Monday, July 31, 2023
I mentioned that I bought a stack of old photos while in Jacksonville. Let's travel back in time and enjoy this sample selection!
Written on the back of this first shot: "On top of a torpedo boat, sitting on a torpedo. Easter Sunday, April 8, 1928."
Pretty sure that's not a torpedo, but whatever.
Someone was really proud of their shiny pantsuit! Satin, I presume?
Written on the back: "This is the old barn, over 200 years old. I'm the one petting the dog. The others are the tenant and his children."
What are the odds this barn is still standing somewhere?
Dated 5/16/38 with this message typed on the back: "If I really looked like this -- no wonder you went to Mobile."
The more I look at this picture, the more interesting it gets. The toys (including a creepy clown!), the kid's pained expression, the fact that there's so much featureless vegetation off to the right. It's very strange framing. I guess they were trying to put the kid in the center.
How much more 1950s could we get? The standing ashtrays, the wood paneling, the sundress, the big earrings, and of course the bottle-fed baby. God forbid she should breastfeed that child! (Assuming she's the mom.)
Written on the back: "Dorothy was 'Grandma' in a play the last day of school."
Her costume reminds me of the old lady in the Sylvester and Tweety cartoons, but this might have been taken before those even came out. (According to Wikipedia, Tweety first appeared in 1942; Sylvester in 1945.) I guess it was a pretty conventional old lady look.
Finally, a shot of Key West's beloved Conch Train from 1963, with the Flagship Restaurant and some great old cars in the background. Key West must have seemed like the end of the world back then, a sunny remote speck at the end of a long, narrow highway. When I first went just over 20 years later, long before the cruise ships came, it felt that way to me.
If you're interested in seeing other old pictures I picked up in Jacksonville, the online album is here. (It also contains some I bought in February from the same shop.)
Sunday, July 30, 2023
I made it back to London early this morning, and despite the transit strikes didn't have any trouble getting home. I had to take the Heathrow Express nonstop train into town, which isn't the cheapest way to get here, but it's convenient and fast and there's something to be said for that. Especially after you've been sitting on an airplane for six-plus hours and in an airport for three hours before that.
We flew home on a slightly more northern route than usual. (John Gray -- we passed right over your house!)
I spent the flight mostly reading. I finished Michael Finkel's book "True Story: Murder, memoir, mea culpa," which was a compulsive page-turner. Finkel was a magazine journalist before he wrote, in a fit of editorial desperation, a somewhat fictionalized piece for The New York Times Magazine that killed his career. This book was an examination of that incident, interwoven with an account of Finkel's simultaneous professional involvement with a notorious murderer in Oregon, whose own loose relationship with truth enabled his life of criminality. So the whole thing was an examination of honesty. Very interesting and SUPER good!
I also watched "All the President's Men," one of my favorite movies and appropriate for continuing the truth-and-journalism themes.
I did meet up with my friends and my cousin in Washington, which was fun. It made me think I should do this kind of thing more often. Why, when I fly, do I not build in an extra day for a layover if it's somewhere I'd like to visit? My only regret was that I didn't have time to go into central Washington, which I always enjoy.
Now I need to catch up on blog-reading and comments and spend some time with Olga, who was very excited to see me come through the door. (Oh, and Dave too, of course. 😀 ) The garden is looking great. Lots of photos to come, like the ones of our teasels above.
Saturday, July 29, 2023
Guess where I am?
Hint: It's not London.
Second hint: There's a tall pointy thing in the middle of town called the "Washington Monument."
Yes, that's right, I'm in the capital of the USA, where I was supposed to change planes yesterday on my way to London. We experienced such a ridiculous series of delays getting my plane off the ground in Jacksonville that it didn't arrive in D.C. until an hour after my London flight had left.
I could have caught a later flight, at 10 p.m., but I wasn't crazy about flying out so late and arriving in London so late (11 a.m.). So I decided to bump the whole trip forward by 24 hours, which gave me an extra day in Washington that I could use to see people. As my friend Kevin said, I'm "making lemonade."
