Thursday, August 31, 2023


Another busy day in the library yesterday, but slightly more manageable than the day before. For some reason my WiFi connection kept dropping at my desk, but the tech guys solved that by plugging me into a cable. Not sure whether the WiFi is freaking out or my computer, but as long as I can get online I don't care.

I answered the voter registration letter I mentioned yesterday, and I also got us scheduled for our annual gas safety inspection, two bits of bureaucracy that were hanging over me.

I also checked on my family in Florida after Hurricane Idalia, and they're all fine. Apparently it was a small, fast-moving storm with a compact center, so there wasn't a lot of peripheral wind, at least not in the Tampa area. There was some flooding in low-lying parts of town but that didn't affect us, fortunately. My stepmother is still here in England, finishing up her cruise (she flies back today), so she missed the whole thing and is no doubt happy about that. My brother's two-word status report from Jacksonville: "All good!"

Speaking of Florida, Dave and I have started watching a very peculiar Netflix show called "Florida Man." I wasn't sure I liked it at first, but it's growing on me. It takes a lot of those Florida Man memes inspired by news stories and weaves them into a narrative: the ease of buying guns, the allure of sunken treasure (not in the ocean but in a sinkhole), the state's role as a magnet for people looking to escape and reinvent themselves. Kind of bloody, though.

(Photo: Graffiti in Hackney Wick, on Sunday.)

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Leaning Tower of Sunflower

The starlings have an alarming new habit. They flock to the bird feeder, and amid their squawking and fighting they perch on my nearby sunflowers! I wouldn't care, except that my sunflowers (as you can see) are not especially robust.

Sensing a bad end, I staked up the sunflowers yesterday morning, so they'll at least remain upright. I can't keep the birds from perching on them but hopefully they won't break 'em off now.

We got a letter from our council that said, on the outside of the envelope, "DO NOT IGNORE THIS LETTER." I was afraid there was some problem with our council tax payment (local government taxes), but I opened it and found it was yet another request to update them about the voting status of people in our household. We get these requests very frequently, it seems to me, and they're quite forceful. "You are legally required to respond to this letter," it says inside. (What would happen if I didn't, I wonder?)

I have to log in to some web site and tell them that nothing has changed, that neither of us are voters in England. It's a rather strong-armed method of voter registration. In the USA, the onus of registering (and certainly voting) is pretty much on the voters, with no legal ramifications for not doing so. That has its downside too, as many people don't participate in elections.

And that, my friends, is pretty much all the news here in Lake Wobegon. It was non-stop at work yesterday, with classes coming in to check out books and lots of summer returns -- I didn't have a spare moment to read blogs or answer comments. I'll catch up, I promise, but it may take a little time!

Tuesday, August 29, 2023


Pretty much the highlight of our day yesterday was Olga's morning walk, when she found a withered Super Mario Brothers balloon on the ground. Which gives you some idea what the day was like.

Oh! And we saw the Pigeon Man again, and I made another hasty video...

...once again showing his flawless don't-stop-walking technique for dropping the crushed-up McVitie's biscuits without being noticed. But I'm onto him!

It takes chutzpah to feed the pigeons directly beneath a sign that says DO NOT FEED THE PIGEONS. It's his own little form of social protest, a finger to The Man.

Speaking of chutzpah, the Russians did not come over yesterday to paint the ceiling. Instead, Mr. Russia spent all day on the terrace above our living room, sanding or scraping or doing something to some component of his own flat. Dave and I mused about them offering to paint and then, after we agreed on a time, ignoring it to work instead on their own never-ending renovations. Without so much as a word to us. And WHAT THE HELL ARE THEY DOING UP THERE ANYWAY?!

I know. I know. I need Sanka brand decaffeinated coffee.

I suppose we could paint the ceiling ourselves, but we'd have to buy paint and equipment and besides, it's the principle, right? They are supposed to paint it per an agreement with our landlord, since the leak came from their apartment. On the other hand, I don't care that much -- we're never in that room and the damage isn't all that noticeable, so I've been content to let it slide. I can't decide whether I should knock on their door and be more insistent or just let it go.

Otherwise, I spent yesterday reading -- finishing off another New Yorker -- and doing minor stuff in the garden.

Some of our sunflowers do finally have buds, so I think chances are good we'll see some blossoms before they die back for the winter. But they sure are taking their time.

