Sunday, May 31, 2020

LucyFur, relaxing

LucyFur's take on today is a lot more relaxing than my own - or, probably, than yours.  Enjoy that curl of the paws.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

another bunch of wildflowers

Our cell phones screeched into life as we were having dinner, to tell us that as from eight p.m. - a quarter of an hour ago - we are under curfew.  We were outside, with yesterday's bunch of wild flowers - these ones, gathered this morning, are in the living room.  The mowers didn't come today; they'll arrive at 8 in the morning.  Outside, police sirens are going off, and, in territory-defining unison, the coyotes are howling.  On TV, looting on Melrose, at the same time as so many among the protestors are urging calm; being quietly arrested (for curfew breaking, by now): all my sympathy is with the organizers, and what they represent by way of peaceful, principled protest.  And more: how glad I am to live in a city where the mayor commends the justness and appropriateness of just such protest, with the support of many community leaders, and indeed the Sheriff, saying exactly the same thing.  

There's a strange piece of sartorial synchrony: little did I think, when pulling a scarf over my face to avoid being badly teargassed in the streets of Paris in 1973 (manifestations contre la loi Debré ...) that face masks would be de rigeur for being outside ... 

Friday, May 29, 2020

wildflowers, jugged

Tomorrow is the day of the brush clearance, so I gathered a whole jugful of wild flowers - sitting, here, on the balcony table at dinner time.  I don't think I can bear the scything of the most beautiful part of the crop, however, and I have some stake-fences and yellow Do Not Cross tape ready to put in place tomorrow.  Surely a three foot by ten foot stretch of wild beauty might pass muster as a deliberate flower bed?  

Alice performed sterling work removing a castor oil tree - Ricinus communis - a fast growing, invasive, poisonous, and thoroughly unpleasant occupant of the wild flower slope.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

rural Los Angeles

It's hard to believe that these views are ten minutes walk or so from our house ... especially the second one, which is like a country lane in rural England ... (mind you, these images are silent: there's a dull background roar of the 5 freeway, truth be told).  Our house is just hidden away, in the row of trees on the right-hand hill: what stands between the lane and it is the Junior Golf Academy, which even had a couple of (non-Junior) golfers at the driving range today.  The horses?  I don't know - they may have come over the new bridge (over the 5) - it was early in the morning (hence the haziness), and I was super-envious of them ... it was a very welcome walk before a dreadfully long day of meetings and admin.  Is it possible to be working harder now than during the semester?  Seemingly so.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020


I know: I shouldn't have let this arugula start to flower ... it's a sure sign that it's a few days too old.  And whilst the leaves were wonderful and peppery, the stems - stalks, even - were a little bit too tough.  I should mow the rest of it, with scissors, tomorrow; rescue the tasty leaves; and let this particular effort at pandemic farming resuscitate.

A million years ago, in the spring of 1977, I was a graduate student in Florence, working on politics in late nineteenth century Italian art, and living briefly in an apartment on via Orsanmichele.  None of us had any money: some were graduate students - in art history and architecture; one was doing his servizio militare through working in an old people's home; a further, but overlapping group in the apartment above were very involved with Lotta Continua ("Lotta Continua, Libertà e potere non vanno in coppia"), a radical Marxist group that seemed extremely exotic at the time.  There was a mild ongoing tension between those of us who were also involved in feminist activity - especially around abortion rights - and the guys.  Mealtimes involved (a) going across the Piazza della Signoria to Trattoria Anita, where we were treated generously, and like family, or (b) pasta, or (c) a kind of omelette sandwich, with fresh crusty bread, and an extraordinary spicy salad leaf.  What is this, I asked, wide-eyed? "C'è arugula!"  I had never heard of such a thing.  I asked some more - and found that it was sold by various old ladies in the market, who came down from the hills with bundles of the stuff.  I bought it, thinking it the most extraordinary culinary discovery.  A decade later, I found packets of arugula seed on sale in Italy, and bore them home triumphantly, and planted them in our garden in Oxford.  Who could have foretold (maybe I should have invested, and made a fortune...) how ubiquitous it would become?  But I still can't resist growing it.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

some tired flowers

And today, some rather tired flowers: they, too, seem to have had their hours of daylight sucked out of them by Zoom meetings.  You'd have thought, perhaps, that the semester was over - but no, seemingly not.

Monday, May 25, 2020

more from the wildflower meadow

The flowers seem even more super-abundant today: I'll be gathering bunches and bunches of them before they're mown at the end of the week.

