Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Time and Renovations

I've been intrigued by these somewhat decrepit buildings on Finchley Road near Swiss Cottage. They look like they once had interesting architecture, with that ornate rooftop pediment on the right-hand building. But time and renovations have not been kind.

My stepsister came through with some amazing news yesterday -- she's able to loan us a car for our visit to Florida in December, which means we won't need to rent one! This is HUGE. The rental car was going to cost us something like $1,400 and that's before insurance. I definitely owe her a bottle of something.

(I forgot to tell her that our plans involve driving to Vero Beach. Fortunately she's not the type to be concerned about extra mileage.)

When I wrote about my problems with gastro-esophageal reflux (GERD) yesterday, some of you mentioned that I may need to make dietary changes. I'm already in the process of working out what I can and can't have. Martinis (which were infrequent anyway) are definitely out for the time being, and I've reduced alcohol drastically. Coffee is another issue -- I usually drink three a day but I may need to make it weaker. The coffee in our staff lounge at school comes from a machine and it's thick enough to stand a spoon in*, so I need to come up with a suitable coffee/water mix that gives me a little boost without stripping out the lining of my stomach.

So, how about that marriage equality vote in Congress? It looks like Dave and I won't have to worry about the status of our marriage in the USA despite a Supreme Court majority the likes of Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas. I'm impressed that the world has evolved enough that even some Republicans could bring themselves to support this measure. (In the UK it's not an issue at all, so I'm not concerned about our legal status here.) Maybe there really is hope for bipartisanship?

*re. that spoon -- not really

Tuesday, November 29, 2022


This poor guy has a lot of leaves to manage! I came across him yesterday, sweeping up the Alf Barrett Playground off Old Gloucester Street. I was there around lunchtime following up on a medical appointment, and Dave was at the doctor yesterday too. The joys of aging!

My appointment involved a CT scan, which I hadn't done before as an adult. I've been trying to get at the cause of my chronic cough, so I finally just paid for a scan privately to make sure nothing nefarious is going on in my lungs. In all likelihood, I'm dealing with gastro-esophageal reflux (GERD, or as it's known in England, GORD, because the British insist on spelling esophagus with an O in front). But better safe than sorry.

The scan involved being injected with an iodine contrast medium, which was a peculiar experience. It's like having an intense hot flash. But it passes quickly, and the scan itself was over in moments. I spent a lot more time sitting around preparing for the scan and then afterwards, while they made sure I didn't have an allergic reaction to the medium, than I did actually being scanned.

The results take a few days to process but I'm not too worried. It's more a precaution than anything.

Afterwards I took a quick walk around Queen Square, where this rather imposing statue of Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz holds court. She was the wife of "Mad" King George III and the grandmother of Queen Victoria.

Dave, meanwhile, had an appointment with his neurologist to follow up on the results of his spinal tap. You may recall he's been having hand tremors. The spinal tap showed inflammation, but the theory is it's caused by his Crohn's Disease, and the neurologist thinks Dave may have developed some resistance to his Crohn's medication. He's going to recommend that Dave's gastrologists consider another med. We'll see if that goes anywhere.

I've been telling Dave it would be better if the spinal tap found nothing than if it found something, but he disagrees. I think he just wants an answer. "I want a grapefruit-sized benign tumor that they can just take out," he said.

We don't always get what we want. Thank goodness.

Back home again, the holidays have arrived with the annual tradition of stringing Christmas lights on our avocado tree. The avocado is so big now that we probably need a second strand!

Monday, November 28, 2022

The A-Team

We are back home again, safe and sound. We got launched pretty early from our hotel yesterday and we did walk back to the Brighton train station, during a pause in the dreary autumnal rain. The station is less than a mile from the hotel so not that far or that hard.

The trip was uneventful except for a gaggle of loud, annoying kids jumping around in the train aisles. "Where are their parents?!" I asked Dave. I never would have been permitted to create so much chaos in a public place.

