Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Kosher Fish

I can't believe I've never photographed this kosher fish place in Temple Fortune, north of Golders Green -- but I can't find any pics of it in my archive so I guess not. I've definitely noticed it before. It has some great old signage.

On Saturday, on the way back from my Dollis Valley walk, my bus passed right by the shop -- so I got off for a few quick photos. Although it was closed that day, it's apparently still a functioning business.

That is not, however, a functioning clock.

Monday, April 29, 2024


The candytuft is blooming again, doing its annual thing. This plant was in the garden when we moved here, an astonishing 10 years ago, and it has held its own even though we've surrounded it with asters and a big lavender, and several dandelions have moved in too. It's durable!

Yesterday was an indoor kind of day. It was raining all morning, and it was chilly. I took the dog out at 3:30 p.m. and it was 48º F (or 9º C). I made the mistake of leaving the house in shorts and a sweatshirt and fortunately the dog didn't want to go far or I would have suffered hypothermia. I habitually under-dress for cold weather; I think it has something to do with growing up in Florida. I've never been good at warm clothing.

We walked past the traffic island where I left the abandoned road sign. The junk is gone, but the sign is still there. Mickey and Minnie have moved on, hopefully to a new home.

Here's a quick video of the rain in the garden. If you forget about the chilly temperatures it looks and sounds quite idyllic:

April showers bring May flowers, right? According to the forecasters the weather is supposed to warm up soon. I'd love to sit outside and I know Olga wants to lie in the sun.

I spent most of the day reading "Prequel," Rachel Maddow's book about the American flirtation with fascism in the years leading up to World War II. We like to pretend that we all opposed Hitler from the beginning with all our might, but the fact is, there were plenty of people -- even within our government -- who admired Hitler and wished for a similarly draconian strongman for our own country. Hitler had the backing of some religious conservatives who saw him as a defender of Christianity, much as Putin is seen now by the ardent right. So many of these people spouted the same poisonous anti-semitism that we hear today, about government having been hijacked by "internationalists" (now they say "globalists"), communists and Bolsheviks, which are all code words for Jews. And of course there's the same claptrap about how Hollywood and the media are controlled by those interests.

I swear, reading the beliefs of these right-wingers from 85 years ago is just like perusing the reader comments at The Gateway Pundit. (Which I don't recommend anyone do.) Among a certain segment of our population, nothing has changed. Where do these people come from, and why don't they evolve?

Maddow hasn't mentioned modern politics in her book; she's never uttered the names Trump or Putin or spoken of anything going on now. But she's clearly showing that many of the forces that were at work in our government and public life then are still with us today. We overcame them once -- can we do it again?

That's the question.

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Dollis Valley Greenwalk, Part 2

Yesterday was a rather gloomy day, but it was fairly dry in the morning so I decided to take a walk. I wanted to finish the Dollis Valley Greenwalk, which you may remember I started at the beginning of the month.

I'd already walked the first half, from Golders Green to Totteridge & Whetstone. So I took the bus and tube up to where I'd ended, picked up the trail again and kept heading north. Almost immediately it became a very grassy walk through parkland and past uninteresting housing estates. I encountered damp dog-walkers, frolicking muddy canines and kids on bicycles.

I didn't find much to photograph -- even Dollis Brook was narrow and unimpressive along this stretch.

Eventually things got even more rural and I wasn't seeing any houses. The path turned westward and I was walking through fields and along hedgerows. The Greenwalk joined the London Loop, the large circular path around outer London that I walked several years ago. So I'd been on this section of the path before, and I kept waiting to recognize something familiar -- but I never did. There just aren't many landmarks.

This is a cuckoo flower (Cardamine pratensis), also called lady's smock, mayflower and a bunch of other names. I found clumps of them all along the more rural parts of my walk. I also came across a field of yellow-blooming cowslip, and saw lots of buttercups, wild garlic and other spring flowers.

Eventually the section of Dollis Brook I was following was mostly buried in shrubbery and hedgerows, and in the rare moments that I saw it, it was no more than a rivulet. I came to the end of the walk at the edge of Totteridge Fields, and crossed some busy roads and adjacent farmland (on a public path) to reach The Ridgeway in Mill Hill.

