Friday, March 31, 2023

Triffids, Trump and a Tray of Bulbs

I found this curious sign in Hampstead when I went with Dave to the Royal Free Hospital a couple of weeks ago. I've seen the movie version of "The Day of the Triffids," but I've never read the book -- and apparently it makes reference to an alleyway in this neighborhood that's very similar to (and may in fact be) this one. Here's a link and here's another one about how it got its name.

I checked out the book from our library; maybe I'll try it this weekend.

So the Trumpster is being indicted, apparently. I'm of two minds about this. Obviously I'd like to see him held accountable for what I'm sure is only a tiny, tiny fraction of all the illegal things he's done over the years as a power-mad narcissist and world-class slimeball, but I'm concerned about how this will invigorate his base. There's no talking sense to these people. It's the strangest political situation anyone could imagine. Trump is supported by all these evangelical Christians who think he's an agent of God and dismiss his philandering and bluster as mere human foibles -- "Nobody's perfect," they say. Payments to a porn star? No problem! And yet the same people hate the Clintons for their alleged immorality, even though the Clintons are much closer to them culturally than Donald Trump could ever be.

I doubt seriously that even an indictment and a conviction will slow Trump down. His supporters will simply dismiss it as more persecution by the Deep State. We have entered the Upside Down, like on "Stranger Things."

Then again, Trump has delivered for the religious right. Look at the Supreme Court. Look at Roe v. Wade.

I'm not against the indictment -- not by a long shot. I'm merely wary. It doesn't solve the Trump problem.

This is an elaborate floral display that decorated an event at school not long ago. It's hard to see against the backdrop of our garden, but it's a wide glass bowl with about a dozen flower bulbs planted in it -- crocus, daffodils, hyacinths, grape hyacinths and a few other plants. When the event ended the planter moved into the library, where it sat on my desk, and finally -- as the flowers had faded -- I brought it home. I figured I could plant the bulbs in the garden.

So that's what I did yesterday evening after work. They're looking a little floppy, but next year they'll hopefully come up and grow strong. (Assuming the squirrels don't excavate and eat them.) I hope I planted them deep enough. I scattered them all over the garden. I'm taking the bowl back to work -- maybe someone will want it. Amid my efforts to clear our clutter, I do not!

Thursday, March 30, 2023

What The Dog Does All Day

The council came through and did their annual tree-trimming along our street, so now we have a bunch of knobby-knuckled hands waving upwards in front of our houses. The council does this to keep the trees smaller and restrain the root systems, causing less damage to streets and utilities. It's bizarre looking, though, isn't it?

I had some funny encounters with kids yesterday in the library. Kids -- especially middle school kids -- are very suspicious of long or thick books. Yesterday I had one girl say it outright. She came to my desk and asked, "Do you have any short books?"

I said, "No, we only buy long books. It's a school rule."

I try to explain to the kids that just because a book is short, that doesn't mean it's easy or fast. A 7th grade boy came in yesterday looking for short books and picked up Kafka's "The Metamorphosis" and "The Stranger" by Camus.

"It's only 120 pages!" he said of the latter.

I said, "Yeah, but those are not easy books. A short, difficult book will seem long, and a long, engaging book will seem short. You need to think about what you want to read, not the length of the book."

But would he listen to me? No.

Then again, maybe he's into philosophy, or will be after he reads those books. Maybe they will spark something in him. I'm willing to keep an open mind. More likely he'll come back complaining about how boring they are.

Meanwhile, I was wrestling with submitting our home leave reimbursement request. Dave sent the school our receipts for our airline tickets (from our February trip to Florida) and they kept bouncing back. The accountant said she couldn't see the total amount we paid, which I didn't understand at all. It was RIGHT THERE on the receipt.

But then I realized that Dave uploaded the receipts to a school computer system that cut off the bottom of one page, eliminating part of the charges as well as the total. It wasn't his fault -- we're supposed to do it that way -- but clearly the system has a problem. So I e-mailed the complete receipt to the accountant, et voila! Payment on its way.

Home leave is a blessing. We can only claim it once every two years, but it helps.

Want to see what Olga does all day? We have security cameras that record little videos when they detect motion within our house. I set them yesterday to save the videos when she came home from her walk, and I got a total of 51 clips, each anywhere from four to 30 seconds long. It was a little more than 12 minutes of video altogether, mostly of Olga scratching around on her dog bed. I condensed it to three minutes.

