Sunday, April 21, 2024

Friends and Strangers

Another busy day yesterday, spent almost entirely off the computer. Obviously I blogged in the morning and answered some comments, but after that I didn't subject myself to the digital realm. Life like it used to be! We all need it now and then.

I got some laundry going and took Dave's concert tux to the cleaners. On the way back, I passed the abandoned street sign, still standing forlornly on a nearby corner where it's been for the last six months or so. You may remember I tried bringing this sign to the attention of the authorities in several ways, reporting it both to the local roads authority and to the rubbish collectors. It disappeared into bureaucratic limbo with the former and the latter said they couldn't do anything about it.

So I thought, "I am going to do something about this *#$@% sign." I picked the whole thing up -- easel, sandbag and all -- and carried it up the hill, around the corner and down the hill again to a traffic island near West End Green where the council has installed large bins for recycling.

And I left it there.

Because this is a much busier area, frequented by public works employees, my hope is it will be noticed and disposed of properly. (Yes, I cheekily left it in front of a "No Dumping" sign, but I don't see how this could be called dumping since it's government property in the first place.)

Anyway, then I came home and mowed the lawn.

Here's Olga gamely (and stiffly) chasing her Kong toy through the newly mowed grass. She definitely doesn't move with the ease and energy of her youthful self. I used to be able to wing that Kong long distances and she would take off after it like a shot. I think she still wants to, on some level, but her body is telling her, "Why?!"

Don't you love our little patch of unmowed meadow with all the teasel plants? I can't wait to see how it looks this summer.

Finally I went into town to meet some friends for a theater outing. We went to see a musical called "Two Strangers (Carry a Cake Across New York)." It's a terrific show with two charming and energetic performers, and I enjoyed it a lot -- especially with all the New York references, having lived there for ten years. The set was amazing -- two piles of suitcases that stayed on stage the entire time, but rotated and became a hotel room, a restaurant, a nightclub and other venues. Brilliant! I hope the show goes far.

Afterwards I went to dinner with my former boss, who's running in the London marathon today. She's been substituting for several months at school for another librarian who was out on maternity leave, but now that gig is up and she's returning to the states on Tuesday. Who knows whether I'll ever see her in person again. She invited us to come and see her in Minnesota but Dave and I are never in that part of the country so I don't see it as very likely. A strange thought.

(Photos, both taken yesterday: A Soho doorway, top, and crowds on Regent Street, bottom.)

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Wisteria and More Scanning

It's time for wisteria again, and these two houses (above and below) always put on a good show. I've photographed both of them before, but I like to check in every year and see how they're doing. Pretty good, I'd say!

I took both of these photos with my phone. They're probably not quite as good as shots taken with my big camera, but as I've said before, it sure is nice not to have to lug that thing around.

More library inventory yesterday! The good news is, I got through most of the rest of the library in a single day. While my co-workers covered the desk, I did the Spanish, French, biography, professional development and fiction sections -- a total of 11,537 books. Whew! About 45 books are missing, and I have a feeling many of those aren't really missing but either didn't register on the scanner, have fallen to the back of the shelf or are elsewhere in the library. When I go back on Monday I'll do a second pass and mop up any loose ends. I'll also do smaller sections like games and textbooks.


Blogger Rachel asked yesterday what I meant by "scanning," so I took a helpful photo to show you the process. I use the hand-held scanner to scan the bar code on each book, which accounts for it in the library computer. The scanner emits that red light, which sees the bar code. (Allow me to add, because I know I'll get this question, that the red dots on the book spines mean the books are suitable for younger readers.)

I told Dave yesterday evening that I wish my phone tracked physical activity like squats and deep-knee bends (are those the same thing?) because my thighs got a workout, kneeling down and getting up again.

As someone who hates to see plants abused, here's one of my pet peeves. I photographed this shopping center's newly painted entranceway back in September 2022, and at that time it had new plants in all its planters. Well, apparently no one is tasked with maintaining these plants, which are under a roof and thus get very little (if any) rainwater. Most of them have died and the rest look like this. It's all I can do to pass by without digging them up and bringing them home. WHY would someone spend all that money on landscaping and then allow it to die with no care? Why have the planters at all?