I've been showing Dave "The Crowded Room" with Tom Holland, which you may remember I watched while he was away in the states a few weeks ago. I thought he'd enjoy it and I wanted to see the earlier episodes again, knowing what I now know about the ending. We also watched "Hijack," a silly but engaging thriller; "Blue Lights," an excellent BBC cop show; and the newest season of cuddly "Heartstopper." Next up I think we'll try "The Last Thing He Told Me" with Jennifer Garner.

Monday, August 28, 2023

Orchid Bonanza and The Cow

When I walked the dog yesterday morning, somewhere between vacuuming and folding laundry, I found not just one but FIVE orchids, all discarded in a neighbor's yard waste bag. They were a bit crumpled but the root balls are intact, so I brought them all home and put them in new pots.

Yeah, I know. Wasn't I saying not long ago that I have too many orchids? And I do. But I couldn't let them all just die. In fact I think there may still be a sixth one in the bag and if there is I'm grabbing it. (I'll look today!)

I'm justifying this by considering that three or four of the orchids we've had for years are looking pretty dire, for reasons I can't explain. They're losing their leaves and not growing new ones. I have one that is entirely leafless. From what I've read I think they got a bacterial illness that passed from plant to plant while I was rinsing them off together. I'm no longer doing that.

Anyway, I now have plenty of orchids. I can always take some to work. I think all the ones above have the same color flower, a creamy yellow.

So that was our morning, and then Dave and I set off for Stratford, in East London, where we were meeting our friends Gordon and Donna. They moved into our flat for a few nights in late July when my mom was dying in Florida and Dave wasn't back yet from Seattle, and we needed someone to care for Olga. We wanted to do something to thank them for bailing us out, so we took them out for Sunday lunch at a pub called The Cow. It was quite good -- I had roast pork with root vegetables and, yes, a Yorkshire pudding.

We walked back through Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (site of the Olympics in 2012) and passed under a bridge with a very reflective surface (above). We walked to Hackney Wick, where we caught an overground train straight back to West Hampstead. Convenient!

Dave and I have been talking about renting that cabin in Pevensey Bay, where we stayed back in July, again in the winter. So while on the train we booked it for Christmas. We'll be there roughly from Dec. 22-28, with Olga in tow, of course. A week at the beach in the winter might be an interesting change of pace. I hope it's blustery as all get-out. And there's a fireplace!

In late afternoon, I took Olga for a romp in the cemetery, where the arum lilies are sending up their bright orange, poisonous berries. I'm not sure I've ever seen one of these plants in bloom, but I've seen the leaves in the summer. I'll have to watch for the flowers next year.

Finally, Dave and I were just settling in for our evening meal and TV routine when Mrs. Russia knocked on the door. You may remember that she and/or her husband are supposed to paint the corner of our dining room ceiling that was damaged by their upstairs leak many months ago. (Yes! We're still waiting!) Well, she wanted to know if they could do it RIGHT THEN. It was 7 p.m.! I had my evening glass of wine in my hand! I told her to come back today.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Foxgloves and Teen Debris

We had quite a thunderstorm yesterday afternoon -- you can see it building in the sky in the photo above, which was really meant to show off our freshly-mowed lawn. It reminded me a lot of a Florida summer rain, stopping and starting quickly, but for a while it was really coming down.

Fortunately, I'd planted the rest of the foxgloves that morning, so they got the benefit of the rain to help water them in. I was very cranky about this task -- and having to stake the plants so Olga wouldn't walk/sit/lie on them. I planted six or seven of them the other day and I had nine more to go, and even digging a single hole seemed like a huge obstacle. But I did it, and now they can live or die. I am pretty much hands-off from here on out. Not all of them will survive the winter but that's how it goes.

(I put several of them in pots, which is kind of cheating, but I just couldn't dig another hole. The pots are big enough that they can stay there throughout their blooming season, I think.)

When I walked the dog on Friday morning, we came across this pile of stuff next to a trash can on the next street over. It looked like a young woman had cleaned out her teenage effects -- Jacqueline Wilson books, fan stuff about a young Justin Bieber, mixed-up DVDs all in the wrong cases, shoes, bags, and even a small Bible. I picked up a DVD of "The Inbetweeners Movie" (one of the first movies Dave and I went to see after moving to the UK, on the same day that we got our fish pedicure), as well as a DVD of the first half of the first season of "Little Britain." I'm sure the second half was in there somewhere but I didn't want to make a spectacle of myself by digging through the bags.

