Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Of Queens and Chihuahuas

As much as I love our garden, we gotta get out and about in today's post. So it's time for another roundup of random photos from my phone.

First, a picture I took because of a debate with Dave. He said he saw an article about the millions of pounds it would take to change out all the post boxes in the UK when Queen Elizabeth dies, because her royal insignia ("ER") is on so many of them. I told him that was crazy, because many old mailboxes bear the insignias of past kings and queens -- like this one around the corner from our flat, bearing the initials of George VI, Elizabeth's father. In fact, we still use mailboxes marked VR for Queen Victoria! So I'm sure no one is changing mailboxes for Elizabeth. I think whatever he saw must have been some kind of spoof.

An intriguing little sticker I saw near Royal Free Hospital. I can't find any references to it online. Maybe someone is just celebrating their chihuahua. The latin phrase translates to "and there was light."

I'm not sure what happened here but it doesn't look good. I'm guessing the wine was involved.

Lost baby Croc!

We don't have any burdock in our garden this summer -- at least, I don't think any of it re-seeded. But Olga found an impressive example in the cemetery. This is probably a relative of the plants we grew, actually -- they came from seeds from a gigantic cemetery burdock.

Remember how I said every time I go to the cemetery I find something new? Well, on our most recent walk I spotted this sculpture. It seems to be inscribed with the initials SUS -- perhaps the sculptor? I don't see any other wording but it faces a headstone for Isabel Wallis, who died in 1923 at age 70. So I'm assuming this is a portrait of Isabel.

These bizarre alien growths are known as nail galls. They form when mites feed on the leaves of a tree -- in this case, a European lime (or linden) -- and secrete chemicals that cause the leaf to grow these spiky projections. They don't hurt the tree and apparently they're a harmless natural phenomenon.

My boss, who is from Minnesota, went home recently and brought a bag of Dot's Pretzels back to London. Apparently they're a thing in the upper Midwest, though I'd never heard of them. In fact I don't even like pretzels, so I wasn't all that enthusiastic -- until I tasted them. OMG, these things are addictive! (And no, Dot is not paying for my endorsement in any way, though if she wants to send me some bags of pretzels I would happily accept.)

Finally, a child's artwork in the window of a local real estate office celebrating the Queen's 70th jubilee. We get Thursday and Friday off this week to celebrate. I guess that's a corgi? I like the bejeweled effect and the felt flag and collar!

Monday, May 30, 2022

The Other Peony

Here's our third peony, which has finally opened to join the other two. Looking pretty good, I'd say! This is the bud that hosted the aphid farm, which apparently didn't do it any harm. You can still see a few aphids and ants on that lower right petal.

A peaceful Monday morning here. Olga is snoring next to me and the sky is bright and beautiful, though there's supposedly an 80 percent chance of showers later today. We need some rain. Yesterday I schlepped another two gallons of water down to our pathetic street tree in my watering can, and spent some time watering the garden. Everything seems very dry.

I hopefully made the Russians happy by trimming the greenery beside our front steps and tying back the valerian so it doesn't lean out quite as far. It's not quite as pretty now, with loops of twine around it. We look like gardeners in thrall to bondage -- and I assure you that is not my thing. But we all gotta live together, right?

I also trimmed "the monster," the next-door neighbor's rose that hovers over our patio. It's still ridiculously huge, but I didn't want to cut into the bulk of the bush because I was afraid there might be birds nesting inside it. Instead I just shaped it a bit, cutting off the shoots jutting out of the surface. When we get into summer I'll cut it back more thoroughly.

Yesterday afternoon I went to Dave's high school spring concert. (I'm trying to remember whether I went to any of his concerts last year. I think they did have one, whereas in 2020, of course, all concerts were cancelled.) Anyway, it went well and the drummers, in particular, did a great job. Dave has a good percussion section this year. Afterward the band teachers and spouses all went out for dinner at an expensive restaurant with mediocre food but, fortunately, good gin & tonics.

And now, back to work!

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Lupine Report

Well, this happened yesterday -- the first bloom of the season on our Asiatic lily. Looking good! Remember last year, when I kept it indoors and it developed such a terrible case of aphids? Well, this year I've kept it outside in its pot and there are no aphids to be found. Nature strikes a balance.

