Tuesday, October 31, 2023

The Spider and the Goldfish

Happy Halloween, everybody! Or scary Halloween, or whatever the appropriate sentiment may be.

I've seen lots of Halloween decorations out and about in our part of London, perhaps because there are a lot of Americans in this area. But as I've said in the past, Halloween is becoming more popular among the British too, and it's very common to see decorated shop windows and pumpkins on front steps.

This house (above) in St. John's Wood looks rather Halloweenish, with that giant spider, but it's actually there all the time -- as is the goldfish, which isn't Halloweenish at all. The spider used to cling to the facade of the house but at some point it moved to the yard.

Here are some other noteworthy decorations I've seen:

(The lights inside the spiders spin and twirl. It's like an arachnophobe's bad LSD trip!)

This one looks legitimately scary, even to me.

Dave and I have no special plans. The risk of trick-or-treaters is very low here -- in fact we've never had one in the entire time we've lived in London -- but we'll still be hiding out in the back of the house with the porch lights off. Frankly, that's what we do every night, unless we're getting a Chinese food delivery.

My brother, rather than sending me a bag of candy corn (as he has in the past), this year sent me a picture of a bag of candy corn instead. "Too expensive to ship," he wrote. "Thanks, Obama!"

(He was kidding.)

Monday, October 30, 2023

The Autumn of Olga

Well, the lawn-mowing didn't happen this weekend -- perhaps the one thing I meant to do that didn't get done. It rained steadily all yesterday morning so there was never an opportunity, and even when the sun finally emerged in the afternoon the grass was too wet. Maybe this afternoon after work.

I did get some more trimming and neatening done in the garden, and in the process I found that one of our roses -- the salmon-colored one, which is one of my favorites -- has a new bud. It's pretty late for the roses to be blooming but we'll see what happens. Curiously, this bud is much darker than usual for that rose. Funny how temperature, or light, or some other seasonal factor affects flowers. We have other blossoms that also change color as the months pass.

I heard that my hometown, Tampa, experienced a mass shooting on Saturday during an unofficial Halloween street party in the city's old Latin quarter, the epicenter of its nightlife. It sounds like an argument flared into gunfire and managed to catch a lot of innocent bystanders in the crossfire. Once again, I've gotta question the easy availability of guns in the USA and specifically Florida. Thanks, DeSantis!

Years ago I wrote about my memories of attending Guavaween, which used to be Tampa's official Halloween celebration. (The city's unofficial nickname, popularized by a well-read newspaper columnist at the time, was "The Big Guava.") I went a few times in the late '80s and early '90s and it was a fun, harmless street party. But policing the event became more and more difficult over the years and I believe Guavaween is essentially dead now, having morphed into disorganized Halloween revelry like what was happening on Saturday.

Olga and I took a walk in the afternoon, after the rain cleared. She looks thin in the photo above but she's really not. She's lost some subcutaneous fat, so she looks a bit more bony than usual, but she weighs as much as she ever did. Still, you can tell she's an old girl. We could call this photo "The Autumn of Olga."

We hadn't been to the cemetery in a while and she seemed to enjoy the walk. She stalked and glared at squirrels (no more chasing them) and trotted after her ball when I threw it short distances. We found this curious item in the grass -- obviously someone's dog toy, which looks like an aide memoire for English teachers. The sides say things like, "What background do you bring to the story?" and "What does the title tell you about the story?" Apparently a very literary dog had been there before us!

When we got home I gave Olga a bath, which she hadn't had in a while. She's usually a self-cleaning dog, not prone to being dirty or smelly, but she managed to kick up lots of mud on her undercarriage.

Thanks for all your comments and tips on Dave's conjunctivitis, or whatever it is. He did take a Covid test and it's definitely not that. It might be associated with his Crohn's but the doctor didn't flag that as a concern, so who knows. So far I am still unaffected.

Last night we watched another installment of "The Fall of the House of Usher." I wouldn't say this is a mind-blowing series but it's good for Halloween -- if you don't mind a bit of gore -- and it's fun to watch for the Edgar Allan Poe references.

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Red Leaves, Red Eyes

Yesterday could not decide what it wanted to be. One minute it wanted to be sunny; the next minute, it was raining. No sooner had I moved a rack of laundry onto the patio to dry than it was "chucking it down," as the British say. So the laundry is drying inside and the dehumidifier is on full-blast.

