Saturday, September 30, 2023

No More Apple Tree

Look what's disappeared! The apple-tree-in-a-bag! I wonder if it's been transplanted somewhere or if it simply got discarded. You know how, when a pet dies, parents sometimes tell little kids that it has "gone to live on a farm"? I suspect that tree has gone to live on a farm.

Olga is saying, "I didn't take it. I swear."

Another busy day yesterday. The 8th Graders were getting their school pictures taken in one of the rooms of the library, which resulted in mobs of yammering kids lined up all morning not too far from my desk. An aide was assigned to keep them more or less under control but that's a thankless and impossible task. When her shift ended, she walked past my desk, pinched her fingers together and said "My patience is like THIS."

After work, Dave and I went to a pub gathering for a friend of ours who's taking a year off work. He's sailing in the Canary Islands, getting some kind of captain's certification. His ultimate plan is to be at the helm of a boat in the Caribbean during the winter and into next spring, before coming back to school next fall. I guess there are rich people who hire captains to move around yachts and that sort of thing. It's a completely alien world to me, but hey, nice work if you can get it!

We took a bus home, and I made sure to sit by the window so I could get this footage of Emminster House being demolished. The first part of the building I show in the video used to be the Lillie Langtry pub. The demolition seems to be taking a long time -- the other buildings seemed to come down much more quickly. But maybe I just didn't see a lot of the work, or maybe there are special concerns with this one. All speculation on my part.

After I finished making that video, I turned to Dave and we were talking, and an older man came up to me and said, "Would you mind if I use your mobile phone to call my wife and tell her I'll be late?" I thought for a second and said, "I can't do that, I'm sorry." He gave me a dubious look and went back to his seat.

I felt bad about it, but I've heard too many stories about scammers doing things on borrowed phones. Once you hand your phone to someone, and it's unlocked (as it must be to make a call), they pretty much have control. He didn't look like a scammer, and unlike many people I don't have Apple Pay set up on my phone, but still -- you just never know.

I suppose I could have called her for him, but of course I didn't think of that in the moment (and after two pints of beer)!

Friday, September 29, 2023

The Wrong Bus

I made my coffee with pumpkin spices this morning -- cinnamon and nutmeg -- in celebration of autumn. I started the coffee-with-cinnamon thing several years ago when we had an overload of cinnamon and I was trying to figure out how to use it up. We're down to a jar and a half now, which isn't too crazy.

Some more street scenes this morning. That's Abbey Road above, of Beatles fame, a few tenths of a mile north of the famous crosswalk and Abbey Road Studios. When I take this route to work, I usually join Abbey Road at this point and walk north. I don't pass the crosswalk.

Last night I was returning from a pub outing with my fellow librarians, so I decided rather than walk, I would take the bus. I grabbed a bus at the stop above...

...and sat on the upper deck. I thought, "Why is no one else on this bus?!"

That's when I realized I was on the wrong bus, so I had to get off at the next stop and get on the right one. My bad.

I waited across from the stadium-like Alexandra Road Estate, a Brutalist architectural landmark on Abbey Road built in the 1970s. I've always thought this was an intriguing design and I've photographed it several times.

Anyway, from there I came home uneventfully.

Yesterday was another busy day at work. No blog reading for me! I don't know what it is about this year, but I feel like I always have so much to do. More so than usual. This isn't a bad thing, necessarily, because the workday goes pretty fast, but it's bizarre. My job hasn't changed, so what's different?

The head librarian is considering ways of dividing up our fiction section to help kids find books at their reading level. Right now all fiction is shelved together, with books for our youngest readers (Grades 5 & 6) marked by a red dot. She's thinking about moving adult fiction to its own section. I have my doubts about this, and if I start enumerating them all this post will be huge -- but they're mainly logistical. I don't know what we'd do with books like "The Catcher in the Rye," or "The Handmaid's Tale," or "The Bluest Eye," or classics like "David Copperfield" that are staples of high-school reading yet were written with adults in mind. And what about books like "Divergent" that are technically YA but read by adults as well?

Having said all that, it's certainly not an unprecedented idea. The library at the school in Vienna where I went for training in April was divided up that way. In fact as I recall, there were three sections there -- kids, YA and adult. I believe this is often true of public libraries too. (At our school, books for the youngest readers, fourth grade and below, are already in a whole different library in another part of the building.)