Friday, April 19, 2024

Scabious and Scanning

Here's our scabious, sending up its first flower of the year on our patio. I took this picture with my phone and then blew it up and took a screen shot to get an expanded version -- I'm impressed with the detail considering it's "just" a phone camera.

And here's our pink geranium, also blooming its first. This plant needs something -- its lower leaves have yellowed and it's become very gangly. At the very least it needs a pruning, though I may have missed the window for that this year (unless I want to cut off the flowers). It probably needs repotting too. It still looks better than it did when I found it, all dried-out and potless, in the cemetery four years ago.

Yesterday, more inventory. I scanned the rest of non-fiction (not including biography), a total of 4,861 books. It took me hours, as you can imagine. That means this week I've scanned 13,513 books, and so far we're only missing 11, mostly graphic novels. Which is pretty good.

Fiction will be the true test, because that section gets the most traffic and those books are probably more likely to walk away. I may tackle that next week.

More of the same today, I'm sure -- I still have to do biographies and foreign language, among others.

Oh, my exciting life. How do I stand it?

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Library Drama

Adventures in library inventory continue! Yesterday I did the 900s (history), which is our single biggest Dewey Decimal range. We have 4,290 books in the 900s, and I scanned all but one -- the single book that's missing, about Meiji Japan. The kids did a research project on topics including Meiji Japan just this spring, so I'm sure one of them walked off with it. I'm hopeful it will make its way back to us.

I also heard back from a senior girl who has had a book on genetics checked out since the end of November. I have e-mailed her multiple times, and of course she's being sent weekly overdue notices, and up to now she has been completely unresponsive. I finally wrote her again this week and copied her homeroom teacher, and specifically requested a response. She wrote yesterday apologizing for her "late reply" and saying she would return the book when she's done with a research project.

Of course that's fine, and I renewed her book -- but I also reminded her that promptly responding to her e-mails could have avoided this whole kerfuffle, "and also prevents the librarians from becoming cranky." Am I making it about me? I suppose so, but hopefully it's also a learning opportunity for her.

What would you do without my library drama to read about?!

Some of you asked yesterday how I set my iPhone to put the date and time behind the dome of St. Paul's on my home screen. (See yesterday's post if you haven't already.) Actually, I didn't set it to do that! The phone did it automatically and I have no idea why. Blogger Kelly wrote a possible solution in the comments, related to a setting for wallpaper "Depth Effect," so if you're interested you might check out her response.

I went to the doctor last night to follow up on my recurrent gastritis, which has been bothering me again. He's asked for some more tests. I've cut back on my alcohol consumption but I'm still stubbornly sticking to my three cups of coffee a day! Dave thinks I need to cut that back too -- in fact he's more concerned about that than wine with dinner.

Oh, and I finally got our taxes ironed out. After I got that additional form from my brother, the H&R Block tax preparer who reviewed our initial return was kind enough to amend it for me at no extra charge. Of course our tax bill has now gone up, but c'est la vie. Death and taxes, as they say.

(Photos: From my walks to and from work yesterday.)

Wednesday, April 17, 2024


Olga needed a quick trip outside in the middle of the night last night. She began scratching around and whining, so I let her out the back door and then stepped outside with her, only to look up and see this. Stars! In London! I never see stars in London. There's too much light pollution, and on top of that it's usually cloudy, or at least partly cloudy. But last night the sky was clear as a bell.

I initially thought that was the Little Dipper at right, but I believe (after some research) it's actually the Big Dipper (part of Ursa Major), which would make the bright star at left Arcturus, in the constellation Bo├Âtes. I am not at all sure that's right, but the position in the sky -- pretty much directly overhead -- seems correct.

I have never been good at constellations, even though, when I was growing up near Tampa, we could see the night sky in magnificent detail in our outer suburban neighborhood. I remember seeing the pale wash of the Milky Way, with thousands or maybe millions of nearer stars sprinkled across it like white pepper. Most of that is invisible to me here in London.

When I was a kid, my mom gave me H. A. Rey's book "The Stars," which included charts of all the stars and constellations. I tried to make sense of it, but all those Latin (or Greek?) names and rather vague shapes never quite registered with me. I can spot the dippers, and Orion, and the Pleiades, but that's about it.

