Thursday, November 30, 2023

Meh -- It's Thursday

Some street art today from Zabou, which I found in Chiswick on my recent walk. This is the same artist who painted the bridge in West Hampstead a couple of years ago. Those portraits are unfortunately gone now -- they were always meant to have a limited run -- and we're back to basic black paint on the bridge.

I don't have much news today. I wound up putting back about half of the China books I pulled on Tuesday. I asked the teachers to make sure they were the right resources for their class project -- some of the books seemed suspiciously advanced for 6th Grade -- so they came to look them over and rejected a fair number. I think our resource list for those classes is quite old and based on previous teachers' preferences, so I updated it. Hopefully we won't have this problem again.

On West End Green, we've had this interesting development. Apparently someone has planted bulbs and then screened the ground for "wildlife protection" (i.e. to keep squirrels from eating them). Should look nice in the spring. I wonder if they're crocuses or daffodils or what?

And apropos of nothing, here's a view of our street, just to show how things look at this time of year. Trees dropping the last of their yellow leaves, a gray cloudy sky -- that's November for you. We're supposed to have clear (and colder) weather for the next few days.

And here's what Olga looks like at this very moment, lying next to me. She has colonized Dave's pillows and seems completely uninterested in going for a walk.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

A Workout

As I sit here in the pre-dawn darkness, under the soft glow of the Christmas avocado, it's 36º F outside -- which is warmer than I expected, actually. I thought it was going to freeze last night, and all our tender plants are indoors. I'm just going to keep them here because overnight temperatures are supposed to get colder over the next few days -- into the 20s by Saturday.

Yesterday at work I think I moved more books than I have ever moved in a single day -- except maybe for that period of time a couple of years ago when we reorganized the whole library. We have a lot of classes and activities going on and I had to pull 120 books about ancient China, about 100 narrative nonfiction books for 5th graders, and I helped my coworker pull about 400 books about science. Oh, and we changed up the book displays to reflect the winter holidays -- Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.

There is a physical-fitness fringe benefit to this job! Lots of bending, kneeling and lifting. Who needs a gym?

I found this fun but rather dated book on our technology and innovation shelves. Yes, that is a vintage iPod on the cover, the likes of which I haven't seen in years (though I think I still have mine in a drawer). When you turn the book a certain way, the image reveals its inner workings. Unfortunately, no one uses an iPod now and I'm sure many of our kids wouldn't even know what one is. The book is from 2005, and "Cool Stuff" has changed a lot since then. I'm weeding it.

I also found a pile of dessicated tangerine peelings helpfully placed on one of my DO NOT EAT IN THE LIBRARY signs. To be fair, tangerines don't generate crumbs, but still -- it seemed like a pointed act of rebellion.

(Top photo: A pair of lions, one upper and one lower, guarding a doorway in Chiswick.)

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Charlie Brown Avocado

Apologies if my talking about adding Christmas decorations to our avocado tree made it sound like the picture of festivity. It's actually a rather spindly Charlie Brown tree. Especially this year -- it's slightly out of balance because once of its limbs broke off in a windstorm during its summer in the garden.

I had fun decorating it, I must admit, mainly because I got to get our ornaments out of their boxes and actually use them, which we haven't done in a while.

I don't know where some of them even came from. Where did we get this penguin playing a lyre?

Snoopy on a...caboose? This belonged to Dave. We retrieved it years ago from his boxes of stored belongings in the basement of his parents' house. (Come to think of it, I suspect that's where the penguin came from too.)

Our Holyrood Castle crown came from our trip to Edinburgh way back in 2012...

...and these weird little bristly animals made from bits of pine cone and other woodland detritus I bought at Target back when we lived in New Jersey. Every time I use them I think, "These have lasted far longer than they were ever meant to."

Of course there's our drag alligator. (Yes, the price tag is still attached. She has a kind of Minnie Pearl thing going on.)

I discovered I also have a drag frog, which I'd completely forgotten about.

Anyway, you get the idea. I understand the appeal of Christmas ornaments, which can reconnect us with memories and people and events from our past.

