Friday, May 31, 2024

The News

There's some squabbling going on at the bird feeder, as usual. When the parakeets aren't squawking and nipping at each other, they're battling the great spotted woodpecker.

But the woodpecker has an advantage with that long pointy bill! I always love watching the birds against the colorful backdrop of the roses.

So let's talk about yesterday's news. Here's the headline from The New York Times web site:

That was delicious, wasn't it?! Dave and I were about to go to bed last night when we heard a verdict was forthcoming, and we sat up together in the living room as those wonderful red words marched across the top of the Times' site, one beneath each count: GUILTY GUILTY GUILTY.

Our initial reaction was jubilant laughter, but that was followed almost immediately by uncertainty about what happens next. I was glad to wake up this morning and see that the country is apparently not in flames, but of course the right-wing sites are parroting Trump's allegations that the whole trial was a sham and his followers are still pledging him their votes.

I hope what it will do is give the Republican leadership some cover to break from Trump and nominate a more stable, palatable candidate. If ever there was a time to snap out of the Trump trance, this is it. A lot of lawmakers don't like Trump, despite backing him publicly, and I wouldn't be surprised if some turn on him now. You know, they either believe in the American justice system -- the grand juries, the judges, the jury of one's peers -- or they don't.

As for Trump, he has always been viewed as a reprehensible figure in New York. When you make a career out of being a narcissistic, abusive arsehole, obsessed with your own name brand and weaving back and forth across the line of legality, karma is bound to come back and bite you. He says the decision was "rigged" but he's the one who rigged it over many, many years. And of course, the bottom line is, he committed the crime.

I wonder what Melania is thinking?

Anyway, as someone famous supposedly said on their deathbed, "This should be interesting." That's how I feel about politics at the moment.

Here are our lobelia (left), ravaged by slugs and/or snails, and our sage. I've put both of them up on a chair to give them a fighting chance in the battle against garden pests. I know snails can climb chairs but I'm thinking it will be just that much harder for them to get there, and that may help protect the plants. I'm not kidding when I say that lobelia was two or three inches high and leafy just a couple of days ago. While I have taken a rather fatalistic approach to the garden this spring -- what gets eaten gets eaten -- I'm also fine with making it a little more difficult.

Here's one of our dahlias. I've elevated them as well, and this one is also wearing a copper slug ring to keep away slugs -- apparently they don't like crawling over copper. Most of the dahlias at least have some greenery so there's hope. Several of you have also recommended diatomaceous earth and although I haven't tried it yet, it's on my radar. Maybe I'll finally invest in some.

My Newbery talks went well yesterday, at least in terms of my presentation. I got some questions, but fewer than I usually get with younger kids -- so yeah, overall engagement is lower in 7th Grade. Which I expected. I have two more talks today and then I'm done.

Thursday, May 30, 2024

The Ghost of Elvis Returns

This mysterious shopfront in Childs Hill, a neighborhood north of us, has looked like this for as long as we've lived here. (And even longer, according to Google Street View.) I've always found it interesting that some building owners apparently feel no urgency whatsoever to find occupants for their properties. We've seen some shops stand vacant for years. I guess this happens in the USA too, particularly if building owners live overseas or their estate is locked up in some kind of legal dispute.

Speaking of which, did you all see this wacky story about the identity thieves who had the audacity to try to foreclose on Graceland, Elvis Presley's former home in Memphis? Apparently operating from Africa, they somehow managed to file legal paperwork in the name of a fictional company to make a claim on the estate. They even publicly announced the foreclosure sale. Presley's relatives were knowledgeable and well-connected enough to fight back, but you gotta wonder what would happen if the the thieves tried this on someone less aware. It shows that our legal system has yet to catch up to the new realities of global crime.

The story is vague on who actually perpetrated this fraud, and even whether the reporter's contact with the fraudsters is authentic. After all, when you're communicating with a nameless person through e-mail, it could be anybody. My favorite reader comment on the story was this:

(I am unfamiliar with Mojo Nixon, but apparently he's a musician whose best-known song is "Elvis is Everywhere," from 1987. His musical style is defined as "psychobilly," a mix of rockabilly and punk. You learn something new every day, right?)