On to something completely different. This is one of the photos on my iPhone, taken when blogger Sharon and I walked through central London last fall. I love this picture so much I use it as wallpaper, and I also love the way the phone displays the date and time behind the dome of St. Paul's. I just had to take a screenshot of the phone display!

Yesterday I began inventory, an annual task in our library. This is where I work my way through the collection, scanning every book, to see what's gone missing over the course of the year. I've done the short story collections, which is easy -- only about 100 books -- and I did the 700s and 800s in the non-fiction section. (Those are Dewey decimal ranges, for those of you familiar with the Dewey system.) There are about 2,480 books in the 700s, and 1,790 in the 800s. So that was a lot of scanning! So far, ten books are missing, but it's early days and they may show up on the shelves elsewhere.

I LOVE doing inventory. It's one of my favorite jobs, just working my way through books and scanning, scanning, scanning. Finding lost items, organizing as I go -- it's very satisfying. And no one talks to me! Bonus!

Now for a couple of flowers. This is one of our azaleas, a thankfully durable little plant that only ever looks like a bunch of twigs, except at this time of year when it miraculously bursts into bloom. We also have a pink azalea that has buds, but the flowers haven't opened yet.

And here are our two white orchids, which I photographed together to show off the differences in their flowers. At first glance they look very similar, but one has a greenish yellow center, and one has reddish orange.

Finally, a couple of weeks ago, Nate Cohn wrote a column in The New York Times about why many of today's senior citizens tend to support Joe Biden. In short, it's because they've always supported more liberal candidates and causes, having been of the "hippie" generation themselves. He cites the fictional Mike and Gloria from "All in the Family" as examples of these voters. I am slightly younger than these so-called "Boomers," but I also grew up watching "All in the Family" and learning what NOT to be from Archie Bunker. I have no doubt that show shaped my politics as much as the relative liberalism of my parents. Anyway, it's an interesting column, so I've linked it above.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

I'm Late, I'm Late

Hoooo boy, did I oversleep this morning! I just woke up about five minutes ago and I need to be out the door at 8 a.m. I'm going to crank out a blog post, walk the dog, get dressed and roll. (This is where not having any hair comes in handy!)

I have to correct one aspect of yesterday's post -- I initially wrote that I took the yucca outside for its daily bath. Eagle-eyed blog reader Andrew in Australia caught this and suggested that bathing a tough plant like a yucca every day might be a bit, well, insane. (He didn't say insane, but he meant it.) Rest assured that I do not bathe the yucca daily, but rather annually. I changed the post after his comment so it may have been fixed by the time most people read it.

This is why everyone needs an editor. Even professional editors!

I am making progress on overdue books. I spent yesterday morning writing parents, and my list of kids with books from Jan. 8 or earlier (basically from Christmas break) is down to eight. I have it on good authority from parents that it will dwindle further today. VICTORY SHALL BE MINE!!!

I did have one funny (?) episode occur in the library yesterday afternoon. Two sixth-grade boys came to my desk just as I was closing, and one wanted to borrow "Mein Kampf," Adolf Hitler's autobiography and political manifesto. We do not have age restrictions on non-fiction books, so I gave it to him without too much thought (particularly since it's huge and dense and there's no way he's going to read it). I think he was just being mischievous, not at all interested in the ideology.

But as I was coming home I began to doubt the wisdom of my decision, so I e-mailed his mother and said, "By the way..." I kept it light, explaining why I allowed him the book and said it might be an "opportunity for conversation." Normally we don't violate the confidentiality of the kids but I felt like there could be a backlash if Mom found that in his backpack! She hasn't written back. I'm betting that it gets returned today.

Speaking of walking home, I had to abort my walk yesterday afternoon because of hail! I got pelted and let me tell you, those little ice balls sting. Fortunately I had an umbrella and got to a tube station without much more pain.

Monday, April 15, 2024

Sheila, Being Real

The camassia lilies are blooming again, as you can see from the two in this picture. And yes, for those of you who asked in the comments yesterday, the little blue flowers in the background at left are forget-me-nots. We're having a banner year for forget-me-nots this spring. We have LOADS of them.

