Thursday, June 30, 2022

back at Harry's!

This is our first evening eating at Harry's Roadhouse post-pandemic!  Is this possible?  Well, yes (file under "pandemic").  To be sure, we've had breakfast and lunch there, and a lot of takeaway, especially during the pandemic's worst months ... But dinner?  Which means margaritas?  So good to be back!

Also, Alice looks indefensibly young!


Wednesday, June 29, 2022

first poppy

I so love Icelandic poppies.  I didn't get to see any in Wimbledon earlier this year, since they had met with an Unfortunate Horticultural Accident (but my father ensures me that they are regrowing, so that's very good news).  I planted some here last week; tended them gently through the heavy monsoon rains when they looked a bit surprised to be battered, and today was rewarded with the first delicate, semi-transparent bloom.  I'm sure this won't be the last poppy image that I post ... Papaver nudicaule (also known as Arctic poppies), don't really like heat any more than they like water, so this is hardly an ideal climate for them, but I will do my best for them ...


Tuesday, June 28, 2022

two very loving carrots

Clearly it's a week for vegetables ... But I didn't grow these two close friends: I found them in the Santa Fe Farmers' Market and - well, how could I resist?  An excellent FM haul this morning, including apricots and cherries, and fennel and green beans and English peas and beets and small yellow zucchini and Russian Blue garlic (no relative of Russian Blue cats), and lettuces and more lettuces.  I think we'll be eating well, though I'm going to find it positively cannibalistic chomping down on these two.


Monday, June 27, 2022

mustard greens

With all the rain, these grew like crazy (and indeed, the darker-leaved one has already developed a bright mustard-yellow flower), so I harvested a few leaves as part of tonight's dinner.  May I recommend?  They had a particularly sharp, but not bitter mustardy bite.  I'm looking forward to the seeds ... some I'm trusting will self-seed; others I'll cook with.  I hadn't realized that it's actually a member of the Brassica family - like cabbage, or brussel sprouts: Brassica nigra, B. alba, B. juncea, and then B. kaber, or field mustard, which is what runs rampant all over Griffith Park (and then turns into a fire danger).  I hadn't known. either, that a lot of Californian vineyard owners plant it as ground cover, and then plough it back into the soil because it releases lots of nitrogen.  These plants are tasty, anyway, and apparently (famous last words) not generally vulnerable to pests.


Sunday, June 26, 2022

thick stormy clouds


This turned out to be a surprisingly disappointing photo (admittedly, it was even more disappointing that we couldn't see the Sandias, down by Albuquerque, at all today) - not disappointing in itself, perhaps, but I didn't manage to capture the thin strands of smoky-black cloud that were blowing fast across.  It's amazing that we managed to dodge the rainclouds today and get out for a couple of walks - but we did, despite the freezing cold temperatures (I think of 55 as pretty chilly in late June ...)

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Santa Fe Pride

The rain managed to hold off until the Pride parade and brief rally was over, but you can see the clouds building up ... as the flying saucer rounded the corner into the Plaza [Aliens for Human Rights].

It managed - as one would expect - to be both celebratory (there were people marching this year - not just vehicles, as was the case last year) and angry.  The parade was led by New Mexico's Governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham (in her official Beast car) and our House Representative, Teresa Leger Fernandez - both (especially TLF, who is progressive about all the right things) wildly cheered: both of them went on to speak from the Plaza bandstand, and Lujan Grisham was especially impressive in expressing her, and New Mexico's, commitment to abortion rights.  It was an important day to show up and be there.

And there were the stilt walkers;

and rodeo riders (it's rodeo week in Santa Fe);

and fire trucks new and old;

and even if Eldorado and District Democrats didn't quite manage a democratic donkey, I think this is a politically committed burro;

and Santa Fe Public Schools brought a school bus;

and there were lots and lots of dogs, both in the parade and watching.