So Dave and I watched "Little Britain" last night and had some laughs. Even though it's not a very old show (2003-06), it employed edgy comedy elements (such as blackface) and characterizations that became more controversial in recent years. One of the blackface characters even appeared on the cover of the DVD box. I thought the whole show had been pulled from circulation but apparently you can now see edited versions on BBC iPlayer. Only one brief skit on the shows we watched last night seemed problematic, but it's interesting how comedy has changed in a relatively short time.

Our red-hot pokers are finally blooming. They haven't had a great year. Like the sunflowers, they seem to be lagging, perhaps because of the cool, damp summer. They like heat.

Last night Dave and I had hamburgers for dinner, and Dave bought a new bottle of ketchup. Only when I was putting everything away later did I discover we already have a nearly full bottle of ketchup in the refrigerator. It MAKES ME CRAZY when Dave buys things we already have. It feels lazy and wasteful. I know he doesn't understand why I react so strongly -- he sees nothing wrong with having multiple containers of the same products. I guess I need to just let it slide because as failings go it's a fairly minor one. But if I had hair, I would have been pulling it out.

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Mug Shot Musings

Yesterday I was reading something about Donald Trump's arrest and the mug shot seen 'round the world, and the writer mentioned Richard Nixon -- the previous nadir of the U.S. presidency. It occurred to me that what Trump and Nixon have in common is adviser Roger Stone. Why is anyone listening to Roger Stone? Even he admits he's a "dirty trickster" and now it seems evident that he's so dirty his advice leads to potential criminality.

The mug shot is mildly amusing, with Trump's obviously practiced scowl unleashing comparisons to Stanley Kubrick villains, though I wish he'd been holding a sign with a prisoner number just to make it even more authentic. And wearing stripes. I guess jails don't really do that anymore, at least not in Atlanta.

I thought seeing Trump in an arrest photo would be more rewarding than it actually was. It doesn't feel like a victory -- not yet. It's just an accusation, and a somber moment for U.S. governance. It's depressing, more than anything. Maybe a conviction will feel more like justice. Unless Trump wins the next election, God forbid, and pardons himself, which will be truly surreal and justice thwarted.

Anyway, those are some of the thoughts rolling around in my brain this morning. I tried to sleep in but the dog wouldn't let me. She finally dragged me out of bed at 7 a.m., which is later than usual for me but not as late as I would have liked.

I was cleaning up some stuff on my work computer yesterday and I came across this photo, which I pulled off the web at some point. It's a 2003 piece of art pottery by Rachel Bishop for Moorcroft, and I love it. I'm not likely to buy one of these vases, since they cost about a thousand quid, but they sure are beautiful. I'm putting it here so I can save it without having it cluttering up my hard drive! (And so you can enjoy it, of course.)

Don't assume that I was having a leisurely day yesterday, though. It was actually pretty busy. We had 8th grade classes in the library and 5th graders checking out books for the weekend, as well as random kids wandering through. It looks like my gaggle of 9th grade boys are back to annoy me at break times, though of course now they're in 10th grade so maybe they'll be a little more mature. One can hope.

After work, Dave and I met via telephone with an accountant whom we may engage to do our income taxes. I've always done our own taxes but they're about to get more complicated with the settling of my mother's estate, so I think I need professional help -- especially since I may be required to file here in the UK as well as in the USA. UK taxpayers who make modest wages (like me up to now) normally don't have to file a return -- taxes are automatically deducted from your paycheck and that's that. But if you have other, more complicated income streams you do have to file, and it looks like I may be joining that camp. Fortunately the US and the UK have a tax treaty that prevents being taxed on the same income by both countries, so basically (as I understand it) it's a matter of deciding where to file and how. So yeah, I need assistance.

We now have a three-day weekend, our last national bank holiday before Christmas. (We have a couple of intervening breaks in our school calendar, in October and for Thanksgiving in late November.) Unfortunately it's cool and rather autumnal out there, so even though this is ostensibly a summer holiday, it doesn't feel like it!

(Top photo: Graffiti on a pedestrian bridge in West Hampstead.)

