Friday, September 30, 2022

Ian from Afar

I've been habitually checking the news coverage of Hurricane Ian in Florida. The areas where my family and friends live in Tampa, Sarasota and Jacksonville were largely spared, it seems. I spent several years in Venice, Fla., which is the closest I ever lived to where the storm came ashore farther south in Fort Myers. But even Venice seems to have come through pretty well -- there's been some heavy damage to the community theater but that's all I've seen online.

My brother in Jacksonville wrote yesterday afternoon: "We are home and sitting around keeping an eye on stuff. Mom was evacuated to a retirement center on the north side that (unlike where she lives now) is not in a flood zone. So far so good!"

Still, it was a huge storm and devastating to the Fort Myers region. We vacationed on Sanibel Island a couple of times when I was a child, and those memories are replaying in my mind as I see news coverage from that area. The bridge to Sanibel was demolished by the storm and apparently the island was really hammered. I think about the little beach cabins where we stayed in the summer of 1979, with their linoleum floors and jalousie windows. Each one had a cute beachy name like "conch" and "sea grape." Those buildings seemed light as a feather and although that resort still existed as of earlier this year, I wonder if it exists today. I suppose the buildings would have been modernized and brought up to more current hurricane codes in the intervening years, so maybe it does.

Somewhere I have a whole roll of film from that weeklong stay, but the only picture I can find at the moment is this one, of our old bulldog Meatball reclining on the cabin floor. We took her and our little dachshund, Mabel, and those dogs just did not know what to make of the beach. Mabel was terrified of the gently rolling waves coming in off the Gulf.

Anyway, that's where my mind is at the moment, reliving my memories of Southwest Florida.

Here in London, it's life as usual. I'm once again on a campaign to get kids to return their overdue summer books. Plus ça change.

(Top photo: The autumnal leaves of the persicaria in our garden.)

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Olga's Indian Summer

You know how the vet told us Olga had a tumor beneath her infected incisor, and we've been waiting for the results of a biopsy to find out what kind of tumor it is?

Well, the results came back yesterday, and SURPRISE -- there's no tumor at all! Olga doesn't have cancer, at least not in the tissue that was biopsied. It's just a big infection.

We are, of course, incredibly relieved, and also a little bowled over that the vet could be so certain in her preliminary diagnosis and yet so wrong. She was convinced it was a malignancy. Weirdly, this is the same vet who, four years ago, removed lumps from Olga's hind legs and took huge margins of tissue because she thought they might be cancerous -- and they weren't. What is it with this vet?

Her most recent diagnosis never quite made sense to me, because Olga had this lumpy nose off and on for almost a year, and it didn't seem to grow substantially or drag her down at all. This explains, too, why Olga was bouncing around so soon after her surgery like she was perfectly fine. She is perfectly fine.

Anyway, Olga has now been referred to a dog dentist (apparently there is such a thing) who will review her records to see if she needs further treatment or more antibiotics. Hopefully the removal of that single incisor is enough to quell this infection. Remember we were also going to remove the other incisor -- which is gray and perhaps not healthy but so far not causing her problems -- and we decided not to because of the "tumor." Well, I'm not putting her under the knife again unless there's really a crisis.

Jesus! What a roller-coaster ride.

So that's a big explosion of happy news, desperately needed in these crazy times. Otherwise I've been worrying about Hurricane Ian affecting my family and friends in Tampa (it looks like they avoided the worst of the storm, but of course it's hammering other parts of the state). And what about the insanity of our newly-elected British government, which has cooked up tax cuts for wealthy people that are so ridiculously irresponsible that our currency has tanked and even the leaders of the International Monetary Fund felt compelled to protest?

I mean, honestly. Here we are in the middle of an energy and cost-of-living crisis, with local governments in such a struggle that garbage lingers on the streets and libraries can't stay open, and the answer is to provide £45 billion in tax cuts to the country's wealthiest people?


And then, of course, there's the Ukraine situation, which may pose the greatest existential risk of all. I occasionally read a right-wing news site which shall remain nameless, just to give myself agita, and they continually make excuses for Putin, saying that he is on an anti-globalist crusade against all the evils of the West, and look how vigorously he supports the Russian Orthodox Church and blah blah blah -- and I think, when did the American right wing climb into bed with Russia?

