Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Friday 2 October 2020

Unexpected item in bagging area

 A word to the wise: put down shopping bags before attempting to put on your mask/face-covering.

Today was the second occasion on which I've found myself trying to hang my shopping bag on my ear.

Saturday 29 August 2020

Autumn on the way

 Temperatures down from over 30C a couple of weeks ago to under 20, rain and wind, and bright orange hips on the wild roses on the Mudchute. It all points one way. 

Thursday 27 August 2020

Thank you Facebook

If I needed any more encouragement to stay at home (and any more proof that algorithms are not to be trusted)......

Sunday 23 August 2020

Passing the time

Among the little bits of life admin that nag at me are the accumulations of digital entertainment (that's recordings, not finger-puppets) in my video recorder and computer. I blame that "Series Record" button.

Slowly but surely I've been weeding out the recorder files, with some saved into a portable hard drive, for if and when travel abroad is possible again and the equivalent local services are - well, just not that entertaining. 

It can a be a tiresome slog waiting for the copying to be done and then renaming the files of some long-running series into some sort of comprehensible order (hence the slowness). And all too often some other little project suggests itself - this weekend, a cheerfully inconsequential piece of French swing music on the radio. I thought it would be something different to put into a video with the words. The wonders of the internet soon turned up a suitable photograph of the performers and the words, but experimenting with layouts, fonts and colours took a time: but stitched together it seems to work (well, it kept me amusedoccupied for a few hours):

Saturday 1 August 2020


"Beware all enterprises that require new clothes" - apparently these words of wisdom are from Henry David Thoreau. Whether he said anything about the clothes themselves, I don't know, but it would have been wise to bear in mind when buying a new dressing-gown.

The swimming pool here has re-opened, but on suitably distanced conditions, one of which is that we change and ablute in our own flats, hence the need for a dressing-gown (my old one turning out, on inspection, to be less than neighbour-worthy: blame it on clumsy attempts to bleach out tea stains). 

As it happens, I didn't notice the embroidered logo before I bought it. I do hope no-one thinks I'm boasting.

Wednesday 29 July 2020

Mystery with a cherry on top

Not for the first time, a cycle ride home was interrupted by something going on in Trafalgar Square. The new commission for the Fourth Plinth has been installed, but until the unveiling the wrapping invites some speculation. Until you bother to look it up, in which case all is explained here.

To save the bother of clicking:

This sculpture attempts to address the specific physical context of the square, whilst considering a broader ideological one. How do we negotiate congregation, the intimacy of personal experience, broadcast and surveillance in one space? THE END represents exuberance and unease. Topped with a giant, unstable load, the plinth becomes a monument to hubris and impending collapse. The surrounding architecture and its population are participants in a mis-scaled landscape, one that magnifies the banal, and our cohabitation with other lifeforms, to apocalyptic proportions.

Well. if you say so.

And what will be revealed when all that fabric is removed? 

Tuesday 14 July 2020

More daring adventures

Another Saturday visit to central London, only this time.... on public transport! On a boat, on a train, on a bus, for the first time in nearly four months. It almost felt like being a tourist in a strange city. I hadn't quite forgotten how it all works, fortunately: and there were few people on board, which left plenty of re-assuring distance between us.

A poor thing, but mine own
And, as required, I had a mask, home-made in an idle morning (there have been few others recently) from the leftovers of a home-made window blind some mumblety-odd years ago. 

The stripes give it a rather cheerful sea-sidey air, but to put it politely, I suspect using it is more performative than preventive. Still, it shows willing, and every little helps, I suppose.

Tuesday 7 July 2020

Now it can be told

This was wobbling about mong the many and varied odds and ends blown down the steps to our communal garage in the weekend's high winds.

Perhaps I'm behind the times, but the news hadn't reached me that balloons for funerals are now A Thing - and a lot else besides.

Saturday 4 July 2020

Hair today

..and gone today as well. It really was getting to be a nuisance trying to keep it all tidy (and that bald spot was a bit of a surprise).

It all felt rather adventurous to be going back to the mundane habits of months ago: a bike ride up to central London, a haircut, coffee and a bun sitting down at a café and lunch sitting down in another, and reading the paper over a pint in a pub. All suitably distanced, of course: waiting to be seated in solitary state, ordering up via a phone app, and registering the location (just in case someone else who was there bothered both to do likewise and to report symptoms of You Know What). And just to underline the occasion, there were a fair few reporters and cameramen recording reactions as some streets were pedestrianised to allow the restaurants to take over the roadway as well as the pavement.

