Friday, June 30, 2023

Today I'm a Hand Model

The painter finished up yesterday -- at least as much as he could, for the time being. It turns out the hallway wall is still too damp to paint. I guess years of saturation from that slow plumbing leak in the shower have taken their toll. The contractors are going to give it more time to see if it dries out more thoroughly. (Dave, who knows more about this building stuff than I do, thinks they need to scrape off all the old wall covering down to the lathe and then re-coat it.)

Meanwhile, at least the bathroom is done:

Check out our fancy (ha!) new extractor fan!

See what I mean about that periwinkle color? I like it. You can't quite tell from the pictures but it almost has a tiny, tiny touch of purple to it.

Just as the painter was finishing up I decided to tackle the problem of the clogged downspout by the front door. Now that we've had some rain, the ground was soft enough for me to grab a spade and dig around the base of the pipe. I did eventually locate the pipe's opening, and figured out that it merely empties into the garden and not into any kind of drain system. But the opening was a couple of inches below the surface of the soil, and the base of the pipe itself was packed with mud and debris. (Including what looked like an old Duracell battery, weirdly.)

Fortunately, the painter was still here, and he happened to have a metal saw in his truck. So he cut off the bottom three inches or so of the drainpipe, which removed the clog and elevated the opening above ground level. We tested it and now water runs through it smoothly. So I think that problem is solved.

I found that little sticker above in the front garden while doing that work -- probably discarded by the Russian мальчики (that apparently means "boys") upstairs!

Finally, here's another project I've been intending to launch. This ginger root sprouted leaves while sitting on our kitchen counter. I planted it yesterday hoping it will grow. It's kind of a gamble and no sweat if it dies, but maybe it will turn out like our avocado and be a beautiful new houseplant! It required some awkward positioning to keep both of those sprouts above ground, and the root itself is somewhat exposed, but hopefully it's surrounded by enough dirt to prosper. (And I'm thinking spicy and pungent ginger root should be a de facto squirrel deterrent, but we'll see!)

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Pink Feather

I was walking Olga on Finchley Road a couple of weeks ago when we found this feather stuck in some weeds beneath a tree. It's clearly not from nature. Maybe someone was wearing a feather boa to work?

It stayed there for a while, and then, when I walked Olga past there a few days ago, we found this:

Someone had pulled out the weeds and installed artificial turf beneath the trees. Olga seemed perplexed. I hope it doesn't interfere with their ability to absorb rainwater!

I'm getting a late start on the blog today because I slept in a bit. Normally the dog wakes me up at the crack of dawn -- which as I've said in previous posts, is like 4:30 a.m. at this time of year. But this morning it's raining outside (YES! RAIN!) and even with the drapes closed I think she could tell. She could probably hear it. In any case, she seemed content to stay in bed.

The painter was here yesterday, and the bathroom is pretty much finished. It's very blue, a slightly darker shade than before -- something like periwinkle. I like it, though, and it's a million times better than it was. Today he's coming back to take care of the hallway and some other slightly damaged areas, and then he should be done. I'll share pictures!

We got a bit of a scare because while cleaning I noticed a crack in one of the new tiles around the bathtub. I assumed it occurred during installation, and I was envisioning lots of drama in notifying the contractors and trying to get it replaced. But when I looked at it this morning I realized it's not a crack at all -- just a thin line of spilled, hardened caulk. (Which will no doubt be a pain to get off, but at least the tile doesn't have to be swapped out. I was literally lying awake last night wondering how to make that happen.)

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Toledo Mole

Yesterday evening I got the exciting news that the painters are going to show up TODAY to finish off our bathroom renovation project. You may remember that they were waiting a month for the walls to dry out, following our slow plumbing leak. So, yay! We've been staring at these stripped, blotchy walls for ages and I'll be happy to have them finally refinished.

Otherwise, the day was pretty uneventful. I spent most of it on the couch, reading. I'm about halfway through Amelia Abraham's book "Queer Intentions: A (personal) journey through LGBTQ+ culture," which seems like a good thing to read during Pride season. Abraham has been exploring topics such as drag culture and gay marriage in the UK and the states. She's British, so I will forgive her geographical imprecision in sentences such as: "He was born in 1971 in Toledo, a small town on a lake near Ohio." (Toledo is, in fact, a city of more than a quarter of a million people, on not just "a" lake but Lake Erie, one of the Great Lakes. And it's IN Ohio.)