Today I'm meeting Kevin, who I've known since elementary school, and my friend Liz, from the Peace Corps, for brunch. Then I'll join my cousin Kristine for a quick snack before making my way to Dulles Airport. Kristine had expressed an interest in coming to Florida for my mom's funeral, but of course we didn't have one -- so I'm glad we can connect this way.
I'm staying in Crystal City, Virginia. My hotel has seen better days, but it's convenient and I knew I could walk to it from the metro (Washington's equivalent of the tube or subway) rather than faffing around with taxis. The airport delays yesterday were partly associated with weather, and apparently there are continued delays possible today -- something about severe storms in the northeast. Fingers crossed I get out smoothly!
(Photo: Near the Crystal City metro station, last night.)
Friday, July 28, 2023
As I write this it's been raining for at least four hours. It sounds like the front yard is pretty much all water. Hopefully the weather won't affect my flight out this afternoon. Ah, Florida!
Yes, I am returning to London today. Needless to say, I'm eager to see Dave and Olga, though I'll be landing in the middle of a transit strike so I have no idea how I'm going to get home from Heathrow. I'm going to play it by ear.
To wrap up my stay in Jacksonville, here's an assortment of photos taken around town during the past week.
I love the colorful building above, which looks like an old bank or office building. It's now being used for astrological readings, according to the paper signs outside. The Buddhist monk just happened to be walking by. "I didn't mean to photobomb you!" he said.
My brother and I took a long drive out toward Huguenot Island yesterday morning. We found this along the way. It looks like a remnant from an old putt-putt golf course. Dinosaur? Alligator? It's anyone's guess, and I suppose they are basically the same thing.
Some colorful graffiti in the Five Points neighborhood, where we went to lunch yesterday with my stepsister and her husband. My brother knows an excellent Mexican food place there, and I seldom get Mexican in London, so that was a treat.
More Five Points graffiti -- this time with an anti-police message.
This colorful building is in the Springfield neighborhood of north Jacksonville. It was a karate/judo school but it looks like it's closed now.
I mentioned that we spent some time Wednesday in an antique mall. (We did more antique browsing yesterday with my stepsister. I bought a postcard and an old hotel room key from the Fontainebleau in Miami Beach. Groovy!)
Anyway, one of the dealers on Wednesday had a horde of old magazines, including this one, which looks like the kind of traumatic fare regularly foisted off on children at mid-century. (Along with "Old Yeller" and "Bambi.")
Speaking of ducks, the paint was peeling off the wall in the men's room of another restaurant we went to, leaving this peculiar shape. Someone wrote next to it, "It's a duck." It does look very bird-like.
And speaking of men's rooms, this one (in the Mexican place) was decorated with a plethora of mirrors. A good opportunity for a self-portrait!
Next stop, London!
Speaking of ducks, the paint was peeling off the wall in the men's room of another restaurant we went to, leaving this peculiar shape. Someone wrote next to it, "It's a duck." It does look very bird-like.
And speaking of men's rooms, this one (in the Mexican place) was decorated with a plethora of mirrors. A good opportunity for a self-portrait!
Next stop, London!
Thursday, July 27, 2023
Yesterday was very routine. Apart from a few phone calls, there wasn't much to do related to my mom's estate. In fact, I keep having to remind myself she's gone -- because under normal circumstances she'd be at her retirement center anyway, rather than here with us at the house. Occasionally I feel the impulse to say to my brother, as I have in years past, "We should go see Mom!"
We're not having a service for her, and I suppose that's what would normally be occupying our time during this first week of mourning. My mom didn't want a service. It wouldn't make much sense to have one here in Jacksonville anyway, as she lived most of her life in Tampa and that's where all her longtime acquaintances are. She wasn't hugely social and her few close friends are almost all gone -- the one exception I can think of lives in Miami and is too ill to travel. So JM and I are sort of having our own service, an exchange of memories and remembrances woven into the fabric of everyday life. I suppose that post I wrote about her several days ago was a eulogy of sorts.