Our blue lupines (British: lupins) are looking good too.

But the red Beefeater lupine has put up just a single small flower spike -- nothing like the huge flowers we saw the past two years. Maybe I need to put the pot in a sunnier spot. Or maybe the plant is just getting old. Still no blossoms on the pink Rachel de Thame or the yellow lupine, but Rachel has a flower spike so some should be forthcoming.

Speaking of aphids, we usually have a terrible aphid problem on the lupines and I wind up having to clear them manually from the plant with my hands. (Not a pleasant job!) But this year, I haven't seen any. Apparently this has been true all over the UK because of our cold, dry spring. Come to think of it, maybe that's also why there are no aphids on the lily.

Isn't this an exciting blog post?

Well, in order to give you any thrills and chills I'd have to make something up, because yesterday was pretty mellow. Dave was gone almost all day, first getting a blood test and then at a school jazz concert. I spent the morning reading and doing laundry.

Speaking of laundry, I went to the laundromat to pick up our bedsheets, which you may remember I get washed "professionally" because they're too big for our home machine. Well, the woman behind the counter charged me £18, which is £5 more than I usually pay. When I questioned the charge, she pulled out a notebook filled with neat columns of figures and showed me exactly how they arrived at that amount -- £5 for the machines, £2 for soap, etc. Except that the figures clearly added up to £13! She wound up charging me £15 because she said she thought they might have had to use a larger machine and I didn't want to quibble. She said they'd give me a £3 discount on my next load. The whole episode was a head-scratcher.

I took Olga to the cemetery and we had a good walk. The weather was cool and sunny and although Olga seemed content to stick to the paved paths rather than forging through the underbrush, she clearly enjoyed herself. I haven't heard the turaco recently -- not since March. I wonder if it's still around?

Oh, and speaking of exotic birds, I had a conversation with Mrs. Russia upstairs in which she complained about the parakeets on our bird feeder. She says they're too loud. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do about that, aside from not putting out a feeder, and I enjoy the feeders so she's just going to have to deal. The Russians are very persnickety about keeping everything just so. I suspect they think we're slobs.

Here's another thing they don't like -- the way we've allowed the pink valerian to grow out over the front steps. I think it looks charming, but Mrs. Russia said the plants obstruct the path. Her husband is talking about pressure-washing again. (sigh)

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Intention and Exhaustion

I was walking to work one morning this week behind a father and his two young daughters. They were practicing spelling. The father would give each girl a word and she would spell it and use it in a sentence. The older girl got the word "intention."

Her sentence? "It is my intention to push you down the stairs," she said, gesturing at her sister.

Ah, yes. Family life.

This has been an exhausting and somewhat dispiriting week. Aside from the news, which was bad enough, our whole school seems to be running on empty. There's such a whirlwind of activity at the end of the year with everyone trying to finish papers and projects and put on plays and concerts. (Dave's high school concert is tomorrow, and I'll be attending that.) We just gotta get this school year done.

I'm making progress on collecting overdue materials, but of course not as much as I would like. I also cleaned out the library lost & found bin yesterday and set everything out on a shelf, hoping that putting it at eye-level would help students see their stuff and take it home:

As usual, water bottles are a big part of the problem. A lot of that stuff has been in the lost & found for months, so my guess is even if the kids know it's there they probably don't want it. Perhaps you recognize that lunch bag from last fall -- someone took one thermos but left the other behind. And some of it's pretty weird. Who lost their electric toothbrush in the library? Their hairbrush? Their deodorant?

(Probably all the same person.)

I checked out a stack of books for summer reading, maybe more than I will ever finish:

1. "Hidden Valley Road" by Robert Kolker
2. "The Tender Bar" by J.R. Moehringer
3. "The Great Believers" by Rebecca Makkai
4. "A Dutiful Boy" by Mohsin Zaidi
5. "The Wych Elm" by Tana French
6. "The Secret Place" by Tana French
7. "Ready When You Are" by Gary Lonesborough
8. "Crossroads" by Jonathan Franzen
9. "All Over But the Shoutin'" by Rick Bragg

Some of those have been on my reading list for years -- the Bragg and Moehringer books, for example. We don't start summer checkouts until June 6 but I figure it's a perk of my job that I can grab mine early.

