Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Nieces Return

Amid all of yesterday's tragic news, I'm happy to report that the nieces successfully made it to Paris and back. I have no idea what they did there because I haven't had a chance to talk to them yet -- they got home about 11:30 last night. I got up briefly to help them get in -- they were having trouble with the door lock -- but we didn't talk at all because I knew they were probably exhausted. We'll catch up this evening!

So, yeah -- Manchester. I read the news right after posting yesterday morning, and now I see we know who committed this atrocity. Every time something like this happens I wait for the identity of the perpetrator to be revealed, along with some clues about what could possibly have been going on in his (and it's always a his) mind. And then we get the identity, but no clues at all. That mind is always left without illumination, a black hole of evil intent, impossible to understand.

I mean, ISIS sends out its claims of responsibility, its word salads of "caliphate" and "crusader" and other terms better left behind in history books about the middle ages. But they don't help us understand either. That's just some organization imposing its worldview on a barbaric act.

I always wind up concluding that in addition to fanaticism, there's a degree of mental illness at work in incidents like this. Because what else could explain them but utter madness?

As I walked home from work yesterday evening I passed the apartment building above, Elgar House. I love our human tendency to celebrate beauty and genius. Even an act as simple as naming an apartment building after a famous composer shows our ability to create, and to recognize remarkable creations. It's interesting that our human species can be both so inspired, and so deluded.

Anyway, I have no answers. I'm not sure there are any.

I'm just going to keep inhabiting my little corner of the world, and enjoying my sunny days, and watching out for my loved ones as best I can. Because that's all I can do, isn't it?

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Nieces Go to Paris

We've had quite the night around here. Dave and I went to dinner with the visiting nieces yesterday -- once again at our local pub, the Black Lion -- and they talked about their desire to go to Paris. They've been kicking this idea around for a few days, but apparently by the time they got online and tried to buy tickets on the Eurostar, the prices had become insane. They were also having difficulties getting their credit card transaction to go through. So when we got home, I tried it myself -- and indeed, I was getting $800 and $900 fares for the two of them.

I wondered what their options were for flying, so I checked Travelocity. Long story short, they departed this morning at 3:30 for a 6 a.m. EasyJet plane, and will return this evening, at a fraction of the cost of Eurostar. It seems crazy that a plane would be so much cheaper, but it was -- less than half the cost, including airport transfers -- thus making their trip feasible, if fatiguing.

So that's where they are today. I'm having creeping parental worries about whether they'll lose their passports or miss their return flights or get lost or get mugged at the Gare du Nord -- which is silly, because these women are in college and perfectly capable of taking care of themselves. Besides, getting lost is part of the fun!

I'm still doing library inventory -- DVDs, which are a nightmare to work with because the bar codes are never in the same place from one to the next. In fact they're often inside the cases, which means I have to open each DVD to scan them. I have half a mind to just not inventory them. After all, they're old technology, right? Aren't we going to get rid of them soon, in all likelihood?

(Photo: Someone's sleeping spot in Elephant & Castle.)

Monday, May 22, 2017

Peacock and Jaycon

Finally! Some butterflies! I took Olga on our West Heath/Sandy Heath/Hampstead Heath Extension walk yesterday, and we were out for several hours. We saw lots of insect life, including ladybirds, bees and yes, butterflies. I saw a red admiral, an orange one that flitted past too quickly for me to identify it, and this peacock (above).

You may remember that just last weekend I mentioned the dearth of insects at Wormwood Scrubs. Perhaps during the past week more of them took wing!

The dog had a great time. She's in bed now, still recovering. Dave is a bit concerned about her because sometimes after our long walks she goes through a period of very mild limping -- just a little hitch in her step, like she's sore from overexertion. Creeping middle age, I suppose. You'd never know it while we're on the walk, though -- she runs and runs like there's no tomorrow.

On Sandy Heath, I bent down to photograph some lichens just off the path. The pictures didn't really turn out, but while there I spotted this bottle lying amid the dead leaves on the forest floor. At first I thought it was just modern trash, but it's an unusual design and something about it seemed old-fashioned, so I brought it home. It says "Jaycon" and "Jaycon Regd" on one side, and "London" on the other. The unusual screw stopper says "Jaycon Table Waters."