My stepsister and her husband drove up from Tampa yesterday to spend some time with us. That's another thing that makes this situation a little awkward -- my mom had no relationship with the half of my family from my dad's second marriage. So my stepmother and step-siblings have had no role to play in any of this, but I was glad that Jennifer came up yesterday and we could at least go to dinner. We'll see them again today.
I drove around a bit with my brother yesterday morning, as is our usual habit (he loves to drive). That's where these photos came from -- taken in the Springfield neighborhood north of downtown, including shadows on the floor of the cafe where we stopped for coffee.
In the afternoon we went to that big antique mall we visited last time I was here. I picked up a few more old photos to "rescue" and put online (you'll see some of those eventually, no doubt), as well as a book from 1979 called "Go and Catch a Flying Fish," about kids growing up on the Gulf Coast of Florida whose parents are going through a divorce. (Sounds familiar!) I've never heard of it and I'm not sure how good it will be but it hit so close to home I couldn't resist.
I feel like I did Snoop a disservice yesterday by making him sound so threatening. Here he is in a friendlier mode. When I pet him, he likes to lie down with the front half of his body and remain standing with the back half. It's the funniest pose.
This morning when I woke up and opened my bedroom door to go get coffee, he was standing right outside it, Kong in mouth, ready to play!
Wednesday, July 26, 2023
I took this photo while on a short walk near my hotel yesterday morning. I was trying to get some exercise, which is hard to do at this time of year. It's so bloody hot outside that any activity is limited to the morning or evening, and even then, you feel swaddled in a damp towel. I talked with Dave on FaceTime and that took my mind off the temperature.
My brother and I did some more family business, blah blah blah, and then we all went to the new Indiana Jones movie. (I'm just realizing I don't even know what it's called, and somehow, not knowing the title seems perfectly fine.) It was fun and fluffy and full of digital effects and pounding, relentless action, though it does make brief, cursory attempts at character development. I always feel slightly brutalized after modern action movies. Also, for an archaeologist, Indiana Jones wantonly destroys a whole lot of antiquities.
Speaking of being brutalized, I mentioned my brother's dog, Snoop, and how he loves to growl. Here's what I'm dealing with. He loves to play tuggy with his Kong toy and make lots of threatening noises. He also growls when I'm sitting in a chair not paying enough attention to him, because he wants to play, or when I'm petting him and he suddenly tires of it. As with a cat, you have to know when to stop!
Tuesday, July 25, 2023
Yesterday I mentioned a deluge of paperwork related to my mom's death, but actually it was a very short deluge. Once everything's been decided with the funeral home and the death certificates have been applied for, and the financial paperwork organized, then everything slows down. That doesn't mean there's not TONS more to do, but we have to do it according to the schedules of the professionals -- my mom's financial advisers, attorneys, that kind of thing.
So, long story short, we've done a lot of what we can do in the immediate sense. We're talking to the financial advisers later today but this is going to be a long, slow unspooling. Which I promise I will not write about every step of the way, unless I'm desperate and the only other option is to write about nematodes or the chemical properties of drying paint.
Yesterday we drove up to my brother's office to print out some documents and then went to get coffee. I took this photo (above) around the corner from the coffee shop. I've been there a million times but I'd never noticed this old cleaners' -- and then I realized that the stucco facade had basically fallen off the building, revealing that lettering beneath.
We stopped by an art gallery to make some contacts regarding some paintings that belonged to my grandparents. I don't know that we're going to sell them, but we at least want to know how much they're worth. Hopefully that information is forthcoming.
In the afternoon we did some minor tasks at home, when we weren't bedeviled by my brother's high-intensity dog, Snoop. That's Snoop above in his favorite place of retreat, beneath a hassock in the living room. He's really too big to fit under there but somehow he manages. When he's not powered down, he's thrusting his Kong toy in our faces and growling, in a constant effort to get us to play. It's kind of exhausting, and slightly threatening, but he's only two years old and still has lots of puppy energy.
