Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Pink Tudor

Not much to report this morning. I still had some residual crankiness yesterday, but overall I was in a better mood than the day before. All things pass, right? I'm just going to leave you with this photo of a pink house taken last weekend in Golders Green, because, well, pink houses are always amusing. Especially pink Tudors.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Dispatch from the Bedroom

I was such a crab yesterday morning. I understand why people came up with the idea of demonic possession -- because sometimes, no matter how hard you try to be nice and you know you should be pleasant, you just want to smack people. All people. That's how I felt.

Maybe working from the dining room isn't such a good idea after all?

(This morning I'm in the bedroom, because Olga couldn't even bring herself to get out of bed, so who knows what effect that will have on my day...)

Seriously, I'm not sure why I was so cranky. I was more or less OK until I got to work, and then suddenly the prospect of finding a certain magazine article for a teacher who maybe might have seen it at the doctor's office, and sending a tenth reminder to that girl who still hasn't returned her computer charger after more than a month, and quieting the ninth-grade "geek table" which has grown into a geek convention in the library's back corner every afternoon -- well, it all just seemed too much. Fortunately I don't think I displayed my crankiness, except that I sent some inconsequentially tart e-mails to a couple of people.

Oh well. Onward and upward. Every day, in every way, I'm getting better and better. Right?

Dave and I watched Woody Allen's movie "Manhattan" on Sunday. I've called it one of my favorites for years, and visually it is indeed spectacular -- every shot celebrates the city, perfectly framing the buildings and streets, and the black-and-white film gives it such beauty. Before I lived in New York, because of that movie, I imagined everyone there lived in book-lined apartments with Georgia O'Keeffe prints and spider plants. I still love the atmosphere, but this time around I was struck by how terrible all the characters are to each other -- cheating, lying, acting in their own self-interest.

It's a good thing we didn't watch "Interiors." I might have been inspired to walk into the ocean like Geraldine Page.

Last night, as a crankiness antidote, Dave and I watched back-to-back episodes of "Star Trek," "That Girl" and "The Brady Bunch." Let's hear it for happy, campy, brainless TV comfort food!

(Photo: On my walk to work yesterday morning I noticed that this building is being demolished. I've always wondered about that banner advertising "London Scenes and Framing.")

Monday, March 2, 2015

Dispatch from the Dining Room

I went walking yesterday in Golders Green and photographed 52 more streets for Bleeding London. It felt great to get out with the camera for a day -- my first long photo walk since I returned from Florida. And it was even sunny, believe it or not! Well, intermittently sunny. But still.

I got a couple of OK shots, like this one of an Orthodox Jewish man walking beneath a railway arch. He's shielding his face from the camera, which makes it even more interesting -- a bit mysterious and noir.

Also, I've finished uploading my Florida photos to Flickr. You can see most of them here. (Some of the people pictures have privacy restrictions, so you won't see those.)

Dave, meanwhile, spent yesterday in the garden, enjoying the sun and relative warmth. It's definitely feeling more like spring. We found another crocus -- a purple one, growing at the edge of the lawn -- and more of our daffodils are beginning to pop.

Olga is not convinced that winter is over, though.  This morning she got out of bed, went into the living room, decided it was too chilly and meandered to the dining room, where her Union Jack dog bed lies next to the radiator. She's now curled up on it, dozing, and I'm sitting at the dining room table, which I almost never do. And why not? We ought to use this room more.

Sunday, March 1, 2015


We were dogged by a misty rain yesterday morning, and initially I thought I wouldn't get my planned photowalk with Olga. But later in the morning I decided to go for it anyway -- I mean, we can survive a little dampness, right? So about 10 a.m. we set out for Hampstead Heath.

I hope you can appreciate from the photo how muddy it is this time of year. I was slip-sliding along the paths and Olga's undercarriage was completely splattered. I even fell at one point, when the act of throwing Olga's Kong mysteriously knocked me off balance and I went down on my left side, leaving me looking like this guy.

Well, OK, it wasn't quite that bad.

I did, however, fall on my camera bag -- and hence, my camera and lenses. Fortunately they seem unaffected. The bag needs a serious wash and I'm not sure it's really machine washable. Stay tuned...

Mishaps aside, it was a fun walk. I took some more Bleeding London pictures and Olga found a tree stump that was perfect for scratching her itches.

Both of us had showers when we got home. (Not simultaneously, though. I draw the line at bathing with the dog!)

Dave and I did not make it to the movies. I did, however, move our geraniums and our poor dead-ish lemon tree outside, gambling that the coldest of the cold weather is past us. They need some sun and rain and nature.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Fally-Down House, and More on Conflict

I haven't had a chance to shoot any new London photos this week, so here are two more shots from Florida -- the "fally-down house" in Lloyd, which is well and truly collapsing, and some old wallpaper that can still be found on its interior walls.