I am giving a presentation about the Newbery Awards to two seventh-grade classes today, and two more tomorrow. This is going to be interesting, because I seldom talk to the older Middle School students about the Newberys. I tried to shake it up and find some Newbery-winning books to recommend that would appeal to that age group -- more mature books with teen or young adult themes, like "Jacob Have I Loved" by Katherine Paterson and "Rifles for Watie" by Harold Keith. We'll see how it goes down. Seventh graders are not known for enthusiasm and open-minded receptivity.

The slugs and snails are continuing to ravage our plants as they enjoy our cloudy, damp spring. I noticed yesterday that our pink lobelias, which had been leafing out beautifully, have been eaten back to the ground. Sigh. Dave and I have basically decided we're not going to fight them. If something dies because of slugs, then it's just not meant to grow here.

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Angus and Julia

You may be thinking, "Who are those people?"

Well, they were my evening entertainment last night. My friend Colin came to my desk last week and asked if I wanted to see some shows with him, because he'd bought tickets with a friend and then the friend couldn't go. He was seeing Jane's Addiction twice, and this Australian duo, Angus and Julia Stone. I like a few songs by Jane's Addiction but that seemed like a little too much excitement for a 58-year-old on a school night -- and definitely on two school nights -- so I passed on them. I did, however, take him up on seeing Angus and Julia.

I'd never heard of them and I walked into Royal Albert Hall last night completely unaware of their music. Colin had told me they were acoustic singer-songwriters, and that's the genre where I feel most at home as a listener, so I was pretty certain I wouldn't hate their sound.

In fact, the show turned out to be wonderful. I really enjoyed their harmonies and their easy stage manner, and they were unsurprisingly (given the venue) gifted and capable musicians, playing not only guitar but trumpet and other instruments. They had a three-member band to back them up.


Here's a quick video of the opening of their song "Big Jet Plane." They asked audience members to hold up their lighted phones, and this shows the magical effect in the big round arena of the Royal Albert. I also especially enjoyed their songs "Love Song" and "Chateau." (I tried very hard not to take many photos or videos, in order to just enjoy the experience and not be annoying, but some people around me were recording whole songs -- so maybe I didn't need to worry!)

Before the show, we went to the Verdi Italian Kitchen at Royal Albert, where I had a melon salad and the Merluzzo Mediterraneo: "Spicy marinated poached cod, potato foam, cherry tomatoes, capers, Taggiasche olives, garlic oil." Yum!

And before that, having gotten off the tube in South Kensington about an hour before I was to meet Colin, I killed off a pint of "Old Speckled Hen" at the Zetland Arms pub, where I sat reading "Little Women." Louisa May Alcott is more palatable with a beer.

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Walking Lupines and a Piano Lesson

So here's a garden mystery.

That, above, is one of our blooming lupines. It's growing in the pot where the Persian Slipper lupine was, and when I saw the flower stalk I naturally expected blue flowers. (And it really is the same pot, as photos from previous years prove -- a distinctive terra cotta pot that looks unlike any other in our garden.) But then this emerged -- a pink-and-white Rachel de Thame, a lupine hybrid we once had growing in a different pot. I am completely confused about how this happened, unless the Rachel de Thame re-seeded itself in the Persian Slipper's pot.

It's been an interesting year for lupines, after the surprise survival of our Beefeater red lupine. (See here.) I think those plants all played musical pots on some winter's night, uprooting themselves, dancing in a circle and then re-settling in new containers.

I spent yesterday morning in the garden reading, with Olga sprawled out like exhausted Super-Dog right next to me. I'm still plugging away at "Little Women." I can see how it has remained a popular book but I'm finding it rather boring, to be honest. I feel like I have to read at least until Beth dies, and I'm not there yet.

I also did a bunch of gardening. I picked up a whole trug full of fallen camellia blossoms and dumped them behind the shed, in an effort to give the irises growing beneath the camellia bush a fighting chance. The poor things were buried in floral detritus and I don't think we have any iris flowers this year.

I walked Olga on the high street a couple of times, and that was about as far as she was interested in going.

The blanket flower on our front porch is looking good, and I bought a little orange African daisy to keep it company.