(Dave and I often joke about how we're becoming intolerant, grumpy old men like Statler & Waldorf on The Muppet Show.)

We spent the day organizing, unpacking and doing laundry. We were only away a few days so it's not like there was that much to do. In the afternoon I re-watched the movie "In Bruges," which I've been meaning to do since I went last spring (and it's scheduled to disappear from Netflix in two days). Despite the violence it's a good and darkly funny movie. Olga slept next to me the whole time, a dead weight, finally able to relax in a familiar environment.

I also caught up on my New Yorkers, including the one with the article about our neighbor Emma Thompson. Many people have mentioned it and I was glad to finally sit down and read it. It was surreal to read writer John Lahr (son of Bert, the Cowardly Lion) describing the street where we live. "Thompson...still lives on the West Hampstead street where she grew up," he wrote. "Her road in London is a sloping quarter mile of comfortable semi-detached houses, a football field away from the swankier dwellings across noisy Finchley Road. Among those currently residing there are Thompson's extended family...and a collection of A-team actors, most of whom she's worked with through the years -- Imelda Staunton, Jim Carter, Derek Jacobi, Jim Broadbent."

Lahr later refers to it as a "somnolent street" with "no distinguishing architectural features," but then he mentions the bathing beauty in the front yard of Thompson's mother, actress Phyllida Law. I've depicted the bathing beauty several times on this blog.

So, yes, that's our street -- the "Beverly Hills of West Hampstead," as some have jokingly called it. I was interested to read that Derek Jacobi also lives here, because I didn't know that, although I've seen him around a few times so I suspected it. I generally avoid using the names of our celebrity neighbors on the blog because I've wanted to respect their privacy, but since they're all mentioned in The New Yorker in this context I suppose it's OK. Lahr never specifically names the street, and neither will I, though if you've been reading a long time you may have figured it out by now, and if you know the area you can probably guess by his description.

You may be wondering how we can possibly afford to live in such a rarified environment, but Lahr isn't lying when he describes it as, essentially, a nondescript middle-class neighborhood. That's exactly what it is. (Plus, we rent here. Middle-class it may be, but I doubt we could afford to buy on this street, given London's insane housing market.)

Today, I have a medical appointment in the morning, and then it's back to work!

(Photo: A colorful wall in Brighton.)

Sunday, November 27, 2022

A Massage and a View

Yesterday began moderately sunny, but gradually deteriorated into gray skies and, last night, rain. It's raining now hard enough that Olga wouldn't go outside, even after enthusiastically clambering down the hotel stairs. Rainwater was blowing in beneath the front doors, puddling the entrance foyer. This is a very blustery town in November.

We did get a walk yesterday morning, when Dave and I went out to find coffee and breakfast, and Olga tagged along. Then I got a massage, which was fantastic. The hotel where we're staying is also a spa, and although the spa facilities are apparently closed for renovation, you wouldn't know it. When I went downstairs for my massage there were treatment rooms and everything looked very professional. I haven't had a massage in years -- certainly since the pandemic, and even quite a while before that -- so I was long overdue.

Afterwards I went out for lunch with Olga while Dave, not feeling well, stayed and rested in the room. We went to a pub in town where I had mac n' cheese and a pint, and then we walked back along the seafront.

You can see the weather beginning to turn, and Olga's mood turning to match.

When I got back to the room I finished "Great Expectations." Woo hoo! Another Dickens down! Despite all the serious themes he really is quite a humorous writer -- at one point he said a girl's head resembled the mop she was carrying. He likened another character's mouth to a letter-box, and later mentioned as an aside that same character "putting fish into the post-office." Funny!

In the afternoon, we went out to the Brighton i360, the tall donut-on-a-stick I mentioned a few days ago. I erroneously called it a "rotating cocktail bar" -- turns out it doesn't rotate, but you can have a drink while you walk around inside the glass pod. It rises 450 feet above the beach and you get a good view eastward to the Seven Sisters and westward toward Bognor Regis.