She looks a little stiff, doesn't she? I gave her half a paracetamol in her food last night (yes, the vet says it's safe) and she slept very soundly. I think she's been a bit on edge because Dave is gone. She likes the pack to stay together.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Repeat Performance

Remember "Take Your Laundry to Work Day"? Well, I made the same mistake yesterday -- tidied up the flat before work, put our dirty sheets in a bag, took them to the laundromat only to find it closed, wound up carrying them to work. And only then did my brain say, "Hey, I think I've done this before."

You'd think I'd learn. It was only a year ago.

Anyway, I dropped off the sheets on the way home and also brought some boxes from the office to package up some stuff I plan to give to charity. It wasn't easy carrying two empty boxes and a bag of laundry, so I took the tube rather than walking as usual.

Last night I rented "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" with Humphrey Bogart. Dave doesn't like old movies, especially black-and-white ones, but since he's in Prague I can seize the moment and watch some things that he would normally not want to see. I don't think I've ever watched that movie before, and I enjoyed it. The performances were terrific, though Walter Huston talks so fast I had a hard time understanding him, particularly at the beginning.

Here's a picture of Olga from Sunday in Fortune Green. I wanted to get a shot including those two types of dogwood bushes (not the same dogwood as our trees in the states), with their colorful branches now sprouting with spring leaves. Olga, as usual, is barking at me, not pleased with being posed.

(Top photo: A violet along the Thames Path on Saturday.)

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Oh, the Bureaucracy!

Several weeks ago I tried to sign into my bank account online, just as I had a thousand times before. Normally I insert my debit card into a nifty little security device called a PinSentry -- it looks kind of like a pocket calculator. I type in my pin number and the PinSentry gives me a special code, which I then type into the web site.

This time, for some reason, I could not get the PinSentry to read my debit card. It just kept saying "card error" or something like that. Thinking my card had been damaged in some minor way -- because Dave's card worked fine in the PinSentry -- I ordered a replacement debit card.

It was supposed to come within five days. That was two weeks ago, and I've not seen hide nor hair of my new card. Who knows where it went. The Royal Mail is practically insolvent so anything is possible.

With trepidation, I finally contacted the bank yesterday through its painfully, agonizingly slow messaging system to tell them it had not arrived. Rather than order a second replacement, though, I decided to just keep my old card -- it works fine in shops and I can log into the web site using other security information, so I don't really need a new one. And a replacement, I learned, would change my card number so I'd have to update it on all the web sites where we make automatic payments, and I didn't want to do that. (Apparently it's impossible to get a replacement card with the same card number.)

Well, keeping my existing card seemed like such an outrageous, ridiculous thing to do that the bank staff just couldn't wrap their heads around it. It took TWO HOURS of messaging with four different people to finally, successfully convey to them that I only wanted them to cancel the card they'd recently mailed, that I did not need another replacement, that there were no security issues with my existing card and I wanted to keep it.


At the same time that this was going on, Dave and I were trying to watch the last episode of "Fleishman is in Trouble" (which we liked) and I kept having to pause the show to log in to the bank web site again (because it logs you out automatically if you're not active within a certain very short period of time) to see if their underpaid contract employees with no benefits in India or the Philippines or wherever had responded to whatever plaintive plea I'd most recently sent.

Agony. Agony, I tell you.

Anyway, it's anybody's guess whether my card still works. I'll find out soon enough, because Dave is off to Prague today on the school music tour -- which involves transporting something like 150 students and a truckload of instruments and equipment to continental Europe to perform multiple concerts -- and I'll have to do my own shopping until Friday. If the card doesn't work I may be eating the dog's kibble by the time he gets back.

(I'm kidding. I can always get cash from the bank, although I shudder to think what that process might be like without a functioning debit card.)

Here's an egregious spelling error I saw on my way home from work yesterday. I like how whoever made the sign tried to jazz it up with a couple of little stars, and then someone else slipped an E in there to correct it. A coach, by the way, is what the British call certain regional or long-distance buses (but not city buses, which are merely called buses).

(Top photo: A springtime shadow on Abbey Road, St. John's Wood.)