I walked Olga a couple of mornings ago and she had fun sparring with the neighborhood cats:

Did you see the cat in the distance on the sidewalk right at the beginning? That's what she was chasing. And you could probably hear another cat spit behind that door, which is what prompted Olga to return for the attack. I've talked a lot about how low-energy she is these days (in fact she's still in bed as I type this), but as you can see, when it comes to felines the adrenaline still surges!

(Top photo: A blooming elder up the street from our flat.)

Friday, May 27, 2022


Two of our peonies are blooming -- the yellow intersectional peony, above, which has two blossoms this year...

...and the "Bowl of Beauty" peony, an herbaceous variety that dies back every autumn. We still have another peony that's in bud but the flower hasn't opened yet.

Not much else going on around here, so today, just enjoy the flowers!

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Guns N' Roses

Our rose bushes are going crazy as they always do in May and June, bursting with flowers. The parakeets are unimpressed, though. 

They're fixated only on one thing: food.

Now, there is no easy way to transition from beautiful roses and parakeets in the garden to the dark news coming out of Texas. But here goes.

Obviously when I wrote yesterday morning's post I hadn't yet heard about the shootings in Uvalde. In fact I didn't hear about them until I went to work and finally looked at the news online. As usual after such a hideous event, I have so many thoughts swirling around in my head that it's hard to articulate them. I felt the same after Newtown and Las Vegas and Parkland and Orlando. How many times do we have to live through these disasters before we address the fact that the United States has way too many guns, not enough restrictions and controls on said guns, and that our society provides inadequate mental health care for people wrestling with inner demons?

Our social sicknesses were on display almost right after the Texas shootings occurred. There was an immediate false rumor, perpetuated by a member of Congress, that the shooter was a transgendered illegal alien. The fact that the American hate machine kicked into action to demonize both immigrants and transgendered people -- and to deflect the conversation away from gun control -- when there were barely any official facts available is astonishing and repulsive. Paul Gosar should be officially censured (again).

I don't have any faith that this is going to lead to better gun control. When Newtown occurred back in 2012, I thought, "THIS is it. This is the event that is finally going to force America to come to terms with its disgusting infatuation with firearms." And did it? No. If killing elementary school students isn't enough, if assassinating presidents isn't enough, if 45,000 gun deaths (20,000 of them homicides) in 2020 alone isn't enough, then what is?

Gun control works. I can tell you that from my more than ten years of living here in the UK, where there are strict anti-gun laws and there's barely any gun crime. We just don't have them here (particularly handguns) and if anyone who's not a gangster misses them, I haven't heard about it.

I am certain that James Madison and the other founding fathers who wrote and approved the Second Amendment never imagined its ramifications. How could they? Not only didn't they envision modern high-powered weapons, they didn't foresee modern mental illness, the ease or circumstances under which one furiously deranged 18-year-old could exterminate a room full of schoolchildren. To lay these evils at Madison's feet or to defend them with the U.S. Constitution is obscene.

America needs common sense gun control laws. Period. Background checks, cooling-off periods, limits on the numbers of weapons a single buyer can acquire, limits on the types of weapons available. Also age restrictions -- it's ridiculous that someone who's basically still a teenager can't buy beer but can acquire a high-powered rifle. Any rational, sensible person could see the wisdom in restrictions like those.

We also need to take a hard look at our society. How do we create these alienated, friendless people? What resources should we be devoting to better mental health care and socialization? What do we do with these young men who live in the twilight world of the Internet, playing late-night shooter games and venting their wrath on 4chan message boards?

But will any of that happen? Will there be any substantive change? I doubt it.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Library Torment

Here's a shot of the marigolds and salvia that Dave planted over the weekend. They're a good combination, with all those fiery reds, oranges and yellows, aren't they?