I think I need to better understand why we're doing it, and what the goal is. A conversation still to be had.

One thing I've learned about sunflowers is that even if they don't grow well, they will crank out a blossom. This little sunflower was planted at the same time as my others, and for some reason it only grew to be about a foot tall. Maybe it didn't like its location or the soil or something. But darned if it didn't bloom!

Thursday, September 28, 2023

A Swiss Snarl

Another street scene today, once again from Finchley Road, where I walked home last night. This is kind of a weird stretch where the road bed is well above the sidewalk -- the cars pass by on the other side of that barrier, basically at eye-level to pedestrians. I guess at some point the road was built up, probably for engineering purposes. There's been some attempt at beautification, by adding a tile mosaic to the retaining wall, but it's all rather dismal, I think.

Here's a slightly more attractive sight on Finchley, the alpine-style pub in the community of Swiss Cottage. It's essentially on a big traffic island, along with a cinema, an apartment building and some shops. There's a subterranean walkway -- which the British confusingly call a "subway," unlike our American subway, which is a train -- that leads under Finchley Road to the pub and to the other side of the street. There's always a snarl of cars and buses in this area, but you'll see people sitting out in front of the pub with their beers like they're in the most bucolic country village. A hedge does wonders.

Not much to say about yesterday. I worked, I came home.

While walking to work I passed this perfectly nice lily protruding from someone's yard waste bag. I snapped it off...

...and it's now decorating my desk!

Wednesday, September 27, 2023


Here's another random street shot from one of my walking routes, along Fairhazel Gardens in South Hampstead. On the right you can see the kickboxing studio Gav the Champ, which I've photographed before. Right across the street used to be the dubiously named salon Ho Hair, though it's a coffee shop now. Farther along, with the red awning, is a wine bar called The Arches, which is a popular after-work spot for many of my colleagues. In fact, as I walked past right after taking this photo, I waved to four of them sitting out front.

I think this is a much more pleasant walk than Finchley Road. Some of you defended Finchley in yesterday's comments and said it wasn't as ugly as I was making it out to be. I think the key, for me, is the lack of trees. Trees make a street a million times more pleasant, and on Finchley there are virtually no trees and a lot of cars and buses. Plus the roadway has been built up above the sidewalk in places, so you feel like you're walking through a tunnel.

Anyway, I kind of like this challenge of taking a random street shot each day. Maybe I'll make a week of it.

Yesterday a workman came to inspect the gutters and do some repairs on the fascia board at the eaves, over our patio. Dave met him when he showed up first thing in the morning and then went to work, leaving the guy on his own to do the repairs. When we came home we found he'd apparently taken out some rotten wood and patched the sketchy spots (whether with new wood or some kind of filler I'm not sure).

I was annoyed, though, because the guy demolished a Hypericum bush we had growing next to the wall. Granted, it grew there of its own accord, in a crack in the pavement, and I'm sure he thought it was just a weed. But we left it on purpose and every year it blooms with big yellow flowers, and the bees love it. I guess it was in his way, and it looks like he literally just ripped it apart with his hands! I neatened it up with some secateurs and it will come back. But still -- for all he knew, that could have been my favorite bush in the whole world!

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Once...Maybe Twice

I tried another random street shot while walking home from work yesterday afternoon -- this time on Finchley Road, which has got to be the ugliest street for miles around. It's a busy six-lanes of stop-and-go traffic, overseen in this location by an electronic billboard advertising "The Kardashians" for Disney+. (The Kardashians don't seem very Disney, do they? What would Uncle Walt say?)

I blogged that white building on the right not quite a year ago. It still looks decrepit.

I don't have to walk on Finchley. There are two alternate routes to work, via Priory and Abbey roads or Fairhazel Gardens and Loudoun Road, that are much more pleasant. But Finchley Road is the shortest and most direct route, so I often walk it for the sake of expediency. Sometimes I get a bubble tea to make up for the visual brutality.

I called the vet yesterday and made an appointment for Olga's shots. They can't see her until Oct. 17, which is bewildering. Usually we get right in. Based on what the receptionist said, it seems they've started setting aside a certain proportion of their appointments for vaccinations and those fill up more quickly. Who knows what practice management technique is behind that decision. I'm sure it's economic!

