Saturday, April 30, 2022

Comments about Commenting

It's wisteria time in London. This house around the corner from the school where I work is putting on an impressive display. It smells amazing to walk past all these blossoms. I'm surprised the flowers are doing so well, given that it's been freakin' cold lately. When I walked the dog yesterday morning it was 45º F (7º C), and it's about the same today.

I'm hearing that some of you are having problems commenting on my blog. Google has apparently introduced some changes that are fouling things up. In an effort to make commenting easier, I've changed my comments from embedded to a pop-up window, which according to what I've read might solve the issues. It might create additional difficulties, though, for those of you with pop-up blockers activated on your browser. Let's try it and see if it works.

(Unfortunately, the pop-up comment form doesn't include a "reply to" option, so my replies to your comments will now come at the end of the comment stream.)

From what I can tell, this is the only change I can make on my end to solve the problem. Otherwise I think it has to do with readers' settings. If you've been having this problem and are likely to encounter it on other blogs, you might first clear your cache and your cookies, and sign in to Google again -- or try a different browser entirely. If there's a way to unblock third-party cookies in your browser settings, that might work -- apparently third-party cookies are needed for embedded comments, and Safari (for example) blocks them by default. That's all I can suggest.

Apparently I could allow anonymous comments and that would get around this log-in problem, but I really, really don't want to go there. I like knowing who's talking to me.

This week has been a beast at work, partly because of inventory. Now that's done and yesterday was much quieter --in fact a bit too quiet, because we're heading into a three-day weekend and I think a lot of kids were already out of school. Monday is a bank holiday, so it's a day off for us. Whew! I have plans to do some gardening and also walk another length of the Green Chain, among other things.

(Bottom photo: Some posters I found on West End Lane, publicizing feminist marches and this web site.)

Friday, April 29, 2022

The Trunk

So let's take a closer look at this mysterious trunk I retrieved from the sidewalk on Wednesday, shall we?

You've already seen the outside, which identifies it as belonging to R. A. Stoodley of the International Karakoram Project of 1980. That project was organized by the Royal Geographical Society to mark its 150th anniversary, and consisted of about 70 people including scientists from Britain, China, Pakistan and elsewhere. It began with a conference in Islamabad in June 1980, followed by an expedition into the mountains along the treacherous Karakoram highway, which from the papers I've read sounds like a "highway" in name only. (At that time, anyway.)

"The steep, almost vertical sides of the mountains allow but a narrow track to be cut which on one side falls steeply to the Indus, and on the other is bounded by a rock wall," wrote J.A. Steers in The Geographical Journal in 1983, reviewing a book by the expedition's leader, Keith Miller. "Rock falls which contain blocks almost as big as a double-decker bus are of frequent occurrence; the greatest non-Polar glaciers reach down to the river in places, and the effects of rock falls and advancing ice not only cause obstruction to the highway, but also great dams in the river. These dams may be 'cemented' by finer material and so may exist for months. Eventually the lake impounded above breaks through and the river may rise 50 feet or more below the dam and cause great havoc. Erosion in its most violent forms is common in all the region."

The project's goal was to study the geology and tectonics of the area, while providing the Asian scientists with an opportunity to publish their work in the West. Stoodley, according to an article I found online, was on the logistics team, which I assume means he helped organize the practicalities of the expedition -- the transportation, the camps, that kind of thing.

That's the inside of the trunk, above. It's not in great condition, as you can see, and it's filled with fine wood dust from deterioration of the panels. It's also missing one of the top supports on the right-hand side.

Here's the manufacturer's label. Elsewhere on the exterior of the trunk is another label identifying it as a model called "The Plito." (Here's an identical one, in better shape, that looks like it traveled no farther than Paddington Station.) There are also handwritten notes, one noting that the trunk's weight was 49 kg (or 108 pounds) and another that says "RWP/LON" -- the old airport codes for Rawalpindi, Pakistan, and London.

Stoodley, incidentally, was quite well known as a war hero and one of the first men to parachute into Normandy on D-Day. He died last September at the age of 97; his large house in the English countryside, known as Otterbeck Hall, was put up for sale soon after.

