Tuesday, July 31, 2012

the morning after

Sometime during yesterday evening, Alice suggested that I might extinguish this candle, burning bright in a candle-holder that I bought in Durham, NC.  Probably it was a candle holder meant for a tea-light - certainly, this red wax leapt its bounds, and looks like an ectoplasmic hand.  That water (reflecting the trees, rather than full of mushy leafy stuff) doesn't signify rain (alas - it was punishingly hot today), but rather, plant watering.  The majolica urn - courtesy, a month or so back, of Santa Fe Greenhouses' generous discounting at their summer sale.  In other words - plenty of opportunity to reflect, this week, on all the pleasurable ordinariness involved in being here ...

Monday, July 30, 2012


Dinner in our back yard with Merry Scully and Harmony Hammond - the conversation so good that it was hard to look around us.  And then the moon started to come out from between the clouds.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

course prep

Oh, I give up.  I was going to write an ecological disquisition about the neighbors up the road who foolishly left out their trash in a bulging plastic sack so that the crows could get it.  Or I could have written about what fun it was having dinner with Dennis Altman this evening.  But in point of fact - here's Moth, clearly wanting to help me with putting together a syllabus, and just generally exemplifying kitten cuteness.  So excuse me ... normal service will be resumed soon; there may be a brain inside here somewhere; and I do occasionally read books.  But tonight is the first night of All Kitties Out - what will the scene in the bedroom be like by 3 a.m., I wonder?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

crab apples

It's always easy enough to take photographs of squash, or onions, or marigold garlands at the farmers' market - they tend not to move around too much.  But it's great to get, unposed, a couple of people that manage to bring some life to it.

Friday, July 27, 2012

change of perspective

Indeed, it's not a cat or kitten.  It's about time that I proved, if only to myself, that I do occasionally spend some time with, and thinking about, things that are not feline.  This image was directly prompted by reading James Elkins's What Photography Is? - a sort of homage, sort of interrogation, sort of imitation, of Barthes's Camera Lucida.  And from this, I learned a new word: anascopic - to be seeing from below: presumably anascopia is the noun.  Its counterpart?  catascopic/catascopia - seeing from above.  Only seeing this hummingbird feeder from above would (if one could see through its red plastic lid) mean looking at a thick canopy of ants on top of the sugar water - they mean that it needs replacing every other day.  Reading this, however, did make me vow to be a little more inventive about where I put my photographic vision - I think I've become a little over-mimicking the stance for normal sight, of late.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

the (nearly) last picture ...

for the last picture itself, taken twenty seconds later, was too blurred, and yet also too suggestive of decrepitude, for decency's sake.  How does one commemorate the last hour or so of one's dear cat's life?  With Emmett, I took a few pictures of him curled up, sleeping, on a cushion - but nothing later, tempting though it was to show him jumping, one last, frail time, onto the dashboard as we drove to the vet's.  With Sappho, I took a picture in the vet's itself, which, as she looks out in a numbed haze, always serves as a reminder that yes, her time had indeed come.  With Lola - we know she was sick, almost certainly had cancer (she lost two pounds in five weeks, an ultrasound showed a huge mass on one kidney) - but each time she had hydration, she perked up a little bit again.  Indeed, yesterday, perked up a lot.  But today - she could hardly manage a drop of pee, despite trying and trying - and what there was, was bloodstained.  And she was very weak.  So ... one last outing to the yard, one more drink from the birdbath ... We knew that her time was up, and our vet didn't try and persuade us otherwise.  Indeed, everyone at Eldorado Animal Hospital was very sweet indeed, and - unlike anywhere else I've known - they even had a separate, quiet, comfortable - what should one call it? Bereavement room, with a separate exit - quite unlike the awful experience back in Princeton with Saffy, which managed to exemplify callous tactlessness all the way through.  The big cage of pretty little finches would have been torture to a happier cat - but when Lola didn't pay any attention whatsoever to them - well, that was confirmation.  Poor, dear girl.  The end - after the loss of Emmett back in April - of a generation.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

the unbearable cuteness of kittens

Moth, sleeping.  She's gently shielded by Walter Gomez's hind paws.  Sharing a room with two sleeping kittens does a great deal to soften the blow of an afternoon spent constructing syllabi ...