The Ridgeway, as you might have guessed from the name, runs along a high point and offers expansive views across North London, including Wembley Stadium in the distance. (Similar to the view I got from nearby Sunny Hill Park a couple of years ago.)

In Mill Hill I came across an inviting-looking pub called the Three Hammers, so I stopped in and had a pint and a hamburger for lunch. They have a "Psychic Night" on Wednesdays -- an interesting alternative to the typical pub quiz for bringing in patrons! I predict I won't go.

From there I caught a bus to the Mill Hill East station. I thought it would be fun to take the tube from there, thus passing over the arched brick viaduct I walked beneath on my first leg of the Greenwalk earlier this month. My plan was to make a video to share. But to be honest, the whole thing was such a non-event -- I was over the viaduct before I realized it, and it didn't seem that high up from the train. Oh well.

I took the tube to Finchley and then caught a bus home from there. Altogether I think I walked five or six miles. Dollis Valley done!

Saturday, April 27, 2024

Mickey and Minnie

On our walk yesterday morning, Olga and I happened to wander past the traffic island where I deposited the abandoned street sign. It's still there, along with a growing assortment of other stuff -- an old frame, a sheet of glass, Mickey and Minnie.

We humans are so funny. We surround ourselves with so much junk that we don't know what to do with it all. We don't want to throw it away because it's still "good," so it winds up sitting on a traffic island waiting for someone else to take it. Meanwhile, we're churning out more and more, burning up the planet's resources, because people's jobs somewhere on the other side of the world depend on making Mickey and Minnie dolls. It's insanity.

That was a cold walk, by the way. It was 41º F (or 5º C) at around 7:30 a.m. It's been chilly overall, here. I keep waiting for spring to start. We have flowers but we don't have warmth.

Work was uneventful yesterday. I heard back from the hospital regarding my endoscopy, or gastroscopy, as they're calling it. (Basically the same thing but more specifically in reference to the stomach, I guess?) It's scheduled for next Sunday, a week from tomorrow. I'm surprised they do gastroscopies on Sunday, but there you have it.

On the way home I noticed this sticker. According to Google translate, it's Italian, and if the M is lower-case it means, "You're kidding me." If the M is upper case, it means, "Jokes on Mars." Given the alien hands I'm inclined to the latter translation, but I still don't get it.

Friday, April 26, 2024

Something Called Calprotectin

I had my consultation with a gastroenterologist yesterday. It was a phone appointment, so I didn't see her face-to-face, but I got some feedback on my test results and we made some future plans.

My blood work, from blood counts to liver enzymes, was all normal. So that's a good sign. My infrequent but beloved martinis haven't harmed my liver, apparently, and I don't have anemia or anything like that. There is also no blood where blood shouldn't be, if you get my drift.

The only abnormal test was for something called calprotectin, which is apparently a marker of gut inflammation. Mine was just below 300, and a normal range is 0 to 50. The doctor didn't seem too concerned about this, but we're going to repeat the test. Apparently high calprotectin can indicate almost anything, from transient infection to IBD to cancer.

I'm also getting an endoscopy and a CT scan of the abdomen. You may remember I had a couple of CT scans in recent years, but those were both of the lungs -- this will look lower. The scan is already scheduled for next Thursday. Still waiting on a date for the endoscopy but it should be soon.

So that's where we stand. I'm somewhat encouraged but also somewhat wary of the calprotectin thing. Dave's calprotectin can sometimes be in the thousands, given his Crohn's disease. He wasn't very impressed with my measly 300.

As for how I feel, well, I think I'm slightly better than I was last week. I'm sleeping soundly and for the time being I've laid off alcohol entirely. Still persisting with my regular coffee, though -- I need some pleasure in my life!

We're watching "Baby Reindeer" on Netflix, about a comedian and bartender who winds up being stalked by a troubled woman and sexually assaulted by an older man. Apparently it's based on a true story. It's very good, with good performances. We have trouble turning it off.