Friday, June 24, 2022

Plant retail therapy, on a politically grim day

As I've often had occasion to remark (well, at least once a year), Agua Fria Nurseries is my favorite shopping destination ... and today I filled up a cart with enough plants to complete the garden planting: seven and a half weeks in which to enjoy everything.  I was very struck by the number of bees there today: someone nearby must reap wonderful honeycombs from their hives.

Or, to put it a different way, here's something cheerful (even though those lilies - planted out at the nursery - look a bit browning and wilted at the edges) to contemplate on a day of complete callous, backward-looking cruelty meted out by five of the Supreme Court justices.  


Thursday, June 23, 2022

New Mexico's shortest hollyhock?

This spring and early summer has been so dry that a number of plants that I welcome as perennials - ok, a few plants, but they matter - just simply haven't appeared this year.  Chief among these are the irises - no sign of them having bloomed at all (although I wouldn't put it past the gophers to have chewed through their corms) and a tall hollyhock that has come up year after year (though last year, to be sure, it had been attacked by insects).  But in a corner of the yard - here's a small - a very small - brave hollyhock.  

By contrast, since the rains began, self-seeded morning glories are springing up like aggressively climbing plants in a fairy tale ...


Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Gramsci's first mouse ...

... is, I hope, still alive somewhere at the bottom of our driveway.

I was eating my breakfast when I saw Gramsci trotting towards me with a mouse in his mouth - I thought it was one of his toy mice (let's call them "trainer mice," going forwards), waiting to be thrown - until I realised it had black beady eyes and a long tail and ... Grams looked very pleased with himself.  Then he dropped it, and it scampered off into the farthest corner of the room, under a wooden cart/side table.  Admittedly, this wasn't the best circumstances for a flashless photo, but this gives you a sense of the peril the mouse was in ... it then fled again; Grammy pounced - and the next thing I knew he dropped it again and it (wise mouse) was lying on its back in the middle of the hall, pretending to be dead.

So I scooped it up with the bowl-and-cardboard contraption we keep handy for centipedes (and mice), and (it was far from dead) took it down the driveway in the rain.  It looked a bit battered - but if this was the mouse that Moth caught-and-released a couple of days back that's been hiding out somewhere (and let's hope that's the case), it's had some nasty experiences recently in cats' mouths.  I was pleased Gramsci didn't use his preternaturally long teeth on it.  What a day for him!


Tuesday, June 21, 2022


... only today's promised/threatened storm never actually happened.  Maybe later?  According to the radar, we were bouncing around on the edge of Weather all day, only no thunder and lightning, and only a few rainy squalls, under grey skies.


Monday, June 20, 2022

New Mexican sky reflection

No, not a composite!  This sky is reflected in a shop window - the shop that used to be Casa, next door to Ohori's Coffee, off St Francis, and where I've bought lots of favorite things over the years.  Alas, it was a pandemic casualty.  It looks as though they may be selling off a few last things, and this cross was in the window (the shop itself was closed), and if I crouched down, and stood to the side, I could just capture it and the perfect sky, without including either my own reflection or (even more difficult) that of the cell phone.  Compositionally, I'm very happy with how the cross form of the telegraph pole manages to appear at the bottom of the turquoise cross's shaft: one of those fortuitous accidents one doesn't consciously notice at the time.  

And yes, I know the whole thing is a bit as though it's put out by the Santa Fe Tourist Bureau - so was tonight's sunset, if you didn't happen to see my post to Instagram ... I think these are foreshadowing more rain tomorrow.


Sunday, June 19, 2022


It's been raining on and off all day - wonderful! - but we managed to get out, nonetheless, for a couple of walks.  This evening, the tamarisk tree was dripping with very recent and large raindrops (I wish I'd had time to head back inside for a macro lens): it's a terribly ecologically unsound tree (it was here before I bought the house) since it guzzles up water, but this amount of rainfall might keep it going a little bit longer ...


