay. I don't remember any of the topics and I no longer have any of those essays, but I did well on them and I've often thought that they were great preparation for my career as a journalist, when writing on deadline was so important.

Blogging is a bit like timed writing. Fortunately I'm a fast writer -- one of my editors used to call me the "microwave reporter" because I could turn around a story quickly.

When I met blogger John Gray for coffee a couple of weeks ago we talked about our "process" for blogging. Ever since then I've thought I should write a post about it, just in case you're all curious.

To be honest, my blog sensors are turned on all day. I'm always scanning for what might make a good post. If something funny happens -- like I hear someone say something interesting -- I might make a note on my iPhone so I remember it accurately, but usually I just keep the ideas in my head. I think about what should be the main element, what could be secondary, what pictures I should use. I have a Notepad file on my computer desktop called "BlogTopics," and in the evening I might make a list of what I intend to say the next morning. I try to get my photos downloaded and edited so they're ready to go.

I almost never write a post ahead of time, though. Blogging is my morning routine. It helps me gather my thoughts and mentally prepare for the day. Before I had my blog, I'd use that same time to write in my journal. It's just the way I get psychologically organized.

When I get up -- usually somewhere between 5:30 and 6:30 in the morning -- I make coffee, empty the dishwasher, and then sit down to blog. This is where my "timed writing" skills come in, because on weekdays I have to squeak out a post pretty quickly before getting ready for work. On weekends, obviously, I have a little more time, but I still usually get it done in half an hour or so.

Then I try to go back and answer the previous day's comments (and delete Ratana's spam), but depending on the clock, that step might have to wait until I get to work.

Once I'm at my desk in the library, around 8:30 a.m., I catch up on whatever I didn't get done at home. I usually re-read my post and correct any typos or awkward phrasing, and I answer any comments I couldn't get to before work. The timing on these final steps varies a lot, depending on how busy the library is -- sometimes I can do them right away, sometimes not until later in the day.

Meanwhile, I'm already mentally scanning and collecting information for the next post. I usually read other blogs during slow periods in the afternoon or after I get home.

And that's basically it. As I've said in the past, I have a terrible memory, so the blog (like the journals before it) is really just a way for me to record the little events of my life. Doing so in a way that (hopefully!) entertains readers is a sort of fringe benefit. I never expected to develop friendships through blogging, but of course I have and now it's a social outlet that easily rivals anything I have in real life.

So thank you, readers, for joining me on these daily adventures, and I hope hearing "how the sausage is made" doesn't take the magic out of it for you!

(Photo: The doorway of a closed shop on Finchley Road, last week. A day or two after I took this photo, the doorway was covered by an outer wall of plywood while the shop is being renovated.)

Friday, January 21, 2022

Deco Lines and a Garden Party

I snapped these pictures on my walk to work yesterday morning. This Art Deco block of flats stands above a Waitrose store near the Finchley Road tube station. It's a pretty cool building. A couple of my co-workers used to live there, but I never visited their flats so I've never been inside.

As you can see, we had clear skies yesterday and it got pretty cold last night.

I finally took the Christmas lights off the avocado tree. I toyed with the idea of leaving them up through the dark months until spring, but somehow they seemed a little silly after the Christmas season ended. Besides, as I told Dave, if we leave them up all the time they won't be special!

(That's also my main argument against having a martini every night.)

Also, I noticed that our local council has replaced the once-viney tree, which as you know unfortunately died last year. I'm not going near this one. Even if that damn vine comes back I am steering clear.

I'm sure you've seen all the controversy about Boris Johnson and his perfidious government having an unmasked garden party at 10 Downing Street in May 2020, at the same time that the entire UK was on lockdown. While the rest of us were told not to mingle and to stay home and to not go anywhere unmasked, Johnson and his cronies were sitting in their garden with spritzers. This revelation has infuriated the British public (or at least Johnson's opponents) to such an extent that his government is in jeopardy.