I finished "The Believer" yesterday, Sarah Krasnostein's book exploring the nature of belief. I really enjoyed it, though as I wrote the other day it's kind of a peculiar book. It tells several stories simultaneously in very brief chapters, jumping from one to another and then another, and then back to the first again: a group in Australia exploring paranormal events; Mennonite missionaries who bring their message from rural Pennsylvania to the Bronx; the people who run the Creation Museum and a life-sized reconstruction of Noah's Ark in Kentucky; a woman whose pilot boyfriend vanished along with his plane off the coast of Australia in 1978, an event that some believe involved a UFO or abduction by aliens. There are others, too. Krasnostein writes of them all respectfully and dispassionately, though occasionally revealing her own skepticism, and I think her skill lies in giving enough detail to be engaging but not so much that the stories become weighed down. It's all very readable.

Maybe because that book required intellectual engagement, I came home last night and (while Dave conducted another student concert) watched the first two "Hangover" movies -- I needed some anti-intellectualism to balance out my day!

I am so ready for school to get out. I feel like this year is really dragging on. I'm still struggling with some kids to get them to return their books. There's nothing like e-mailing a kid every week for a month or more, and speaking to their homeroom teacher, speaking to the kid in person and giving them a printout of the books they have out, e-mailing their parents, and then having that kid show up at the desk saying "I've turned everything in!" A quick look at their account shows that NO, they actually haven't turned everything in, in fact they've returned only one of three overdue books. It's like I'm screaming into the freakin' wind.

I'm sure I'm singing the International Librarians' Lament when I say this, but I will just never understand how people can be so disorganized with library books. I can maybe see losing one library book, leaving it on the tube or on an airplane, but how does someone lose five of the last ten books they've checked out?! HOW DOES THAT EVEN HAPPEN?!?!

Anyway, yeah, as you can tell, I'm feeling a certain degree of year-end frustration!

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Slow Progress

This isn't the most exciting photo in the world, but it's the only one I have to blog at the moment that wasn't taken in our garden -- and I think we need a break from the garden, don't you? This is a building that I pass on my walk to work. Back in March of 2017, it was a somewhat down-at-heel, slightly lopsided building of flats and it looked like this:

Then, a huge renovation project began and by January 2020, it looked like this:

It turned out not to be a renovation, exactly. More like a demolition. The owners knocked the whole thing down, except for the central section of the front wall, which they left standing. Here it is in August 2020:

You can see the big signs announcing that it's to be a senior living center offering "memory care," opening in 2021.

Well, it didn't open in 2021, and it's still not open. But at least it seems pretty much finished, judging from that top photo, and there's a web site touting all its amenities. According to the site it's supposed to open this summer.

It's been interesting to watch this project unfold over a period of years. I must admit the new building looks good, and much less crooked!

Dave had a student concert last night and has another one tonight, so I'm fending for myself in the evenings. We have plenty of leftovers in the fridge so I'm hardly starving. I'm taking the opportunity to watch movies that I know won't interest Dave. Last night I watched a documentary about a British expedition to climb Mount Everest in 1975 -- I wanted to see it because the guy whose trunk I rescued several weeks ago was part of the expedition's transportation team. He didn't feature in the movie but it was still interesting, even though I have no desire to ascend a mountain (particularly that mountain) myself.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Brimstone and Crab

This butterfly turned up in our garden yesterday, flittering around our purple wallflower. At first I thought it was a plain ol' cabbage white, but the leaf-shaped wings and light green color with single spots seemed unusual. Turns out it's a Brimstone, which I don't remember ever seeing before, though it's possible we've had them around. (I tend to write off any white or whitish butterfly as a cabbage white, and I really shouldn't!)

When it landed on one stalk, this white crab spider emerged from the blossom, where it was lurking to capture small insects like bees that come to feed. But the spider didn't go after the butterfly. I guess that was just too much bug.

I had a full day yesterday, consumed with more household tasks. It was one of those days where the minute I finished something, I'd think of something else that needed doing. I sometimes think I'm a little manic that way, to be honest. I've never been good at sitting still, and I can get in these zones where I just go and go. On the upside, I get a lot done! I changed the bedsheets and took them to the laundry, cleaned all the objets and the tablecloth on our front hall table, dusted the bedroom, vacuumed, scrubbed the bathroom and cleaned the floor around the too-small mat I bought for Olga's dog bowls. (Olga is a messy eater, and the mat completely fails to protect the floor.)

I took Olga for a walk and it was a beautiful day, so I thought we'd go to the cemetery or maybe even to the Heath. But Olga had other ideas. She was content with an amble up the high street, sniffing garbage outside Sainsbury's. Such a classy animal. I've said it before but I'll say it again -- it appears our Hampstead Heath days are behind us.