Despite our surging household costs and the weird apparent sabotage of the gas pipelines beneath the Baltic Sea that supply Europe with Russian energy, I briefly turned on our heat this morning. It's 42º F outside (5.5º C) and that is freaking cold.

Oh, Olga, you scared us to death. And incidentally, that is MY PILLOW!

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

A Tropical Paint Job and Cliff Richard

Time once again for a round-up of random photos from my iPhone, taken on my urban wanderings. (Usually on my walks to or from work, or with Olga in the mornings.)

First, the 02 Centre on Finchley Road recently got a rather tropical-looking makeover. For some reason, the botanical stencils on the ground outside all have a number next to them. At first I wondered if this was a mistake -- maybe the painters didn't realize they weren't supposed to include the stencil numbers in the job? But they've been there for a while now so I have to assume they're intentional. Floral hopscotch? I have no idea.

If there's anything more useless than a used three-ring binder, I don't know what it is. (Maybe a used two-ring binder.) We've thrown away tons of them in the library because of course all the records that used to be kept on paper no longer are. But kudos to this person for trying to find them a home.

Speaking of discarding, someone was tossing out these pretty nice looking chairs. I don't understand the zeal with which people throw away furniture these days. When I was a kid we had the same couch from 1962 to 1982.

Some groovy, if well-worn, tie-dye-style Crocs left in a student gathering space at school. I am sorely tempted to buy a pair of these. They're still available and not expensive.

Another retro find. It's been ages since I've even seen a cassette tape. This one reminded me of my years in Morocco, when the cabbies all had Arabic music blaring from the cassette players in their cars. I learned some great Arabic music that way. (Majida el Roumi, anyone?) I'm not sure what's on this particular tape, and in any case, it's beyond playing.

Still life with citrus peels.

Someone venting against our new government, I presume. This was outside the St. John's Wood tube station. 

From the cover of a discarded futon in someone's rubbish pile. I thought the pattern was pretty interesting -- women planting some kind of crop?

And finally, if you hurry down to one of the charity shops on our high street, you can get a bargain on your 2023 Cliff Richard calendar! (I'm surprised there even IS a 2023 Cliff Richard calendar, considering he's 81 now, but then again the whole Cliff Richard phenomenon is a bit of a mystery to me. He never really cracked the American market. Growing up, I only knew him as Olivia Newton-John's duet partner.)

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Margate and Cathay

The weather was mercurial on my walk home yesterday, with moments of bright sun against a dark, rainy sky. In fact, a few minutes after I took this photo, a rainbow appeared as the sun shone through those gray clouds -- but it only stayed for a minute and I wasn't fast enough with the camera.

I have been in a funk the last couple of days. I guess that's not surprising with our recent dog news, which I suspect is at the root of a lot of it, even though Olga appears perfectly healthy and spry day-to-day. (We're still waiting for her biopsy results.)

But we've had other stuff going on as well. The Russians' construction project is (hopefully momentarily) paused because, allegedly, the contractor needs dry weather to do the roof work -- so we're having to live with the patio scaffold for longer than we'd hoped. In addition, Mrs. Russia told me yesterday that her husband is about to tear out and replace the floors in their bedroom and living room because, as she put it, "they squeak." (I wanted to respond, "Well, naturally! It's a 100-year-old house! WHO CARES if the floor squeaks?" But I did not.) She said, "It will be a long project. And it will be noisy."

I sometimes wonder if they are trying to drive us out. Is that paranoid? Do they want to expand their Russian borders into our downstairs flat?

Yesterday I had to stay home all morning waiting for British Gas to come and do their annual gas inspection. It went smoothly, once the guy showed up, and then as I walked to work I took care of some other long-standing errands. I've had a small amount of Singaporean money in my armoire for ages, the remnants of a long-ago trip, and I finally changed it back into pounds; and then I deposited it and some Scottish money my friends Pam and Bryan mailed to me (left over from their recent trip to the UK) at the bank. Good to have that taken care of.

At work, I finally got back the bound copies of our school newspaper that I began arranging for in late spring. So that's another project done.

I am making progress, despite the funk.

When I met up with my friend Sally in Greenwich back in late July, I bought this at Greenwich Market -- an old illustration of the pier and harbor at Margate. I think it probably was cut from a book, and yes, it's crooked on the page, which drives me crazy but never mind. It only cost a pound or so and when I got home I tucked it away and then forgot about it.

Here's a closer look.

