Monday, October 31, 2022

Creepy Crawlies

A neighbor's front door

Well, yesterday turned out better than I expected weather-wise. It wasn't all that rainy, and since I spent almost all day Saturday on the couch I HAD to get out of the house. I took Olga to Hampstead Heath, and she walked through the West Heath, Sandy Heath and part of the Extension. It was a longer walk than we'd done in about ten months, and she handled it fine. I'd thought our days of visiting Sandy Heath and the Extension were over, given the distance.

But I think she feels much better now that we've apparently knocked back that dental infection, or whatever is/was going on in her mouth. She still has a small, bony sort of bump on her snout, so there's some residual something going on there, but it doesn't seem to bother her. She wasn't even stiff in the evening, thanks to the anti-inflammatory meds she's still taking.

Anyway, I got some good pics from our walk but I have to save them for tomorrow, because I have all these Halloween images to use. If not now, when?

Ghost on Billy Fury Way

It seems like every year, when I post on Halloween, I say something about how the British aren't traditionally into it. Halloween -- with jack-o-lanterns and costumes and trick-or-treating -- is generally considered an import from America, although of course it draws on ancient Celtic rituals. Each year that passes, though, local participation seems more enthusiastic. I'm seeing lots of Halloween decorations around town and kids have been out already in costumes.

House in St. John's Wood

A few days ago, The Guardian ran a column exploring the British relationship with Halloween and the fact that it's becoming more and more popular here. It's pretty interesting. Of course, that could be because we bloody Americans keep crossing the pond and moving in!

(For the record, Dave and I didn't decorate and tonight we'll be hiding in the back of the house with the lights off, as we usually do.)
Cupcakes at the bakery around the corner

Aside from walking the dog, yesterday was mostly about cleaning the house and archiving photos. We also turned our clocks back, as British Summer Time came to an end. I woke up this morning at 4:30 a.m.! It's going to take me a while to adapt.

A local kitchenware shop -- do spiders and cooking utensils go together?

I also polished off a New Yorker magazine and at least thought about starting my next Charles Dickens book. You may remember that several years ago I decided I'd read a Dickens novel every autumn. I skipped last year because I was trying to get all those Newbery books finished, but now I'm back on track. This year: "Great Expectations," which surprisingly I have never read. Time to remedy that!

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Olga Finds a Singularity

The weather is super-damp and warm: 73º F yesterday (23º C) and 85 percent humidity. There's an 88 percent chance of rain today -- in fact it's supposed to rain every day for the foreseeable future -- but yesterday was a bit brighter and I could take the dog for a walk in the morning.

We walked along Broadhurst Gardens and back along Billy Fury Way, where we found, shall we say, new levels of urban squalor among the discarded furniture and debris. (I'll spare you the photos.) Olga did come across a singularity -- at least a graffiti version -- and although I've often heard the term on Star Trek I must admit I wasn't sure what a singularity is. So I looked it up: "A condition in which gravity is so intense that space-time itself breaks down catastrophically." Another site likened it to the center of a black hole.

Hence the spacey black background for the graffiti, I guess. I wish a black hole would suck up all the trash on Billy Fury Way. It certainly looks like something has broken down catastrophically there. I thought it was just society.

Back home again, I finalized our holiday plans for Florida. I reserved a hotel in Bradenton, and although I wanted to stay at the waterfront Ramada where we've stayed in the past, they wanted to charge an astonishing $1,200 for four nights. Ummmm, I don't think so! I went across the street and found something for half the price that looks perfectly nice. (We shall see.)

I also booked us a little escape of our own between our time in Jacksonville and Bradenton. We're going to Vero Beach! I know this seems crazy, because it's not exactly on the way, but it's a part of Florida I never visit and I wanted a change from the same old scenery. I haven't been to Vero in 20+ years. We'll go to the Ocean Grill and walk the beach and decompress.

I thought about staying in the tiny town of Roseland at Ms. Moon's little retreat with the swimming pool guarded by the lions -- but alas, it was not available on the date we would be there. Another time!

Anyway, it feels good to have our plans firmed up. I'm just not going to pay attention to how much money we're spending. I'm going to stick my fingers in my ears and go la-la-la-la and drown out my own financial conscience. Isn't that the responsible thing to do?