In the evening, we were watching TV when a bee flew into the living room through an open window and made straight for Olga. (It made a beeline for her, in fact!) I don't know why this bee was drawn to the dog, who jumped up and looked alarmed. I was afraid she would snap at it, thus ending the bee's existence, and the bee was persistent in its suicidal obsession. I finally managed to chase it out of the room and then we bathed Olga, thinking the insect was somehow drawn by her not-particularly-flowerlike scent. (Granted we hadn't bathed her in a while, because she no longer goes on muddy Heath walks, so it was probably time.)

Dave kept himself busy too. He came home from the grocery store with two flats of annuals, marigolds and salvia, which he planted in another big plastic pot that the Russians gave us. So now that's in a corner of the patio, brightening things up for summer!

Sunday, May 22, 2022

No-Mow Most of May

This is one of our climbing hydrangeas, which we've trained to grow up the fences on both sides of the garden. There are two on the fence between us and Mrs. Kravitz, and every year she asks us, "What is that plant?" I've apparently never blogged them before but we've had them for six or seven years.

I spent all day yesterday in the garden, and I have more to do today. I pulled all the forget-me-nots, which had passed their peak and were looking dusty with powdery mildew, and I weeded a bunch of other stuff too.

Oh, and remember "No-Mow May"?

Well, never mind. After I'd neatened up the borders the lawn looked even more terrible, so I wound up just mowing it. I left those patches of daisies and several ragworts, which will bloom yellow later in the summer. We have plenty of undergrowth for the insects. (See Olga in the background on the right?)

And that's pretty much all that's happened around here, unless you want to hear about me doing laundry or cleaning the carpet in the dining room, which I'm sure you don't.

I'm reading a book called "The Believer" by Sarah Krasnostein, which is an exploration of belief -- people who believe in the paranormal, for example, or believe in the literal truth of the Bible. People who believe against all objective and scientific evidence. It's non-fiction and it's interesting -- a very different book. I'm hoping to make more headway in that today.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

A Felted Dog

Well I am a little rough around the edges this morning, having gone out with some co-workers last night for a departmental happy hour -- which somehow turned into happy five hours. Everything was discussed, including Covid, Ukraine, the political situation of the world, you name it. (This was after a week in which we all underwent mandatory instruction in how to remain politically neutral and welcoming of all viewpoints in the classroom.) It was very fun and I haven't been out with everyone in months, so it felt long overdue.

We have a "no eating" rule in our library, and I am routinely busting kids for sneaking in snacks. Normally it's a bag of crisps (potato chips) or a sandwich or a pastry from one of the nearby coffee shops, and my radar-like ears can hear the crinkly wrappers when they open them. But yesterday two boys came in with take-away boxes from the cafeteria, sat down at a table, opened them up -- and they were full of whole boiled potatoes, which seemed like the most bizarre thing for teenage boys to eat as a mid-morning snack.

I went over and told them, "Guys, I've caught people eating a lot of different kinds of food, but this is the first time I've ever seen someone bring in boxes of potatoes."

One said, "BUT WE'RE HUNGRY!"

It struck me as funny, but maybe you had to be there. I sent them outside where presumably they ate their potatoes.

I found this little guy at the bus stop on my way home last night. He's surprisingly dense for such a small toy. Linda Sue, you're the felting expert -- this is felted, right? He has joined a shelf of other small stuffed creatures that I've picked up here and there.

Dave and I have signed our new lease, and we're now waiting for the landlords to sign. (I'm sure they will since they offered the extension.) It's nice to know we're secure living here for another year.

Oh, and speaking of housing, a "for sale" sign has gone up at the Mystery Mansion. (Or was it already up when I took my picture and I just wasn't paying attention? That seems hard to fathom.) In any case, I found the listing for the house. If you click that link and then "view photos," you can see pictures of what it looks like inside. It's not pretty, but they offer helpful CGI renderings of what it could look like with about a million pounds worth of renovations. (After you spend £5 million to buy the house itself.) The CGI also assumes someone spiffs up the boarded-up place next door, because that's not part of the listing.

