Tuesday, November 30, 2021


I went up the road early this morning to fetch my father's copy of The Times, and when I returned there was a parakeet sitting on the tree at the front.  And then - a whole flock of them in the trees in the garden.  Of course, I still - and with considerable reason - think of them as a very invasive species, but I guiltily enjoy the bright green flashes of them that have now been around for - for how long? - twenty or thirty years, maybe?  My mother, whose eyesight became increasingly dimmed by cataracts (on which she could never be persuaded to have an operation) always flat out denied the parakeets.  She claimed that she'd never seen one - even when one swooped, greenly screeching, across her line of vision.

All the same, I owe my mother an apology.  In the weeks before her death three years ago, she maintained that she'd heard a choir singing in the garden - a beautiful choir, singing "Silent Night" and, I think, other Christmas songs and carols.  This seemed like a very benign, and very soothing aural hallucination.  We should all be so lucky.  Only ... at the end of last week, I heard the same glorious singing.  But rather than thinking the angels had come for me, I realized that it was the Wimbledon College School Choir practicing for their Christmas concert/services (the College is one garden away behind our house).  I'm so glad that they must have been responsible for giving my mother pleasure, wherever she thought it came from.


Monday, November 29, 2021

St Dunstan-in-the-East

I've been meaning for an age to go to the ruins of St Dunstan-in-the-East - which is extremely easy to get to from Wimbledon - one just gets off at Monument - by the Monument, all tall and glittering in the sun at its crown.  St Dunstan's was originally built around 1100, and then extended over the next few centuries, and then - well, the proximity of the Monument tells the story: it was substantially damaged in the Great Fire of London in 1666.  Then it was partly restored, and partly rebuilt - with a steeple by Christopher Wren.  Then in the early C19th it had to be rebuilt, because the weight of the nave roof was pushing the walls out.  And then it was largely destroyed in the Blitz - and the decision was made to keep the ruins as ruins (although the Wren tower remains), and to create a really pretty public garden.  

It was chilly today, and the air just slightly hazy.  You can see The Shard in the distance.  The biggest surprise was the palm trees, which looked decidedly unhappy in the cold.  I loved it all.

There was, of course, lichen.


Sunday, November 28, 2021

in which we go looking for the water meter

Today, we needed to go and read the water meter.  Because of complicated calculations about how best to run a water line to our house back in 1961, it's actually located in the next road - somewhere.  So we went hunting, armed with several tools, including a medium sized pick-axe, looked for it.  We lifted up various possible metal covers - including the large one on the right of the picture, which contained a lot of very amateur looking wires; I found another which seemed full of water; and an electricity meter on a nearby wall - and something that said "gas" which I wouldn't touch - but no water meter.  Eventually I spotted someone who lives in a flat in the house behind, and chased her down, and she thought - Eureka! - that it was under that pile of leaves behind my father's right hand.  So the iron lid was prised up, and I took a photo of the meter numbers, and the job was - fairly efficiently! - done.

My father's had that coat since 1957, by the way.

[oh - and why did we need to make a reading?  Last year, my father had a long-lasting undetected leak - undetected until a neighbor realised his back yard was turning swampy - from a frost-damaged outside tap.  So there was a big water bill.  This year, the water company did an "estimated" reading for the same period - which only asked for payment for 2,250 or so cubic meters of water, as opposed to the 58 cubic meters that he'd actually - we found - used.  They must have assumed that he'd used that pick-axe to dig a substantial swimming pool]


Saturday, November 27, 2021

wet roses

Very wet roses, in fact: these were the brightest things around outside, and indeed it's quite remarkable that they are still flourishing in late November.  I do wish I could ever keep in my head what species of rose is which: I know when I've planted them myself, but somehow, although I was given a named tour of them all time and time again, nothing's stuck.


Friday, November 26, 2021

not a bad building for a meeting

There's something rather pleasing (the day after Thanksgiving, too) going to a meeting in a building with the address of 2 East Poultry Avenue... This is a dedicated (i.e. available for rent) suite of rooms (with excellent coffee and lunch) upstairs in Smithfield Market (officially London Central Market): I've just learned that Smithfield used to be called Smoothfield, and was the site of jousts and tournaments before it was a livestock market.  And executions: Wat Tyler, leader of the Peasants' Revolt (what should we call that?  The Peasants' Uprising?) met his end there.  The main market buildings were designed by Horace Jones, and built 1866-68; the Poultry Market (where we were) was the first extension, and built 1873-76: there's a particularly fine curved carriage way that drops down outside.  Unfortunately it was very damp and clammy, and not quite the weather for architectural exploration ...The painted wrought iron with sun-spokes here was a grille over a roundel window: prime Victoriana.