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Dramatic Sky, Dramatic Shadows

Just some random photos today, saved up on my iPhone, because you don't want to hear about me sitting at my desk all day yesterday. (And I don't particularly want to write about that!)

First, looking up at the new apartment buildings rising near the Thameslink rail lines. I always like the contrast between a brightly lit foreground and a dark sky.

Who's this guy?!

Yesterday I mentioned saving the chrysanthemums from someone's trash bag. Here are more discarded flowers that probably had more life in them -- some purple gladiolas. I didn't rescue them, though. Except by taking a picture, which is a sort of visual rescue, I suppose.

Remember how I recently mentioned the persistence of trash bags on the pavement outside apartment buildings? Well, this is one of our problem areas. As you can see, Olga is very interested. She loves a good trash bag.

The same street on a dark, wet morning. No trash bags but lots of dramatic shadows.

This is the lost & found in the Middle School where I work. What is up with kids and their water bottles? Why can't they hang onto them? From past experience I'm guessing most of these will wind up being donated or recycled.

This house is under renovation on the next street over. I was surprised how thoroughly it's been gutted -- you can see all the way through and out the back wall!

And finally, a graceful vapor trail in the sky on my walk home from work. Happy Saturday, everyone!

Friday, October 28, 2022

Found Chrysanthemums

I took this several days ago while walking the dog. The trees on this street usually turn dramatically yellow, but this year the color hasn't seemed as good. Whether that has to do with our dry summer or warmer autumn or just my perception, who knows. Here's the same view on almost the same date in 2015.

No creepy dreams last night, at least not that I can remember!

Yesterday I got busy on another back-office project in the library. Remember how every year I take the departed students and their families out of our library computer system? Although they're added automatically when they come to the school, I have to remove them manually when they leave or graduate. It's one of the peculiarities of our software.

Well, the librarian in the Lower School said she kept finding students in her system who were no longer at the school -- in some cases students who had never been there. So I went through her entire patron list and checked it against the school database, and sure enough, I found about 60 people who had either departed, were entered into the system multiple times, or had applied to the school but never come. (We've stopped importing that last group, but it used to happen.) I deleted all those accounts, so hopefully that will make her happy.

It took me all day, but I might do the same with our patrons in the main library just to make sure we're not having the same issues.

As you know, I like jobs like that -- something that requires intense focus and allows me to lose myself in my task.

On my walk home last night I found a discarded bouquet in someone's yard waste bag. The chrysanthemums still looked pretty good, so I brought them home for our windowsill!

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Dark Dreams and Politics

Good Lord, I had some weird dreams last night. I don't remember them all, but in one I was visiting the neighborhood in Florida where I grew up. It was kind of post-apocalyptic. One of the neighbor's houses, which always looked very stately and manicured and traditional in real life (he was a judge), had been turned into a pile of blackened rubble. The house where I grew up was gone -- the lot was completely empty. There wasn't even a slab, though the trees remained. Other houses appeared to be OK. The car I was driving lost control and I almost ran into a tree, but managed to stop in time.

There was more to it, but that's all I remember. I'm sure a psychiatrist would have a field day with those images, but here's my interpretation. I'm thinking a lot about Florida at the moment, since I'm trying to organize our Christmas trip, so it makes sense my mind would go there in dreamland. The devastation and the absence of our house could be a reflection of my mom's memory problems, the fact that so many memories that were dear to us and to her appear to be gone now. I suppose there could also be a political meaning in the judge's house being wrecked -- the death of the rule of law and the precarious state of democracy, etc.

Heavy stuff to wake up to on a Thursday morning! I was reading the news a lot yesterday so that's enough to instill apocalyptic images in anyone's brain.

I've been thinking about the Pennsylvania Senate race, of all things. It's apparent from the recent debates that John Fetterman, the Democratic candidate, is not in optimal health. What to do, in that situation, when your choice is between an obviously impaired small-town mayor and a Trump-supporting TV doctor? I believe I'd vote for Fetterman anyway, and I don't mean to blame him for a stroke he obviously could do nothing about.