Here's a little video so you can pretend you were there. The white hotel that I zoom in on at the very end is where we're staying. Olga was in that building at that very moment -- kind of a strange thought.

After indulging in the views, we went to Costa for some coffee and Dave happened to mention that while he was there a couple of months ago on a daylong school trip, he left behind his water bottle. So while he ordered our coffee I went to the lost & found in the adjacent theater and darned if they didn't have it! Dave couldn't believe it. He said he wouldn't have even thought to ask -- but working in a school I have become an expert at reuniting people with their lost possessions, as you know.

Last night we had dinner at a very good seafood place called The Salt Room, where Dave was convinced our mustachioed waiter was faking his French accent. He was indeed very zis and zat. "It's just over the top," Dave said. The food was great, though.

Today we're headed back to London. Hopefully the rain won't be too miserable by the time we leave our hotel. We're planning to walk to the train station, and if the rain's pelting down Olga may put up a fight!

Saturday, November 26, 2022

The Pavilion and More

I've just been wrestling with our ridiculous in-room espresso maker, which was designed more to look elegant than to be of any actual use. I managed to eke out a thimbleful of coffee with the consistency and taste of an oil slick. I think I'll wait until we go out to get the real stuff.

Yesterday's weather turned out to be very pleasant, thank goodness, and we did quite a bit. We wandered around town in the morning and took in the somewhat artsy, colorful vibe. Brighton has a lots of brightly painted street art and quirky buildings that look like they've suffered for their long exposure to the sea air. Not to mention gigantic, pterodactyl-like seagulls.

Here's a little restaurant with some very detailed stenciled "snow windows" by this outfit.

Brighton has a reputation as the gayest place in England, and there are lots of LGBTQ+ establishments and rainbow flags flying everywhere. (Just as I took this photo a passerby decided to involve himself in the picture.)

I visited the Brighton Pavilion while Dave sat on a nearby park bench and babysat Olga. The building -- which you're seeing here across a park and a bus seating area (admittedly not the most aesthetic perspective, but a truthful one) -- was begun in 1787 and expanded by architect John Nash in 1815 for the prince who would eventually become King George IV. He used the building as his seaside pleasure retreat, but after he died and the throne eventually passed to Queen Victoria, she decided to sell it to the city of Brighton. She felt the pavilion was too small for her family and attendants and she didn't enjoy the urban location and lack of privacy.

It is quite grand inside, though Victoria had some of the original fixtures and fittings taken away to Buckingham Palace, where they remain.

Dave didn't really want to see the pavilion, so we went for lunch on the seaside promenade and enjoyed the sunshine. Even Olga -- who gets antsy when we travel, being out of her familiar routines -- calmed down while lying in the sun and gnawing her tennis ball.

We were sitting near the old ruined West Pier, which closed to the public in 1975 and has been through a series of fires and collapses since then. It's basically just a skeleton of girders, rising from English Channel.

Last night we went to dinner at a place recommended by a co-worker of Dave's, called The Set. You get a pre-selected menu (wine pairings are available) and it was delicious, very much focused on rich, meaty and umami textures and flavors. The portions are very small -- bite-sized in many cases -- but they pack a punch. I usually like a nice salad and we didn't get that here, but I still enjoyed the restaurant a lot.

Another day of Brighton awaits!

Friday, November 25, 2022

The Tempest

Dave and I hung around the house for most of yesterday morning. We couldn't check into our hotel in Brighton until 3 p.m., so I didn't see much sense in getting there too early. I walked the dog and did some minor cleaning.

After we finally packed, got the dog organized and headed out the door, we decided to have lunch at the new Chipotle that's opened around the corner from our flat. And it's a good thing, too, because we realized we'd forgotten Olga's anti-inflammatory medicine and her roll of dog poo bags! I headed back to our flat and grabbed them. As I told Dave, going to lunch was like a dress rehearsal for leaving town.