Thursday, November 25, 2021

views from a train (and hotel room)

One of my great discoveries of this year is a train that runs twice an hour from Wimbledon to St Alban's - not that I've taken it all the way to St A, but it's very useful both for going to certain places in South London, like the Dulwich Picture Gallery, and - today - into the City: I got off at Farringdon (and it should be useful tomorrow evening, too, when there's a Tube strike).  So here are two random views; 

then one from the stationary train at Blackfriars Station (and why is there an empty cable car on the platform?);

and then one final view from my hotel room.  The Premier Inn in Farringdon may not be a glam destination, but it's warm and quiet and close to tomorrow's meeting spot.  I do feel sad at missing out on Thanksgiving, though - happy day, to all of you!  May your pies be as delicious as the pumpkin pie that Alice baked!  I haven't yet had word that it was delicious, mind you, but in its emailed picture, it looked irresistible.


Wednesday, November 24, 2021

the last tomato

Faithful readers may remember a couple of shots that I posted back in August, which managed to suggest both the bucolic beauties of a damp-ish English summer, and that my father's house has some problems with condensation ... Meet a repeat version of the view, still with condensation, and with one lone small tomato bravely clinging on.  I think it should come in before Saturday, when the weather forecast is predicting snow showers: I have a feeling that tomatoes on the vine don't freeze all that well ...


Tuesday, November 23, 2021

November foliage, part 2 - and November light

When England is like this, in early winter, it's perfect - clear blue sky, slightly misty air, leaves being autumnal in all the right ways.  I'm under no illusion that this will last, but perfect (looking ahead, mind you, there seems to be precious little by way of sun in the next few weeks.  It's a good job I have a cherished collection of umbrellas here).

My usual arrival-day ritual, of a walk along the Ridgway, the High Street, and onto the Common.  Here's Rushmere, which I've been walking to all my life ... site of medieval rush gathering to thatch houses.  But I wasn't expecting all the swans!  Where have they come from?  I was kicking myself for having left my real camera back on a table in my room - thinking - it's heavy! ... but if there's another sunset like this, I'll be scampering out with it.

And just one picture of my father's garden, looking suitably seasonal ...


Monday, November 22, 2021

November foliage

Not our morning glories - these are a couple of streets away (and I don't think that we have any out ...) - but a fair sample of what it looks like this morning in LA, and what I very much doubt it'll look like when I'm 6,000 miles away tomorrow.  Unfortunately I don't have any image of today's most exciting sight (camera, cell phone etc out of reach, for once) - a handsome, busy bobcat in our back yard eyeing up the ground squirrels.  He's welcome to as many of them as he can stuff into himself - I'm so happy to be providing sustenance.


Sunday, November 21, 2021

someone thinks

... that he's coming to London with me.  He is, of course, very, very wrong.  I'm breaking this news to him gently.


Saturday, November 20, 2021


Gosh - this looks gloomy and funereal.  I ordered it a couple of weeks back, along with our weekly produce box, and indeed it's what it says it is - an autumnal wreath made of fresh herbs and chiles - mostly sage and camomile, I'd say.  But never mind the mini-pumpkins - if even there was a candidate for being spray painted gold and silver, and having some red berries inserted, it's hanging there on our front door.  So I think I'd better go shopping ...


Friday, November 19, 2021

your Friday Gramsci

Plenty of cats, I know, like to drink from a tap.  But Gramsci (who is not normally an idle cat) likes to sit in the washbasin, wait for you to turn on the tap, and let the water run all over him whilst he drinks.  Then afterwards he'll wash.  So far, he's only fallen in the (full) bath once, and has had a mixed relationship with showers - by preference, he'll just sit on the edge of the bathtub, and stare.

You'll also observe how Big Fish is not quite as big in relation to him as it once was.


Thursday, November 18, 2021

consternation on campus

Walking back towards Taper Hall this afternoon after a quick excursion to Trader Joe's, I was aware of a great deal of commotion - little birds rushing from tree to tree, and bigger birds - ravens - doing their angry best to escort this fine Cooper's Hawk off the premises.  It was the most exciting thing I saw on campus all day.