But lest I fall into the trap of thinking that nature is all beauty, there was a peculiarly repellent pile just above these.  Recognisable was a small heart, a lot of intestines, and an even smaller - maybe rat-size? - paw.  And unidentifiable gunk.  What happened?  A coyote?  One of our great horned owls (though of course they usually eat anything whole, and then pellet up a compressed version of what they can't digest)?  A red-tailed hawk?  I've certainly seen them demolish rabbits out back, but this seemed tidier.  Some combination of the above?  Whatever it was, be very very grateful I'm just bringing you pictures of flowers, and of Alice balancing on the slope above some of them.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

allium, emerging

I really love alliums (allia?) - whether in the edible form (onions, garlic), or more floral numbers, like this giant purple allium which is coming out at the bottom of our street.  One more example of the slow, slow changes that one observes on our walks around the 'hood (two of them today: it was a beautiful quiet early summer's evening.  Also, we'd just eaten a lot of pasta.  If one really good thing has come out of this whole lockdown, it's Alice's perfection of a bolognese sauce which is the best that I've eaten this side of Bologna. With garlic).

Saturday, May 23, 2020

wild flowers, up close

As I keep lamenting, it's just a week before the fire regulations will demand that the (small) wildflower meadow is mown - but it's going strong, with new species all the time.  So I'm appreciating them whilst I can, from many different angles ...

Friday, May 22, 2020

A Walk!

A walk!  A real walk!  Since Griffith Park has now reopened, we got up very, very early and ventured out - masked, of course - but yes! we even let our mouths and noses out for a bit of fresh air when there was no one in sight.  After ten weeks, this felt like something extraordinarily daring.  Probably about half the other people whom we saw - and there weren't that many of them - wore masks: then another 25% had a bandana round their neck, or dangled a mask from their hand, or something else that was both symbolic and useless.  Here's the edge of the Marty Tregnan Junior Golf Academy (if we swiveled round, our house would be downhill in the trees on the right), which has been silent for an age, now.  

It was so good to get out.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

the verticality of the hollyhock

If - IF - we make a dash for it, some day in June, and drive flat out to Santa Fe, I will be super excited to see whether all the hollyhock seeds that I carefully gathered and sowed at the end of last summer will have sprouted, or not.  In the meantime, I'll have to make do with the ones in the neighborhood (and if we do make it out to New Mexico, I should try and gather seeds from there, and bring them, possibly illegally, back to Los Angeles ...) - which, as I started to notice the other day, have just begun to make a display.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

time to get up

I felt a little menaced at the start of my day, today.  LucyFur's mouth happens to be shut, here, but I would ask you to supply the miaows that she was also delivering in my face.  And note the two-pronged assault: that's Moth, hovering on the cupboard on the right-hand side, ready to emphasize that she's waiting for me, too.

And surely, Lucy is practicing for her next Zoom meeting?  Here are a number of alternative roles for her to adopt:

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

pink poppy

More transient beauty from the wildflower meadow .. there are many semi-translucent pink poppies among the more regular Californian deep yellow-orange variety.  I'm not sure how I could have come to have sown so many - maybe the other varieties didn't thrive as well.  Going out and checking what's flowering on any particular day is a very welcome occupation...but if anyone wants to know what garden I would really like, check out the RHS's Chelsea Flower Show - which is, of course, Virtual, this year - and look under Monday, at Monty Don's garden.  (for those of you who don't know him, he's the presenter of BBC's Gardener's World, and broadcasts this from his garden, which is in Herefordshire - and he has a book about wildlife in the garden coming out in the autumn.   Yes, I may be becoming an English stereotype of a certain age ...

Monday, May 18, 2020

back in our own back yard

One of the seed packs that I planted this year was from Theodore Payne - our local native plants specialist - and was of blue flowers.  I haven't seen a lot of obviously azure, cerulean, lapis lazuli colored flowers spring up, but this one is a spectacularly deep shade of blue - this photo barely does justice to it.  Twelve days to go, before they must succumb to mandatory brush clearance ...

