Thursday, March 31, 2022

Center of the Circle

Yesterday began as a normal workday, with me manning the desk in an overly quiet library. Many of the students are out this week on class trips, so there's not a lot to do in terms of checking out books. I sat most of the morning reading "Station Eleven" (which is excellent, by the way).

But then a colleague asked if I knew anyone who might want to see Stonehenge. Apparently some of the students who had signed up for a field trip were suddenly unable to go, so there were spare tickets. And it wasn't just a visit to Stonehenge -- it was an evening trip billed as "Sunset at Stonehenge" which included walking among the stones.

I went to Stonehenge many years ago but usually visitors aren't permitted to go near the structure. They can only walk a paved path around its perimeter. So being able to approach the stones and see them up close was especially enticing, and after some deliberation I decided to seize the moment. After all, what else did I have to do? Read my book, then go home and watch "Seinfeld"? My fellow librarians agreed to cover the desk for the afternoon while I tagged along on the field trip.

Stonehenge, which is more than 4,000 years old, is about a two-hour drive from London -- but we had our own bus, so getting there wasn't hard. The sunset didn't quite pan out, as the sky was gray, and as the light faded it got incredibly cold out there on the windswept Salisbury Plain. I was dressed for the library, not an outdoor expedition!

But still, I'm so glad I went. Here's a little video I made so you can share the experience:

I didn't get home until about 9:30 p.m., and Dave was out as well, conducting a student concert. So Olga was lying on the couch all evening, surely wondering where we were (and where her dinner was). Her dog walker had come and gone that afternoon, though, so she was fine and was excited to see us when we finally arrived.

Before I went to bed I brought in our more tender plants. Now, as I type this, it's just above freezing.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

The Bear Box

The first flowers are appearing on our honesty, which I grew from seed last year. I love this plant. It's simple and easy to grow and the seed pods are so interesting. You can really tell from this photo that it's a relative of broccoli, with those dark ruffled leaves and flower buds in a bunch.

We're having a final (I hope) cold snap here. The temperatures on Friday are supposed to drop to 29º F (-1º C) and there's even snow in the forecast, so I'm going to have to cover or bring in some plants. I thought I was done with this for the year. We are not amused, as Queen Victoria supposedly said. About a week ago, when everything was looking so spring-like and lovely, I even considered moving all the dahlias from the shed into the garden -- thank goodness I didn't.

On Sunday we changed our clocks to British Summer Time, so now it's lighter longer into the evening. Apparently the weather gods didn't get the memo.

Did anybody watch the Oscars this year? I barely knew they were happening, to be honest, and I'd only seen a handful of the nominated movies so I didn't pay much attention. I'd never even heard of the winner, which is apparently on Apple+. I've already cancelled our Apple+ subscription and I'm not about to sign back up just for one movie.

The big news, of course, was Will Smith's bizarre smackdown of Chris Rock -- I watched the clip and while it's impolite to refer to someone's medical condition in a joking way, I didn't think what Rock said was all that terrible, and certainly not worthy of such a strange display of pique.

In other entertainment news, I've been listening to the podcast "The Trojan Horse Affair," from the show Serial, and it has been riveting. I'm on the last episode now. It has to do with a mysterious, anonymous letter that surfaced several years ago asserting that fundamentalist Muslims were trying to take over the Birmingham school system here in England. Even though the letter was quickly determined to be a hoax, it derailed the careers of several Muslim school administrators and wound up being a subject of national discussion -- and fuel for anti-Muslim sentiment all over the country. The producers of the podcast try to determine the letter's origins, which seem surprisingly pedestrian, and to unpack why it was taken so seriously at the highest levels of government. It's fascinating.

Finally, for a couple of weeks now there's been a gigantic pet carrier sitting on the street around the corner from our house. This thing could have held a Great Dane or maybe even a good-sized bear, it was so big:

Well, OK, maybe not a bear, but it's as big as a shopping cart!