Friday, August 25, 2023

Summer on the Wane

You all are way too kind, giving me 18 comments on that pathetic post yesterday. My brain just was not working that morning! I guess a combination of starting back to work with a new boss and trying to settle my mother's estate pretty much short-circuited my mental faculties.

I'm not writing about the estate for privacy's sake, but suffice to say it's a heck of a lot of work. And what I'm doing is nothing compared to what my brother, as my mom's executor, is going through. Dave and I are supposed to meet with an accountant this afternoon to get a sense of the tax issues surrounding all this. It makes my head ache. I know this is a very bourgeois thing to say, but I hate money. (I know, I know -- you'll be happy to take it off my hands!)

Work is going well, at least. We now have all the kids on campus -- in fact, today is our first day of regular classes in both the middle and high schools -- and I'm already getting lots of summer books back. You know nothing makes me happier than people returning books, and yesterday I put away more than two cartloads of them. Every book returned is one less book I'll have to chase later.

Remember how I surrendered "Demon Copperhead" to a library parent who wanted to read it over the summer? (It's still not back yet, by the way.) Well, I've done the same thing again. I had Gabrielle Zevin's book "Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow" checked out, and in fact I was about 20 pages into it. But a teacher asked for it on Wednesday and said he'd been unable to finish it when he borrowed it in the spring, and he only had a few pages to go. So I gave it back to him. Frankly, I am overwhelmed with stuff to read and do and I don't have time for it anyway. I'll get to it after he returns it.

In the garden, our sunflowers are still showing no signs of flowering. A few of them are quite tall, at least as tall as I am, but I don't see any buds yet. This is weird because last year at this time we had flowers. It's been much cooler and damper this year, so maybe that's what's holding them back? All I know is they better get a move on or it will be too late. Forecasters are saying our summer may already be over.

Also, check out the plums in that same post. I forgot about those! This year we didn't get any. Our tree produced a lot of tiny fruits in the spring but almost immediately they seemed to shrivel. They all looked like little kidney beans, hanging from the branches. I don't know what happened, but I hope it's not permanent.

I told Dave it's about time to start buying berries again. We are nearing the end of our blackberry season -- many of the berries on the vine are past ripe and the ones that are still edible are smaller and more sour. This was my haul yesterday morning when I picked berries for my cereal. They're not bad, but they're no longer at their best -- again, perhaps because of the cool and damp.

And now, off to work!

(Top photos: A blue tit on our hogweed, which as you can see has gone to seed. Hey, that's kind of a poetic sentence!)

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Drawing a Blank

My mind is utterly empty this morning. Yesterday I had some ideas for what I might blog about, but of course I failed to write them down and now I can't remember them!

Here's one sign of seasonal change that we're seeing in the garden -- the asters, or Michaelmas daisies, are beginning to bloom. They always hit their peak at the end of summer. (Michaelmas is Sept. 29, hence the name.)

And here's the status of demolition at Emminster House. A gash has been torn through the center of the building right down to the ground, but the two halves are still standing. It's kind of a strange way to tear down a building, it seems to me, but what do I know.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Disco at the Dentist

I was out in the garden with my camera the other day when I took a picture of this teasel, including a tiny black flower bug. Only when I looked closely at the photo did I realize I was capturing a bit of nature-red-in-tooth-and-claw drama.

The flower bug had been seized by a tiny, tiny crab spider. These white spiders lurk inside flower blossoms waiting for an unsuspecting pollinator to come along.

It's so small it's hard to see even in a super-zoomed-in photo.

I had quite a busy day myself yesterday, though fortunately it didn't involve any imminent death.

I had a dental cleaning in the morning. I usually don't mind going to the dentist, but I had a very bad attitude about this appointment. You may remember I switched dentists a few years ago and the hygienist at my new dentist is VERY EXACTING about how I should be brushing. She wants me brushing twice a day with my electric toothbrush and using interdental brushes to clean between teeth once a day, no exceptions.

Now, I am quite good about maintaining my teeth and I haven't had a cavity in many years, but I would be lying if I said I did all that every day. Sometimes I use an old-fashioned hand-held brush because it's faster and easier. Sometimes I'm too tired and I skip the interdental brushes. Sometimes I'm in a hurry and I forget to brush in the mornings. These things happen -- as we all know.

Anyway, I was prepared to be scolded and I was dreading it. But she surprised me by saying that she was quite pleased with the status of my teeth and gums, and so instead we wound up having a pleasant visit.