I bought it intending to blog it. But last night, when I got to thinking about today's blog post and wondering where this illustration was, I COULD NOT REMEMBER! I thought I'd either slipped it into a book or filed it in our file box. I spent, not kidding, at least an hour combing through books and files searching for it, and went to bed wondering if I'd mistakenly thrown it out.

Then, this morning, I checked a book I had apparently failed to check last night, and boom -- there it was. The Reed filing system triumphs again.

I also found this sketch, which I drew 35 years ago, of the creamer from a groovy set of '60s china (the pattern was called "Cathay") that I used to own. It's not a very good drawing, but I was happy to find it because I've long thought that I threw it out. (I find it interesting that the decal is flipped on my drawing vs. the creamer shown in the picture linked above. Were there variations in the manufacturing? Did I draw it in a mirror? But the decal is flipped vertically as well as horizontally. Hmmmm...)

Anyway, this has been a long, rambling post, for which I apologize, but that just shows the disorganized state of my mind at the moment. At least I found my missing illustrations. I guess I should be more careful about storing things in books!

Monday, September 26, 2022

Lacewing and Avocado

This little critter was on our laundry when I picked up the drying rack on Saturday evening to carry it inside from the lawn. I shooed it away and it landed on a nearby buddleia. It's a lacewing, I believe, and I suspect it's not long for this world. The weather is getting chillier by the day. The low was 47º F (8.3º C) just yesterday.

In fact, it seemed cold enough that I brought the avocado tree inside for the winter:

I swear that thing got much bigger during its summer outdoors. Hard to believe that almost exactly 10 years ago, it was just a tiny sprout.

I did some other stuff in the garden, including digging up a climbing rose that seeded itself in a place we don't want it. I always hate to kill a plant but it had to go, and we have several of them. (They've re-seeded elsewhere too.)

I spent almost the whole afternoon on the couch, reading. I'm about halfway through John Irving's "In One Person" now, and I've warmed to it. And that was my Sunday, in a nutshell!

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Surviving the Revolution

Yesterday started out as one of those days where the more I did, the more I realized I had to do. Mostly this involved laundry, vacuuming and plant-watering, but there were other, smaller associated tasks like dusting here and scrubbing there. I wanted to carry our laundry rack out to the patio, so the clothes could dry outside, but we can't open the bedroom door because of that stupid scaffold that's been erected by the builder to fix the window and roof upstairs. Argh! Mrs. Russia told me that job was going to take four days. It's already been ten, and I'm not sure that guy has even started on the roof.

Anyway...I carried the rack the long way through the living room and out onto the lawn. So the clothes got more or less dry.

I finally got the house organized to my satisfaction around 11 a.m. and sat down to read John Irving's book "In One Person." I came across it while weeding the fiction section a couple of weeks ago and I've long meant to read it -- it's the one where Irving explores bisexuality and it made quite a splash when it came out about ten years ago. I'm about 75 pages in and it hasn't quite grabbed me yet but it's tolerable.

I also had to visit Mrs. Kravitz because all our yard waste bags vanished after they were emptied by the council on Friday morning. I looked over the fence and saw, on her patio, at least one bag with our house number on it. I knocked on her door, and although she denied picking up our bags, she let me reclaim that one, which she couldn't very well argue was hers. So now we're down to just three bags. I've placed an order to the council for a few new ones. (I took Mrs. K a cutting from our purple heart plant to soften the blow of accusing her of pilfering our property.)

Finally, in early afternoon, I took Olga to the cemetery.

She zeroed in on the squirrels right away...

...but they scampered up into the trees and taunted her from an unreachable branch.

She chased and gnawed her tennis ball, never mind that dental surgery, and seemed to have a great time.

While at the cemetery we came across this tomb, the final resting place of the Russian Grand Duke Michael Michaelovitch and his wife, Sophie, Countess de Torby. I'd heard they were buried in Hampstead Cemetery and always wondered where, and yesterday I finally happened to look at the inscriptions and so figured it out. I expected something grander, but apparently they were living in "reduced circumstances" (I love that phrase) at the end of their lives. Hence, perhaps, this minimalist box.

The duke had an interesting life. A grandson of Tsar Nicholas I, he was born in 1861 and eventually married the lower-ranked Sophie, a descendant of Russian writer Alexander Pushkin, without permission. This supposedly upset his mother so much that she fell ill and died, and the emperor banished them from Russia. As it turned out this was a good thing -- they survived the Russian revolution, which killed three of the duke's brothers.