So what was inside Stoodley's trunk?

There's this nylon garment. I don't even know what to call it -- a flight suit? Is it the kind of thing someone would wear into the Karakorams? It may not be associated with the expedition at all, but it apparently did belong to Stoodley, as one of the pockets contained a piece of paper addressed to him at Otterbeck Hall. On it, someone wrote a short supply list, including batteries, jump leads, tools and antifreeze.

This is the label on the garment. I have no idea what company this is. There's a luxury tailor on Savile Row that comes up when I Google G&H suits or menswear, but that seems unlikely. Other than the one slip of paper linking the outfit to Stoodley, the pockets are empty.

Some of the articles I've read about the International Karakoram Project include pictures, and no one is wearing a suit that looks like this. Stoodley, however, also went on other mountaineering adventures, including two trips to Mount Everest. Who knows what this suit's purpose was?

The only other item in the trunk was a pale blue Etienne Aigner suit for a girl or petite woman:

Otherwise, the trunk contained only discolored, dusty bubble wrap and scraps of old trash.

I think I'll get the Etienne Aigner suit cleaned and give it to charity. It seems to be in pretty good shape, and if someone's into vintage women's wear maybe they'd want it. The flight suit I just put back in the trunk, after I vacuumed out all the dust and debris, and I'll leave it there for now.

The International Karakoram Project, incidentally, wrapped up with a second conference in London in September 1981, to present the findings. It sounds like it was a treacherous undertaking, and one man did die while setting a beacon on a mountain. "Jim Bishop fell from the summit area of Kurkar down a very steep precipice at least 1000 feet before he disappeared," wrote Steers. Miller, in his book, described this as having a great effect on the participants, as one can imagine.

It feels a bit strange to now be the custodian of this trunk and its contents. But Dave and I agree it can live in our front hallway, beneath our hall table, as a sort of conversation piece. So for now, that's where it's staying.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Objects Rule My Life

I finally finished the library inventory yesterday -- or at least as much of it as I'm going to do. I'm not going to inventory DVDs or the reference section. DVDs hardly ever circulate anymore and inventorying them is a nightmare, because you have to open every case to scan the bar codes, which are usually either inside the cover or on the disc itself. When I did it several years ago I actually injured my fingers opening a couple hundred DVD cases.

As for reference, we have a gigantic set of literary criticism books that we don't even keep on shelves -- they're mostly stored in cabinets. If I did reference I'd have to scan all those too, and it just isn't worth it. Even DVDs get used more than those lit crit books. I think we should just remove them from the catalog and either discard or sell them. All that stuff is online these days.

So, yeah, inventory done! The bottom line is, we've lost 30 books over the course of the year. That's not terrible -- about average, I'd say. A handful will probably still turn up, having been carried out of the library by kids who neglected to check them out first.

It's such a pain keeping track of all our stuff.

And speaking of stuff:

Yes, of course, I rescued R. A. Stoodley's trunk from the International Karakoram Project. I walked past the house where I saw it a few days ago, having read the links about Stoodley that Wilma helpfully posted in yesterday's comments, and it was still sitting forlornly on the sidewalk. So I came home, talked to Dave about it, mulled it over, and finally went back last night and collected it. I carried that thing home all by myself and let me tell you, it tested my physical limits. But I made it.

I have no idea what I'm going to do with it, but at least now it's not in danger of getting rained on or being carted away by the garbage truck.

We'll take a closer look at it in an upcoming post, after I clean it up a bit.

(Top photo: Some interesting trees in South Hampstead. Copper beeches, I think?)

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Wednesday Miscellany

It's time once again for a roundup of random photos from my iPhone. It seems that I usually have enough of these to post them twice a month -- funny how it works out like I planned it, but honestly I didn't.

(Also, the distinction between my iPhone photos and my regular posts has become largely meaningless, because I take more and more pictures with my phone these days. So let's just call it a random roundup.)

Anyway...let's start with a cleverly named coffee shop near Finchley Road, at least for fans of the TV show "Peaky Blinders." 

Baby shark shoe!