Yesterday I mentioned one of my mom's favorite expressions, that everything has to be done at least twice.

That reminded me of an old t-shirt she used to have in the '70s with a different (but similar-sounding) phrase on it: "I'll try anything once...maybe twice."

My mom thought that shirt was hilarious. As a little kid I didn't understand it, and even now the vaguely risqué humor seems pretty subtle. She wore it for years.

Later on she had a much less subtle t-shirt from a furniture rental company that said, "I lease by the piece!"

Monday, September 25, 2023


Not a whole lot of news today, since I spent most of yesterday on the couch, reading. It was a great way to spend a Sunday, I'll say that much.

I've had vague ideas of taking a photo walk somewhere in town, but when it comes down to it I don't have the motivation to go. This is different from even five or ten years ago, when I struggled to stay home. What has happened? Is it age? The pandemic? I'm not sure. I just don't feel the same compulsion.

That's not to say I won't go again, but I have to psych myself up more.

I tried to call the vet to schedule a check-up and vaccinations for Olga, but our vet no longer keeps weekend hours, so I was routed to the sister clinic in Belsize Park -- and they can't make reservations for West Hampstead. So I'll call back today. As my mother used to say, everything has to be done at least twice.

Our sunflowers are continuing to open, as you can see in the top photo. Those are the ones on the patio. We also have a blooming primrose next to some asters that grew in a crack in the paving stones. (I should probably weed those pots -- but they're in keeping with our laissez-faire gardening style!)

Indoors, the new orchid (front) looks a lot like my favorite orchid (back). That's a pleasant surprise.

Speaking of orchids, one of the recently rescued orchids appears to be dying. The crown of the plant has gone soft. I don't know if it got damaged when it was thrown out or what, but losing one isn't terrible. The other four look fine.

Last night Dave and I started a show called "Minx," on Paramount+, about a woman launching a feminist porn magazine in the '70s. Historically dubious but kind of fun.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

The Dangling Cable

Yesterday morning the sun coming through the leaves of our spotted begonia turned them a fiery red. It's a beautiful plant. It probably needs to be trimmed -- it has several stalks that are about four feet long and they're a bit unwieldy. But I hate to cut it (even though I could root the cuttings).

I spent yesterday morning cleaning the house, changing the bed sheets, vacuuming, blah blah blah. Then I sat down with "Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow," which I have back from the library after surrendering it to that teacher who wanted to finish it. Since I'd only gotten about 20 pages into it on that earlier outing, I started from the beginning again and I'm well into it now. I'm really liking it.

Of course a day couldn't go by without the Russians presenting me with some sort of problem. I looked out our bathroom window and saw this white cable swaying in the breeze. It's coming from waaaaaaay up at the top of the house, where it was running along the gutter. I asked Mrs. Russia about it, and she said, "Oh, yes, it's an old unused cable so we just cut it."

I made plain that I didn't want it hanging down the side of the house and in front of our windows, so she agreed to lean out her window with some wire cutters and chop it off. It fell down into our side return and I put it in the trash. There's still a bit of it hanging up there but I don't see it so I can live with that.

Olga spent the morning on her new bed in the garden. She's adapting to it. As you can see, I was doing laundry too. A few more sunflowers have opened!

In the afternoon we took Olga to the cemetery. We hadn't been there in a while, and even Dave -- who thinks recreational walking is completely pointless -- came along. Olga chased her tennis ball and eyed squirrels with great hostility but couldn't quite bring herself to run after them.

We saw this very well-appointed grave. The red and pink flowers are cyclamens, and I believe that yellow bench is new, or at least newly painted. It's very colorful.

Speaking of colorful, last night we rented the movie "Barbie" from Amazon. I enjoyed it and I'm impressed that they (and when I say "they," I really mean Greta Gerwig) were able to take such potentially shallow source material and make a culturally relevant movie out of it. I've always thought of myself as a feminist but it made me consider ways that I perpetuate patriarchal ideas without meaning to do so. I think I'm more of an Allan than a Ken (if you've seen the movie you'll understand that) but I'm sure I benefit from maleness just as I benefit from whiteness -- in ways that are largely intangible to me but allow me to exist with a level of security that others don't share. Anyway, it was all very thought-provoking, and who expected a movie about Barbie to ever be that?

