Chestnut Angel

It was supposed to rain all day yesterday, at least according to the weather gremlins living in my iPhone. Imagine our surprise when the sun came out instead and the day turned out to be pretty nice. We opened the windows to get some fresh air in the house, and I took Olga to the cemetery in the afternoon.

Someone left a little autumnal offering on one of the gravestones, tucked neatly into the folds of an angel’s cloak. I think it’s a horse chestnut as opposed to a sweet chestnut, but I know Mr. Pudding will correct me if I am wrong.

A bouquet of sunflowers and gladioli was planted directly into the ground — an interesting method for displaying flowers among the topsy-turvy tombstones. Maybe there’s a vase down there somewhere.

I did not see or hear the turaco this time. Has it finally moved on, with the weather becoming cooler? Poor cold turaco.

Otherwise, it was a day for small tasks. I did some trimming in the garden, cutting back the dead overgrowth in the wildflower area. I organized and archived pictures, I finalized some plans for an upcoming trip, and I caught up on all my New Yorkers. I also have Demi Moore’s new autobiography to read — having grown up with all those “Brat Pack” actors, I’m curious about her life. It could be completely vapid, but it could be substantial too. I don’t know enough about her to have a good sense of that. I’ll let you know when I finally get around to cracking the cover.Posted by Steve Reed at 7:23 AM6 comments: Links to this post Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Scenes from Early Autumn

As promised, I took Olga back to Hampstead Heath yesterday for a long, long walk. We had a great time. She must have been storing up energy these past few weekends because she was a wild thing. At one point, as she barked and barked and barked at a squirrel up a tree, an older woman with a Scottish accent said to me, “Is she all right?”

I couldn’t tell if she meant “Is she friendly?” or “Is she mentally well?” I covered my bases and said yes, she’s friendly and she’s just excited about the squirrels.

It’s beginning to seem truly autumnal, with a few changing leaves scattered here and there…

…but there are also a few lingering traces of summer, like the two red admiral butterflies I saw fluttering around this stand of purple asters.

The chestnuts are falling, their spiny husks opening like alien pods. The shiny brown nuts within litter the forest floor.

I’ve blogged this brick arch or gate several times, but on this walk I noticed a sign has been attached explaining its origins. (You can see the sign, a dark square on the right side of the structure. It definitely wasn’t there a few years ago.) Apparently this is known as the Pitt House Gateway and dates from around 1766, when it was built as an improvement to the residence of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham.

Olga and I found an iridescent blue magpie feather, lying in the dewy grass.

By the time we reached Golders Hill Park near the end of our walk, Olga had given up barking at squirrels. She was barked out. Instead she stared through the fences along the woodland paths, seething with canine frustration. So close, and yet so far!

Last night, Dave and I watched a documentary double feature — “The Last Resort,” about two photographers who depicted the lives of Jewish retirees in Miami Beach in the late 1970s; and “Fahrenheit 11/9,” Michael Moore’s movie about the election of Donald Trump. The first was fascinating, the second, depressing and infuriating. Moore raised perfectly valid criticisms about American political structure and society, but he took everyone to task (even Obama) and his film was ultimately short on solutions. I can accept that our societies and our democracies are in grave danger, but aside from voting — which as he points out is an act diluted by the power of the main political parties and the electoral college — what do we do about it?Posted by Steve Reed at 7:31 AM14 comments: Links to this post Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest

Saturday, October 5, 2019

An Iron Sign

Olga and I came across this unexpected sight yesterday while taking our normal morning walk. It’s probably not a bad place to set up camp, somewhat protected from the wind by those high walls along the path. I heard snippets of conversation from within — a man and a woman, I think, in a language other than English. I wonder where they’re from. Are they unable to go home? Do they not have a home? What leads someone to sleep in a tent on a cold, brick pavement beside the railroad tracks in West Hampstead? How does life bring them to that point?

And then, on the way home, I came across this unexpected sight in front of a house on our street. It’s a cast-iron sign that reads, “Passengers are not allowed to cross the railway except by the bridge.” It was set out on the curb, presumably for the trash collection (though I don’t think the trash guys are ever going to take it, at least not as part of a routine pickup).