This seems like a permanent solution to a temporary problem. 

Another anti-masking sticker, slapped onto the treads of an escalator at London Bridge tube station. I admire how well Anthony Fauci seems to cope with being such a lightning rod for Covid skeptics.

A poster for a music event at a pub in East London. (Grime and Garage are related styles of club music.) I was intrigued by the poster design, which features either Trellick Tower or Balfron Tower. Actually, now that I look more closely, I see that it must be Trellick, based on the position of the elevator machinery room at the top of the elevator shaft.

This reminds me of Cyndi Lauper.

This empty trunk was set out on the sidewalk, I assume as rubbish. I was intrigued by the reference to the International Karakoram Project of 1980. From what I can tell, this was a project by the Royal Geographic Society and scientists from other countries to survey the Karakoram mountain range in Pakistan. It seems a shame to just chuck this trunk out with the trash. Maybe someone will rescue it.

And finally, a hand-drawn sticker for cat lovers. You know who you are.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Down a Dog-Walker

I came across this ladybird (ladybug) in the garden while weeding on Sunday -- the first one I've seen this season. There were also lots of bees out and about, sipping nectar from the forget-me-nots. More signs of spring!

This is going to be an interesting week. Our dog-walker sent us a text on Sunday saying he'd injured the ligaments in his ankle and won't be able to walk the dogs, and the company that employs him apparently doesn't have anyone else available to do it. So Olga is stranded at home. (It seems crazy to me that they can't find a substitute dog-walker, but maybe the labor shortage that's making it hard to fill certain jobs in the USA is also making itself felt here.)

Obviously Olga needs to go out during the day, so Dave and I are talking about alternating coming home around lunchtime and then going back to work for the afternoon. It's going to be a pain in the neck, but I guess this is what people did before there was such a thing as a professional dog-walker. She would actually probably be fine until Dave comes home around 3:30, given that she's older now and not quite so energetic.

In fact, an assistant in Dave's department agreed to walk her yesterday at lunch time (for a fee, of course), but when he got here Olga refused to go! He reported that he instead took her out in the back garden and sat with her for a while, and gave her "cuddles," she seemed fine with that.

This incident may make us re-think whether, as a canine senior citizen, she needs a dog-walker at all.

I'm still working on inventory at work. I'm about halfway through the 900s and I ought to be able to finish the non-fiction books today, unless of course I spend too much time walking the dog!

Monday, April 25, 2022

Reflections on Mother Goose

I'm happy to report that the appliance repair guy actually showed up yesterday, and we now once again have a functioning washing machine and dishwasher. He brought a plumbing snake and some kind of vacuum that cleaned out the pipe, and those seem to have made the difference. Thank God that's over, at least for the time being.

I spent the morning in the garden, where the lilies I rescued from the garden center a few weeks ago are beginning to bloom. They look particularly good surrounded by the purple wallflower and the blue forget-me-nots.

I prepared the flower bed near our back steps, where I planted some zinnia and sunflower seeds. Oh! And the weirdest thing happened. Several weeks ago we got a flier through our letterbox from a landscaping company, with a little envelope attached. The envelope rattled, and the flier said something poetic about how nice it is to have a packet of wildflower seeds. So I saved the packet -- but when I opened it yesterday I found only tiny pellets of dirt. They weren't seeds at all. What a scam!

I guess it's a good way to make people hire a gardener. Give them fake seeds that don't sprout, and then they'll think, "Wow, I can't even grow wildflowers! I need professional help!"

In the afternoon I took my big green bean bag chair to school, for the kids to sit on in the library. I didn't use it here at home as much as I thought I might, and it's just too big for our house. I hired my very first Uber (using the app, which I only recently installed on my phone) to transport me and the bean bag. Welcome to 2012!

In the afternoon Olga and I went to the cemetery. I found a headstone buried in brambles for a woman named Marjorie Helen Hill who was born in Irwin, Pa., in 1874 and died in London in 1917. Moving from Pittsburgh to London back in those days couldn't have been a small thing. Wonder what her story was?