Anyway, it had a sign on it saying "FREE" and no one was taking it. So I tried to post it to Freecycle, but the moderators rejected my post. Apparently there's a rule that says you can't post curbside finds unless you take them home yourself and then post them -- otherwise there's a chance multiple people will show up and fight over (!) the free stuff. Well, I wasn't about to schlep that gigantic pet carrier home, and anyway I noticed yesterday afternoon that it has disappeared (along with the shopping cart) so who knows how that story ended.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Consider the Lobster

Yesterday was pretty quiet at work -- one of those blessed days when I can sit and read a book and not feel too guilty because IT'S MY JOB! I'm almost finished with Jeff Gettleman's Africa memoir. I have just a few pages to go and then I'm starting a book called "Station Eleven" that a co-worker recommended.

Every once in a while I'll be sitting at my desk reading and someone will wander past and say, "Gee, I wish I had your job!" Not in a detectably snarky way but sincerely. I have to admit, my job can be pretty great sometimes. As I told one of our administrators not too long ago, I've done the high-powered career thing, the working-all-hours, my-job-is-my-life. And I'm done with it. Now I'm working to live, not living to work.

Besides, I really do have to know about our books, right?

I was amused yesterday to find the missing "Indiana Jones Explores Ancient Greece" book in our returns bin. I guess Indiana decided to emerge from wherever he'd been hiding and someone dropped him back at the library. He's back on the shelf for now, but I still think he's ripe for discarding at some point in the near future.

One of the students (I assume) hung this beautiful watercolor of a lobster on a wall in a student gathering spot with a sign that said "VANDALIZE ME!" No one has taken them up on it yet. At first I couldn't figure out why someone wanted to surrender their art project to vandalism, but then I saw that red semicircle in the upper left corner -- obviously a ring left by a can of paint. Heartbreaking!

By the way, I must acknowledge that I stole borrowed the title of this post from David Foster Wallace, who produced a book of essays with that same title. It's an homage, not a theft.

Olga seems much better after her episode of gastrointestinal distress. Last night she ate almost a whole can of food, and drank water, and she seems perkier overall. This dog, with her habit of quickly eating all sorts of found items while out on her walks, is a source of constant drama. Nine out of ten times whatever she eats doesn't bother her at all, but occasionally she gets something -- chicken bone, animal poop, a morsel that disappears so quickly I can't even tell what it is -- that makes her ill. Of course I try not to allow her to eat such things but she moves much faster than I do when it comes to what she perceives as food. It's all part of living with a dog.

(Top photo: Finchley Road on Sunday afternoon.)

Monday, March 28, 2022

Death and...

Another Sunday, another outing with Olga. That obelisk behind her is one of the tallest gravestones in all of Hampstead Cemetery, I'd wager, and it's just off the main drive near a roundabout. But it's also inconspicuous, almost entirely hidden by shrubbery. I didn't know it was there for the longest time.

This is who's buried there, in case you're curious. (I'm not saying it's anyone you should know.)

We had a good walk but that wasn't the major achievement of the day. I FINISHED OUR AMERICAN TAXES! Woo hoo! We don't even have very complicated taxes but every year they give me fits. Basically I have to state all our income and then claim it under the foreign earned income exemption, so we wind up paying nothing. (We do pay in the UK, though.) I just have to make sure Uncle Sam knows about it all, and it's a pain in the neck.

I also have to make sure he knows about our bank account by filing something with the Department of the Treasury known as an FBAR, and I do that by going to a web site that looks like it was designed in 1994 and filling out a brief report. Unfortunately, yesterday, the FBAR site wouldn't accept my report; I did it three times and kept getting an error message. So until Treasury gets its ducks in a row our FBAR remains unfinished.

Anyway, it's an immense relief to have the taxes done for yet another year. I'm sure you've heard the famous expression that "in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." (It's attributed to Benjamin Franklin, but he was actually quoting earlier sources.) Well, we've had both death AND taxes in this blog post! You're welcome.