Monday, March 27, 2023

Goodbye, Flickery Lamp

I saw this street in Kensington from the bus window on the way home from my walk on Saturday. I had to leap off the bus at the next stop to get some pictures! Aren't those beautiful magnolias? (When I say magnolias, I don't mean southern magnolias, but Japanese or saucer magnolias -- the predominant kinds around here.) The women in the foreground had the same idea -- they were taking selfies and then asked me to take some pictures with their phone. They're examining the results. They don't look too disappointed, do they?

We switched to British Summer Time on Sunday and my internal clock is a little out of whack. On top of that I've had some weird dreams about Florida -- Saturday night I was back in my childhood home, and last night I was living in a mysterious apartment and an old friend came to collect a '60s yellow couch that she'd given me. My friend owned that couch in real life and I haven't thought of it in years. In the dream I was embarrassed because when we moved the couch there were stains all around it, like I'd spilled coffee or wine or both. My carpet never looked like that in real life, I swear.

Maybe I had that dream because I'm on a cleaning and purging binge. Yesterday I put a couple of things on Freecycle -- some random old bottles I'd found here and there, and this lamp:

It was given to us years ago by the parents of one of Dave's students. (This is the flickery lamp, though to be honest I'd forgotten it was flickery because we never used it anymore. When I listed it I said I wasn't sure how well it worked, which is true.) By the end of the day everything was gone. Freecycle is fabulous.

I took out our trash yesterday and found that the Russians had thrown some nice stuff in the bin -- some drapes still folded in a plastic package, and some wine glasses in a box. I took a closer look at the glasses, but they had lime residue around the rim that would never come off, and they were also as big as goldfish bowls. More glass than I need! So I left them there. I am seriously trying to downsize and resist my collecting and saving impulses.

I also took Olga to the cemetery, but we did the short version of our walk, through the back half of the cemetery only. The weather was drizzly and Olga didn't resist coming home early.

Finally, Mr. Pudding suggested several posts ago that we look on YouTube for drone videos of our neighborhoods. And yes, indeed, there is a video of West Hampstead. 

The drone takes off from Kilburn Grange Park and flies northwest over West Hampstead, giving you a good view of the three train lines that run through the community carrying the Jubilee Line, the Overground and the Thameslink regional trains, among others.

You can see our neighborhood most clearly at around the 12:35 mark. The street curving through the center of the frame is our high street, lined with all our shops and with West End Green (looking like a cluster of trees) at center left. Our house is center right, an inch or two in from the edge. To be honest, I'm not sure which one it is. Those roofs all look the same from that height! The houses across the street from us overlook the tennis club, the green lawn and courts you can see at the edge of the frame.

Have fun flying over West Hampstead!

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Mortlake to Battersea Bridge

I finally, FINALLY had a chance to walk another segment of the Thames Path yesterday. It's been almost two months since I was out there last!

I picked up where I left off, in Mortlake, walking on the south shore of the river. You'll know some of these landmarks from my previous posts -- like the former Budweiser brewery above -- because when I walked the north shore I could see them across the water. This time I was directly beneath them.

The path was a mud-bog, we've had so much rain lately. I must have been passed by about a thousand joggers, all of whom splattered me as they galumphed past. But c'est la vie. It's March.

I passed a flock of swans napping on the riverbank, like abandoned sacks of laundry.

Dave is not a walker, as I've said in the past, so when I take these trips I do it alone. But I love walking by myself, just as I love driving by myself. I can just allow my brain to whirl in whichever direction it desires, I can talk to myself or hum songs, and I can go at my own pace, stopping whenever I want. I used to do the same when I lived in New York City -- I'd go walking for hours on my own. And in Florida, I'd go driving for hours.

It just goes to show that even if your life circumstances change, you can't not be yourself -- you know? My dad was like that too, happiest in his own company. And Dave is happiest in his recliner.

I did wish Dave was on hand when I passed this house, though. It's the former home of composer Gustav Holst, appropriately called Holst House, and now on the market for just £3 million! It doesn't look gigantic but surprisingly, it has six bedrooms. I showed the photos to Dave when I got home, so he experienced it virtually. We agreed to buy it. Ha!

Who says there's no more British Empire?

Here's the old Harrods furniture warehouse, now a block of flats, which I also saw back in October from the opposite bank of the river.