He and Sophie spent their later years in London, living at Kenwood House on Hampstead Heath (which Dave and I visited several years ago). They had three children, one of whom became a Mountbatten through marriage and was thus closely related to the British royals.

And then they wound up here. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

Dave and I got Chinese takeaway last week. Here are our fortunes. I guess we need to buy a lottery ticket tomorrow!

Saturday, September 24, 2022

The Library Card

Yesterday on my way into the building where I work, I found a library card from Millbrook, N.Y., lying on the pavement. It had the initials "B.C." on the back. I figured this must be one of our students' hometown libraries, and they might still want their card to access things like e-books and other electronic resources.

I e-mailed all the students whose initials are "B.C.," and then I heard we were having a college fair on campus that day, with representatives from many American colleges on hand. Aha! I bet one of them dropped the card!

So then I went to the fair, talked to the organizers, tried to track down the card owner and had no luck. It was just impossible to tell whose it might be. They might represent a college near Millbrook (Marist or Vassar?) or they might just live there and commute 50 miles to another school. Who knows? The organizers said they'd make an announcement, and I left the card at the school security desk. It was still there at the end of the afternoon.

Oh well.

I know a library card isn't that big a deal but I enjoyed playing detective. I suspect everyone else was humoring me because I am, after all, a librarian and they didn't want to say, "Just forget it! It's not a big deal!"

Olga continues to perk up post-surgery. She wanted a walk yesterday morning in the rain, which she never does. I don't know what got into her. We walked our entire neighborhood loop and through the housing estate where she tormented her feline friend beneath the patio door.

I left work a bit early to take her to a follow-up vet appointment, and the vets seemed very happy with her appearance and her healing.

We've all heard about energy costs going up this year as a result of the war in Ukraine. That's been an ambiguous threat until yesterday, when I got an e-mail from our energy provider telling me our bills are going up to £179 a month, and although some of that is apparently offset by a government Energy Bills Support Scheme for the first several months, we're still looking at a £152 increase in electrical costs and a £535 increase for gas (!) for the year beginning Oct. 1.

I also got an e-mail from Thames Water reminding me that although we've had some rain, the hosepipe ban remains in effect. "Despite the ban and the rain, river levels are still well below average, and reservoirs are down by as much as 25% – the lowest level since 2003. We’ll need plenty more rain through the autumn and winter to help them recover," the company said. Fortunately we don't really need to water the garden much at this time of year, when things have stopped growing and are mostly dying back.

I found these stickers around Waterloo when I went to the theater a few nights ago. Cig Thief appears to be an artist with an Instagram page; Hartex is a clothing store with an Instagram page. Digo is a musician with an Instagram page.

Saul, on the other hand, is just a grump.

Friday, September 23, 2022

Sunny Seeds and Shots

I couldn't resist another sunflower photo. Look at all those little seeds in the center, just waiting to become a meal for hungry birds! I'm glad we have something to feed them in the coming weeks and months. You may remember we took down our bird feeders in the spring after we spotted rodent activity in the yard, and since then I've noticed that the tits and dunnocks that normally populate our garden have moved on. Maybe between the sunflowers, the purple verbena and the teasels, we can bring some birds back to feast on natural seeds.

Dave and I have clashed a bit over the bird feeders, actually. Now that we're starting to move into autumn I'd like to put them back out again, and Dave is dead against it. "We'll get rats," he said. My response is, "This is London. We already HAVE rats."

Besides, I really think the rat activity we saw in the spring came more from Mrs. K's compost bin than from our bird feeders, and she's removed it. I told him I'm happy to give up the suet feeder, which is the messiest. I put one peanut feeder back out, and I may put up a seed feeder too. I'm not sure what to do with all the suet balls we have.

Thanks for all your good wishes on yesterday's post. This is what greeted me when I came home at lunch yesterday to check on Olga. You can see her snout is still a bit swollen from the surgery, but it should shrink over time. She's back to her playful self and still toting around her Kong. In fact she insisted I throw it for her.

She's a machine! So much so that I told her dog walker to pick her up today as usual. I simply asked him to keep her from chewing anything hard, like sticks, and transport her in her own crate rather than putting her with other dogs. (She usually gets driven in a van to the Heath, where she walks. That's why she's in a crate part of the time.)