We also watched "St. Elmo's Fire." My older niece, Jane, was troubled by the storyline involving Emilio Estevez and Andie MacDowell. He does basically stalk her, although back then it all seemed pretty harmless. The "me too" era has rightly heightened all our sensibilities.
We went to dinner last night at a restaurant on Julington Creek that I love, despite the fact that it's always insanely noisy. This was my meal, and it was a first for me -- lionfish. It's an aquarium fish from Southeast Asia with long, feathery fins that somehow escaped into the waterways around Florida and has become an invasive species. The hope is that by creating a commercial market for it, we can help control its numbers. So when I heard it was on the menu I was eager to try it.
The verdict: quite good! It's white and mild and not particularly bony. I'd order it again.
Someone decided that we each had to draw a picture of a watermelon. I went for the fractional option and didn't try very hard. My youngest niece, Kate, drew one that looks a lot like my lionfish.
And finally, this is where I spent last night. Remember how I'd originally planned to arrive in Jacksonville on Monday (yesterday)? Well, my brother and his family weren't going to be in town that first night, so I'd prepaid for a hotel room. Then, of course, my mom deteriorated and all those plans fell apart, but I still had this room to use. And darned if I was going to prepay for a room and not show up. So here I am.
It's actually a nice respite. For once, Snoop isn't crowding me with the Kong and nibbling on my fingers.
Monday, July 24, 2023
I haven't taken many pictures on this trip, obviously, having other things on my mind. But here are a few shots that I've managed to get so far. Above is from the window of my plane on Saturday morning, flying over the coastline of southern Georgia. That's Jekyll Island in the foreground, with the city of Brunswick behind it and to the right.
And this is the weather we got yesterday. Madness! I always forget how drenching a pounding Florida summer rain can be. Fortunately we didn't have to go anywhere so we were tucked indoors watching it from the window.
My brother has been working on my Mom's finances. We have to talk to her financial advisers and make life insurance claims and that kind of thing. There are boxes and boxes of paperwork. He's much more informed about all of that since he has power of attorney and has been dealing for years with her investments. I can make phone calls, obviously, but most of this work is inevitably going to fall to him as her executor.
Anyway, on Saturday we finalized all the immediate arrangements with the funeral home and ordered the death certificates, and I've placed an obituary in the Tampa paper which ought to run sometime this week.
When we're not dealing with official business, we're looking at pictures and talking about memories. Or I'm watching documentaries about sharks with my younger niece. Or I'm playing tug-of-war with Snoop, the family dog, who is very growly. Just look at him wrong, and he growls. He's playing (mostly) but it can be a little intimidating, especially when he bares his teeth.
Last night we went out to dinner at a local deli and my niece mentioned a mural of Bill Murray in the Murray Hill neighborhood. I said, "I have to see that!" So we went for a drive to the western part of the city, across the river from where my brother lives, and took in the mural...
...as well as a nearby chameleon. It's a cute part of town and it was nice to get out a bit.
I slept all the way through last night, from about 9:30 p.m. to 6 a.m., which felt fantastic. And I woke to the news that Dave is back in London with Olga after his Seattle trip. He sent a cute photo of her licking his face. I know she's glad to have one of her people back.
Sunday, July 23, 2023
This has always been my favorite picture of my mother. It was her high school graduation photo, from 1955.
For most of my life, my mom was the person I felt closest to in the world. Our relationship wasn't always easy -- she struggled when I came out as gay and she never understood my more artistic interests -- but nonetheless I see so much of her in myself. Not physically, because in that department I take after my dad's side of the family, but in my relentless practicality, my Protestant thrift and my somewhat snarky sense of humor. Every once in a while I'll make a wry remark and Dave will say, "That's your mother talking!"
Mom was born in Cambridge, Mass., in 1937. My grandfather was there teaching at MIT, and my grandmother was a recent graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music. That's Mom, above, as a girl, with her mother and younger brother.
When she was young the family moved to Hyattsville, Md., after my grandfather took a job with the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C. Perhaps my grandfather's good head for math and science influenced my mom's interest in numbers. If there's any truth to the old right brain vs. left brain dichotomy, Mom was left brain all the way.