Saturday, June 18, 2022

Gothic leaf

I found this dried and curled leaf - and a couple of similar ones - when I was tidying up the plant containers outside.  I think it must be a dessicated watermelon leaf - the only other possibility is horseradish (and to my disappointment, when I dug up the horseradish root, there was hardly any at all).  But I'm not sure - all that I know is that it looks as though it's been delicately carved in stone.


Friday, June 17, 2022

tent before the storm

We managed to make it to our local farmers' market here in Eldorado just after a brief but intense downpour, and before ... well, we and everyone there thought that the skies were about to open again, but, it being Eldorado, they didn't.  So we bought very young carrots, and eggs, and garlic scapes, and black kale, and lots of plants for the garden, and a handful of other things besides (though no vegan pastries from this particular stall) - and it feels good to be populating the garden again.  I cleared all the planters of debris a couple of days ago, and I'm delighted to say that self-seeded morning glories are already sprouting up ...


Thursday, June 16, 2022

the monsoon is here!

As I write - 8.40 p.m. - it is pouring - miraculously pouring - with rain.  I sincerely hope that enough rain is falling on the big fire to damp it down significantly, but not so much as to cause the flooding and debris flow problems that are also going to arrive with heavy rain.  That being said ... to go out for a short walk this evening (in what we mistakenly thought might be a dry gap, looking at the radar) - and smell wet earth (nowhere, but nowhere, smells like New Mexico soil and rock and plants after rain), and then to feel raindrops (well, ok, I was keener on the last bit than Alice, which one can probably put down to all those decades of English training) was just amazing.   Then half an hour ago there was a truly huge thunderclap - maybe a hundred yards away - which terrified the cats, but luckily the power is still on ...

This is early for the monsoon - the received wisdom is that it starts, properly, the week of July 4th - but it's certainly an encouraging harbinger - one hopes - of things to come.


Wednesday, June 15, 2022

str - e - e - e - e - tch

Gramsci really is at his happiest when inverted.  Here he is, taking over my desk chair ... He may be sleeping off last night, when he and Moth succeeded in spending the night on the same bed, without any fur noticeably flying - just some almost sotto-voce growling from Moth.  I was impressed.


Tuesday, June 14, 2022

a very hot rabbit

... sitting in the shade of the chamisa bush outside our garage.

I'm pleased to be seeing rabbits again this year.  Last year they were few and far between, because there was a big RHDV2 outbreak - rabbit hemorrhagic disease - but they seem to be bouncing back (which is good for the bobcats and coyotes, too).  And, even in this hot weather (high eighties again, and windy - another large fire plume) - they do bounce.


Monday, June 13, 2022

fire plume (and crows)

Strong winds again today (and everything is bone dry): this is the south-west corner of the huge Calf Canyon/Hermit's Peak fire flaring up this evening, as seen from our driveway. According to the evening briefing the direction of the winds mean that it's blowing back into the Pecos Wilderness, and torching patches of unburnt fuel (for which read: burning some of my favorite hiking country, ever).  This is, as the crow flies, about twenty miles north east of us - and like everyone, we're fervently hoping for rain.

Just after dinner, there was a sound as though the largest rats in Eldorado were trying to burrow through our roof - turned out there was an entire crow parliament on the roof and in the trees outside, much to Gramsci's puzzlement.


Sunday, June 12, 2022

the mark on the ceiling?

It was a spider.

Some of you will, of course, recognize the adaptation of Virginia Woolf's "The Mark on the Wall" - very apt for today's participation (mine and Gramsci's) in the Virginia Woolf Society Conference.  I was speaking - 10 minutes - on Jacob's Room, which is 100 this year: a talk that seemed ok before I gave it, but somehow didn't quite do the work that I hoped that it would - whatever that was.  I ended up, in any case, wishing I'd said something different, although I have simply no idea that that would have been.  (I also found myself wondering why there is so much yellow in the novel, and I absolutely don't have an answer to that).  Perhaps being honest about how cautious my edition (of thirty years ago!) was might not have been the best way to boost my confidence ... but I did, all the same, want to convey what an extraordinary thrill it was to work on the original manuscript of JR in NYPL back in 1988, and feel that I was seeing a kind of shadow text that I had no idea was there.

