Friday, February 28, 2014


It's very wet out in our back yard today.  It's very wet everywhere (which is wonderful.  But yes, I do realize that for anyone reading this in England, my excitement might seem a little strange).  Driving into school, I had to negotiate huge puddles where drains had swelled over into the road, and the whole last stretch of S. Hoover St. towards USC didn't have any working traffic lights - only a few rain coated traffic cops.  Coming back I could hardly see.  A microburst, complete with thunder and lightning, crashed into us whilst we were having dinner, and our street resembled an arroyo. 

If you blow this picture up on your screen, there, sheltering under the chair on the left, you'll see the world's wettest rabbit.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The problem that is Bitzi

It's not that we don't love Bitzi - though who knows whether she loves us or not? - but it's that she's being bullied, mercilessly bullied, by the other cats.  This has got much worse since The Kittens arrived nearly two years ago - and as they, in turn, have got bigger and bouncier.  Really, she needs A Home of Her Own (with no other cats).  At the moment, I've sequestered her in a bathroom, where at least I know that she's safe.  I've just spent half an hour sitting in the (empty) bath talking to her, and she's purred and purred - though I don't know if that's through fear or pleasure.  OK, I can guess.  So - does anyone out there have a quiet, currently cat less house, and want a charity case?  Make Bitzi happy?  It'll be hard work, but she's very decorative ...

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Healthy eating

- or not.  This seagull was hanging around after the Farmers' Market on campus, trying to find something other than plastic bags worth eating in the waste bins.  I think of him as a storm-harbinger, having always been told that seagulls come inland when bad weather is threatening, though even I concur that that's a maxim that might be more applicable in Wimbledon than when ten miles or so from Venice Beach.  All the same, the clouds look promisingly threatening tonight ...

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

looking round campus

I spent a good deal of time going back and forth to meetings and other events in the Roski School of Fine Arts today, which meant passing and repassing this huge mirror on the wall outside it - this would be more or less on the far side of the printmaking studio.  And if one stood here long enough, it would doubtless reflect one or more groups of prospective students and their parents who are on campus this week, and who are being interviewed - the students, that is - as prospective holders of prestigious scholarships (they've all been admitted - the task is now to woo them).  I confess that I'm a sucker for personal statements, as a genre, and wish that confidentiality pledges didn't stop me from revealing what's heading my way later in the week.  Let's just say that the students I'll be talking to run the gamut between the idealistic and the economically focused.

one more dawn [for February 24th]

[this didn't post yesterday …] - we promise: we're bringing some rain back to LA with us.  Here it is - lots of clouds gathering moisture over the Pacific ...

Monday, February 24, 2014

classic views ...

Bearing in mind that we'll be heading back to Los Angeles, and work, in the morning, here are a couple of views from today … sybaritism in February can never be over-rated.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

birthday gratitude

… for the sun dawning on a new decade, and for waking up to ever so many Facebook friends wishing me a Happy Birthday;

… for Cody being a particularly sweet tempered and comfortable ride along the cliff tops and into Oprah's ranch (!);

for the sea, for being - well, sea;

… to the hotel restaurant for giving me an excellent, free, tasteful dessert with not a candle nor a musician in sight;

and above all to Alice for helping make the birthday both special and not as traumatic as it might be, hitting an unconscionably antique age.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

sunrise (for Feb 21st)

Sunrise … on Feb 21st.  Somewhere over the horizon was a day of anxiety and phone calls involving Walter Gomez and the state of his bladder, from a cat sitter who mysteriously doesn't seem to be able to grasp the concept of a litter tray, and hence couldn't report fully; her worries about his shedding; our phone call with his vet about whether he could spend two days with the other cats and NOT eat his special diet; or whether we should come home.  Which we didn't.  Who ever knows what follows after dawn … Eventually we arrived at another destination, which is wi-fi challenged … so hence the hiatus ...

Friday, February 21, 2014


Yes, there's the sea right in front of our balcony, but the hotel (hotel 1 - Alice's birthday hotel - on to hotel 2 tomorrow) also has a large and sumptuous pond with carp.  I wish to apologize to these - generically, rather than individually - for the sashimi and the black cod that I ate this evening.  Obviously we are both Piscean.

For a brief, non-fishy amusement, a walk around the local former-pineapple-plantation-workers town …

Thursday, February 20, 2014

a birthday

It's a beach!  It's Alice's birthday!  We are celebrating!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

the back story

Alice's back has been painful of late, and so her physical therapist gave her some supportive tape - the same kind of tape worn by athletes - black and firm.  I'm not sure, at all, that she was meant to have worn it for so long - it now looks as though she's been engaged in some very dubious practices indeed. And that lone knobby veterbrae looks self-conscious.  Time for some R&R - watch this space ...

Monday, February 17, 2014

fifty years ago ...