I also heard a blackbird singing enthusiastically. They remind me of mockingbirds with all the various sounds they can string together. I got to wondering about the nursery rhyme that mentions baking 24 of them in a pie. Who would come up with such a thing? Nursery rhymes are insane.

Sunday, April 24, 2022


It was probably predictable that the washing machine "engineer" wouldn't show up yesterday, and indeed he did not. I spent the whole morning sitting around the house, not even walking the dog or going to the cleaners, only to have him call me at 2 p.m. and tell me that British Gas booked the wrong sort of plumber for the job -- I needed Dyno Rod, not Dyno Plumbing. (My landlords have a home care policy with British Gas that includes drain service, and apparently Dyno Rod specializes in blockages.) He insisted I would have to ask British Gas to re-book with the correct service. So I did -- fuming -- and although the British Gas guy promised someone would still arrive yesterday, I got a call about 4 p.m. from Dyno Rod saying they didn't have an engineer available and I would have to wait until today.

Of course this is nothing but a minor annoyance in the grand scheme of things, as I was reminded when I finally caught up on reading blogs and saw that many of my fellow bloggers are dealing with major renovations, or have renovated multiple houses, or have sick pets or emotionally demanding jobs or family addiction and dysfunction. My blocked washing machine drain is really not worth two paragraphs.

The good thing is, I finally got to work on sorting a bag of stamps I bought when I visited Stanley Gibbons a few months ago. I don't do much with my stamp collection these days, but I thought it might be fun to dabble in it again, so I picked up this mixed assortment. The stamp shown above depicts the Russian icebreaker "Krasin."

Some of the stamps are pretty cool -- the ones I've used to illustrate this post are some of my favorites. But I'm not thrilled with the mix overall. There seems to be a lot of duplication. I think someone just grabbed clumps of stamps from a stock book and threw them in the bag, because I got lots of copies of some fairly obscure stamps. I also got some that are damaged, with tears or thin spots.

Again, this is not really a problem in the grand scheme of things.

On the plus side, some of the stamps seem fairly old -- and some very old -- and there are plenty that I don't have. So that's good.

These fish are commonly known as neon tetras. I know that only because we used to have them in our aquarium when I was a kid -- until they died in short order, as they invariably did. Although the stamp is from Cambodia, the fish is native to South America. Go figure!

I remember studying Le Corbusier's Chapelle de Notre-Dame du Haut in my college humanities class.

Is this woman drying tobacco? Is tobacco growing a thing in Greece?

Anyway, this kept me busy for a couple of hours. I forgot how relaxing and absorbing it can be to organize stamps. (Or organize anything, I suppose.)

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Honey Bear

This is some kind of service panel in the sidewalk on Finchley Road. Isn't it amazing where weeds will grow? Even in the middle of a busy sidewalk, they're growing in the bolt holes, getting only as tall as the passing foot traffic will allow.

I had one of those days yesterday. From the very beginning, I felt under pressure. I was late to work because I had so much to do here at home before I left, like walking the dog and making the bed and blah blah blah. Of course Olga dawdled on her walk, as is her way now -- nothing happens with any urgency -- which only exasperated me further.

Even my co-workers were joking about the star-crossed events of my morning, which continued when I got to work. Our landlord's maintenance team scheduled someone to come and fix the washing machine drain at our flat, but I got no advance notice so of course neither of us were home. The repairman (known euphemistically as an "engineer" here in Britain) called me at work and I told him I could be home in 20 minutes, which is mostly true, but he would only wait ten. So I had to send him away. Argh!

I finally got to work on the library inventory just to put myself in a quiet headspace where not much could go wrong. The good news is, we've lost nothing in the non-fiction collection all the way up through the 700s (Dewey decimal). That's pretty impressive. Of course, as I told our boss, maybe it's a sign fewer people are using the books!

I had a doctor's appointment in the afternoon after work -- mostly routine stuff. I have two brownish spots on my face that I wanted the doc to evaluate, and I also asked about some blood tests that I probably need every now and then as a guy in his mid-50s. I don't think any of it will amount to anything, fingers crossed.