And a persistent pink geranium has managed to raise its head above a sea of betony, grass and English ivy in the back garden.

Finally, one of the Russians upstairs was practicing piano again. I made a video so you can hear what it's like in our dining room, though you may have to turn up the sound a bit. They play this same tune OVER AND OVER AND OVER, along with one or two more -- and I know practice makes perfect, but we're talking YEARS here. I keep thinking they'll want to vary their repertoire, but so far no. Still, it's better than a power saw.

There's also video of Olga wiping her face on the shrubbery, as she does every single night after she eats dinner. If we don't let her out in time she wipes it on the couch.

Monday, May 27, 2024

Brick Lane

I got out of the house yesterday by taking a midday trip to Shoreditch and Brick Lane, in East London. I used to go there all the time for the excellent photography opportunities -- the colorful streetscapes, murals and densely clustered street art. For some reason I hadn't been in years, and when we went to dinner at nearby Brat on Saturday it made me nostalgic for that area. So back I went.

I loved this maniacal clown (the hair looks like Boris Johnson...?) and several other pieces by this same crayon-wielding and possibly demented artist.

The whole area has changed a lot. I encountered numerous street-art walking tours, which are a thing, and many older buildings have now been replaced by big, shiny modern apartments. Ironically, the older buildings were the canvases for much of the street art, but despite the gentrification there are apparently still plenty of places to paint and paste.

There were tons of people out, which isn't a surprise on an intermittently sunny bank holiday weekend. Getting there was interesting in itself, because a big football match was scheduled at Wembley -- the English Football League's championship playoff, between Leeds and Southampton -- and in the tube stations I encountered a couple of trains rammed with singing, chanting football fans, all in team jerseys. At least I was headed in the opposite direction.

That's just a general view of Brick Lane, above. You can get used furniture or a bagel, whatever you prefer. (Interesting spelling of bagel -- not one I can ever remember seeing before.)

I found some beautiful murals...

...including some that were quite large. Some were too large, at least for my camera, covering basically an entire building. At least this one (above) by artist Jim Vision on a curved corner wall fit into a single frame.

There were lots of small pieces too, funny and bizarre. This one made me think of blogger Linda Sue, not for lustful reasons but because she loves her neighborhood raccoons.

Here's a long wall of smaller works that I couldn't possibly fit into a single photo. Pause the video when it gets to the posters of the world leaders -- I lingered on them so you'll have plenty of time. They're worth a closer look. There's also a video of a gigantic, colorful mural by Dotmasters.

As I was lingering on some of the smaller pieces of street art, a couple of young guys passing by said, "Hey, do you want this?" They held out a can of Lynx "Africa" body spray. "We're going to a party and we can't take it with us," they said. (They did smell good, I must admit.) When I demurred they insisted, and that's how I wound up with a free can of Lynx "Africa" body spray, which I will probably never use. No one's ever handed me deodorant on the street before. Should I be offended?

On my walk back to Liverpool Street station I passed Kenny Hunter's sculpture "I, Goat" -- or as I called it when I posted it way back in 2011, right after we moved here, "Goat of the Empire" or "Goat of the Realm." I love that it's still there, looking as proud as usual.

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Garden Successes

I'm sure you are sick to death of pictures of our lawn. Sorry about that! But I wanted to show you some of the work I did yesterday. I pulled out all the spent forget-me-nots that would have been on the left-hand side in the photo above, and mowed the grass around the edge of the flower bed. That will give more light and air to the plants there, which were buried in tall grass and forget-me-nots. I also did some weeding (that darned dock!!) in the middle, and ultimately filled two yard-waste bags with trimmings. I feel like I accomplished a lot, even if it's not evident to the casual observer.

As I've said before, our garden creates a ridiculous quantity of what my marine-biologist friend Liz would call "biomass." It's amazing how much grows over the course of a season.

I did a lot of other stuff yesterday, too.

First of all, remember how my white Christmas cactus (from reader Frances) got root rot? At the time I took cuttings and replanted them in fresh soil. Well, they're showing new growth, as are the sprigs of my salmon-colored cactus. So it looks like they've rooted and I've salvaged both of those plants. Whew!

