Saturday, March 24, 2018


This is another work of student art that hangs in the cafeteria at school. It's intriguing, isn't it? I'm only showing one, but there are actually several panels of 12 faces each, all deep in shadow and somewhat caricatured. I assume the students portrayed themselves, or maybe a friend.

On my way to work yesterday I came across this glamorous woman, lying in the gutter with her diamonds. Rough night, I suppose. She's lucky she didn't get rolled for that jewelry.

Speaking of glamor, Dave and I regularly watch a TV quiz show called "Eggheads," which involves a new team of challengers each night going up against a panel of Britain's top quiz champions. Last night we watched an episode originally broadcast in January, and we were thrilled to see the challengers were a team of DRAG QUEENS! (Well, four drag queens and one woman, on the far right.)

I happened to snap that photo just as the show faded from one camera angle to another, giving the double-exposure effect. "The Queens" weren't the best quizzers, but it was the most entertaining "Eggheads" episode I've seen in a while.

I kept thinking, "Would American television show this?" And actually, it probably would. Drag queens are practically mainstream these days.

Otherwise, I don't have much to report today. When I wasn't at the circulation desk, I spent yesterday helping to compile a summer reading list for 8th graders, and weeding more books in the fiction section. Routine!

Friday, March 23, 2018

Lillie Langtry

I often pass this pub on my walk to work. It's located on the ground floor of a block of council flats called Emminster House on Abbey Road, and for years now it's been known as The Lillie Langtry. A handwritten notice recently appeared saying it's under new ownership, and yesterday I saw that part of the sign had been pulled away to reveal a bit of the pub's previous name underneath: Cricketers.

Does this mean Lillie is about to go through another name change? Or maybe she's just getting a new sign....?

Curiously, this is one of two pubs in London (that I'm aware of) named for Langtry, an actress and woman-about-town in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. The other, which I've photographed in the past, is on Lillie Road in Fulham.

And as a complete tangent, here's an interesting note about the evolution of the Internet. When I wrote in 2012 about coming across the Lillie Langtry pub in Fulham, I wondered whether Lillie Road was named for her -- but I was unable to find out. Today, Lillie Road has its own Wikipedia page that explains the origin of its name -- and it's not named for Langtry but for a local property owner, Sir John Scott Lillie. So, six years later, I have an answer to my question!

I've never actually been in either of these pubs. The one on Abbey Road looks very much like a neighborhood watering hole. I wonder what Lillie Langtry would have thought of that Brutalist architecture?

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Sunny Miscellany

We had actual sunshine yesterday, which made my walk to work much more pleasant! The snow has all disappeared and the temperatures are back above freezing (although, at night, not by much). I moved the fig and the geraniums back outside. Fingers crossed, that's the last move of the season.

Something knocked Totoro off the Japanese maple in the back garden -- probably squirrels. He was lying on the ground when I went out yesterday afternoon to change the water in the birdbath, his string broken. So now, of all bizarre errands, I need to buy new string for Totoro.

First, though, we have to have our apartment inspected as part of our annual lease renewal process. The inspector for the managing agent is going to come tonight. It's mostly a formality, but it will be interesting to see whether the changes we've made (like painting and removing the shower door) register at all on the landlord's seismometer. If anything, she should be happy, right?

One would hope.

Remember that gold dental inlay I had removed when I had my root canal? Well, it's been sitting in an envelope on our bookcase waiting for me to get around to selling it for scrap. I'd planned to take it down to one of the gold dealers in Hatton Garden, London's jewelry district. But it only weighs about a gram and I think I stand to get about £10 for it, and I'd spend half of that on tube fare! So yesterday I found a place that buys gold by mail, and I threw it in an envelope and mailed it off. (Postage costs: 65p.) Frankly, I don't care if it's a scam and I never see a penny. It's just good to get it out of my hair -- or mouth, I should say.

Finally, as I was opening magazines yesterday at work, a packet of zinnia and cosmos seeds fell out of one of them. Which reminded me that I've got to do something about planting our stash of seeds! I have poppy seeds and hogweed and sweet peas, among others, that I gathered last autumn -- and now cosmos and zinnias, too. It's probably just a touch too cold to plant them now, but hopefully in a couple of weeks...

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Everybody's A Critic

I've mentioned that I'm cleaning out and cataloging the books in our library conference room. They're housed in glass bookcases and, to be honest, mostly serve a decorative function. They're generally older volumes that were either donated to us or used to be in circulation and were discarded. (I think "Clarissa" may be going there shortly!)

No one ever reads these books. But we wanted to know what we had back there, and maybe make up a list, in case someone asks for something and it happens to be available there. We could then check it out to them.

