Wednesday, March 31, 2021

inside a fern

... inside a very large fern, in fact (morning walk).  I love all the different varieties of fronds and curls that ferns come in.  So it was sad, the other day - answering a question after a talk that I gave on my current research - to admit that I wasn't going to be writing about ferns - beyond a paragraph or two, anyway - since really, there's a fair enough amount of historically oriented fern scholarship with which to be trotting along ...


Tuesday, March 30, 2021

LucyFur is of the opinion that ...

... we post far too many pictures of Moth, and not enough of her.  So this is by way of an apology.  That red piece of cloth?  It looks as though she's hung her Phrygian cap up to dry on one of the bars outside the oven, but it's actually a rather fine French tea towel, and tones nicely with Lucy's collar tag.


Monday, March 29, 2021

the wrecking ball at work

I wrote a couple of weeks back about the demolition of some of the old LAC hospital buildings - not, though, the extraordinary, huge white building that looks as though it was designed by Antonio Sant'Elia, and which houses the main LAC-USC hospital - "County," although it used to be known as the General Hospital, and in fact appears briefly in the title sequence of - guess what - General HospitalThat was designed by a consortium of architects, the Allied Architects Association, and was built between 1927-33, in Art Deco style - so not really that remote from Sant'Elia.  I need to make a trip there when I won't have to explain myself (and get my temperature checked at the door, and the rest of it), and look at its architecture properly - in digging around I found that the concrete statues outside are by Salvatore Cartaino Scarpitta, who was Sicilian, and studied at the Instituto di Belli Arti in Palermo and Rome before coming to the US in 1910 - and he made a bust of Mussolini that Il Duce displayed c.1935 in Rome (and his son, and other members of his family, were completely fascinating too, and I'd better stop, because I feel a research rabbit-hole coming on, and I have far too many other things I should be doing right now).  

But - the building that was starting to come down the other week - in readiness for the new Wellness Village - it's nearly gone.  I wish that parking had been easier - both of these images involved me stopping quite illegally (and very conspicuously) in No Parking tow-zones ...


Sunday, March 28, 2021

outdoor brunching

It is quite something, to be able to enjoy some of the best things about Los Angeles again - like brunch outside (with another fully vaccinated friend) on a cafe patio ... this is at The Rose, in Venice: much recommended as a space (food fine: nothing spectacular, but fresh and tasty) - and then a walk on the beach.  All of this was tempered, though, by seeing at first hand quite how much the encampments of the unhoused have spread in the area - tents, and other structures, and camper vans (which, after both watching and reading Nomadland I look at not just with more understanding, but with the knowledge of quite how easy it can be to slip from having a bricks and mortar roof over one's head to on-the-road precarity).  Sure - these encampments are no surprise - it's not that I don't read the LA Times regularly - but this was our first time in Venice for over a year.  So yes - eating a grain bowl with spring vegetables and drinking espresso - in the sunshine - comes with an uneasy serving of privilege, as well.


Saturday, March 27, 2021

in which we go to the fishmonger's

Another ground-breaking outing!  Admittedly no fish are visible here: only one person per party is allowed into McCalls at a time, and Alice went inside to do the shopping (coming out with, among other goodies, a large chunk of sashimi grade tuna for me).  It's a butchers as well, of course - but all a very long cry from Mr Simmons, on Wimbledon Ridgway, or the fish shop opposite the Dog and Fox.  And this image also acts as a sideways commentary on pandemic times.  We were, at the time, standing in line - and the line stretched past this tagged plastic sheeting, and the other side of that - well, the last time I was on Hillhurst, that was a perfectly functioning Mexican restaurant.  It's so hard estimating what's going to survive, and what won't be left standing.

Friday, March 26, 2021

another week online, done and dusted

When the photographic archive of The Covid Years is compiled, this is a perfect example of Zoom-camera-perfect above the waist, and, er, more casual further down.  Alice wasn't in fact teaching at this moment, but online with Apple support, who were in the process of swallowing and hiding All Her Documents.  (She has them back - but it was a scary moment, this evening).  Moth, oblivious, is still squashing her Cat Cave.  I barely have the strength for another seven weeks of this Zoom stuff ...