Although her parents were conservative socially, they always encouraged her academically and professionally. She was never told there were things she couldn't or shouldn't do as a woman, and she excelled in math and graduated from Goucher College in Baltimore as a math major before getting her master's in mathematics from the University of Maryland.
She worked with early computers at the U.S. Bureau of Standards in the summers during college, a job she loved. She met my father, a fellow math student, in graduate school and they got married in 1962. Soon afterwards, my parents took faculty jobs in the math department at the newly created University of South Florida in Tampa.
I came along in 1966, and my brother in 1970. My mom continued working during those years, teaching at the university, but the early '70s and the sexual revolution were a tumultuous time for marriages all across the country and my parents divorced in 1974. It was an event that shook my mom to her core. She was furious at my father for years, even though Dad always contributed to our support and remained part of our lives. Through the rest of the '70s and '80s Mom saw pretty much every hardship through the lens of her divorce. She felt betrayed, and even decades later she always did her best to avoid speaking to him.
She and I had a good relationship, but in many ways -- especially when I was a child -- she did not get me. I liked to draw and write and take pictures and daydream and I was never very academically focused. I was perfectly happy making Bs and Cs in school, particularly in math class. She'd try to help me with math homework but it tested her patience. When I was in high school we invariably wound up in screaming matches that we called the "Algebra Wars." She couldn't comprehend why I had such trouble with numbers, which came so easily to her.
If I ever showed her anything I'd written -- a poem or a story -- rather than offer praise or criticism she'd often say, "Well, I don't really know much about writing." But on the other hand, she was a constant reader and often recommended books to me, which I always appreciated. (Until she told me to read "Catch-22," which I thought was terrible.)
In her own way she was supportive, but we were just so different. There's no question she made personal sacrifices for me and my brother. She never had another romantic relationship after my dad -- at least, not that I ever heard about. But I don't think she really wanted one. She came to enjoy her independence.
This is a terrible picture of my mom and brother, swimming in the lake behind our house in the '70s. I always laugh when I think of that bathing suit -- the green skirt suit with the little white flowers. She wore it for about 20 years, I think. She always said she couldn't find a decent replacement.
After I came out to my mom as a college student in the mid '80s, it took her a while to process my being gay, though of course it wasn't a total surprise. She was afraid it was somehow "her fault," and she worried about me because it was the height of the AIDS crisis. On some level she genuinely thought I might die (something I believed myself, despite always being careful).
I'm not sure I ever got over feeling like I had to make up for a terrible shortcoming. I organized trips with her several times -- to New Mexico, Germany, New Zealand and Italy -- and she came to see me when I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco and later, when I lived in New York (above). I'm always up for traveling, but I also felt responsible for making sure that she had those experiences -- that being single didn't keep her at home.
She had a firm sense of boundaries. She almost never inquired about my private life or relationships, though when I did mention boyfriends she was outwardly supportive. And when I married Dave she welcomed him into the family, and was always affectionate and friendly to him. She was quite liberal politically and she had nothing but scorn for homophobes or Bible thumpers -- despite being a lifelong Presbyterian churchgoer. Still, I've always felt that given a chance to flip a switch and make me straight, she'd have done it.
I've written before about her sale of our family home in 2015. In retrospect, I think she undertook that sale partly because she felt herself becoming more infirm. She moved into a senior community with graduated levels of care, and in 2019 she moved into an apartment in a memory care unit (above). When she died, she was in nursing care, essentially incapacitated. Time is ultimately cruel.
Even through our conflicts I always felt loved. She was a good mom. I will miss her.
Saturday, July 22, 2023
Right after I wrote yesterday's post, I took a tentative step toward changing my travel plans. I could tell from my FaceTime call with my mom that she was not going to last until Monday. So I called our friend Gordon, explained the situation and asked if he could take care of Olga for a few nights until Dave returns from Seattle. He said sure -- in fact he'd stay with her in our flat so Olga could keep her routines.