But I'm left with a feeling in many current races -- not just that one -- that the Democrats aren't running the best possible candidates. We need younger, more vital candidates who are engaged with everyday issues and problems, like inflation, homelessness, runaway student loan debt and "deaths of despair" from opioids and other addictive substances. Democrats need to reconnect with the center and remind voters that the right-wingers are the out-of-touch ones, protecting the wealthy while they bang on about ridiculous non-issues like drag queens in schools.

How can Republicans possibly be leading in so many races now, given what's happened to a woman's right to choose an abortion in the USA? Where are all the angry women, and the men who support them?

I just don't get it.

And for the record, I like Joe Biden as a person, but I don't think he should be our presidential candidate in 2024. I think we need new blood. Buttigieg looks most promising to me at the moment, but I'm open to suggestions. If Biden runs of course he'll have my vote, but I won't be happy about it. We've got to bring along some new leaders. (I guess Fetterman might have been that -- and could still be if he fully recovers, although he didn't look like the healthiest guy in the world even before the stroke.)

Anyway, that's what's running around in my brain in the pre-dawn darkness this morning. I'm giving you a couple of autumnal portraits of Olga. It's looking very much like fall out there but it's not very cold -- a high of 68º F today (20º C) and 85 percent humidity. The forecast calls for rain every day through Nov. 10, with the exception of Friday and Saturday. That's not a bad thing given we're still under a hosepipe ban because of our summer drought.

I've been running our dehumidifier and it's been taking about two liters of water out of the air every day. Insane!

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

High Street Hug

Our pub on the high street is undergoing some kind of huge renovation. (I say "our" pub, but honestly we only go there a couple of times a year. It's our pub more than any other, though.) I'd heard they were going to move some walls and remodel the deck, as I recall, so I guess that's what's going on.

I took this photo just as that guy walking in front of the pub was about to give his friend a very theatrical hug. At least, I assume she's his friend. She's not running away.

Thanks for all the advice about the mushrooms yesterday. I don't intend to remove them or do anything about them. They don't bother me as long as they're not hurting anything, and as some of you pointed out, fungus is usually a sign of a healthy ecosystem. Olga isn't the least bit interested in them, so I'm not worried about her. If it's Honey Fungus I'd be concerned because it can invade and kill healthy plants and trees, but I have my doubts that's what it is -- and even then knocking over or removing the mushrooms (which are just the fruiting bodies of a much larger organism beneath the soil) does no good. For now I'm leaving them alone.

Yesterday I was buried in sending overdue notices. We do it automatically every week, but when things get really overdue I send personal notes, first to kids and then to parents -- and that's what I was doing yesterday, for kids who still haven't returned their summer reading. (It's almost November, for God's sake.) I was typing all morning!

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Philosophy and Fungi

Yesterday a 7th-grader came up to my desk and asked, "What's metaphysics?"

Although I believed I had a vague idea, I had to Google it to give him an answer -- "the branch of philosophy that deals with the first principles of things, including abstract concepts such as being, knowing, identity, time, and space."

"What's epidemiology?" he asked. This one I knew from my work in the Peace Corps. It's the study of public health, more or less.

"And what's epistemology?" he asked. I realized he was reading these terms from the list of Dewey Decimal subject ranges posted on my desk. Once again I had to resort to Google -- epistemology is the theory of knowledge.

"As you can tell, I never studied much philosophy," I told the kid.

"That's OK," he said, comfortingly. He went to the shelves and checked out a book called "Discourse on Metaphysics: Correspondence with Arnauld, and Monadology."

Good luck with that. I will stick to my Tasmanian murder mystery.

The mushroom crop in our back garden has continued to be rather spectacular. I'm not sure that's a good thing, though. I started Googling around to figure out what kind of mushrooms they are, and I landed on something called Honey Fungus -- which sounds like a serious problem. It sure looks similar to me.

(I can just hear that student: "What's mycology?")

Based on what I've read online, if we have that in the garden we're moving. I am not dealing with excavating large quantities of soil. I suppose I should get a professional opinion and/or alert the landlords.

On a brighter note, our Thanksgiving cacti are budding. It looks like we should have a nice display this year. In addition to this one, the salmon-colored one and a white one sent to me as a cutting by blog reader Frances are also both in bud. I haven't seen the white one bloom yet -- last year it dropped its few buds as it was still quite small -- so hopefully this year we'll get some flowers.