Thursday, March 25, 2021

she caught them all

I wouldn't trust Moth's claim, there.  Maria, our housekeeper, has a very well developed sense of humor when it comes to arranging things, and we much enjoy the range of surprises she creates.  Moth has, maybe, rearranged them a little (and from somewhere, LucyFur has unearthed a small bright pink mouse, which she's brought down to my study as a gift).  And, yes, Moth is sitting on a Cat Cave.  On, not in.  Its saucer-like shape means that it's fast becoming known as a Cat Concave.


Wednesday, March 24, 2021

it's still here!

I had to go to campus today ... every other Wednesday is house-cleaning day.  While it's good not just to be paying our housekeeper, but to have her come to the house and clean, again, it didn't seem quite practical to be giving a talk with a background of vacuuming and washing machine rumbles and beeps.  It was great to be back - apart from having to take a Covid test first.  Who knew that it would take me over twenty minutes to produce a half test-tube of saliva?  This stopped me checking my slides were in the right order (they weren't, quite ...); stopped me doing another couple of last minute tweaks; increased my stress levels - which, for all I know, made my mouth drier still.  I've been googling what to do before the next time: thinking about something sour, like a lemon, seems to be a tactic.  

Campus, in general, felt far more normal than when I dived back in early October - or maybe that's just because pre-vaccine terror has now worn off.  As someone who's always liked working in their office - the ghostly vestiges of teaching in Oxford, I suspect - I'd be down in Taper Hall a couple of times a week, if I could.  Certainly, campus was looking good, from a distance, like this - but compared to other years, we're talking unweeded, unplanted flower beds.  I rather like the unmanicured look, but wonder what this might say about the fate of the maintenance crew during Covid...


Tuesday, March 23, 2021

los feliz manor

(a weirdly cropped picture, because of passing cars ...) - I have long thought that it would be fun to live in an apartment here - it's the most magnificent Art Deco building, which apparently is impeccably kept up inside.  I can't imagine rentals ever come free in it (and that being said, it's a non-starter, unless I fancied a writing retreat, because No Pets.  And if I fancied a writing retreat, it would look, to be honest, very much like my study at home.  So that would be illogical).

Today was a University Wellness Day, and apart for a quick trip to drop off some mail, I have been working until steam is coming out of my ears.  Go figure.


Monday, March 22, 2021

one orchid, three ways

Coming into the living room early this morning: one orchid, one shadow, one reflection ... that's the kind of serendipity that I'm always hoping for ...


Sunday, March 21, 2021

spring in Los Feliz

It's time for the annual celebration of this wisteria.  I love wisteria, but have had so little luck in growing it (and I've tried, ever since the balcony of my first flat in Bristol) that I haven't even bothered trying here.  This might be a mistake: it obviously thrives.

So strange putting this Southern Californian spring alongside my father's description on Skype of spring in Wimbledon: an unprecedented number of daffodils, apparently; primroses; the magnolia nearly out; holly blossom.  It sounds as though it's coming into full Easter mode, ready for next weekend: I wish I could see it ...


Saturday, March 20, 2021

the novelty of socializing

... and today, the first friends to come into the house for a year: there's been the occasional garden visit, to be sure - but lunch, at a table?  The novelty was such that, evidently, photos and a selfie or two (here being lined up) were in order ... It's a relief to find that one can still talk, face to face: it feels like it's been a long time ...


Friday, March 19, 2021

it's been a year

It's been a year in all kind of grimly memorable ways, of course - but it's been over a year, in fact, since my hair last encountered scissors or color.  That would have been February 27th ... it was slightly unnerving to learn that my hairdresser had Covid in February, which she experienced as allergies, and to wonder about the allergies, the sore throat, the dry cough that I had about eight days after I saw her.  I don't think ... but I'll never know.   It's a relief no longer to have dead rodent colored hair, but I wouldn't let too much shearing take place - I've rather liked having longer hair again.