The drain guy showed up yesterday and cleared the kitchen drain, which seems to be flowing fine now. Not to gross you out, but he pulled a big wad of long hair out of it. I find this very strange given that I don't have hair and Dave's hair is fairly short. I blame...the Russians! Mrs. Russia has long hair and I don't know which of their pipes may feed into this same drain. Fortunately we didn't have to pay anything because drains are covered under our landlord's home care policy with British Gas.

Also, in another momentous household development, Dave and I finished our turkey leftovers last night. Yay!

No sooner had we cut it up and put it on our plates than Dave said, "Now we need to talk about the Christmas menu!" I implored him to keep it simple. We'll be at the rental cottage in Pevensey Bay, just the two of us (and Olga), and I don't know what kind of cooking utensils or apparatus we'll have there. We certainly don't need to make another turkey or some other gigantic roast beast, though Olga might disagree.

Monday, November 27, 2023

A Blocked Drain (Again)

As I write this, it's 49º F outside according to my weather app -- which is positively balmy compared to Saturday night. We have a lot of cloud cover and light rain, and I left some of the tender plants outside to soak up that moisture, but I'll bring them back in tonight because it's supposed to get cold again.

Talking about temperature reminds me of a funny story I forgot to tell in yesterday's post. I was walking along the river near the Tate Modern when I passed a family with a little kid. The kid was bundled up against the chill, but she was trying to take off her jacket, whining, "I'm HOT!" To which her mother responded, "No you're not. Not in this weather." Which prompted the kid to have a full-on screaming meltdown.

It was that mother's certainty that I thought was so funny. Why didn't she let the kid just open her jacket, or take off her hat, or do something to cool off a bit? Seems like there might have been a middle path there.

As you can see from these photos, Olga and I went to the cemetery yesterday, where a lone pink rose was blooming in the circular memorial garden. It was very Novembery, dreary and damp with most of the leaves either fallen or just barely clinging on.

The butterfly garden, which in summer is a mass of wildflowers and thistles so high that all those little gravestones are completely obscured, has been mowed flat. The cemetery workers do this every year, and I always wonder if the butterflies haven't laid eggs on those plants or might otherwise be using them in their life cycle. Isn't mowing counterproductive? But every year there are butterflies, so maybe they know what they're doing.

I am stuck at home this morning waiting for a drainage repairman. We have some kind of clog in our kitchen drain, where the pipes go into the ground outside (and eventually lead to the sewer). Wash water from the sink, washing machine and dishwasher doesn't flow into the ground as it should -- it bubbles up outside and runs down the steps to the area where we keep the garbage bins. It's not sewage, and it is draining enough to use the kitchen, but the drain obviously needs to be opened before it gets worse.

It's always something.

Late last week, Dave took out one of his Merino sweaters -- intending to wear it on Thanksgiving -- and found that it had been positively ravaged by moths. There were several fairly big holes in it. I threw the whole thing away. We have anti-moth sachets in our cupboards but they apparently need refreshing. I checked the rest of Dave's clothes and didn't find any further damage, and fortunately I own almost nothing made of wool so my wardrobe isn't likely to be targeted.

Anyway, I am off to spend the morning reading "Barnaby Rudge," at least until the repair guy gets here. My goal yesterday was to get through 100 pages, and I got through about 75, so that's not terrible. I'm about two-thirds finished.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

An African Photo Show

Yesterday I spent the morning at home, trimming and neatening in the garden -- cutting old dead flower stalks, trimming the lavender, pulling up old asters, just making things neater in general. (Believe me, the overall impact is minute.)

My main goal was to deal with the dahlias. I guess I'm not lifting them this year because I am unmotivated to do so and I don't have a box for the tubers or any newspaper or other supplies. So it looks like they're staying in their pots for one more season. I trimmed the ragged tops off, pulled any weeds and stashed them in the shed, where they will overwinter. Job done. I guess I can always repot them in spring.

Then, after MORE TURKEY at lunch, I decided to go experience some culture. I went to the Tate Modern to see the exhibit "A World in Common: Contemporary African Photography." It featured photographers from all parts of Africa, Morocco to Lesotho, Mozambique to Senegal, working with an interesting mix of styles and materials. There were found historic photos from South Africa (which you know I liked, given my interest in old photographs), collages, mixed media installations and artists working with portraiture using religious iconography, trappings of royalty like thrones and crowns, and traditional African masks.