We caught the train in West Hampstead and an hour and a half later, got to Brighton in positively dismal weather -- driving, spattery rain and gusts that would collapse an umbrella. We walked from the train station to our hotel and when we turned the corner onto the seafront promenade we were hit with a wall of wind that made Olga stop in her tracks. She was like, "Where am I?!"

Fortunately our hotel was right there, so we slipped inside and soon made ourselves comfortable in our oceanfront room. Can you see the waves out the window? Crazy.

In fact, the wind and rain got so bad that it began leaking into the room -- I heard a drip-dripping sound and soon realized water was coming in around the window frame! It wasn't a lot, though, and we didn't worry about it. We had a gin & tonic instead.

Yesterday evening we headed down to the hotel bar and discovered major leakage there -- a pan was set out on a table in the corner to collect water dripping from the ceiling, and some of the furniture and floors were spattered with water. This is supposedly a four-star hotel -- at least according to Google Maps, and I'm not sure whose scale they use -- but it definitely has a problem with water intrusion. It's a Victorian building so maybe that's not surprising.

We were going to eat in the hotel, but apparently they were having some sort of function -- Dave saw people swanning around in tuxedoes and gowns -- so we walked down the street to a pub called The Walrus. Which makes me think of the Beatles -- goo goo ga joob. I had an overdone burger and then we came back and went to sleep and I'm happy to say that while the window may be drippy, the bed is fantastic.

This was the beach at dawn. Today promises better weather. You can see the pier and the Brighton i360, a sort of donut-on-a-stick that contains a rotating cocktail bar with supposedly amazing views. Olga seemed genuinely perplexed by all the pebbles!

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Off to Brighton

I know Olga's going to miss her garden while she's in Brighton. Look at her back there, barking away. You might think she's barking at squirrels, because that would make sense, but she's actually barking at her Kong toy which is somewhere in those bushes. God forbid she should just go get it.

I got a few things done yesterday to prepare for our trip -- mainly washing Olga's pink blanket, which is coming with us but was smelling way too doggy to be let loose upon a nice hotel room. I did a load of our laundry, too, and cleaned the place up a bit. We'll be catching a train right after lunch today. The beautiful thing about going to Brighton is we can catch a direct Thameslink train right here in West Hampstead -- we don't even have to get on the tube.

I did go to the doctor as planned. My chronic cough has been bothering me again, so more tests are in the offing. I think it's related to GERD, and I've started once again taking a generic equivalent of Prevacid. Too many birthday martinis, maybe.

I came across this on the walk back from the doctor. A dog? Looks like a male.

Oh, and I got word from Thames Water that our hosepipe ban has finally been lifted. Makes sense since we've had rain basically every day for the past month. They say even if we have lower rainfall than usual over the winter it should be enough to restore rivers and the local water table after our summer drought. Of course, the last thing we need to use right now is a garden hose. The ground is sodden.

Finally, I got some sad news yesterday. My uncle -- my mom's brother -- died in Virginia from a stroke he suffered just a few days before. Of all my parents' siblings he was the one I knew best. When I was a kid my mom, brother and I used to travel to my grandmother's house in Maryland for the Christmas holidays, and we'd often go to his house in nearby Virginia and spend Christmas itself with him and his family. He was a big fan of old Westerns. I visited him once in the aughts and we stayed up watching a movie starring Sunset Carson, who I'd never even heard of -- but it was surprisingly good, and now I can't think of Uncle William without thinking of Sunset Carson.

My mom may now be the last of that generation still alive, although I'm not sure about my dad's oldest sister, Aunt Jean, who lives in Boise -- I only met her once or twice and if she's still alive she'd be well into her 90's now. (I don't see an obituary online, though.)

Anyway, you may remember that I had our home movies digitized several years ago. That clip above is a very short segment of my uncle playing with me. I think it's Christmas 1968. He seems more into the toys than I am!