I guess I need to start using our dryer again. I usually stop over the summer and just air-dry everything, and the dryer -- being the ventless, condenser variety -- doesn't get things very dry anyway. But a rack of damp laundry is far preferable to a rack of wet laundry.

So, yes, I did laundry. I watered all the plants and re-potted my prayer plant, which I usually keep on a windowsill in the library. One of our maintenance guys, a plant enthusiast himself, took the liberty of repotting it in an incredibly ugly purple plastic pot, and between you and me, he did a very clumsy job -- the plant was so deep in the pot that some of its leaves were covered with dirt. So I brought the whole thing home and did it over in a clay pot, and I'll just keep it here. I'll take his pot back to the library. Yes, I am a control freak, and he meant to be helpful, but I mean, it's MY PLANT.

I also did some gardening, filling a yard waste bag with seasonal trimmings.

I succeeded in plowing through a New Yorker, featuring a fascinating article about an Austrian woman who, in the early '70s, spent months in a group home for children that was really a Nazi-inspired psychological experiment. She had all these dim memories of cruelty and hardship and hadn't really explored them, and the article followed her as she opened that Pandora's Box.

I also read Adam Gopnik's review of Heather Cox Richardson's new book, which dissects the strains on our democratic system in the era of Donald Trump. One of Gopnik's sentences, paraphrasing Richardson's ideas, stood out for me: "The crisis of Democracy in America is a deep-seated current of racial resentment that has now become a torrent, with Trump a mere bobblehead doll bouncing along in its wake."

YES! That is absolutely true.

When Barack Obama got elected in 2008, a substantial portion of the USA (and the world) celebrated, believing we'd turned a corner on our racist past. I know I did. But another portion of the country was shocked -- and subsequently infuriated -- that a black man, and a black man far more articulate and educated than they were, was now president. They've never gotten over it.

As I've mentioned before, I often read right-wing news outlets to try to understand what people are thinking, and perhaps the steadiest current running through a lot of reader comments on those sites -- in addition to a healthy dose of anti-Semitic, anti-gay and John Birch-style anti-communist rhetoric -- is an absolute and visceral personal hatred of Obama. In fact, a lot of the fury directed at Joe Biden is really meant for Obama. They believe Obama is still running the government, and call Biden Obama's "third term."

So, yes, based on what I read in Gopnik's review, it sounds like Richardson is on point.

Interesting that those same racist right-wing factions can be supportive of Clarence Thomas. But then, Thomas isn't challenging any of their beliefs or asking them to reconsider their views. He's just giving them what they want.

Last night was very quiet. We watched TV -- the second episode of Netflix's very Halloweenish "The Fall of the House of Usher." Dave isn't feeling well this weekend -- his eyes were super-red on Friday, which we first put down to allergies. But one of his co-workers urged him to see the school nurses, and they suggested he go to the doctor to check for conjunctivitis. The doc agreed that's what it is, so now Dave is dealing with eye drops, but he also has fatigue and other symptoms that lead me to suspect it may not just be conjunctivitis. I'm hoping I don't get it, as pink eye is notoriously contagious.

(Photos: Virginia creeper, like Dave's eyes, is now at its reddest!)

Saturday, October 28, 2023


Well, the tree saga has ended amicably, at least for now. The apartment caretaker called me yesterday morning and said they were going to cut the overhanging branches, and they'd dispose of them. I said that was fine. And when I came home, that's what had been done. Easy as pie.

In fact, now I'm wondering if we really need the tree service to come in February. Their main job was going to be removing that dead limb. We have a few other tasks as well but they're pretty minor. I may have to rethink this!

Otherwise, yesterday was very quiet. Since so many of you felt for the 7th Grade boy with the mangled book (see yesterday's post), you'll be glad to know that I let him off the hook. I was able to find two more copies of that same book elsewhere in the school, so I replaced it without spending any money -- and then it seemed unfair to charge him. But I did ask him to take better care of his books!

Olga and I found the photo at left on the sidewalk on one of our recent outings. It looks like one of those pictures where a bunch of friends crowd into a photo booth. I have one of those from high school myself, though we didn't have the fancy Hollywood backdrop and ours was black & white. Such a dinosaur! Anyway, yet another cultural artifact rescued from oblivion.