These might be the most stunning magnolia trees I've ever come across. You can barely see the house behind them, or the blue historic plaque marking it as the former home of Australian artist Sidney Nolan, famous for his "Ned Kelly" paintings.

The path led along the waterfront in Wandsworth Park, beneath huge over-arching plane trees.

I got a good view of all the new construction around the old Lots Road Power Station. This is the neighborhood where I reached a dead end on my walk along the north shore.

By this time I'd walked about six miles (I think?) and I crossed the Battersea Bridge and caught the bus home from the World's End estate in Chelsea. There's a bus that goes from there all the way across town practically to my front door. Talk about convenient!

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Chicken Surprise

Remember when I said in my previous post that we didn't get torrential rains? Well, I take it back. They came yesterday afternoon, as this rather haphazard photo (taken clumsily under my red umbrella during my walk home from work) hopefully shows. We even had hail! I was still at work at that point and it began clattering down on the windows and freaked us all out. It was only pea-sized but it was loud.

All I could think was, "Our poor garden." But it seems fine.

Here's what Olga thought of it all. (OK, I actually took this picture several days ago but I'm sure this accurately reflects her reaction to hail.)

In the library where I work, we have a no-food rule. My ears are specially trained to hear the rustle of a crisp packet at 400 paces, and yesterday, as some 9th Grade boys sat clustered together in a corner, I kept hearing that telltale rustling. So I walked back there and found a kid with a half-eaten sandwich in his hand and crumbs lying like beach sand all over his keyboard. (He insisted he hadn't been eating the sandwich but merely pulled it out of his bag in order to get to a book, which I don't believe for a second.) After a scolding, and while he discarded the sandwich, I took his computer to the vacuum cleaner and tidied it up, which was a first in my career -- having to vacuum a student's computer.

I didn't do it to be nice. I did it so he wouldn't blow the crumbs onto the carpet.

Here's a bizarre and useless feature I found on my iPhone. I can make a video of myself making faces as a chicken! (Or as a cat, panda bear, robot, octopus and about 30 other creatures or objects, animate and inanimate.) Apparently the camera reads my facial expressions and changes the creature's features to match. This particular video is silent, but if I wanted to I could even record myself as a talking chicken.

I suppose that's a fun way to tell someone, "Hey, I'll be late for our meeting."

Ah, the wonders of technology.

Friday, March 24, 2023

Spring in a Box

This house down the street is being renovated, and I was amused at the way the boxed-in little tree is blooming out the top of its protective enclosure. Hello!

Yesterday was another half-day for students. The school is gearing up for various spring trips and they take some preparation, so the kids were involved in activities associated with their chosen journeys. In the library, for example, a group of high schoolers met to plan their visit to Valencia, Spain. Apparently part of the agenda is making paella, and they were discussing the ingredients they might want. Some of the girls were adamant that rabbit couldn't be part of the dish.

"Rabbits are too cute," one girl said.

"But what about chickens?" said one of the boys. "Chickens are cute too!"

Snails got the thumbs-down from everybody.

I think the boys were kidding about the chickens, but it sounded like vegetarian paella was going to be the only possible option -- and I'm not sure how authentic that is. It would probably prompt heated exclamations from any traditional Spaniard.

Anyway, while all that was going on, I worked on catching up on some neglected library tasks like managing the incoming magazines and re-shelving.

We never got anything close to torrential rains yesterday. There was a continuous weak drizzle in the evening, but that's as dramatic as it got. Our hyacinths are loving the cool, damp weather!

I haven't been on Facebook much for months -- I find it overwhelming. I have something like 500 "friends" and the idea of trying to keep up with all those people just bowls me over! But I went on last night and I must admit it was good to catch up with some of them. I learned about the deaths of a few former co-workers from my days working in Winter Haven, Fla. -- some of them right around my age. Sobering.

I also got lots of reading done, which felt great. Usually when I get home from work, Dave and I catch up for a half-hour or so and then we watch TV. That's our daily "together activity." But last night we left the TV off and I was reminded what a time-waster it can be. Maybe we should strive for a night or two with no TV each week?