... the Beatles were first playing in the US.  The looks in this version of them date from a couple of years later, but the general faded over-yellowedness of this suggests the passage of plenty of time (rather than suggesting the truth: a blurry car windshield and my iPhone my only photographic weapon to hand).  I keep meaning to find a better angle for this spectacularly kitschy portrait of the Fab Four.  Fifty years ago?  I struggle to remember my birthday week then, but I believe that my mother and I went to Fullers cake shop by the 200 bus stop, down Wimbledon Hill, and bought a coffee cake - that is, a coffee flavored cake, with coffee icing and walnuts.  Trust me to remember the food.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

flowers on my desk, in lieu of ...

... in lieu of the owl on the roof.  It seemed kind of intrusive to take a picture of her/him.  If I hadn't known it was an owl (the hooting is kind of a give-away), I'd have thought it was a cat: the feathery tufts of a Great Horned Owl are just like cat's ears.  One can see why owls are thought to be reincarnated cats.  The cats took no notice at all of the live hooting, but when I went to the recorded owl-sounds on my computer, just to check that I had the right species, you'd have thought that I'd got a whole load of live feathery bodies stuffed inside.

However, no picture of her, tonight (there'll be other chances: this wasn't the first post-nightfall serenade).  Instead, just a view of my desktop, which is where I've been for much of the day, head down, trying to clear the decks just a little ...

Saturday, February 15, 2014

standing on the corner

En route to the Huntington, I drive past this mural by Rafael Escamilla, who has done a number of murals around Atwater Village.  It shows a whole lot of local landmarks, plus some SoCal Missions: there's the Griffith Observatory, the Forest Lawn Memorial Building, Fletcher Drive Bridge, Van de Kamp's Bakery, the Great Heron Gate, the Red Car from the 40s and 50s, and more.  Escamilla is originally from El Salvador; he fled to Oaxaca during the war in the early 80s, and was in LA by the middle of that decade.  He's quite prolific - on canvas as well as on breeze-block walls.  Quite what the guys here are waiting for, or selling (rocks?) isn't clear, however ...

Friday, February 14, 2014

stripes of flowers and foliage

By way of a Valentine's bouquet, here are some flowers and creepers and general foliage from our evening walk.  The light was exceptional and golden, which in LA makes one very, very suspicious that the pollution levels are much higher than they should be ...

Thursday, February 13, 2014

different faces of Los Angeles

I seem to have spent most of today in the car (Walter Gomez; vet, bladder problems again), which at least gave me a chance to look out of the window every time that we were stopped a lights.  Probably Walter wished that he could look out, too: I drove quite a way of the journey home after I'd picked him up with my hand tucked into the top of his bag, stroking him.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

peas in a pod

Aren't they perfect?  I realize that to very many of you, battering floods and gales and ice storms and snow, plus whatever else the heavens are unleashing on CAA in Chicago, that it's an act of consummate cruelty to post images of peas that have been freshly gathered in from the bottom of the garden.  So organic, so pesticide-free are they that the pods were as delicious as the peas themselves.  I now wish that I'd planted five times as many plants, but I don't know that I truly believed that they'd flower and grow and ripen and flourish in quite such a satisfactory way.  And yes, there was a whole (small) bowl of them - I just isolated these ones to make a point about their beauty.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

welcomed home

Of course they look faintly fogged: they are behind the mesh that separates them - to their intense frustration - from the humming birds and yellow finches.  It was wonderful to be welcomed home today.  LucyFur and Moth might, indeed, have been staring at Alice engaged in the back-breaking work of cleaning the waterfall (!), but I was happy to cherish the illusion that they have missed me, and so wanted to greet me as I came back from work ...

Monday, February 10, 2014

snowdrops, etc

A little dented, to be sure, but what do you expect from garden flowers that have been growing in a country suffering its wettest weather since 1760?  They are now 6,000 miles away, and I'm going to sleep.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

domestic pursuits

Here are my parents, on a rather dank February Sunday lunchtime.

My father is mending the toaster, which, as he crossly pointed out, is only about five years old, and was made in China.  This is by way of contrast to the 2-bar electric fire, bought in 1952 and still keeping them warm, which he assumes was Made in England (he's probably right).  I admire his practicality and the eco-soundness of this laborious task, not made the easier by the fact that braising solder doesn't stick properly on whatever crap metal the innards of the toaster are composed of.

And here is my mother, looking very suspiciously at some flowers that I've bought her, as though there must be a wasp or two buzzing inside there somewhere.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

the swan

This swan hovers outside the pub at the top of my parents' road - a piece of rather menacing metalwork.  It never used to be there - for decades there was a perfectly non-remarkable painted sign of a swan on some stretch of non-flooded river, but I didn't register the change.  On the frame it claims that this is a "traditional public house," which raises a lot of questions.  Traditional in what way?  Traditional in that it holds pub quizzes, and has a huge-screen TV for football and rugby matches, and serves a "traditional" English Sunday lunch with Yorkshire Pudding?  "Traditional" in that it belongs to the new tradition of belonging to some company - rather than being in the fiefdom of a brewery (or an independent pub, known as a "free house"?  At least it's not been renamed something faux-English, like the Gosling and Gooseberry.