So I did some research and it seems this bottle is, in fact, fairly old. The only Jaycon Table Waters I can find mention of online was "voluntarily wound up" as a company in 1973, but seems to have existed for a few decades before that. So who knows how long this bottle has been lying there?

Another addition to the kitchen windowsill...

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Overly Sensitive

I could not get motivated to get out of the house yesterday. Olga kept looking at me imploringly, but it was intermittently rainy and neither one of us wanted to get caught in a downpour. So I read, finishing "Lies My Teacher Told Me" and a couple of magazines and newspapers.

(As I write, there's a big Eurasian jay perched on the fence near our peanut feeder. It keeps turning its head, appraising the feeder from different angles. Poor thing looks confused.)

Anyway, I also weeded the forget-me-nots out of the flower bed -- they're pretty much done for the year -- and tidied things up in the garden. I did all the laundry and cleaned the bathrooms -- which, with four of us using them, is a frequent and essential task. Then, in the evening, Dave made a four-course dinner for the nieces, who had been out all day around Borough Market and St. Paul's Cathedral.

Dave made leg of lamb. As I always say when he makes that dish: "Poor lamb. He wanted his leg."

To which Dave usually replies: "Yes, but I have thumbs."

Survival of the fittest, or at least the most dexterous -- I admire Dave's clarity on that issue, though for me, eating meat is still a struggle. As is putting down slug pellets (which we do sparingly) and anything else that will result in the death of a creature. I spent a ridiculous amount of time yesterday thinking about a slug that I put into the garden waste bag with the weeded forget-me-nots. Afterwards, I could only imagine it struggling, trying to get out. I even tried to liberate it from the bag but I couldn't find it again. Maybe it got out on its own.

I know -- I am insane. But I feel for creatures in a situation like that -- almost like a physical pain -- and the guilt just nags and nags at me. I am not bragging about my sensitivity. If anything, I think it may show genuine psychological impairment! (Why I only feel that way belatedly, and not when I'm putting the slug into the bag in the first place, is a question I can't answer. I suspect I'm just focused on the task at hand.)

I gotta get the dog to the Heath today. Poor thing has been deprived!

(Photos: An interesting, ornate building I found near London Bridge station, a week or two ago.)

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Another Big Spiky Flower

A few days ago I was showing off our foxglove, and today I want to turn our attention to another colorful spire rising in the garden -- our lupine.

You may remember this plant didn't do so well last year, primarily because of slugs. We'd planted it in a flower bed where it was closely surrounded by other plants, and some critter ate through the stem just as it was blooming. I built a splint for it, remember? And then it got eaten again, and that was that.

Well, we took it out of the ground and put it in a pot where it could stand alone, like garden royalty, untouchable by the peons and serfs. We put some slug pellets in the pot around the base, although I don't think any slugs have even been close enough to get killed. And this is the result! Not too shabby, although we live with the recognition that it could be devoured any day.

Dave and I have both had a crazy week -- Dave with concert preparations, me with inventory and day-to-day library stuff. We didn't even see the visiting nieces for 36 hours -- they got up after we left for work on Thursday and came home after we'd gone to bed, and yesterday morning, same thing. We finally caught up with them yesterday evening, when they came to Dave's end-of-the-year high school concert. (I say "Dave's" concert, but there were other teachers' students performing as well, and of course the kids were the ones in the spotlight!) The show turned out really well, and I'm not just saying that as a loyal spouse.

The nieces spent time down by South Bank and the Tower Bridge, which they kept calling London Bridge, until I pointed out to them that London Bridge was a different bridge entirely and very non-descript. (And that the old London Bridge is now in Arizona.) They seemed crestfallen, and I felt like a killjoy. But they can't very well go home with their bridges confused, now can they? They're thinking about going to Paris for a day or two, and I hope they carpe diem and do it. I wish I could go with them, but,

Yesterday my coworkers and I were laughing about some of the terrible book covers in the library. This is my personal favorite:

Yes, it really is a book about an evil swimming pool. Or at least a pool at the center of a series of crimes. I haven't read it, and I doubt you will either.

