Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Tie Dye Shirts and Luxury Watches

I was bummed yesterday when I read that a huge hippo has been floating in the Thames all September, and I missed it! It was a massive wooden sculpture by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman, and was due to depart -- no doubt for warmer climes -- on Sept. 28. I assume it kept to its schedule. Bummer.

I always hear about things like this after they've happened. I still haven't made it to the Tower of London to see the poppy display. I've been too busy traipsing around suburbia with my camera!

Yesterday the library was busy as all get-out, for some reason. A ton of returned books, a heavily laden cart to re-shelve. We took our group librarian photo, wearing our tie-dye shirts, and some of us held '60s-themed books for good measure. I held a copy of Richard Brautigan's "Trout Fishing in America" and "In Watermelon Sugar," even though (or perhaps because) I'm sure none of the kids at school have the slightest idea who Richard Brautigan is. (And is he appropriate reading for middle schoolers? Probably not.)

Apropos of nothing, you know what I don't understand? Luxury watches. I don't understand their appeal or why anyone would spend thousands and thousands -- tens of thousands -- of dollars or pounds on a wristwatch. It is completely beyond me.

This comes to mind because often when I open The New York Times web site these days, a huge advertisement for Vacheron Constantin or Cartier expands and fills my screen, and I am just so not interested. Vanity Fair magazine recently sent an advertorial supplement to its subscribers focused exclusively on luxury watches -- celebrities posing with them, that sort of thing.

Watches are the target of every smash-and-grab thief here in London. I seem to read tons of articles about people being accosted and robbed of their Rolexes.

If I had ten thousand dollars to spare, I would not be buying a watch. In fact my idea of happiness is to not have a watch. (The battery in my 17-year-old, $45 Fossil brand watch died about two years ago and I have yet to replace it.) These days who needs one, with a clock in every mobile phone? I realize having a Rolex is more about status than telling time, but still -- it's mysterious.

(Photo: A quiet side street near Swiss Cottage, yesterday.)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Reading About Florida

I promise not to talk about photography or Bleeding London today! I am becoming kind of a one-note Joe lately, but it's true that most of my spare time seems consumed by those pursuits.

I've been making a little room for reading. I just started another John Green book, "Paper Towns," which I was eager to read because it's set in Florida -- Orlando, specifically. I wouldn't say it's very complimentary about Florida, but it's always fun to read about my home state.

When I was growing up Florida seemed relatively untouched by popular culture -- at least until "Miami Vice" came along. The big news happened somewhere else. All the TV shows, with the exception of "Flipper," were set in New York or California. (Certainly nothing was ever set in Tampa -- which is still true, as far as I know!) There were some Florida books -- "The Yearling," and one I loved called "Summer Lightning" that is now apparently out of print but still available used or as an e-book.

Florida's cultural prominence, like its population, has increased greatly since then.

Anyway, I like the Green book, though I read an interesting article in Slate not long ago chastising adults for reading Young Adult literature. Even good YA books, the writer asserts, are too simplistic in their endings and too wide-eyed in their approach to love and life to be satisfying to a right-thinking adult. "If (readers) are substituting maudlin teen dramas for the complexity of great adult literature, then they are missing something," she wrote. I thought of an adult book group I heard about that read "Divergent," which I must agree is probably not the best choice. (I slogged through "Divergent" but you could not pay me to read the sequels.)

But the line between YA and adult reading does seem blurry sometimes -- just like the line between youth and adulthood seems blurry in our modern culture. I suppose our reading habits are symptomatic of a wider psychological change. (I defend my own YA reading as a job requirement!)

Speaking of Florida, I had the weirdest dream last night. My mom and I were sitting on the dock behind our family home when we saw a huge alligator welling up out of the water. I got up to run, but Mom jumped in the water (which I suspect she would not do in real life) and began swimming to shore. I had to grab her arm and pull her. We did escape the gator. What do you suppose that was all about? Why am I rescuing my mother?

(Photo: Hauling lumber on Savernake Road, near Hampstead Heath, on Saturday.)

Monday, September 29, 2014

Hendon and Finchley

Another full day out and about yesterday. I took my camera back up to the NW4 postcode, in Hendon, and photographed about 50 streets in that area before crossing over into N3, Finchley, where I found this horse in a surprisingly pastoral setting. London is full of surprises!

I met a man in Finchley who asked what I was up to, and he directed me to a few local landmarks, such as the "La Délivrance" statue by Emile Guillaume, known locally as "The Naked Lady."

With a sword, no less.

She is an allegorical representation of the victory of France and its allies in World War I, and was unveiled in Finchley in 1927. My helpful impromptu guide also reminded me that Finchley was the parliamentary constituency of Margaret Thatcher.

So thanks, Finchley voters -- said with no enthusiasm whatsoever.

It was a good day out, and a long one. I got home about 4 p.m. and spent the next couple of hours editing photos and uploading them to the Bleeding London web site. I shot 79 streets altogether. Dave keeps saying I should be paid for this -- but I really do enjoy it. Would I have ever seen Finchley otherwise? Doubtful.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Olga Gets a Long, Long Walk

Yesterday I relieved my dog-owner guilt tenfold. I took Olga with me on a photography walk through Hampstead -- first I took her to the Heath, where she ran free and chased her Kong and wore herself out, and then we walked several streets on the south and southwest sides of the Heath for Bleeding London.

We were out for at least three hours, and we'd been out more than an hour earlier that morning in another area northwest of where we live, so all in all Olga got in some serious walking yesterday. Which is why she's been asleep ever since.

Is it possible to walk a dog too much?

Anyway, as you can see, she was happy to come along, and she never showed any desire to go home. I got some good shots to boot, so all in all, a good day.