We've been watching "Fleishman is in Trouble." Since I finished the book I've been curious to see how it adapts to TV, and so far we like it. We're about four episodes in.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Flashback to the Fourth

I've told you that I'm trying to clean out some of our stuff. Well, Dave has an old iPad that he hasn't used in years. It's been sitting on a stack of his paperwork near the couch, untouched. My mission is to eliminate this stack, so the other day I charged up the iPad and looked through it to see if there's anything on it that we needed to keep.

I came across these two old photos of Dave and Olga in the garden from July 4, 2015. We had a party that day. I uploaded the pictures from the iPad to my Flickr account and discovered they were taken with my Canon camera. So then I excavated the depths of my photo archives and found the original files. I don't know why I never put them on Flickr or anywhere I could see them, because they're good shots. (I must have e-mailed low-res versions to Dave, which is how they wound up on his iPad.)

So, today on the blog, a blast from the past -- almost eight years ago!

I'm still unclear what we're going to do with the iPad itself. It still works but it's so old it can't run any modern apps, so maybe we'll just wipe it and give it away or recycle it.

Yesterday was a half-day at school. We worked more on the tornado, setting up panels of readers to review the challenged books. I'm on two panels so I'll be reading two books over the next week or two. I suppose I can manage that. First I've got to finish "The Last Confessions of Sylvia P.," which I've been neglecting for the past several days. (I am not a person who can read multiple books at a time. I like to finish one before starting the next.)

We had classes in the morning and meetings all afternoon, including an all-school gathering where the librarians received applause from our colleagues for dealing with this book challenge. It was good to have everyone's support. Then I went to the pub with my co-worker Chris for a catch-up. We hadn't really talked since we went to see the William Morris museum months ago.

Today and tonight we're supposed to receive "heavy and torrential downpours at times." Big excitement!

There were 94 comments in my spam folder this morning, going all the way back to 2007. Again, mostly my own. (Sigh)

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

A Real Rabbit

I found this abandoned bunny while walking near the Royal Free Hospital on Sunday. He was lying atop someone's recycling bin, staring up at the sky. I wondered if a little kid dropped him, or if he was put out for someone to take? I felt bad for him but I left him there, in case someone came looking for him.

He reminded me of that famous passage from "The Velveteen Rabbit":
“Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real." 
"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit. 
"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."
"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?" 
"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand." 
I never read that book as a child, but I remember hearing that passage in an animated TV show at some point. I heard it not knowing the story and it made an impact -- I even wrote it down in my journal as best I could remember it -- and then it took me years to figure out that what I'd been watching was "The Velveteen Rabbit." It could have been the 1985 Meryl Streep version, though I would have been 18 or 19 when that came out, so perhaps it was an earlier one.

At any rate, the lost rabbit above seems quite real.

I'm actually trying to cut down on some of the stuff we have lying around our apartment, so picking up a wayward bunny was the last thing I needed to do. I'm feeling oppressed by all our belongings. As I mentioned the other day, I donated two big bags of books from our bookshelves, and I've set aside some other things for charity. I think I'm going to Freecycle some larger items, too.

Spring just seems like the natural time to do this kind of thing, doesn't it?

Tuesday, March 21, 2023


Back once again in the working world, after a restful weekend. My day was mostly consumed yesterday by the tornado, and probably will be today too.

Today's Google doodle (the first thing I see when I open my web browser in the morning) celebrates Nowruz, which is apparently the Iranian New Year. But the doodle also looks very spring-like and it reminded me to take note of the first day of spring, which was yesterday! How did I miss that?!

Anyway, happy spring. (And happy Nowruz, for that matter.) I'm noticing the first grape hyacinths in the garden and other signs of seasonal change. I'm ready.

There were 58 comments in my Blogger spam folder this morning -- mostly my own. WHAT IS GOING ON?!?!

(Photo: Hampstead, on Sunday.)

Monday, March 20, 2023

Bahama Drama

I slept like a log last night. I got in bed about 8:30 p.m., intending to read, but before even an hour had passed I had to give up because I kept losing focus -- and I slept all the way through the night, which is unusual because Olga usually wakes me up at least once. I feel like I slept forever but I guess it was only eight hours. Still, it felt great.

Maybe I'm coming down from all the stress of last week. Please, God, let this week be more normal.