Then I got in touch with Travelocity to check out flight options, and long story short, I'm blogging from Newark, New Jersey, on my way to Jacksonville.
Unfortunately, right after I landed here, I got a text from my brother that my mom died about two hours earlier, at 6:50 p.m. He said he was with her at the time, holding her hand and talking to her, with Tony Bennett playing on the TV in the background.
So I won't get to see mom again, but honestly, I feel OK -- I made the attempt, and I'd said what I needed to say on our FaceTime call. I really don't think she was very aware anyway. I'm glad my brother was there, and after I arrive tomorrow morning I can help him settle things. I'll stay about a week.
My journey has been a financial boondoggle so far -- the airline wouldn't change or refund my Monday ticket, so I had to buy a SECOND ticket to fly yesterday. I'm going to appeal to their customer service people, with a copy of my mom's death certificate, to try to get the money back (or at least a voucher) for the Monday flight. Even if it was a nonrefundable ticket, doesn't the death of a parent seem like an extenuating circumstance?
Then, after we landed in Newark, we sat on the tarmac for 45 minutes waiting for a gate to open up. And then, after a long queue at passport control, I climbed into a taxi with the most CLUELESS driver in the world, who couldn't figure out how to get to my hotel even though it's about four minutes from the airport.
On the bright side, I sat next to this guy on my flight. You know I'm not a fan of talking to people on airplanes, but he and I struck up a conversation and he was pretty interesting. He told me all about being a YouTube vlogger and also some of his own personal drama. I'm not sure he asked me more than about three questions, but I didn't mind. I really didn't want to explain where I was going or why.
Those roses in the photo came to our flat yesterday morning -- an anniversary gift from Dave. Of course I hated the fact that I only got to enjoy them for about two hours before buzzing off to the airport! But at least Gordon can appreciate them -- and Dave too after he gets home in a few days.
Life is insane. And meanwhile, I need sleep.
Friday, July 21, 2023
I told Dave not too long ago that I wasn't seeing many butterflies this year. "Where are all the butterflies?" I kept saying.
Well, they're starting to turn up now. I saw this comma (above) on our buddleia yesterday morning -- the same bush Mrs. Kravitz wanted me to cut down. I also saw red admirals on my recent Thames Path walk, and yesterday...
...I saw this one on another buddleia in our garden.
Last night I talked via FaceTime to my mom and brother. My mom appeared awake, but she wasn't very responsive -- her facial expression never changed, except to blink when my brother passed his hand near her face, and her mouth hung slack. She is on a small dose of morphine to keep her comfortable, and Hospice says they've been having trouble waking her to a "lucid state." But they believe she can hear us, so we told her we loved her and that she's been a good mom, and talked about some memories that she would share and people she knew. I told her I was on my way to see her. Given her dementia I'm not sure how much of this was actually being understood or processed, but you just never know, do you? At least she was hearing the sound of both our voices and we said what we needed to say.
My brother had planned a weekend trip but he's cancelled that now to stay with her. I feel at loose ends here, and yesterday debated moving up my airline reservation and trying to find dog care, but being able to speak to her via FaceTime helped a lot. I always struggle with situations that require me to pivot quickly and change plans. I make a plan and I stick to it. That's just my personality.
So for now, I'm still traveling on Monday.
Meanwhile, I'm still dealing with all the minutiae of life, which seems stupid and pointless but I guess things have to be done. Yesterday I mowed the lawn, still leaving the unmown patch in the middle. I'm going to keep that area unmown for the rest of the season. I've finally figured out a way to make it look intentional -- by giving it sharp, angular borders -- rather than merely unkempt.
I had a handyman come to look at our dripping kitchen faucet. He tried to replace the washer in the handle but found that didn't solve the problem. He said we need a new faucet. Apparently the one we have -- which we had installed about five years ago -- isn't great quality, and for now, it still drips.