(This begs the question, why don't we just put them all in the general catalog -- and I admit I've asked myself that!)

Anyway, this is a long lead-up to showing you this particular book, which I found yesterday. It spent a few decades in the collection, was last checked out in 1995, and then discarded and added to the conference room shelves, I suppose because of its rather antiquated appearance.

I found this note inside the back cover...

Everybody's a critic! I think this must have been written some time in the '90s, don't you? That seems like a very '90s speech pattern. (If you're really motivated to see for yourself how "interesting" the book is, there's a copy available on Amazon UK for just 42 pence!)

Most of what's in the conference room are old classics, many of them big Heritage Press editions with fancy covers -- the kinds of books that are designed to look good on bookcases. Curiously, a lot of them we don't have in the general collection -- Melville's "Typee" and "Omoo," for example, or Max Beerbohm's "Zuleika Dobson." So that's why a list will be good to have -- on the chance, however slim, that some future high school student shows up with a burning desire to read "Zuleika Dobson."

Hey, it could happen!


Tuesday, March 20, 2018

His Master's Voice

This is the HMV music store on Oxford Street. That sign has been there since the 1930s -- according to Wikipedia, "HMV stands for His Master's Voice, the title of a painting by Francis Barraud of the dog Nipper listening to a cylinder phonograph."

The image was bought by the Gramophone Company in 1899 and used in England as the trademark for HMV, and in the United States for RCA. Here's an interesting photo gallery of pictures from the interior of the London HMV store over the years. I love that photo of customers -- dressed in suits for a day on the town -- sitting in the listening booths, records spinning in front of them.

I came across the sign last night as I was visiting a nearby doctor's office to consult about my painful back. The doctor seems to think I'm just suffering the effects of age, but we're going to see if my insurance will allow me to get a scan just to see exactly what's going on. Fortunately, in the last week or so, I've had very little pain and my range of motion hasn't been affected, so maybe whatever's kinked me up back there is getting better.

Our snowfall seems to be dissipating. The sidewalks near our flat were like glass yesterday morning, slick with refrozen meltwater. I was afraid Olga would pull me down during our walk. But this morning there's only a hint of snow left in the garden and there's even a bit of rain falling, so I guess the temperatures have inched up a bit.

I was amused by this person's novel approach to keeping ice off the windshield -- I wonder if it worked?

I swear I did not write that. I agree, though.

Still trying to relocate myself mentally to warmer climes, I finally read "Freddy Goes to Florida," which I recently mentioned finding in the library. It's a cute book -- very old-fashioned -- about a bunch of farm animals who travel south for the winter. I wonder if kids would go for it now?

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Painters Take Flight

I'm getting pretty sick of snow. Let me just say that.

Winter circled back upon us yesterday, with temperatures dropping as expected and snow falling steadily all day. I'd say there's a couple of inches on our patio table and potted plants. The snow on the lawn seems to have melted a bit, but still -- we're back in the deep freeze.

I took that yesterday morning, standing outside the back door. We are not amused!

On the bright side, the painters are finished. The young guy painting the flat -- who was not the boss who gave us the estimate -- worked all through the morning and into the afternoon yesterday. It was a bit awkward having him here, working in the hallway while I was lying on the couch watching TV, but given the weather I wasn't about to go anywhere. He had interesting tattoos -- outspread wings tattooed onto his forearms. I wondered if they were supposed to mean something, but I didn't ask.

Then the boss showed up and I paid him a portion of the bill. (He wanted it in cash to pay his worker.) I made him give me a receipt, even though I felt churlish for doing so. He kept talking about how nice we were and how tidy the flat is, which is hilarious because I thought the place was a wreck all week. I think he's mainly after a five-star Google review. (We'll give him one. He and his angel-winged employee did a great job.)

I tried to put up the new shower curtain rod that Dave bought, but darned if I can figure out how that thing is supposed to work. I didn't want to wrestle with it too much for fear of leaving marks on the walls. I'm leaving it for Dave to handle when he returns from Singapore tonight. I know -- I'm a terrible spouse. (In my defense, I have entirely reassembled the rest of the apartment, putting everything back in its proper place.)

Mainly I spent yesterday cinematically transporting myself to Miami -- in psychological avoidance of the snow, I suppose. I watched both Tony Rome movies and several old episodes of "Miami Vice." I took Olga to Fortune Green and the cemetery in the afternoon, and bathed her afterwards. Right now she's snoring under a blanket, tucked in with one of her tennis balls, twitching and dreaming and showing no interest in the cold, cruel wintry world outside.