I have no grand plans for the weekend. I need to catch up on my New Yorkers and also I hope to mow the lawn -- if I can squeeze it in between rain showers -- and do some trimming in the garden. Our dishwasher is on the fritz and I'm hoping I can get that sorted out too. It's always something!

(Top photo: A trash bin at the housing estate near our flat. That red light is a train signal. The tracks are on the other side of that fence.)

Friday, October 27, 2023

Yellow Leaves, Blue Sky

We seem to have pressed pause, however briefly, on the saga of the trees at the edge of our garden and the neighboring apartment complex.

No limbs have been removed yet, so whatever was supposed to happen yesterday apparently didn't. It was raining in the morning, so maybe they delayed the work. I called the apartments' caretaker and reiterated in no uncertain terms that we didn't want brush or cuttings dumped in our garden. He said he would speak to their tree guy and get back to me.

But when I checked up on the trees after work yesterday evening, I saw that one of the branches -- the one most prominently sticking out over the garden wall -- has been moved and/or broken and is now in a different position. So although it's still there, someone's definitely been messing with it. Who knows what's happening?

I wrote the landlords and apprised them of the situation, and as far as is possible, I am passing this buck. The joys of renting!

This is our street as seen on my walk home from work yesterday, after the rain had passed. It's looking very autumnal out there! I love that combination of yellow leaves and blue sky. Autumn is perhaps my favorite season.

Dave and I did manage to see a notary public yesterday to get our financial document notarized. I'm praying that the recipients accept this notary, given that he's based in London and his notary stamps and seals look slightly different. You know how notaries always have to say when their commission expires? Well, his stamp says, "My commission expires with life." Which I thought was pretty funny.

Dave was fuming that we had to spend £70 to have someone stamp a piece of paper. "It's such a scam!" he kept saying.

Anyway, I'm very relieved to have that done. That's one item off my mental to-do list.

A 7th Grade boy dropped this into the book return at work yesterday morning. I think it used to be a library book. Seriously, what the heck?! It looks like he got it wet -- because it's water-stained -- and then wedged it into a book bag/locker/drawer for about three weeks, so it could dry in this impossibly contorted position. I very rarely charge a kid for a damaged book, but I'm afraid he's going to get docked for this one.

I love how he quietly returned it, like maybe we wouldn't notice.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

More Tree Drama, and Gerry

Here's Olga on her walk yesterday morning -- checking out a mysterious round orange object the likes of which she's never seen before.

I think we're about to have some drama over the trees in the back garden. Remember how I said the caretaker of the apartments behind us allegedly knocked on Mrs. Russia's door to complain about them? Well, yesterday he left us a note with his phone number, asking us to call. So I did.

He said he's scheduled a tree service to visit TODAY to cut off all the growth overhanging the wall, and he plans to pile the growth IN OUR GARDEN! I explained to him that we have a tree service coming in February to handle the problem and I'd really rather he not pile a bunch of limbs and stuff on our property, because we have plants back there I don't want damaged. But he said that's the law -- they can cut off the material and "return it to the source."

This seems pretty confrontational, doesn't it? Especially given that he didn't talk to us at all until yesterday?

I did a cursory reading of British law regarding trees and it sounds like he is indeed supposed to offer us whatever cuttings come from our trees -- I suppose we own the wood and we might want to use it for some purpose. But if we don't want the cuttings, they're supposed to dispose of them.

Anyway, he said he would talk to the property manager and others and get back to me. I have no idea what to expect. It sounds like we might be living with a pile of limbs for the next three months. Not only that, who knows what he's going to cut off, deeming it an intrusion on the apartment complex property and their precious brick wall?

There are days Dave and I fantasize about living in a high-rise somewhere with no garden at all. This is one of those days.

In other bad/sad news (sorry to be so negative today!) I tried a couple of weeks ago to contact Gerry, the husband of my departed friend Christopher, to tell him we're coming to Los Angeles in February. I didn't get a response, which I thought was odd, and when I looked at his Facebook page yesterday I realized Gerry has also died. It's hard to tell when, but it seems like it happened a few weeks ago. He and Christopher both had cancer, which I knew, so this is not a total surprise, but I'm sorry I didn't get to see either of them again.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

In Which I Am Crabby

I woke up this morning in the pre-dawn darkness and came out to the living room to find an awful lot of light on the patio. First I wondered if there was a full moon, but then I realized it was coming from the Russians' flat. About a year ago, as you may remember, they installed French doors and a Juliet balcony where once there was only a window. When they have the lights on and the drapes open, those French doors are lit up like the stage at Royal Albert Hall.