This will seem like a really ridiculous problem, but several weeks ago, Dave purchased a roll of kitchen cling film that was hopelessly snarled. It was torn and we could never get a full sheet off the roll because older, torn bits were layered around the outside. Well, I painstakingly removed all the outer debris -- which was hard to do, because it's practically impossible to see the edge of a rogue piece of cling film still on the roll -- and put the rest in a dispenser and now I think the problem is solved.
Honestly, life is absurd, isn't it? My mother is dying on the other side of the ocean and I'm futzing around with cling film. It's obscene. I feel like the worst person in the world.
Last night I watched a bleak movie on Amazon called "The Son," starring Hugh Jackman and Laura Dern. It seemed promising but the script was awkward and the subject matter -- teen depression -- was pretty intense. (I didn't know what it was about when I started it.) The New York Times called the film "leaden," which captures the mood perfectly, and Roger Ebert's web site was similarly unimpressed, calling it "well-intentioned but poorly constructed" with a "superficial and manipulative" screenplay. Ouch!
Thursday, July 20, 2023
Well, I bought a ticket to go to Florida on Monday, which is the earliest I could depart without leaving Olga alone. Dave comes back from Seattle the same day -- in fact, we'll pass each other at Heathrow! I'm planning on being there a week, all in Jacksonville. My mom continues to decline gradually. My brother and his family went to see her last night and she was sound asleep. She apparently isn't eating or drinking much. I hope I get there in time, but I am resigned to the possibility that I won't.
Dave offered to change his plans and join me in Florida, but I think it's better that he just come home to be with the dog. I can't deal with scrambling around for dog care and then worrying about her in some kennel.
Otherwise, yesterday was pretty low-key. I repotted an orchid that I think is dying and I'd intended to throw out, but I decided to give it one last chance. Its roots seem healthy and quite compacted, and I thought maybe it just needs more space. It's lost all its leaves, though, so I don't have high hopes.
I took a walk up to Cricklewood (above), which felt good.
Here's some more artwork from the recently repainted Mill Lane Bridge. I wonder if this is Judith's mother? I'm guessing yes. And her cat (or dog?) on a leash.
In the afternoon we had some excitement. The starlings were out on the bird feeder, making their usual racket, when suddenly I heard something that sounded like a thud and they all took off.
I looked out in the garden and there was a raptor of some kind on the ground, and I think it got something, perhaps one of the birds. There's a shadow in the grass in some of my pictures, and the raptor was covering it with its wings, like they often do to protect their kill. It flew away a few moments later because the neighbor's cat jumped up on the fence, and when I went out to look in the grass there was no sign of a kill, so it must have carried it off. The starlings have not been back.
In the evening I watched "Rocky," which I haven't seen in decades. Someone gave us the DVD in the library. It was OK -- boxing is completely alien to me, so that aspect left me flat, but it was interesting to watch the characters evolve and I love the street scenes of Philly in the '70s. And of course the music. It's the one Sylvester Stallone movie I could ever bring myself to watch. (I think I rented "Rambo" many years ago just to see what all the fuss was about, but I remember none of it.)
Wednesday, July 19, 2023
This is the beginning of a datura (jimsonweed) flower. My daturas haven't done much this year. One of them has languished in the pot, not dying but not exactly growing either, and the other two are also small but at least they've bloomed once or twice. In fact I missed the flowers, they came and went so quickly. This one will probably be fully open today.
I was on the fence about growing them again anyway, so I'm not heartbroken. I think they like a hotter, drier environment than we've had this summer.
Yesterday I caught up with a few tasks and errands:
-- I went to the doctor to follow up on my recent blood tests. My cholesterol is still high, though not as high as it's been in the past. The doctor asked if I'd considered medication. I told him my mom's cholesterol is high too, and we've never had strokes or heart attacks in our family, so I'm not concerned. He agreed and said I was still "very low risk" despite the numbers so for now we're not doing anything. Otherwise everything was normal.
-- I trimmed some more of the landscaping in the front garden. We have a Hebe down by the street that's half dead, so I took all the dead parts out, and tore out more ivy to keep it from climbing up the walls of the house.