I also tried to clean my camera lenses. Remember how I had the camera professionally cleaned last spring? Well, once again my pictures are almost ridiculously speckled with shadows of dust and fiber, and once again I cannot figure out where that stuff is hiding. I cleaned the filter (both sides), the lens itself (front and back) and the mirror inside the camera, and the sensor supposedly cleans itself every time I turn the camera off or on. So where is that pesky dust?

I think I'm going to have to get it professionally cleaned again.

This is the lens paper I'm using. It came from my Dad's darkroom and I'm sure it's from about 1965. (No, despite its age, it is not the source of the dust.) I love the graphics. What is that thing on the front cover, the Sydney Opera House?

(In case you're curious -- and talk about tangents! -- here's what the opera house looked like in 1965, still under construction.)

Last night Olga developed an upset stomach, which became pretty dramatic. She kept having to go outside and then she would not settle down and go to sleep. She usually slinks away to another part of the house when she's not feeling well, often to the rug on the bathroom floor, and that's what she did last night before returning to her dog bed in the living room. I wound up sleeping part of the night on the couch to be near her in case she needed to go out again. Consequently I'm bleary-eyed this morning, but fortunately, she seems better.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

A Walk, and Then Another

Another bright and beautiful spring day yesterday -- perfect for walking another link of the Green Chain!

I took the tube and train down to Mottingham (yes, Mottingham, AGAIN) and began the 4.5 mile section 9 to Ravensbourne.

It took me into Elmstead Wood, where I found several whimsical artworks, like these bears carved out of an old tree. There were also a couple of ornate chairs and a tall tree-trunk "gnome house."

The path led me along the fenced Grove Park cemetery, and through the fence I spied a colorful tableau of flowers, bags, a bucket and other items surrounding a grave. I was going to take a picture but then I noticed a guy standing at the next grave, and realized that my standing in a fenced hedge and clicking photos in someone's direction was probably not the smartest thing to do. God knows what he'd have thought if he'd seen or heard me. So I reluctantly pressed on.

This was kind of a weird walk. I wouldn't say there were a lot of remarkable sights once I got out of those woods. A lot of it was on suburban streets, albeit several of them unpaved gravel.

I passed a couple of peculiar houses, including a modern-looking one with this incongruous historic entrance gate that had once stood at the London School Board offices on Victoria Embankment. The offices were torn down in 1929 but the gate was re-erected here the following year. Maybe someone from the school board owned the property and kept the gate as a (very large) souvenir?

I finally reached a bridge over the River Ravensbourne, and walked up a street mystifyingly named Crab Hill into Beckenham Place Park. 

I found these Bulgarian Martenitsa dolls suspended from a blooming tree. Weirdly, I had a Martenitsa doll in my bag that I'd found on a sidewalk a week or two ago. I tied it next to these two. I think they're supposed to come in pairs, but now these Martenitsi have an unconventional menage-a-trois!

And then I reached the end of my walk. But why did my map have two more pages?!

Well, this is what I get for not reading the introduction carefully. Turns out the 4.5 mile segment was merely 9A. There was also a 9B, an additional 1.7 miles that began in a completely different place -- the suburban village of Chislehurst. So I had to do some quick research on my dying phone about how to get there, and managed to figure out a route involving another train and then a bus just before my battery went kaput.

Forty-five minutes later, I was sitting with a cheese-and-pickle sandwich on the shore of the amusingly named but not particularly attractive Prickend Pond in Chislehurst.

This route took me through more neighborhoods, like the one in the top photo where the trees were spectacular, and then back into Elmstead Woods.

More bears!

And then, lo and behold, I was back at Grove Park Cemetery, so I went back for my photo of the colorful grave.

The man was gone, but the light had changed by this time and the photo wasn't quite as good. Still, you can bet I'm going to blog it after all that.

For some reason, the segment ended there in the middle of the woods, and I was left with a choice of how to get to a train. I decided to walk once again the Chinbrook Link of the last Green Chain segment, which had ended right where I was standing, back to Grove Park train station -- and that turned out to be a good option.