This is what's called the "side return" of our house. The gate at the end leads to the street. This area was littered with construction detritus -- brick dust, chunks of pebble dashing, old roofing nails -- from the various projects the Russians have done upstairs (as well as our recent shed roof repair). I swept it clean and threw out a big bag of debris, and weeded some of the campanula from the edges. I probably should pull all those weeds, but it's nice to have a little greenery there, and they have purple flowers in the summer. I'll weed in the fall.

This is a Nicotiana that Dave bought at Waitrose not too long ago. I cleaned out the weed-filled planter at the side of the house and planted it there, where it will get lots of sun. (The shards will keep the squirrels from uprooting it, ideally.)

A couple of weekends ago I dug our one remaining foam flower (Tiarella) out of our flower beds and put it in a pot -- it was so deeply buried beneath some big ferns that I had trouble finding it, and it wasn't getting any light or air. It has since sprouted new leaves and seems very happy. And we can see it -- big plus!

I also staked up the leaning rose, using the heavy-duty tree stakes and rope I bought from Amazon. It seemed very secure but we had rain all night, and when I woke up early this morning the rose was leaning again. I haven't been able to tell whether the stakes pulled out or what. I had to wake up Dave to help me put the chair back in place as a brace. "We're definitely cutting this f*cker down," he said.

(Don't worry -- I'm continuing my campaign to save it.)

All our dahlias are also showing growth, and our canna lilies have sent up a single shoot. I'd feared they were dead because they've been dormant until now. Woo hoo!

Last night, Dave and I went out to a restaurant in Shoreditch where the main claim to fame is whole turbot, served with the head on. We went with two of our co-workers, and the four of us split one turbot and got a variety of other entrees and side dishes as well. We had fun but I think Dave and I both came away thinking we'd spent a lot of money on good but not mind-blowing food. I did love the olive oil ice cream!

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Stay Free

Well, I survived the week, thank goodness. And now we have a three-day weekend, with our late May bank holiday on Monday. I guess this is the seasonal equivalent of Memorial Day in the USA, but without the memorializing.

I honestly do not have a thing to write this morning. So I'm just going to leave you with this photo from Soho, taken last week (above), and this one from our garden:

That yellow lily just bloomed yesterday, our first of the season. But as you can see behind it, we have several more lily stalks waiting in the wings. Things to look forward to!

Friday, May 24, 2024


This flower is pleasantly known as a stinking iris. (The Latin name isn't much better -- Iris foetidissima.) We have quite a few in the garden, pre-dating our tenancy here. In fact we pulled a lot of them out because they re-seed like crazy, but we've kept some because they're good for shady places where not much else will grow. They're not exactly beautiful but they're interesting. Other names for them include gladden, gladwyn and the "roast-beef plant." When pulled up or crushed, they have a pungent meaty odor -- hence the smelly references -- but the plant doesn't smell at all when it's just growing or blooming, and they have pretty red seeds in autumn.

The weather has been chilly and damp. The rain stopped yesterday and it's sunny this morning, but morning temperatures are in the 50's (F) and the dahlias are still not looking very happy. Dahlias do not like wet, cold weather.

I had a much better workday yesterday. I think, as some of you suggested, that I'm just feeling worn out at the end of the school year. I have had lots of workplace changes this year but sometimes I tend to magnify the situation in my mind. I am so ready for summer! (June 14 is our last day, with students done on June 12.)

Our management company offered us a new lease on our flat, which we happily accepted. They're more on the ball this year -- in the past we've had to remind them that it was time for a renewal. We're getting a four percent rent increase, but given all that the landlords have done to this place in the past year or so, from the new bathtub to the hallway remodeling to repairing the roof on the garden shed, that seems reasonable. It's good to know we can stay put!

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Scary Librarian

Dave is very proud of this hydrangea because it's blue. He always wants blue ones, and no matter what he does to the soil to adjust the acid, it seems like ours tend toward pink or white. I think it looks like a church lady's hat.

It's been a dispiriting week. I feel like I am running out of steam on the job front. A lot of things that I used to enjoy about this job have slowly slipped away -- choosing books to buy, for example. Our budget is so tight that we just don't have much money for books, and I am no longer free to make purchasing requests. I feel more disconnected from the books and literature. All I do is scold kids -- and I hate being that person.