I think the sooner she gets back to her routines, the better. Meanwhile she's on an antibiotic and a pain reliever, and though the vet gave us three cans of special easily-digestible food, she doesn't seem to need it. We've been giving her normal food too and it doesn't bother her. The only thing we have temporarily discontinued is Dentastix -- they're just too hard for her newly-sutured mouth. Dave will take her back to the vet this afternoon for a checkup, and I'm sure she will go enthusiastically because the vet has treats!

Oh, and I got my seasonal Covid booster yesterday. This was a total spur-of-the-moment thing. I just learned there's a walk-in vaccination centre on Mill Lane, near our flat. I was thinking my last booster was about a year ago (it was actually in early November, but whatever) so I seemed to be due for another, and I wanted to get one before my trip to Florida to see my mom early next month. So I showed up at the vaccination centre and although walking in didn't seem as easy as one would expect (lots of people had appointments and they rightfully got priority) I did eventually get a shot. So that's out of the way.

I got Moderna. My last booster was Pfizer, and my original vaccines were AstraZeneca. I'm a veritable stew of Covid antibodies!

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Olga's Autumn

There's good news and bad news.

The good news is, Olga made it through her tooth removal OK, and is back home with us now. She's lying in bed next to me as I type, snoring away.

The bad news is, her medical situation is more complicated than we thought.

Normally, removing a canine incisor as a major job, because the teeth are deeply rooted in the jawbone. In this case, the vet said, her infected tooth came out rather easily, and the vet found that beneath and around it was "abnormal" tissue where the bone should be. In other words, Olga has some sort of tumor in her upper jaw.

I can't say I am at all surprised by this. From the time that lump on her snout showed up last December, I suspected cancer.

The vet is doing a biopsy so we can figure out what kind of growth it is, which will help us decide what to do, if anything. Dave and I are not believers in taking extreme steps. Olga is right at the average life expectancy for a dog of her breed, which is 12 to 14 years. (She's 12 or 13.) So we're not going to be doing radiotherapy or disfiguring surgery. I think it's going to be a matter of keeping her comfortable for as long as she's enjoying life and eating and drinking normally.

In fact, as you may recall, the original plan for yesterday's surgery was to remove both incisors, because the other one has long appeared to be injured or dying. (That's the one the vet told me years ago might need a root canal.) Well, when the vet found the tumor she called me to ask if we still wanted to remove that second tooth as well, and I said no. It's not bothering Olga or causing immediate problems, and the vet concurred.

I may be in denial, but I wonder if this growth isn't benign. Olga has lots of lumps and bumps, which are typical in old bulldogs, and we first noticed this one almost a year ago. It hasn't significantly grown in size in all that time -- in fact it has appeared to shrink or subside at times -- and it hasn't slowed her down. I would think a malignancy would be much larger and more damaging by now. But as I said, the biopsy will tell us what we're dealing with.

The vet couldn't give us a very specific prognosis, but she did say that if it's a malignancy (and she believes it is) Olga probably has months, or maybe a year. Again, not surprising, considering her age. The vet said these types of malignancies typically don't metastasize to other organs, so that's a good thing.

This was Olga's mood when we brought her home last night. She was woozy from the anesthesia, looking at us with droopy-lidded eyes, poor thing. She ate a treat right away and then had a can of food, so that's a good sign that she's bouncing back, at least in the short term.

Of course this adds another level of uncertainty to our plans for the holidays. I've gone ahead and finalized the plans for the million-dollar dog sitter over Christmas. I don't think Olga will decline so rapidly that she'll be gone by then, and we intend to travel to the states as planned, but it's hard to know what to expect.

Weirdly, Dave and I seem to be taking this news pretty well. Like I said, I've long suspected she had more than just a simple infection, and obviously we're both aware of Olga's age. And again, I don't think we're looking at an immediate death. As long as she appears happy, engaged and not in pain, we'll keep plugging away.

(Top: A leaf I found on a recent dog walk.)

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Eureka Day

This fabulous shopfront down in Waterloo used to be a restaurant. Unfortunately, it's closed now. It may have been a casualty of the pandemic, or perhaps it just wasn't all that great. The Evening Standard didn't think much of it, describing it as "deafening," decorated with a "splodgy mural" and serving pork and duck "overcooked to a tightness and toughness that makes them more or less inedible." Ouch!