Here's a peculiar sticker I found on a bus shelter in Swiss Cottage. Is it one of those honey bears? I'm not clear on what this could mean. Maybe it's just supposed to be interesting. I took its picture so I guess it succeeded on that count.

Anyway, the good news is, last night I was able to reschedule the "engineer" to come today. Dave will be at work (his students have a performance) but this gives me a good excuse to stay home and catch up on stuff around the house and in the garden. So hopefully you'll stop hearing about our washing machine problem after tomorrow!

Friday, April 22, 2022

Diamonds and Dolls

I love a bright, sunny day, when window reflections scatter like jewels on the pavement of otherwise dreary Finchley Road.

I had a pretty slow day yesterday. I spent some spare time reading through my backlog of New Yorker magazines, and I've started working on our annual inventory, when we scan every book in the library to identify any that are missing. This is one of my favorite library jobs, maybe because I can daydream while I do it, and it fulfills my tendency to organize.

Dave and I started watching season 2 of "Russian Doll" last night. I loved the first season, but I'm still not sure about this one. Natasha Lyonne is a bit heavy on the schtick, it seems to me. Dave was even more unequivocal: "This is terrible," he said. "It's written by her, directed by her and all about her." (Not quite true.) The reviewers like it, though, and it's an interesting, surreal concept -- so I, at least, will press on.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Leaking and Venting

The saga of our maintenance issues drags on. Remember our leaky washing machine? Well, a guy came to fix it while I was in Florida, and apparently he did nothing more than reposition the hoses. He insisted to Dave that was the problem. They tested the machine and it seemed to work.

But when I came home and ran a load of laundry, once again -- water on the floor. (Not a lot of water -- maybe half a cup? But still.) I looked at the hoses and pipes and found that the dishwasher, which we run at night when we go to bed, feeds into the same drain line. So when I ran the dishwasher that night I stayed up to see what would happen, and sure enough -- water on the floor. Clearly the drain pipe that serves both machines is partially clogged. During my absence the wood floor in the kitchen has become increasingly warped from the spillage.

I reported all this to the landlords, but no one seems very concerned about it. Nothing has been done yet. I'm still running the machines, because gosh darnit I pay for them and it's not my fault the property managers can't move more quickly to unclog that pipe. I'm about to go buy a bottle of Drano, or its English equivalent, even though I know that stuff is terrible for pipes.

Meanwhile, upstairs neighbor Mrs. Russia is still upset about next-door neighbor Mrs. Kravitz's kitchen vent fan, which is mounted on an outside wall facing Mrs. Russia's terrace. She insists that it's too loud and perhaps even illegal. She is trying her hardest to drag us into this conflict no matter how much I insist that we don't really notice the fan being a problem. Mrs. Russia went to our landlords to sign them on to the cause, and I told them I'm happy for them to write a letter in support of Mrs. Russia -- if the vent is noisy it seems reasonable to ask the Kravitzes to make it quieter -- but I don't want to get involved in any administrative or legal action.


Dave and I continued our documentary streak last night by watching "Downfall: The Case Against Boeing." We added it to our watchlist a few weeks ago but I didn't want to watch it just before getting on a plane myself -- so we waited until now. It's very good and quite compelling in showing that Boeing's focus on profits led to passenger deaths in the crashes of two 737 MAX planes. Interesting side note: Rory Kennedy, the youngest daughter of Robert Kennedy, directed the film, and about 20 years ago, when I lived in New York, I met her. A journalism organization I helped run screened her documentary "Pandemic," about the AIDS crisis. Small world!

(Photo: Well-weathered street art on Finchley Road.)

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

The Chariot

This is the council estate that I pass on my walk to work with the "Ideas" sculpture in the middle of the lawn. We're just past the peak bloom for some of the ornamental cherry trees, I think. It slipped past me while I was in Florida! There are lots of petals on the ground, sometimes piled against the curbs like pink snowdrifts.

I mowed the lawn yesterday after work. I am definitely not a huge fan of the battery-powered mower. As I've said before, it's not very powerful and doesn't suck up the clippings -- just leaves them in clumps all over the lawn. Maybe that's not so bad, since they're a sort of natural fertilizer, but at least until they dry out it doesn't look great.

