Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Yellow Trees

People often say that England doesn't get fall color, but that's just not true. We may not have brilliant red sugar maples, but we don't do too badly.

Today is a workday, but the kids are not in school and I only need to be there until noon. So this afternoon I hope to get out and do some photography, and then tomorrow Dave, Olga and I are off to the Cotswolds!

I called yesterday about our wayward lawn mower. The delivery company sent it back to the retailer. In fact, the man on the phone couldn't believe they charged me last week for Saturday delivery, because they put through the charge the day after the mower was returned. So I got that money back and Dave is going to call the retailer and try to arrange for redelivery. (Or a refund.) At this point I almost think it would be better to just get a sheep.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Few Updates, and Bill Cosby

-- The lawn mower did not arrive Saturday, despite my paying for special Saturday delivery. How did I know it wouldn't? Time to get back on the phone this morning.

-- We had a contractor in yesterday to review our mold problem. We weren't home at the time so I'm not sure what they determined, but at least things are moving ahead on that front. Our other home repairs, which we reported to the management company back in July, continue to languish. A different contractor told Dave he would come in last week to fix them, but he never showed. Again, we're following up.

-- Thanks for the input on repairing our lava lamp. I agree that a lava lamp ought to be a pretty simple thing to fix. This one has a rocker switch on the cord, and I'm wondering if either the switch has gone bad or if there's a fuse somewhere in the lamp. (Could lava lamps possibly have fuses?)

-- Today is the last day of school for our students until after Thanksgiving!

-- I haven't yet written about the Bill Cosby situation because, frankly, I'm a little broken-hearted about it. I've always liked and admired Cosby, or at least his public persona. I'm sure the women who have accused him are largely telling the truth, with details possibly tempered by time and memory. I do think we have to remember that these events happened mostly at a time when the ethics and awareness surrounding sexuality and date rape were somewhat different, and that Cosby was never charged with anything. I would also hate to see these allegations ultimately overshadow all the positive things he's done for education and black youths. But I don't mean to make excuses for him. I absolutely believe he preyed on women whom he rendered incapable of giving consent. I also suspect that many powerful men in Hollywood back in the '60s did similar things. The Washington Post has the best article about all this that I have read yet.

(Photo: West Hampstead, last Saturday morning.)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Rainy Day Kitchen Window

It poured all day yesterday. We stayed inside and watched movies and had a lazy, cozy day. Even Olga could not be convinced to go out. We'd open the door to the back yard and she'd stand on the threshold and watch the rain coming down -- and then hightail it back to the couch.

She held it from Saturday night until late yesterday afternoon, when the rain slacked up enough that I was finally able to drag her out on a walk. Pretty amazing, and she didn't seem to be at all uncomfortable. She's a camel.

The movies we watched were "The Graduate," which was on my mind because of the death of Mike Nichols; "Contact," which is one of Dave's perennial favorites; and "Bobby," Emilio Estevez's ensemble drama about the day Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. I remember going to see "Bobby" in the theaters and thinking it was really good, although as I recall it got mixed reviews, which I still don't understand. And wouldn't you think that after all that insanity in the 1960s, after the Kennedys and King and Malcolm X and all the resulting riots and strife, that the U.S. would have been able to pass some effective gun control legislation? Legislation that might have saved us the agony of Reagan and Jim Brady and maybe even Columbine and Newtown and all the other bloodshed that seems to crop up every single day in the United States?

That's our kitchen windowsill up above. I bought the stargazer lilies at Tesco on Friday -- five stems for £10. We have another big vase of them in the living room. They've filled the house with their soft aroma (which I know some people can't stand, but fortunately we love it). And I've really got to cook that winter squash -- I bought it weeks ago and just haven't got around to it.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Getting Yelled At in the Cemetery

Dark and rainy today, stereotypical November weather. I'm not sure how I'm going to exercise the dog, it's so miserable outside. The forecast predicts light rain all day. As long as we're inside, I kind of like it.

Yesterday Olga and I got back to the cemetery, and we had an interesting walk through a wooded area that in summer is thick with impenetrable foliage. Now that winter is arriving the leaves have fallen and there's more visibility and freedom of movement. Olga was very excited by the possibility of squirrels.

Large parts of the cemetery have been allowed to grow over with trees and brush, which I think is kind of cool. I guess the graves there are older ones that are unlikely to be visited today.

After we re-entered the grassy areas, I got an earful from a couple in a passing car about letting Olga wander the cemetery off-leash. They were brassy and vulgar. "This is a f-cking cemetery!" the woman yelled. The man added, "How would you feel if a dog took a sh-t on your grave?!" I was so proud of the way I handled it. I stayed very calm, pointed out to them that I had a bag at the ready, and that Olga was hardly alone -- in fact there were four or five dogs roaming the cemetery off-leash with their owners at that very moment. "I don't care! You're the one that got caught!" the woman yelled. I said, "I don't know what else to tell you," and walked away -- with Olga, still off-leash.