I was quite fascinated by this piece, "Will I Still Carry Water When I Am a Dead Woman?" by Wura-Natasha Ogunji. It's a 12-minute video of the artist and six other women, dressed in similar jumpsuits and hoods, laboriously dragging gold-colored bidons of water around the streets of Lagos, Nigeria. It poses questions about work, womanhood, resource availability, poverty and other issues and I found it riveting. I sat down and watched the whole thing. It was interesting to see the reactions of people on the street, from laughter to puzzlement.

If there was an overall theme to the show, it was how contemporary African artists are using the medium of photography to reclaim their land, heritage, spirituality and culture after centuries of colonialism.

When I emerged from the show in the late afternoon, the setting sun was casting an orange glow on the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral across the river. "Bellissima!" exclaimed the Italian tourists walking behind me.

I crossed the Millennium footbridge, where I was happy to see...

...that many of the works of chewing-gum art by Ben Wilson have been preserved. The bridge was recently closed for a couple of weeks to enable a deep-cleaning, and I'd read that the gum art would be a casualty of that process. But apparently Wilson arranged to preserve many of the miniature artworks, which he painstakingly paints on hardened, discarded chewing gum left by pedestrians.

I wonder if Sehnaz said yes to Tafayel?

I caught the tube home from St. Paul's and, back with Dave and Olga, finished decorating our indoor avocado tree for Christmas. I went all-out this year, putting up not only the Christmas lights but hanging ornaments as well. Photos to come!

I also brought in our tender plants as we had frost last night. They can probably all go back out today, but we're supposed to have sub-freezing temperatures next weekend so we'll be back on that merry-go-round for the next few months.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Back to The Palladium

Late yesterday morning I took a long walk through Shepherd's Bush and Chiswick, following a route I first took way back in 2012. It took me along Goldhawk Road and then along Chiswick High Street to Gunnersbury. The area around Shepherd's Bush Market has lots of exotic fabric shops and other colorful stores that make for good photography.

More than six years ago I posted a picture of this building, a former cinema that was then a colorful (but closed) "Australasian bar." I mentioned at the time that it had been purchased by a developer who planned to save the facade but erect a new residential building behind it. Here's the result.

It's not terrible, but it doesn't have the same quirky charm. It's just in bland good taste.

Someone's front garden (if you can call it a garden) collected this deep drift of yellow ginkgo leaves...

...and the residents of this street, Wingate Road, decided to experiment with all sorts of obviously coordinated colors for the facades of their houses.

Finally, I passed the somewhat posh shops and cafes along autumnal Chiswick High Street before coming home via the Overground train from Gunnersbury station. I walked up to our flat just as Olga's dog walker was bringing her home, and she slept all afternoon. I think she's still recovering from all the excitement on Thursday.

What did I have for lunch? Turkey! And then what did we have for dinner? Turkey! And what will we have for lunch and dinner again today? Yep, you guessed it.

Friday, November 24, 2023


Well, we survived! There were no dogfights, no food poisoning, no injuries involving cutlery. Of course I didn't think to take a single picture of our meal before we ate it, but here's a picture of the wrecked kitchen afterwards.

And while cooks justifiably get all the attention on Thanksgiving for the hours, or in Dave's case days, they work to put a meal on the table, let's also sing a song of praise to the poor unsung schmucks like me who turn this (above) into...

...this, about five hours later.

Thank god for that new dishwasher.
Olga and Luna -- our co-worker Dylan's dog -- got along fine, and in fact they seemed to enjoy each other's company. They played and chased balls and Olga got so excited she was barking in the house, which she never does. (We could have done without that bit.)

Oh, some of you asked yesterday about deboning the turkey, and how that works. Dave has tutored himself on the process and was prepared to do it himself, but when he bought the turkey, our local butcher offered to do it for him. So that's what happened. When we got it, it was already cut into four quadrants and the bones were handed over separately, for making stock. It made carving and serving a breeze.

It's a bit like spatchcocking, which Dave did several years ago, and which also makes the turkey much easier to store in the fridge -- the end goal, as far as I'm concerned.