Dave and I have been on a documentary binge. Two nights ago we watched "Vernon, Florida," which my stepbrother recommended to me. It's a documentary made in the early 1980s about a small town in the state's panhandle and some of the eccentric characters who lived there. I'd seen it before, many years ago, but it's a quirky film and I enjoyed it again.

Then, last night, we watched Netflix's documentary "White Hot," about Abercrombie & Fitch and its subtly and not-so-subtly racist approach to fashion in the '90s and early 2000s. I was never an Abercrombie wearer myself. I was just a little too old to identify with that brand -- in 1996, when it was on the upswing, I turned 30 and I thought of it mostly as clothing for college kids. All the Bruce Weber photos of sleek male bodies -- used on the bags and advertising -- made it very popular with the gay community, but I felt like grown men wearing Abercrombie were trying just a little too hard. You know?

In fact, I'm not sure I even went into any Abercrombie stores. They were set apart from the rest of the mall by heavy wooden shutters, so you couldn't see inside them, and that always seemed weirdly intimidating to me. Just crossing the threshold seemed like a commitment!

Speaking of fashion, look at this ridiculous thing. It's in the window of the Roche Bobois store on Finchley Road. Called the "Ben Hur Armchair," it's on sale for a mere £3,300 (marked down 40 percent from £5,500!) and has a nameplate across the back that says "GAULTIER." Apparently that's who's responsible for the design. There's a sort of inherent pun here -- chariot, or chair-iot?

It's on sale because it's an "ex display" and "sold as seen," according to the sign. So, essentially, it's a used car.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Garden Jet-Lag Therapy

While I was away, our garden has been growing by leaps and bounds. I'm amazed how much bigger everything is. I was only gone a week, but at this time of year that's time enough for some big changes.

The camassia lilies are blooming (above). They're always one of my favorites.

The blue forget-me-nots are also at their peak, in this case surrounding both the foxgloves I grew from seed (center left and at right) and a couple of volunteer teasels (foreground left and center). The foxgloves are all noticeably taller and are forming flower stalks, so next month we should be seeing lots of flowers.

One of the bleeding hearts (Dicentra) has come up and is also blooming, but the other must have died. It barely came up last year. It's funny how from year to year, plants will come and go on their own mysterious schedule. I wouldn't say this one is blooming very robustly.

The bluebells are flowering in a big way, here backed by the leaves of the day lilies.

This was one of our projects for the day yesterday. The Russians gave us a couple of gigantic plastic pots that they had been using on their terrace, and we repotted Barb the banana. (You may remember Barb blew over in Storm Eunice and her pot was broken.) The new pot is ugly as sin but at least it's whole and we can do away with its duct-taped predecessor (which you can see at right).

How was I doing this having had no sleep for 24 hours? I have no idea. Yesterday was a struggle -- particularly yesterday evening -- but I made it through. I always try to combat jet lag by getting back on schedule right away and not taking naps. I just tried to stay busy.

Our garden assistant was busy too, as you can see. Hard at work.

Oh, and I took all the dahlias out of the shed -- you can see them there behind Olga in pots. I think it's still just a bit early for them to be sprouting, and indeed I don't see any sprouts yet, but let's see if we can get them kick-started.

Back to work today. I planned my Florida trip so that I'd have a day to recover and get organized around the house, and I was under the illusion for much of yesterday that I'd have today off too -- until Dave reminded me that it was in fact already Monday and I'd be working the next day. Yesterday was my recovery day. Overnight flights can be confusing!

Monday, April 18, 2022

The Lonely Dinosaur Bag

When I landed at Gatwick Airport this morning and made my way to the baggage claim area, I saw this little suitcase sitting all by its lonesome between some empty carousels. All I could think of was that some poor kid is now on vacation (or returning from vacation) without his dinosaur-printed bag. (Could be her bag, I suppose, but I'm adhering to the tired gender stereotype that dinosaurs tend to be a boy thing.) Did it get on the wrong plane? Did the family, in haste, accidentally leave it behind? It has a tag attached so hopefully it will get to its rightful owner.