(Top photo: A very autumnal-looking house on Finchley Road.)

Monday, October 24, 2022


This photo pretty much sums up yesterday. I spent the whole day at home, with the exception of two short errands -- taking Dave's suit to the cleaners and buying milk. And much of the time I was home, I was on the couch.

I needed a day like that.

Dave was away working with students again and didn't get home until about 6 p.m. So I had lots of time for reading -- my newspapers and about half of Jane Harper's book "The Survivors." It's a mystery/thriller set in Tasmania, and now I want to go to there. I did some exploring on Google Maps and it looks pretty amazing.

First we have to get through our December trip to Florida, though, and it's looking more and more expensive every time I turn around. It looks like we will have to rent a car, because I hear that my step-sister's extra car -- which I usually borrow while in Florida -- is out of commission. Plus we need hotels so we're not crashing on people's sofas. (Dave is a firm believer in having a hotel room.) Argh! I swear, we could get a package holiday to Sri Lanka or the Maldives for the amount of money we're spending to go to Florida.

Part of the reason I stayed in yesterday was the weather. It was rainy most of the day, which made Olga unenthusiastic about walking anywhere, and then in the evening as the sun was setting we had thunder, lightning and some furious wind:

Wild, huh? You can see the rain basically blowing sideways. A good day to be indoors, for sure.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Carly Simon's Sisters

Two nights ago we were lying in bed -- me reading the New York Times and Dave drifting off to sleep -- when I exclaimed, "Oh my God! Both of Carly Simon's sisters died!"

(I don't know if you caught that news item, but they died within a day of each other, both from cancer in their early 80's. Carly herself is in her late 70's, which I find astonishing.)

To my surprise, Dave started laughing. Apparently he found it ridiculous that I should be at all concerned about Carly Simon's sisters. He laughed harder and harder, and you know how laughter is contagious -- so then I was laughing at him laughing. And all this over Carly Simon's family tragedy. So inappropriate -- which somehow made it funnier.

Sometimes I think I am a terrible person. But maybe being a bad person is like being insane -- if you suspect you are, then you're probably not.

Despite that momentary mirth, I actually feel like I've been unreasonably cranky lately. The other day I was handling my glasses and one of the arms snapped off. I got so annoyed, thinking I'd have to go to the optician and get them fixed, and of course I couldn't easily see how they'd broken because -- well -- glasses! I flung them down on a table and pouted about them, and later, when I fetched another pair of glasses and was able to finally examine the first pair, I realized they were easy to fix and I reconnected the arm with no problem. (They just clip on.)

And when I was wrestling with those Excel spreadsheets on Friday I kept groaning and exclaiming, to such an extent that one of my co-workers asked if I was OK.

Perhaps I need to relax. And have a little more sympathy for Carly Simon. (Although Dave was the primary offender there.)

Dave had to work most of yesterday -- he's helping kids prepare their auditions for an Honor Band competition -- and while he did that I spent the day on my own. I seldom get alone time at home, so it was nice, even though I spent most of it doing housework -- vacuuming, washing two loads of laundry, and scrubbing the bathroom, which is probably my least favorite household task. (Upside: The bathroom is beautiful now, or at least as beautiful as our bathroom is capable of being.)

Then I took the dog to the cemetery, which is looking quite autumnal.

I noticed that this dramatic gravestone has been thoroughly cleaned. It used to be very dark, with the exception of the angel's face, hands and feet, which had been scrubbed white. The effect was very odd. Now the whole thing has been washed and it looks much better.

Dave came home in the evening and made a pot of chili. We had a package of ground beef in the fridge that he'd planned to use, but it was two days past its expiration date and looking a bit gray, and I told him I wasn't sure using it was wise. I hate to throw away food, and we almost never do, but in this case he bought a fresh package. Better safe than sorry. I wouldn't want to end up in the cemetery, like... No, I am not going to say it.

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Whitely, Discreetly, Quietly

I went out in the garden yesterday evening and was astonished to find a huge patch of mushrooms in the back corner by the shed. I mowed the lawn last Sunday and they weren't there at all, so they did indeed spring up pretty much "overnight, very whitely, discreetly, very quietly" as Sylvia Plath wrote in her famous poem "Mushrooms."