Gramsci was, however, supremely well behaved: the spider-spotting came beforehand.  There's rather too much wildlife in the house: Moth woke us up at 2 a.m. chasing a centipede.


Saturday, June 11, 2022

an unusually empty road

When did you last see I-25, heading up towards Santa Fe, look like this?  Possibly in 1998, the last time that the sitting President of the US visited the city ... We must have been one of the last cars let on to the Interstate (when we swung off I-40) before it was closed for President Biden's motorcade.   If you look very, very closely on the right-hand side, you'll see a couple of police cars guarding a road that leads onto the frontage road: there were police cars on side roads, and blocking access to bridges, all the way up.  Biden was about ten minutes behind us ... visiting Santa Fe to hear first hand about the response to this summer's terrible fires here; to meet with fire crews and families; and to be briefed extensively by our Governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham.  He promises that he's 100% behind getting Federal funds to pay for damage and reparation - but as he points out, that means getting a bill through Senate.  If Senate blocks this one ... It seems to have been a gaffe-free visit: it would, of course, have been better if he'd visited the affected areas himself, but he did do an extensive aerial tour first, in Air Force 1.

As a bonus, some La Posada hollyhocks this morning - more serene than the wind and smoky skies around here.  But it's great to be back!


Friday, June 10, 2022

a (surprising) convention of Corvettes

So we drive into La Posada, Winslow, in the fading evening light - and find that the carpark is full - very full - of Corvettes.  They (or rather their owners) are not, it turned out, staying here, but are en route to the Grand Canyon.  As ever, this leg of the trip was a long drive, with occasional crazed fast drivers (when one's driving at ten miles over the speed limit oneself, one tends to notice them).  We had had fantasies of Moth and Gramsci spending the night amicably together on our bed - but sufficient to say that after an egregious bout of sexual harassment on his part, he's been banished to his posh man-kitty-hut, and we're hoping for peace and quiet ...


Thursday, June 9, 2022

rainbow cupcakes

I'm not a huge cake eater (this is not some pious disavowal of sugar - a tub of ice cream wouldn't be safe left alone in a room with me) - but waiting in line at The Alcove at lunchtime today, I could almost have been tempted by their contribution to Pride Month ...


Wednesday, June 8, 2022

June Gloom

Gramsci doesn't really understand why it's so dreary outside: I've explained to him that this is typical for LA in June - hence the expression - but he seems unconvinced.  On the other hand, he's happy enough that there are plenty of squirrels frisking around, whatever the low cloud coverage.

It's remarkable to all of us that this now thirteen-month old cat is growing up into a well-behaved - most of the time - young feline, as opposed to a wannabe ocelot who was all teeth and claws.  He and Moth even hang out together in a perfectly amicable way, mostly.


view from new office

Let me tell you - it's more than possible that my ideal mode of spending today didn't include spending six and a half hours - I couldn't force myself to do more - moving books, papers, chairs, and general detritus from my large Chair's office into a small,  but perfectly formed space down the hallway.  I am by no means sure that all my books will fir in - but they'll have to ... The lugging of a cart loaded with books, pictures, mugs, etc down the corridors of the third floor of THH wasn't helped by the fact that a gang of workmen were demolishing the (former?) seminar room opposite - who knows what that will turn into, but it was very noisy.