Which begs the question -- why don't the people who oversee the Green Chain add the Chinbrook Link (now a pointless spur off Section 8) to Section 9B of this segment, and create a whole new 2.5-mile segment from Chislehurst to Grove Park? It would be a continuous linear walk and would begin and end near a train station. Makes sense to me.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

I'm Really Not Religious

This is The Annunciation and St. Augustine Church in Beckenham Hill, South London. I like the mod architecture! I was going to write, "I wonder what it looks like inside?" But then I Googled and of course there are pictures on the church's web site -- apparently taken by someone who has trouble holding a camera level, even more so than me. The building is from 1964, roughly the same vintage as Coventry Cathedral.

Churches seem to lend themselves to modern architectural experimentation, I suppose because they're such flexible spaces. There's really nothing constraining an architect when they're designing a church; they just need walls and a roof.

I took this on my most recent Green Chain walk, a couple of weeks ago. I'm hoping to get out and do another segment today. Sunny weather is expected!

I seem to be rolling with a rather religious theme today, but only incidentally. I found this wooden medallion a few weeks ago near the gates of Hampstead Cemetery. The inscription says, "Jehovah is close to the broken-hearted; he saves those who are crushed in spirit."

Whatever works, I say.

I'm not sure what the rest of this weekend will entail. I have a little more gardening to do and maybe (if I get ambitious) I'll work on our taxes. I'm also thinking more and more about my Florida trip and trying to plan that out. It's just two weeks away, and of course Covid numbers are spiraling upward in the UK, but I'm counting on my immunity from my infection in early February to see me through. Fingers crossed!

Friday, March 25, 2022

More Blooming Things

Dave and I went out to sit in the garden yesterday after work, and we noticed a few new flowers. Our snake's head fritillary has come up once again, with its reptilian patterns.

And this little flower, which I have been erroneously calling a snowdrop, is a first for our garden. It's a Leucojum, or snowflake. I bought it a couple of years ago at Waitrose and planted it near our snowdrops, and although it came up last year it didn't bloom. This is the first time we've seen a new flower. Don't you love those little green tips on the petals? The world's best engineers and product designers could not have come up with a prettier blossom.

Indoors, two of our Thanksgiving cactuses are producing another round of flowers. I don't know what triggered this -- it's only the bright pink ones, and only on the side of the plants closest to the window. I don't remember it happening in previous years. A blog pal told me several weeks ago that hers was blooming again too. Something about the mild winter? Would that affect an indoor plant?

I'm reading an interesting memoir called "Love, Africa" by Jeff Gettleman. He's a foreign correspondent for The New York Times, and the book is basically about his lifelong infatuation with Africa and its charms. The funny thing is, I've met Gettleman -- not when we both worked at the Times, but at a party once in Florida. He was a young reporter at the St. Petersburg Times -- based in Brooksville, of all places, which is north of where I grew up in Pasco County -- and I was working at the Herald-Tribune in Sarasota. I went to a party in Tampa with some college friends who worked at the St. Pete paper and I remember chatting with Gettleman about our common interest and experiences in Africa.

I admire his youthful focus on getting back to Africa and working there. He made that his goal and St. Petersburg was a stepping stone in that direction. I have never been much of a goal-setter, myself -- I tend to drift along until an appealing opportunity presents itself, but I never know where I'm going to be in five years, much less 20. I've done pretty well with that methodology, but I am impressed with people who set long-term goals and make them happen. Somehow that is not a talent I ever developed!

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Road-Tripping and the Royals

I found this restaurant on one of my recent walks in South London and was somewhat amused by the name -- Good Year's. That's optimistic, right?! It looks bleak and perhaps even out of business but apparently it's not.

I am once again not brimming with stuff to write about. I feel like I'm in a slump these days, partly because of the war in Ukraine and the resulting tension, partly because of the continuing stresses of Covid. I'm not in a great headspace, and although I don't really want to get into all the details I can at least acknowledge that. I'm plodding along.

I really want to come up with a fun summer vacation plan with Dave. We haven't been able to go anywhere for so long, and we've got a couple of options but I feel strangely paralyzed about planning the details. I need to get on the stick and make it happen. I need something to look forward to. Of course, Olga is the big complication when we travel together, which is part of the reason we haven't done it in so long -- but we've boarded her before and she's fine with that. We need to just move ahead.