For whatever reason, this was always somehow considered the more downmarket of the two pubs at the top of the road (probably because of the quality of the beer, in my father's mind).  He was much more of a King of Denmark regular - now demolished, and replaced by a block of apparently hard-to-sell overpriced apartments.  The KofD also had a rather sweet little beer garden at the back, with lots of hanging geraniums.  Once the King closed, however, and before pubs refused to allow smoking in them - something that sent my father back into his man-hut garage with his pipe and pint - he used to sit in here in the early evening, and sometimes if, as today, I was coming back from the British Library around 6.15 I used to join him for a quick drink.  Now it seems occupied by a very young and loud crowd, and is about as far away from being a "traditional pub" as could be, without turning into something onto which no one could ever slap such false labeling.

Friday, February 7, 2014

sheep may safely graze

Here's an endearingly ludicrous installation in the British Library forecourt, offering a gloss, I guess, on the Georgian style exhibition.  I didn't go to that - too busy reading autobiographies by early C20th news photographers who had various anecdotes to tell about using flash ...  As you can see, it's damp, but not actually raining.  Depressing pictures of very widespread flooding in Somerset in the BBC TV evening news (from which animals, sheep included, have been rescued wholesale) - lightened, considerably, by the subtitles for the Hard of Hearing (e.g. my parents).  The local pilot of a helicopter flying in reporters opined of the Government that "they couldn't run a piss up in a brewery" - the captions, alas, read "couldn't run anything."  On the other hand, a little later, when someone said that they were "pissed off," this was transmuted into "a piece of."  I guess they had their fingers burnt the other night, when they miscaptioned - alas, I only saw a screen shot that was posted to FB - the Chinese "Year of the Horse" as the "Year of the Whores."

Thursday, February 6, 2014

an ancestor

And no, I don't know who she is.  Paternal side of the family; taken in a studio sometime in the ?1880s (maybe after they moved from Norfolk to industrial Sheffield).  Showing the far-flung reach of Oriental design in England in the period, if this wallpaper or screen material has made it to a rather humdrum photographic business.  Great-great granny, if that's she, didn't stay very still, either.  But that's an unmistakable family forehead and eyes - and I find her not a little scary.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

rainbow web

Here's a large rainbow web suspended over an inner courtyard at the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX.  I swear - this brand new terminal is the only place I know where the general lounge area is preferable to the airline lounge - quiet, airy, free wifi that works AND ... is that a Umami burger outlet in front of me ...? (or there's a Border Grill branch, or or or ...).  I am fortifying myself against the tube strike, gales and floods that are lying in wait for me 6000 miles away ...

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

La piragua

This mural defeats my ability to read Central American politics (and slurs).  La piragua - the canoe - well, I can read and understand that bit.  But what is it with the sow and all those piglets?  And the mermaid?  Yes, it's the El Salvador flag.  But the invocation of "salvatruchas - maybe "peasant guerrillas" (literally Salvadorean army ants), "chapines" - Guatemalans; "catrachos" - Hondurans; "chochos" - I am not translating *that,* in polite company - and "mejiquillos" - maybe Southerners - and then I give up - ah, this defeats me.  It's almost opposite the bodega from the other day, on South Rampart. One of the things that I love about Los Angeles is that I can have all the stimulus, some days, of being a long way from home.  Home being -?

Monday, February 3, 2014


Having been in our new house very nearly a year - we've owned it for a year and two days - it's time to get serious about what it actually looks like, in part.  We were very good at moving in, emphatically, right away, and then somehow stopped - I certainly have (tucked away, in our copious storage spaces) shamefully unpacked boxes, and so on.  So some new bookcases will be on their way, soon, and maybe a new sofa, or two.  We like the idea of lightening the living room as much as possible, so it'll end up being a no-red-wine-at-parties zone, at this rate.  Which color?  The trouble is that the one I prefer - the one on the right - is decidedly pricier.  And then - which will hold up better to the ravages of kitty claws?  You see the problem, highlighted in all its glory by the morning sunlight ... And yes, obviously, this bears a tag, #firstworldproblems.  

Sunday, February 2, 2014

building in LA

Apparently the big builders (and big buyers of apartments, once built) in Los Angeles at the moment are the Chinese, who are casting their eyes on sites in the rapidly developing downtown, and thinking that this is a more secure destination for their money than China itself.  This plot, or crumbing building, though - which isn't in downtown - more like Koreatown - doesn't look as though it's going going going any time soon.  But it does give a sense of today's mounting clouds - one of those days (rare recently) when one feels as though yes, one is on the Pacific Rim, and yes, perhaps China is over on the other side, out there.


One advantage of going into work on a Saturday?  When I stopped outside this little store, at lights, there wasn't a car, for once, drawn up in the lane between me and the shop.  So here's a small slice of transitional LA - it doesn't know if it's a Latino store, or what its relationship with the encroaching Korean-ness all round it might be, or whether to play safe and opt for notices in English ...