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Street Scene with Dental Filling

Last night Dave and I went with one of Dave's co-workers for a drink at our local pub. We decided afterwards that we no longer like this pub, which is a shame -- it used to be a good hangout but then they renovated and it now seems very soulless. It's also a ripoff. I spent £18 on a "black bean salad" that contained romaine lettuce, a scattering of kidney (not black) beans, some hot peppers and a few cubes of sweet potato -- maybe £3 worth of food. And I don't even like hot peppers so I pulled them off.

Anyway, I had a couple of glasses of wine to make it all palatable, and then on the walk home, while Dave ducked into the pharmacy, I snapped the photo above. I didn't have a specific subject -- just random street activity -- and wound up capturing three buses, a furry dog and a woman in a yellow-green coat. Life in West Hampstead.

I went back to the dentist yesterday. Remember my broken front tooth? Well, I showed it to the dentist and she examined it and kept exclaiming how "very bizarre" it was that it broke in the way it did. But fortunately the break was such that it was easily filled. I told her I wondered if it had something to do with my recent cleaning -- not in an accusatory way -- but she didn't cop to that. And indeed it may be completely unrelated. Who knows.

I'm just glad I can no longer feel that jagged absence with my tongue. It was driving me nuts.

As I wrote yesterday, the recent rain and wind has been battering our garden. I cut several stalks of the Alstroemeria (Peruvian lily) that were left dragging on the ground and brought them inside. Why give them to the slugs?

This morning, when I opened the back door to let Olga out, a chill hit me. I looked at the temperature and it's 48º F out there! (That's about 9º C.) And today is the Autumnal Equinox, so fall has officially arrived.

Friday, September 22, 2023


We've been having some gnarly weather here -- lots of wind and rain. My sunflowers are still standing but their stems have been tested! (I staked them up so they've had some help.) This is Olga on our walk yesterday morning, with a colorful arrangement of street gear.

I honestly don't have much to report, and I'm sure you're not interested in my reflections on Rupert Murdoch's retirement (my one-word summary: FINALLY!) or anything else in the news cycle. I have been listening to a fascinating podcast called "Q-Anon Anonymous," in which three regular hosts take a critical and humorous look at a lot of the weirdness in and around the Q-Anon movement. It's darned entertaining and my take-away, after hearing roughly seven one-hour episodes, is that there's a lot of undiagnosed mental illness out there.

Dave, meanwhile, has been watching YouTube. He looked up from his computer the other day and said, "A wuzzle is when same-sex dolphins get together for an orgy."

What did we ever do without the Internet? Honestly.

In the library, a child returned a book the other day that felt slightly lumpy beneath the dust jacket. (I handle so many library books I can immediately tell if something is off about one of them, just as I can immediately tell if a book is out of place on a shelf.) I peered beneath the dust jacket and found this:

So here's my helpful message to school children everywhere: PLEASE don't store your raisins in your library books.

(It's interesting to note that on the lower left flap of that raisin box is the date "Aug 22." I hope that's a date of production and not an expiration date. How long have those raisins been in that book?!)

Thursday, September 21, 2023

From Puppy to Peace Corps

Yes, that's me -- in 1975 or so, when my dad was building his new house after his divorce from my mom. My brother and I would visit him on weekends, and we'd often go to see the progress on the house. I'm holding Puppy, my favorite stuffed animal, a bedraggled dog with its tongue Scotch-taped to its face. My parents, like the Argentinian junta, eventually "disappeared" Puppy because they thought I was getting too old to be carrying around a stuffed dog, and they were probably right. (I was eight or nine.) Anyway, I've always liked this picture.

I came across this photo while looking for something else, which led to me combing through files and files of images. I thought, "Why not make this a blog post?" All photos were taken before 1993, and hopefully I haven't blogged any of them already!

This is me in 1984, when I was a senior in high school, with our two dogs, Herman (L) and Hoover. I've written about them before. That's our house in the background.