Anyway, my bitchiness aside, it's been an interesting book so far.

Speaking of Pride, I just realized yesterday that the London Pride march is this Saturday, which is the same day Dave and I will be heading to the south coast with Olga for a few days of R&R. So it looks like I'll be missing Pride this year. I suppose I'll survive. We're going to Pevensey Bay, which is where William the Conqueror landed way back in 1066 before fighting it out with the Saxons at the Battle of Hastings.

At least there's no train strike, as far as I'm aware.

Apropos of nothing, here's a funny cartoon from The New Yorker I came across online. May your day be free of dermatological (or any other) concerns!

(Top photo: Taken in Rotherhithe on Monday.)

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Tower Bridge to Greenland Pier

I got back on the Thames Path yesterday morning for a walk around Rotherhithe, from Tower Bridge to Greenland Pier (about four miles). I started at the Tower Hill tube station and crossed Tower Bridge to the south bank of the Thames. Above shows the view back to the bridge from the waterfront neighborhood known at Shad Thames.

It was a good day for walking, sunny enough to be pleasant without being broiling. I saw so many towering hollyhocks in gardens and along streets. Our hollyhocks are, as usual, just little tiny things with a handful of leaves and no flowers. I don't know why we don't have better luck with them in our garden.

The path took me through part of Bermondsey -- "the filthiest, strangest and most extraordinary of the many localities that are hidden in London," according to Charles Dickens. I passed through a bone-dry little riverside park ironically called Fountain Green Square, and past the ruins of a 14th Century house built by King Edward III. It was little more than a rocky foundation protruding from the ground.

This riverside sculpture is called "Doctor Salter's Daydream," by Diane Gorvin (1991). Alfred Salter and his wife Ada were pacifist reformers who both served in government and worked to improve the living conditions in Bermondsey, then a notorious slum. Their daughter, Joyce, died of scarlet fever at a young age, and this sculpture is meant to represent Salter remembering his family in earlier years.

My walk took me past the Mayflower Pub, said to be the oldest riverside pub in London, and offered views of the gasometer (above) through some of the housing developments along the water. The river was at my back when I took the photo above.

I crossed the bascule bridge over the channel leading to Surrey Quays (above). This was among many familiar sights as I'd been in this area before.

The path stuck mainly to the river all the way through Rotherhithe, occasionally veering inland where it passed sights like this scenic pub.

At Surrey Docks Farm, a riverside attraction with animals, gardens and a cafe, I found a display case featuring bits of antique animal-themed pottery that had been found on the Thames foreshore. You know I'm a sucker for interesting old bits of china.

Meanwhile, the gleaming towers of Canary Wharf shone across the river like the Emerald City. Even here a hollyhock was happily growing and blooming, having seeded itself in a crack in the pavement!

This section of the path ended at Greenland Pier, so named because it served whaling vessels back in the day. From there I walked inland to the Surrey Quays overground station and caught the tube home.

Monday, June 26, 2023

A Roll in a Hole

We had a warm afternoon yesterday, with temperatures around 88º F (that's 31º C). I was going to take Olga to the Heath for a swim, but she pulled toward the cemetery, so I indulged her and we went there instead.

You can see how dry the ground is.

That little gravestone that's slowly disappearing back into the earth says, "In Loving Memory of Our Darling Baby, Charles Prebble Rowe, Sept. 18th, 1908."

Olga managed to find a way to "swim" despite the absence of any ponds at the cemetery. There's a hole at the base of this water spigot that happened to have some muddy liquid collected in it, and she did her darndest to force her entire body into that tiny puddle. Then she pawed it looking for her ball, which I was holding. (She's a little absent-minded these days.)

But she was happy! When we got home, she got a bath in the yard and slept soundly the rest of the evening.

Other than walking the dog, it was a pretty sedate and restful day. Mr. Russia came over in the afternoon to take a look at the stained ceiling in the dining room, where their upstairs leak caused some water damage about six months ago. He gave it a treatment with antiseptic wipes and some cleaning compound, and I must say it looks much better. If I'd know that's all it would take I'd have done it myself. After it dries out thoroughly, he'll paint it, but I'm already pretty happy with the improvement.

Have you watched "Black Mirror" on Netflix? The new season is amazing. I'm obsessed with it!