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

mine, all mine ...

This is, of course, a shockingly venal moment of celebration - but today I paid off my car loan, after five years of coughing up a good chunk of change each month.  Indeed, she's been completely worth it - reliable, comfortable, and, being a hybrid, quite economical, too.  She's been a luxury that I haven't regretted for a minute.  But oh, my goodness, I'm so glad that not even a strut of her radiator grille belongs any longer to a financial company.  She deserved, I thought, a bouquet of home-grown flowers to mark this auspicious date.

Monday, July 23, 2012

posing a kitten

Those pictures of Cute Kittens - they aren't always that easy to achieve.  "I think I've got your picture of the day!" says Alice, brandishing her iPad.  And there is the most gorgeous picture of Walter Gomez, sitting up in a washbasin, looking as though he's modeling for a Hallmark card.  "But I can't use yours," I say.  "Is he still there?"  So we go a-hunting, and of course by this time his attraction is elsewhere, and he's up on the side of the sink, trying to tangle a hairdryer cord, and chasing imaginary spiders.  The effort that it took to re-pose him was not inconsiderable.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

kittens, playing

It's Sunday.  Who wants to see how the kittens are growing?  Here are the little pepper partners (a term we've borrowed from our volleyball tour - your pepper partner is your practice partner - and so, by extension, the person with whom you're sharing a seat on a bus, or for that matter a cat toy).  Walter Gomez is doing a fine job of bouncing off the ground, whereas Moth, in an uncharacteristically still pose (though note that tail) is anticipating her next bounce.  They are, of course, completely adorable.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

afternoon walk

Today was the kind of day when I sat grim-jawed over an overdue chapter for a book (1,500 words a day - it'll be complete by the middle of next week, tricky footnotes and all - won't it?.  Then I can write another overdue chapter for another book ...) ... a piece of writing that has nothing to do with photography, even with the visual, and even with Kitten Distraction, under such circumstances one tends to forget about the need to take a picture.  I could, I suppose, have had a camera to hand when a lizard rushed into the kitchen, hotly pursued by LucyFur, and disappeared into a cabinet, but I didn't.  And our afternoon walk was remarkable for nothing - except for the sky, which was at its remarkable New Mexican best, threatening the odd drop of rain, and with the clouds floating away with all the clarity and precision of perspective that one would expect from a carefully painted opera set.


This is truly a bad picture in so many ways, starting with the wrongness of the light, making Alice look as though she's sneering at our dinner.  But by the time I'd realized how bad it was, and retaken Alice (the food was eaten), the light was even worse.  Ah well.  It does record us, for the very first time, getting our act together to tailgate before this year's Santa Fe Opera excursion (Tosca - an excellent production, but a weirdly nasty and non-cathartic plot).  I did do this once before, a long time ago, with some guests I didn't know, who turned up with a plastic bag of carrot sticks and some potato chips.  Today's chicken in yogurt and herbs, and sweetcorn with lime juice and chipotle, and potato salad, and hatchamole (Whole Food's local take on guacamole, with Hatch Chile added), and cherries, and a bottle of pinot grigio, was quite remarkably more successful.  And how wonderful of the Parking Gods to give us a space right up by the side ...