You know what I would really love to do? Just get in a car and drive, for hours and hours. See the sights. Drive across the USA, maybe. Put on music, go where I want to go, do what I want to do. Gas prices do not exactly encourage that activity at the moment, and Dave hates long car trips, so I'm not sure it will ever happen. But I love a good long drive. When I was 16 my Dad and stepmother drove us across the country and it's still one of my fondest memories -- Zion, the Grand Canyon, the Gateway Arch, the Smoky Mountains.

Meanwhile, I'm slowly sorting out my trip to Florida during Spring Break next month. I normally borrow my stepsister's car while I'm there, but when I asked her about it this time I got no reply for a couple of weeks -- so I went ahead and arranged a rental. It was going to cost an appalling $800, and that's without insurance! Then, thank goodness, my stepsister finally wrote back and said I could use her car. I'll gladly cancel that rental. Whew! 

(Another reason not to plan a cross-country car trip.)

Yesterday at work I went to retrieve all the Ancient Greece books from the fifth grade, and guess which one was missing? Indiana Jones! It hasn't resurfaced yet and I think there's a better-than-average chance that it never will. Kind of funny when I was considering discarding it anyway.

I was doing some stuff with my stamp collection not too long ago and I came across these old stamps from the '80s. Happier days, right? At least superficially. I guess none of them were very happy deep down. That's such a strange image of Diana -- she doesn't even look like herself. (And as someone pointed out online, she was as tall as Charles -- so why is she a head shorter on the stamp? Presumably to make room for the denomination and the Queen's profile at the top, but surely they could have sorted that out some other way.)

Wednesday, March 23, 2022


It's time for another round of random photos from the ol' iPhone, taken over the past several weeks. 

First, someone discarded a pretty decent table and set of chairs at the housing estate around the corner. I wish people would Freecycle stuff like this.

Who is Megan? I don't have a clue. She looks like a game piece, perhaps?

Interestingly, when I used Google Image Search to try to identify her, it returned "NoPegida" as the result -- the movement against Germany's far-right and xenophobic Pegida party. Is Megan in Pegida? But she looks so kind!

Yeah, yeah. Yadda yadda.

A clever Tesco ad on a bus shelter.

Should I know who this "Pwincess" is? I'm guessing a footballer, but it could be just some guy whose friends made these stickers for a laugh.

When I spotted this discarded mirror while out walking Olga, it seemed like a good moment for a selfie. Unfortunately my face was a bit scrunched up because I was focusing on getting the dog to stand in the right place, plus the sun was right in my face. Oh well. Good idea, poor execution.

A delivery van for the Iceland grocery store chain. I'm not sure what makes them "Rang-Tan" friendly, and I'm sure I could find out if I Googled it, but I'll take their word for it. Something to do with palm oil, no doubt.

And finally, I found this on the sidewalk walking home from work last night -- a peculiar ridged rubberish thing with white stuffing coming out. At first I thought it was a brain, but it doesn't have hemispheres, so now I'm toy?

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Some Blooming Things

Here's a roundup of what's been happening in the garden over the past several days. Yay spring!

First, the forsythia is blooming, always stunning against the blue sky.

The primroses are too, including this one that I found abandoned in a broken pot on a footpath. I'm guessing a landscaper or gardener dropped it (hence its tattered look).

The first forget-me-nots have appeared... have our white daffodils, which come a month or six weeks after the yellow ones. (And look like chopped-up fried eggs!)

The spotted lungwort is blooming away and yesterday after work, as Dave and I sat in the garden, we saw a bee (or possibly a bee fly) buzzing around the flowers. I've seen a handful of bees this week.

And finally, our blooming quince.

It's nice to see life returning to our little patch of London!