During the meal, Dave and I were trying to remember whether we'd ever hosted Thanksgiving dinner in London. We normally travel during Thanksgiving break, but I had a feeling that during the past ten years we must have stayed home at least once. A quick survey of my blog showed me where we've been each year:

2022: Brighton
2021: Bray (Clamato Cottage)
2020: Dave had a root canal and we got take-away
2019: Rules restaurant with friends; a weekend traditional feast
2018: Traditional feast for guests
2017: Cambridge
2016: Copenhagen
2015: Lisbon
2014: Cotswolds
2013: Istanbul
2012: Leuven, Belgium
2011: The great grouse experiment in Notting Hill

So we've hosted Thanksgiving twice before with guests, in 2018 and 2019. How soon we forget!

Anyway, this was fun, but I'm kind of missing the travel. Hopefully in coming years we can get back to more of those long-weekend getaways!

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! (Or, if you're in the UK or elsewhere, Happy Thursday.)

I think we're as ready as we'll ever be to host today's dinner. The deboned turkey is flat out in the fridge, rubbed with a dry marinade that Dave made, and he'll put it in the oven later. The stock has been reduced and it's also in the fridge, ready to become gravy. The countertop is piled with potatoes, brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes, and Dave ordered canned cranberry sauce, creamed corn and marshmallows from Amazon. We have a ridiculous quantity of butter. Oh, and he got a pecan pie from Whole Foods! One of our guests is bringing two more pies, so we'll have plenty of food.

There will be eight of us -- mostly past and present co-workers of Dave's -- including two kids, who will probably stay in the living room on their iPads all afternoon.

One of Dave's co-workers, Dylan, is bringing his dog, Luna. Olga is staying home from her daily walk in solidarity. They've met each other before and get along in the way Olga gets along with most other dogs -- by ignoring them.

All I have to do is clean the house and set the table, play host, and then do all the dishes afterwards -- which will hopefully be a breeze with our newly replaced dishwasher!

Yesterday we had only a half-day of work (as a private American school, we observe the Thanksgiving holiday) and it was devoted to professional development. I attended a session about working with Google workspace, and also one on intercultural awareness that included a model I'd never seen before called the "Johari Window." It's actually a very interesting idea -- that we all have traits and characteristics that we bring to an organization, some openly acknowledged, some known only to us, some known only to our co-workers, and some known to none of us. I find the latter idea fascinating -- that our behavior is motivated partly by hidden characteristics even we don't know about or understand. We watched a four-minute video (linked above) that explains the concept.

And now, I have to go kill some mealybugs on an orchid.

(Photo: On my walk home Tuesday evening.)

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

The Old Hometown

Here's the autumnal view from the staff lounge at work. I've shot this scene before from different angles, but this one shows off all the cacti that have taken up residence in the window. I'm not sure where they've all come from. The one on the left has been there as long as I've worked at the school, but the others are more recent interlopers.

Mr. P reminded me that there's even more to the story about the woman who had trouble spelling diarrhea. (See yesterday's post.) I'm using the American spelling, but here in Britain they throw a completely unnecessary O into the middle of the word -- "diarrhoea." So that woman wasn't kidding when she said it was tough to spell! The British also do this with "oesophagus" and "oedema" and some other words. In general, UK spelling loves extra letters.

I was prepared for yesterday to be a busy day in the library -- it was the last day with students before Thanksgiving break and I thought they'd all want books. (Or, more accurately, that their teachers would encourage them to take home a book.) I didn't even take "Barnaby Rudge" with me to work because I figured I'd be too busy to read. But I guess the kids already checked out all their reading because with a few exceptions it was a pretty quiet day. I was bummed. I could have plowed through another 50 pages.

After work I went for a pint with some co-workers, which was a surreal experience because they all brought their little kids. The pub was positively bursting with crayons and coloring books. I stayed for one drink before coming home and watching "The Crown" with Dave.

Needless to say, this is not London! No, this picture was posted to Facebook by an old school friend of mine, and it shows my hometown, Land O' Lakes, Florida. From the cars I'm guessing it was taken in the mid-'70s, so I was probably within a mile of this spot at the very moment this picture was snapped, which is funny to think about.

