Tuesday, January 31, 2023

The Syon Lion

Here's another shot from my walk along the Thames Path on Sunday. I had a good view of Syon House, the home of the Duke of Northumberland, across the river. I'd seen it before from the other side, when I walked the Capital Ring a couple of years ago -- that path runs through Syon Park.

What I'd never noticed is that the house has a proud-looking lion perched on the roof:

From the park side you can't really see it, but it's very apparent from the river.

Here's a super zoomed-in version:

Apparently this lion once stood on the roof of Northumberland House, a Jacobean mansion in The Strand in Westminster, overlooking what is now Trafalgar Square. That building was the city home of the Percy family, the Dukes of Northumberland, and when it was demolished in 1874 the lion -- the family symbol -- was moved here.

Dave and I have sorted out our summer vacation plans. We'd talked about traveling to Europe or the USA, but we don't want to leave Olga alone. (I feel guilty enough leaving her for a week in February to go to Florida!) Now that she's getting older she seems less independent and more vulnerable than she used to. So we decided to stay in England and take her with us. We rented a cottage for a week on the beach in Pevensey Bay, near Eastbourne. It looks like quite a swanky little place with a wall of windows that opens entirely onto the water, and pets are welcome. Woo hoo!

This doesn't preclude either of us from traveling to the states on our own -- we just won't do it at the same time. That way, someone is always here with the dog.

In other news, I've been in touch with the landlords about some of our maintenance issues -- mainly the dampness in the hallway, which I think comes from a seeping leak in our shower pipes -- and they're going to come by on Thursday evening to take a look. As much as I'd love a new shower or refitted bathroom, I'm dreading any decision to do a large renovation. In fact I'm not sure we'd stay put if they decide to do that. It might be time for us to move on to greener pastures! Our lease runs until July and I'd hoped to stay here at least one more year -- to enjoy the garden after our tree-trimming -- but anyway, we'll see what they say.

We've been in this flat for nine years, which is longer than I've lived anywhere except my childhood home. I'd like to make it an even ten!

Monday, January 30, 2023

Teddington to Mortlake

Despite gray skies and intermittently drizzly weather, I got motivated yesterday morning and took another walk along the Thames Path. You may recall that I've finished the north shore path, so I'm now beginning the south. I would have thought the logical way to do that would be to simply hop across the river more or less from where I finished, in East London, and walk back to the west. But no -- the trail guides produced by Transport for London have me starting all the way to the west again, and walking eastward.

So it was back to Teddington, where I saw the giant lock and weir last September when I was walking along the north bank.

The big anglerfish above, made of recyclable plastics, stands on the grounds of an arts center in Teddington.

The path along the south shore is much woodsier than the north shore. This obelisk stands seemingly in the middle of nowhere. It marks the westward boundary of the jurisdiction of the Port of London Authority, which oversees navigation on the Thames. 

The path is woodsy because it passes through a conservation area known as the Ham Lands. They were named for Ham House, a 17th Century mansion "containing a unique collection of cabinets and artwork," according to the web site. I was just lucky enough to see it covered with scaffolding, its statuary wrapped in a white tarp. I did not go inside.

On I walked to Richmond, where I got a coffee and sat overlooking these boats. They look like they need some maintenance. They're very...fertilized. Maybe the boat owners simply abandon them over the winter and then scrub them up for use in the spring and summer?

I saw plenty of birds but fortunately, no obviously sick ones.

The path wound beneath the bluffs and bridges at Richmond and on toward Chiswick. I saw these detectorists across the river, exploring the tidal mud flats near Isleworth.

(Blogger does not like the word "detectorist," but from what I can tell it is indeed a real word.)

This is what the path looked like east of Richmond -- a raised, narrow causeway with mud flats and swamps on either side, including what the TFL guide poetically called "tide-washed willows." 

I walked around the perimeter of Kew Gardens, and had a good view of Kew Palace -- the smallest of the royal palaces and the former home of Kings George II and George III -- and glimpses of the greenhouses and other structures. I passed beneath the Kew Railway Bridge, built in 1869. 