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Break Begins

Our Thanksgiving Break begins today, so we're off until Monday. Woo hoo! (Unlike British schools, we get this vacation because we're an American school and thus celebrate the holiday.)

Dave and I don't leave for Brighton until tomorrow. I'm trying to get some doctor visits and other stuff sorted out today, as well as preparing for the trip by doing laundry and cleaning up around the house.

The school has been showing the World Cup in certain common areas at lunch and during break times. I was a bit mystified about why we're making such a big deal of it when we never have before, but apparently that's because it's normally held during the summer when school's not in session. This year it's being played in November and December to avoid the intense heat of Qatar. Somehow this news got past me.

The kids are very excited about it, as you can see. I am completely oblivious myself.

(Top photo: A leaf in our garden, resting in our now-leafless beautyberry bush.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

A Blue Suit and Other Miscellany

As I was waiting for the bus the other day, this guy came up and sat down next to me. He's one of our neighborhood characters and often wears unusual suits. I've photographed him before in a yellow one, and I've seen him in a maroon one too.

Thus his blue suit kicks off another post of assorted random photos from my iPhone.

I wonder how this person got home, without their jeans and belt?

Last August, during the height of our drought, I posted a photo of this neighborhood patio with all the plants looking completely dead. I think most of them are dead, to be honest, but the pots have now been colonized by weeds, so there's at least the appearance of greenery.

Two mushrooms in love? Let's go with that.

Autumn is even adding color to the tires of parked cars.

This row of shops puts up Christmas lights every year, and I noticed some guys with a ladder were out recently doing just that. They hang those big wire balls and then garlands of lights between them. Not the best photo because I was shooting into the sun.

Here's another picture of dubious quality. You can't quite tell what's going on here, but that's the St. John's Wood tube station. The other day when I came out of work the station doors were closed and there was a light over the door declaring an emergency, and an audio warning not to enter. I was amazed that all these people were lingering outside. I took a picture and got out of there. Evidently whatever was going on wasn't too serious -- I never saw anything in the news -- but still, I didn't want to take any chances.

Finally, some graffiti on Finchley Road. This guy (it's almost certainly a guy) paints characters wearing a Covid mask and scrubs. I thought it was funny that he branded himself the PPE Crew. Sometimes he goes by Dr. Hokes.

Monday, November 21, 2022

The Mirror

The pooch and I took a long walk on Hampstead Heath yesterday -- possibly a little too long, as she's still in bed and showing no interest in getting up. We both need recovery time these days.

But before I show you our walk, let me tell you about...

...the mirror.

I took the trash out on Saturday and this beautiful beveled mirror was sitting next to the trash cans. Evidently it was discarded by the Russians, no doubt because of their endless renovating. There are several obvious problems with this. For one thing, the trash guys will never take away anything this large -- it measures 36 by 48 inches and must weight at least 30 pounds. More to the point, why would the Russians simply put something that nice in the trash?!

I knew rain was coming so I brought it inside and cleaned it. (Dave groaned.) Yesterday morning I listed it on Freecycle and within minutes had five people who wanted to come and get it. One of them collected it at about 1 p.m. so it now has a new home. I considered that my good deed for the day.

When Olga and I headed out to the Heath soon afterwards, the guy was still loading the mirror into his car. He looked like he also had a table he'd collected, and he was basically working a Jenga puzzle to get those pieces into his tiny hatchback. He must have managed it because he (and they) were gone when we came home a few hours later.

So, yes, the Heath. The mandarin ducks were out on the pond on Sandy Heath! I love seeing them. I mean, a human wouldn't be capable of designing a more fanciful creature.

We walked far enough to get to the big field on Hampstead Heath Extension, where we hadn't visited in a long time. I love the view of distant St. Jude's Church, so it was nice to see it again. And then it started to rain, so we scampered back to Golders Hill Park, where I got a coffee at the cafe and we waited out the rain in a shelter in the walled garden.