Dave had his colonoscopy yesterday. The photos show the elevator lobby on the lower ground floor of the Royal Free Hospital. I love how they've tried to make it look like a Caribbean idyll. "You're not in the hospital, you're in...the Bahamas!"

His procedure went fine. Meanwhile, I read a book and walked the streets near the hospital, looking for photo opportunities. I suppose I didn't really need to be there at all except to bring him home because he'd been given sedatives. And then, when the time came for me to fulfill my role, I couldn't get the Uber app on my phone to work and he had to call his own Uber anyway. Some escort I turned out to be!

The first thing he did upon getting home was dig into a bag of Doritos and a can of cheese dip. Ugh.

The nurse said Dave's colonoscopy was clear and showed no inflammation from his Crohn's, so that's good. We haven't determined the cause of his hand tremor, which is the reason he had the procedure -- on his neurologist's theory that his Crohn's was acting up and causing his hands to shake. But apparently not. It may be an unsolvable mystery, and in any case the tremors have been better lately.

I'm reading "The Last Confessions of Sylvia P." It's a novel by Lee Kravetz based on Sylvia Plath, and it's good. It reminds me of "The Hours," with a structure that switches between three voices and three time periods. Why is Sylvia Plath an object of such endless fascination? I was fascinated with her too when I was younger, reading her biography and "The Bell Jar" and all her collected poems. I suppose it's the drama, the outward appearance of having so much while being so inwardly tormented. I find all that pathos rather exhausting now, but she still qualifies as one of my favorite poets -- or at least the one whose work I know best. The relative accessibility of her poems counts in her favor, too.

I found 36 comments in my Blogger spam folder this morning, going all the way back to the beginning of my blog. They were all one- or two-word comments. Apparently brevity is now among the criteria for Blogger to pull comments as spam. It took a while to republish them all. Argh!

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Badger and Backscratcher

No, that is not a real badger -- as I'm sure you can tell. Olga and I came across it yesterday at the cemetery, perched on its rock. If it were a real badger it might well be culled, as the UK has been on a ferocious years-long campaign against badgers for ostensibly carrying tuberculosis that could infect cattle. Don't get me started on what I think about that. Let the poor badgers alone, I say.

Thanks for the comments on yesterday's post. You may have noticed it got shorter over the course of the morning. I said little to begin with, then I rethought it and said even less. At any rate, most of you seem to understand what's happening, and I think many of you can infer where I'm coming from, which was my immediate goal. Eventually I'll be able to talk about it all more freely.

I just found 11 comments in my spam folder. What's up with that? It's more than I've ever found before. Two of them really were spam, but the rest were simply short comments on old posts, including many by me. Blogger apparently suspects comments of just a few words, like "Very cool!" and "Woo hoo!" I approved them all so the folder is clear once again.

Yesterday morning was gray and rainy, so I spent it cleaning the dining room. I wiped down the baseboards and the windowsill and washed the windows on the inside. Then I moved the bookcase (which hadn't been moved since the carpeting was replaced) and cleaned beneath and behind it, and I went through all the books and filled two bags to donate to Oxfam. Whew!

At 1 p.m. or so I walked Olga to the cemetery. Here she is scratching her back on a favorite bush:

Hopefully Nellie doesn't mind.

In addition to the badger, we found a wayward toy owl. It's lying on the ground next to Olga in the photo above, but here's a closeup:

Another dog's plaything, I'm guessing.

Today Dave is having a colonoscopy, and I've got to accompany him in order to bring him home. That all happens right in the middle of our day, so there will be no Thames Path for me this weekend. Maybe next week.

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Living in a Tornado

Maybe you've been able to tell that I haven't been "all here" this week. It's been a crazy time, and I think I can now reveal why. I became aware of a parent complaint about some of the books in our school library, which culminated today in this article.

As much as I want to, I can't respond on my blog to the assertions made in that story. That is all up to the school.

I'm dying to say more. DYING to. But I think I'd better leave it there for now.

Meanwhile, I'm going to try to have a normal weekend. I think I'll walk another section of the Thames Path, but I might wait until tomorrow because today looks a bit damp. Today I might just stick to the ol' neighborhood.

(Photo: A fallen primrose in Fortune Green.)

Friday, March 17, 2023

Nigel and the Refugees

My first post of random photos from my new iPhone! You'll find they're probably not all that different from my previous phone's pics, but's a milestone.