Thursday, July 19, 2012

research assistant

You're wanting an Adorable Kitten update?  Well, they are growing.  And kittens get into everything.  Here's Walter Gomez, sticking his long (but beautiful) nose into a glass of water that's trying to fuel me for an afternoon's work.  I don't really have too much problem sharing a glass with him, but once he dipped his paw in it ... well, no.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

the end of dinner

Much though I miss Alice when she's not here; much though I wish that I, like she, were at this moment watching the US women's volleyball team thrash Bulgaria in the Galen Center (at least, I'm trusting in the outcome ...), I'll confess that I welcome, occasionally, being able to dine on goats' cheese and crackers and a glass of wine, and read a book (indeed, the only book, that I know of, on Flashback in Film) that will find its way into the flash and memory chapter (think flash bulb, flash drive, flash memory, too ...).  This is farmers' market cheese from a week or so back, still in perfect goaty form.  Only ... on one's own, reading, glancing up at the end-of-storm clouds and the sunset, checking periodically that LucyFur hasn't jumped over the wall in her constant pursuit of a feathery mouthful of towhee, it's all too easy to eat not-very-mindfully, and then realize that dinner is pretty much over.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

under the blue New Mexican sky

I don't often take a photograph that gives me such pure formal satisfaction as this (Cafe Fina, this morning).  The defining feature is that downspout - which is when one realizes that yes, New Mexican (and Greek) blues are, sometimes, exactly the color of the sky.

Monday, July 16, 2012

flying fish

Is it a bird?  Is it a fish?  It's a new rotating sculpture outside Harry's Road House - prompting fond memories of the mobile that was stolen from our back yard back in NJ, presumably for its copper.  This looks, in metallurgical terms, less valuable, but it's a fun presence.  Back here - after what seems much longer than just over a week in the UK - where else to go for lunch?

boiled eggs on Sundays [July 15th]

Sunday morning, in Wimbledon, is Boiled Eggs morning for my parents - one for my mother, two for my father.  Here they are, awaiting their fate.  Only whereas most of us are quite content with boiling our eggs in a saucepan, he has, for whatever reason, decided to purchase, and use, a cheapo Made in China egg boiling gadget.  As my mother points out, this is a device that fails (understandably) to take account of the fact that not every egg is the same size.  It also seems to involve complicated things like making a very small hole in one end of the egg.

This gadgetry is the more peculiar when one considers that my father isn't one for kitchen equipment, on the whole.  Alas.  The terrible flimsy cheapo Made in China coffee maker (like a Mr Coffee) has given up the ghost.  He was never interested in the wonderful stainless steel Porsche coffee maker that stayed in the Oxford flat ("doesn't our properly").  Now, rather than doing the sensible thing - going to John Lewis, buying another cheapo substitute - he has rigged up a dreadful contraption, that involves pouring water into the old coffee filter (it runs at a galloping pace through the ground coffee), which in turn stands in what looks to me suspiciously like the plastic funnel through which we used to pour paraffin into an upright heater in c. 1959, which in turn stands in the old perspex coffee pot, which in turn stands on a very low heat on the electric cooker.  I just hope someone forgets, and turns the heat up, and the whole thing cracks, and irrefutably needs to be replaced, and drinkable coffee will again be found at No. 20.  "No," said my mother, "don't even THINK of going out and buying one.  It'll be WRONG."

Saturday, July 14, 2012


This is such a Family posting that everyone else might as well stop reading now.  OK, warning issued.  This was lunch at the branch of Carluccio's in Covent Garden - two of my three cousins (Gaynor and Jonathan) and Gaynor's husband Mike.  Peter - cousin #3 - is in the Dordogne, and we all hope that it's not as wet there as it is here.

The surreal aspect of this lunch is that Carluccio's is in the old Moss Bros building.  There's still a small evening clothes rental operation next door, which is one of the things that Moss Bros did back in the 60s.  But they also sold riding clothes, and saddlery, and it's where I would go to buy the kind of respectable riding clothes that one wore for shows and gymkhanas and stuff; and it's where I would go and drool and dream over the kind of saddle, say, that I would buy my horse if I owned one.  Only not did I not own a horse, but I never possessed the kind of slimline endless legs that look good in riding clothes.  Indeed, if I'm not mistaken, I'm here sitting on a banquette in just about the same place that, aged eleven or twelve, I came out of the changing rooms and announced, with heartfelt and deep despair, that I AM A FAILURE IN JODHPURS.  This is doubtless still true.