Remember that group of 9th Grade boys (now 10th Grade) who have been driving me crazy for years? Well, now they're all into a game called "Brawl Stars," which they play on their phones in the library at break times and after school. They sit in big groups of ten or twelve and they get all excited and start yelling and shouting, and I try to let them have their fun but at the same time it makes me completely nuts. And I still have to ask kids every single day to put their food away and not eat crisps and cookies because we don't allow food in the library, and yet practically every evening there's some after-school event in the library that includes an entire buffet table of food that gets set up before we close, and I think, WHY am I enforcing this rule that magically goes away after 5 p.m.? I'm sure the kids see the contradiction in it too. I am just sick to death of all of it.

I feel like I'm too young to retire but at the same time I'm not sure how much more of this I can do. I don't want to be the scary librarian. And I think I already am.

Here's my temporary solution to our collapsed rose problem. Before I went to work yesterday I hoisted a chair up from the patio and propped the bush against it. (THAT was fun in the rain!) It's a very heavy chair so it's not going anywhere, and after I took this picture I tied the rose to the chair back. For the time being it should be stable even in wind. I ordered some stakes from Amazon and we'll stake the plant this weekend. Assuming it's not damaged at the base it should be fine. We'll prune it back after the blooming season ends.

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

A Fainting Rose

Here's a look at some of our blooming foxgloves. They're all very pale or even white, which is unusual in the foxglove world. I don't remember where I got the seeds, but they must have come from a pale hybrid that we bought at some point.

This one doesn't even have spots. (It does, however, have a little snail or slug sheltering in one of the blossoms.)

This is the darkest one so far. I still have another -- the one I rescued from the street -- that I'm sure will be of the wild variety when it blooms. So far it only has buds.

We've had rain all day yesterday and all night, and as a result we woke to some drama this morning. A large rose bush outside our back door has leaned over and appears to be in a state of slow collapse against the house:

I can't tell if it's simply leaning or if it's pulled out of the ground -- it has certainly never leaned this far in the past. We can barely get out the back door! We didn't prune it this year and maybe it's just too top-heavy. I think we can save it by trimming and then staking it, but when Dave saw it he said, "I wouldn't mind taking that f*cker out." So its fate is still unknown.

Why couldn't it be the hideous camellia that collapsed? You can see it in the background on the far left there, along with all the white and brown flowers it has dropped, now rotting on the ground.

OK, on to other news...

Remember how Dave signed me up for the Craft Gin Club a couple of years ago? Well, I got monthly shipments of exotic gin for a while, but I soon wound up with more gin than I could expeditiously drink -- because although I love gin I'm not that much of a lush. So I cut it back to every quarter, and now I get just four boxes a year.

The boxes typically contain bizarre snacks and little mixers as well as the gin. This time around I got something in a can called a "blueberry and blackberry martini," which didn't contain alcohol at all. Even before my recent gastritis flare-up I was cutting back on alcohol, and now I've really cut back, so last night I thought I'd try the fruit martini. I even put it in a martini glass, as suggested by the Gin Club. And it fruit juice. Unremarkable, to say the least.

I have to issue a clarification regarding my grousing about Biden and the Democrats yesterday. I will absolutely, absolutely vote for Joe Biden. That is not even a question. My misgivings do not threaten my vote in any way. In fact I laughed out loud at a commenter on Bob's blog who said they'd vote for Richard Nixon if the Democrats ran him against Trump -- I said, "Me too!" And Nixon's not only a crook, he's dead.

(The common denominator with Nixon and Trump is Roger Stone, who is surely Satan incarnate.)

Finally, I'm starting to read "Little Women." Somehow I have made it all the way to age 57-and-a-half without reading this book. I see and hear so many cultural references to it that I think I need to finally do it, keeping in mind that Louisa May Alcott didn't write it for 57-and-a-half-year-old men and I may consequently find it a bit boring.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

A Baby Bird, and Politics

Here's one of this year's new baby birds -- a starling -- demanding food from its harried parent.


The funny thing is, the bird feeder is directly below these birds, hanging from that hook. You'd think if the chick could fly to the top and perch there, it could also fly to the feeder itself.

