The local wildlife

“Anyone who believes what a cat tells him deserves all he gets.”
― Neil Gaiman, Stardust

We have a neighbor with both a dog and cat, named Buddha and TicTac. TicTac is a strange little beastie who is highly distrustful of people (particularly males, we’ve noticed) but who, if he thinks you aren’t looking, will come close and prowl about. He’s let me pet him a few times (Jeff generally gets hissed at), but mostly he just likes to indulge his curiosity. If we happen to leave a door or window open–necessary in the summer–we will look up at some point in the day to see a flash of fur disappearing around a corner.

We don’t mind it in the slightest. He’s an amusing character, and we don’t mind pretending he’s our pet since we can’t have one for a while yet.

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Snapped from my desk, I heard a mew and saw he’d come to visit.

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We shooed him away from this sort of business and he turned up his nose from visiting us for three whole days. He sat outside our open door curled up with his head pointed quite clearly away from us. We’ve now developed an understanding. The basketry and textiles are off limits, but he can sharpen his claws in the built in rug if he so desires.

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His latest set of tricks has been to wend his way through any open door he happens to see. A couple of weeks ago, he curled up and took a nap in our coat closet.

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Last night Jeff was studying in the bedroom after dinner when he heard a smacking sound and found TicTac investigating his leftover nachos. We shooed him off again but he went very grudgingly.

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Gracing my desk with his presence.

Historical Headdesk

“Everyone loves a conspiracy.”
―Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code

I was volunteering in a museum over the weekend when a visitor couple asked for some information about other sites of historical interest nearby. I started rattling off good spots and historic homes nearby and recommended Dr. Johnson’s house.
“Who was he?” the very nice lady asked.
“Writer and creator of the first notable dictionary in the English language. He and several of his associates were some of the great literati of the 18th century.”

They gave me a funny look but said thank you and walked off.

Which is when my brain caught up with my mouth to realize that while I certainly had intended to say “literati,” what came out was in fact, “Illuminati.”

No idea where it came from (unless it was implanted in my brain by lizard people/aliens/subversive entities of another ilk entirely). Well done, C., you have officially contributed to the problem that brought us Dan Brown and National Treasure.

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Friday Links

“There aren’t enough days in the weekend.”
~Rod Schmidt

Another day, another Friday, another batch of internet linkage. I’ve intentionally kept most of it light and interesting since the news this week has been particularly bad and disheartening, from Ferguson to ISIS. This weekend I’m doing some volunteering, some writing, and hopefully a good bit of wandering since work (and the weather) have conspired to keep us mostly inside and I’m likely to go crazy without more exercise. Share anything worth knowing in the comments and let me know what you’re getting up to yourselves.

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Last week I shared the story of a guy who liked everything that appeared on his Facebook feed. This week, the tale of someone who did the opposite.

Journalism, behind the scenes.

This editor at The Atlantic defends the email, which I did not entire realize was apparently under attack.

Iran has a problem with sex, namely that people aren’t having the “right” kind or amount. The most chilling aspect of this article to me is the recently passed bill to ban and limit certain aspects of contraception.

And speaking of, a journalist sent out a tweet about tampons for a story she was covering and the backlash was… pretty much everything that is wrong with the internet rolled into one.

A Downton Abbey blooper to whet your appetite for the next series.

A pair of roommates decided to spend a year not buying anything. This intrigues me because both Jeff and I work extremely hard but, like many of our generation, have student debt that really impacts our finances. Plus we live in an amazing but expensive city. We constantly look for ways to budget to save even a tiny bit because even with strict family rules, most of the money we make is spoken for with little left over to go into savings. (Also, one of our laptops just died and the other is on the brink. Ugh.)

J. Crew launched fragrances this week. I’m grateful that poverty keeps me from impulse purchases because I’d be all over this otherwise.

Interesting piece on a major flaw in the farm-to-table movement, as perceived by a chef dedicated to the cause. Increasingly obvious to me is that in America especially, we’ve restricted our diet to foods that are unsustainable in and of themselves. We need to branch out and eat more widely.

A 19th century guide to avoiding London pickpockets. Still relevant.

Rise up, citizens!

I loved this New Yorker piece on reading to impress yourself. Part of the reason I came up with the reading goals in my 101 in 1001 list was because even though I got an excellent education in many ways, it was very uneven in others. The two high schools I attended were wildly different and the second had some major failings (though I met, and am still in contact with, one of the best and most important teachers of my life from that school). As a result there are a bunch of important, classic novels I’ve never read. Things like my list and my Goodreads help me check them off for no other reason than I want to.

Like I said, it’s been a rough week the world over, so here’s what bestie Xarissa called, “a bright spot” in the dimness, a 4 year old reviews one of the most reviewed restaurants in the world.

 

History, Hydras, and Gardening

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”
― John Muir

I recently toured the Garden Museum, housed in a deconsecrated church that abuts Lambeth Palace (traditional home of the Archbishops  of Canterbury), for a post over on The Thrifty Homesteader. Head on over for more about the history of the church–lots of interesting dead people–but there were some extra shots I wanted to include since I found the space and the garden delightful. It’s perfectly appropriate to me to find a museum of gardening housed in a church in Britain!