But what else can happen in a year?  My - our - hairdresser seems to have taken a swerve to the crazy right.  Alice heard more about pedophiles in Hollywood than I did, buried in the depths of my admin-loaded computer - but I heard enough.  What to do?  Just acknowledge that she's a terrific hairdresser, and ignore the rest?  The only awkward moment so far was when she tried to tell me how much I'd enjoy Love Island, and never having heard of it, I thought she must be talking about a travel show called Love Ireland ... Advice on this dilemma welcome ...


Thursday, March 18, 2021

I hate that other bird

See while walking down Shannon Road this morning, a pair of juncos (only one is visible here): one on each side of this car; each of them angrily attacking a wing mirror.  Not just once, or twice, but compulsively.  I know this is territorial; it's springtime; their hormones are telling them to drive off what they perceive to be another bird on their patch.  But one still worries that they're going to hurt ... so we shooed them off (they probably found another car on which to practice this fierce combat training).


Wednesday, March 17, 2021

a strangely placed citrus

Here's a little mystery from this morning's walk: why would anyone place this fruit here?  I'm assuming that it didn't somehow fall from above and just lodge itself. 


Tuesday, March 16, 2021

a different plane tree

I thought today's plane tree was going to yield a much more interesting image: countless little spiky bobbles; new leaf buds just starting to look green.  But it didn't.  Sorry.  There are, doubtless, a whole lot of metaphors, there.


Monday, March 15, 2021

buzz buzz buzz

This may look like a tangle of foliage at the end of our yard, looking uphill into a neighbor's property.  But peer more closely.  We saw some activity there yesterday - a couple of heavily protected people moving some big wooden boxes into place.  There have long been beehives further up on their land - now it seems as though these new ones have been situated even further away from their house, and possibly re-populated - there were certainly lots of bees buzzing around yesterday.  It's been so wet today that they're probably complaining that SoCal doesn't live up to their expectations.  

Do you think we can exact a tithe?  I'm sure the honey will be jasmine-flavored, courtesy of our various jasmine plants... I couldn't be happier than to be feeding bees, but I'd love some of the results.


Sunday, March 14, 2021

when one keeps forgetting ...

... what's in the fridge.  But this worked!  It was smoked salmon for lunch ... thanks to the prompt that I left out last night.  There's a Useful Couple of Drawers in the center of the fridge - one seems to have batteries and cheese in it, which isn't too tasty a combination; and the other has - had - smoked salmon, and, I think, some of Alice's packaged salami.  Flat things.

I ought to make notes to myself more often: they probably give me even more pleasure than a couple of slices of smoked salmon.  (I've been wondering all day what the wording reminded me of - surely not the Alamo? - and I think it must be Wemmick saying "Remember the pig?" in Great Expectations, even though I never knew this fish personally).


Saturday, March 13, 2021

walking round the reservoir

We've been to the Silver Lake in Silver Lake a couple of times since lockdown began - but in the past it's been completely terrifying.  Today - a sunny Saturday - the (masked) hordes were out, heading round it - but the terror had, at least for us, dissipated.

One of the great pleasures about emerging into the world again is seeing a whole new assortment of stencils, wheat-pastings, and other forms of street art: it's one of the reasons that I like living in LA so much - all that imagination finding its place on lamp posts.  


Friday, March 12, 2021

in which we take our first USC Wellness Day Very Seriously Indeed

In Normal Times, today would have been the day in which we would have been setting out for Spring Break in Santa Fe: we'd be at La Posada tonight, I'm sure.  But USC isn't giving us a Spring Break this year, in case students rush off to Cabo or Miami Beach and come back Covid-ridden: instead of which we have five "wellness days" distributed between now and the end of the semester, in which there are no classes and, in theory, we're supposed to try and recuperate, too.  OK, to be sure, I needed to do some departmental admin today, and that got taken care of - a couple of hours, maybe.  But - we are two weeks out from vaccination!  So off we went - coffee out; lunch out; dinner out - and a great trip to Lincoln Avenue Nursery, in Pasadena, to stock up on lots of plants and potting soil, a walk ...