In 1989, when I was 22, I took a trip with my mom and brother to Glacier National Park in Montana. The Sydney shirt was sent to me by my Australian penpal, Narelle, when I was in college. Narelle and I wrote to each other for several years. She introduced me to the band Dead or Alive and was mildly offended when we exchanged cassette tapes and I told her she sounded British. "I don't think I sound like a Pom at all!" she said. I just never expected Australians to have accents. (Apparently I'd forgotten "Crocodile Dundee.")

This is me in about 1990, at a burned-out convenience store somewhere in Central Florida. You can't quite tell but I'm wearing a shirt celebrating banned books. It says "CENSORED" diagonally across a list of titles that had historically been controversial, like "The Catcher in the Rye" and "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich." I wish I still had that shirt!

In 1990 I went to San Francisco with my friend Arthur. That bag contained a loaf of sourdough that we ate for dinner -- and as I recall we ate ONLY the sourdough, and drank a bottle of red wine. Anyway, I was excited to be on Grant Avenue, which runs through Chinatown and is the title of a show tune from "Flower Drum Song" -- I had it on vinyl sung by Florence Henderson. (Yes, I had a Florence Henderson album. I know, SO GAY. I got it at a thrift store somewhere.)

That corner hasn't changed much. Here's a Google Street View image -- if you rotate it to the right you can see that signpost, still looking the same, as well as the fire hydrant. (The newspaper box is gone, though.)

This is me in Key West in the early '90s, in a truly ridiculous outfit. Those shorts had the Flintstones on them. Throwing my arms out is my standard method of trying to make a photo more exciting.

This old dead tree used to stand in a pasture not too far from our house in Florida. Again, I'm doing the arm thing, with a leg thrown in for good measure. I'm trying to imitate the outstretched pose of the tree. This was probably 1990 or so.

Here I am in 1991 outside the post office in Toast, North Carolina, which really is the name of a community near Mount Airy. I was with my friend Suzanne and we were greatly amused to find a town called Toast.

And finally, when I first went to Morocco in the Peace Corps in 1992, I stayed in a village near Essaouira on training. The guy in the red hat, Ali, was my host -- I slept at his house and he insisted that I ride his donkey to the training site. I was nearly as big as the donkey and after this first day I insisted on walking!

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Drying Out

It's a bit early for the leaves to start falling, but I'm already finding some interesting ones on my walk to work. At least, they're interesting to me!

Yesterday I had to race home in the middle of the day to meet with the contractor who's supposed to finish our bathroom/hallway renovation work. You may remember we had much of our bathroom replaced this summer, which fixed an internal leak in our shower. Since then we've been waiting for the hallway wall to dry out so it can be painted. (It's a very dense wall. I think it's plaster and lathe, but there seem to be bricks involved too, so I'm not sure of its construction.)

I went to work in the morning, because I had a noon appointment with the guy. Or so I thought until I checked my old e-mails at 11:30 and realized I was supposed to be home to meet him RIGHT THEN! How did I screw that up? I have no idea. But I raced out of there like a jackrabbit on bennies and/or dexies, and still managed to get home before the contractor, who fortunately was running late himself.

He used his little moisture-measuring gizmo to determine that although the wall is slowly drying, it's still too damp to paint. "It must have been absolutely saturated," he said. He's going to recommend scraping off the old plaster to give the wall more breathing ability, and they'll re-skim it before painting.

Meanwhile they're coming next week to look at the gutters and eaves around our patio. It's always something. At least I'm not paying for any of it (well, except through the rent).

I've been cutting back on my alcohol consumption for a while now. Not that I was ever a huge drinker, but at one point I was having a gin & tonic and/or a glass or two of wine almost every night, which really did feel like too much. I was modeling that behavior on my dad, who had a cocktail and wine each evening in his later life, but I've stopped the gin (except on Fridays!) and now I'm going for several weeknights each week with no wine either.

One thing I've noticed is that it seems to make a big difference in my sleep patterns. If I drink nothing, I sleep much more soundly and often through the night with no interruption. That doesn't seem to be the case after just a glass or two of wine.

Anyway, I feel better and I'm sure it's the right thing to do. Especially since Dave no longer drinks, having given it up because of his Crohn's disease. Wine used to be something we could enjoy together with dinner, and it went hand-in-hand with Dave's culinary training, but now it seems a little desperate for me to drink alone. (Dave actually encourages it, saying he's living vicariously through me. I tell him he's like the Bad Idea Bears from "Avenue Q.")