I cannot take a single picture that shows them all.

Note to self: Last year, as spring turned toward summer and the forget-me-nots stopped blooming, I pulled the spent plants and shook them over the flower beds to release the seeds. I sometimes don't pull the older plants and I wasn't sure how it would affect our "crop," but now I have the answer!

We had some little European goldfinches stop by yesterday. They like to pick buds off the tamarisk tree. I also heard the woodpecker again, and hoped to get a photo of it in the act of "pecking," but I couldn't get a clear sightline to the tree it was on. It's out there making a racket now, trying to find a mate, I think.

Well, my photo walk didn't happen. I had enough to do around here to keep me busy. None of it was very exciting, but it feels good to be on top of things.

I took the yucca outside for its annual bath, for example. That plant gets very sticky and dusty unless I wash it off every spring or summer. I also ordered a gigantic new pot for the avocado. It's badly root-bound in its current pot, and we've decided to put it in a planter on the patio and do our best to protect it in the cold winter. We'll see if it survives. I saw a video on YouTube showing a gigantic avocado tree in London -- bearing avocados! So apparently it is possible to grow them outside here, and if winters as mild as the last one are in our future, it doesn't seem inconceivable that it would survive. But it may not.

I walked Olga in the morning and we found more of Esley's rocks. By the way, "Esley" is actually Estella. I finally found some rocks where I could read the name more easily. I picked up two of them and put them in one of our planters on the patio, so Estella can see that someone appreciates her work.

I got some surprising news via Facebook that one of the women I was in Peace Corps with about 30 years ago, Sheila, died last year from ovarian cancer. I hadn't been in touch with her so this came out of the blue, and it makes me sad. She was about three years younger than me. We've lost a couple of people from our Peace Corps group in the years since, which I suppose shouldn't be surprising given the amount of time that's passed, but it still feels too soon. My main memory of Sheila was that she and I both loved dancing to Cheryl Lynn's disco hit "Got to Be Real," and every time it was played at any party we'd grab each other and head for the dance floor. I will never hear that joyous song without thinking of her.

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Dahlia Time

Yesterday turned out to be amazing, weather-wise. The afternoon temperatures were about 70 degrees, the sun was out,  the sky was blue. Fantastic!

I spent the morning working in the garden. I pulled all the dahlias out of winter storage in our rear garden shed, and noticed that several of them already have sprouts -- slender pink or white stalks just barely out of the ground. We keep them in pots so we don't have to keep replanting them year after year, but I did repot two. Then I set them out among the other garden residents to do their thing.

I also weeded some other pots, cleaned the house, did laundry and ran errands in the morning.

After lunch I took Olga to the cemetery for a leisurely walk. This rose that we see on the way scents that whole corner with a sweet perfume. Maybe that's why Sweet Corner (the cafe on the next block) has that name? Oh, and yes, you'll notice that after months of sitting dormant, Sweet Corner has finally opened! I haven't been there yet -- it's hard with the dog, because I'd have to leave her outside unattended while I go in and order and she would hate that. (And probably would be vocal about it.) I'll have to wait until Dave can come too.

At the cemetery, I noticed that someone left yellow roses on the tomb of Grand Duke Michael of Russia and his wife Sophie, Countess de Torby. I wonder who? Are there any Russian monarchists left? They did have children and grandchildren -- including Mountbattens, members of the British royal family. So perhaps there are descendants still bringing them flowers for Easter.

We also found another one of Esley's rocks!

In the afternoon I headed into Central London to see Dave's students perform their spring concert. It was held at LSO St. Luke's, a performance space on Old Street that used to be a church. It was an ideal location and the performance went really well.

At one point, one of the jazz bands performed a medley of music from the film "The Blues Brothers." I was sitting next to the high school principal, and he turned to me and said, "I guarantee you, none of these kids have seen that movie." We had a good laugh about that.

Afterwards I walked westward to Farringdon station, admiring the street art along the way.

I'm not sure what's on the agenda for today. I know I need to catch up in blogland, and there's also more to do around the house. But I might also make time for a walk. We'll see!