Finally I arrived in Mortlake, across the river from Chiswick, having walked 6.8 miles altogether. I caught the train from there back to Waterloo station.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

A Dirty Badger

I finished "Three Men in a Boat" yesterday. It was fun and light and relatively pointless. I struggled with the lack of narrative arc -- as I told someone a few days ago, it's not the kind of book you read to find out what happens at the end. There's nothing driving the plot. It's just a series of silly, cleverly worded misadventures.

I am not going to continue on with "Three Men on a Bummel," which I hear isn't as good.

Anyway, I'm glad to be done with it so I can catch up on my stack of five New Yorkers and then, hopefully, begin another book. This is how life works, right? We finish one thing in order to begin the next thing.

Speaking of books, I took Olga to the cemetery yesterday where we found this Kate Atkinson novel lying on a bench. It was quite damp and had seen better days, so I didn't take it. I'm unfamiliar with this one.

We also came across the lost glove in the top photo, perched on a fence waiting for its owner. Doesn't it look like someone making shadow puppets?

Olga took a moment (I didn't force her, I swear -- except that I did) to pose on the organ-shaped grave of 
Charles and Hannah Barritt.

And on the way home, we found a rather smudged toy badger, set out on a garden wall. Olga had to investigate to see if it was real. It looks like another dog's lost toy -- but I suppose it could have been a child's toy. They're fairly filthy too.

Last night Dave and I went out for dinner, which we hadn't done in ages. We went to our local, the Black Lion, which has been through an extensive renovation. Apparently they had to move around some walls to create a new emergency exit, among other things. It's not a very cozy pub -- lots of hard, shiny surfaces -- but my meal of cod on a chickpea and tomato stew was good and the place was busy. It looked like they were going to have live music but we got out of there before that started!

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Church and Kerwin

Some sad events yesterday!

First, this church, which is located just a few blocks from the school where I work, was gutted by a fire that started late Thursday night. The news accounts say it's destroyed, but as I understand it there were structural engineers there yesterday assessing the strength of the walls, so perhaps the shell of the building can be saved. It's Grade II* listed and more than 170 years old, and its loss is significant.

I stopped by after work to check out the scene and take some photos. I'd never been inside, but Dave had -- the music department faculty at our school considered holding concerts there but ultimately decided our band was too large for the space. The choral music teacher held some rehearsals there, though.

There are benches outside along the street where I used to see people sitting in nice weather. Such a shame. Apparently the investigators are still determining the fire's cause.

Then more bad news -- the death of Lance Kerwin, one of my most significant early-teen celebrity crushes! He was a popular young actor in the late '70s, boyish looking but in fact six years older than me. I vividly remember his show "James at 16," especially a scene when he disrobed in a sleeping bag with a girl. Scandalous! The show only lasted a year or so, and I both identified with and subtly pined for the teenage James. Kerwin went on to star in "Salem's Lot," the Stephen King vampire drama, and I remember reading the whole book one night when I was about 14, and looking at the picture section in the middle, and thinking, "Gosh, he's so cute."

And then his acting career more or less fizzled and he went on to have addiction issues and became an evangelical youth pastor. His more recent photos suggest that his adult life was pretty difficult, but I will always remember him as the sandy-haired James who wanted to be a photographer and made my tween gay heart go pitter-pat.

It's always a shock when your contemporaries die, though as I said, Kerwin was older than me -- technically a Baby Boomer, while I am Generation X. (He says, smugly.) I was similarly surprised when Adam Rich died a few weeks ago. He was even younger -- and more of a little brother figure to most of us in TV land -- but he also had addictions and other problems.

So, yeah, a sad day all around!

Friday, January 27, 2023

Riparian Selfishness

This was the scene on Finchley Road as I walked home in the evening half-light a couple of nights ago. We've been having some drizzly weather, and I put the tender outdoor plants back outside yesterday morning so they could get a drink (and I could clean the floor). But now I see that we might have frost tonight, so I suppose I'll have to bring them in again. Argh!

After that, though, there's no frost in the near future forecast.

I've finally been reading "Three Men in a Boat," as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. I can see why it's amusing, but it's not exactly pulling me in. I'm finding that it takes some persistence on my part to push ahead (a bit like the persistence required to rowboat up the Thames, come to think of it).