We also have a copy of "The Jungle Book" that makes Mowgli look like a scary gigolo:

We're thinking we need to make a display of bad cover art. It amuses us, anyway.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Peonies and Pussycats

I have to be at work early -- I'm switching shifts with my co-worker, who usually opens the library but has another obligation this morning -- so I don't have much blogging time. Hence, iPhone photos!

First, a construction site I pass on my walk to work each day. I've never heard of color-coordinating a construction site, but it kind of works, don't you think? Green wall, green crane. Blue boxes, blue netting. I dig it.

These stickers appeared on a pole near our tube station, in advance of the UK's "snap election" on June 8. Theresa May has called this vote in an effort to consolidate her party's power going into the Brexit negotiations. It's expected to strengthen the Conservatives' hand, given the relative weakness of the other parties -- including Labour, which has an unpopular leader at the moment. Some people fear that more Tory power will lead to "hard Brexit," or getting out even if negotiated deals are not in place to soften the blow. So basically the stickers, which probably come either from Labour or the Liberal Democrats, are reminding voters to think beyond the personalities and vote to throw some speed bumps in front of Brexit.

(The "I'M IN" sticker at the top is a remnant of the Remain campaign leading up to last June's Brexit referendum. Hard to believe it's already been almost a year since that travesty!)

These peonies are blooming in front of the house on our street that's under renovation -- the one where we rescued the acanthus. We're not rescuing the peonies -- I can't see myself asking to dig them up, because that would be both rude and insane -- but I did want to at least take their picture.

Spotted this soggy newspaper on the ground a few days ago. Remember comic strips? I haven't read comics in years, but I used to read them every day on my lunch hour. The paper where I worked in Florida carried two pages of daily comic strips. Now, I'm lucky to see just one strip -- in this case a recycled Doonesbury, appearing in The Guardian.

Also spotted on a neighborhood walk -- someone's groovy leopard-print glasses. Hope they found their way back to their owner.

And speaking of cats, here's one way to make an eye-catching poster for your outdoor music festival -- adorn it with a gigantic picture of your tabby! Best band names: "Methyl Ethel," "Clams Casino" and "King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard." The cat's name, if I'm reading the poster correctly, is Pierre.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Politics (Sorry) and a Foxglove

I went to an end-of-the-school-year work party last night, held in a spacious pub in Hampstead. Of course, after a couple of pints, we wound up talking politics. Fortunately my co-workers and I all appear to be on the same page when it comes to Brexit and Trump, so I didn't have to self-censor too much.

I'm experiencing an odd sort of disassociation about Trump. It's almost like this isn't really happening. We don't really have an incompetent egoist in the White House, hacking his way through the federal government and our treasured Constitutional legacies with a machete in his short-fingered hands. Do we?

Well, yes, we do, but it's still hard to believe.

I've concluded that I, personally, have to just let it play out, however it will. There's nothing more to be done. Maybe I'm still in denial, but I doubt this character will last four years, and though he'll inflict some damage in the meantime, I have to have faith that the government is stronger than he is.

Every few days, in addition to the real news, I take a look at Breitbart to see what the right-wingers are saying, especially in the reader comments. Interestingly, they have no real pro-Trump message. All they can do is whine about the liberal media and invoke outrage at the idea that Hillary would be any better. (They're still spending incredible amounts of time and energy grousing about the criminal, corrupt Clintons. I think Clinton-hating is a genuine psychiatric disorder among these people.)

I have seen right-wing rumbles that Trump needs to stop listening to his "liberal Manhattan family." There is discontent with Jared Kushner and Ivanka -- rooted in anti-Semitism, I suspect.

It's all so exhausting that, on a day-to-day basis, I think about it only as much as I can stand. There is reason for hope, though. Trump is so clueless that his incompetence will bog him down. He may prove to be quite ineffective.

In other news, as you can see, one of our foxgloves (not the rescued one) is blooming quite well already. Dave's nieces had a great time exploring London yesterday, traipsing around Westminster. They didn't get home until nearly 10 p.m. last night! More of the same for them today, I'm sure.

Once again I worked on library inventory in the afternoon, scanning and scanning books on the shelf. I think I can finish the fiction section today. Then it's just a matter of a few small sections here and there, and we'll be done. The antidote to my organization-man thinking about the library, as I expressed yesterday, is to remember that the library and the librarians are there for the people, not for the books. Right?