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Another Beetle

I found another rose chafer beetle in the garden the other day. This one still had some mud on its shell, so it must have just emerged from hibernation. It was crawling around on our euphorbia. This is exactly what Dave and I want to see in the garden -- wildlife, doing its thing. Maybe David Attenborough will do a show about us.

Right now I'm hearing a woodpecker out there, pounding away on something.

Yesterday was wildly busy in the library. It was our annual "Drop Everything and Read" day, when we schedule time for the students to read freely in their classes. Of course this means lots of checkouts and returns for us. Last year, you may remember, I was a little exasperated because the library was so busy that I didn't get to read myself. This year, I knew better -- and because I didn't expect to read I wasn't annoyed. It's all in expectations, right?

I have plenty of time for reading during the course of an average day. I read at lunch and I read at my desk between busy periods. I figure it's part of my job, and I'm modeling the behavior we want to see in our students, so I don't feel guilty about it at all!

I've also had pretty good success with the overdue books this week. Remember how I said there were about 30 kids with books due Jan. 8 or earlier? Well, I've got that number down to 14. Next week, I begin writing parents. It's a fine line, encouraging reading and being flexible with returns while not allowing people to walk away with the library's stuff.

Here's a nice honesty plant in bloom at the moment -- much leafier and healthier looking than the one I posted previously. Yesterday, around our back patio, I scattered some snapdragon seeds that I saved from our plant on the front porch. We'll see if they come up. I just didn't have the energy to put them in seed trays and perform a lot of careful cultivation.

Friday, April 12, 2024


I've been finding these little colorful painted rocks around the neighborhood during the last few days. Looks like someone had a craft project that they shared with the rest of us.

The lettering is not as clear as one might ideally like. "Look after nature," I think it says?

Some of them say nothing at all on the colorful side...

...and have a message on the back. "From Esley," I think?

I didn't pick any of them up, except to photograph them.

I think this one also says "From Esley," though it took me a while to figure that out.

Anyway, some nice little surprises while walking the dog!

Thursday, April 11, 2024


Here's one for all you cat-lovers out there. I took this photo on my recent walk through Southall. This cat was sunbathing atop some rubbish bins and old furniture, and raised its head with obvious annoyance when I stopped and lifted my camera. It wouldn't even quite look at me; it was looking past me, as if to say, "I'm aware you're there, but you do not merit my full attention."

I've been listening to my Q-Anon podcast again -- the one that picks apart many conspiracy theories, both specifically Q-Anon related and not. In the most recent episode they're talking about something called the Tartarian Empire. Apparently this is a belief being promoted online that all our big cities and many of our most famous buildings -- the White House, the pyramids, you name it -- were built by people first based in Central Asia called the Tartars or Tartarians. Supposedly their civilization became incredibly advanced and spread all over the globe, but then 200 years ago it was destroyed in a massive "mud flood" that killed the Tartarians and buried their cities. Then we came along and excavated the cities and buildings and claimed them as our own. This is supposedly why sometimes in big cities you see older buildings with basement windows at or below street level -- they're left over from the Tartarians and were never fully dug out.

Now, this whole thing sounds so wacky that it makes me wonder whether some of these online conspirators are just trying to wind people up. I can't imagine anyone actually believes this. You'd think a massive cataclysm that happened a mere 200 years ago would be foremost in our historical record; we can't stop talking about the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln and many other events of that time period.

But no! Because the mud flood has been deliberately written out of our history by the Global Powers that Be, who are trying to DECEIVE YOU! They're keeping this information from you, because it was the first "great reset" in which the population was wiped out -- or so the theory goes. And of course part of modern conspiracism is that we're about to have another "great reset," driven by Covid vaccines and who knows what else.

Anyway, apparently there are all sorts of videos about Tartarians on YouTube but I can't bring myself to actually watch them. Life is too short. I'll rely on the Q-Anon Anonymous guys to fill me in. It does make me realize, though, that -- assuming people really DO believe in the Tartarian Empire -- people will believe anything. It's astonishing. (For the record, there are or were Central Asian people known commonly in the West as Tatars, though this term is somewhat vague, as are the boundaries of their historic lands. They did not, however, build the White House.)