My dentist's office is close to the firebombed restaurant, so I asked if they had any good gossip about that. They'd actually been there and said it was a weird place -- shisha on one side, sushi on the other. (Why didn't the proprietors call it "ShishaSushi" or maybe "SushiShisha"? I think they missed an opportunity.)

Anyway, they didn't know anything for sure, but we all suspect a dispute over money or some other underworld involvement. And while I was there, practically upside-down in the dental chair and listening to the hygienist's music playing in the background, I heard possibly the weirdest cover of any song I've ever encountered -- a version of "Ring My Bell" by a group called "Discohen," which specializes in disco songs as Leonard Cohen would sing them.

The hygienist said she downloaded the soundtrack for the TV show "New Amsterdam" and that song was on it. We got a good laugh out of it.

Back at school, there's an area where at the beginning and ending of the school year, people pile a lot of old furniture and other classroom accessories to be thrown out. It's all free for the taking until it's discarded. I found a box with this weird little paperweight (I guess?) in it, which I kept. It's on my desk now. It looks like me!

Finally, when I got home from work, I planted about half of my foxglove seedlings. I was not in the mood for that task but I have to get them in the ground while they can still get established before winter. I have to find homes for about nine more. I'll probably give some of them away to co-workers with gardens. Even when I try not to grow too many, I grow too many!

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

The Bug Shirt

From my walk to work yesterday...

Remember how I mentioned that I'm a creature of routine? Well, this morning my routine is all out of whack. Normally, it's: Coffee, blog, dog, shower, breakfast. Today it's: Shower, housework, coffee, blog, and we'll see what happens next. If I'm lucky the dog won't want a walk.

The danger in shaking up the routine is that I'll forget something. I'll get halfway to work and think, "Crap! I forgot to eat breakfast!" (And as we saw a few days ago, no one wants that.)

I wish I were a more spontaneous, adaptable person, able to flit around like an industrious wood sprite and get everything done in any order.

I'm not giving myself enough credit for accomplishment, though, because we have kicked butt in the library. We are ready for business! The construction guys came in yesterday and rebuilt the dismantled bookshelf, and I re-shelved all the displaced nonfiction. We're also trialling new, electronic methods for having staff and faculty members sign up for magazines (which get circulated to their staff mailboxes) and reserving library space, so we spent time working on those systems. It's a year of big changes!

In the middle of the day I zipped over to borrow a seam ripper from the fashion teacher. I bought this amazing shirt at Selfridge's when I went there in June with my former boss. The only problem with it was the presence of a black brand label right on the chest -- roughly at the third row of bugs down, third bug from the right. That label had to go!

So I carefully teased out and snipped the stitches with the seam ripper and after some manipulation I got the label off. You can barely see a rectangular shadow or pucker where it used to be, but I think once I wash the shirt that will disappear.

In any case, as my grandmother would say, a galloping horse wouldn't notice.

The label said OBEY, and my boss joked that maybe we should leave it as a subliminal message for the kids in the library. But it was just too intrusive.

Remember the sprouting ginger root I planted? Well, this is what it looks like now. I would not call this a success. I'm not sure why it's growing in such an awkward way, with those ridiculously long leaves that get wound within each other and then die at the ends. Unless it shapes up it's going in the bin.

Monday, August 21, 2023

I'm Rubber, You're Glue

Once again, a pretty low-key day around our house yesterday.

I spent the morning reading a long article in The New Yorker about Larry Gagosian. This is a good example of how The New Yorker gets me interested in things that I would otherwise gloss over completely. I always like a good painting but I know nothing about the world of art dealing, which is certainly not my world. I've seen Gagosian's name in magazines and newspapers for years but he isn't someone whose career I have followed. But darned if that article wasn't very interesting!

All it takes is a good writer, really. As we say in the world of journalism, there are no boring stories -- only boring reporters.

I also caught up with my daily dose of right-wing media. You know that crazy woman who was charged with threatening the Trump judge in DC? Well, the right-wing media -- at least the site I read, which shall remain nameless -- have decided that she is a government agent. Or possibly "antifa."

This is how the right-wingers respond when one of their number does something so egregiously embarrassing and wrong that they can't justify it. They disavow that person completely and switch them into the "deep state" column. They've also done this with a white supremacist organization called the Patriot Front, which they insist is actually composed of FBI agents.

