Saturday, August 23, 2014

More of the Same

Work, photography, filling the bird feeder -- it's like the movie "Groundhog Day" around here. I am living the same events over and over.

Yesterday after work, when I could have gone to an afternoon social to kick off the school year, I instead snuck away because, frankly, it's been a long week with a lot of school-related business and I just needed some time to myself.

I went walking through Queen's Park and took care of 33 more streets for Bleeding London. What a haul! I'm skirting the edges of burnout, here. I'm starting to feel like I'm shooting the same things over and over -- doors, houses, cats, flowers, construction rubbish, random bicyclists. But then, when you're shooting street photography, that's what there is, right?

Today I'm planning to head back out toward Wembley to shoot another neglected area.

Oh, and thanks to my readers for their comments about the bird feeder. I had no idea birds could eat so much! I mean, I'd heard that they eat many times their body weight as they gear up for migration, but I didn't realize the sheer quantity of seed that would mean. I refilled the feeders again today, and I'm hoping that with me and/or Dave home for most of the day we'll identify the hungry culprit(s).

(Photo: West Hampstead, on Thursday evening.)

Friday, August 22, 2014

Phillip Squared

More photography after work yesterday -- I walked a network of different streets between work and home, and got some pretty good shots. For Bleeding London, where the object is to photograph every street, I consider it a special bonus when I can get a shot that includes the street sign!

Otherwise, not much excitement. I am participating in the faculty/staff chorus at work, which performs just once a year at the opening assembly, and we had our first rehearsal yesterday. We're going to perform "Home" by Phillip Phillips, which I didn't think I knew until I heard it, and then I thought, "Oh yeah!" It's a simplistic little ditty and not very challenging, but it sure does stick in your head. I was singing it for hours after we rehearsed.

We have a mystery on our hands involving our bird feeders. The level of seed seemed to plummet just within the last few days. Yesterday morning I filled them up before work, and when I came home, fully 2/3 of one feeder had been emptied. Squirrels? Pigeons? We're thinking the latter, because we found several pigeon feathers around the base. The feeders are housed inside cages atop a pole, and I don't see how squirrels could get to them -- but pigeons probably could.

Oh well. I suppose they need to eat too.

(Photo: Mazenod Avenue, yesterday.)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Issues of Space Usage

I was going to be a complete wild man and blog from the front room of our flat today. But in the end, I fell back into old habits, and here I am on the couch looking out at the garden.

Seriously, one of the problems with this new flat is the allocation of space. We have two large rooms at the front of the house -- an entry foyer and the front room, where our groovy dining table is -- that we barely use. We drop our shoes and umbrellas in the foyer, and that's about it. We don't use the dining room because we commonly eat in our living room in front of the television -- as culturally and intellectually bankrupt as that sounds. In fact, the dining room still contains boxes of books waiting for the arrival of our new bookshelves. (Where are those bookshelves, anyway? I've got to check up on that.)

It's kind of disconcerting to think that we could chop off fully one half of our flat and not even miss it, aside from the fact that it stores a couple of large pieces of furniture.

This weekend, though, we're planning on having our former neighbors, Chris and Linda, over for dinner. So we'll use the table then. We probably should eat in there more often, rather than fueling our mealtimes with reruns of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and "The Streets of San Francisco."

Oh, and did I tell you that the landlords of our old flat sent a notice to the school trying to find a new renter? Yes, this after they had us move so they could sell the place. I guess it's not selling. (It's still listed, anyway.) It seems odd to me that they would try to find another tenant, rather than just lowering the price to try to spur a sale. But who knows -- I admittedly am not privy to all the financial information that must be factored into such a decision.

Yesterday was a bear of a day at work. Part of the library was reconfigured into classroom space over the summer, and that required shifting the shelves in the fiction section, which meant the books were all out of order. I had to re-shelve fully half of our fiction -- thousands of books -- and even with a co-worker's help it took hours of bending and lifting, pushing and pulling. Once again, who knew that working in a library would be so physical?

(Photo: A wary cat in Wembley, on Monday.)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Thoughts On Happiness

Yesterday we had an all-school staff and faculty meeting to kick off the new year. Part of the main presentation was about two recent books, one of which, "The Happiness Advantage" by Shawn Achor, led to a discussion about what creates happiness. (I haven't read this book, but our head of school did.) The gist of the book is that success doesn't create happiness -- happiness, instead, creates success.

Let me just say that I am not a fan of self-help books. When people start talking about success, my eyes glaze over.