(Top photo: Hostas in the garden on a rainy morning.)

Friday, May 20, 2022


I have nothing much to write about today, so let's just take another look at the garden, shall we?

This is how it looks in the late afternoon. A far cry from the winter view! Yesterday after work Dave and I sat out on the bench, which you can barely see beneath the trees in the back, and admired all the flying insects illuminated in the shafts of sunlight. We seem to have lots of little gnats and hoverflies and things. Maybe it's our "No-Mow May" approach to the lawn.

This is one of our climbing (or maybe rambling?) roses. Dave didn't prune it this spring because we learned the hard way that spring pruning eliminates the blossoms. It didn't bloom at all last year.

This is red campion (despite the fact that it's pink). It grows wild in the garden and comes back every year with no intervention from us.

These snapdragons might look a little tired, but that's not surprising -- they're from last summer! Our winter never got cold enough to kill them so we just kept them, and they're blooming again this year.

The sage has sent up a flower spike. (This isn't cooking sage -- it's an ornamental variety.)

This is one of my favorite roses. In addition to looking amazing, it smells heavenly.

And here's another shot of the foxgloves. Wouldn't this picture make a good bookmark?

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Mystery Mansion

I often walk past these mysterious semi-detached houses on my way to work. They're on a prominent corner in the heart of St. John's Wood, which is a very expensive and desirable neighborhood, right up the street from Abbey Road Studios -- and yet the place is kind of a wreck. There's been a pile of old furniture sitting outside for months now, and as you can see the building itself needs some work. The house on the right, behind that tree, is boarded up, and I thought the one on the left was vacant too -- but when I took this picture one of the windows was open, so who knows?

(This is the place with the beautiful stained glass window over the front door -- you can see it in this shot.)

It has a large and dramatic Echium in the back garden. I love those plants. We should get one. I think they only live a few years so it may not be a permanent fixture.

In any case, I am curious about this place and why it's been left in such disrepair, given that it's a multi-million-pound property in a very well-manicured area.

Thanks for your comments on my post yesterday about my DNA test results. I've done more reading about it, and apparently it's not unusual for white Americans with roots in the slavery-era South to have some African DNA, and for blacks with similar roots to have European DNA. (As commenter Claudia noted, "Rape was rampant in the slave system.") I've read that a ratio of one percent suggests that this DNA came into my family tree about seven generations back. We've done our family tree, so now I'm looking at those names and wondering what I don't know! (Of course it's quite a few people and we don't have all the names -- and if this was the result of an illicit extramarital coupling the name wouldn't even be there.)

Anyway, it's quite fascinating. It makes me ponder all the flawed thinking surrounding the concept of race. By Jim Crow standards -- the ridiculous "one drop" rule -- I suppose I'd be black!

Another thing I didn't realize about those tests is that they only reflect DNA from the past several hundred years. Because we get 50 percent of our DNA from each parent, half of their DNA doesn't get passed down to any given child, in which case it just falls by the wayside, as I understand it. DNA from more than a few hundred years ago would fall out of the system, so to speak. So I'm not sure about my theory that my Scandinavian DNA comes from the Vikings.

Work has been busy this week. I'm on my annual campaign to get overdue materials back before school ends in just less than a month -- with varying degrees of success. Also, for some reason my work computer has been blocking some blogs lately -- it's an automated function of the filters the school uses to screen inappropriate web sites, and has nothing to do with any given blog's content! It's been making it difficult for me to keep up with blog-reading, but I'm trying!

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

My African Roots are Back

You may remember that back in 2017, Dave and I both did Ancestry DNA tests. We thought it would be fun to see what our DNA revealed about our roots and how accurate the tests were. Since then, Ancestry has sent me occasional updates as they test more and more DNA from other people and refine the results.

Above is my latest update, showing basically the same results as before -- with one curious exception. My initial DNA report indicated a tiny sliver of DNA from West Africa. They weren't specific about it, and called it a "low confidence" result. A later update pinpointed it to Mali, and then it disappeared altogether from a subsequent report. I figured it was just an error that had been refined out of the results by greater sample sizes from more and more people.