Here's a nasturtium I rooted from a cutting I found lying on Hampstead Heath several weeks ago. (Part of a discarded bouquet, I think.) It's turned into a full-fledged plant and it's bloomed several times. I love nasturtiums but in the states -- specifically in Florida -- I was never able to grow them. Here they grow like weeds!

Dave talked to our former next-door neighbor, Chris, from Notting Hill yesterday. Chris said he spoke to our former landlord, who was staying in our old flat on a visit from the states. Apparently they're no longer selling the flat (which is weird, because it's still listed) and they're looking to rent it again, as I'd heard at school not too long ago. Dave and I agreed that we're happy we were forced to move, because we like the place we're in so much better -- but strange that our landlords have changed their mind about selling. My guess is they haven't been able to get the outrageous price they're asking.

On a related note, I read an interesting article yesterday in the New York Times about the proliferation of houseboats in London, as an alternative to the high cost of housing. Apparently house prices in London have increased 20 percent so far this year! (We will never be able to buy anything.) I once suggested to Dave that we look into living on a boat, but he promptly vetoed that idea. (Now that I've seen him at work in the garden I understand why!) Turns out there are too many boats anyway, and not enough berths.

Last night we watched two more episodes of "The Honourable Woman," a BBC spy drama about Israel and Palestine starring Maggie Gyllenhaal. We missed its broadcast and it's no longer on the iPlayer, so we have to buy each episode via iTunes, and they're released episodically. (Maybe it's being broadcast in the states now?) Anyway, it's a great show. A little confusing in that kind of "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" way, where you think you might just be able to wrap your brain around it, and you never quite do -- at least, I never quite do -- but you enjoy it anyway. (How's that for an endorsement?)

Saturday, September 27, 2014

In Lieu of Boredom, Some Pictures

Yesterday was just stultifyingly boring. The library was quiet, and Dave went out with some coworkers after school so I came home, ate leftovers and spent the evening with the dog. Which was perfect company for a Friday night, truth be told.

Rather than put you through the tedium, here's an assortment of random fun photos.

First, a now-irrelevant piece of graffiti from a Shoreditch rooftop, taken while I was at last week's RPS licenture event.

I took this especially for my bike-loving brother. I'm not sure what could have happened to this bike to warp it so horribly while it was parked. Unless some really pissed person (in either the British or the American sense) jumped up and down on it.

If we've got to have an overabundance of real estate agencies avalanching (is that a verb?) our neighborhood, it helps if they have cute storefronts.

Thank goodness for the sunroof!

An amusing wine label. The wine's not bad either.

I found this little guy on a recent walk. He looks handmade. A crab, perhaps? I left him on a wall next to the sidewalk in case someone came back looking for him. (Olga would just destroy him, in about half a second.)

And finally, a curious bottle cap that I found on one of my walks. Magnum with "vigorton" is apparently a fortified Jamaican wine that supposedly stimulates sexual excitement -- hence the image of the couple making out. Apparently the label is even more explicit. The wine has a roughly 17 percent alcohol content and has run afoul of alcohol regulators for its marketing techniques. Who knew?

Friday, September 26, 2014

Much Ado About Shelving

Well, the shelf thing worked out fine after all.

I lay in bed and worried about it Wednesday night -- how was I going to get an early afternoon delivery at home and help teach a 1:30 p.m. class about library resources at school? And then yesterday morning the delivery people called me at 10:20 a.m. and said they'd be at my house in half an hour, which was considerably earlier than their original estimate. I zoomed home from school, met them, ate lunch, played with the dog and went back in time for the class.


I guess it shows the futility of getting worked up about a conflict that may not happen. For once I am praising the inaccuracy of delivery people.

I put the shelves together last night as Dave made dinner, and they worked out well. We got them from, and although as I said I wasn't thrilled with the fact that they took two months to arrive, they seem well-made and solid.

Better yet, our books are finally out of boxes, the boxes have been put out with the recycling and our dining room looks more finished. Maybe we'll use it more now, rather than just glancing in as we pass by on our way out the front door. A squatter could set up house in there and we wouldn't know it for a week.

(Top photo: When we have actual sunshine, which is getting rarer at this time of year, we get great long autumnal shadows. There's a girl in the bottom right window, but I was zoomed out pretty far so you can barely see her.)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Free Grapefruit, and Inopportune Deliveries

The other day, as I was walking in Marylebone, I found two grapefruit lying in the street. More or less in the gutter, to be completely accurate. I was in an area where produce vendors store their carts and wares overnight in little garages. There were a couple of other grapefruit lying nearby, squashed by a passing car, and some tomatoes, too.

I debated the wisdom of picking up the intact grapefruit. They were lying in the street, after all. But they looked clean and fresh, so I grabbed them and put them in my bag. I brought them home, washed them, and ate one yesterday for breakfast. It was fine. I did not die. I decided I'd made a pretty good find, especially in this cold land where free grapefruit are not normally an option!

Now I'm wrestling with how to handle a different silly problem.

Dave and I ordered some bookshelves about two months ago, to replace the built-in shelves that we lost when we left our Notting Hill flat. (All our books are still in boxes in the dining room!) Well, these shelves have been slow in coming. Apparently they're made to order, so it takes a while. Finally, a few days ago, I learned that they're supposed to be delivered today, between noon and 3 p.m. I'm supposed to get at least a half-hour's notice before the delivery people arrive, enabling me to race home and intercept them.

On any normal day I would be able to get away from work. But today, wouldn't you know, I have to help a class of sixth graders in the library at 1:30 p.m.! And Dave is teaching then, too. So if the shelves come around that time, we're screwed. I can't really do anything about this problem except hope that by some miracle, the schedule works out and the shelves come earlier or later.

(Photo: Outside Lord's Cricket Ground, yesterday.)