But I was interested in the list of five factors that lead to happiness, as outlined in the presentation by our head of school (and I confess I'm not sure whether these came from the book or elsewhere):

-- Make a list of three good things a day
-- Find something to look forward to
-- Express your gratitude
-- Spend money (but not on stuff)
-- Cultivate work friendships

As I listened to the presentation it occurred to me why I'm so insistent about blogging (and before that, journaling). Not only does it create a record of my life, thereby assisting my own pathetically inadequate memory, but it fulfills both the first and the third items on that list. I usually try to keep my blog relatively positive, and I post all the time about the cool things I come across or the experiences I have in a given day. I don't know that I necessarily mention three good things every day -- let's not get crazy! -- but the number, I suspect, doesn't matter as much as simply acknowledging that good things happen regularly.

As for stuff, as my friends know, I have never been much of a stuff person -- but I seldom hesitate to spend money on traveling or experiences.

I don't mean to suggest I'm the paragon of happiness. But I think being able to find beauty in the commonplace, and being interested in what's around us, definitely leads to a more positive state of mind. The list is simplistic, like all self-help advice, but there is a kernel of truth to it.

And on that note, I am going to go walk the dog, who is lying across my lap in a rather awkward and insistent fashion, making it very hard for me to type.

(Photos: A back alley in South Hampstead.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Evening in Wembley

Yesterday after work I took the tube up to Wembley to do some more street photography for Bleeding London. I thought I'd head out to an area that seems underrepresented so far in the competition, and the Wembley postcode definitely qualified.

It was an interesting area to photograph because of the dominant presence of Wembley Stadium, looming over the surrounding neighborhoods like a giant UFO (as I previously said). As usual, I had a lot of fun exploring an area I'd only been to once or twice, and I got some good pictures.

I enjoyed getting out for a walk after work. I had a few hours of daylight left -- which will seem remarkable in December, when it gets dark long before I even leave school.

In the coming weeks I'm going to experiment more with getting out on photography walks after work. I have a few more distant neighborhoods in mind!

Monday, August 18, 2014

I Ought to Hit You in the Face

Such a busy weekend!

I spent much of it on photography for Bleeding London. I went out with Olga both mornings, slowly extending my network of covered streets. Poor Olga gets jerked along on the leash when I see something happening farther up the street and have to get into position. I'm sure she is not a fan of my camera.

One guy actually threatened me. He was coming toward me on the sidewalk on the other side of the street. By coincidence, at the same time, I saw a house on my side of the street that I wanted to photograph. So I crossed the street, positioning myself in front of him to get the picture. He stopped, and I was aware of him standing off to my right as I snapped. When I finished, he said, "I ought to hit you in the face."

I was so aghast I wasn't even alarmed. "Why?!" I asked. He gestured weakly to the dog and then said, "Are you all right?" I said, "I'm fine. Are you all right?" At which point he turned and just kept going. The whole exchange was so bizarre that I think he was high on something -- but the upshot, I believe, is that he resented me crossing the street and blocking his path, and he was afraid to walk past me because of the dog. (Vicious as she is.)

I also worked in the garden, cutting out blackberry sprouts that are coming up from bushes we removed. And I harvested all the ripened blackberries from the bushes we saved -- some of them were way past ripened, soggy masses of brilliant purple juice, because Dave isn't a fan and they didn't get picked for the two weeks I was in Florida. We're definitely coming to the end of the season. In just a week or two, I think, they'll be done.

Dave made this plum tart for dessert on Saturday. Doesn't it look like an abstract expressionist painting? He was disappointed because some of the plums were more tart than sweet, but I think it turned out really well. (Again, he is not a huge fan of tartness.)

Last night, in memory of Robin Williams, we watched "Dead Poets Society," which I haven't seen in years and Dave hadn't seen since its initial release. It was a bit surreal to watch a movie that hinges on a suicide, given the circumstances of Williams' death, but it's still a good film.

(Top photo: A house front in South Hampstead.)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Jersey Tiger, Front and Back

The other day Dave and I were in the living room when I spotted this critter on the windowpane. "Look at that!" I said, and ran for the camera.

It's not often I get a chance to take a close-up photo of the underside of a moth. I didn't know what kind of moth this was, but I was even more impressed when I went outside to see what it looked like from above.

Beautiful, isn't it? Turns out it's a Jersey Tiger Moth, a mainly continental species that's relatively uncommon in England. Apparently they've been seen in London each year since 2004, so the theory is that they've established a colony here, according to Wikipedia.

I had no idea what I was looking at was all that unusual. I wish I'd had a chance to see its underwings, which are usually yellow or orange, but the moth did not oblige.

I wonder what brought it to our garden?