Looks like we've got a pretty good crop of moss growing there too. Good thing I'm not picky about my grass.

Yesterday I was enmeshed in one of my periodic library tasks, to gather and record statistics about the usage of our databases. In the past this hasn't been too onerous, but some of the databases seem to have changed the way they report stats to give greater detail -- and in some cases it's WAY more detail than we need. So I spent some time wrestling with the numbers and trying to make sure they are still comparable to our earlier stats, so we can track usage across time.

Plus, I have never been formally trained in using Excel spreadsheets, so there's a certain amount of trial and error in importing and displaying the data. In the end I made it all work, and it helped pass the day. (We had no students for the past two days because of parent-teacher conferences, so I haven't had my normal run of customers in the library.)

And now, the weekend!

Friday, October 21, 2022

Crash and Burn

As you have no doubt heard, the UK government basically imploded yesterday, and now we're back at square one with no prime minister. It would be funny if it weren't also a little frightening. I mean, are these really the best people available to run the country? Can't we do better than this?

Liz Truss and her ridiculous mini-budget were a disaster. I can't imagine what she was thinking, introducing some retro trickle-down fantasy at a time when food prices are skyrocketing by more than 10 percent and fuel is unaffordable for many. Still, I feel a little bad for her. There was a steady drumbeat of doubt about her from the beginning, and now she's become the shortest-serving prime minister in British history. It's like being the first contestant to leave the Bake-Off tent -- no matter how much of a disaster they may have been, you can't help but feel a little sorry for that person.

(She was still in office longer than the shortest-serving U.S. president -- William Henry Harrison died only 31 days after being inaugurated in 1841. At least then there was a vice president to neatly step into his shoes. Plus, he didn't face the ignominy of resignation.)

The big question now is, who's next? Apparently it could well be Boris Johnson, who is no doubt sitting back in some big club chair with a smug grin and thinking, "I don't look so bad NOW, do I?!" And there's still Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt, and I'm just not excited about any of them. Of course they're all Tories so I tend to agree with Keir Starmer that we should have a snap election and perhaps put another party in power.

Alas, no one listens to me. But some things are going right around here:

I've suspended my scary Halloween bat over my desk in the library, much to the amusement of the kids who look for it every year. (It's actually been up for two weeks or so, about a third of Liz Truss's tenure in office.)

I also had a crazy episode with the laundry where I took our sheets to be washed. I threw a pair of Dave's pants (trousers, that is) into the bag as well, but when the sheets came back the pants weren't with them. Instead we got a towel that definitely wasn't ours.

Well, I took the towel back to the laundromat yesterday, thinking I would never see Dave's pants again, but lo and behold the laundry staff had them. Apparently the owner of the towel had turned them in. So I swapped the towel for the pants and voila! A happy ending.

If only swapping out a prime minister were that easy.

(Top photo: Me at an underpass near the Baker Street tube station, about a week ago.)

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Holiday Pour

We still have some flowers desperately hanging on against the increasingly chilly and dark days and nights. The sunflowers are still blooming, and in the end we got a flower on every plant, even the ones that didn't grow much more than a foot high.

The lamium, with its leaves bearing a single silvery stripe, is putting out little purple hooded flowers...

...and the red dahlia is giving us a last gasp too. These flowers get so much paler late in the season; in summer they're bright red. Some of our other dahlias have already given up the ghost and I've cut them back and put them in the shed.

So what's been happening around here while I've been fussing with ancient quilts and autograph books?

Well, I went to the doctor two days ago because last week, while I was in the airport in Miami waiting for my flight back to London, I looked down at my arm and noticed a strange purple-brown spot. I was sure I didn't usually have a spot there, so it freaked me out a little. It wasn't scabby and didn't look injured, so what was it? Always wary of skin cancer because of my years in sunny Florida, I decided to have it checked out. Fortunately between then and Monday, when I saw the PA at my doctor's office, it lightened considerably. The PA looked at it with her magnifier and said she didn't think anything was amiss. I'm supposed to keep an eye on it but now it's basically gone. False alarm!

I also mailed Dave's ballot to Michigan, and I looked up my ballot, which I mailed several weeks ago, and saw that it's already been counted. So that's good. I have officially voted.