Friday, July 13, 2012


I should spend more time painting at a kitchen table - this afternoon's hour or so with Helen's daughter Sophia was a splendidly relaxing and absorbing one.  But.  It was rather like Miss Havisham telling Pip to "play, boy."  If you're four and a half, you don't have all that much difficulty in deciding what to paint.  But if you're a bit older ... "what shall I paint," I asked S, hoping for something sensible, like a cat (or, at that age, if you're female, a Princess.  Where did all this Princess stuff come from?).  "Whatever you like."  That's both exciting, but daunting, especially when you just have some very thick brushes, some red paint, blue paint, yellow paint, and green paint, and a sheet of bright green paper.  And my Default Object - still, after fifty years - seems to be A Horse.  OK, of course, I can draw horses pretty well, but you'd think that I'd seize the opportunity to try something else. This seems to indicate such a sad, sad lack of imagination (though I amended things by some pillars with improbable plants growing over them) that I mad an instant vow to sit down, daily, with paints and, well, produce something - I do miss it so much.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

public transport

The new Concourse at Kings Cross looks a lot better in a photograph than it does in person - presumably because this omits large numbers of cross commuters.  This is a city with a public transport system that apparently is going to work just fine in 15 days time when the Olympics start?  It took me 2 1/4 hours to get back from the British Library to Wimbledon - person under the train on the Jubilee line; heavy rain causing general havoc; road problems meaning that there was a 45 minute wait between 93 buses - something that turned into the first time I've ever heard a driver complaining at the passengers, on the intercom, for complaining at him, since (he pointed out) he was well over the end of his shift and wished he was home, too.  And then he said he hoped that we all liked each others' smell, since we were so closely packed together ... ah, London.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

best of british

By now, a lot of the flags and bunting left over from the Jubilee Weekend have been taken down - those that are still there are (like the rest of us) very wet and bedraggled.  But there's still quite a lot of patriotic fervor tangling with the Olympic Rings (16 days to go, and they've called in the Armed Forces to help with security since the firm that was hired have problems finding enough people.  Or something.  I thought there were rather a lot of unemployed?  Or maybe they fear that it'll be like those poor people who were bussed into London to help with moving barriers, or something, for the Jubilee, and ended up sleeping under a bridge and without pay).  

None the less, Selfridge's windows are still doing the British Cliche thing loud and strong.  The corgis! The picnics!  The pub scene!

and perhaps my very favorite, this take-off on the trend for serving up market British Food.

No, I don't know why the reflection of my hand kept showing up today.  Blame the rain.

apricot flavored [June 10th]

Sometimes, at the end of a conference, all one needs is a drink.  How kind of this particular bar (One Aldwych - this is a One Apricot) to put these adorable little pansies into the drink as decoration.  

Monday, July 9, 2012

fish. bicycle. man. woman.

So here's this evening's first question.  Do the students at the University of Surrey get the cultural reference here?  Are they introduced to feminist slogans as part of their student induction session as freshmen?  And second - this is an even more hesitant, but still pertinent, question - did the sculptor, Daren Greenhow (b. 1970), know exactly what he was showing?  Yes, of course! everyone of my generation will say ... but he seems (judging by his website) to do a lot of animal/fish/human/biciycle sculptures, without referencing the famous phrase.  The phrase, incidentally, was coined by Irina Dunn, in Sydney, in the very year of Greenhow's birth, so perhaps he's always felt an affinity with it ... It certainly cheered me a great deal, walking around campus on a very grey dank day between conference sessions.

Sunday, July 8, 2012


Whoever knew that Guildford, Surrey, could look just like Venice?  Maybe it's the couple of bottles of Pinot Grigio that create the illusion ... This is in ever so many ways a strange place for a conference (or half a conference - day 1 is here, tomorrow, day 2 in central London.  It's managing to put on a semblance of a summer's evening, too.  Strange that I don't think I've ever been to Guildford in my life before ... I never knew that it's hilly.  The High Street, on the other hand (apart from the hilliness) looks just like homogenized anywhere - Belgrade, for example ...