Some people. Sheesh. I mean, if a dog pooped on my grave, would I care? I'm pretty sure not. Especially if someone picked it up right away. Don't the birds and squirrels and foxes and rabbits poop there already? What's the big deal?

I'm going to assume they were there mourning someone, and that pain was the source of their anger and emotion. Olga and I just happened to be on the receiving end of it. (And technically they're correct -- signs in the cemetery say to keep dogs on leads. But no one does, so I've always believed that to be a flexible rule.)

The marigolds that in summer adorn the second grave from the right in the row above have died back. They were still blooming just a few weeks ago. Funny how things change so quickly.

Last night Dave made dinner for Pete, a coworker, and his wife Laura. (You may remember we went to their wedding in June.) He pulled together an incredible meal, including a halibut dish with a green pea beurre blanc and braised beef short ribs. I did one load of dishes last night before bed, and when I woke up about 5 a.m. I did another load before going back to bed. Now the house is in order and we are ready for a quiet day of hibernation!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Sad, Cold Lava Lamp

I watered our avocado plant this morning and got a bit too enthusiastic, resulting in an overflowing saucer and a wet towel. There's nothing like mopping up spilled water in your already moldy living room at 5:30 in the morning. But at least the avocado is happy.

I went out last night with some coworkers and had a good time, courtesy of my boss' boss, who stood us a couple of rounds at the local pub. I didn't attend the last of these occasional pub gatherings, but I figured it was important to put in an appearance so I came to this one. Fun, though when I left at the end of the evening I forgot my paperback book in the pub. I was a third of the way home before I realized it, and had to walk back to retrieve it, which was kind of annoying.

I also made it my mission to buy a new light bulb for our lava lamp, which has been non-functioning for a couple of weeks. On Wednesday I schlepped all the way to Homebase, a big-box housewares retailer that's not exactly on my way home from work, but was bewildered by the vast array of light bulbs. So I made note of the possibilities and on Friday schlepped back to Homebase and brought the bulb with me, and found a suitable replacement. Got it home, put it in the lamp, and BOOM -- the lamp still doesn't work. Which means there must be a deeper problem. Does one have a £25 lava lamp repaired? Or does one knuckle under to the crass resource-wasting profligacy of overseas manufacturing and simply buy a new one?

Ridiculous modern problems.

Speaking of which, today is lawn mower delivery day. Allegedly. We shall see if it arrives.

(Photo: Dog on a balcony on Edgware Road, Colindale, North London.)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Mike Nichols, and the Choir

I was sorry to read that film and Broadway director Mike Nichols died Wednesday. He is responsible for my all-time favorite movie, "The Graduate," which (as I have probably written before) I consider the perfect film. Every element works -- each and every actor, the brilliant Simon & Garfunkel soundtrack, the sunny but vapid California setting, the sophisticated camera work. I've probably watched it more than any other movie and Nichols gets the credit for pulling it together so brilliantly. Of course he had a long career with plenty of other successes, but "The Graduate" alone puts him in my own personal hall of fame.

Our faculty/staff choir performance was last night, and we did really well, if I do say so myself. We performed at a special Thanksgiving service at St. Margaret's Church, adjacent to Westminster Abbey. Although the British don't really recognize Thanksgiving, this event was sponsored by a group fostering good Anglo-American relations, known as The Pilgrim Society. It featured hymns, readings and of course our stellar singing, all in a Tudor-era gothic church.

I'm relieved the performance is over, though. Managing the weekly rehearsals was tough because I and a coworker had to swap our work schedules, and Dave and I had to get out of the house at roughly the same time on Wednesday mornings -- not easy when there's only one shower. (And no, it's not the kind of shower two people could use simultaneously!) So I probably won't continue with the choir past this point. It was a good learning experience, but they won't miss my uncertain, non-music-reading vocals.

(Photo: Houses near Becontree, East London, on Oct. 26.)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Six-Word Story

Olga and I stumbled onto this little piece of street art outside a book shop in Hampstead. I posed her with it because it seemed to fit her, though she only has "fight" when it comes to cats and squirrels.

(I think she thought she was in some kind of trouble. That's a puzzled expression on her face.)

Yesterday some kids in the library were collecting six-word stories for the school newspaper. We were asked to write a piece of fiction in six words on a sheet of paper, and then they photographed us holding the page. My story was "Buy me a ring, or go!" I thought it was pretty clever -- coming up with a six-word story on two minutes' notice is not an easy thing -- but as I wrote it out, I thought, "People are going to think this is a message for Dave."

So I reassured Dave that my story was just that -- a STORY. Since I already have the ring (figuratively) through our civil union, I do not need any kind of literal ring, nor do I want one!