You can see the sign for Ann's Truck Stop in the background, as well as for Land O' Lakes Plaza, which was our tiny strip mall filled with local businesses including (as I recall) Balthazar's bakery, a butcher, Chuck's Barber Shop, a beauty salon, a pharmacy (sign above), and the post office. I think there was a florist in there too. The strip mall would be to the left of the photographer, who is standing in the parking lot. That's U.S. 41 beyond the signs, where cars are passing on the main highway through town. There were some little motels (Garland Court and the Sunny Motel, as I recall) and tourist cabins on the other side of the road, and behind the photographer was a gas station, a Phillips 66, run by a grizzled old guy named Mr. Wright.

Here's the same corner now. Everything I mentioned above is gone. The whole area is a sterile, sun-blasted, bulldozed wasteland, with only a big Circle K and six lanes of paved highway. It's a shame. As recently as 2015, when my mom sold our house in Land O' Lakes and moved to Jacksonville, the plaza still existed, but it had been much-remodeled and had seen better days. The Phillips had been gone for ages, replaced in the early '80s by a convenience store. The commercial center of Land O' Lakes began shifting to the south, near the intersection of S.R. 54, when we got our first big supermarket (a U-Save, a chain that no longer exists) around the time the photo above was taken. I remember I cried when they bulldozed an orange grove to build that U-Save. It broke my heart to see all the orange trees piled up and awaiting the torch.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes, right?

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Stocking Up

Remember those boys who locked themselves in the library conference room last week? Well, I took a closer look at that door, and it turns out that it does have a key lock on the outside. So I didn't need to bruise my knuckles by knocking -- I could have just used my key and opened the door. I was so annoyed by the situation that I just didn't look closely. Anyway, now we've started locking the room when it's not being used, so kids can no longer get in there and lounge around. Problem solved!

Yesterday I was getting coffee in the staff lounge in the morning when I heard some co-workers on the cleaning staff debating the spelling and pronunciation of the word "mistletoe." (Our cleaners are mostly Portuguese, I think, and English is a second language for them.) It was funny hearing them dissect that word and try to understand the spelling -- after all, it is a weird word.

"The hardest word to spell, though, is 'diarrhea,'" said one woman.

I never thought about it before, but she's right. That's a weird word too.

I mentioned that Dave has been making homemade chicken stock. This has turned out to be a ridiculously long and involved process. Here's what it looked like on Sunday, when he was cooking down all the ingredients.

On the plus side, Dave is finally using that gigantic stock pot that I hauled home on the tube years ago. We've never had cause to cook with it, but when Dave picked up our deboned turkey from the butcher (that's another story), he decided to use the bones and giblets -- along with a package of chicken wings we bought by accident and some chicken leftovers -- to make stock.

What this involves is basically cooking the heck out of all the ingredients -- like, simmering it all for hours -- and then straining out the solid stuff. (I put the overcooked chicken meat, minus bones, out in the garden for the foxes, and it disappeared overnight.) This left us with three big bowls of broth, which we had to refrigerate until the next night, when Dave returned it to the stove to reduce until it fit into a single big bowl.

And that's where we are now -- with a big bowl of stock in the fridge. I have no idea what he intends to do with it. I admit I am a Philistine when it comes to culinary matters, so all this seems insane to me. "Can't we just buy a bouillon cube?" I asked him. (Questions like that elicit groans from the chef.)

(Top photo: Some fungus on a tree stump, found on my walk with Olga on Sunday.)

Monday, November 20, 2023

Autumn on West Heath

In comments on yesterday's post, some of you expressed astonishment that our freezer isn't frost-free. I'm not sure why that is -- I can only say that we didn't buy it! The fridge and freezer unit is, at this point, the only appliance that was in this apartment when we moved in more than nine years ago. Everything else has been replaced. It has some minor issues but if periodic defrosting is its only real demand, I can live with it.

Maybe Olga and I got a boost of energy from our newly defrosted freezer, because yesterday, we decided to have an adventure. We hadn't been to the West Heath in months -- about seven months, as best I can tell -- and I was missing it. That used to be one of our favorite walks, but these days, I'm hesitant to ask 13- (possibly almost 14-) year-old Olga to walk that far. Sometimes if I turn in that direction, she balks -- her way of telling me she's not up for it.