It was such a leisurely walk that by the time we were headed home, the sun was setting! Of course, that happens much earlier these days. We got home at about 4:30, exhausted and damp, but at least I no longer had that gigantic mirror to show me my sorry condition.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

First Flower

Ta-da! The first-ever flower from my white (really pink) Thanksgiving cactus! This is the one that blog reader Frances sent me as a cutting a couple of years ago. It's never bloomed before now, but it looks like it will have several flowers this season -- at least three. Doesn't it look like it's leaning into the wind? Sort of like a Rolls-Royce hood ornament.

I got a couple of minor tasks accomplished yesterday morning. I put the last of the dahlias in the shed for the winter, and I also inspected the gutter over our front door. When we get a heavy rain, that thing is like Niagara Falls on the front porch, and I thought maybe it was blocked with leaves. I've certainly never cleaned it out. But surprisingly, it's leaf-free, so I guess it just can't quite handle all the water coming off the roof sometimes.

I read some more Dickens and of course, I walked the dog.

We went to the cemetery, where Olga paused near the grave of Russian Grand Duke Michael Michaelovitch and his wife. (We've talked about them before.) I love that bright orange/brown tree lit up by the sun.

The other day when I was walking Olga around the corner, I saw some debris from a building lying on the sidewalk. It looked to me like it had fallen, and it wasn't a small amount -- some bricks and mortar and decorative cornice. Sure enough, I read in the paper yesterday that it struck a woman and almost injured her baby. I've heard of this happening elsewhere and we've seen it around here before too, but never so close to home. The dangers of living around old buildings, I guess.

Anyway, after our cemetery walk, I ate a left over fortune cookie with my coffee. (We only got one cookie with our last order of take-away Chinese, for some reason.) 

To which Dave replied, "F*** off!"

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Crash and Costa

Olga and I were walking on Finchley Road last weekend when we came across this demolished stoplight, evidently hit by a car. Farther down the street, a white van had run off the road and onto the sidewalk, and was jammed nose-first between a tree and a garden wall. The police were there and we didn't look too closely. We often hear drag racers (I think) zooming up and down Finchley in the middle of the night, so maybe one of them lost control -- though it seems a little weird to be racing in a van.

Yesterday was busy but not in any interesting way. I was mired in making a list of books with multiple copies for our 7th graders, who read books in pairs or trios as part of a class assignment. It's always a challenge to come up with books for them all because we seldom have two or three copies.

The other day I was watching a montage of scenes from "Absolutely Fabulous" on YouTube -- longtime readers may remember I love that show -- and I took this rather surreal screen shot of Jennifer Saunders struggling on a Stairmaster at the gym. I took it because look behind her, on the horizon -- it's the Battersea Power Station! Funny to see this view from almost 30 years ago after just visiting there myself.

As long as we're sharing old videos -- I saw in the news a few days ago that Brazilian singer Gal Costa died. When I was in high school and college I had a couple of Brazilian pen pals, and in addition to sharing frequent letters, we sent each other cassette tapes of music recorded from the radio. I seem to remember they'd already heard many of the songs I sent them from American radio, but their Brazilian music was always new to me, and one of the songs they sent me was Gal Costa singing "Chuva de Prata," or "Silver Rain." Click the link and you'll get a very '80s video (the dangly earrings! the lip gloss! the wind machine!) for that song, which I still like.

Friday, November 18, 2022

Siri Makes a Video

I forgot to mention yesterday that I ironed out our Brighton problem. I extended our hotel reservation one more night so that we come home on Sunday the 27th, the day after the rail strike. It's a somewhat pricey solution because staying Saturday night costs more than Thursday and Friday, but oh well. It can't be helped. We couldn't take a bus easily (if at all) with Olga, and hiring a car would probably cost just as much as that extra night.

The hotel is even keeping us in the same room, which is convenient. I hope there's something to do in Brighton in November!

Now watch -- the rail strike will probably be canceled.