Last night I made a reservation for a little getaway during our October break. We'll be staying in a grand country house outside London, Olga in tow. It's good to have an escape to look forward to!

Speaking of Olga, I finally had to throw away her Union Jack dog bed. We've had it for about ten years, and it was quite faded, but after it recently developed a couple of huge holes I decided enough was enough. Olga has a replacement bed but she doesn't seem to like it as much. Perhaps she misses that connection with her sense of British patriotism.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Can Pilot

The apple-tree-in-a-bag is looking grim these days, and we haven't even had a very dry summer. I guess the fact that it's managed to survive almost four years should be impressive enough -- certainly longer than I ever expected.  I don't think it gets much care, beyond the owners adding soil to the bag over time. I would still love to know how it got there in the first place. What possessed someone with no yard to try to grow a mature apple tree on their second-floor patio -- in a bag?

I wish I could snap my fingers and magically transplant it to an orchard somewhere. When it finally does die, it's going to be a pain to discard.

I called the dentist yesterday about my broken tooth. I can't get in to see her until Friday morning. I think this is partly because she only works part time. At any rate, that's fine -- I'm not in any pain so I don't mind waiting. I have a sinking feeling that she's going to want to do some elaborate repair job.

I came across this interesting cream soda can while walking Olga on Sunday morning. Who is that, I wondered? Charles Lindbergh? Sir Edmund Hillary? No, it turns out to be someone named Mike Miller-Smith, whose dreams of being a commercial pilot were sidelined by muscular dystrophy. Miller-Smith went on to found an organization that allows disabled people to experience flying. Apparently the brand Soda Folk recognizes various everyday "heroes" on their colorful cans.

I've mentioned before that my brother and I used to collect beverage cans when we were kids. We would have loved these!

Monday, September 18, 2023

Rainy Day Reading

I took this photo in the tube last Wednesday, when I made my trip to the embassy. Remember the screaming hand of Santa Cruz skateboards? I was surprised to see it turn up in such a commercial location, but I'm not sure why. I guess it's a brand like any other.

I'm happy to say I plowed through the remainder of "Demon Copperhead" yesterday. (And yes, I did mistakenly call it "Demon Copperfield" in yesterday's post, until an astute reader pointed out my error, which I have corrected! Like The New York Times, I acknowledge my screw-ups.)

It turned out to be a good day for reading. The morning was gray and rather forbidding. Olga and I took an early walk down to the high street but that's basically just around the block, to the extent that there even are blocks in London. (Funny how "around the block" seems like such a natural expression, and yet vast numbers of people -- possibly most people -- don't live in places with actual blocks.)

I saw the immediate aftermath of some kind of urban conflict but I wasn't sure what happened. A person walking with a bag, a kid on a bicycle, his face covered by a balaclava. The person with the bag was yelling and cursing, I believe at the kid, who I immediately suspected of being up to no good. Anyone wearing a balaclava on a relatively warm day is suspicious, in my book. Olga wouldn't do a lick of good if I were robbed on the street but I do think having her beside me makes me less of a target. Then again, I wouldn't even have been out there if not for her.

I cleaned the house and cared for all the indoor plants. And then, in the afternoon, we got a pounding rain shower.

This looks like pretty much every other rain video I've ever uploaded, so don't feel obligated to watch it. I made it mainly because I like going back later and seeing what the garden looked like at different times and in different years. I'm thinking it may be time to crank up the dehumidifier again. Our flat always starts feeling so damp in the fall.

In the afternoon I tried to walk Olga during a break in the rain, but she was having none of it. She was content to curl up on the couch. When I think of how that dog would drag me all over Hampstead Heath not that long ago, it seems astonishing that now it can be hard to get her out the front door! Especially if the sky is looking gloomy. She's smart -- she knows what a grey sky means.

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Lifting the Bluebeard

Yesterday morning turned into a gardening blitz. I hadn't done much in the garden for a week or two, so things were getting a little overgrown out there. I started trimming here and there and before I knew it I'd filled three yard waste bags.