Dave and I have been amused and perplexed because of all the disastrous things that Johnson has done -- from promoting (and then mismanaging) Brexit to spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on a ridiculous plan to build a bridge across the Irish Sea -- this is what threatens to derail him. I understand why people are angered by the hypocrisy, but honestly, having an outdoor cocktail hour during lockdown just doesn't seem that terrible. I suppose people are using that event to hammer Johnson about all those other issues. Dominic Cummings, Johnson's erstwhile-aide-turned-political-enemy, is behind a lot of this opposition and he's certainly no saint himself.

Anyway, I have no insight here except to say I'm intrigued by the vehemence of the public reaction to this story. Maybe I'm just too cynical. Are people really surprised that Johnson is a hypocrite?

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Video Star

Another busy day yesterday, with my Newbery project once again taking up a lot of my mental energy. The school wanted to make a video of me talking about it to post on social media, and to promote my blog of all the reviews. So I set up a little display of some of the Newbery books as a backdrop, and we wrote a very short script (they didn't want the video to be any longer than a minute). The Facebook video is here. (I'm not sure it's public.)

The script was uploaded onto an iPhone that was positioned next to the camera as a little teleprompter. I've never read from a teleprompter in my life, so it took some getting used to, but after a few bungled takes and adjustments I made it through OK. Whew! And then, of course, we had to re-set the library shelves.

I'm glad the reviews are getting some attention, though. For a long time I was writing them with the certainty that absolutely NO ONE was reading them -- and now, perhaps, people are. Which makes me paranoid on a whole 'nother level. Did I mention everything I needed to mention? Was I fair? Was I wrong?

I also offered to go speak to the Middle School English classes about the project, so I imagine that will happen at some point.

Otherwise, it's life as usual around here. My Covid tests are still negative, knock on wood!

(Photo: A lost toy I found perched on a fence on my most recent Green Chain walk.)

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Frosty Foxgloves

The temperature dipped down into the 20s (F) on Monday night, and my backyard foxglove farm was coated with frost when the sun came up.

I grew all those from seed, and as you can see, some of them haven't made it. The squirrels dug up a few, and others simply dwindled away. But I'm taking a very hands-off approach to their survival. I have too many anyway, so Darwin needs to go to work for me here.

I know I say this every year, but this may be the last time I mess with foxglove seeds. The ones that survive will be pretty in spring, though.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Challenge Complete!

While I was walking on Sunday I crossed a footbridge adorned with some very bad graffiti. I was intrigued by this little alien, and at first thought "Kevin" had written his name...but when I got home and processed the photo I realized it actually says "No Expectations." What that has to do with an alien, I'm not sure.

In addition to my walk on Sunday, I finally, FINALLY, finished my last Newbery book. Woo hoo! After eighteen months of reading 100 books -- I started the project two years ago, but I took a roughly six-month break during our first lockdown and over that summer -- it's a HUGE relief. Just think -- now I can read what I want! What a concept!

Yesterday I updated my Newbery blog on the school web site and drafted a final wrap-up post, which I'll put up today or tomorrow. I also tried to clean up and standardize the post tags, which took forever and they're still a mess, but it's progress.

My boss's husband hasn't been feeling well and tested positive for Covid over the weekend, and then yesterday my boss came to work even though she wasn't feeling great. My co-worker and I basically ordered her to go home. I feel a little bad about how harsh we were but I also think our demands were warranted. My boss argued that her own test was negative, but I think if you've had a close contact (a very close contact, in this case) and you're symptomatic, then staying home makes sense regardless of the test.

We'll see what happens today! To quote the alien graffiti, I have no expectations.

(I just took a test myself and I'm still negative, knock on wood.)