Wednesday, November 17, 2021

what to do with our own pumpkins?

Writing about a neighbor's 70-odd yellow pumpkins the other day (which are still there ...), it did strike me that I have no idea what we'll do with our own, decidedly more demure collection.  Looking on line, the best solutions seem to be compost (since pumpkins are 90% water, they break down quickly); maybe scoop out the seeds first, and dry them, and plant them next year - and who knows quite what one will get, with hybrid pumpkins, apparently; or feed them to birds and critters.  A squirrel has already chewed a lump out of the bottom one - not visible here, since he also carried it off to our mini-waterfall.  Apparently one should cut off the tops, which will make them even more gastronomically attractive.  I suspect, alas, that grey foxes don't especially care for them - one of our security cameras caught a bit of footage of one of these rarities the other night, and I'd love to entice it back...


Tuesday, November 16, 2021

just up the street

About five minutes - a quick five minutes - from our front door.  Not bad for Los Angeles!  This has a great optical illusion built into it, so it looks as though the clouds are swirling over and around distant mountains: the skyline in fact ends with the greeny-brown, but the effect was a magical one this morning - even more magical than it looks here.  On the other hand - it would be great to think that this was thin autumnal mist, which in part it probably is, but with a hefty and unhealthy dose of pollution.  Air quality has been terrible recently: some people have blamed it on all the cargo ships idling off Long Beach, but it may just as well be increased traffic fumes lingering in the fairly still air.


Monday, November 15, 2021

He's getting longer

Gramsci very much enjoys stretching, and seems to get longer and longer each time he does so.  It's a good job that he's a cat who enjoys a good belly-rub, because that white stripe down his middle - where the tabby genes ran out - is very, very tempting.  Also - I particularly appreciate how he's crafting his tail into a handle so that we can hang him up, like a teacup.

One hundred and ninety four days of kitten!


Sunday, November 14, 2021

the resilience of the dandelion

I owe this morning's images to Alice, who pointed out this persistent little solitary dandelion when we were on our walk this morning - I would have strolled on by, today, oblivious.  Indeed, there's a chapter in my book that will almost certainly be called "The Resilience of the Dandelion," for they are nothing if not that.  Dandelions are tricky, among the overlooked painted objects in the images I write about, because in fact they often aren't exactly unnoticed - an innocent-looking couple of children are pointing to their own transience by blowing dandelion heads; or a young woman picks dandelion greens for dinner; or one can't actually be sure if those yellow blotches are dandelions, or celandines, or ragwort.  Or unspecified yellow blotches.  I rather favor, though, those almost-overlooked dandelion heads in Millais's Apple Blossom - or Spring - of 1860.

Everyone notices that ominous, gleaming scythe on the right.  But behind it are dandelions: just as suggestive of time passing inexorably, even if not so directly threatening to the girl in (dandelion) yellow who's coquettishly chewing on a blade of grass rather than sip what is doubtless some rather disgusting warmish milk.  Those dandelions - or their descendants - will be there long after she's gone, however.


leafy shadows

I knew when I saw these shadows, on our walk this morning, that they were quite striking, but I hadn't known that the photo (no filter, no manipulation...) would look quite so much like a late nineteenth century etching ...


Friday, November 12, 2021


Fallen petals, from an azalea bush that's in an obscure corner of our garden, under the collapsing terrace, that we never tend, but that nevertheless thrives and blooms, pinkly.  I'm sure there's a metaphor there, somewhere.  The azalea's future is somewhat in jeopardy - when we have the terrace rebuilt, it'll have to be moved, and azaleas aren't keen on transportation.  On the other hand, given the glacial speed with which surveys, design etc are happening (or not happening), it might have another decade or two in place before we see to where, and how, it can best be relocated.


Thursday, November 11, 2021

pale yellows

For a good few weeks, we've been admiring the Fall decorations at a house down the street - the whole of their street frontage is lined with pale yellow pumpkins.  There are over seventy of them: assuming they cost, say, $5 each (and at Gelson's, the nearest supermarket, they were $10 each), that's a lot of expenditure on pumpkins.  And - assuming that they're not going to bake 35 pumpkin pies (with pale yellow flesh) for Thanksgiving, what are they going to do with them?  Pumpkin mulch?  I haven't seen any local critters starting to gnaw them.  

But it was only today that I realized that they are perfectly color-toned and match the fire hydrant.  That's a form of design perfection that surely must take some planning.