Sunday, June 25, 2023

Bibendum II

While I've been showering you with random photos, we've been having a busy couple of days here. Or, more accurately, evenings.

Dave's birthday was Thursday, and on that day we stayed home and had store-bought birthday cake. I even scrounged up some candles from the depths of our kitchen cabinets! I gave him his present, the fun socks I bought for him at Selfridge's.

But the real celebration came the next night, when we went to Claude Bosi at Bibendum. Bosi was the chef who created Hibiscus, a London restaurant that Dave and I always intended to visit, but it closed before we had a chance. When I did a search for a birthday outing, I realized Bosi has taken over at the storied restaurant Bibendum in Kensington. You may remember (but probably not) that Dave and I visited Bibendum right after we moved to London. We were disappointed in it then, but with Bosi at the helm it seemed time to give it another chance.

The restaurant's decor has changed slightly, as you'd expect after 12 years. But the building -- which used to be the London headquarters of Michelin tires -- is still a grand icon, with its big stained glass windows featuring the Michelin man. (His real name is Monsieur Bibendum, hence the name of the restaurant. I once helped win a bar quiz by knowing the answer to that question!)

We got the seven-course tasting menu, and one of my dishes is shown above -- duck jelly with white onion, smoked sturgeon and caviar, artfully presented on a sort of moonscape plate. I had guinea fowl as my main, and Dave had rabbit.

Anyway, the dinner was wonderful -- so much better than our last time in that building. I'd recommend Claude Bosi at Bibendum to anyone.

Then, last night, Dave cooked dinner for several of our soon to be ex-colleagues: music teacher Gordon and his wife Donna, and my supervisor in the library, Karen, and her husband, Rod, a retiring science teacher. (Donna also works in education but not at our school, and she's not retiring -- yet.)

He made a chilled vegetable gazpacho with burrata, followed by Jacques Pépin's Chicken Jardinière and an apple tarte Tatin for dessert. (I can't even tell you how long it took me to find all those little accent marks on my keyboard just now. Argh!) We had G&Ts and then champagne in the garden to start, followed by dinner in the dining room with Olga snoring loudly in the corner -- when she wasn't begging for chicken, that is.

I ran two loads of dishes last night, then got up this morning and spent about an hour putting the kitchen back together. Dave cooks like a tornado, and afterwards it's a FEMA disaster zone in there. Now the dishwasher is running its third load, and there's light at the end of the tunnel. At least we're all well-fed!

Saturday, June 24, 2023


I have things to write about, but I also have a stack (digitally speaking) of miscellaneous pictures to blog -- so let's do the pictures today and I'll write a real post tomorrow!

First, I made this rather disturbing find on our high street while walking the dog. It's not often I find a human head lying around, even a plastic one, and especially with so much hair. (And a beard like Rasputin!) Do you suppose this is for the use of barber/stylist trainees?

A few weeks ago I mentioned going to dinner with Dave's colleagues, one of whom got a fancy dessert that looked like a cricket ball. There was at least one request to see the dessert -- so here it is. I wish I'd moved quickly enough to take a picture before the waiter poured chocolate sauce over it, but you get the idea. 

This small box from Amazon amused the heck out of me. I could just hear someone saying that. When I Googled the phrase, I realized it's a reference to Sir Mix-a-Lot's 1992 song, "Baby Got Back." Wonder if he's making royalties on it?

The Daily Mail produced a whole article on the generational consternation that's been caused by some people's failure to recognize this lyric.

Lots of free chairs out there for the taking this week. (I did not take them.)

This sign was propped up in the very reflective window of a local workout space. (I hesitate to call it a gym -- it's just a shopfront with workout equipment, but that's how a lot of gyms are nowadays, at least around here.)

I liked this very enthusiastic sign on someone's door -- especially their "gender neutral" reference to the "post person."

And finally, I found this guy near a produce vendor's cart while on my recent trip to Covent Garden. I got news for you, buddy -- fruit or not, we're going to end up like you. It might take longer with some fruit, I'll grant you that. (And why do you only have one leg?)

Friday, June 23, 2023

And Now, the News

This was the scene as Olga and I lay on the grass yesterday afternoon. I was reading and Olga...wasn't.