First, a collection of stickers I found on a shop security gate on my walk to work yesterday morning. I find them heartening but sadly, I'm not sure they reflect public opinion.

Someone had a bad day!

This is where the Billy Fury mural used to be. As you can see, it is long gone and the wall is now just a mass of graffiti. "Nigel" is a recent addition.

More refugee advocacy: The bottom sticker reads "No One is Illegal" in Dutch. The top sticker features an Italian artist.

Never fear! Eggs Man is here!

Looks like someone who works for TFL cut up and discarded their photo ID. Part of it didn't make it into the trash.

A random smiley face on a passage beneath the clubhouse on the rugby fields near the cemetery. Olga and I used to walk this way all the time and we haven't much lately, but she took me that way a couple of weeks ago for old times' sake.

And finally, this figure stands in the Hampstead Church Cemetery, which is a different cemetery from the one I usually visit with Olga. Every time I've seen this statue, it's been holding a flower. I wonder who takes it upon themselves to replace it and keep it fresh?

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Construction Dread

I got a call from the management company for our flat yesterday morning, telling me a contractor has been chosen for the renovation of our bathroom and some other repair work. They're supposed to get in touch with me to schedule a start date within the next couple of weeks.

On one hand: Yay! A new bathroom!

On the other: This is going to be a messy process. And I wonder what it's going to be like for Olga, who's going to have to be here during all the sawing and pounding. We can close her into the living room, which is at the back of the house where she spends her time anyway, but there's still going to be a lot of noise and activity. Plus her dog-walker will have to navigate the construction zone to get her in and out each day.

Dogs are adaptable and I suppose as long as we keep the interior doors closed she might not be too disturbed. But I wish I could just snap my fingers and have all the disruption behind us.

Also, the washing machine repairman wrote me yesterday and wanted pictures of our machine, including the make and model number, as well as a video showing the problem. The problem isn't really very interesting to watch -- it's just an error code that flashes and stops the machine mid-cycle. But I made a video. I share it with you in the spirit of humor because it's so boring.

Work has been all-consuming this week, so I haven't been around the blogosphere as much as usual but rest assured that we're all still here and life goes on!

(Photos: Hampstead, last weekend.)

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

A Nothing Post

The daffodils on the housing estate I pass on my walk to work -- the one with Leon's "Ideas" sculpture on a pedestal -- are blooming up a storm!

London is facing a big tube strike today. Fortunately it doesn't affect me much because I'm able to walk to work, but I know I'm lucky in that respect.

Yesterday, my first day back post-Covid, went fine. Lots of people asked me how I was feeling and what my experience with the illness was like. There's still quite a bit of curiosity around Covid even though most of us have had it at least once by now. I was happy to disappoint everyone by saying my symptoms were minimal.

Otherwise, not a lot else is going on. As I lie in bed writing this post it's 33º F outside. It was supposed to freeze this morning and there's a touch of frost on the lawn, but the birdbath isn't frozen so I don't think it quite got there. This was our last expected cold night for quite a while, so the plants go back outside before I go to work.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Back to Routines, with Drink Coasters

I would be hard-pressed to tell you what I did yesterday. That's how exciting my day was. I basically sat on the couch and read an entire issue of the New Yorker, including stories about the demise of the English major and the downfall of German payments company Wirecard, as well as another one of Elizabeth Kolbert's we're-all-screwed environmental articles.

Oh, and I took a shower. And cut my hair. (Yes, I always cut my own hair, basically shaving my head.)

Olga's dog-walker came so we weren't responsible for getting her any exercise, and we were still technically isolating even though we felt fine and I tested Covid-negative in the morning. So we couldn't have gone anywhere public -- at least, not indoors -- even if we wanted to.

But that has all changed as of today! Woo hoo! We are free birds once again, able to rejoin society and hopefully immune to Covid to boot, at least for a while. We're both off to work and back to our normal routines.

Oh, actually, I did walk Olga yesterday morning. We did our normal loop through the neighborhood and while on the nearby housing estate I found a skip full of kitchenware. Someone threw out pretty much the entire contents of their kitchen, it looked like. I saved a colander (not sure why since we already have two) as well as these drink coasters. They are made to look somewhat scuffed. That's part of their cool retro vibe. They're actually in almost perfect condition.