Sunday, May 17, 2020

first hollyhock

Well, ok, it may not be the first, but it's the first that's reached my consciousness.  Two thirds of the way up; silhouetted against the wall of the house behind ...  We could all pretend that we're in Andalucia, but no - it's our usual morning circuit, where the pleasures, in fact, are to be found in the tiny daily changes of plants, property that's for sale; property that might be coming on the market; contractors who are painting or putting in new doors or mending sewer pipes, or, indeed, making wholesale horticultural alterations - beds of new lavender plants - that surely signal a realtor's board is about three weeks off.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

policing the wearing of masks

... that's the only explanation I can think of, anyway, even though this sheriff seems not to be wearing one himself.  Otherwise, I'll just have to come to the conclusion that sometimes people put some very strange things in their garage driveways - or maybe, that they've been taking quarantine-clearing-out to extremes.  Myself, I've dived into a closet's worth of boxes that I haven't been into since we moved here, to see what I can purge.  They are, however, surprisingly orderly - full of forty years worth of memos and letter copies (among many other things) bearing witness to all the correspondence I've penned over the years regarding the urgency of addressing unjust budget cuts, and contributing to panels with titles like "Whither the Humanities?"  Somehow, I can't bring myself to jettison these records of academe - better luck tomorrow as I move onto things like plastic crates of old computer cables ...

Friday, May 15, 2020

more neighborhood

Another day, another flowerbed.  We were on a slightly shorter loop today - wanting to be back in time to watch USC's virtual commencement ceremony, which was pretty well done, given the circumstances - and managed to emphasize accessibility and sustainability, which has become pretty much the signature of the new administration.  It also featured a staged - obviously - zoombombing by Will Farrell, one of our alums, which I found as embarrassing as I embarassingly tend to find most forms of slapstick ....  Also, as is well known, I don't understand most US TV humor.  However.  Doing a quick Wikipedia read through about Will F, to find what I should know about him other than that he's a USC alum, I find his father was a saxophonist and keyboard player for the Righteous Brothers.  That came as news.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

jacaranda time

Just up the road from us - this jacaranda always looks splendid at this time of year.  I've come to associate jacaranda with the end of the school year, with graduation, with a feeling of, at last, being let off the leash.  I doubt the summer is going to be quite like that this year: chairs' meetings will continue all through the summer; we learned today that we'll most likely be furloughed - varying lengths of time, according to our salaries - and that the university will probably stop putting matching funds into our pension accounts.  Indeed, it's a privilege to be able to be startled by this - for we do, indeed, have jobs.  But.  Still.  It brings it home ...

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

someone's graduation??

... either that, or they are super happy to see their produce delivery ... (lots of kale and chard again this week ...).  But where?  It's a bit too bright a green for Notre Dame (but there again, it may be hard to be fussy when it comes to buying the right shade of balloon?  But there again, checking on line, there's clearly a whole entrepreneurial subfield of graduation paraphernalia that was hitherto unimaginable, in range and inventiveness).  And why the silver, and red?  Though it could just be a birthday celebration ... Whatever, it's a wonderful display.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020


Moth may be taking up her best I-want-to-look-like-an-Egyptian-cat pose, but actually she's waiting for me to get out of bed and feed her.  

Monday, May 11, 2020

wear a mask

From a local gate: this says it all, really.   Please, please, please.  I don't want you to get sick; I don't want to get sick myself; I want to transition to whatever a New Normal might look like sooner, rather than later.  I just don't get the fact that all the arrogant assholes with their hipster beards and their designer dogs - or their multi-gear bikes who pedal, panting, up our hilly street - don't feel the same way.  

Also - why are almost all the masks that I buy Much Too Large For My Face?  (on order, on endless order, various devices guaranteed to hook them up so that they won't be).  And my ears stick out, so mask earpieces tend to slide right off.  Right now, I only have one absolutely perfect one (which, however, has a cat's muzzle and whiskers on it, which is therefore to be kept for special occasions).  All the same, I Persist, and manage to wear something that more or less fits.  And I know they are sweaty, and damp, and dank, and endlessly need washing, but - just do it.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

happy teacher appreciation week

It is?  Or was this last week?  Either way, and even though the chalkers of this probably had K-12 teachers in mind, I will happily both feel appreciated, and pass on my appreciation to all other teachers - especially those home schooling when they hadn't been expecting to do so.  Especially, learning how to do the New Math (actually, this sees to be so visual I think I would have got on with it rather well ...).  But I do enjoy the chalking on pavements around here: one can never be sure what messages, or instructions, or riddles, or games will be coming up next.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Moth, self-isolating

Moth has clearly had enough of human, and other feline company, and is claiming that, behind the curtain, she's completely invisible.  These curtains came with the house, and are usually an innocuous non-presence: it's when they're drawn against the morning sun of summer that one's instantly reminded that we meant to replace them, long ago.  However, they're a very effective Moth-concealer.