And it's what they've done with George W. Bush. The Iraq war was such a shambles that they have decided that Bush, Dick Cheney and their cohort are not true Republicans or conservatives at all. They are actually members of the "uniparty" -- the Democrat and mainstream Republican alliance that allegedly controls the country on behalf of the globalist puppetmasters. In other words, because the right-wingers can't defend Iraq (despite the fact that it was a campaign created by the right), they basically blame it on the DEMOCRATS! And Democrats were voices in opposition to the Iraq war at the time (although admittedly some in Congress ultimately voted for it). Certainly no one I knew in my largely Democratic circles was in favor of it.

This denialism is equal parts fascinating and infuriating. It's like telling your little brother he's wrong only to have him respond, like Pee-Wee Herman, "I know you are but what am I?"

The Trumpian populists are right to be critical of the power structure -- the bankers, the corporations, the CEOs, the "Rich Men North of Richmond" (although many of them are actually south of Richmond -- in Palm Beach, for example). What's frustrating is the populists have equated all those people with Democrats. As has often been pointed out, Donald Trump is a prime example of a wealthy guy whose sympathies hardly lie with the working man -- and yet they've hitched their wagon to him. It's upside-down world.

Anyway, all my friends say to me of my right-wing media indulgence, "How can you stand to read that drivel?" But I think it's valuable to know what the opposition is thinking and how they argue their case. So every day I dip into right-wing news and survey the scene. As long as I read it with a gimlet eye and keep in mind that none of it is actually true, it can be quite illuminating.

Olga didn't even want a walk! I took her up to the high street and back, and that was about it. She was content to lie around the garden while I read. Sometimes we need a day of rest, particularly when we're 80 in dog years.

Can you see how huge the burdock behind her has grown? The leaves are as big as she is!

(Top photo: A fly on verbena in our garden.)

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Scaredy Cat

I love the way hydrangeas get splotchy as they age.

I am struggling to come up with anything interesting to tell you about yesterday morning. I can't quite remember what I did, to be honest, aside from walking the dog and doing laundry and vacuuming. And none of that's going to knock anyone's socks off.

In the afternoon I took Olga to the cemetery, where we enjoyed a very slow ramble. Walking her is an exercise in patience these days. She decides where she wants to go and how long it will take to get there. I am merely an anchor for her leash.

Olga can move when she wants to, though. In the evening she was on her bed on the floor when she suddenly leaped up and ran TOP SPEED out the back door. I heard a skirmish and found her standing on her back legs, front paws on the fence, barking upward at this cat sitting atop Mrs. Kravitz's gate next door.

Apparently the cat wandered through our back garden and got the scare of its life when Olga chased it up that fence. I think it's happened before -- we've seen tufts of white hair atop the boards and wondered where they were coming from. I thought they were from squirrels, but this makes a lot more sense.

Anyway, that cat didn't come down for at least an hour. Perhaps it will think twice about entering our yard now.

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Re-Start Your Day

I came across this graffiti on a dumpster behind my stepmother's hotel. It's pretty cool -- like Pablo Picasso's version of a bowling pin.

Well, the library is slowly coming together. I still can't re-shelve all the nonfiction books that were displaced by construction over the summer. The workers had to take out a bookshelf to reach the wall behind it -- something about HVAC improvements for downstairs -- and it's still in pieces. Supposedly they're going to put it back together on Monday morning, and then everything can be re-shelved. Students arrive on Wednesday so we've got until then to get things in order.

My day yesterday got off to a dreadful start. For a variety of reasons including blogging and Dave and the dog, I wasn't able to get in the shower until about 7:45 a.m., and no sooner did I get out than Dave reminded me we had an all-school meeting about Artificial Intelligence set to begin at 8:30. Argh! Fortunately I take very fast showers, and we got there in time, but I wasn't able to eat breakfast and I never do well without food. I get hangry. Also, I wasn't really prepared for the meeting, because I hadn't done any of the recommended AI-related readings and activities, and when we broke up into smaller groups a construction guy was in our meeting room running a power saw. He kept saying, "I'm almost done!"

My participation in this meeting wasn't that essential, since I'm not a teacher and particularly since I hadn't done my homework, so my boss -- who knew I'd had a stressful morning -- gave me an out. "Why don't you go re-start your day?" she said. I fled the power saw, walked to Starbucks and bought an almond croissant, ate it on the walk back, and then with blood sugar restored I was able to rejoin the latter half of the meeting.