Dave ordered in some groceries from Ocado, and I finally got some kitchen cleanser so was able to clean the kitchen sink and the bathroom. I've been wanting to do it for days. We also got some bird food so the feeders are full once again and right now there's a fat pigeon on the seed tray and a flock of fluttering tits on the suet feeder.

In short, it's back to life as usual.

(Top photo: The hellebores in our garden. This is a photo from my big camera, which I'm still using now and then.)

Monday, March 13, 2023

Washing and Re-Washing

I was just reading about the Oscars. If it had been up to me I'd have given the top awards to the same people and the same movies -- so good results all around, I think, if a bit predictable. 

A ghost, or something, seized control of our laundry machine yesterday morning. I started a load of wash around 10 a.m. and at about noon I realized the machine wasn't running anymore. I went to empty it and it had stopped mid-cycle, flashing "Error F:13" on the screen. (Googling now, I see that this relates to "a faulty sensor within the dryer heater assembly.") I didn't know at what point the cycle had stopped, so I restarted the whole thing and just washed the clothes again. Somehow, though, I must have programmed it to run TWO cycles, because by mid-afternoon it was still washing! Those poor clothes! I stopped it manually, spun the clothes and hung them up to dry -- and now I suppose our washing machine needs servicing. Argh!

Add that to the other things going on in our flat -- an evolving plan to remodel the bathroom and repair and repaint the hallway walls, damaged by a slow leak in the shower; a plan to replace our range (or "hob," as the British call it) as well as the kitchen floor; repairs to a leak over the living room window; and repainting the dining room ceiling, damaged by a leak upstairs. This place is going to be chaos in the coming months.

We were feeling hints of spring yesterday. The temperature got almost up to 60º F and the sun was out, more or less. We took Olga to Fortune Green and the cemetery, where I shot that picture above of those amazing crocuses.

Be prepared for lots of barking. I told Dave I was going to post this video and he said, "Ugh. My hair!"

Here's Olga at the cemetery. When I showed Dave this photo, he said, "She looks huge! Like a horse!"

So we had a good if muddy walk, and when we came home I opened up the house to let in some fresh air. It felt great to get those windows open, even for just half an hour or so. I feel like I've been living in a hermetically sealed box for months.

Today is our last day of Covid isolation, though both of us feel well. Like I've said, I think I detected my infection rather late so I'm probably well past the infective period now. I clarified my absence with my boss yesterday afternoon and she said she's still healthy, so that's a good sign that maybe I didn't infect everyone I work with. I'll find out more tomorrow.

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Cactus Flower and Tár

One of our little cacti is blooming again, on the windowsill in the dining room. It has bloomed before -- in 2019, 2020 and 2021 -- and it looks like there are still a couple of unopened buds, so I think a few more flowers are still to come this year. I feel a little bad for it, going to all the trouble to flower in an environment where there are no pollinating insects. Sorry, cactus! If I lived in Arizona I'd put you outside!

Not that I'd ever want to deal with cactus seeds.

The cactus on the right has never bloomed in the three years we've had it, and I'd love to know what its flowers would look like, but it still shows no sign of producing any. Maybe not all cacti flower, or maybe it has to be much older or bigger. Who knows.

I took Olga to the Heath yesterday. Yes, I know, I'm supposed to be isolating, but I figure being outside can't be harmful as long as I don't stop and chat with anyone -- and I don't. We walked to the Heath and were there just long enough for Olga to lie in the grass, roll around a few times and half-heartedly chase her tennis ball twice. Then we came home. I think she enjoyed the walk but she didn't have a whole lot of steam.

In the afternoon I continued reading Etgar Keret and ate some leftover fortune cookies from a Chinese takeaway we had for dinner last week.

Do you suppose that incorrect "your" is intentional, given the message?

Finally, last night Dave and I watched "Tár," with Cate Blanchett. It was good, with very polished production values and nods to the New Yorker-reading, NPR-listening armchair intellectuals of our day,  and it gave me a lot to think about. Some of the dialogue and musical references were so "inside baseball" that I told Dave, "I'm amazed this movie got made. I imagine only about 12 people in the country would understand this conversation." But in the end, the musical terminology didn't really matter. It was all about the character, and Blanchett embodies her perfectly.