Yes, indeed, it still feels like a ghost town, in many ways.  But things seem to be hanging on, mostly.  We were really struck by the ubiquity of food delivery service people who are clearly keeping restaurants going - even if, of course, the establishments have to hand over a huge amount by way of fees to them.  And signs of life in a pandemic are everywhere - not just in ubiquitous mask wearing, but in all the varieties of signs saying distance, distance, distance.  But we felt optimistic: it was just so good being out in the world again.  So we hope our students and colleagues took the idea of a Wellness Day as seriously as we did ...especially, of course, if they've been able to get vaccinated, too ...


Thursday, March 11, 2021

more clouds! (in front of the garage)

Looking - vaguely speaking - over Atwater Village, and over to the San Gabriels beyond.  If you enlarge the image enormously, you'll see that they have snow on them - I promise you that it's fresh snow, not cloud.  The weird thing about this photo is the shadow.  This is not me taking a picture, nor is there someone behind me.  It's actually a foliage-covered bit of wall, with - hovering over it - a street lamp.  But it's managed to turn itself into a strangely sinister presence, a person who wasn't there at all.


Wednesday, March 10, 2021

bright cloud (from the living room window)

It rained hard during the night, and from time to time during the day - and this evening there were some wonderful cloud formations swelling up.  A bit more rain is forecast ...

And, of course, it's been a year.  Does one count from the date (March 10th 2020 was the last regular day that I was on campus - and a day on which we were still wondering how long we'd be away from our offices)? or the day (Wednesday of the same week, a year ago, was when we were hovering in indecision - whether to drive to Santa Fe for Spring Break, or not, and whether, if we did, we should take enough course materials for one week, or two?) (in the end, we didn't go until June).  We were starting to look around - on line, in shops - we still went to shops, for a couple more days - for all those things like toilet paper, which were disappearing.  Hand sanitizer?  Forget it.  I was googling recipes for how to make one's own.  The prime reaction I have, looking back, is how naive so many of us were - not just in wondering if we were looking at a few weeks, or at most a few months, discomfort, but in not having a clue how to navigate any of this; not knowing if we were over or under-reacting, and not knowing what it might mean that we just - yes - coughed.  Memo to self: I am allergic to California Live Oaks.  They cause symptoms that are very like ...


Tuesday, March 9, 2021

azaleas at night

They're looking rather like Victorian wallpaper.  If tonight's storm has any fierceness to it at all, they will probably be a little battered by the morning, so I'm recording this year's spectacular bloom while I can.

Update on the deceased rodent story: it was a former mouse, or maybe a very small rat - in a big and not easily accessible crawl space. Rodent operative said Rat.  It is now removed, and a grating that I hadn't seen was gappy is now blocked off with wire.  There clearly are rodents out there (where's a bobcat, or an owl, or even a mountain lion, when you need one?) - when I went out to take this photo just now there was a great rustle and thump among the plant pots to my left ...


Monday, March 8, 2021

someone else's jasmine

I have certifiable jasmine envy.  This is a magnificent, extraordinary array a couple of streets away, and it smells quite wonderful (I even pulled my mask down to get a proper noseful).  I wish we could import it into the house: there is an unmistakable smell of Deceased Rodent, somewhere (either above or below Alice's closet, seemingly), and whilst I know that the only thing to do is to wait it out, this nonetheless raises that gloomy and perplexing question: how did it get there?  The cats are no help.


Sunday, March 7, 2021

local glass


If you want to go and liberate these two strips of stained glass, they're on the top end of Prestwick Drive ... I'm not sure whether they're relatives of the stained glass door in our house, and in a couple of others on nearby streets, or not.  Ours - and therefore its relatives - were installed in the early 1970s (we know that from the owner at the time), and must have been made in the Judson Studios, in Garvanza (on the South Pasadena/Highland Park border, and an amazing place to visit, when one can visit anywhere again - founded by William Lees Jackson (from Manchester!) in the 1890s, and a real Californian Arts and Crafts Center in the 1890s and 1900s (and onwards).  Also, I've just learned that Garvanza was named after the fields of garbanzo beans in the area, but I digress.  Our window glass design is in the Judson catalog, so that pretty much nails it - this is less obviously one of theirs, but it's not easy to guess where else it could have been made.  