Wednesday, November 10, 2021

bank mosaics

In Beverly Hills, on Wilshire: a closed bank - the First Bank - but the two mosaics by Millard Sheets are very visible.  It dates from 1959, and shows parents enjoying nature with their children (there are mosaids inside, too, with doves, and other decorations, but (I was driving past) it doesn't look at all easy to enter.  Sheets was commissioned by Howard Ahmanson in the 1950s to design Home Savings Bank branches throughout Southern California - buildings, mosaics, exterior and interior ornament.  He designed over 80 - I'm not sure how many are still extant - and murals, paintings, bas reliefs, most of them with SoCal themes (and he was an art educator, and very active in WPA projects).  Given his impact on the visual culture of LA, I'm surprised we don't hear about him incessantly.


Tuesday, November 9, 2021

PLEASE play with me ...

Poor Gramsci.  Moth is deaf to his entreaties, his beseeching little miaow, his offering of a toy mouse under the kitchen door, his darling white and tabby paw, that little bit of a muzzle peeking through.  So deaf, indeed, that my own breakfast time was spent slinging that mouse back into the hallway, only to have it pushed back again by little Grams.  Bring him in - and he jumps on her back - halfway between some kitty-rape scenario embedded in his DNA, and Go Get'em Cowboy.  She doesn't like it.  Gramsci, for all his charm and cuteness, just doesn't take this basic fact on board ...


Monday, November 8, 2021


I'm sure that this tree - about fifteen feet high, and with shiny green leaves - is super-easy for someone to identify.  PlantSnap only suggests something that it obviously isn't.  It's not a cherry - but the berries are not dissimilar.  It's leaning into our back yard from next door - but I swear I've never seen it before (we had a lot of pruning done at the start of the summer) - or I could tell you what the blossom looked like.  It can't be rare, because I saw another one - hugely tall - a few streets away.  It's pleasantly autumnal - especially with the misty mornings that we've been having for the last week - but what is it?


Sunday, November 7, 2021

Moth, anxiously looking ...

... to see whether or not Gramsci might be coming into the kitchen to torment her.  It's still not going wonderfully well - although this evening, something of a miracle: while I was holding the Young Man - and Alice was stroking Moth - she condescended to lick him three times.  And I hadn't even smeared butter on him as a tasty bribe.


Saturday, November 6, 2021

one good hombre

At least, that's what's I thought this says - seen in Venice, CA, this morning.  And a bit of quick googling ... and I learn 
    1GoodHombre first appeared on the streets of Santa Monica and Venice, California, during the social         upheaval throughout the United States and the city of Los Angeles following the brutal murder of             George Floyd. Other than that, the art speaks for itself, get out there and get it!   Peace, Love and                 Justice!
and indeed, their website gives lots and lots of examples of their art.

This actually works as an excellent example of the advantages, or not, of Googling things.  Yes - now I know - mystery solved.  But on the other hand - the killing of speculation.  I can't any longer see this solo hombre - doubled up; image reversed - as a lone maverick, or simply as a visual enigma.  Maybe I should just have left my curiosity unsated.

Friday, November 5, 2021

asleep, for once

... and for a little while.  He's of course awake again now, five minutes later, wondering if he can chase my typing fingers.

But those long back legs ... there's certainly something a little not-quite-right about them.  Gramsci still finds it hard to jump up on things (though he has a superb and long sideways leap).  He lands awkwardly, his right leg a little splayed out.  He occasionally seems to skid when he's running fast.  He's always stretching them.  So we're starting to wonder if he may have mild hip dysplasia (which is hereditary in cats - not much chance in tracking down his parents on the streets of Santa Fe).  It doesn't seem to bother him (although it may later, if he becomes arthritic), and of course it doesn't make him remotely any less of an adorable monster, but those legs, as well as being quite beautiful, do make him a little different.


Thursday, November 4, 2021

early morning on Shannon Road

This looks as though the world is on fire, out there - but (thank goodness), no: this is a mixture of cloud and pollution and the rising sun as we walked down the street.  In a few days' time, the clocks will go back, so we won't be stepping out at a time when the street lights are still on.  We were out super-early this morning in order to beat the promised power outage: LADWP said that it would be out between 8-4, while they worked in the area.  This was the second time that we've had a very official looking notice to this effect, causing us to power up every device in sight, prepare to live without post-lunch coffee, and so on.  It was the second time that absolutely nothing happened - not even a flicker of powerlessness.