Friday, May 8, 2020

roses; repeat

More roses.  It's the first time I've posted a picture of these particular ones, and yet the theme is the same: not our blooms; passed when out on an early walk; silent complaint against the number of other people out who are failing to wear their masks (though, to be fair, quite a few of these pull their masks up from around their necks when getting close to others.  And who can blame them for keeping them down, in order to get some air, and not breathe in thick cotton combined with whatever soap one washed one's mask in the day before?).  Walk; roses; repeat.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

other people's bougainvillea

Rather a lot of pink, with the morning sun shining through it.  I always associate bougainvillea with Greece, and in particular, with one hotel that I stayed in - but where?  This is where I panic: how to remember the names of some of the Greek islands that I just stayed on for a couple of nights, and which was which?  Yes, I have diaries, but for the late 1980s or early 1990s, not to hand ... I've liked it, ever since; I'd never seen it before in such profusion.  But, where?  It's very nearly twenty years since I've been to Greece - I used to go for a week almost every year, since it was so easy, from England, and so instantly relaxing - but it's not much use having those thoughts at the moment.  And looking at pictures on line, trying to remember where it might have been - I can almost smell the crushed wild oregano, and thyme.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

more borrowed roses

On the principle that (a) one can never have too many roses, and (b) when one is waiting for a maskless Amazon delivery driver to finish doing their deliveries just up the street from one, that it's tactful to look busy, I give you yet more floribunda from a morning walk.  I'm sorry not to be getting to see the Rose Garden at the Huntington in all its seasonal glory, but was immeasurably cheered to read, in a newsletter from the Huntington (with plenty of pictures of said roses, blooming away), that the army of volunteers that keeps them neatly trimmed is called the Grateful Deadheaders.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

someone else's fading roses

I swear these were looking pretty good yesterday - but the photograph that I took of them then ceded place to the trespassing deer.  This morning - they're beginning to look a bit wilted round the edges. After yet more Zoom meetings, I know how they feel.

Monday, May 4, 2020

the nasturtiums are put in peril

What did I see when I looked out of my study window this morning?  Four trespassing mule deer (mule deer - so called because of their long mule-like ears).  This image only shows two of them - I went up a couple of floors to take this from the sitting room balcony, so as to avoid the netting in the windows.  When I came down again, three had moved to the terrace outside the back door, and one was eyeing my arugula with such interest that I decided that it was time that I invited them to leave.  So off they glided, down the hill and away back into Griffith Park.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

yellow flowering thing

Someone must know what this is - blooming down the street from us - but I certainly don't.  And Plantsnap just makes suggestions that are triumphantly, absurdly wrong - or would be more likely if this were four inches high, as opposed to - what - ten, twelve feet?  Bees love it: it's humming busily.

Saturday, May 2, 2020


The nasturtiums are proliferating.  Not all the other wildflowers in the central part of the back yard have recovered from being used as a coyote athletic track, but they are doing just fine.  No more coyotes (or deer), but I did see a possum this morning.

Friday, May 1, 2020

saving a housecoat

Two days ago, we had an English Department Happy Hour, with an injunction to wear our finest vintage leisure wear.  I am someone to whom the mere suggestion of a fancy dress challenge is catnip (that is, my past includes (a) a Bad Taste party where I went as a set of flying plaster ducks (b) a Decadence Party where I appeared as Gérard de Nerval, complete with a large plastic lobster on a ribbon, and (c) a Suppressed Desires party where I dressed as a llama.). So I went into the inner closet of my closet, and pulled out a plastic crate or two, and to my distressed grief, all my favorite old clothes - the kind I've carried from house to house, country to country, like a sartorial diary - were being eaten by hungry, fluttering moths.  I spend yesterday morning photographing, bagging, and quietly weeping - losing these clothes was a metaphor for so much more.

But I managed to salvage four or five objects - all a bit moth-chewed, but I threw them in the washing machine, and hope ...  One is this shiny rayon (but still, in places, apparently tasty) housecoat, which belonged to my maternal grandmother.  In fact, it's one of the things I would have been sorriest to lose, because it's quintessentially her.  She would wear it, day in, day out, shuffling around the house in a pair of very pale beige flat shoes, and this, with, I think, a camisole underneath, and with a Players No. 6 cigarette dangling from her lip - until she was 70, anyway.  Having smoked since she was a nurse in WW1, she never stopped, despite chronic bronchitis - until that milestone birthday, at which point she stopped, cold turkey.  I'm so pleased that I still have this - it's unwearable, of course, but that's not the point.

The English department party?  I just went in the Olafur Eliasson t-shirt from Tate Modern that I had on to start with, and I don't think anyone was checking costumes, anyway.