The theme of the book is basically the comedy inherent in trying to do a simple task and having it become, through unforeseen circumstance, incredibly complex. Someone tries to hang a picture and they don't have the right equipment or nails and they have to run to the store and then they hit their thumb and must visit the doctor -- that kind of thing. A bit like me trying to fix Olga's steps and tearing my pants and having to patch them. Or me putting the plants out only to have to immediately bring them in again. I mean, these things do happen.

Anyway, I came across one passage I thought was particularly funny, if rather dark. It's about private property owners along the river who put up signs warning away trespassers:

The selfishness of the riparian proprietor grows with every year. If these men had their way they would close the river Thames altogether. They actually do this along the minor tributary streams and in the backwaters. They drive posts into the bed of the stream, and draw chains from bank to bank, and nail huge notice-boards on every tree. The sight of those notice-boards rouses every evil instinct in my nature. I feel I want to tear each one down, and hammer it over the head of the man who put it up, until I have killed him, and then I would bury him, and put the board up over the grave as a tombstone.

I mentioned these feelings of mine to Harris, and he said he had them worse than that. He said he not only felt he wanted to kill the man who caused the board to be put up, but that he should like to slaughter the whole of his family and all his friends and relations, and then burn down his house. This seemed to me to be going too far, and I said so to Harris, but he answered:

"Not a bit of it. Serve 'em all jolly well right, and I'd go and sing comic songs on the ruins."

I was vexed to hear Harris go on in this bloodthirsty strain. We never ought to allow our instincts of justice to degenerate into mere vindictiveness. It was a long while before I could get Harris to take a more Christian view of the subject, but I succeeded at last, and he promised me that he would spare the friends and relations at all events, and would not sing comic songs on the ruins.

I kind of feel that way myself when I come across a No Trespassing sign, especially if I'm on a public footpath or waterway. I think it's the Floridian in me, raised with the philosophy that all beaches should be open to the public (as they legally are in Florida, at least to the mean waterline, if memory serves). In Britain, there's a strong belief in maintaining public footpaths and rights-of-way, and any attempt by private property owners to block those paths is met with resistance.

Anyway, I'm undecided about whether to continue on to "Three Men on the Bummel" when I'm done with the boating. (It's the second half of the volume I'm reading, but technically a separate book, I believe.) We'll see how persistent I feel!

Thursday, January 26, 2023

A Bouquet of Images

Today, I've got another collection of random photos from recent weeks. These are mostly things I see on my walks around town -- often discarded items like the wilted bouquet above, which I found in a bin at Fortune Green. (The same bin, in fact, where I found the orchid.)

And here's a perfectly good chair, apparently free for the taking. It disappeared not long after I took this photo so I guess someone seized the opportunity.

Settee? Daybed? Whatever it's called, it's looking a little tired -- but then, I took this picture on a particularly frosty morning, and the upholstery is covered with gray ice. It must have been wild when it was new.

Just some nice shadows thrown by a streetlight onto this car. I gotta have some shadows to live up to my blog name!

This stuffed toy has been sitting on this grave at Hampstead Cemetery for ages. I'm always intrigued when I find toys or whimsical items left on very old graves -- particularly when it's a grave occupied by adults, as seems to be the case here. The most recent occupant died in 1959, 64 years ago. Makes me wonder who left it and why.

I've seen a couple stickers by "Witness" pop up around Hampstead, featuring similar spattery-looking portraits.

This cup belongs to my boss -- in fact she painted it, but she wasn't happy with how it turned out. So I've adopted it, because it's a good size. The coffee from the coffee machine at work is so strong it bothers my stomach, but if I put it in a larger mug I can water it down a bit and that makes it palatable! Plus, I think her paint job is pretty good. 

And finally, spotted in a shop window on my walk home last night: For the truly brown-thumbed person in your life, a potted plant that requires no care, except perhaps occasional vacuuming!

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

A Broken Step

My friend the robin was back yesterday. When I was cleaning out closets not too long ago, I threw away the box that this bird feeder came in, and I found this little feeding tray that I left behind when I first put up the pole. I thought, why not use that too? So I attached it and the sociable robin was, of course, the first to investigate.