But no! My latest results show that sliver of African DNA once again -- from Ivory Coast or Ghana. I am completely perplexed about this. There are no stories in my family (as far as I'm aware) that would explain any African connections. (Nor Scandinavian ones, come to think of it, though I suppose that DNA could come from Viking invaders in England.)

If any of my relatives were canoodling with slaves, and I was somehow descended from such a union, I think my percentage of African DNA would be much, much higher. What if, on the other hand, I had an ancestor who visited that part of the world (on a slaving ship, for example) and canoodled there, leaving behind some DNA that became incorporated into that local population? Could one person affect the DNA profile of a whole region? Seems doubtful.

It's a mystery.

Ancestry has a new feature that shows your DNA contributions by parent. Unfortunately, they don't tell you which parent is which! So as we can see, in my case, the African DNA (as well as my Scandinavian and Welsh contributions) came from Parent 1. The other parent is relatively boring -- British Isles all the way.

I would love to know which parent is No. 1. You'd think they could figure that out somehow. I really haven't a clue.

Still interesting are my DNA "communities," where people most genetically linked to me live. My maternal grandmother's family comes from North Carolina; my dad's from Arkansas. So this is pretty accurate. (Mysteriously absent is any community related to my maternal grandfather, who was from Pennsylvania -- maybe there's been too much population shift and dispersal in those areas?)

In fact, Ancestry can pinpoint the specific towns in North Carolina where I have close genetic relatives. My grandmother was born in Lumber Bridge, near Fayetteville -- so this is correct.

And although my dad grew up in California, his parents came from the area around Imboden, Arkansas, which is just north of that little lake shown on the right side of the orange blob above. So, again, this is accurate. (I do not have a genetic "community" in California, even though many of my relatives on his side lived there. They were probably mixed in with too many other migrants from different places and dispersed over too wide an area. In fact, many of them don't live in California anymore.)

Dave's results, meanwhile, are still all about Europe. (His ancestors immigrated to the United States much more recently than mine did.) In his case, it's easy to tell which parent is which. His mom's family is from the Czech Republic, and his dad's is from Germany. Mom is obviously Parent 2.

His DNA "communities," where he shares common DNA with other residents, are in Central Germany, Eastern Czechia and Western Slovakia.

He also shares DNA with people in northern Ohio and Indiana. He was born in southern Michigan, so that makes sense too.

All this is very interesting and I continue to be amazed at the accuracy. I'm mystified by that African result, though!

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Foxgloves Are Happening

Our foxgloves have finally started to bloom -- the ones I started in seed trays, and potted on in the garden last summer (where maybe a quarter of them died), and planted out this spring. I always marvel at people whose foxgloves come up of their own accord, with no special effort or intervention. That just doesn't happen in our garden, and I have no idea why. There isn't a single foxglove here that I haven't grown deliberately, except one that sprouted in (and eventually took over) another plant's pot.

Blog reader Frances up in Harpenden says she has about 20 of them in her garden, the "children" (or maybe "grandchildren"?) of six seedlings I took her a couple of years ago. My boss also has some that sprouted from my seedlings. So I'm glad I'm spreading the foxglove love!

Some of the flowers are still just barely open. Another week or so and they'll be looking more relaxed, I think. This one seems to be white or maybe yellow, rather than the standard purple. (All of these are descended from seeds I got from a packet via "Gardener's World" magazine a couple of years ago.)

There's always a sense of satisfaction that comes from seeing a long project through to completion. I don't think I'm going to mess with foxglove seeds anymore, though. They're just too tiny and troublesome. If they don't re-seed on their own in the garden then this is the end of the line.

You know what else didn't re-seed? The Aaron's rod (or great mullein) that spontaneously appeared in the garden last year. Funny how some things come and then vanish again.

I had to go to the Royal Free Hospital yesterday morning for a quick blood test -- nothing major, and I was in and out. It's a good thing the NHS texted  to remind me earlier in the morning or I would have completely forgotten. I then walked to work via Belsize Park, which took more time than I thought it would, but it felt good to get out and walk.

On the way home from work in the afternoon I came across the message above scrawled on the sidewalk outside McDonald's on Finchley Road. I'm guessing someone was due to meet Andrew, but then had to step away briefly and left his/her food order behind?

I also got the mighty stamp project finished last night, so now we have our dining room table back!