If you're interested in hearing more detail about the attack on our dog-walker, the local paper did a short article about it here. It sounds a little less serious than I initially thought -- less like a mugging than a conflict that arose partly because of a barking dog. Still, you just never know how people are going to react in any given situation, do you? I'd have called the cops, too.

(And who knew our dog walker used to walk Paul McCartney's dogs?!)

No doubt you've seen the news about the man they're calling "Jihadi John," who was recently publicly identified as a former West London schoolboy. Turns out he attended a government school not far from where I work, and he lived in a neighborhood where I have often walked.

Once again, I am mystified by the motivation some people have for joining overseas conflicts. (Although at least Jihadi John shares religious and ethnic roots with the people he has joined, unlike the guy I wrote about yesterday.) As I said in my comment on yesterday's post, I understand that they're seeking a life with more meaning -- but aren't there more constructive ways to alleviate daily tedium? When I was a bored 25-year-old I joined the Peace Corps. I don't mean to sound facile; I understand that's not a route appealing or available to everyone. But surely there are always options for enriching life in a positive way. I suppose no one was around to suggest them -- and perhaps people were around to suggest a more destructive path. It's all about direction, or lack thereof, isn't it?

Dave and I have a blissfully open weekend before us. I was originally going to meet a friend today, but she cancelled and I'm going to use the time instead to shoot some new photos (although it looks like it might rain). We might even go to a movie. I love the feeling of freedom, of promise, on the Saturday morning of a weekend with no plans!

Friday, February 27, 2015

On Adventurism and Fighting

We've been trying something new at work -- extended hours in the library during the week. This means a minor adjustment in my schedule, whereby I leave work at 5:45 p.m. instead of 5:15 p.m. (I go in half an hour later in the morning to compensate.) Not a huge deal, and we're only doing it through March 10, when the sports tournaments begin.

Yesterday and today, however, we have no students because of parent/teacher conferences -- the result being that I keep normal hours. The result of that being that I got home last night while it was still daylight, which hasn't happened in ages!

I've been working on a couple of minor projects in the library, but I must admit my days are not easily filled when there are no kids borrowing materials. I found myself reading The New Yorker yesterday. Did any of you see the article about the rootless, troubled guy from the United States who went to Syria to fight against the government? He wasn't Syrian or Arab or devoutly Muslim -- he converted but wasn't particularly observant -- and he seemed to have vague ideas about what he wanted to achieve. It seemed he mostly wanted a purpose, an adventure.

It's mind-boggling, this urge to set off across the planet to join a conflict that could potentially mean death. I just don't get it -- that soldiering instinct, that passion for the fight. Remember the opening scene of "Gone With the Wind," when Scarlett O'Hara is sitting on her front porch with the Tarleton twins and they're going on and on about how eager they are to fight and whoop the Yankees? Even as a kid, I thought they were crazy. At least in their case you could argue that they didn't know what hell they were getting into. But this guy who went to Syria -- he knew. We see today's conflicts all around the world in full color and practically in real time.

It's like the first of the two Japanese guys who were taken hostage and recently killed by Isis. He was described as an "adventurer." What?!

Of course, sometimes there's mental illness that contributes to these decisions. A desire to escape from substance abuse. Or maybe they were there for other purposes, not publicly disclosed. But still -- I don't get the allure, the glamor, of fighting, particularly when the fighter has no real idealogical commitment to the cause.

And on a somewhat related note, did you see the newest pieces by Banksy, in Gaza? I love the kitten playing with the tangled ball of rebar.

Olga doesn't understand fighting either. Apparently this week her dog-walker was jumped by a trio of guys in Hampstead Heath. He was walking several dogs at the time and wasn't carrying anything valuable, and the attackers punched him and tussled with him before running off. I don't know all the details -- Dave talked to the dog-walker, not me -- but the salient point is that the dogs, including Olga, did nothing.

It's always been my suspicion that when it came down to it, Olga wouldn't be much of a fighter.

(Photos: Top, shadows on the back porch of our family home in Florida. Middle, the hyacinth that I bought Dave for Valentine's Day, which has bloomed and saturated our flat with its sweet scent. Bottom, Olga in bed last night.)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Two Cups

I wrote last summer about a pottery bowl that I believe was made by an old friend of my parents, Rachel Roth. You may remember that I found the bowl in my mom's yard, beneath one of her potted plants, and I cleaned it up and brought it back to London. (It has since served as a centerpiece at some of our dinner gatherings.)

On my most recent trip, I claimed two more pieces of Roth pottery -- these two mugs. They've been in my mom's kitchen cabinet as long as I can remember, and I often used the larger one (on the left) when I visited her. I love their peppery neutral finish. I told mom I didn't want her to discard them in her quest to purge her belongings, and she told me to take them.

So I brought them back to London and now they're sitting on the dining room windowsill, next to the bowl. (And next to two other bowls that I made myself -- one filled with Moroccan beach glass and shells from Madagascar -- and a Dogon sculpture I brought back from Mali.)

Ah, stuff. We can't help but collect it, can we?

Oh, and I saved the batik too.