Thursday, May 31, 2018

our local gas station

- or maybe not our most local gas station, because the pumps and credit card readers never seem to work at that one, but at the gas station we use most frequently, at the top of Vermont, where there was a murder a little while back, but it's perfectly salubrious (apart from, I guess, the guy who thought I might like to help him buy a lottery card.  Er, no).  This isn't the only mural - I've been meaning to photograph this for a while, and will aim for a full set over the summer.  As ever, in Los Angeles, one can never predict when something will be painted over.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018


Only in L.A.  I mean, really ... This is, indeed, a serious thing.  Just Google it.  A mobile photo studio, complete with its own makeup artists, waiting for you - or waiting for actors - or ... It is, I'm sure, a good idea for some people, but not somewhere that I'll be popping into when I need my passport renewal images ...  But even seeing and photographing this made me think how little I write about photography itself - theory and practice - in this blog these days.  That's very much a reflection of how little I've been teaching photography of late.  At the same time - what would I say about this, other than expressing my admiration for the camera-logo?

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

salad days

It's getting there.  I'm not sure why the leaves in the middle are so much longer than at either end - the light doesn't seem, to me, to fall all that unevenly - but so be it.   This arugula selvatica is doing very nicely, and should yield at least one, maybe two, small salads.  The last time that I grew it was in England, where it loved the dampish climate and had ecstatic bursts of growth - and also accumulated a fan club of snails.  My biggest potential enemy was spotted at the end of the garden this afternoon: A Rabbit.  Even though this is a deep trough, I fear it's probably not rabbit proof.  

LucyFur and her catnip fish

I bought Fur and Moth a couple of catnip fish for Christmas.  They weren't a huge success: made in China, they were filled with some vile plastic substance and some very inferior, elderly, and meagre flakes of catnip.  I emptied them out; filled them with organic cotton wool and some homegrown, dried 'nip.  A tactful profession of interest, then nothing.  But I like these fish, aesthetically.  So at last I got round to ordering a tub of high-quality catnip (I swear: it's easier to buy marijuana here in SoCal), re-stuffed, and - yes!  it's - so to speak - a hit!

Sunday, May 27, 2018

5,418.43 miles away (as the crow flies)

Cambridge, England, this morning.  I think a flying crow would have a better time of it than travel on a holiday weekend (on both sides of the Atlantic), plus re-assigned and canceled UK rail timetabling, plus ...This seems like (and is) another world, already.  Is it possible not just to call, but to think and feel, more than one place "home"?

Saturday, May 26, 2018


Somewhere in the back streets of leafy Cambridge ... a large bird and a small bird.  Maybe they have some huge metaphorical existence beyond themselves, but I can't work out what that could possibly be.  A long walk through an English summer's afternoon, with, at last, some sun - very much appreciated.

Friday, May 25, 2018

a broken icon

When I used to teach a course on "Changing Britain" (a 20th and 21st century lit/culture course), I used to ask students to bring in something - an actual object, an image - that signified Britain to them, in Week 1.  I don't recollect that anyone ever brought in a telephone box (we usually had a number of teabags), but they could well have done.  [I miss that course: maybe it's time to teach it again].

But that raises a question: what kind of a symbol, or metaphor, is this?  Can I link it to Brexit?  It's a sad and shattered, but not atypical sight (and, n.b., although I didn't try it, it looks as though the phone still works ...

Thursday, May 24, 2018

walking to dinner

A grey, damp Cambridge evening - in other words, very English; very atmospheric.  It's so strange being 5,882 miles (or whatever it is, exactly), from all the drama that's going on at USC - and trying to explain it - well, let's just say that in the English context, there are many more stages of checks and balances, and transparency - and then the sums of cash involved are so very different on either side of the Atlantic.  And furthermore - having just had a mid-symposium dinner in a private college dining room, entirely surrounded by paintings by Roger Fry - it's an atmosphere in which people actually sit down and talk ideas and politics.  I can't, however, start to unpack what does or doesn't correlate here: the other thing to bear in mind is that High Table wine is remarkably good ...