Seen straight-on, robins are rather comical looking. They have such bizarrely narrow heads. Not much of a brain pan, there, but I guess it works for them.

I got some sad news the night before last. Remember Maybelline, the crazy black mutt my dad and stepmother adopted back in 2012? She is no longer with us. Basically she got ill and had to be put to sleep. I was looking forward to seeing her on my trip in February. Even though we saw each other infrequently she always remembered me and got so excited when I'd come to play with her and throw her Jolly Egg. My brother-in-law buried the egg with her, much like ancient cultures used to bury their dead with their possessions.

stray library book turned up in the school book drop yesterday! This one wasn't even from a public library -- it was from another school down in Bloomsbury. I toyed with taking it back, but that would have involved a special trip on the tube which seemed insane, so I just put it in the mail.

We've had a minor household disaster. Remember Olga's pet steps, the ones I found discarded outside another house and brought home to allow her to climb up on the bed? Well, Dave was doing something in the bedroom the other day -- I want to say making the bed, but he never does that, so that couldn't be right! Anyway, he stood on the lower step, with predictable results given that the steps are particle-board and he weighs about six times as much as Olga.

(I'm trying not to allow my annoyance to creep into my writing, but I'm sure you can sense it.)

This is my first attempt at a repair, using a discarded bit of wood I found outside a house down the street. (You'd think the Russians would have some, wouldn't you? Apparently not at the moment, so I had to scavenge elsewhere.) I glued it to the back of the broken step with some Gorilla Glue, and I'll try to put the whole thing back together this evening. I'm not at all sure it's going to work. It wasn't the freshest Gorilla Glue in the world.

To make things worse, when I sawed the bit of salvaged wood with our hand saw, I tore the outer thigh of my pants! (Long story, and I wasn't injured. It wasn't a power saw.) I was in my librarian clothes, which was stupid. So I bought a little iron-on patch from eBay that says "I Love Books," or something like that, and I'm going to patch the pants and keep wearing them, at least for the rest of the school year. That should amuse/perplex/horrify the kids.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Library Confusion in the Arctic Wastes

Here's what the frozen tundra of our back garden looked like yesterday morning. It was 23º F (-5º C) by the time I set out for work around 8 a.m. I didn't try to walk. I took the tube. When it's that cold, the heck with exercise.

We'll supposedly freeze again tonight, but the forecast calls for a slow thaw after that. It's still too cold to put the plants back outside, though, which I would dearly love to do. Come on, spring!

It's times like this that I'm glad I work indoors. The library is toasty warm and I am thankful for that.

Three times in the past week, someone has returned a book to us that belongs to a local public library. I guess it's easy enough for people to get confused about the source of their books, particularly kids. Before last week it hadn't happened in ages -- literally years -- so it's funny that now it's happened three times in quick succession.

There's no way for us to tell whose books they were, so I took them back to the library myself after work -- I had to go twice to the St. Johns Wood library (which is Westminster) and once to Swiss Cottage (which is Camden). At least Swiss Cottage is on my way home. The St. John's Wood library is in the wrong direction, but only by a couple of blocks.

I hope someone doesn't get the idea that it's OK to return books this way! I don't want this to become a regular thing. If it happens again I'll have to find some way to track down the perpetrator(s).

Dave and I had a weird experience last night. He made corn on the cob, and when he opened the package he found the corn tinged with red, mostly between the kernels on one side of one cob. Have you ever see this? We did some quick research and found a phenomenon called Kernel Red Streak. (Our corn didn't look nearly as red as the corn in that picture.) Anyway, it's caused by a mite and it's supposedly harmless to people, and we figured we were boiling it anyway, so what the heck. We ate it, it tasted fine, and we're alive to tell the tale. (Dave got the redder cob!)

Monday, January 23, 2023

Bang a Bongo

Once again, like many weekends, the most exciting thing about my day was taking the dog for a walk.

We've had bright, sunny weather the last few days, which has been a nice change. It's been cold, though. Olga and I set out around 11:30 a.m. and headed toward Hampstead Heath.