This is, I reckon, the fifteenth office of my career (including the offices that I've occupied as Chair) - two in Bristol; two in one of my Oxford jobs, two in the other; three at Rutgers (plus the Chair's abode); and four at USC (plus two Chair's rooms).  That's quite enough.  My favorite, in many ways (despite the raccoons having loud sex in the walls, and the fact that it was demonstrably sagging and sinking), was the final one at Rutgers, but this one is shaping up well ...But I also loved the one in Mansfield College that I painted a rich deep blue.  Apart from the rooms I've occupied as Chair, the largest was my second in Bristol (I'm under no illusion - I'm sure I benefited from appalling favoritism).  At USC, there seems to be an endless pattern of shuffling, but I'm hoping that I (and the Art History department) am going to be sticking in this one for a while ...


Monday, June 6, 2022

a long day

A very long day! - which included my Uber being rear-ended on the M40 en route to LHR, and a one and a half hour wait on the tarmac at LAX.

But someone is glad to see me home!  He's grown into a Cat.


Sunday, June 5, 2022

Jubilee at breakfast time

As my father so rightly remarks, the huge picture of crowds on the Mall that was published in today's Times would make an excellent, and fiendish, jigsaw puzzle.

Today's Platinum Pageant (I was back in time from my obligatory, and happily negative, Covid test to be able to watch it) was the most bizarre concatenation of Englishness - some amazing costumes and puppets; a - flock? herd? troupe? - of mechanical corgis; a huge Gay Pride flag; floats with Abba, and breakdancers, and acrobats; Morris Minors massing - it was undefinably amateur and professional at the same time - both enormously endearing, and like a parody of itself.  Impossible to think of it happening anywhere else in the world.  My father went to sleep watching it - but I woke him up to see the Queen coming out onto the balcony.

It's not easy to leave, this time.  Back in August... Maybe it won't rain, then?


Saturday, June 4, 2022

More Jubiliana

My father had the lead letter in The Times today.  Happily it had been copy-edited, and no longer read "and some person called Tensing."  What he leaves out is the next bit: he and my mother went home to their rented flat, and drank - atypically - a celebratory bottle of wine: a very bohemian gesture.  I was born in February 1954.

The spirit of Empire is still alive and well in some parts of the Jubilee celebrations, although tempered with a sense of genuine gratitude and pre-emptive nostalgia: it's made me understand much better why there was so much fin-de-siècle gloom hanging round Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee (plus, of course, the fact that 1897 really was the fin of the siècle ...).  This young sheep, at Wimbledon Station, seemed untroubled by such feelings, however.

Some local houses are decked out as if for the relief of Mafeking.

We didn't watch much of the Platinum Jubilee concert this evening (my father claims to be a "fuddy duddy" and not to care for Modern Music), and went to sleep during Diana Ross's closing set: instead we watched a 1944 David Lean film, This Happy Breed - an adaptation of a Noel Coward play, and really excellent as a family saga/social history of suburban London 1919-1939 (shot in technicolor, and with an excellent tabby cat) - and thoroughly worth seeing, if you don't know it.  But we turned over to live TV just in time for the green section of the performance - David Attenborough, Prince William, etc - and the front of Buckingham Palace lit up then - as throughout - with a quite exceptional set of projections and light shows, and then lit drones giving us - among other things - a corgi and bone ...


Friday, June 3, 2022

Cannizaro and bits of pastness

To Cannizaro (where I was devastated to find that the birds have been taken from the Aviary - deemed no longer suitable for avian habitation, and mice-infested) - a park that for a lot of reasons always makes me feel melancholic, most probably because I associate it with the 1950s, which were a long time ago.  The stylist and person wearing a gown in this first picture, however, seemed to be aiming at recreating a far earlier period: this was without any context whatsoever.

And this piece of rewilding, buttercups and all, needs context - it's where I took my first uncertain steps (on rather less verdant grass - indeed, I think it was mown).

Here are faded roses against Keir Cottage (I believe this cottage belonged to The Keir, a late C18th house which backs onto one corner of Cannizaro, and may be the residence that the McEvoy family, who lived there from 1812, converted for their personal chaplain...or it might be the gardener's cottage).

And then I settled down to draw the house itself, until, inevitably, it started to rain.