My trip was happily uneventful. On the plane I read an interesting YA memoir called "All Boys Aren't Blue," about growing up gay and Black. It's been a controversial book, challenged by conservative parent groups in some American school districts, but I found it thought provoking and I'm glad we have it in our library. I also watched a Hugh Jackman movie called "Reminiscence," which was visually interesting, set in Miami after the city has been flooded by rising sea levels -- but I didn't love the plot. Kind of "Blade Runner" lite.

When I was still in Tampa I went to Starbucks for a coffee before my plane, and I was behind a British guy who ordered several drinks. He wanted to pay with cash but the attendant said it was a no-cash store, and the guy didn't have a card. His bill was $22. The cashier was hemming and hawing, apparently unable to void the transaction, so I said, "Let me get it." I was actually prepared to just pay the guy's tab to move things along, as insane as that sounds, but he gave me his $20 bill so that basically evened it out. I never do things like that and I'm afraid my attempt to be kind simply came across as grumpy, because, well, I was a little grumpy, mainly with the cashier. But he did thank me, for what it's worth.

I am now done with my production of Florivideos™, but I have one more to show you:

That was me saying goodbye to Maybelline yesterday morning. I usually get in her yard and kneel in the grass, and she comes and basically climbs onto my lap, which gets me completely filthy, as you can see. (In fact I later threw away those shorts, which were many years old and thinning in places -- and thinning shorts are never good.) We played with her Jolly Egg, too, so she got a workout. Don't worry -- I took a shower before the plane.

And now I'm back home with Olga, who upon seeing me bounded through the house and insisted we play with her Kong in the garden. Dogs are dogs, on both sides of the ocean.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Time to Pack

My trip is winding down. I'll be back on a plane this evening, insha'allah, and flying back to London. It has gone very fast!

My stepbrother and his wife, who live in Louisiana, drove into town late Friday specifically to see me, so we spent yesterday together. I haven't seen them since my dad died back in 2016, so it's been great to spend some time together. We've mostly been marveling at the political insanity that seems to have swept this country. (Fortunately we all share the same political views.)

I've got to re-pack my bag, and somehow cram in the stuff I've bought while I'm here. I got a new set of king-sized bed sheets, because British king sheets don't fit our American king bed. (The dimensions aren't the same.) I also had a new pair of shoes shipped to my brother's address, because shipping them to the UK would cost more than the shoes themselves, and I have to get those home. Plus a couple pairs of shorts and a few more odds and ends. I deliberately left my bag partly empty when I came to Florida so hopefully there will be room.

On my walk yesterday morning I noticed this house (above) with some beautiful amaryllis planted around its base. It made me wish I lived in a place warm enough to plant such things outside. If I could twinkle my nose like Samantha Stephens and make anything happen, I'd transport our avocado tree to Florida so we could put it in the ground. And probably a few more of our houseplants too.

My stepmother has this growing at the side of her yard. It was a complete surprise to her. I guess it came up from some bird seed, maybe? There's a black beetle in the center feeding on some nectar.

And here's a final Florivideo™!

It's kind of a mixed bag of clips I've made over the past few days -- it starts with about a minute of the dawn chorus outside my stepmother's guest house. (Among the songbirds you might hear a neighborhood rooster, as well as the background hum of traffic on the nearby highway.) Then there's a defunct country store I passed on my drive from Jacksonville back to Tampa, followed by some wildflowers growing near my stepmother's house. Finally, you'll see a sandhill crane, which are quite common in this area. They're usually in pairs. I don't know why this one was by itself -- maybe it's still looking for a mate.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Tampa Tour with Pelicans and Flipper

Yesterday was non-stop. I woke up at 5 a.m. to my alarm (which I usually don't use) and came to Dunkin' Donuts to blog before driving to downtown Tampa to meet my friend Sue for a long walk. Sue routinely walks early in the morning -- which is sensible in Florida -- so I knew I had to be there early! We met near the big public market known as the Armature Works and walked along the Hillsborough River down past the Convention Center and then back up through the middle of downtown.