Monday, January 17, 2022

Thames Barrier to Mottingham

Yesterday I walked not one but two sections of the Green Chain, hopefully making up for some of my recent physical lassitude. My starting point was once again at the Thames, this time near the giant flood-prevention gates known as the Thames Barrier. The Thames is a tidal river, so when there's going to be a dangerous surge of water coming in from the English Channel, these gates can close and block it. Apparently it's been used 201 times since its installation in the early 1980s. Here's a page that describes how it works.

From the Thames Barrier I headed inland, toward Charlton.

Nearby I passed this ruined pub. Many old pub buildings are potentially valuable because of their beauty, history and locations, but I think this one -- which looks entirely gutted and open to the elements -- may be sadly beyond repair.

I walked through Maryon Park, and climbed up to an overlook where I could see the Thames Barrier from a distance. This is part of an area known as Gilbert's Pit, of both historic and geological interest.

It was kind of a misty morning, as you can tell.

I walked through Charlton Park again, and darned if those tree surgeons didn't cut down that tree I saw a few weeks ago! (The trunk is still there, but I'm sure that's temporary.) I hope there was a reason other than simply opening up the view of Charlton House.

I walked across Woolwich Common and eventually wound up in Castle Woods next to Severndroog Castle, which you may remember I visited a few years ago when I did the Capitol Ring walk, which follows some of the same paths as the Green Chain. It's not a true castle but an architectural monument to a naval commander who demolished a similarly named fortress in India in the 1750s.

From there the path wound down through some formal gardens to Oxleas Woods, where I've been several times on this walk. Because it's not linear, the Green Chain feels a little bit like "Groundhog Day" -- walkers find themselves again and again at the same locations. I think I am now finally finished with Bostall Woods, Oxleas Woods and the Thames.

I walked through an area known as Conduit Meadows, named for the Tudor-era conduit that brought water from the Thames to nearby Eltham Palace. (The name was confusing because the path was always wooded and crossed no obvious meadow.) Along the way I found...

...this note from 9-year-old Isobel to the Tooth Fairy. I love how she starts it with "Long time no see," but I'm a little concerned about what she might mean by question 6: "Are you normal fairies?"

I made my way past the gates of Eltham Palace. I thought I might stop there for lunch, but I was told that in order to visit the cafe I had to buy a ticket for the palace, which cost £15.70! I've already seen the palace, and I wasn't going to spend that much just for the privilege of spending more money on lunch. So I kept walking.

The path wound past horse stables and pastures with views over London, although as I said the day was misty so I couldn't see the skyline very clearly. It eventually took me to the community of Mottingham, where I caught the train back to the city. Altogether I walked about eight miles.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Molly Dodd

I was going to walk another link of the Green Chain yesterday. But the weather turned out to be so chilly and bleak that I just couldn't get motivated. We were promised some sun by the afternoon, but as you can see above, we didn't really get any.

I did manage to walk the dog twice, though, so that's something. And I kept myself busy around the house, doing laundry, vacuuming, going to the vet for dog food, taking shirts to the cleaners, blah blah blah. I also finished about 125 pages of "The Story of Mankind," so the end is within reach! I'm now up to the emancipation of slaves. I intend to finish that book today, but I also intend to walk the Green Chain, and how those two goals fit together I'm not sure but I'll make it work.

These are our snapdragons on the front porch. They've proven to be quite persistent, still blooming well into January. I'd only intended to plant them as annuals but I wonder if they might even make it through the winter. As you can see some of them have gone to seed but others still have flowers.

In the evenings, I've been watching...

..."The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd," an '80s sitcom starring Blair Brown. Do you remember this show? I loved it when it was on network TV in 1987 or so -- I was in college in Florida and fantasizing about having a cool urban life, just like Molly Dodd, who was a sort of singer/poet and had no consistent job yet lived on the Upper West Side in a doorman building (!). That's an image from the opening credits, above, and every time I saw it I yearned to be sitting in my own apartment on my own hardwood floor with my own cup of coffee, reading The New York Times. And then, years later, I wound up not just reading the Times but working there, and I did sit on my hardwood floor reading the paper and thinking of this very image. Funny how things happen.