We walked through Hampstead Village, where we came across this old chemist's shop (pharmacy) that had been turned into something else. It's vacant at the moment. I love the old mosaic doorstep, but Olga was indifferent.

This is what throwing the tennis ball looks like these days. I throw for short distances and Olga does her old-lady stiff-legged run to retrieve it. Not exactly the blistering long-distance dash of ten years ago. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak!

I found an online dog-age calculator that tells me Olga is 75-80 years old now in human years. She "would be considered a senior dog," it helpfully informed me. Thanks for that.

The curious find of the day was some kind of bongo drum tucked into the crook of a tree branch. I left it there. We have enough noise around here from the Russians.

Olga was moving a bit slowly so we did only a quick loop of a tiny section of Heath, including the icy dog pond. (As you can see, she was not tempted to get in!) We walked through Vale of Heath and skirted Whitestone Pond and headed back to West Hampstead.

I took only my iPhone on this walk, and I think I wound up with pretty good pictures. Same with my outing to the cemetery on Saturday. The more I use the phone, the more I wonder why I ever bother with my gigantic Canon camera. I can do more with the camera photographically, changing exposures and depth of field and that kind of thing, but is it worth the weight of that camera bag? I'm less and less convinced, especially when we're talking about a simple outing like this. (I'm about due for a new phone, too, which should improve the photo opportunities even more.)

Anyway, now Olga is crashed under the covers and I'm preparing for another week of work. Life goes on!

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Another Foundling

I took Olga to the cemetery yesterday. It's been so cold that ice has built up on the shady side of some of the gravestones. This is the grave of Rowland Neate Perrin, who died in 1899 at 61, and his wife Anne, who died in 1901 at 64. I suppose that was old age back then.

It was one of those days when we kept finding things.

First, at Fortune Green, I found a perfectly good orchid in the trash can. It was sitting right on top and obviously hadn't been there overnight, since it wasn't frozen. The flower stem was broken off and it had a sad-looking leaf, but I grabbed it anyway, which made for an awkward walk since I then had to carry it through the cemetery.

Olga found an old deflated football, her favorite toy, which she proceeded to worry and shake and tear to pieces. We played a couple of vicious games of tug-of-war, which wasn't easy with an orchid in one hand. Olga may be a grande dame but she is still surprisingly strong.

Finally I had to throw the football away, because Olga wanted to stand and gnaw on it rather than walking. Argh! Fortunately she's very in-the-moment and once it was in the trash can she seemed to forget it immediately. Can dogs have age-related short-term memory loss?

In a stroke of luck, I found another discarded orchid, but this one had been frozen -- it was the sickly color of overboiled green beans. It was still in its plastic wrap, though, so I took the plastic to carry the first orchid. That made handling it much easier and protected it from the elements for the rest of our walk.

I will never understand why people throw out orchids when they're finished blooming. Just give it a bit of care (they don't require much) and it will flower again the next year. When I got this one home I removed the yellowed leaf and it's now living on our end table in the living room. Hopefully the cold didn't shock it too much.

We now have THIRTEEN orchids. I keep saying that I want fewer plants, but I couldn't very well leave it in the trash, could I?

That's about the most exciting thing that happened around here yesterday. I cleaned up the garden in the morning, picking up a few stray twigs left behind by the tree trimmers. I did laundry. I vacuumed the house. I changed the sheets. Ho hum.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

One Degree of Temperature and Separation

During all the commotion in the garden on Thursday, this little robin retreated to the forsythia bush by the bedroom window and sat watching expectantly. Robins are very social birds -- they'll often flit around when I'm weeding or doing other outdoor tasks, waiting for me to uncover a savory bug. I imagine it was thinking there would be a bonanza of insects available after all the trimming, raking and moving potted plants!

Today I need to pay the tree crew. The total bill was about £1,200, of which our landlord will pay roughly half. We are obligated to maintain the garden under the terms of our lease, but I asked the landlords if they'd pay for trimming the walnut tree, since that's a bigger, more long-term property investment, and they agreed. So I'll make the payment and the landlords will reimburse me.