Dave and I just finished a show on Netflix called "The Watcher" which we enjoyed. It has a very good cast and some excellent performances, and apparently is loosely based on a true story. In a nutshell: Yuppie husband and wife buy their dream home and begin receiving menacing letters indicating someone is keeping an eye on them. Very Halloween-ish.

At one point, one of the characters, played by the excellent Jennifer Coolidge, is having lunch at a country club and tells the waiter to add more wine to her glass. "I need a holiday pour," she says. Dave and I laughed so hard. I will be forever grateful to this show for introducing me to that term.

Also in pop culture news, I finished Nancy Milford's biography of Zelda Fitzgerald. It was excellent, though in my opinion Milford goes into a bit too much detail about the plots of Fitzgerald's novels. (In an effort, I'm sure, to show us how Fitzgerald incorporated her own life into her writing.) What a tragic case she and her husband were. At one point, as Zelda became more and more mentally unbalanced, the book said F. Scott Fitzgerald was drinking 30 beers A DAY! A holiday pour is one thing, but that boggles the mind.

Finally, here's another interesting thing growing out there right now -- a shaggy ink cap mushroom. I came across this cluster at the cemetery, where I've found them before. They are beautiful in a sort of ghostly, Halloween-appropriate way.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022


My great-grandmother's quilts arrived yesterday. That was pretty smooth sailing, from mailing them in Jacksonville a week ago to receiving them here. I thought they might get held up in customs or otherwise snail-crawl their way to my door, but no. The postal service came through.

Some of you asked to see them, so here they are. There are two quilts in the photo above. The one on the left with the star-shaped designs we seldom used, so it's still in pretty good shape -- I've turned part of it over so you can see the red flowery back. (I blogged this quilt once before.) The one on the right, with the diamond shapes, my mom used regularly in the winters, and as a result it's looking pretty shaggy. The backside is plain white, with a tattered pink floral trim around the edges.

See how the fabric in this one diamond has utterly deteriorated? There are a couple of places like that. But oh well. We'll just keep on using it.

When my brother and I were kids we used to sleep under this quilt sometimes, or use it on the couch when we were sick and watching TV. A quilt is mesmerizing for a child, offering an opportunity to examine and compare all the different fabric designs. I remember them well. We used to especially like this one:

Can you see the little airplanes?

I have no idea where my great-grandmother got the fabric for these quilts. I think they're probably made out of old house dresses and who knows what else. I believe she made them in the '50s, though I'm not sure. They're each big enough for a queen-sized bed.

Anyway, it's good to have them here and now I can stop thinking about them!

Incidentally, I had a weird dream about them last night. I dreamed I was folding them to put them away in a closet and I discovered the one with the star shapes had a tag that said "Planned Parenthood," like it was a promotional gift from the charity. In other words, like my great-grandmother didn't make it at all. Perhaps that was my way of questioning whether it was really worth it to mail them across the ocean!

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Autograph Books

When I was in Florida, going through some of our old family stuff, I came across three old autograph books. They're from the 1880s and once belonged to my great-great-grandmother, who lived in rural North Carolina near Fayetteville. In that part of the country at that time, one was unlikely to ever come across a celebrity, or anyone who would sign what we think of now as an autograph. Instead, these books contain messages from family members and friends, usually little rhymes or poems that were meant as keepsakes. (Sort of like our more modern school yearbooks.)

They also contain a few notes that I assume my great-great-grandmother, whose name was Maria Jane Bullard, wrote herself -- while dreaming of taking a trip in a boat to an exotic location, for example.

Here's one of the pages. Don't you love the penmanship?

What is the blooming tincture of the skin
To peace of mind and harmony within,
Comeliness of form, or shape, or air
Cannot with words, or deeds, compare.
                               Your teacher
                                          C. P. Jerome

Not everyone wrote so skillfully. Perhaps this was a school friend.

To Miss Janie.
It is sweet to wait
But oh how bitter
To wait for a girl
And never get her.
    From your friend,
               Purlie S. Tatum

This must have been a common rhyme back then -- it appears several times in the book from different people.

For Miss Janie,
Long may you live
Happy may you be
Eating ginger cake
And drinking catnip tea
      is the wish of your true friend
                   W. E. Gainey

This one is a bit bewildering. I think it must be a mistake. Either that or an insult!