I found these cherry (I think?) blossoms on my walk home yesterday, after they were apparently blown off one of several nearby trees.  There's no shortage of spectacular blooming trees out there at the moment. Do you suppose the Tartarians planted them?

I have been on a campaign this week to make a dent in our overdue materials. As of Monday, we still had about 30 kids with books due at the beginning of January or before. That's an astonishing amount of very late material. So I sent them all a Come-to-Jesus (not really; we are a purely humanist school) e-mail saying they had to get this stuff back this week or I'd start writing parents and requesting disciplinary action from administrators. BOOM!

Now, of course, I'll have to follow through on Monday with the ones who don't make it happen. I'm starting to get a bit nervous because it's mid-April and we only have nine or so weeks of school left, and I've got 13 pages of extremely overdue materials to collect. I love my job. I love my job. I love my job.

Olga on our walk yesterday morning. Now you're getting a dog AND a cat in this post.

If I had to guess, I'd say cats are Tartarian pets; that's why they're so detached from modern humans. I think I'll make a YouTube video about this. I could make millions!

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Schwing and Spork

I found this colorful little scene while walking Olga in the cemetery not too long ago. I'm not sure I've ever seen a tattered rubber glove look so photogenic!

And on that note, here are some more random photos I've saved up over the past few weeks.

A sidewalk find from our high street. Someone went a little nuts with the bronzer. Is this what Donald Trump looks like when he takes off his wig? (No, I did not keep it. I didn't even touch it.)

Olga and I found a miniature Barbie bicycle on another sidewalk. Weirdly, the next day, it was in a nearby tree.

And this critter was nearby. Did someone spill their toy box? (I kept the dinosaur.)

This cupcake was my Easter treat, given to me by our friend Carolyn's daughter when we went to Easter dinner. Dave got one too. I think she made them. I like the Easter-grass effect of the icing. In any case, it was yummy!

Isn't this a dirty joke from "Wayne's World"?!

When Dave and I went to Fallow, a restaurant I blogged about last week, these blown-glass lamps had me mesmerized. They looked like globs of mercury hanging over our heads. There were several, in both blue and gold.

I got a cardboard spork in my take-out sushi the other night. Environmentally sound, I guess, and not something I've ever seen before.

And finally, Dave made some soda bread last week to go with his homemade soup. Yum!

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

New Wildlife Cam

Our Thanksgiving/Christmas cactus has decided to put out a couple of blossoms at this totally random time of year. Merry Christmas! (Maybe it's a Vaisakhi cactus?)

Yesterday was busy as all get-out for me. I switched out our two library displays, so now, for April, we have an Earth Day display and one for Arab-American Heritage Month. This meant re-shelving all the books for the old displays and pulling books for the new ones. And then, of course, everybody was returning books from break and checking out new ones, so there was a ton of re-shelving, and I had a stack of magazines to process, and I began chasing overdues by sending everyone a reminder: "Now that break is over, please remember to return your books!" That kind of thing. Not wildly interesting, but the stuff of my days.

My brother gave me some bad news over the weekend. Apparently I may have another tax form to file, this one related to my late mother's trust. We didn't realize this until he did the taxes for the trust, and that process spat out a form for him and me, the beneficiaries. So I may have to amend my income tax filing. I am pretty much sick about this, having worked so hard to get those taxes done in the first place, but we're still trying to sort out what this form is and what it means. It makes my head hurt.

Remember how I ordered a new wildlife camera for the garden? Well, I harvested the video. There were about a hundred clips, most of them apparently triggered by the wind. I condensed the few interesting ones into the three-minute video above: squirrel antics, Olga trampling the flower beds, some magpies and pigeons, some very strong wind, a neighborhood cat and yes, briefly, a fox. There's even some footage of me and Dave sitting on our garden bench one evening. (If you just want the highlights, the fox is at the 1:11 minute mark,)

As you'll see, I tried two locations for the camera. I think the first location was better, even though there's a hydrangea bush right in front of it. The second one is surrounded by too much foliage that moves easily in the wind. It's hard to find an unobstructed view in our garden!

Finally, that little geranium I rooted last year is already blooming. Olga seems to be giving it a sniff, but she actually just happened to be walking past. Its parent plant, though healthy, hasn't sent up any flowers yet.