The flower above is called a bluebeard (Caryopteris). We have two of them, and one has been slowly swallowed up by the out-of-control English ivy that grows beneath our Philadelphus. (This ivy is a scourge.) So yesterday I cut all the ivy out of the bluebeard and lifted the rather scraggly looking bush onto a support to get it off the ground. I've been meaning to do it for ages so now I'm glad to have it done.

I also trimmed the neighbor's rose overhanging our patio, aka "the monster," and trimmed the buddleia near our garden steps -- it's done blooming now and I want more light to reach the potted plants beneath it. And I cut down our cardoon, which had died back for the season (a bit early, it seems to me).

Anyway, I don't need to run through every single thing I did, but suffice to say I was out there several hours and I topped off the day by mowing the lawn.

Olga seemed happy with the results.

Meanwhile, on the front porch, the gazanias are looking a little peaked, but they're still blooming.

I spent the afternoon reading "Demon Copperhead." I'm enjoying it but I feel like I lost momentum last week, when I got so busy at work. I didn't even pick it up for about five days. You know that terrible feeling when you're about halfway through a huge book and you feel like you're losing your grip on the plot, because you haven't been able to read in a while? I hate that. Anyway, I'm hoping to plow through the remainder, or at least a chunk of it, today. I have about 150 pages left.

(Edited to correct the title of the book!)

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Silence is Golden

This was the light as I walked Olga yesterday morning. Is that autumnal, or what? It's so interesting how the light changes color at this time of year, and takes on that golden quality.

As The Seattle Times explained back in September 2011:
The position of the sun in the sky is changing. That, in turn, alters how we perceive color and light. In the height of summer, the sun is as far overhead as it gets. But the sun drops and drops after the summer solstice in June — and the change speeds up at the midpoint toward winter. Right about now.
So it's not our imagination, and it's not a function of the changing leaves or any other terrestrial cause. The light really is different.

Olga took some time to sniff a bit of blooming borage. (Say THAT three times fast!) We didn't get any borage in our garden this year. Maybe I'll collect some seeds from this plant, if it survives long enough to set them. (It's in an area that is occasionally mowed.)

Yesterday was about as different as I could possibly expect from any workday earlier in the week. Things have been so busy and chaotic, and then yesterday ALL the students were gone on field trips! And all the teachers went with them as chaperones! Woo hoo!

The library was silent, and I mean silent. I shelved books, organized some things, did some paperwork, and read blogs. A handful of adults came in to use the printer or work quietly in one of the study areas. As I told a colleague in another office when I saw her at the coffee machine, "I feel like I work in a library!"

It was fabulous.

If our library was always like this, rather than a midday playground for 10th graders to horse around and munch illicit potato chips, oh, I would be in heaven.
I found this on the floor. It's not even a sticker -- just a little card of some kind. Maybe a bookmark? Anyway, I appreciate the optimism.

The strangest thing happened to me last night. I was brushing my teeth to go to bed, and when I finished I felt a rough spot on one of my lower front teeth. I thought maybe something was stuck there, but no -- I appear to have broken off a part of the tooth while brushing! How I managed to do this, I have no idea. The tooth looks normal from the front, but in back, near the tip, there's a place where a bit of the enamel feels like it's come off.

Is it just coincidence that this happened only weeks after getting my teeth cleaned? Hmmmm...

Anyway, I suppose now I need to go back to the dentist, to at least have her look at this and see if it needs filling or some other treatment. It doesn't hurt at all.

Why do these things always happen on a FRIDAY?

Does this count as a "new adventure"?

Friday, September 15, 2023

The Chopper

Doesn't that picture look autumnal? That's our Japanese maple. I was sitting beneath it last weekend, looking at the sun coming through the leaves and the red seed pods, and thinking, "Fall is coming!"

I am having the craziest, busiest week. Part of it is the non-work stuff I've had to do, like go to the embassy, but we've also been scrambling in the library. Several of our team have been out for one reason or another, so we're perpetually short-handed -- for example, my co-worker just left for Buenos Aires to tend to a family emergency, and another librarian is out for medical reasons. Plus we've had lots of people all over the school coming down with Covid, so that adds spice to the mix.

And as I've mentioned the head librarian is new to the job. So she's having to familiarize herself with all the items in the budget and do a lot of background work that the previous librarian knew by heart. I don't think I realized how much time and attention that would take.