Monday, March 21, 2022

Build Me Up Buttercup

Another day of spectacular sunny weather. I spent the morning walking to Homebase and then working in the garden. I bought a big bag of compost, a new flowerpot, and a tray of pansies for some hanging baskets. While in the garden center I saw a bunch of plants on a shelf including some lilies that had been tipped out of their now-absent pot and were lying, rootball exposed, like a patient in a hospital. Of course I thought: "I can save those!" I took them to the cashier and asked how much they were, and she gave them to me -- so I brought those home too.

I repotted our Amistad sage, which is looking spindly after its winter by the back door, and three honesty plants that were in a too-small pot. (The root ball was so tight I had to run a knife around the edge and then get Dave to hold the pot while I pushed the roots through the drainage holes to get it out.) Then I potted up the free lilies and two baskets of pansies, and put one by the back door and one by the front. Now everything seems happy. It will be interesting to see what color these lilies are. I haven't the faintest idea what to expect.

I also planted some corncockle and hollyhock seeds.

Speaking of seedlings, I'm noticing that some of my foxgloves are being eaten, I think by slugs. This surprises me because foxgloves are toxic, at least to humans -- they can alter the heartbeat. (They're the source of the heart medication digitalis.) I always thought them relatively impervious to pests, but then, maybe slugs don't have hearts?

(Actually, they do! Or snails do, anyway, so presumably slugs as well. The things you learn from blogging...)

Olga and I went to the cemetery around lunchtime. I'd planned to take her to the Heath, but she obstinately turned for the cemetery and would consider no other option. We didn't hear the turaco today but we heard it last weekend, so I guess it's around for another summer.

On Saturday, when we were taking our morning walk under that blue sky, we passed a guy working on a brick wall in front of a house. He had a portable radio sitting next to him, exuberantly blasting the old '60s song "Build Me Up Buttercup," and it was such a retro experience -- I suddenly felt like I'd time-warped back to a sunny Saturday morning in 1968. That song has been stuck in my brain ever since, the theme to this bright, relatively warm weekend ushering in a new spring.

Olga marked the seasonal change with a mud-bath -- you can't tell from this photo, but she'd just been lying in that puddle (as well as drinking it) and her undercarriage is coated as thoroughly as someone getting a spa treatment. Needless to say, a bath was in order when we got home.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

A Cloudless Sky

The sky yesterday was unreal -- clear and blue and utterly cloudless, which in England is a rarity! Olga and I went for our morning walk and she seemed as impressed by this blooming tree as I was.

I spent yesterday tackling some small tasks around the house, like getting our blankets washed. Then, at noon, Dave and I went to the Royal Free Hospital for his, as I put it ambiguously yesterday, "procedure." I suppose there's no reason I can't come right out and say that he had an endoscopy, because he's been having terrible heartburn related (we believe) to one of his Crohn's medications. The good news is, it found no evidence of ulcers or anything like that -- but it did find irritation, so he's going to need a stronger antacid and he's changing one of his meds as well.

Dave had optimistically made dinner reservations at an Italian restaurant for last night, but we wound up cancelling them because he was tired after the hospital. (He'd forgotten he had this appointment when he made them.) So we'll put that off until next weekend, maybe.

I did some stuff in the garden -- mainly pulling ivy off the rose bushes, trimming back more of the blackberries and removing a dead wallflower. Olga, as you can see, joined me. She loves yardwork!

Saturday, March 19, 2022

No News is Good News

The weekend! At last! This felt like a very long work week. I am so glad to have a couple of days to myself.

Not that today will be entirely my own. Dave has to have a minor outpatient procedure at the hospital, so we'll be going there around midday and I'll be cooling my heels in a waiting room. But I'll take a good book and hopefully I can make even that time worth something.

My final Newbery talk went well yesterday and I can now say that I am finally past that whole project. I've read all the books, I've talked to all the kids -- done and dusted. Of course I'll continue to make individual recommendations but there will probably be no need for me to do more talks, unless the teachers want me to come back and do it next year.

And that's about it for life around here. I have nothing more to report!

(Photo: Beckenham Hill train station, last weekend.)