Anyway, it's a good show -- I've never forgotten the wacky dream sequence where Molly is dancing with a Hasidic Jew as her mother glides around the room dressed as the Statue of Liberty on roller skates -- and it has a very progressive outlook, with Molly dating a black cop and being the object of an infatuation by her female therapist. I wonder if "Seinfeld," which came along just a year or two later, sort of eclipsed it. After all, how many clever, bantery, wacky, sophisticated New York sitcoms can a culture support? But it's on YouTube and I'm happy about that.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Paint and Sequins

Another picture from Croydon, this one showing the very '60s office building known as AMP House. (It's named for the Australian Mutual Provident insurance company, its original occupant when it opened in 1968.) The Croydonist has some more good images, featuring some recent interior art installations, and author John Grindrod calls it "one of my favorite buildings in the town, chiefly because of the amazing atomic-age relief above the entrance, and the concrete chevron panels surrounding it."

Mid-century architecture often gets short shrift, but I tend to like those '60s clean lines. Grindrod does too, and his post (linked above) shows many other similar buildings of that vintage. Apparently Croydon went through some boom years for office development in the '60s and '70s partly because of laws restricting tower construction in Central London.

Thank goodness -- the weekend! I know it's kind of ridiculous for me to complain of fatigue given that I've only worked one week, after three off. But man, what a week. My mission this weekend is to finally finish my last Newbery, "The Story of Mankind" -- I'm up to the Reformation -- as well as take some walks with the camera.

In other news, my brother reports that his GMO pumpkin is finally rotting. He said: "Be sure to tell your blog readers so they understand that I do in fact know the difference between real and plastic pumpkins! Ha!"

And blogger Vivian Swift, who is a skilled watercolor artist, has painted a portrait of Olga! You can see the process here (scroll about a third of the way down). Vivian contacted me a couple of weeks ago with a request for photos of Olga, so I sent her some including one we'd taken on the beach in Broadstairs. That's the one she chose to use as a model, and it's interesting to read how she assessed the image and the difficulties posed by painting a mostly white dog with pink skin tones, and to see the process she used to bring Olga to life on paper.

She's promised to send me the paintings, so I can't wait to see them in person.

Finally, in the "clothes I wish I owned when I was a kid" category, my co-worker had a shirt with her yesterday belonging to her kindergarten-age son. Have you seen these shirts with sequins that you can brush one way for one color and another way for another? My thrilling video demonstrates the effect. Apparently you can also buy shirts where the sequins are printed with portraits of your spouse or child or pet, so you can brush them one way to reveal the picture and another to conceal it. And I thought Pupsocks were impressive! (So last year, now.)

Friday, January 14, 2022

London House, Croydon

When I was down in Croydon a couple of weeks ago, I walked past this fantastic old building on the high street. I love the colorful brickwork and ornamentation.

It looks like it's called "London House" -- or used to be, anyway -- and it was obviously some type of notions or accessories shop, probably from the Victorian era. This is the wall to the left of the central tower (above)...

...and here's the wall to the right.

I believe it's now part of a larger entertainment complex called Grant's. But surprisingly I can't find anything online about the building, its history or its preservation status. Part of the problem is that very generic name -- Google "London House" in Croydon, even in quotation marks, and you mostly get real estate listings. (See addendum below.)

This medallion is way up at the top. Looks like those are the initials "CB" on the sail of the Viking vessel, along with the words "for use and beauty."

It's a mystery! If anyone knows anything about this structure and its past, please tell me about it or leave me a link in the comments.

Addendum: Of course, almost immediately after posting this, I found a page about the building. It's a former department store called Grant's, dating from 1894. I found it by Googling "building lace millinery croydon historic." Here's its Wikipedia page. I assume the "CB" above is probably actually "GB," for Grant Brothers?