Yesterday, though, I decided to give it a whirl. Olga was game, the weather was good, and we had all the time in the world. Why not?

As you can see, we got there just fine, and the dog was just as happy as I was.

The autumnal trees had carpeted the forest floor with their rustling leaves. It felt very poignant to have this opportunity to walk around our old stomping grounds once again. I know I've said this before, but I wasn't sure we'd ever get back there, so the day felt like a gift.

We revisited all our favorite landmarks... the Lulu trees, where Olga knows there's always a pool of fresh rainwater in a natural bowl formed by the roots. Can you see the carved "I (heart) Lulu" on the tree?

Then we went to Golder's Hill Park, where I thought I'd sit at the cafe and have a coffee.

Olga, however, had other ideas. In the past, I've always been able to tie her to an outdoor table, duck into the cafe, buy a coffee and then rejoin her. Yesterday, though, she began barking the minute I walked away from her. She didn't like being left even for a few minutes. Out of respect for the other people sitting outside with their much-better-behaved dogs, I gave up. Olga runs my life!

Instead we walked through the Stumpery, one of Olga's favorite destinations. It's always teeming with squirrels. She kept her eyes riveted on them, but she didn't lunge at the fence as she has in the past. (She did make a dash for a squirrel on the Heath, but came nowhere near it. The mind is willing but the body is weak!)

Olga paused to visit Wendy Taylor's sculpture "Gazebo," or as I call it, the pipe joint. (OK, I admit it, I posed her there. Olga couldn't care less about sculpture, unless there's a squirrel climbing around in it.)

Anyway, it felt like a very special day, revisiting our old favorite spots and seeing how well Olga seemingly remembered every log and path. She slept for hours when we came home and I gave her half a paracetamol (as instructed by our vet) at dinner to relieve any aches and pains. She's still asleep next to me as I write this.

Dave, meanwhile, spent the day making chicken stock in our kitchen. I'll save that adventure for another post!

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Chill Out

I was surprised I could entice Olga to go on a walk yesterday morning. It was drizzly and gray and normally she balks at such weather. But I'd been cleaning all morning and I needed to get out of the house, so I'm glad she was cooperative!

I got quite a bit done. Aside from the normal vacuuming and whatnot, I launched a fairly major household task -- defrosting the freezer.

Here's what the project looked like at the outset. Do you like my unintentional self-portrait in that shiny pot?

Our freezer consists of plastic drawers that sit on those shelves, which have coolant coils running through them. The shelves tend to accumulate ice, as you can see, and when it builds up too much it's hard to slide the drawers in and out. I've been struggling with them lately so I knew it was time (even though I did this just two years ago, for the first time in seven years -- I'm not sure why it was already needed again, but whatever).

I emptied the freezer and stacked the drawers on the counter, covered with a towel to keep them as cool as possible. (We had ice cream bars in there, and I was a little afraid they might look like Godzilla by the time I was done.) I put towels on the floor and in the base of the freezer, shut off the circuit breaker to stop the cooling, and set pots of warm water on the shelves. And waited.

I'm sure you've all had to do this at some time or other, so none of this will sound very exciting. And it's not. It's a messy job but it's just a matter of time. After a couple of hours of throwing chunks of ice in the sink, wringing out towels and changing out the warm water periodically, everything was ice-free. I turned on the power and voila! A freezer I no longer have to fight.

And the ice cream bars came through fine. I had one last night and it looked perfectly normal.

After the defrosting project, Dave and I met one of his co-workers at this restaurant in St. John's Wood for brunch. (A bellini and eggs Benedict with avocado for me.) It seemed appropriate (though mystifying) that a polar bear is the mascot.

From there we went to see the high school musical, "Anything Goes," which was very good -- in fact, the best production I've seen at our school, I think. The girl who played the lead is particularly talented, and with music by Cole Porter you can't really go wrong. I enjoyed it!

Saturday, November 18, 2023

A Busy Day at Work

I had a day like no other yesterday. I pulled nonfiction books for some 7th Grade classes, put up another book display (we have six displays running now, in addition to our regular displays of new books),  helped my boss update an infographics presentation for students, and organized the board games. While doing the latter, I realized one of our Uno card games was missing.