May you always ascend
The hill of prosperity
And never meet a friend.
         J. C. Crisp

Some of the entries are dated. Again, great penmanship! Jane Bullard's sister, Lula -- who my grandmother knew as "Aunt Lu," though she was technically a great-aunt -- eventually married a Hall.

To Miss Janie Bullard
May your life as a snowflake be
That leaves a spot, but not a stain
    Is the sincere wish of
          Your friend
                   J. S. Hall
Idaho, N.C.
March 26, 1883

Incidentally, I can't find Idaho, N.C. on Google maps. Perhaps it no longer exists. Other communities mentioned in the books include Rennert and Lumber Bridge, where my family was from. (My grandmother was born in Lumber Bridge.)

I guess getting married and being a wife was the ultimate goal of many young girls in that era. When this was written my great-great-grandmother would have been about 16.

To Miss Janie
May your life be one of pleasure
And not one of woe and strife;
May you find a golden treasure,
In being a man's wife.
           Jas. H. Mitchell
April 8th '83

Eventually Jane Bullard did indeed get married, to a man named John Lee Cade. And here he is in her autograph book, with words written a year or two before they wed. (The note in ballpoint pen is in my grandmother's writing. Interesting that she refers to her grandmother as Jane Maria. I'm certain Jane was her middle name, though that's what people called her. Also, some sources give her first name as Mariah.)

The album is a garden spot
For all my friends to row
Where thorns and thistles flourish not
But only roses grow
            Fayetteville, N.C.
                           J. L. Cade

And finally there's this one, which despite all the heartfelt tenderness, family history and fine penmanship displayed in the other entries, might be my favorite.

For Janie
Love is a funny thing
Beauty is a blossom
If you want your finger bit
Stick it at a opossum
                 Fayetteville, Oct. 4, 1885

Monday, October 17, 2022

The Mysterious Robert Thompson

It's feeling more and more like fall around here -- the walnut in the back garden is dropping its leaves and the air has that damp autumnal chill. One of the trees up the street has turned bright orange, adding some color to the neighborhood. So far most of the others are still green or at least green-ish.

That little pocket park in the photo, with the bench beneath the colorful tree, is sort of a problem spot. There's always an accumulation of litter, from people sitting on that bench and dropping beverage cans and snack wrappers. The people who live in the flats above those shops used to put their trash at the base of the tree, but now they've moved it to the curb. It's still an eyesore most of the time.

As I understand it, Camden Council's waste collection program calls for many apartment dwellers to put their bagged trash directly on the sidewalk. They do not have bins the way house-dwellers do. They're supposed to only put the trash out at specified times, just before the truck comes around, but of course people don't do that, and as a result trash piles up in certain problem spots, where the pavement develops a permanently greasy texture. The council really needs a better system. Dumpsters, anyone?

Anyway, I'm not sure how I wound up talking about waste disposal.

I mowed the lawn yesterday. It was getting pretty shaggy and the mower helped gnaw up some of the fallen leaves. I suspect that will be the last go-around for the mower until spring.

And I read my Zelda Fitzgerald biography. I'm about two-thirds of the way through it and Zelda has had two breakdowns so far. Scott, meanwhile, is boozing it up in order to cope. Sounds like a nightmare of a situation.

I scanned some more of the stuff I brought back from Florida. Here's a picture of my mom's sixth grade class at the University Park School in Maryland, circa 1948. My mom is in the bottom row, second student from the left, with the pigtails. The funny thing is, on the back of the picture are lots of little notes and doodles about someone named Robert Thompson, and on the photo above you might be able to barely see a hand-drawn arrow connecting my mom to a blond boy slightly above her and to the right. Apparently Mom had a little crush on this Thompson kid.

I teased her about it when I saw her during my visit. We were sitting out by the river and I said, "So, Mom, who's Robert Thompson?!" She, of course, just laughed and I'm not sure she has any memory of who I was talking about, but I told her about the photo. Maybe she remembers him and maybe not. Who's to say?

Her teacher was Mrs. Allen, who I met when I went to Maryland as a kid to see my grandmother. Mrs. Allen went to the same church as my family. She didn't look a whole lot different then than she does in the picture.