I don't remember noticing this phenomenon before, so I don't think they have the lights on and the drapes open all that often. Which is a good thing.

Holy cow, was I crabby yesterday! I surprised even myself. I had one episode of crabbiness while waiting in the lunch line at work, when for a variety of reasons the line took much longer than usual and then people behind me started getting served before me. I threw up my hands and said, "I'll just get a sandwich," which entails simply grabbing one from a display near the cash register and thus doesn't require standing in line at all. And that's what I did.

This resulted in one of the catering managers bringing a hot entree to my desk, which I felt bad about, but I appreciated the gesture. I'd already eaten my sandwich by that time but I figured I'd bring the entree home for dinner.

I spent part of the afternoon helping another librarian put up a display in the Middle School:

She asked all the kids to make little book spines showing their favorite book that they read over the summer. Then she assembled them all into "shelves." Here's a close-up:

As you can see, "The Hunger Games" remains a popular title. Would a sixth-grader really understand "The Lord of the Flies"? Or "No Country for Old Men"?! One eighth-grader said they read "Lolita," which kind of blew my mind.

Anyway, when the day finally ended I began walking home only to realize, about a third of the way there, that I'd left my lunch entree in the refrigerator at work. Argh! So I turned around, walked back, collected my entree, and took the tube home -- and here's where I had my second episode of crabbiness.

I disembarked from the tube at my stop and made my way up the stairs amid throngs of people, listening to the "Q-Anon Anonymous" podcast the whole time. One of my pet peeves is people who stand in front of the exit gates on the tube rummaging around for their wallets or tube cards. To my way of thinking, if you don't have your card ready, you should step aside and find it rather than blocking a gate so others can't get out.

Well, a discombobulated woman with a suitcase was standing in front of a gate looking for her card, and she was adjusting the layers of coats she seemed to be wearing for some reason, and then her suitcase fell over (as rolling bags are prone to do), blocking a second exit gate. I happened to be approaching that gate. I didn't even look at her -- I scanned my card, STEPPED OVER HER BAG, and walked through the gate. It was only on the other side that I thought, "Geez, maybe I should have helped that woman!"

My only defense is that when you live in a big city, particularly if you've lived in them for a quarter of a century like I have, you learn to keep your head down and your eyes forward. It's a form of urban armor, and it was exacerbated by the fact that I had my earbuds in and was listening to a podcast. So, yeah, it was an obnoxious thing to do -- and it brought to mind my Zen friend's comment about my heart -- but I think defensible under the circumstances.

Maybe I need another vacation.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

A Lonely Cosmos

You probably don't remember this, because I barely do, but way back in May I planted some Cosmos seeds in a tub on our patio. They came from a seed packet I got in one of our magazine subscriptions at work, and they were a spectacular failure. Most of them didn't come up at all. I had just one tiny, struggling plant that managed to sprout and hold on through the summer, but even it didn't prosper.

Imagine my surprise when I went out on the patio the other day and found a lone Cosmos flower, finally blooming! And imagine my equivalent chagrin when I saw that the plant had been broken, probably by squirrels trying to get to the sunflowers in the same pot.

I cut the lonely Cosmos and brought it inside, where I put it in a vase with one of our small sunflowers, also snapped by a marauding squirrel.

I'm just happy I got any flower at all!

I had an interesting experience Friday on my walk to work. I was passing a bus stop when I looked down and saw an important-looking card lying on the ground. I picked it up and it was something called a Freedompass. This is a government-issued transit pass, and it had the owner's picture and name but no contact information on it. I took it to work and, as instructed on the card, e-mailed the Freedompass office to report that I'd found it.

Well, I got an e-mail back telling me how I could replace my own lost Freedompass, which isn't what I needed at all. (Do they have an AI bot responding to e-mails?) So I called their office and a woman there told me to mail it to them. Which I did.

I guess it's not a very interesting story, really, except for that e-mail confusion. It was another "everything has to be done at least twice" moment.

I'm still trying to iron out a notary for that document that Dave has to sign. This is turning into a ridiculous task but I'm going to get it done today, I swear.