Yesterday I updated all our database usage statistics -- I usually do that job only once a year but we needed them now for budgeting purposes. I reorganized some shelves and again, I put away a huge number of books.

Today will be calmer because all the kids and most of the teachers are off-campus for activities. (Dave and another teacher are taking a group of students to Brighton, for example.) So I'll be able to do some catching up and hopefully blog reading, which I have sorely neglected!

Yesterday as I was walking home from work this van passed me on Finchley Road. That dog cracked me up, hanging its head out the window. Fortunately traffic was moving slowly enough that I could take some quick pictures. It's so funny how dogs love doing that. It makes me wish I could put Olga in a car and drive her around so she could experience the evident joy.

And we had this happening on Wednesday evening:

That police helicopter flew loops above our neighborhood for a while, creating a tremendous racket. (At least, I assume it was the police -- it usually is in situations like this.) I never got any word about what was going on and I don't see anything in the news. At the same time, a gardener next door was using some type of noisy machine. As I said to Dave, "I'm so glad we can come home from work and enjoy the peace and quiet of our garden!"

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Official Business

Yesterday was my appointment at the embassy to get a letter notarized. Why I needed this is a long story related to banking bureaucracy and my mother's estate, but basically I had to send it in lieu of flying back to Florida and being there personally to complete some business.

So yesterday I took the tube down to Vauxhall and walked to the embassy, which is relatively new. It's a boxy glass building with a rather exotic sunshade that makes it look much more architecturally interesting than it otherwise would. That's a corner of the building above. It would have been a better photo on a windy day, with the flag on the pole fluttering instead of hanging limply, but as the Rolling Stones famously said, you can't always get what you want.

The building is surrounded by a wild-looking sea of grasses and wildflowers, as well as a pond and a waterfall.

In the background you can see the Sky Pool suspended between two nearby apartment buildings.

I went through security, was sent to a sterile, cold-looking white marble waiting room on the second floor, and maybe half an hour later emerged with my document done. I was intrigued to see a quote from Robert F. Kennedy etched into one of the embassy walls -- and now we have his crazy son running for president.

Other than seeing the embassy for the first time and absorbing something of the surroundings, it wasn't a very interesting visit. The only hiccup occurred when I presented my letter for notarizing and they said it didn't include any "notary language." I was given two sheets of paper featuring slightly different phrases, and had to choose one to append to the letter, basically attesting that I'd proven my identity and signed the document in front of the notary. So I did that, praying that the bank wouldn't kick it back to me for using the wrong language.

Then I zipped back to work, scanned the letter and sent it off. So far, so good.

Workwise yesterday was very busy. We took down two displays and put up two new ones, and I bet I re-shelved three cartloads of books. I also found a couple that had been missing -- I think some kids mischievously moved them during a recent class exercise -- so that was a bonus.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

We Have Sunflowers!

After all my carping about my sunflowers and how late they are, we finally have two blossoms -- and several more buds in various stages of opening. Whew! I really thought we might not get any flowers at all this year. The weather is growing cooler and most of the commercial sunflower farms are already done for the season, I think.

I planted the seeds back in mid-May, but maybe that was too late. I probably should have started them indoors about a month earlier.

Anyway, they're here now, and looking good, and the bees are already paying attention!

I like the color variations. They're all supposed to be the sort of burnt orange of the one at the top, but the one above seems to have gone more yellow.

I was supposed to go last night to a stand-up comedy show at the London Palladium -- someone named Russell Howard. My friend Colin had the tickets and he invited me, so I said yes, even though I haven't the slightest idea who Russell Howard is. That and the fact that stand-up makes me incredibly uncomfortable. It feels very awkward to me, and as an obviously bald guy in the audience I always suspect I'll be called upon as the butt of a bald joke. (It sounds paranoid but it's happened several times! Maybe not at a big classy show like something at the London Palladium, but still.)

Anyway, this was the plan. But then Colin texted me yesterday morning to say he'd called in sick, and could I use the tickets or find someone else who wanted them?

I spent all morning asking around and messaging people, including friends I offered to accompany, but I had no takers. Finally around 1 p.m. Colin found someone willing to go, so I was off the hook. Whew! I'm sure Russell is very funny, whoever he is, but I was glad to just come home and watch TV.