Here's how cold it's been the last few days:

The birdbath is frozen solid. That pot behind it contains a dahlia (and some weeds, which are the leaves you see -- the dahlia tubers are below the soil). It's the only dahlia I didn't put in the shed for the winter. I left it out last year and it did OK, so this is an experiment to see if it can survive a second winter outdoors. I have too many dahlias anyway, to be honest.

There's a pot on the patio where some honesty seedlings have sprouted, and when I heard it might snow I covered it with an old towel. The snow never materialized so I pulled the towel off Thursday morning and found it had turned into a modern sculpture!

Yesterday an engineer from British Gas came to replace the timer on our boiler, which had mysteriously stopped working. We use the timer to turn the heat on and off at certain times of day. I had to stay home and wait for him to show up, but fortunately I was early on his service list so I was able to get to work only about an hour late.

In the "Small World" department, a co-worker loaned me an interesting book last week called "Dignity," by Chris Arnade. It's a book of interviews and photographs of people living in what the author terms the "back row" -- the lower rungs of the economic and social ladder in the USA. Arnade himself is a former Wall Streeter who left his job to travel across the country and document the lives of these people. He's a good photographer.

The funny part, though, is that I recognized his last name. I had a professor named Arnade when I was a student at the University of South Florida. He taught my Florida History course, as I recall. It's not that common of a name, and I wondered whether this author was related -- and sure enough, it's his son! Chris Arnade grew up in the Dade City area, just a stone's throw from where I grew up in Land O' Lakes. (Though I considered Dade City somewhat exotic, being a much older, more self-contained community with more local history.) He's about my age too, but we went to different schools so I'm sure we never met.

Anyway, it was funny to think I'd been randomly handed a book written by someone so closely connected to my own life. It's a good book, attempting to explain the political and social perspectives and frustrations of many people who have been left behind by American prosperity. It's well worth a read.

Friday, January 20, 2023

Adventures in Tree Trimming

This was the scene yesterday afternoon as the tree trimmers were tidying up. I don't have a good "before" shot from this angle to show you, but we're now seeing a lot more sky in the center of the garden. The branches of the walnut tree (in the left foreground) and the hazel (on the right) used to meet in the middle. The squirrels loved it -- it was their highway -- but the roses and other plants down below needed more light.

So we've disrupted the Squirrel Autobahn. But believe me when I say it looks much better out there. Unless you're a squirrel.

This was the walnut tree before the trimming began. You can barely see the tassels of the hazel to the right, and how the branches meet.

And this is it afterwards. The tree trimmers took some height off the top as well as removing branches that stretched out over the roses. In addition to getting more light to the garden, we wanted to keep the tree balanced. You can only barely tell from this angle, but the tree leans quite a bit toward the house, and I wanted to lighten the crown for safety's sake.

They also trimmed some of the growth that extended over the fence onto Mrs. Kravitz's property. I thought she'd appreciate that. She's always urging us to cut this tree down, which I would never do. (She hates the falling nuts and leaves.)

The whole process was pretty painless, though I was nervous as a cat. And these aren't even really my trees! Olga and I stayed out of the trimmers' way, and I peeked out every once in a while to see how they were getting on. Afterwards, as I praised their work, I noticed that the walnut was dripping. I thought it was melting ice from our frosty morning, but no -- it was sap.

"It's bleeding," one of them said matter-of-factly. Which didn't make me feel any better. He assured me it would stop in a day or two.

The snowdrops survived unscathed, as well as almost all the other bulbs and plants. Some of the roses got broken by falling branches but we'll cut them back in a month or so anyway, so it doesn't matter. One broom plant got broken off, but that's no big deal.

The tree crew also trimmed the mock orange (Philadelphus), which you can see pre-haircut behind them in the photo above, as well as the monster over the patio. That's been cut back all the way to the fence and it looks like a dissected lung, with airways and blood vessels exposed. It grows quickly and will look green in no time come spring.

I'm glad to have the work done. Now I'm wondering if we shouldn't have had them tackle the "wildlife area" at the very back of the garden, where there are two old elder trees burdened with ivy. Some day those are going to collapse and I don't want to be here when they do. But I feel like that's a landlord job, and besides, I really DO like leaving that area for the birds and squirrels.