I've ordered Walter Isaacson's new biography of Elon Musk for our library. I think Elon Musk is a scary character, a bit like Peter Thiel (whose biography I also purchased and read a few years ago, you may recall). But Isaacson is a good writer -- I loved his Steve Jobs biography -- and I'm intrigued by what I've heard about the book.

Jill Lepore, in The New Yorker, wrote a review that I found quite compelling. It included her spot-on assessment of Twitter, which of course Musk bought and rebranded as X and seems to believe is a valuable vehicle for free speech and the furtherance of Democracy:
Twitter never has and never will be a vehicle for democratic expression. It is a privately held corporation that monetizes human expression and algorithmically maximizes its distribution for profit, and what turns out to be most profitable is sowing social, cultural, and political division. Its participants are a very tiny, skewed slice of humanity that has American journalism in a choke hold. Twitter does not operate on the principle of representation, which is the cornerstone of democratic governance. It has no concept of the “civil” in “civil society.”

 Truer words were never spoken! And that, my friends, is why I do not have a Twitter account.

Monday, October 23, 2023

Dragons, Furries and a Special Guest Star

Yesterday I finally got off my lazy behind and took a long walk through London. I did this because a Special Blogging Guest Star has come to town -- Sharon of Phoenix Daily Photo! So yay to Sharon for giving me some motivation!

I met up with her at her stylish hotel, the Fitzroy on Russell Square. Our original plan had been to go to the National Gallery, but as it turned out the weather yesterday was amazing -- bright blue sky, lots of sun and shadow. Given that the next couple of weeks are going to be cloudy and rainy, we figured we'd better carpe diem and spend the day outdoors.

So we set out instead for the City of London, and it was indeed an incredible day for photography. We stopped at the Holborn Viaduct, an ornate bridge over a roadway. I've photographed those dragons before but yesterday, in the sun, they really glowed!

I love days with no particular agenda. We kept wandering and crossed Paternoster Square, in the shadow of St. Paul's Cathedral. The light was so perfect that I felt like every time we turned a corner we were presented with an amazing photographic opportunity.

It wasn't that cold, but this little pigeon decided to hunker down on a spotlight in a patio. Maybe it's not for warmth. Maybe that pigeon simply believes it has star quality and needs special lighting. "I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille."

We wandered into the church of St. Mary le Bow, which I'd never visited before. We were starting to think about lunch and there's a cafe in the crypt beneath the church, but as it turns out it's only open on weekdays. So we simply enjoyed the church's modernistic stained glass windows and airy vaulted space. Much of it was rebuilt after heavy damage in World War II.

It's the church that gives definition to the term Cockney -- supposedly, to be a true Cockney, one has to be born within earshot of its bells.

We finally found food not far away at a rather downmarket Costa coffee shop, where I got a "Hog Roast" toastie. I handed it to the cashier for toasting, and when he brought it to the counter a few minutes later, he announced that it was chicken. I didn't pick it up because I assumed it was someone else's sandwich; when I asked where mine was, he pointed at it. "Oh, I had the pork," I said. He replied, "There is no pork. You had that one."

So then I was completely confused about why a toastie called "Hog Roast" would contain chicken. I looked at the ingredients list before we left and of course it doesn't. I don't even know why I'm telling this story except to declare that I AM NOT INSANE and the sandwich called "Hog Roast" is, in fact, pork.

When we emerged onto the street we noticed that we were near the Fenchurch Building, home of the Sky Garden. We thought we might try to go up, but there was a long line and the ticket agent said we needed to pre-book.

So we kept walking, and a few blocks away we happened to look up and see a colorful building with people roaming around on the roof. Well, that looks like an observation deck, we thought -- and it is, a completely free one on the top of 120 Fenchurch Street. No pre-booking necessary!

We went up and enjoyed fabulous views over all of London. That's Sharon in the beige jacket, with the towers of Canary Wharf in the background.

Here's another perspective, including the Tower of London and Tower Bridge. How can you argue with a view like that?!

By this time it was mid-afternoon and we'd been walking a while, so we decided to catch the bus back to Sharon's hotel. We'd no sooner boarded and sat down than we passed a large group of people in furry animal costumes walking down the sidewalk.

That's a terrible picture, because it was taken from a moving bus, but you get the idea. It's a Furry parade!