Friday, March 18, 2022

Apocalyptic Magnolia

I walked beneath this amazing magnolia on my way home from work yesterday. Lots of these trees are blooming right now, but this one seemed particularly dense with blossoms. As I stopped to take a few pictures, a woman passing me turned around and stopped too. I like to think that my act of taking the photos made her give the tree a second look.

In fact she might have said something to me, but I couldn't hear her because I had in my headphones, listening to "The Coming Storm," Gabriel Gatehouse's Q-Anon podcast from the BBC. (A particularly scary episode about people who believe in "The Sovereign Individual," a concept involving the disintegration of our social order and the rise of über-wealthy individuals who essentially answer to no external authority. It mentioned Peter Thiel, whose biography I just finished, as a proponent of these ideas.) So, anyway, hopefully I wasn't rude to her but with the beauty of the magnolia and thoughts of the apocalypse filling my brain, I had no room for chit-chat.

Here's a close-up view. I love that golden glow from the evening sun.

Oh, and yesterday morning, when I took out the trash, I noticed a sort of reddish sediment on the rubbish bins. I'd never seen anything like it and I was a bit annoyed, because I thought Mrs. Kravitz had been power-washing again, or maybe someone was doing brick work on their house and the dust drifted down onto us. It wasn't until I read Mitchell's post about the Saharan dust storm in Spain that I thought maybe what I was finding was also Saharan dust, brought to earth by the rain.

And sure enough, it was.

Here's what it looked like on some patterned plastic panels I found on someone's garden wall on the way home from work. (No, I did not take the panels!)

Today I have to get myself to work early to give my final Newbery talk. I'm off!

Thursday, March 17, 2022

The Q Allegory

Even though almost all my commenters yesterday suggested I get a new frame for my grandmother's needlepoint, I must admit that last night I got out the super glue and fixed it. (And of course got the glue on my fingers, which happens EVERY TIME I handle super glue.) I like keeping it in the original frame, the one my grandparents bought for it. I glued the broken hook to the back of the frame and then replaced the twine. We'll see if it lasts or comes crashing down again.

I've been listening to an interesting podcast called "The Coming Storm," from BBC radio. It's all about the rise of Q-Anon and how that led to the Jan. 6 insurrection in Washington, D.C. The podcaster, Gabriel Gatehouse, suggested an interesting interpretation of all the Q-Anon mythology -- the idea that Satanic pedophiles are running the world. He posits that, just like a Biblical allegory, these stories aren't meant to be taken literally. Instead they're representative of a wider truth -- that perhaps the people with money and power today really aren't running the world in the best interests of the rest of us. Then it doesn't sound so crazy, does it?

In other words, the Satanic pedophile stuff, the child-abuse ring in the basement of the pizza parlor, is a way to grab attention and spread that greater message of anger, frustration and disempowerment. Many Q followers do seem to be religious people, and perhaps more likely to be familiar with thinking in allegorical terms. Of course there are people who take it all literally, at their peril and everyone else's, and I think the Q belief in Donald Trump as their chosen messiah is truly puzzling -- except that they see him as a plain-spoken outsider who doesn't talk down to them, and they like that.

And of course the podcast emphasized the fact that the Republicans have been happy to capitalize on the Q movement and turn it into votes and fundraising.

I am forever trying to understand how these people think, so I found it all quite interesting.

A couple of days ago I found some daffodils lying on the sidewalk on my way to work -- probably picked by some child and then abandoned. I took them to the office and put them in a cup on my desk. They brighten the place up!

Oh, and there was some happy news yesterday -- I've written before about Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, whose family lives near us in West Hampstead and who has been held prisoner by the Iranian government since 2016. Yesterday she was finally released and allowed to leave the country. Olga and I would occasionally see evidence of gatherings in her support at Fortune Green when we took walks there. Maybe now we'll run into her at Waitrose!

And speaking of Olga, here's a picture I took yesterday from our "dog cam" showing how she spends her time while we're at work -- at least until her dog-walker arrives. What a life!

(Top photo: A Royal Mail delivery van outside the gatehouse at a Hampstead property -- a purely inadvertent reference to Gabriel Gatehouse's surname!)