-- I posted some stuff on Freecycle. We had a stack of plastic plates and bags of plastic cutlery dating back to our wedding party eight years ago! Dave and I are infrequent party hosts (can you tell?) so I gave all that away. I also gave away a WiFi signal extender that wasn't very effective, but the guy who took it messaged me later and said it "works pretty well," so I guess it was just us. I might list some more items too. When Dave comes home the house will be empty!
-- I cleaned out and organized the pantry and the spice cabinet. We had a lot of stuff, particularly baking stuff, that was quite old, such as an unopened container of bicarbonate of soda that expired in 2013. I remember debating throwing it out the last time I cleaned out the pantry, and we haven't touched it since, so I chucked it. We just don't bake much. I also discovered frozen sausages in the freezer from last November! Gotta eat those when Dave returns. It's easy to lose track of stuff in there.
Another current bloomer -- our Inula.
Last night I watched the final episodes of "Heat," a four-episode Australian family melodrama that I discovered on Channel 5. It was pretty good, though kind of over the top. The main "bad guy" turned out to be so loathsome it defied belief.
Then my brother called me with the news that my mom is once again not doing well. I don't want to fly off the handle and across the ocean if it's not necessary, especially since Dave is gone and I'd have to figure out what to do with Olga. So for now I'm staying put. Mom is not very aware anyway, so I'm debating what to do in the longer term. I'm not sure she's going to make it to October, when I intended to visit next. I'll look into airline tickets and see what my options are.
Tuesday, July 18, 2023
I took another long walk along the south shore of the Thames yesterday, following the Thames Path nine miles from Greenwich to Thamesmead. It was a sunny day and I figured I'd better seize the moment!
I started where I left off a few days ago, near the Greenwich Power Station and some new modern apartments, and soon passed Morden Wharf (above) where there's a riverside beer garden. (I didn't stop for a drink -- it was only 11 a.m.!)
The river along this stretch is pretty industrial. Yes, I meant to get my shadow in the picture. Let's call it "Self-Portrait with Tires."
There were boatyards and dry docks...
...and even nautically-themed art. This is a piece by Richard Wilson called "A Slice of Reality," a precisely sliced 1/8 segment of a sand dredger.
Wilson's artwork is part of "The Line," a sort of art trail that follows pieces of public art scattered through East London along the waterways and the Greenwich Meridian. I'd never heard of The Line before. Sounds like another future walk!
My route took me around the backside of the O2 Dome, past more apartments (what must it be like to live in a glassy high-rise with a view of the Thames every day?) and then through another industrial area, this one focused on "aggregates" like gravel and sand. The air was literally gritty. I could feel it in my teeth.
Eventually I passed the Thames flood barrier, which I've shown you several times before.
I also passed this derelict pub, which you may remember from one of my previous posts, when I saw it while walking the Green Chain. I said at the time that I thought it was possibly beyond repair, but look! Someone's repairing it! (I took this picture when I rode past later on the bus, which is why there's a bit of a "ghost image" over the building -- it's a reflection in the glass.)
I stopped for lunch at a little cafe on Woolwich Road. I actually wound up having a vegetarian English breakfast, but it counted as lunch. This was the view from my table. There's loads of construction in this part of south London. That guy in the blue shirt across the street was busily taking down old advertising posters from the shop window and putting up new ones.
Restored by my brief meal break, I kept going through Woolwich, past the round entrance to the foot tunnel that runs beneath the river. (Remember when I walked through it?)
Near the older buildings of the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich, I passed this interesting group of iron sculptures. I thought they were by Antony Gormley but it's actually a piece called "Assembly" by Peter Burke. (Looking online, I see I'm not the only one who's made this mistake.)
Past Woolwich the path turned eventually to gravel, leading through woods along the river. This area looked like it had been burned in a past wildfire. The trees were dead but there were loads of wildflowers -- nature regenerating!
In Thamesmead I caught a bus back to the tube at North Greenwich. I think I can finish the Thames Path in one more walk. Maybe next week?