We eventually made our way back to the Fitzroy and I dropped off Sharon before heading home myself. I enjoyed the bus ride so much that I took buses all the way back to West Hampstead, rather than getting on the dreary tube. Gotta maximize that sunlight while it's around!

Sunday, October 22, 2023

The Jungle Grows

Yesterday was full of typical Saturday activities. I did two loads of laundry, stripped the bed and took the sheets and towels to the laundromat, and vacuumed.

Then I watered all the plants, and somehow that turned into rearranging the plants near the back door and finally bringing the avocado inside for the winter. In some ways it wasn't the best time for this job, because the avocado has been sitting outside during Storm Babet, and the pot and soil were completely saturated. It's already a heavy plant and I think it weighed about 20 pounds more than usual!

I know I say this every year, but this may seriously be the last time I bring it indoors. Moving it almost killed me. Next winter I may let nature take its course.

But anyway, for now, it's inside. It looks a bit lopsided because one of the branches broke off when it fell over last week, and it has developed a slight curve in its trunk, I think because it was leaning toward the light in the yard. The yucca, as you can see, has been shifted to the right next to our gigantic fiddle-leaf fig.

I sent this pic to Dave and said, "Behold the jungle!" He said, "It looks like the jungle has killed Olga."

And even though I'm constantly complaining about having too many plants, I found another adoptee yesterday.

When I walked Olga in the morning I came across this rubber tree in a skip (or dumpster, as we say in America). I brought it home, removed the dead stalk and all those completely unnecessary bamboo stakes, and repotted it with fresh soil. We'll see how it does. Rubber trees are usually pretty durable so I'll be surprised if it doesn't survive. See that price tag on the pot? Someone paid £85 for this plant -- roughly $103. Insanity!

So, anyway, now we're closer to being ready for winter. I still have to deal with all the dahlias, lifting the tubers and moving them into the shed, but we have a few weeks before that task. The plants still have green (but faded and scraggly) leaves, so I'll wait until they die back a bit more.

We had more rain yesterday, but the weather faired later in the day and today is supposed to be sunny, as I understand it. And then we're in for this:

Ah, well. I guess there's a reason this "green and pleasant land" is so green. And look at those temperatures. That avocado could have stayed outside well into November!

(Top: A leaf found on Olga's walk yesterday morning.)

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Charlie and Babet

I came across this amazing hardware on a wooden gate in Hampstead while walking home from the hospital yesterday. It's great, isn't it? It looks Venetian or Spanish or maybe Middle Eastern. The gate at my rented village house in Morocco years ago used to have similarly elaborate hardware, though more rustic than this.

I was at the hospital for a routine blood test. The hallway to the phlebotomy department is lined with art prints, I assume donated to the hospital. Many are black-and-white etchings from what I can tell, given my limited knowledge of art and its methods.

I like this one. It really captures a feline stretch! I believe it says "Charlie 5 mths" by artist Nancy Sharp.

The blood test was uneventful (so far, though of course I don't have any results yet) and I also got my flu shot yesterday afternoon. I haven't heard anything about a Covid booster, but Dave has been offered one. Maybe the NHS is only doing them for people who are perceived to be more vulnerable, as Dave is with his Crohn's Disease.

Our librarian meeting yesterday went well and gave us plenty to talk about in future gatherings. Otherwise, it was a pretty slow day for me. (There were parent-teacher conferences so most of the kids weren't at school.) I can't really continue weeding until we sort out more of our questions about that process, so I basically just stayed at my desk and read.

We've had a fair amount of rain here, but nothing like what's been happening elsewhere in the UK with Storm Babet. Oh, and Olga's stomach seems better. It was definitely upset yesterday, as I learned when I came home from work. I'll spare you the details!

Friday, October 20, 2023

Oil and Stuff

I came across these posters on my walk home from work yesterday, plastered onto the graffiti-ridden pedestrian bridge over the tube tracks in West Hampstead. They're from the climate campaign group Just Stop Oil, and I assume they're related to the protests held a few days ago where Greta Thuberg (among others) was arrested. Apparently Just Stop Oil has plans for more protests in the immediate future.