I left the trimmers after the bulk of the work was done, and hustled to work for the last two hours of my shift. (That enabled my co-workers to go home at their usual time rather than staying late to close, which is usually my task.) Then I came home, locked up the garden gate and that was that.

Now, when the weather gets warmer, Olga should have many more opportunities for sunbathing!

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Quick Tide, Slow Morning

Here's another photo from my walk along the Thames Path a couple of weeks ago. This was actually taken in North Greenwich, after I'd finished the path and crossed the river on the cable cars. It's an art installation by the Argentinian artist Felipe Pantone called "Quick Tide," which transforms the underside of this elevated walkway from bland white surface to jewel-toned kaleidoscope. Pretty cool, though the light was working against me when I took this picture. When I come back along the Thames Path on the south shore I'll see it again and maybe I can catch it in full sun.

Today I can afford to be somewhat leisurely about my morning, because I'm staying home to meet the tree-trimmers. After months of preparation they're finally due to show up today. As soon as the sun comes up I have to go out and tie a few plants back and cover the snowdrops to protect them, and then we're ready to go. I'm a little nervous about it, as I often am before we have major work done in the garden, but I'm sure it will all be fine. The good thing about plants is, they grow back!

We're having the hazel and walnut trees trimmed to admit more light to the center of the garden, and we're cutting back the Philadelphus to make more room for the Japanese maple, among other things. We're not having anything done to the wilderness at the back of the garden -- we want to leave some wild space and it's a good barrier blocking the apartments behind us.

I'll try to show some before and after photos tomorrow.

In the news, did you see that "resume embellisher" (aka serial liar) George Santos has been rewarded with several committee positions in the new Congress? Honestly, I don't know what the USA is coming to. Not many years ago that man would never have been permitted to take his seat, much less get committee assignments. He probably would have been exposed long before the election, by a healthier local press and competent opposition. Nothing like having someone like that serving in federal government to serve as a role model for our children. "Look, kids! You can LIE your way into public office!" (Early indications are he's going to be a MAGA nightmare policy-wise.)

On a positive note, I see that some of the world's wealthiest people have asked leaders at the World Economic Forum to tax them more, saying that current levels of economic inequality threaten public institutions and the stability of society. And right they are.

Finally, The New York Times recently had an interesting story (with amazing pictures) about remote wildlife cameras and the interactions between species that they're recording. It made me want to set up another camera in our garden, even though we only ever saw foxes, squirrels and the occasional urban rat. (Our previous wildlife camera appears to have died, so I'd have to buy a new one and just haven't gotten around to it yet.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Murderous Miscellany

The abandoned Christmas tree is gone. I noticed its absence when I was walking the dog a few days ago, and someone is working in that adjacent vacant shop. I predicted it would languish there for three weeks and it was only a bit more than two, so that's not too terrible. I suspect it would have been longer but for the shop renovation.

Yesterday I walked to work and weirdly, I was part of a veritable river of people walking up Broadhurst Gardens through South Hampstead. Normally, when I walk that route I'm one of just a few people on the sidewalk, so I figured something must be going on. I wish I'd taken a video because it was like Fifth Avenue out there. Sure enough, when I got to work I read that the Jubilee line was partly down, so all those people were probably getting off trains in West Hampstead and walking to the next closest station at Finchley Road.

In library news, I noticed yesterday that by strange coincidence, almost all our books from the "Murder Most Unladylike" series were on the shelf. This happens so rarely I was motivated to take a picture. It's a wildly popular series with fifth and sixth graders and usually only a handful are available at any given time. "A Spoonful of Murder," book six, was checked out, so this photo still doesn't show all of them.

(Side note: I'm only now noticing that the book on the far left is misshelved! It's from a different series! Gotta fix that today.)

I've mentioned our "red dot" system before -- we put red dots on books that are suitable for younger readers. So these are all approved, despite the fact that they're apparently about murder. I guess that's no worse than the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew, though as I recall they were more about thievery and and other villainous shenanigans. Were people ever murdered in the Hardy Boys? I can't remember.