But it wasn't all self-indulgence. Biking into a headwind that wasn't tempered to this shorn lamb must have worked off a few calories,

Saturday 6 June 2020

Permitted exercise

Before the "stay at home" instructions I was just starting to put together a list of places to visit, up and down the country: the lockdown put that on hold, though it hasn't meant staying entirely behind locked doors. Fortunately there are places on the doorstep to walk to and around - along the riverside path, or through the local parks.

Entering Millwall Park from the south, it looks like a mixture of conventional city park and playing field, though the areas of play equipment for children and outdoor gym for adults is fenced off.

But on the other side of the playing fields, there's a rising slope covered in trees and bushes. 

That rising ground and greenery has the unglamorous name of the Mudchute - because that's what it is. The built-up berms or embankments formed settling ponds for the mud pumped out when the dock just the other side of the road and railway line was dredged out. Through the gate and up on to the pathways, and with a little imagination, that industrial beginning has now almost become countryside. With the near-disappearance of road and air traffic in the lockdown, it's certainly quiet enough. 
Apparently it took decades for the sludge to settle safely enough to be walked on, but settle it did, though there are clearly enough reserves of water to keep the trees and bushes green in the long dry sunny spell we've been having.

It looks as though someone has been setting up their home office here while the good weather was on - and the bees never stop working, of course:

Back in the First World War, allotments were set up here for local people to grown their own fruit and veg, and are still in productive use:

But allotments and open space are not the whole story, nor are bees the only livestock, for most of the space is devoted to the city farm, and those open spaces would normally have a range of animals out in the fields. With the lockdown making riding lessons and school group visits impossible,  most of the large animals seem to have been moved elsewhere, or confined to pens inaccessible to visitors, even from a pathway,  though there are sheep, goats and llamas in their usual pens (and the sheep put to work to replace expensive human mowers in different fields), and a pair of donkeys in the stables. The signs of the farm's educational mission are still everywhere, with plenty of warning notices about what to do and not do around or near the animals.

The café is of course closed, and one can only admire the roses from outside. The pigs don't much seem to care.

The pens for the pigs and some of the other animals are concrete structures that appear to be old emplacements for anti-aircraft guns from the World War II, and some years ago one was restored and an example of the original guns brought in as a historical display. This part of London was badly battered, though you wouldn't think it now.

Tuesday 28 April 2020

What a difference a week makes

Last week was sunny and warm enough to encourage a bike ride up to central London and through the parks and back:

This morning - gray, chilly and rainy with enough wind to blow the raindrops sideways on to my window-boxes (usually shielded by the balcony above).

And so we plod on through the lockdown. But on the bright side, on Sunday one of our local convenience shops had...... bread flour! 

Friday 10 April 2020

 On my (permitted daily) wandering around the neighbourhood, I've been struck by the different timetables by which the trees are coming into leaf and flower.

The plane trees are barely thinking about it at the moment:

while the poplars and willows are in the first flush:

and the chestnuts are looking well advanced (and much healthier than these particular trees will look later on in the year - there's some sort of blight seems to get them then):

On one of the patches of unmanaged street edging land (no-one seems to know who owns them) this escaped cherry is in full bloom

while these managed ones look like an explosion in a frilly-knicker factory:

and a favourite ceanothus is at its best (there was another small one not so far away that was putting out the odd flower back in February)

Now the weather's set fair for a few days, the parks are more needed than ever, even though the play equipment has been cordoned off. There is much debate about the way the major park in the area saw so many people too close together, and whether or not it should have been closed, but our local ones weren't quite so popular yesterday:

Monday 6 April 2020

Tell it not in Gath, but I think I've found the sweet spot for visiting the supermarket. Three weeks ago, having thought to ask for an early refill of my prescription to cover me for the next three months or so, I went to the supermarket nearest the pharmacy to find that things like, not just the seemingly inevitable toilet rolls (I read of a delivery driver who filled someone's order for 120 of the things, can you believe), but oils and vinegars, rice and pasta had been cleared out. Two weeks ago, it seemed a clever idea to try to go for opening time on a Saturday, only to find that my regular supermarket was staggering entrance to a small group at any one time, and the distancing queue stretched practically to the other end of the shopping centre. But as it happens, the smaller supermarket up the other end of the centre wasn't busy at all and had certainly enough, even if not necessarily what I would normally have bought.

This week, however, mid-morning on a regular weekday seems to be the quiet spot for my regular supermarket (usually, it's quieter on a Saturday when all the regular office workers in the complex are away). No queues, and plenty of stock (though still not rice and pasta, which isn't that surprising, and I didn't bother to check on the toilet roll situation).