Why was I down in Waterloo to take in the gigantic scrawled sign and naked trompe l'oeil caryatids of this facade? Well, I treated myself to a little outing last night. Helen Hunt (from TV's "Mad About You" and the movie "As Good As It Gets") is appearing onstage at the Old Vic in a play called "Eureka Day," and I went to see it. (I asked Dave last week and he was not interested, so I bought myself a single ticket. Some people feel weird about going to the theater alone but I used to do it all the time in New York so it doesn't bother me in the least.)

It was an excellent play, about a privileged, progressive private school in California that's struck with an epidemic of mumps. That triggers a battle between parents, some of whom are suspicious of vaccinations. It's a fascinating look at the divisions in society and how well-meaning people deal with intractable problems. Funny, but with dramatic moments. (And of course it reminded me a lot of the school where I work, though we haven't faced an anti-vaxx crisis as far as I know. I don't even know what our vaccination requirements are.)

I had some time to kill before the play, so I had a soup and sandwich at Pret and then found a pub tucked into the arches beneath a railway bridge. I had a pint at an outdoor table where I read a profile in The New Yorker of scary U.S. Supreme Court justice Samuel Alito, who seems determined to turn the country into a theocracy. I was ready for some laughs after that.

I'm worried this morning because Olga is due to get her incisors removed today. I'm taking her to the vet at 8:30 a.m. There's a very small chance the x-rays will show that infection in her mouth has another source, and in that case perhaps they can save the teeth -- which would be ideal, except that we'd then have to deal with whatever is causing the infection. But I think it's virtually certain the teeth will have to go, and I worry about how that will affect her Kong-playing, not to mention her eating. No matter what, Olga is not going to be a very happy dog tonight. (She should be able to come home this evening, though, so at least she'll be here with us.)

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

The Funeral and Two Long Walks

This is where we were yesterday, parked in front of the television watching the Queen's funeral. We turned on the BBC at about 9 a.m. and it stayed on all day. I wasn't even sure our broadcast television still worked. We haven't watched it in probably a year, having been entirely occupied with Netflix and other online streaming. When I was watering the Russians' plants with the ladder over the summer I'd often climb the wall and hoist the hose near the satellite dish that serves as our antenna, and it seemed possible that I'd knocked it out of commission. But no -- when I turned on the Freeview box and switched the TV over, there was the signal, strong as ever.

Anyway, the funeral was quite a pageant, wasn't it? It was interesting to watch all the royals gathered together, along with various world leaders. The ceremonial aspects were fascinating, the careful processions and various traditions, and it was all so dignified I felt a little guilty for blogging about Dockyard Doris yesterday. It must feel so strange for Charles to hear everyone singing "God Save the King," and to think, "That's ME!"

All during the ceremony our little solar queen sat on the windowsill next to the TV, waving away.

When things got a bit too churchy for my taste I went outside and trimmed the pelargoniums, and did some watering. (It's still pretty dry here, despite our occasional recent rainstorms.)

Finally, as the coffin began to process to Windsor Castle at about 1 p.m., I took Olga to the Heath. I figured the funeral was mostly over. Olga and I went to the cafe at Golders Hill Park, as is our new routine, but she wasn't exactly brimming with energy. She just finished her course of antibiotics for her dental infection and I wonder if it's bouncing back a bit. (It won't be healed by drugs alone, which is why she needs that surgery to remove her incisors -- scheduled for tomorrow!)

Anyway, I was shocked when we came home around 4 p.m. and the funeral was still going on! I didn't realize there would be a second service at Windsor. We watched the hearse inch along the Long Walk, crowded with spectators, and saw the queen's pony, Emma, and corgis, Sandy and Mick, awaiting her return.

Seeing the Long Walk reminded me of my own trip to Windsor, way back in July 2003. I was there for a conference with my boyfriend at the time, and we stayed in a lodge in Windsor Great Park, and walked the Long Walk all the way to the castle. Here's one of my photos from back then:

As you can see, the Long Walk is aptly named.

And here I am with Queen Victoria outside the castle:

Hard to believe that was almost 20 years ago. "We Are Not Amused."

Anyway, I didn't watch the Windsor ceremonies in great detail because I was working on some other projects around the house. I did see "the Breaking of the Wand," which has apparently never been televised before. Dave was unimpressed. He said: "It's like a pool cue, and he didn't even break it! He just separated two sections that were barely attached!"