Anyway, I've never read the "Murder Most Unladylike" books, but they get stellar reviews from the kids. The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew still get read these days too, but maybe less than when I was young. I used to love Hardy Boys books. As I recall, "The Melted Coins" was my favorite. I still remember Mrs. Rideau and her corn soup.

Let's catch up with long-lived celebrities! In January 2021, I wrote a post listing a few nonagenarian and centenarian actors and singers who were still alive at that time. Several of them have died in the two years since, but still with us are Glynis Johns (99), Eva Marie Saint (98), Dick van Dyke and June Lockhart (97), Mel Brooks and Tony Bennett (96), and Harry Belafonte (95). The relatively youthful Mitzi Gaynor (91) and Gene Hackman (92) are persevering, as is spring chicken Tina Louise (88). Producer Norman Lear is still around at 100. I'm sure there are others!

(Top photo: Frosty baby shoes, abandoned on the sidewalk yesterday morning.)

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

The Bouquet That Would Not Die

Just a picture of the kitchen windowsill -- I like the way those purple flowers and the orchid brighten things up. I've kept that bouquet going now for two weeks! I've had to cull some of the stems -- it originally included pink roses but they wilted after about a week -- and change the water several times, but it still looks pretty good. Chrysanthemums last forever.

According to my phone, it's 25º F (-3º C) outside right now. I haven't taken a look to see how frosty it is, but that's pretty darn cold.

Dave and I finished "The Bear" last night, a series I liked a lot. Dave, weirdly, didn't take to it as much as I did, despite the fact that it's about a chef trying to turn around his late brother's struggling restaurant. You'd think with Dave's professional cooking experience it would appeal to him, but I think he felt some of the kitchen scenes were overwrought. We're also watching "Abbott Elementary" and liking it.

Otherwise, blah. It's Tuesday.

Monday, January 16, 2023

A Birthday of Sorts

The sun was out yesterday, so Olga and I seized the opportunity and went to Hampstead Heath. Carpe diem, right?

We walked all through the West Heath and visited the cafe at Golders Hill Park for a coffee and a piece of carrot cake. (Even Olga got some carrot cake -- not a whole piece, just some of mine.) Then we walked to the Extension and back through the woods of Sandy Heath. Olga is much slower than she used to be, but she still chases her tennis ball and barks at the squirrels.

It occurred to me while walking that we got Olga in January 2013, ten years ago, but I couldn't remember the date. So when I got home I checked the ol' blog, and believe it or not, we got Olga ten years ago TODAY! I wrote here about picking her up from the All Dogs Matter rescue shelter. That was back when we weren't even sure what to name her.

I remember when I first saw her, leaping around in her pen, that I was surprised by how big she was. We had a neighbor at the time with a staffy named Charlie, but he was much smaller and I'd expected Olga to be about that size. She was wearing a black, metal-studded collar provided by the shelter, and she looked...thuggish. It freaked me out a little. I remember calling Dave and saying, "This dog is huge." She was so excited that I ran up and down the parking lot with her on a lead to work out some energy.

So this is the closest thing to a birthday that old dog's going to get. When we adopted her, All Dogs Matter said she was three years old. Our vet at the time put her age closer to two. You can all do the math -- she's 12 or 13 now.

Last night, Dave had a dinner meeting with a job candidate, so I stayed home on my own. I scrounged up dinner from the pantry -- tuna fish with rice and peas -- and binged the Netflix documentary about Bernie Madoff. That really is a crazy story, and as one of his victims said, a tragedy worthy of Shakespeare. I'm not sure I appreciated how huge it was at the time.

I also brought in all our tender plants yesterday, to prepare for a couple of nights of below-freezing temperatures. Above, packed in next to the avocado, cacti and ficus that normally live by the back door, you can see four geraniums, our Amistad sage and a fern. (Which might not be tender but I'd rather not risk it.) The plectranthus and another geranium are in another room, and the small canna lily is in the shed. We covered the banana and the big canna. It's supposed to be 22º F tonight (-5º C) with possible snow and ice. We're as prepared as we'll ever be!