My phone has lately been sending me little video compilations of some of the photos stored in its memory. It's kind of weird that this happens by itself, and I'm not sure when it started -- it definitely hasn't been all the six years I've had the phone. It must be a feature that came with a more recent update.

Anyway, it compiled the little video above of "Pet Friends Over the Years." Of course I've had only one pet friend during my phone's lifetime, so it's really just a video of Olga. I thought it was cute. I tweaked it a little in iMovie because some of the photos were sideways and it used one I didn't like, so the version you see above is lightly edited. Not bad, Siri!

(Top photo: A rose petal on the sidewalk.)

Thursday, November 17, 2022


We had some sun yesterday, a welcome change! The garden's color scheme is slowly shifting to yellow and red. The Japanese maple really stands out in the back. It always sends up a flame of blazing color in November. The walnut and hazel have normally shed more of their leaves by now, I think.

Looking at this photo makes me glad the tree trimmers are coming in January. It's all getting a little out of control.

Yesterday's visit from Thames Water was pretty anticlimactic. The guy showed up about 10:30, ran a couple of tests and announced that they were "negative" and he would "take us out of the system," which means we don't have any leaks. The water company recently replaced some kind of junction box or meter at the street, and he theorized that our "leak" was detected prior to that, and then corrected when that work was done. Regardless, that's one less thing I have to think about.

It was nice to have the morning off, though. I didn't read a lick of "Great Expectations," but I got caught up on a bunch of housework, like cleaning the dining room windowsill and rinsing off the orchids. We're going to get quite a few flowers in a couple of months -- seems like almost every plant has a flower stalk.

I finally got to work about 11:30 a.m. and spent an uneventful day before meeting up in the evening with some co-workers to see Bono, of U2, perform in Soho. He's just released a memoir -- which he jokingly calls in an exaggerated Irish accent "me book wot I wrote meself" -- and his show involved telling stories from his life interspersed with snippets of songs. I've liked U2 since the '80s, around the time of "The Unforgettable Fire" (which I still think is their best album), and in fact I saw them in concert many, many years ago.

Here's my ticket stub from that show, which I still have. Pretty amazing that in 1992 it only cost $25 to see them live. (Last night's ticket was £140.) And that 1992 show was special, because it was the launch of their "Achtung Baby" tour. The Lakeland Civic Center is not a big arena by modern standards, and it felt pretty intimate compared to the stadium tours they did later. Here's my account from my journal at the time:

I saw U2 in concert on Saturday -- it was the most UNBELIEVABLE show I've ever experienced. I actually touched Bono's leg! (What a groupie!) I'm sure I'll never forget it. The set was incredibly slick -- with all these video screens flashing images and messages ("Call your mother," "Guilt is not God," etc.) and cars hanging from the ceiling. Bono came out onto a runway stage that brought him within feet of our seats. (That's when I touched him. He was wearing black leather pants that felt very weird.) Our seats really made the experience for us, too -- they were great -- 15 rows back in the media section. Arthur got the tickets purely by luck; the show's been long sold out, but he called late and they released these tickets at the last minute.

It was the same week I saw George H. W. Bush make a campaign appearance at the Strawberry Festival in Plant City, and I was kind of star-struck -- though obviously I was much less excited about Bush than Bono. I did not touch Bush's leg.

Anyway, it was interesting last night to watch Bono on stage, a 62-year-old man, and think of that earlier experience, when I was 25 and he was merely 31. A copy of his book came with the ticket. I will surely read it and probably donate it to our school library.

One interesting side note: Audience members at last night's show were required to put their phones in security bags and leave them with the theater attendants, to prevent illicit photos or recordings. (The show was being recorded professionally for some kind of future production.) Knowing this in advance, I didn't take my phone at all. It felt weird to be without it, but I'm not very phone-dependent so I coped!

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Leaky Pipes and Other Dramas

Another photo from my misty morning walk on Sunday along the Thames.

