Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Recycling and Composting

We've gone from cold and clear to cold and foggy. My walk to work yesterday was completely socked in, as you can see in this photo of the Alexandra Road estate in St. John's Wood.

I haven't yet told you about our local council's plan to increase recycling, have I? They're going to collect the trash only once every two weeks. Recycling, on the other hand, will be collected weekly -- except yard waste, for which we'll now have to pay separately.

The idea is to coerce people to move more of their household waste stream into the recycling bags. Dave and I already recycle all our glass and most of our paper and plastic, but I have always balked at the idea of recycling food waste. (Yes, that is possible! The council distributes little brown bins that go under your sink and hold all your bones, potato peelings, rotten fruit, eggshells and the like. I think "recycling" actually entails dumping it all into commercial digesters, but don't quote me on that -- I'm not entirely sure what they do with it.) Anyway, it just seems gross to me, and besides, doesn't food break down in a landfill? I don't really see why food needs to be recycled.

This schedule change begins in April. You know how I am about our trash cans -- so it will be interesting to see how this alters their use. The ornery, unreasonable part of me wants to just keep putting our trash in the trash can like we always have, and if it overflows and piles up over a two-week period and the foxes distribute it all over the neighborhood, so be it! (I'm sure there are people who will take this approach -- probably more than I'd like to think.)

But the reasonable part of me says, grudgingly, "OK, we'll try to recycle more."

I never thought I'd be grudging about recycling at all. It just seems like it's reaching extreme levels!

As for yard waste, I'm not sure what we'll do about that. Rather than pay for its disposal, we could probably compost it at the back of the garden. Maybe we'll try that -- and perhaps we'll add the compostable elements of our food waste to the pile. Again, though, I feel like the foxes and critters will have a field day!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Tropical Birds on the Frozen Heath

I had a great time yesterday looking at photos on Facebook of all the women's marches all over the world. The turnout was truly astounding and energizing. And with Trump being so thin-skinned about his popularity and ability to draw a crowd, it evidently gives him fits that the marches against him were so much larger than his inaugural gathering. (Hence the press secretary meltdown and Stalinist insistence on "alternative facts.")

Our challenge now is to continue to resist, in whatever ways we can.

Meanwhile, here at Shadows & Light, it's back to normalcy. For me and Olga yesterday, that meant a long walk on Hampstead Heath, which was blanketed with heavy frost. We're having a cold spell -- temperatures down to 28º F at night, and around 41º F during the day.

When Olga and I walked a week or two ago, we saw parrots in the trees -- they really stand out at this time of year, flashing bright green in a canopy that is otherwise devoid of color. I didn't have my camera then, but I had it yesterday, and sure enough we saw them again. As I've mentioned before, these are not native birds, but they seem to live quite comfortably in London, despite the cold temperatures. This one is scratching an itch on its head.

We also saw this guy, carrying not one, not two, but three big sticks. Right after I took this, Olga snarled at him, making him drop them all. I think she was a little freaked out by all that lumber.

It was a good walk, about three hours, and the weather was beautiful. I can deal with cold temperatures under a clear sky. That's preferable to our normal wintry gray rain.

In the afternoon Dave and I debated going to a movie, but we couldn't decide on one -- I wanted "Manchester by the Sea" or something else dramatic, and Dave wanted "Passengers" or something else involving outer space. And the more we thought about it the less appealing it seemed -- sitting in a theater and paying to watch advertisements. So we stayed home and rented "Weiner," the documentary about Anthony Weiner and his attempts at a political comeback in New York. It was a really well made movie, but talk about a Greek tragedy! Sheesh. I guess I got my dose of drama.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Women's March on London

The crowds turned out for yesterday's Women's March on London -- between 80,000 and 100,000 people, according to the estimates I saw. We gathered in Grosvenor Square, in the shadow of the U.S. Embassy (which is in the process of being vacated for more modern, secure digs south of the river).

These were the coworkers I met up with, though as it happens, I lost them almost immediately while wandering around taking pictures. So I wound up marching by myself, which was fine -- it gave me maximum freedom of movement.

Needless to say, there were many, many women and girls at the event...

...but also plenty of men...

...and even several pets.

There was also a strong anti-Brexit tone to the crowd, with people making the obvious connections between Trump's populist uprising in the states and the populist separatist "Leave" movement here.

My only complaint about the event was that, once in the square, it wasn't immediately apparent what we were supposed to do or where we were supposed to go. I was trapped in a huge crowd standing basically still for at least an hour, as we waited to trickle out of the park and begin walking. I was getting pretty cranky. But then, finally, we got moving.

Poor Melania.

I walked the entire march route to Trafalgar Square, and even ran into my boss along the way. But I didn't linger in the square, where I believe more rallying was scheduled. It was getting dark and I was hungry and cold and needed a bathroom, so I came home (which wasn't easy because our tube line was shut down for repairs!).

It felt great to take action -- to turn the alarm I feel at the rise of Trump and his ilk into positive resistance. I hope we can all continue that resistance, in whatever way possible, for the next four years.