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

stained glass

Whilst I really can't recommend my current hotel (the Thistle Bloomsbury) as a Hotel (grateful though I am to have my accommodation arranged and paid for by an entity that isn't me ...) - let me recommend it for the historical resonance of its stained glass.  For this (89 Southampton Row) was the business headquarters of A. L. Moore, Glass Painters and Decorators (founded as Gibbs and Moore in 1871).  Given some of the very elaborate late Victorian stained glass windows that they produced, especially for churches in Sussex, these stair windows are a triumph of modesty.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

a Yowler

This is Simba, my parents' cat (he was already called that when they adopted him from Battersea Cats' Home, I should point out).  In human years, he's probably older than they are, and they are 94 and 95.  He is, in other words, a little frail and wobbly - and he yowls.  He yowls - heart-rending yowls, channeling his inner Siamese - roughly every twenty minutes, all through the night.  I've tried suggesting, gently, that they might want to consult a vet; that he might have a thyroid problem; that he might have rheumatism; that he might have some hidden trouble (I should say - he doesn't actually seem to be in physical pain, or I'd take action.  But).  "Ah," says my mother, vaguely, "he just wonders where we are."  Well, maybe.  But he's not conducive to sleep (oh, and - they take their hearing aids off at night ...).

Monday, May 21, 2018

an English summer garden

Things are looking at their early-summer perfect in my parents' garden.  I completely see the problem with replicating this style (and remaining sensitive to water usage) in Los Angeles (or Eldorado), but of all the things that I really miss about England, being able to have a garden like this is very high on the list.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Los Angeles as one doesn't usually see it ...

... that is, flying in when it's covered in a thick bank of cloud.  Flying in from ABQ; currently roosting for a few hours in AA's Flagship Lounge before heading off to LHR, eating particularly good hummus.  I was so glad to see the cloud cover - I'd been worried that my arugula crop would suffer from a lack of water during the few days that we were both away.  I needn't have been concerned: Alice just emailed me a photo of its flourishing green leaves, doubtless kept that way by this thick mantle.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

buzz buzz buzz

I don't think that many bees are on show here - but believe me, they are very loud.  These are blossoms on one of the locust trees in our back yard in Santa Fe (looking very healthy after last year's pruning and thinning), which are not only making us sneeze, but attracting, I'm happy to say, all the bees in the neighborhood.  We're here for a nanosecond - off tomorrow; back on June 1st.  Can't wait - this is a tantalizing blast of peacefulness.

Friday, May 18, 2018

cafe culture

Yes, that's right: it's a water feature steaming away, looking like a giant mosaic-covered cup of foaming coffee.  It's in a completely wonderful funky cafe in Moab - the Eklecticafe - which, in turn, is next door to Tire Pros.  Should you ever turn on your car in the morning and find a little warning sign come on saying Low Tire, I hope for your sake that you're within striking distance of the helpful, friendly, welcoming, cheerful, and efficient people at Tire Pros (we had to drive 19 cautious miles to get there, but all was fine.  They discovered a Nail, removed it, patched the tire up, sent us on our way) - and meanwhile directed us to this cafe oasis next door, which (apart from the traffic thundering past), was as near perfect a flowery space as possible (and the coffee and muffins were great, too ...).

Thursday, May 17, 2018

hiking trails and some horses

An energetic day in Canyonlands and Arches national parks, with a variety of trails.  The horses were at the ranch - we talked to them, but we used our own feet (and car) to get around.  Views were beyond spectacular: it's hard not to take photographs that are just touristic replicas of other people's stunned amazement at the views ...

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

night and day

Our final stop, en (long) route to Santa Fe, has many advantages, but a fast internet connection is not one of them (this has its merciful upsides, of course).  So here's the view from our idyllic balcony, post and pre dinner ...