Today I'm hanging out at home waiting for someone from Thames Water. Both we and the Russians got texts several days ago saying they believe we have a leak somewhere on our property and they want to check it out. Apparently -- and I am not making this up -- Thames Water employees go around London in the middle of the night and listen to the pipes in front of houses, in order to detect leaks within. If they hear something that sounds like a leak, they ask for an appointment to visit your house. That's what they've done with us.

I have no idea whether "listening" means actually putting their ear to the pipe, or (more likely) using some kind of device.

At any rate, it will be interesting to see what they find, if anything. We do have a toilet that's intermittently leaky and it could be that was running on the night in question, or maybe the dishwasher was on. Or maybe there really is a leak somewhere else but I haven't seen any sign of water, and neither have the Russians.

Maybe Mr. Russia has cracked a pipe with his extensive and insane renovations!

Anyway, the library will have to do without me until the Thames Water person leaves. I'm hoping to get some reading done, and I have another problem to sort out, too. Dave and I planned a trip to Brighton with Olga for a couple of nights over Thanksgiving, but I've just learned another $#@&^* rail strike has been planned for Saturday the 26th. That's the day we intended to come home. We could shift our reservation or maybe extend it for a night, but I need to figure that out.

When I was near Westminster on Sunday, this guy was walking in front of me. I was truly perplexed by that shirt.

And speaking of cacti, KARI LAKE LOST! That may be the best news of the entire election season. I think voters, even in traditionally conservative areas, don't want this election-conspiracy crowd in office. Lauren Boebert is hanging on by the slimmest of margins, and Lake's co-conspirator Blake Masters lost too. I think voters recognize the danger that mindset presents for our Democracy. Let's see how they now react to Trump's plan to run for president. I hope DeSantis runs too, and I hope those two gnaw on each other like a couple of pit bulls.

In other news, I was sorry to hear that Roberta Flack is ill. She is 85, slightly older than my mother, so that shouldn't come as a complete shock, but I've always loved her music. Her "Killing Me Softly" album was one of my first records. Remember when she teamed up with Michael Jackson to sing on "Free to Be, You and Me"?

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Battersea Power Station

As I mentioned yesterday, I stopped by the newly refurbished Battersea Power Station during my walk along the Thames on Sunday. It's a famous structure (said to be Europe's largest brick building) that you've probably seen in pictures and movies over the years -- for example, on the cover of Pink Floyd's album "Animals."

The coal-burning power station was built in two phases between 1929 and 1955. It was decommissioned in 1983, and for more than 30 years it sat empty, a hulking ruin that was the subject of many fruitless redevelopment schemes. Soon after Dave and I first came to London in 2011, I visited the vacant station with a photography group (although we didn't get to go inside).

That seems like a long time ago now! Battersea has finally, finally been redeveloped and has reopened as a complex of shopping, restaurants, offices, apartments and other amenities.

The gateway above (by artist and designer Morag Myerscough) leads beneath the adjacent rail bridge to the station itself.

Here's the plaza in front of the Art Deco power station...

...and here's the interior of one of the turbine halls, which contains a multi-level shopping mall. Since I wasn't there to shop I didn't pay much attention to the stores, but there are lots of famous brands.

Behind the power station is another plaza with more new apartment buildings in futuristic blocky and curvy shapes.

The strong structural lines provide opportunities for some interesting photos. Starting today, there's a scenic elevator that goes up one of the smokestacks to a viewing platform, but that feature wasn't yet open when I visited. I'll have to go back!

Here's the entire complex from the other side of the Thames. The elevator will ascend the northwest smokestack, second from the left in the picture above. There are various games and rides open along the riverfront beside the station, as well as an ice-skating rink.

The power station has only been open about a month, so lots of people are visiting out of curiosity. I hope it continues to get the traffic it needs to keep all those shops open. The nearby apartments, offices and the scenic elevator should help sustain it. (Also, the U.S. Embassy and many other office and residential buildings are within walking distance along the Thames near Vauxhall, and Chelsea is just across the river.)