Saturday, January 21, 2017


Well, I lied. I did watch. I couldn't really avoid it, because we set up the big TV in the library and streamed CNN from mid-afternoon on. So I watched the processions and hand-shaking, and Hillary looking great in her white coat and Melania looking amazing in her blue one, and the wonderful Obamas who I miss already.

And, of course, I watched the man of the hour, and his empty, windy speech full of non-specific language about how he's going to Make America Great Again. He's going to stop drug abuse and radical Islamic terrorism! Well, why didn't we think of that?!

Good grief.

And is it my imagination, or did only about 12 people attend the inaugural parade? The entire event was very low-energy, as Dave kept saying. Phalanxes of police were lined up with their backs to empty bleachers and sidewalks, doing crowd-control for crowds that weren't there. Even during Trump's speech, the attendees' responses seemed muted at best.

I did like what Trump had to say about infrastructure. If I had to pick one positive aspect of his message, that would be it. America does need to invest in infrastructure, and doing so will create jobs and boost the economy. But of course, that investment requires money, and where he's going to get that money worries me. My guess is he'll get it by essentially doing away with the Department of Education and defunding the arts.

Needless to say, I'm still planning to attend today's march.

(Photo: Scaffolding on a building under renovation on our street, photographed at night.)

Friday, January 20, 2017


These two guys were cleaning ivy off a wall on my way to work one morning. Looks like they've made substantial progress! English ivy is crazy stuff. It just consumes everything.

I learned earlier this week that there's going to be a Women's March in London tomorrow -- open to people of all genders. So I'm going to go. There are several people from work attending so I think I'll tag along with them.

I debated whether marching against a democratically elected president was the right thing to do -- especially right out of the box, when he's taken little official action. But we can all see where this is going. And no, this isn't simply a matter of being peeved about losing an election. I've voted for losing candidates many times -- more times than I'd care to admit -- but I never marched against any of their victorious opponents. It's not just that I don't like Trump -- it's that he's said and done things that endanger my fundamental values and our future on this planet. I genuinely believe that he and his strain of anti-intellectual leadership threaten life as we know it.

So, anyway, we'll see how that goes. I haven't been to a political march in years. While I worked in newspapers I was basically unable to participate, having to maintain a veneer of public objectivity about political matters. Now, thanks to my career changes, I have more freedom!

We thought about showing today's inaugural activities on the library TV, but the ceremony itself begins right when we close, so I'm not sure we'll have anything to display. Still, we'll probably experiment with that. I may not like Trump, but he is the nation's next president, and today is history being made, for better or for worse.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

More Thoughts on Manning

This was the scene last night as I walked home from work on Finchley Road, looking west toward the tube station. It's one of the least beautiful parts of West Hampstead, with the O2 Centre shopping mall, the train tracks, and Homebase, our big-box hardware and gardening store. But the sunset made it interesting!

So here we are, on the last day of Obama's presidency. I was serious when I said yesterday that he may be my favorite president. For someone who's been mercilessly harassed by political opponents every step of the way, he's been amazingly effective and dignified. He has never failed to be presidential, never wandered from the high road. His wife, too. She's been great. I'll miss them both.

I didn't elaborate on Chelsea Manning yesterday, but here are my thoughts on that subject: She released state secrets, yes. No one disputes her guilt. But she was also punished and clearly had, at the time, some mitigating psychological issues. Compassion demands that she be removed from a dangerous prison environment and be allowed to sort out her life, particularly since she has already served more prison time than any other leaker and did not reveal any critically classified information.

I don't feel the same way about Edward Snowden. Although I'm sympathetic to his motives as a whistleblower, he hasn't been through any judicial process -- and I think an official, judicial assessment of his actions and their consequences needs to occur before we talk about a pardon or commutation. I wouldn't rule out a plea bargain to allow him to return to the United States, because that would address any charges against him. Simply freeing him would be premature.

We had a very frosty morning yesterday. I noticed that the grape hyacinths have sprouted, though I don't see any blooms yet. With all the digging Dave does in the garden, I'm always afraid the hyacinths are going to be uprooted and yet, every spring, they appear by the hundreds. I'm glad they're so durable and he's able to successfully work around them! Our daffodils are beginning to show little sprouts, too.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Tree Ferns

I came across these tree ferns in front of a house in Notting Hill on Monday. They're at the corner of Portobello Road, not far from where we used to live, and they've clearly been there for years. It's amazing that such a delicate, tropical-looking plant can survive London winters -- but even in the wild, they actually live in fairly chilly places, like Tasmania. I remember seeing tons of them in New Zealand when I visited there in 2004.

Dave always says he wants a tree fern. Maybe we could keep one in a pot and take it with us, should we ever leave West Hampstead. I wouldn't want to put it in the ground and have to leave it here. I think they're kind of expensive.

It was busy in the library yesterday but otherwise uneventful. I've had two recent triumphs in getting kids to pay for lost materials -- a girl who owed us money for books due last May, and another girl who lost a computer charger in September. I always feel a sense of victory when I persuade someone to clear their account! It's the little things, right?

Oh, and I watched more Olga Cam. Yesterday's plot was the same as the day before.

How about President Obama commuting Chelsea Manning's sentence? I swear, he may be my favorite president ever.