Today, it's back to normal. The Queen has passed into history.

On an unrelated note, some of you who also keep blogs mentioned that my blog no longer shows up in your bloglist. There's been some sort of Blogger problem related to feeds. In all likelihood you'll find that my blog is still there, but it has dropped to the bottom of the list. (On my own blog this happened to several longtime bloggers.) I posted about it in Blogger's help forum and this morning the problem seems to be fixed, at least on my end.

Monday, September 19, 2022

Dockyard Doris

Yesterday was another day of catching up with household tasks. Most significantly, I trimmed the front garden, which had become an overgrown urban jungle. I've had it on my radar for a while but Mrs. Kravitz mentioned it to me last week, so I figured I'd better do something about it. Technically, according to our lease, the front garden is the responsibility of the landlord. But rather than dealing with the management company to try to arrange a trim -- which could take weeks or months -- I decided to go the easier, faster route and do it myself. I filled two yard waste bags with clippings from the shrubs and honestly, the garden still looks like I barely touched it. But it will do.

I also cleaned all the kitchen counters and cabinets, which I've been meaning to do for ages. It's the kind of thing Dave will never notice but those countertops were bugging me, especially in the corners and under the microwave, that kind of thing. You could eat off them now! (Oh, wait.)

In a sign of the times, I got an e-mail from the coronavirus testing center where I went in April to get a PCR before traveling to Florida. Remember that whole drama? Well, anyway, the e-mail said the center is closing due to falling demand for Covid tests. I guess those days are more or less behind us.

I also read a New Yorker article about the Queen that originally ran back in 2002. It was in an anthology issue of previously published pieces focused on celebrity, and although the article (by Martin Amis) was excellent, the thing that most stood out for me was the revelation that Prince Edward was known in some circles, before his marriage, as "Dockyard Doris." (Edward was long rumored to be gay but I don't think anyone has any solid evidence that was ever true.) Anyway, I got a good laugh out of that. I'm still laughing about it, honestly. Probably inappropriate to relate that tidbit on the day of the Queen's funeral, but there you have it.

(There was a London drag queen who performed as Dockyard Doris in the '80s and '90s. More about him here. I'm not sure whether Prince Edward's nickname inspired him or vice versa.)

In early afternoon I took Olga to the cemetery. See that cross at left in the top photo? It's one of the most unusual grave markers in the whole cemetery. Where all the others are granite, this cross -- with its twining ivy vine -- is made of iron.

While walking around and trying to avoid a large scary-looking doberman, we heard and eventually located...

...the turaco! Yes, it's still there. I hadn't heard it since the spring and hadn't seen it for a year, so I was glad it showed up again. It was sharing the tree with a bunch of pigeons, which made me happy. I've been concerned about the turaco's social opportunities, given that it's an exotic with no companions of its own species. At least it has friends.

It seemed quite relaxed, preening in the tree as we watched. You can barely see a hint of the bright red feathers on the underside of its wings. My ultimate dream is to get a photo of the turaco in flight, to capture those red wings, but so far the bird has not cooperated. I have seen it fly, though, and it is a stunning sight.

I came home to the sound of more power tools upstairs. Home sweet home.

Oh, by request, here's a photo of the blue bowl I found in the skip while walking the dog Saturday morning. (A skip, for my American readers, is basically a dumpster, though shallower and more open and thus easier to scout for treasures.) Not bad, eh? It's wide and shallow and perfect for holding produce on our newly scrubbed kitchen counter.

And here's the rhinestone button, which I suppose is really more of a pearl-toned button with rhinestone accents. If you want to be super-picky. (Anna Wintour I am not.) As I said yesterday, it's in my bowl of found objets on our dining room windowsill.

It's very Dockyard Doris, come to think of it.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

The Dentist's Bedroom

It's been a little chilly the last couple of mornings. When I walked the dog yesterday just before breakfast it was 47º F (or 8.3º C)! Shorts-and-t-shirt weather is passing us by.

I got an early-morning start in order to catch up on life. I had laundry going by 6:30 a.m. and wound up doing four loads, including two dog blankets. I watered all the houseplants and then got to work in the garden.

I pulled up all the daturas, which I felt guilty about, but they were yellowing and pretty much over. I saved some seed pods even though I'm not sure I want to plant them again. (My main reason for clearing them was to get some flowerpots off the lawn so the grass could grow back.) And then I mowed.