It’s pretty cool. I’d have taken it myself, but it weighs about 100 pounds and I can’t imagine having to deal with that in my life.

And finally, although the garden is entering its autumnal slumber and many of the flowers and plants have faded, there’s still some activity out there. The evening primroses are still blooming back in the wildflower garden…

…and a couple of scraggly sunflowers have seeded themselves in our hanging basket on the patio. (I suspect this comes from a critter burying some bird seed.)

I have laundry going, and soon I’ll be walking the dog. Just another Saturday!Posted by Steve Reed at 7:46 AM13 comments: Links to this post Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest

Friday, October 4, 2019

A Psychedelic Nautilus

I’ve taken almost no pictures this week. It’s been generally wet and miserable, and I haven’t wanted to lug around my camera. So this is a shot from my last Capital Ring walk — a piece of machinery (I think?) that’s been repurposed as sculpture in East London. It looks like a tuba, or maybe a nautilus, but it’s close to the Abbey Mills Pumping Station so I suspect it has something to do with pumping water.

So, yeah, the weather hasn’t been encouraging. Wednesday was nice, but otherwise it’s been cold and rainy. I haven’t been out in the garden at all. I’ve been reading in the paper about how the UK was supposed to get “lashed” last night and today by the remnants of Hurricane Lorenzo, but if there’s any lashing going on it’s not here. It’s as quiet as an empty church out there this morning.

(Lorenzo apparently passed far to the west of London, and is now northwest of Ireland.)

We have a tree-trimming company coming next week to give us an estimate on our annual garden cleanup. Some of our bushes — particularly the mock orange near the patio — are wildly overgrown. (Almost as overgrown as our front garden.) Standing on the patio, you get the sense that a green wave of vegetation is about to break over your head. It’s a little unsettling. Kind of “Jurassic Park.” We need to whip that into shape.

I went with some co-workers to an event last night called “Letters Live” at Royal Albert Hall. It was a general celebration of the art of the well-written letter, consisting of famous actors and other personalities reading a variety of letters — some funny, some serious — from the past. Participants included Olivia Coleman, Jude Law, Benedict Cumberbatch, Stephen Fry and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It was a fascinating evening, and of course it made me realize that every letter I ever wrote was sadly bland and boring — but it also made me miss letter-writing in general. We just don’t put the effort into e-mails that we used to invest in handwritten letters, do we? Or maybe the writing isn’t that different but e-mails just seem more impersonal and slapdash.

I have a box of old letters that I’ve saved, many since childhood. Some are from people long-dead, like my grandparents, or more recently dead, like my father. I never read them, but I also have no intention of discarding them. They contain a little bit of each person, a bit of voice. Just having them around makes me feel connected to those people.

This was a present from Dave, waiting for me when I came back from Florida. Isn’t it great? Olga’s marks aren’t quite right — she has a round spot in the center of her back — and I’m not sure when we’ve ever been sitting on a dock. But that’s quibbling, because overall it’s a darn near perfect representation of both of us. On the other side it says, “I can’t. I have plans with my dog.” He ordered it through Facebook, and the creators will adapt that image to look like any dog and owner. I’ve been using it at work and showing it off to everyone.

Speaking of which, I hope the weather gets better this weekend so I can take Olga on an adventure. We both need it! I think Saturday’s supposed to be relatively dry. Fingers crossed!Posted by Steve Reed at 6:51 AM16 comments: Links to this post Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest

Thursday, October 3, 2019


I noticed on my walk to work yesterday that the Lillie Langtry pub has undergone a bit of a makeover. In addition to its fancy new sign, which I mentioned several months ago, it’s been repainted and the interior has been modernized. No more skanky orange carpet! Now it has stylish wood floors.

It’s still in a Brutalist tower block — can’t overcome the architecture, I suppose — but things have definitely improved since March 2018.

I’m reminded of that scene in “Auntie Mame” when the mother of the “Aryan from Darien” asks Mame if she likes gin. “Oh, I adore it!” Mame exclaims. The other woman responds: “After dinner, we’ll get out the cards and play,” and Mame’s face falls dramatically.

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