I found it spread out over a bunch of shelves beneath the stairs where the seniors sit between classes, like someone flung the cards at the shelves and left them where they landed. I picked up all the cards, brought them back to the library and organized the two Uno games so that they each had the proper number and assortment of cards. I'm going to keep Uno behind my desk from now on; kids will have to check it out to play it. Otherwise it keeps walking away.

All of that was in addition to the normal checking out books, which is busier now because we're about to go into Thanksgiving break. We have two days of school next week (plus a half day of professional development for teachers and staff) and then we're out until Nov. 27. Some kids left yesterday, particularly if their families are traveling.

Also, I had an interesting occurrence with a group of boys. A high schooler came to me and said he couldn't get his book bag, which was in the library conference room, because the door was locked. Now, the door only locks from the inside. I asked who was in there and he hemmed and hawed, so I went to the door and through the windows could see about 10 boys sitting around the conference table. I knocked so hard I actually bruised my knuckles. I was steamed. I told them they were never to lock that door, and I'm still trying to decide whether I should report them for disciplinary action. After all, weren't they bullying that student by keeping him from his bag?

At least pulling the nonfiction books was interesting. One of them was a book about The Beatles. It occurred to me that John, Paul, George and Ringo must be ancient history for these particular kids, who were born in 2011 or so. The Beatles, to them, are like Al Jolson to my generation. (By the way, did you know Al Jolson was Lithuanian? A bit of trivia I discovered while writing this post!)

When I posted the pic of the five-eyed mug a couple of days ago, some of you asked about the bowl sitting next to it. Well, here it is in its entirety. As of yesterday morning, it was still sitting out on that wall. I didn't take it because it's seen better days, and it's kind of big and heavy and clumsy, but it's unusual. Looks like someone's craft project or maybe a travel souvenir.

Olga says, "Is there food in it?!"

(Top photo: A shadowy doorway on my walk home from work.)

Friday, November 17, 2023

The Other Side

Well, the new dishwasher arrived yesterday as planned -- at about 10 a.m., which means I only wasted a couple of hours sitting around. It could have been worse. (And I didn't really waste the time, as I did get some cleaning and reading done.)

It was great to not have to hand-wash the dishes last night, though I feel like a whiny complainer saying that. I lived without a dishwasher in Manhattan for 10 years and it was never a problem, and I realize many, many people don't have one (including probably many of you reading this blog). But when I lived in New York I ate mostly soup and sandwiches, so I never really cooked much. Dave, on the other hand, is a trained chef and also a whirlwind in the kitchen, and he produces dirty dishes like West Virginia produces coal.

Anyway, while I was waiting for the dishwasher, I went out into the garden to take some pictures of our very red Japanese maple... well as our Amistad sage, which is still blooming. I love that purple against the red and yellow of the autumn leaves. Soon I'll need to bring it in because it will not survive a frost.

As I was taking the photos, someone yelled "Hello! Hello!" I looked around and saw a man atop the roof of the apartment buildings behind us. It was the caretaker, and he asked about the tree-trimming plans. (Remember, he's been after us to trim the wild tangle of trees and bushes at the very back of the property.)

I told him I wanted to come over to his side of the wall and see what it looks like from there. So I met him on the street and he ushered me into the back garden of the apartments.

This is what they see from their side. He's paranoid about the condition of that retaining wall -- though it looked sound enough to me -- and he would ideally like us to take down both of those elder trees, but I'd rather not do that. I have some ideas for what I can tell the tree crew, though, to balance his wishes with our own. I think if I have them trim the shrubbery away from the wall and take out that overhanging ivy, he might be happy. Or happier, at least.

I keep asking myself if I would even be proceeding with this project if it weren't for him. Probably not. From our perspective, that area is overgrown, but not unbearably so, and I keep thinking about all the birds and squirrels and maybe even bats and who knows what else that might live in there. But we are in a city, not the countryside, and I'd like to maintain good relationships with the neighbors. It's a balancing act.

By the way, the five-eyed mug has been a hit with the kids in the library. Several of them have said they like it! Maybe we'll make it a prize in some future library contest.