Recent fun reading has included:

-- This story about the rediscovery of the original U.S.S. Enterprise model used in the opening credits of the first "Star Trek" series

-- This story about a nautical buoy from the Florida keys that washed up on a beach in Scotland

And of course there was the alligator hiding in the airplane landing gear at MacDill Air Force Base in my hometown, Tampa. Never a dull moment in Florida! I was so happy to read that they released the alligator into the Hillsborough River. Often when trappers capture an alligator they kill it, but that's usually after it's been dubbed a nuisance or a danger to people. I guess this one was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

(Top photo: Colorful crabapple trees outside a pub in Hanwell, West London, a couple of weeks ago.)

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Graffiti Philosophy

I walked home last night via the optician, because I have to get my glasses repaired. I'm not sure what I did to them. On Tuesday evening they were in my jacket pocket, where I often carry them, and when I took them out the frames were bent so badly that I couldn't straighten them myself. When I took them in, the woman behind the counter looked at them rather doubtfully but said they'd try.

I probably need new glasses anyway, to be honest. I've had these for about two years, using some frames that Dave bought about eight years ago -- and I don't think I've had a new prescription since 2016. Still, I get by with them and I hope they can be fixed.

Meanwhile, I'm using the backup pair that lives in my camera bag.

This graffiti writer, who uses the name Tramp, has been spreading his wisdom (?) all over our neighborhood lately. (I'm using the male pronoun because graffiti writers are usually male, for whatever reason -- though there are exceptions so if this is written by a woman I apologize.) I've posted photos of a few of his sentiments in the past. When they get painted over he writes new ones, and if they don't get painted over he adds to them, creating word collages like the one above.

I'm sure this building owner has had it up to HERE but he/she seems to have stopped trying to repaint the wall, leaving it to Tramp to expound on his thoughts. (I had to look up Bill Hicks. Apparently he's an American comedian who died in 1994 and was quite popular in the UK. I don't remember him at all but I probably just wasn't paying attention. I've never been a huge fan of stand-up comedy.)

Anyway, you get the idea. Tramp has a few favorite writing spots and I haven't photographed them all, not by a long shot. But I've probably photographed enough of them.

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

All Creatures

This inconspicuous little flower appeared on our prayer plant not too long ago -- the first time it has bloomed that I can remember. This is a plant given to me by a co-worker, and I used to keep it on my desk at work. But even though the library has a lot of windows, my desk isn't particularly well lit by natural light, and the plant never got very big (and in fact almost died over a weeklong break with inadequate water). I finally brought it home last year and put it in a new pot, and now it's twice the size and blooming.

Plants, like the rest of us, just want a little love and attention.

Speaking of which, thanks for your comments and good wishes on my post yesterday. I hate writing about medical stuff but if I didn't mention it, I'd feel inauthentic in my blogging. I don't always have a lot to say here, but I do want to reflect what's really happening in my life.

I went in for my blood tests yesterday morning -- yes, I climbed the hill -- and that all went smoothly. Then I walked from the hospital through Belsize Park to work, and on the way I passed:

Isn't this a remarkable construction? It says around the oblong globe at the top, "What a wonderful world," and around the green edge, "Home not just for us but for all creatures." The little card attached attributes it to the Belsize Creates Craft Club at Belsize Community Library. (No doubt also responsible for the yarn library sign I saw a few weeks ago.)

Apparently they've installed several "toppers" on this post box, which have been repeatedly stolen or vandalized. But the crafters persist! I'm glad I got to see this one.

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Tests and Repairs

This is not our house. It's just a cool doorway that I saw on my way to work yesterday. It seems to be in the middle of some kind of renovation. It's a shame whoever installed the now-removed entrance canopy had to cut through that terra cotta panel (from 1892!) to do it.

Speaking of renovations, our property managers were supposed to send someone yesterday to look at the roof of our garden shed and estimate the repair costs. But if anyone was here they left no trace, and left my note attached to the shed door (explaining what I thought needed to be done) apparently untouched. So who knows what's going on there.

Today I have to hustle myself over to the hospital for some blood tests. I am not looking forward to it, mostly because the hospital isn't incredibly easy to get to from where we live. It's not far distance-wise, but it's up a hill toward the Heath and there are no direct buses (probably because people who live in rarified Hampstead don't want buses on their residential streets). The only bus I could take goes all the way down to Swiss Cottage, over to Belsize Park and back up to Hampstead -- essentially a big U-shape that involves a lot of extra travel. I could take the overground, but by the time I walk to and from the stations at both ends I may as well just climb the darn hill.