I finished "The Bluest Eye," which was poetic and beautiful and sad. There is no reason on this earth why that book should be banned from any library. I can think of much, much more troubling and prurient books. It's so weird what these book-banning types focus on. I think the fact that it's by a black woman and is essentially about racism probably amplifies whatever sexual offensiveness they perceive in its pages.

There's been some interesting stuff going on in the news lately:

1. The Titanic submersible story was horrible, but I'm comforted now to learn that the passengers apparently died instantly and early on in the ordeal. It was much worse to imagine them trapped two miles below the surface of the ocean in a cold, dark tube with dwindling air. It reminded me of the sinking of the Kursk more than 20 years ago, which gave me nightmares at the time. (Psychologically, I don't do submarines.)

2. I've seen a couple of stories about Tucker Carlson's former producers leaving Fox News. (Does anyone doubt they're going to work for him in some capacity as he ramps up his own fake-news production company?) What's interesting in these stories is the repeated, stated emphasis on the fact that Fox's executives are women. Carlson's own quote, following the appearance of the chyron that called Joe Biden a "wanna-be dictator," was: "Inside Fox, the women who run the network panicked...First they scolded the producer who put the banner on the screen." The Gateway Pundit called them "the ladies in charge." It doesn't take much imagination to pick up on the misogyny -- those panicky, scoldy women!

3. Here in the UK, our economy is said to be in a "growth doom loop" following the catastrophe of Brexit and decades of underinvestment by Tory governments. All that austerity did us a world of good, didn't it? Even pro-Brexit voters think leaving the EU has been a shambles, but of course they blame the politicians for screwing it up, rather than admitting it was a terrible idea from the get-go.

4. The median age in the United States is now 38.9 years, the oldest it's ever been. I immediately suspected this was the result of the aging of the Baby Boomers, which I believed to be the largest generation. But apparently my info is out of date. The Millennials are actually the largest generation, followed by something called Generation Z (born after 1997). Then come the Baby Boomers in third place. I knew my generation, Generation X, was smaller than the others, but it's not that much smaller. Anyway, the U.S. is apparently getting older primarily because there are fewer babies.

5. Finally, did you see that Teresa Taylor, a drummer for the punk band the Butthole Surfers, died? This is significant to me only because she's the public face of the early '90s movie "Slacker," pictured on the posters and DVD case. This was a seminal movie for Generation X, supposedly portraying our malaise and lack of direction. Her death makes me feel old. (By the way, I'm not thrilled about putting the word "butthole" on my blog, but if The New York Times can put it in a headline, I suppose I can tolerate it.)

This was my big project yesterday. I moved the foxglove seedlings from the seed tray to individual pots, so they can grow on and get bigger. I tried very hard to plant a minimum of seeds so I didn't wind up with too many plants, but I still have 18 of them! It's so hard to control those tiny seeds, which are like dust. (Two of those plants I don't think are foxgloves, but I repotted them anyway just to see what they become.)

Thursday, June 22, 2023

First Dahlia, and a Horror Show

Here's the first dahlia of the season, opening on a plant that's never bloomed before. It was a seedling that sprouted of its own accord in another pot -- how a dahlia seed got into that pot, I have no idea -- and I transplanted it into its own pot last year. It's one of the "Bishop's Children" variety. I have six of those, all budding now. Dahlia-o-rama!

Here's something else that has bloomed -- our passionflower vine. It also grew from seed, in a pot holding our olive tree. I have no idea how I could ever separate those plants. I imagine their roots are so intertwined they're like conjoined twins.

And then there's this horror show. Those are the caterpillars of the Solomon's seal sawfly, and they are positively devouring our Solomon's seal. In past years I've removed them by hand and killed them, on the theory that doing so might break their life cycle. But it never works out that way -- we always have them the following year no matter what -- and according to the RHS:
Whilst the defoliation caused by Solomon's seal sawfly can appear severe it normally occurs after flowering and the plants will usually put on healthy growth in the following year. Therefore this insect can be tolerated and the plants will survive.
So this year, I'm letting them do their thing. They can eat and reproduce to their hearts' content. Or they could if they had hearts, that is.

Finally, it occurred to me that when I shared those old photos from Covent Garden yesterday, I forgot to include the picture of Trafalgar Square I mentioned. So here it is. It's a beautiful shot, isn't it? And a beautiful print. I have it propped up on a table now but I intend to put it in a frame. What do you think -- late '60s, early '70s? Maybe mid-'70s? Maybe even early '80s? Hard to say.