Also, the dog walk was quite productive. I found a perfectly good ballpoint pen, a sparkly rhinestone button (I'm like a crow) which I added to my windowsill bowl of found objets, and a nice blue glass bowl from a skip full of stuff at the housing estate. Whoever owned the stuff in the skip -- smashed furniture, warped old books, moldering VHS tapes -- clearly hadn't cleaned their house in quite a while. Everything was coated with a layer of blecch. But after some scrubbing and a run through the dishwasher the bowl looks great.

I had a weird lunch, trying to clean out the fridge. I made Welsh rarebit with some leftover cheese, and then added green and black olives and some flat-leaf parsley, with a couple of radishes on the side. It sounds a little bizarre but it was actually quite good. I'm going to call it Italian rarebit, not that I will ever purposefully make it again. (This is why we never throw away food. I open the fridge and/or pantry and say, "OK, what can I make out of all this?" I do have my limits, though -- the celery yesterday was too far gone.)

The Russians' construction project is grinding on, literally. Yesterday their carpenter was drilling around the door frame, and it sounded like a dentist's office in our bedroom. Here's a 15-second sampler:

Of course he stopped just as I was making that video, but you get the idea. He started up again right around the time Dave decided to take a nap. We also have a fine dusting of sediment drifting down on our bedroom windowsill, so that will be a future cleaning project. Sigh.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Wherefore Art Thou?

I found this interesting street sign on my walk last weekend. Britain has some fun street names. I'd love to be able to throw out a street name like that when I'm filling out dry official forms, like renewing a driver's license or paying taxes. Kind of adds an element of levity to an otherwise tedious task. 

We have some clarity on what's going on upstairs. Here's what it looks like now:

So, yes, there are French doors with a "Juliet balcony," which basically means no balcony, just a railing. In this case the railing is a sheet of glass so you can barely see it, which is good. Nothing about this seems objectionable except the surprise.

The landlords tell me the Russians had to file for permits to do this work, but we never got any kind of notification, and the landlords didn't either. They said it would normally have been sent to us as the residents, and it's possible we threw it away, because we often discard stuff sent to "occupant," but who knows.

Anyway, as far as I'm concerned it's a done deal and we're rolling with it.

We had no kids at school yesterday -- the middle and high schoolers were all off on school trips. Since I had no "customers" I spent the day weeding the fiction section. It's amazing how much unread stuff accumulates in a relatively short time! I pulled a whole cartload of books that hadn't been checked out in at least ten years.

I love weeding. I got so focused I forgot to eat lunch, which never happens!

Friday, September 16, 2022

A Hole in the Wall

This is what our patio looks like at the moment. I came home from work yesterday to find that flimsy-looking scaffold and a big chunk of the upstairs wall missing! Now, when the Russians said they were replacing a window, I assumed they meant with a window of the same size -- but that apparently isn't the case. They seem to be going with something bigger, like a French door. Which is weird, because they have nothing for a door to open onto. There's no balcony.

I sent these photos to our landlords and said, "Ummmm...just an informational e-mail to let you know THIS is going on." The landlords wrote back that they knew about -- and in fact are helping to pay for -- the pending roof repairs but didn't realize this wall would be removed. (The Russians own their flat, so I guess they're under no obligation to inform our landlords, but this certainly could affect the downstairs property too.)

The landlords expressed concern about our privacy on the patio with longer windows. I said that wasn't such a concern -- I was more worried about the wall removal causing leaks or damage to our bedroom ceiling.

So, anyway, that's where we stand. Who knows what the heck is going on.

Oh, and I haven't seen any of the workers, so I can't report on the presence or absence of hunky scaffold man. But looking at that scaffold, I'd guess we're dealing with different people.

On a lighter note, here's a shirt on a mannequin at a kids' clothing store on the high street. A couple of royal guards walking the Queen's corgis, with street signs for Windsor Castle and Balmoral Castle in the background! I love it and I'd buy one myself if they carried my size. I'm assuming they ordered them long before the recent news, and now there's a little tinge of sadness in the image, but I guess the Corgis are still around and must surely still be walked.

Meanwhile, the news from the USA included the craziest "Florida Man" story I think I've ever read. A guy gets lost in a swamp, an alligator EATS HIS ARM, and he stumbles around for a couple of days (!!!) before being rescued. The whole thing sounds frankly unbelievable, but apparently it happened.