I know Sue and her husband John from college, where we were all editors at the student newspaper. She is probably my oldest and most consistent friend, and although we only see each other every six months or so, we're able to pick right up again with our conversation as if we'd just been talking the day before. So it was great to walk and talk and have her show me around my hometown, which has changed so much since I lived here that it's almost like a new city.

Afterwards we went to...

...Goody Goody, a diner in the Hyde Park neighborhood. It used to be located north of downtown but that old building was demolished and the new owners saved the name and the historic sign and moved it to a trendier area. I had a big ol' veggie omelette, and then we walked down to scenic Bayshore Boulevard and to the old apartment building on the water where we used to live, way back in 1991 or so.

Sue says her phone app reported that we walked eight miles altogether! I'm skeptical, but technology never lies. (Does it?)

Then I hopped in the car and drove over the towering Sunshine Skyway bridge to see Dave's parents in Bradenton. (They usually live in Michigan but they're snowbirds, so they overwinter here.) We had lunch (more food, ugh) overlooking an inlet of Sarasota Bay populated by pelicans as big and clumsy as pterodactyls.

And here's today's Florivideo™, which will bring all this activity to life for you:

I gave it some musical accompaniment with a Cuban flavor, to celebrate Tampa's Cuban heritage. (And yes, I admit it, I was distracted by the hunky jogger! I had to strongly resist the urge to follow him with the camera rather than the scenery. But that would have been creepy.)

I tried to help Dave's parents iron out some difficulties they've been having with their laptop computer -- mainly with the sound -- but I succeeded only in setting the clock correctly. I think the bottom line is they need a better computer. We Skyped with Dave back in London.

Finally, I hopped back in the car and came back to Tampa, just in time to go to dinner with my stepmother, stepsister and her husband. I had a bowl of clam chowder and a salad. I feel like I ate about 6,000 calories yesterday, so thank goodness for all that walking!

Friday, April 15, 2022

A Long Rainy Drive

I spent almost all day yesterday behind the wheel of a car. Remember how I wrote several weeks ago about how hungry I was for a road trip? Well, I sated some of that hunger by driving from Jacksonville back to Tampa on little back roads through tiny towns like Florahome and Interlachen and Fort McCoy. These are not places I'd ever been before, at least not that I remember.

Since I spent so much time driving, I didn't have an opportunity to take many pictures. So today's post consists of a roundup of Florida photos I've collected over the past few days. The bright bromeliad (above) was growing by the side of the road near my stepmother's house. I think it's an escapee from someone's garden.

I liked this bright manatee-motif mailbox. Manatees sort of look like mailboxes, actually.

I stopped at a drug store to buy some shaving cream and razors, and an oak tree outside the front door was teeming with these odd little fuzzy caterpillars. They were all over the tree, sidewalk and asphalt. I rescued a few of them from the parking lot and put them back on the tree -- because how bleak to be a tiny caterpillar stranded on a vast expanse of hot pavement -- but there were way too many to even consider doing that for more than a handful. I'd have been there a week! I think it was all very amusing to the woman behind the counter of the drug store.

I believe these caterpillars are the larvae of a tussock moth.

In Jacksonville, some of the manhole covers feature an image of Andrew Jackson (the city's namesake) on horseback.

This was a street I passed on my drive back to Tampa yesterday. Isn't that a great name? It didn't look especially infernal, though -- just a harmless dirt road.

Here's today's Florivideo™! It's a very simple one. I got caught driving in the rain for a lot of my trip -- in fact, a downpour at times. This just gives you a sense of what that was like, with ambient sound.

And finally, near Silver Springs in Ocala, I passed some great old mid-century motels.

In Pasco County I took a quick detour through our old neighborhood to see what used to be our family home, which my mom sold back in 2015. It looked pretty good, though the new owners have replaced the windows, painted the house an avocado green and changed the landscaping. They left the pine trees in the front yard, at least. The whole neighborhood is much more built up than I remember. I'm probably picturing it more like it was when I was a kid -- widely spaced houses on big lots with lots of citrus trees and nature. Now the development is more dense.

I'm off to meet my friend Sue for an early morning walk!