Afterwards, I was fine.

Part of what elevates my stress levels both at the beginning of the school year and at the end are all the meetings and trainings and, well, disruptions. I am a creature of routine. I just want to do my job and keep my regular schedule. I will be so glad when the year begins and I'm just at my desk, doing my thing.

The other day I was looking something up online when I realized that my alma mater, the University of South Florida in Tampa, has scanned many of the issues of our old college newspaper. Unfortunately it looks like they haven't yet scanned it for the years I worked there (1985-88), but they have issues up to 1980 or so. I found this great old ad in one of the 1980 papers.

Remember roller rinks? I used to love to roller skate, and in fact when in-line skating became popular in the '90s I used to skate every weekend, mostly on sidewalks and streets around Sarasota and Tampa. I used to go for miles. It kept me pretty fit.

When I moved to New York I used to routinely circle Central Park on my skates, at least for the first couple of years I lived there. Then the skates wore out and I was in my mid-30's, and I abandoned skating. And you know, I never wore a helmet. I used to wear knee and wrist pads, but no helmet. Head protection just wasn't emphasized as much then as it is now.

Anyway, I looked to see whether the roller rink mentioned in the ad above still exists, and believe it or not, it does!

Friday, August 18, 2023

A Public Housing Tutorial

Another day of library organization yesterday. As it turned out, there was a huge meeting in the library for the entire morning, so for about half the day I was unable to do much with books. I have to be able to wheel around carts and make noise for that kind of activity. So instead I was sitting in the back office doing more work on the computer, but I did get things done.

After work Dave and I went to meet my stepmother, who's traveling with a friend on a cruise around the British Isles. She's staying in a hotel near Lancaster Gate, so we went to dinner at a nearby pub, The Victoria (above). I hadn't been to this pub in ages and I was amused to see that they've replaced their sign, substituting a fresh, young Victoria for their previous portrait of the dour aged queen. Can you see Dave in the picture, at far left in the plaid shirt?

One of my readers asked about my use of the terms "council" and "estate" in yesterday's post, describing the apartment block being demolished. In England, your "council" is your local government. I live in the London Borough of Camden, which is governed by Camden Council. (There's an additional layer of government for London as a whole, overseen by Mayor Sadiq Khan, which handles issues like transportation that affect the whole city.)

An "estate" is a public housing development. In the states we'd call it a housing project, but that also has a different connotation. Public housing in the USA (where it still exists) tends to be for low-income people. In Britain, where a lot of public housing was built in the '50s and '60s to accommodate people displaced by World War II, "council estates" tend to be more middle-class, although councils also make a special effort to house the poor, elderly or disabled.

Also, to make matters more complicated, many "council estates" now include private apartments. Under Margaret Thatcher, in an effort to privatize public housing, the government began allowing residents to buy their council-owned units. So not every apartment on a council estate is still publicly owned. When Dave and I first moved to London we lived in a privately-owned council flat in Notting Hill, and it was a nice apartment. Several of our neighbors, though, were long-term tenants and still rented from the council. Many of our co-workers have purchased apartments that were previously council flats.

The demolition of the Emminster and Hinstock buildings, which I mentioned yesterday, is part of a redevelopment plan that is explained in more detail here. It will increase the number of apartments in that area, with slightly fewer than a third of them designated "affordable" with controlled rents. The others will be market-rate housing. The council usually does make arrangements to re-house its tenants when schemes like this move forward, but I don't know whether they all necessarily stay nearby.

Back to the United States now, with my latest postcard from the Florida state photo archives, which arrived several days ago. This shows Ponce de Leon Springs, in Volusia County, around 1925. That beautiful old building is gone now, replaced by a rather sterile imitation, but the springs are still open and part of a public park. There are few places in Florida I've never visited, but this is one of them!

Thursday, August 17, 2023

News from the 'Hood

Now that I'm walking to and from work, I'm catching up with some familiar sights and seeing how things have changed and/or not changed over the summer.

The Abbey Road street sign around the corner form where I work is even more plastered with stickers now. In fact, it's probably time for Westminster Council to come and relieve it of its burden. (Here's how it looked back in February.)