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When I say abuts, I mean it!

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A casual walk by the crypts to the front door.

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With a cheerful greeting at the end!

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The cafe in one of the church aisle–which, architecturally speaking, is not the central passageway up the center of the structure. Tea beneath the memorials!

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Palm trees and cherubim, an atypical pairing.

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I mention this in the other post, but all the plants were labeled with the year of their first written description, and often a quote from a British writer or person of note.

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The real treat of the churchyard garden is the tomb of the Tradescant family, who were noted botanists and gardeners to the royal family. The family patriarch traveled widely to collect bulbs and seeds and his son continued the tradition in the New World. Both were early naturalists and predate Darwin by nearly 300 years, eventually they opened the family collection as the very first public museum in Britain. The sarcophagus is highly, highly unusual for the age when, in spite of the rise of science and humanism, death was still very much the realm of the spiritual and divine. And yet the symbolism of his tomb is not religious at all but shows the scope of his travels and scientific encounters, include ruins of the ancient world and exotic flora and fauna.The crocodile on the bottom left is fantastic!

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Another side of the tomb with a somewhat more typical death symbol of medieval and renaissance Europe…and a hydra. Which is only strange until you learn that hydras were often symbols of botany in that even if you trimmed or cut off heads, they grow back.

Of Hospitals and Medicinal Spirits

“One afternoon, when I was four years old, my father came home, and he found me in the living room in front of a roaring fire, which made him very angry. Because we didn’t have a fireplace.”
―Victor Borge

A bit of a misadventure occurred last weekend when I managed (don’t ask) to burn my right hand over a good portion of the palm and fingertips on Saturday night. I’m no stranger to injury, my klutziness ensures that various bumps and bruises are never far off, but I’ve never been particularly badly burned before. Let’s just say I would not have been cut out for martyrdom, it hurt like a [censored].

After keeping it under cool water for twenty minutes while Jeff consulted the NHS and various hospital sites, we wrapped my fist in a wet towel and hopped on the Tube. Guy’s Hospital was only one stop away so we figured it would be a fairly painless enterprise (I say painless, but it should be noted that my nerves were well and truly freaking out at this point and long moments of tingly numbness would turn into even longer moments of eye-splitting throbs that made my whole arm shake, it was not fun). However when we arrived, the nurses informed us that we would have to go to the nearest Accident and Emergency center instead, which required another Tube ride to Westminster to walk across the bridge under the shadow of Big Ben to St. Thomas Hospital instead.

My language had deteriorated to dock worker level by this point, but after the wait to get checked in and sent to yet another area of the hospital, I didn’t feel particularly bad about the fact. The nurse who treated me first tried a silicone wrapping that made everything feel significantly worse before suggesting what she called, “Old fashioned treatments,” instead. Apparently the thing that causes the pain with burns is contact with air so the real trick is to cut off the connection. You learn something new every day! She covered my hand in an oily solution and taped a sterile, bright orange plastic bag around it and then asked a surprising question.

“Do you drink, my dear?”
“No,” I responded.
“I mean alcohol,” she said helpfully.

Note. Can we just take a moment to recognize that she seemed to interpret my “no” to mean anything BUT alcohol and felt the need to clarify?  In Britain, water is optional, booze is not.

“Yes, I know. I don’t drink.”
“Oh!” she said, looking genuinely baffled. “Well, I would have suggested a glass or two of wine, but just stick with the paracetamols then.”

Clearly we were going very old school in our methods. A life’s ambition realized, kittens, I have been prescribed medicinal spirits. Someone bring me my fainting couch!

At the time it felt like it took forever, but it turns out I went from injury to (free!) treatment and was back out the hospital door in less than two hours. I was off most typing for a day and a half, but things are looking pretty good. Compliments of Jeff and his assorted merit badges.

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Meeting the Queen…’s Residence

“Be thine own palace, or the world’s thy jail.”
― John Donne

Jeff and I dedicate a substantial amount of our time off to going on “wanders” (some people verb nouns, we noun verbs) across the city. Quite often we’ll just pick an area to explore and set off down any street that looks interesting. We wend our way through tourist areas, obscure roads, hidden squares, and vast parks. It’s a lot of fun, but occasionally one of us is surprised.

A couple of weekends ago, as we ambled through Westminster, Jeff casually remarked that he had never really seen Buckingham Palace. I stopped short.
“What do you mean? It’s one of the main sites and you’ve lived here for two years now.”
He shrugged, “Just never got around to it.”

We happened to be crossing a wide, ornate lane at the moment and Jeff glanced up the tree lined road.
“What’s up this way?” he asked.
“Buckingham Palace,” I said dryly.
“How handy,” he replied and tugged me towards the residence.

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Good find, love.

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Nice pad.

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Louis XIV is beyond not impressed.

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St. James Park, just next door.