Well, I knuckled under last night and mowed the lawn. I had to rebel against the tyranny of "No-Mow May." As I said the other day, we're keeping about half the lawn unmowed, mostly in the back, so we're doing our part for the insects. But not mowing anything was just getting too out of control, and the slugs and snails were having a field day.

Also, Dave saw what he thought was a rat on the back patio, and we sure don't want that. So we need to beat back the wilderness a bit. (Maybe I need to welcome those cats I complained about yesterday?)

As you can see, there's still plenty of greenery out there. I set that lupine on top of a milk crate to try to keep the slugs away from it. It looks trashy, but hey, I'm from Florida.

(In fact, I found that very milk crate in Florida when I was about 13 years old. I was collecting beer cans with my brother in some woods near our house and it was abandoned there. I brought it home, cleaned it up and I've kept it ever since, through all my moves. For years it was my laundry hamper. Now it's a staircase for slugs!)

Did any of you see Ezra Klein's column in The New York Times about "why Biden is losing"? It's very provocative. The part I found most interesting, as a former newspaper journalist, was this:
In April, NBC News released a national poll breaking the race down by where respondents got their news. Biden led by 49 points among voters who relied on newspapers. He led by 20 points among voters relying on national network news. In the slightly archaic-sounding category of “digital websites,” Biden led by 10 points. If the election were limited to (these) voters... he would win in a landslide. 
But Biden is behind, and here’s why: Among voters who rely on social media, Trump led by four points. Among voters who rely on cable news, Trump led by eight. Voters who get their news from YouTube and Google favor Trump by 16 points. And voters who don’t follow political news at all favor Trump by 26 points.
It shows in stark terms that Trump's supporters tend to be less well-informed, or (to be generous) more distrustful of mainstream media and perhaps media in general. I'm not sure how people who don't follow political news at all could even bring themselves to vote. Perhaps those less-involved voters just won't come to the polls.

Nonetheless, it was a sobering column and one that Biden and his supporters should take seriously. I think the Democrats need a big shake-up before November. What it should be, I'm not sure -- but given the abhorrence of Trump there's no reason this race should be this close. It's an embarrassment, and one the Democrats must remedy.

Monday, May 20, 2024

That Darn Cat

It's ladybug (or ladybird) season again. We saw four of them on our buddleia yesterday, on a military patrol in their bright red uniforms. I guess there must have been some aphids around. More power to the ladybirds!

I was about as lazy as a person could be yesterday. I thought about going for a walk, taking some pictures, but ultimately the garden was so nice I couldn't bring myself to leave. I spent the day reading "Mr. Nobody," and I'm almost finished. I should be at the point of peak suspense, on page 320 of 344 pages, but instead I temporarily ran out of steam. It's an entertaining book but it seems less and less plausible as it goes along. I'll finish it off on my lunch break today.

This was my view from our back garden bench. It was an ideal day, with perfect temperatures. Our teasel forest is growing like mad!

Olga was certainly content to stay home. We walked around the neighborhood in the morning, but when I tried to take her to the cemetery in the afternoon we only got as far as the tree in front of the house before she turned around. She preferred her bed in the sun-dappled yard.

Toward the end of the afternoon I did manage to crank out some chores -- I vacuumed the house and dusted some areas where there was a visible film. I didn't manage to get to the bathrooms. A person can only do so much.

Around 4 a.m. this morning I woke temporarily and heard a cat loudly meowing. I thought it was in our garden -- the garden cam has captured three different cats passing through now and then -- and I don't want cats in our garden because they kill the birds. Particularly at this time of year, when nests and fledglings are vulnerable. So I put on my robe and went out in the garden to chase it away, but couldn't find a cat anywhere. Maybe it was actually in one of the neighbor's gardens. I swear I did not imagine it.

Yesterday morning we found some gray feathers in the grass where there had been an obvious skirmish, so something got eaten. Whether a cat or a fox or a hawk was the culprit, I'm not sure. I don't mind foxes and hawks, and I suppose I would mind cats less if I thought they needed their prey to survive. But they just kill out of instinct and then go home to their Fancy Feast -- pet cats, anyway.