So with luck, one can be reasonably confident a new routine has settled down. Thank goodness the weather is more encouraging for getting outside and taking the push-bike somewhere else. Today it was a shortish run up to Limehouse and back, stopping only to admire this display:
Tulips in lockdown - sounds like a title for a very odd movie

Sunday 29 March 2020

Today's first task was to to use up some time adjusting the clocks.

It's remarkable how many timepieces there are to adjust in a fairly straightforward flat, what with the accumulation of things over the passage of time: in the kitchen, the cooker, microwave and (for some reason) the electronic scales each have their own clock, in the bedroom a bedside clock, in the living room two analogue clocks, the radio/hifi and the DVD player need manual adjustment - and so does the landline phone. Not to mention three old-fashioned wrist-watches.

It doesn't take long, and at least it looks as though we've used up another hour of confinement - even though it's the confinement itself that removes the need to keep an eye on any clock for just about anything (other than shop opening hours). It may be called Summer Time, but since it's neither winter nor summer, one can't really call the present limbo hibernation or estivation - primaveration?

Thursday 26 March 2020

Seen in our local bus shelter

I assume someone's home schooling is aimed at being helpful, even if the spelling needs a little work:

Monday 23 March 2020

I blame the onions

Arriving at the supermarket early last Saturday, luckily just as they were handing out packets of toilet rolls, I managed to get one of the last of that delivery. That meant juggling it with shopping bags and basket, along with the purchases, among them, some onions, which I put in a bag that promptly slipped out of my grasp and rolled under the shelves. In the five seconds or so in which I put everything down to concentrate on fishing them out again, some enterprising soul swiped the loo-rolls from behind my back. In Waitrose, no less.

But if I'm honest, my situation wasn't that desperate (things might be different in a week or so's time), and it was a bit embarrassing that the only size of packet they had was of nine (count 'em) rolls. It's hard to imagine the kind of intestinal apocalypse for which I'd need that many (I was planning how to share with neighbours or the local food bank collection, honest, officer).  That will teach me to have eyes too big for ... something or other.

And it rather revealed that, even though on the whole the distancing advised by the government isn't that far different from the way most of my time is spent (apart from lunches out a few days a week and the occasional pint in a pub), there's a sensation that's more than the ordinary annoyance when something one takes for granted suddenly changes.

Realistically, it's not hard, even now, to change with it, find substitutes for things that aren't on shelves, use up my usual store-cupboard stocks (a good week's worth), or even just do without (heaven knows my parents' generation managed that, and we're a long way off Woolton Pie, after all). But it's surprising how quickly one slips into the naggingly uneasy frame of mind that keeps a spare shopping bag tucked away in case there's something useful that might not be there another time.

In the meantime, there are some onions to use up.

Friday 7 February 2020

This is St Anne's churchyard in Limehouse this morning, just the right distance for a gentle bike ride to see how the spring bulbs are doing (just as they do year after year, it seems).

There would have been some words about global warming and the seasons being out of joint (we have had sudden snow storms in the first week of February in the past), but I see much the same pictures were possible about this early at least 8 years ago.

So that's one pontification the less.

Sunday 2 February 2020

I learn today that there is a thing called the genetic isopoint, a point in time where anyone then alive who had any descendants at all must (at least statistically)  be an ancestor of everyone alive today. And apparently it's more recent than you might think, less than 15,000 years or so.

Which means, of course, that we're all a mixture of some sort.  No secret to me, since discovering some ancestors in Jamaica half a dozen generations back who included both slave-owners and enslaved Africans. 

Friday 31 January 2020

One chipped and battered mug, somewhat over-scoured inside, and ready for recycling. I bought it on my first trip abroad after my father died, to Brussels, on the then newly-opened Eurostar train service, so the mug's been with me 25 years.

It came with the EU flag on it, from the EU souvenir shop, but the flag wore off in the dishwasher some years ago.

Some sort of a metaphor there, as the clock ticks down to our formal exit tonight (not that we shall awake to any immediate difference, let alone to an end to the conundrums of trying to have cake and eat it).

Thursday 16 January 2020

This tree graces the playground of the primary school over the road.

The old-style building remains rather forbidding-looking, despite the play equipment outside (and when one sees inside on election days, the walls are full of cheerful artwork): but in a rather dull and wet January, the early (very early) emergence of flowers makes a nice surprise on the way to the paper-shop.