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

life on the range

Goats?  Roosters and hens? (of course I had eggs for breakfast) Buffalo (from the bathroom window early this morning)?  Miniature horses?  Of course, there was the small matter of the drive down to Las Vegas and back to pick up Alice, which took up most of the day - but that allowed me to appreciate the peace and quiet up here all the more - not to mention 3 drives through Zion National Park, switchback road and all, when I thought I'd just have the one.  My enthusiasm doesn't extend to the overcrowded I-15, especially the bendy Virgin River gorge part, which no one ever mentions (though a quick on-line check reveals a large semi going over the edge and dropping 80 feet only last week, and various other deadly horror stories.  I'm not surprised).  Back on the road again tomorrow ...

Monday, May 14, 2018

southern Utah

A lot of driving today - but some spectacular hiking, too.  I could happily be spending a week, or more, in this area alone - Zion National Park, and (the bottom picture) the exceptionally quiet view from my cabin about three miles from the East Entrance.  Tomorrow, it'll be OUR cabin, since Alice has been told she's fulfilled her jury duty, and I'll head back to the airport in Vegas to pick her up...

not exactly the mini-vacation as planned ...

That is, it's sort of as planned: the places, the reservations were made in advance.  And paid for.  And then Alice realized that being on call for Federal jury duty means being on call for TWO, not one, weeks.  So we're hoping very much that she will fly out on Tuesday morning, and I'll drive back to Las Vegas, which is where I am tonight, and pick her up.

This is my first time in Vegas, which I always thought of as Sodom and Gomorrah - it's a combination of elaborate kitsch and decadence, of course, and I hadn't known that if you look in one direction, the skyline is dominated by a huge gilt building labelled TRUMP.  That is horrific.  I expect everyone else to be drowning in baths of rose petals.  Also, it's impossible not to find oneself inside a casino (I'm deliberately staying in a hotel without one - the Mandarin Oriental - which is a haven of quiet).  

There's also classical decadence a-plenty.

But I confess to being very taken by the opulent ridiculousness of the Bellagio, Chihuly glass blossomed ceiling and all, and the extraordinary conservatory (currently on show: Japanese spring time).

I wish I'd been able to pull over and take a picture of the best-ever Roadside Attraction sign ever (on I-15N), advertising Llamageddon.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

tired roses

... or to put it another way, you may be getting weary of me posting pictures of roses.  There have been a lot; it's been a busy time of the semester, and now I have deadlines to meet by - well, very soon.  I'd hoped to be back at the Curiosity and Desire conference today, but writing got in the way - so you'll have to make do with this semblance of decadence, blowsing over a Los Feliz fence, instead.

Friday, May 11, 2018

a Clark alcove

I've heard some terrific papers at the Curiosity and Desire conference at the Clark Library today - but gosh, it's been chilly.  "Summer" in LA does have these June Gloom, clammy grey days, and this was one of them ... lunch outdoors would have been more welcome if there had been heat lamps in the middle of the lawn.  I had to come home and fling myself in a hot bath, since my fingertips had turned white (like my father, I've long, long been subject to Raynaud's syndrome, but that's something that isn't usually an issue in Souther California ... ).  Apart from that, though, it was great to go to some papers that made me think, and one paper given by Mimi Winick (a former student of mine ...) has made me come home and re-write (post-bath) the conclusion of something that I'm writing myself for a symposium in a couple of weeks ... so thank you, Mimi! (and Vernon Lee ...).

Thursday, May 10, 2018

flower boxes

A curiously random and yet regimented array of planters, somewhere on Riverside Drive - plus reflected palm trees.  Sure, I might have been able to get a better composition - with more or less of those lights - if I hadn't been a passenger in Alice's car at the time, but there was something very satisfying about this set up, chevrons and all.

end of semester, end of year!

A really wonderful evening in Shannon Road!!  So much to celebrate at the end of the academic year - Devin's tenure; Meg's company's work; Alice and my books; the ongoing accolades for Devin's book.  Etc.  And, not least, the fact that Devin has truly taught us how to use our barbecue that we bought with the house, errr, five years ago.  So much fun!  And we survived this year ...