Mr. Russia finished whatever he was doing at the side of the house yesterday. I didn't even look.

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Boring Stuff but the Garden is Pretty

Here's the garden at the moment. The roses are blooming, as is the yellow peony, orange azalea and pink campion. The forget-me-nots have passed their peak, and the grass is deliberately shaggy because of "No-Mow May," which is supposed to help insects by allowing them to breed in the unmown grass. I'll mow the front section of the lawn come June, but the back we'll leave alone all summer.

The large leaves of the burdock -- which grew from seed from the plants we had a couple of years ago -- are perfect baskets for fallen azaleas and rose petals.

Here's an interesting discovery. We lost a couple of lupines a year or two ago, and I have long believed that our red Beefeater lupine died and the pink-and-white Rachel de Thame survived. This flower is showing me that I have it exactly backwards -- the Beefeater is the survivor. It would be nice if I could remember what plant is in what pot! Perhaps I should use labels like they do on "Gardener's World."

Yesterday I went out and bought some annuals -- petunias and trailing verbena -- and planted them in hanging baskets for the front porch and back patio. The foxgloves are starting to bloom too. My dahlias are still in a sorry state because of snails, slugs, birds and squirrels -- if we don't start getting some sunnier weather, keeping the snails and slugs at bay, I'm afraid some of them won't successfully sprout at all. As I've said, I'm letting nature take its course.

I also did laundry and read about a third of a novel called "Mr. Nobody" by Catherine Steadman. Dave got a membership to a sort of book club, a gift from a parent, and he doesn't really read for fun so I signed up for it. They choose and send a new book every now and then, based on my stated preferences. I asked for mystery thrillers, basically, and I would never have thought to buy "Mr. Nobody" but I'm enjoying it so far.

The Russians knocked on the door around lunchtime, wanting access to the alley at the side of the house (which is behind a locked gate leading to our garden). They had a new window installed on Friday and Mr. Russia wanted to paint around the frame. I opened the gate, figuring he'd be up on that ladder an hour or so. FOUR HOURS LATER he was still there, and he says he'll have to come back today. I think he's finding all sorts of flaws with the work and you know what a perfectionist he is.

I cut this gigantic rose from the garden. I think it's a Princess Margaret. It smells amazing!

Oh -- I forgot to tell you how inventory worked out in the Lower School library. I'm sure you're all on the edge of your seats! After I finished scanning everything on Friday, I went back to try to find the missing books, and I found several of them on the second pass. (Often they've slipped behind the others or they're super-skinny and I just didn't see them the first time.) Ultimately we wound up with 47 missing books, which isn't too terrible out of almost 18,000 -- and I suspect some of those will come back.

So inventory in both libraries is officially done until next spring.

Olga has found a way to simultaneously sit up and lie down. Skills!

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Pac-Man and Other Randomness

When I walked to work the other day, I came across several old refrigerators piled in front of a building, waiting to be hauled away. One of them was adorned with these Pac-Man magnets. Who would throw away their Pac-Man magnets, no matter how faded and discolored they are? Now they adorn our refrigerator. (That's the old fridge above -- hence the grime.)

Someone bought some fancy olives. Perhaps they were trying to give them away, which is why they specified that they're still sealed. Even sealed, I'm not sure I'd take food off someone's garden wall -- and I love olives!

I might have taken this, if I had a kid and had any idea what it's for. I think it's just a useful soft-sided box, perhaps for toys? Or maybe a laundry hamper?

I was amused by this card, bearing a historic nickname for gin. Apparently it's a distillery in Walthamstow. In "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert," Terence Stamp, as Bernice, memorably requests a drink by saying: "Mother's Ruin pour moi!"

Is there such a thing as the Creativity Party? News to me. They need more creative advertising.

This is an anarchist sticker campaigning against the war in Ukraine (and war in general). In English it says, "Solidarity with deserters, saboteurs and war resisters!" More here.

This laburnum is beginning to bloom nicely on a housing estate in St. John's Wood. Mrs. Kravitz also has a laburnum that is looking good at the moment.

And finally...a discarded chair with a rather fierce-looking dog sticker, on Finchley Road.

Is the dog named Brams? Or maybe it's Bram's dog?