Of course I broadly support efforts to protect our climate, but I also recognize the inherent hypocrisy in that support. I am, after all, flying to California on vacation in February. There's a tension to living in the modern world, trying to minimize climate damage while still living our lives. We all recognize it and we all feel it. At least Dave and I are staying in the UK for Thanksgiving and Christmas, so that helps with our carbon footprint. (And I always fall back on the fact that we're fortunate enough to not need a car.)

I have a lot of stuff swirling around in my head at the moment. In addition to planning for California (which admittedly is not urgent), I have to get yet another document notarized for a financial transaction that's too boring to go into here. Last time I went to the embassy, but they don't appear to be scheduling notary appointments at the moment, so I have to look elsewhere. I've found a British notary and we're going to try that, and hopefully it will be acceptable to all parties involved.

It's so funny that I haven't needed a notary in years and years and now I've needed one twice in a period of weeks.

Meanwhile, at work, we're reviewing our book weeding procedures in a meeting this morning. My boss is enthusiastic about removing shelf clutter, which is admirable, but I'm not sure we all ultimately agree on what's clutter and what's not. We'll see what transpires.

And then I have a flu shot and a blood test in the afternoon. Joy!

Olga had us up multiple times in the night. I think her stomach is upset -- who knows why. I let her out around 2 a.m. and she ran to the back of the garden barking, which usually means her expert radar detected a fox. But then we had to let her out a couple more times, and it seems like maybe she's feeling a little yucky.

I cut down most of the sunflowers yesterday. The blooms were over and they were ragged and broken from being climbed by (I assume) squirrels, so I cut off the flower heads and threw them into the center of the flower bed and composted the rest of the plants. And so we march ever steadily toward winter.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

The Golden State

As I write, the dehumidifier has just beeped that it is once again full, which means it's time to dump another liter of water down the drain. I empty that thing twice a day. It's amazing how much humidity is in the air in autumn, even when we can air out the house on relatively warm days. And we're still trying to dry out that wall in the hallway so it can be painted. I feel like Sisyphus perpetually rolling his boulder uphill!

I usually station the dehumidifier right outside the bathroom, so that it can (hopefully) suck up the steam from our showers. Sometimes I move it to the bedroom, because on chilly mornings I wake to find the windows coated with droplets of moisture. I blame Olga's snoring.

Speaking of humidity, or lack thereof, Dave and I made a momentous decision a couple of days ago. We're going to Los Angeles for our vacation in February. We had credits to use on Delta that were about to expire, which meant we pretty much had to go to North America, and we decided we didn't want to go to Florida again. I've been back and forth from the Sunshine State so many times I've practically forgotten what the rest of the world is like. So, yeah, we're headed for someplace new!

We've talked about a California vacation for a while, but the state is so huge it seems to make sense to have one SoCal trip and another NoCal (do people say NoCal? Or maybe NorCal?) later on. So that's the plan! I'm thinking we'll work in a little jaunt to Palm Springs and maybe one to Big Sur, and Dave already has tickets to a performance of the LA Philharmonic.

LA is not entirely new to me -- I've been there several times. I think Dave has been there less. But I love Southern California so I'm always happy to go again. My dad grew up in Riverside and I used to have a lot of family in that region, but they've now entirely decamped to Idaho -- and I barely know them, anyway. They're all cousins I've met only once or twice, and possibly a very elderly aunt who would be in her 90s now, if she's still alive. So, anyway, no need to track down family. I wish Christopher was still alive but we can visit his husband Gerry and maybe we'll get to see blogger Elizabeth.

We plan on asking one of our co-workers to stay with Olga. If none are available we ought to be able to board her without too much trouble. It's not such a high-demand time of year that I should have to resort to a ridiculously expensive sitter like I did for our planned Florida trip last Christmas. (Which didn't happen anyway!)

California, here we come -- just like Lucy!

(Photo: A rhododendron bush in our garden, putting on its fall colors.)

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

A Quick Post

I overslept like crazy this morning. I went to bed at the normal time, woke up briefly around 3 a.m., and then didn't wake again until 7 a.m.! Which on a workday is crazy. (I have to leave the house at 8 a.m.!)

Fortunately I have no hair to speak of, and I shaved my head (as I routinely do) yesterday morning, so I can pretty much just throw on some clothes and walk out the door. Being bald makes for a very low-maintenance morning. I can take my breakfast to work and eat it there.