Saturday, March 6, 2021

jasmine, again

More blossoms, and the smell is thickening - it's exactly, for me, the magic smell of summer in little Greek island villages, when you're coming down a steep street at night between whitewashed houses, and there are branches of jasmine reaching out over walls.  I realize, of course, that it's almost exactly twenty years since I was last in Greece - can that be true? - and it mightn't be like that at all, now.  The last time I remember being there I'd gone to spend a week thinking - should I move to the US, or not?  There wasn't, it turned out, much deliberation involved: I got off the boat, rented a room overlooking the bay on Skopelos, thought - "well, of course I'm going to Rutgers," - went and sat under a pine tree and read Walden, and spent the rest of the week traveling around the island on a bus, and drawing.  Actually I did go to Chios since, now I remember - maybe the following year - but it's been a long time, and the smell of jasmine pulls me right back.


Friday, March 5, 2021

life (not ours) in Los Feliz

The variety of services that visit this neighborhood never cease to amaze me ... I guess some lucky dog or dogs is now all clean and fluffy and spruced up.  This is just up the street and round the corner from us - managing to look like some European rural village, although they probably would have neither dog groomers visiting nor mobile car-washers polishing up the Teslas.  And yet - it's surprisingly diverse too - even economically - and certainly, judging by all the signs and pavement chalkings, has its political and social heart in the right place.  


Thursday, March 4, 2021

someone else's birdfeeder

Walking down Griffith Park Boulevard early this morning, there was a lot of bird noise: turned out that this bird feeder was being descended on by a mass of ... well, I think most of them are Lesser Goldfinches, but it looks as though there's a House Finch at the bottom left, as well.  We judge that the magic ingredient in the feeder is probably thistle seed.  There was a whole flock more in the tree above, looking forward to their breakfast (and a little later on our walk, a Cooper's Hawk circling round and round, although a couple of blocks away: I suspect that it was looking around for its breakfast, too).


Wednesday, March 3, 2021

it rained!


If you don't live in Southern California, this mightn't seem like huge news.  But - rain!  There's been so little this winter (and of course we've been out of town for what little did fall) - that even though today's offering was a few hours of thin drizzle followed by maybe twenty five minutes of more solid rain - followed by drizzle again for half an hour - it was extraordinarily welcome.  

For the first time, though, I was looking at the weather forecast thinking - oh good, rain!  But - oh bad!  It'll knock leaves from the trees.  They are very pretty, of course.  But we've let our "gardeners" go - our hapless leaf blowers: in part because they have been hapless, to be sure, but also because our gate key met with "an accident" and was squashed beyond recognition and they couldn't get in any more; and also because I have a strong ecological bias against leafblowers - noise pollution; horrible expenditure of carbon fuels; destruction of habitat of little lizards ... So I've been out there with a rake, and with bare hands (there's something quite soothing about picking up leaves, in small quantities).  Post-rain, though, I'd be hard pushed, alas, to call the quantities "small..."

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

LA still looking like LA

... at least superficially.  This was taken from the car when stopped at lights on Santa Monica, heading, in the early morning, for a dentist's appointment.  This wasn't my first appointment during Covid - I couldn't do that to my mouth - but it was far, far and away the least stressful.  And there wasn't much traffic.  This is a strangely deceptive picture: all that greenery is not some public space stretching away, but plastic fencing round a construction site.  There seems to be a whole lot of construction going on - but also, and very obviously, a large number of shuttered businesses.  LA isn't looking that much like LA, yet, and one wonders what it will indeed be like when - we all hope - it comes back to more life in a few months time ...


Monday, March 1, 2021

spanish style

Just up the road from us, but somehow I'd never noticed this weather vane before.  It seems to be taking "Spanish style" to an extreme to have a metal bullfighter - complete with gored bull - on top of one's house, but there again, we have a stained glass roundel of a conquistador at the top of our stairs ... I think that in the late 20s, the Spanishness of this little corner of Los Feliz was subject to pragmatic exaggeration.