So, yeah. Medicine. I'm enduring some medical drama here, and I don't want to say much about it, because I don't really know what to say yet. I'm still having tests. I have a telephone consultation with a specialist on Thursday. This is all related to my long-standing stomach issues, and the acid reflux that has in the past also affected my breathing. As I said the other day, I've made some diet modifications but I have not been feeling great and I am worried something could be seriously amiss.

Remember when I was going to have that endoscopy in early 2021, and I didn't go through with it because my symptoms got better and the doctors didn't seem concerned, and then we had a massive Covid surge and I didn't want to go to a medical facility, blah blah blah? Well, now I wish I'd had it. Shoulda coulda woulda.

Anyway, at the moment there is nothing to report -- only the phantoms in my own mind, which I am trying hard not to allow to run rampant. Last week I was barely sleeping, but this week my panic has subsided enough that I'm feeling better. If and when I know more, we'll go from there. I will be seriously bummed if some medical issue gets in the way of our South America trip at the end of June (not to mention the rest of my life).

Remember the library tiger? It disappeared for a while, but now it's back. Perhaps it was living behind some books, hiding out -- or hibernating, maybe. Yesterday someone positioned it on the shelf as if to read the spines of our big cat books. I thought that was pretty clever.

Oh, I finished the library inventory. We have lost track of 40 books over the past year. That sounds like a lot, but I suspect some of them aren't truly lost -- they were probably spirited away in the short-term by absent-minded kids who simply forgot to check them out. I imagine they'll be back within the next few weeks. Others, however, seem well and truly gone. If it hasn't been seen by the computer in the past year, that's a pretty good sign it may be lost and/or stolen. If it's not back by June, it's probably gone for good.

Monday, April 22, 2024

A New Pot

Our pink azalea -- which we got for free when our local garden center gave away all its plants at the start of our first pandemic lockdown in 2020 -- is bursting into bloom. As you can see, there are lots of buds still coming.

And this little bluebell is growing in a precarious place, out in the lawn. We have a few that have re-seeded over the years into the grass, and I always try to mow around them but I'm sure I sometimes fail and run them over. So far I've managed to preserve this one.

A quiet day yesterday. I had vague plans of perhaps doing the second leg of the Dollis Valley Greenwalk, but that didn't happen. I'm always reluctant to go away and leave Olga when I could be walking her, and also, I just wasn't feeling up to it. As it turns out, Olga wasn't either -- I tried to take her to the cemetery in the afternoon and we got as far as the corner before she decided it was time to come home.

Instead she spent most of the day being annoying, begging to be let in or out depending on whether the sun was shining. In this maritime climate, the sun goes behind a cloud and comes out again about 3,000 times a day, so that's a lot of back and forth to the patio door.

We did get our somewhat bedraggled avocado tree into its new pot, so that was an achievement. That's a 90-liter pot, about 50 centimeters across. Next to it on the left is the pot the avocado has been living in for the last ten years or so. It was root-bound, to say the least.

The new pot arrived Saturday, and it came with no drainage holes. Why this is true, I have no idea. I borrowed a drill from the Russians (God knows they have plenty of tools) and drilled 24 drainage holes in the bottom before moving the tree. Handyman Steve!

I hope it's happier in its new home. It's too big to bring inside now, so we're committed to keeping it under cover outdoors in winter. Fingers crossed!

Finally, here's my second compilation of footage from our Garden Cam. We see that same black cat, some nest-building magpies, a flock of pigeons, a squirrel digging something up and eating it, another cat (which hightails it away at top speed, for some reason), a fox trotting past, and some pigeons and starlings grazing among the teasels. I'm experimenting with the best place to put the camera, so it moves around a bit -- it got knocked askew by a squirrel before that last shot.

I promise I won't routinely subject you to every pigeon and squirrel. The camera is still a new "toy" for me, but as it ages I'll probably get more selective about what I blog!

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 Boötes. 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!