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The gardener. And garden stuff.

I guess a subtitle for this could be Out, Out Damned Weed.  Or - get out there for ten minutes whilst it's not raining.  That's my father fending off fuchsias.  You can see quite how well everything grows when it rains and rains and rains.  5" of rain fell in 24 hours in Devon today, apparently.  Pictures on the TV of Ottery St Mary looking as though it has deep canals, not streets.  

And yes - flowers in my bedroom, too.  Outside the window?  That's just a light drizzle.

morning walk [July 6th]

Totally the best way to start a day when one spends all the rest of it on airplanes.  The Sandias were just poking out of morning clouds and so looked like islands.  And (evidently) the sunflowers are just coming out ...

Thursday, July 5, 2012


Like a little app-lemming, I rushed to download this camera app that was written up in this morning's NYT (together with how many other millions of people?) which isolates a little part of whatever one's pointed it at and marbleizes it.  This is a geranium.  It's very low-res, so I think one has to choose one's subject carefully.  And I'm equally sure I'll get bored with it pretty fast.  And I can't decide whether or not it's improved with further camera-app manipulation, or not ... It's just about 5 years to the day since the iPhone came onto the market - already, it seems hard to remember what one did before all the little gadgets that it brought with it (viz, turning on a flashlight app tonight to see if someone had caught a lizard's tail in the bathroom window.  Happily, it was just a leaf ...).

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

born on the 4th of July

... or so said the menu at Cafe Fina, open today for a dry run, or a trial run, or whatever one might call it, from 10-1.  We tried to time our entry for whenever people weren't at the 4th of July Parade (but since I had the time wrong for that, that didn't work ...) - it was satisfactorily but not crazily busy, and very excellent it was too.  I had huevos - very fresh eggs, too - with tortillas and black beans and green peas and fried bananas, or plantains, and red chile - and Alice had the fluffiest pancakes imaginable.  I don't even much like pancakes, but I think that I'll order them next time ... All redecorated, and more urban chic than Eldorado, and with a beautiful patio outside.  It is so wonderful that the RFN space wasn't closed for long and that something so good has phoenixed in its place ...

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


Not, for once, a kitten, but a rather fine rainbow - a double rainbow - seen from our back yard this evening.  Having finished the first version of my Pavement Artists paper for the Dickens conference this coming weekend, I feel that I might have become caught up in ideas about visual cliches and conventions and therefore be replicating them - but it's still wonderful to see the weather turning.  As for the paper ... it's amazing how little is left of the 20 minute first outing that this material had at NAVSA.  That's a good thing, of course, but it meant that this week's writing was a scarier process than I'd imagined.

Monday, July 2, 2012

pensive cats

Introductions are starting to happen.  Here is Moth, feigning acute interest in my conference paper writing - perhaps she can solve the conundrum of what I'm going to say in the final two pages.  And here's LucyFur, deeply intent on the movement of Kittens.  So far, so good - so long as they stay at a respectful three foot distance.  And don't try and play with her tail.  Closer than that - she not only growls, and hisses, but - rather unusually for a cat - utters short gruff barks.  We'll get there.  It'll take a while, and a lot of sprays of Feliway.  Lola offers ritualistic and perfunctory hisses, but is basically too elderly to care much.  DandyLion has had one encounter with Walter, who sniffed her nose - her entire, utter lack of reaction confirmed our overall fear that we have a very strangely recessive cat there.

Sunday, July 1, 2012


I do appreciate that some of you reading this in places other than Northern New Mexico might have difficulty in appreciating quite why it's so exciting to see rain dripping from our canales - sticking out gutter thingies - but after months and months of dryness, one can allow oneself to dream that the monsoon season might actually arrive.  And even if this only lasted ten minutes or so, the soil and plants all started to give off the wonderful fresh, pinony, chamisa-y fragrance that they have after rain, and I instantly remembered why summers are so very good here.