The only real hint on the time period is the bus behind this guy. I've tried Googling the name (Dunnsman? Dunnsman's?) on that advertisement and come up with nothing. If any of you recognize the brand or have any other ideas, let me know. And in case you're interested, here is the entire collection of old pics I bought at Covent Garden.

It's Dave's birthday today. I have a celebration dinner planned for tomorrow (I couldn't get a reservation tonight) and the next night we have a dinner party, so today we'll be keeping things low-key!

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Cacti and Short Pants

Now for a look at some of the old photos I bought at Covent Garden.

I love this first one -- the poses, the smoking, the shovel. It looks like they might be working on some kind of garden project, or thinking about it, anyway. The women are wearing identical shoes.

This must be someone's birthday party. I bet that kid in the middle grew up to be a Tory member of Parliament.

Cacti and short pants -- a bad combination!

"I could have been Christopher Robin, if only my father had more talent!"

These two remind me of The Avengers, minus John Steed's bowler hat. But Emma Peel wouldn't be caught dead in that shapeless sweater. Probably just a father and daughter out at the pub!

I'm always a sucker for pictures of people with their animals.

This shot is blurry, but aren't those shadows a great effect?

Finally, this says on the back, "Mum." She doesn't look very comfortable, does she?

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Pride Flags, a Portrait and Beads

I had some errands to run yesterday, and fortunately they were all the fun kind. Well, first I had to drop that student's AirPods off at school -- I suppose that wasn't too fun. But after that, I headed down to Covent Garden for some shopping!

And there, the Pride flags are flying, as you can see above.

It was antiques day at the Jubilee Market, and I wanted to find some more interesting old snapshots. So I browsed around a bit and found one guy who had this rather intriguing portrait, which I bought for two pounds:

I don't usually go for formal studio portraits, but I like the clarity and detail in this one, as well as the indeterminate ethnicity of the woman.

Here's the back, proclaiming the portrait a product of the Studio of Theodore Waltenberg of Bethnal Green Road.

Anyway, a good start for £2. And then I found a guy with a box full of old pictures and I rummaged through those. As I looked, bent at a rather painful and awkward angle over his too-low tabletop, the proprietor sat behind it and talked to me CONSTANTLY. He kept asking me questions: "What's the main difference, do you think, between Americans and British people?" "Why are there so many guns in America?" And telling me about his travels to Florida because, of course, he'd been there.

Now, I don't mind some friendly banter, but this guy was non-stop, and it was hard to concentrate while being quizzed about NRA policy. I went through all his pictures at lightning speed because I just wanted to get the heck out of there. (Actually, I've found that's a good way to evaluate pictures -- I go on my first impulse. If it doesn't interest me right away, I drop it.) I wound up spending £11 for 25 pictures including a beautiful old 8x10 print of Trafalgar Square, taken some time in the late '60s or early '70s. I'll share some of them tomorrow.

Then I moved on to the Apple Store where I bought my own pair of AirPods. Woo hoo! And they are wonderful. I walked around with them in my ears for the rest of the morning. I've fallen out of the habit of listening to music as I walk, but I really enjoyed it and I can see they will make my daily walks to and from work much more pleasant.

Finally, I went to a bead shop near Hatton Garden, London's jewelry district. I needed some stretchy beading cord, because I had a couple of bead bracelets that had broken and needed repair.

Ta-da! The skull bracelet was made by a friend of mine at the Zendo where I used to practice in New York, back in my Zen days. I bought the big brown glass beads in Singapore. And I got the small ones in Burkina Faso, where they were on a single long strand I later gave to my mom (or was it my stepmother?). Anyway, whoever it was didn't wear them and they eventually came back to me, and yesterday I made them into three separate bracelets.

I don't wear bracelets often but it's nice to have them usable if and when I want to.

I was home by lunchtime, and I spent the afternoon reading blogs and waiting for the delivery of our new microwave oven. Our microwave finally died. It's been sputtering and doing weird things for a while -- it was about 12 years old, and it got daily use. The other day it began running for a microsecond before shutting off again, and its digital display looked like the cover of the "Ghost in the Machine" album by The Police. So we knew it was time for a replacement.

And now it's raining again! There's even thunder! How exciting!