Remember Monak, the "pan-Asian sushi restaurant" in St. John's Wood that was closed by a firebombing back in April? Well, it's still closed, and not only that, the police and many neighbors want to revoke its license. Apparently there was also an earlier shooting there. No word on what might have motivated the firebombing.

As you can see, for now, the neighborhood is left with a boarded-up shopfront with furniture piled on the roof and enforcement notices plastered to the doors and windows. Yes, that phone box really is crooked.

Meanwhile, nearby Emminster House -- a council apartment block -- is being demolished. Hinstock House, which was next to Emminster, is already gone. The entire estate is under redevelopment, as I previously mentioned.

I did stop in once to ask the workers if I could have the sign for the Lillie Langtry pub, which was located on the downstairs corner of this building -- at the time it was still attached to the exterior wall. But I couldn't get an answer and I never went back, and now the sign is gone, so hopefully it has found a home. (What would I do with it anyway?)

Meanwhile, from nearby Priory Road -- this is what happens when you use plywood to build your garden fence and it becomes un-plied. Just so you know.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Backing-Up Bee

I took these pictures a couple of weeks ago and I've been meaning to post them. The Crocosmia "Lucifer" is done blooming now, but as you can see, when the flowers were out the bees were loving it!

They go head-first into the flowers, which seem like a fairly tight fit...

...and then they have to back out.

It's kind of amusing to watch. But as I said, they've now moved on to other flowers. There's plenty still blooming out there: the lavender, the dahlias, the inulas, the agapanthus, the Japanese anemones.

Apologies for being scarce in the blogosphere over the past couple of days. I am buried at work at the moment, trying to gear up for the new school year. We always have a lot of tasks to complete, like removing graduated seniors and their families from the library computer (which takes hours), organizing all the magazines that have arrived over the summer, figuring out displays and getting the physical space ready (making sure the furniture is in the right place, the shelves are organized, etc.). A surprising amount of stuff gets moved around during routine summer maintenance.

This year, some of the library plants have required extra care. We have a Christmas cactus that seems to have come down with a rip-roaring case of mealybugs over the summer, so I brought my rubbing alcohol and Q-tips to work yesterday to solve that problem. Plus I've been trying to complete paperwork relevant to settling my mom's estate. It's always something!

I normally read blogs during downtime at my desk at work, but I've had no downtime. Hopefully that will change soon. By the time kids arrive next week things should be more normal, and hopefully even before that!

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Long-Overdue Random Photo Post

We haven't had a post of miscellaneous photos in a while -- like, more than a month, I think! So here are some random photos I've taken while wandering with my iPhone.

First, I loved this chicken graffiti found on one of my Thames Path walks.

When I wandered through a vintage shop in Greenwich later that same day, I found this pair of "1960s gold crochet pants" (according to the tag). They look like something a bond girl might wear -- or could they be for men, a la "Rocky Horror"? I did not plunk down the £35 it would have taken to find out.

A fun mosaic of shoes on the floor of an underground pedestrian mall in Canary Wharf.

Some graffiti of a friendly bee, seen on another Thames Path walk.

Surely this is a joke, right? Surely?

And speaking of interesting shopfront windows, this is the front of the Islamic Centre in Kilburn. They have a huge buddleia growing up INSIDE the glass, between the window and an interior wall. Did it grow wild there from a seed, watered by a leak in the glass, or is it being cared for? I have no idea.

Some rowdy rats seen on the dashboard of a pest control truck in West Hampstead. This is pretty much what rats do, I suppose.

I found this bag of unopened "Golden Fish" snacks sitting on a wall on Finchley Road. Based on the writing on the package, they look like Arabic knockoffs of Goldfish crackers. I'm not sure why someone was giving away so many of them, unless they were past their sell-by date. I left them there.

Here's more interesting snack food packaging. I found this on my most recent Thames Path walk, while picking up litter along the path to the train station at the end of the route. I've seen these packages before and I'm always amused by the alien theme. I'm doubly intrigued by the fact that they're "beef flavour cosmic corn snacks." I can't quite imagine what that might taste like, and I don't particularly want to find out.

And finally, one more colorful panel of the Mill Lane Bridge, this one painted by 10-year-old Mohamed. I like the bus bearing the TfL symbol, and he's absolutely right about the way the upper level of a double-decker bus passes the upstairs windows of nearby buildings. It's one of the few panels, possibly the only one, that doesn't show any plants at all.