We must have had some gusty wind in the night because our avocado tree was lying on its side when I looked out the window this morning. I went out to right it and one of the limbs was broken when it fell. Frankly, that's fine -- I am always loath to prune that tree and it needs it. Let nature handle the job!

I found this curious little drawing on the stairs at school. What do you think is going on there? Is it a person crying? A person looking at something? Not a person at all? I'm open to ideas.

(Top photo: A leaf from my walk to work yesterday.)

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Mild & Fruity

Some random photos today, collected over the past few weeks. First, I mentioned a while back that Camden council is trying a new way to manage garbage on our high street. They've installed these plastic bins, where residents of the flats above the shops are supposed to put their trash, rather than leaving it loose on the sidewalk.

I thought this graffiti was pretty brilliant, making light of our conspiracy culture. It didn't last very long, though. The cabal of globalist elites who run the planet promptly removed it.

(And isn't it interesting that people are still leaving their trash outside the bins?)

This might not look like much to you, depending on where you live and how many stars you can routinely see. But when we were at Oakley Court in Berkshire I looked up and saw this night sky, which to me was AMAZING because I can barely see any stars in London. And I know from my years in Morocco that this is only a pale imitation of what the night sky could and should look like.

I was cleaning our bedroom the other day and realized, possibly for the first time, that the back wall of our fireplace (which doesn't work) has writing on it! It says "Bratt Colbran & C L London," apparently a manufacturer of fireplaces. There are other words on the lower panel which I can't read.

Googling "Bratt Colbran" turns up lots of old illustrations and advertisements for fireplaces and mantelpieces. The company even published a swanky catalog in 1961 called "Fireplaces of Distinction."

"Curiosity can only be explored in harmony with oneself."

This seems like a rather pointless observation, but maybe I'm just not curious enough.

Saw this little critter on the back of a car. Horse? Dog with booties? Horse with booties?

I like how this person kept up a running commentary on the status of their lost cat, finishing with, "She's home!" (You'd think they'd just take the poster down, but no.)

I passed this scene yesterday on nearby Sumatra Road. This is the location of the house that collapsed during a renovation project more than five years ago. I haven't been down this road in ages so I missed the demolition of the rest of the structure. I wonder what's going to happen next? (I probably would know if I'd read all those posters on the wall but I was in a hurry. I'll have to go back.)

When I first saw this paprika bottle in our kitchen, I read it as "wild and fruity." I thought, "Sounds like some people I know!"

But then I realized it said "mild and fruity," which isn't nearly as interesting. That's just me.

Monday, October 16, 2023


Two of my Thanksgiving cacti are blooming again, both of the bright pink variety. This seems to be the most robust of my cultivars -- perhaps closest to the native plant. Both were originally cuttings that I took from a plant at work. It's still alive, too, and it's been there since before I started work in the library in 2013. These plants hang around.

I always think the flowers look like flying dragons.

Here they are in their home by the back window. The cactus in back, with the small fern growing in the pot, came from a cutting that reader Frances mailed me a couple of years ago. It's got lots of buds and will no doubt bloom sometime in the next several weeks, with its white to pale pink blossoms. (The fern just appeared on its own.)

The one under the table -- well, let's just say that plant is struggling. It produces salmon-colored flowers, which I've blogged before, but big chunks of it have died over the years and now all I have left are those little stubs. I almost threw it out but I decided to keep trying. I don't expect it to bloom this year.

We've had a couple of wintry nights here. As I write, it's 36º F outside (2º C). I didn't bring in the avocado or anything else so I hope we didn't get any frost. After today it's supposed to warm up considerably -- back to overnights in the mid-50's. I'll have to shift that avocado indoors soon enough but I'm trying to maximize its outdoor time.

Here's Olga on one of her walks yesterday. We started out from the house but I realized I forgot to bring a tennis ball, so I had to run back and get one. She's looking at me perplexedly, wondering why I'm going home so soon. I had to leave her on the sidewalk because she resisted walking back with me.

She's a downright cranky cur. She is very insistent about walking where she wants, and if I take a turn she doesn't like, she digs in with all four paws, stares at me and will not move. She's even very insistent about what side of the street we walk on. She must do everything according to routines that she knows -- which is why Dave calls her "Asperger Dog." If I try to assert myself I wind up basically dragging her, which looks terrible and leaves me feeling like someone's going to call the RSPCA.