I am a native in this world And think in it as a native thinks

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Urban poetry

One of many things I love about London is the way that the ancient and the modern slam right into each other. Here, on Tottenham Court Road, you have a spire and a crane, old stone and new glass and steel, all in one small frame.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Astronomy Tuesday

Depending on who you ask, NGC 6334 is called either the Cat's Paw Nebula, or the Bear Claw Nebula. I would pick a bear, myself, mostly because the wisps of gas off to the left do suggest the leg, and it looks a lot more like a bear.

Image Credit and Copyright: George Varouhakis

Monday, November 27, 2017

Welcome to the working week

I had originally wanted to fly back to New York today and go to work tomorrow, but changed my plans at my manager's request. No big deal. But while I was sitting in the stationary line of cars outside the Lincoln Tunnel yesterday evening, I remembered why I didn't want to fly back yesterday -- the Thanksgiving air travel congestion doesn't really impact international flights, but once you're on the ground you're stuck in the same traffic as everyone else.

And I was cranky because I was hungry. I avoid airline meals whenever possible, even in business class, but I have to say the meals served in coach on the flight yesterday were possibly the worst I've ever seen. I was starving by the time the pre-arrival snack was served but no one could possibly be hungry enough to find that warmed-up turkey on a roll with cream cheese spread appealing, or even edible. I managed one bite.

I'm sure the man in this window on St James Place isn't finding his meeting any more fascinating than most of us do, but he definitely has a better view.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Sunday bird blogging

The light looks almost tropical, but the dead leaves in the background are the giveaway -- this grey heron was in St James Park, not on a warm beach somewhere.

I was lucky with the weather in London, as it scarcely rained and there was sun almost every day, but no one would ever have mistaken it for the tropics.

Goodnight, London

Evening in St James Square a few blocks from my hotel. The light was wonderful but I couldn't quite capture it without a better lens and a tripod.

Still, it's a nice atmospheric farewell to a brief but intense visit, reminding me of long walks in the chill of early dusk.

Two more

The conference room where the senior government officials and military officers met, and one of the staff desks. I love those telephones.

Long distance

This dingy little room was used for secure transatlantic telephone calls, so this is where Churchill came when he needed to speak to Roosevelt.


These signs, more than anything, made the terror of living in London during the Blitz real to me. Although the war rooms had been reinforced with a 5-foot thick concrete slab overhead, a direct bomb hit would probably have destroyed them. 

But that wasn't the only potential danger, so there are signs explaining how to dig your way out through bomb debris, and how to distinguish the alarm that meant a gas attack from the one that meant a ground attack inside the building.

Churchill's bed

Which apparently he seldom used.

He slept only a few hours a night, and preferred to use the (less safe) bed above ground at Number 10. 

Cooking for the PM

I have many more pictures of, well, everything really, but as I'm spending the afternoon with yet another cousin, and then heading out to Heathrow to spend the night before my flight home tomorrow, here's something easy and quick: the kitchen in the Churchill War Rooms.

This museum is in the fortified bunker under the Treasury building in Whitehall where Churchill and his staff lived and worked during the Second World War. There are offices and conference rooms, bedrooms for military officers and senior staff and dormitories for the peons, and this kitchen, which Jane Austen might have found ridiculously old-fashioned. The stove looks like something from a doll's house.

Saturday reflections

Oxford Street, on my way to the British Museum Thursday morning.

Friday, November 24, 2017

More of the Great Court

I think this is one of the most successful facelifts I've seen. I love everything about this space.

The British Museum

If truth is not to be found on the shelves of the British Museum, where, I asked myself, picking up a notebook and a pencil, is truth? Thus provided, thus confident and enquiring, I set out...

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own

Yesterday was my free day in central London, and after a sunny walk through St James Park in the morning, I spent most of it here.

Not quite by design -- Bloomsbury was more of a hike than I remembered and it took me longer to get there than expected -- but somehow once I arrived I couldn't manage to leave, returning to favorite rooms two or three times before finally dragging myself out into the dusk for the long walk back.

Virginia wouldn't recognize it now; I hadn't been there in decades and I didn't either, at first. The Reading Room and Library have been moved to other locations, and the fusty old courtyard is now a beautiful, light-filled space, with modern staircases facing off against the old stone pediments.

But when I was standing in front of the Rosetta Stone, and the Parthenon marbles, and the Assyrian reliefs, time melted away and I remembered the young woman who first saw them long ago, and I felt so clearly who I had been and who I was now that it left me a little shaken and brought tears to my eyes more than once.

She loved London so much, that young woman. Me. I hadn't really forgotten, but yesterday it all came back to me and I saw the old stones with fresh eyes again. I wouldn't be twenty or twenty-four again for anything; I've earned every one of my years. But I'm glad that I can still feel that sense of promise and possibility, that there are things to learn and adventures still to be had, that I felt then.

I am so lucky. And I know it.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Urban poetry

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I hope this Frites-monster outside a shop in Brussels doesn't scare you off carbohydrates permanently.

I've been quite lazy this week. Apart from a few long walks on the heath and the high street, enjoying English suburban life, it's been mostly tea and chats with first and second and third cousins (well, the third cousin is only 18 months old and not much of a conversationalist, but she makes up for her silence with pure charm.)

Now I'm ensconced -- definitely the right verb for the situation -- at a rather clubby hotel in St James, and the sun is shining on Central London and I need to get out before it disappears entirely.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017


I liked the mossy greens and dappled light on this statue much more than the actual figures, although it did make me laugh because the figure on the left with the winged hat and caduceus doesn't appear as though he ever goes anywhere in much of a hurry -- certainly no one I'd hire as a messenger if I were a god and there were other options.

But thanks to Wikipedia, I now know that this is actually meant to be Commerce, in the guise of Hermes/Mercury. The figure with his thumb grazing Commerce's knee in such a familiar manner is Navigation. And apparently they are Quite Good Friends, if you know what I mean and I think you do.

Parc de Bruxelles

This lovely park is in the center of Brussels, between the royal palace and the Parliament. It's a nice bit of green -- or red, copper and gold this time of year -- in the midst of all the brick and stone.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Belated bird blogging

I was going to skip the birds this week, but then found this picture: the incongruity of a tropical bird against the gloomy Northern skies in the Parc de Bruxelles in Brussels.

I knew what it was right away because I'd seen these rose-ringed parakeets the last time I stayed in Croydon, but although the parakeets are apparently quite happy living in Northern Europe it just seems so wrong to see them here.

Bumpy landing in London

I'm a little lazy today, so this is a phone picture of the trees in my cousin's garden in Croydon this morning. You can't see the magpies who were busy chattering away in the branches, but just pretend there's an annoying soundtrack to the image.

I flew in from Brussels Saturday morning, and after standing in the immigration line at Heathrow for an hour and a half (I could get an EU passport -- why haven't I just done it already??) I wasn't feeling great by the time I arrived here two hours later than expected. And unfortunately for all concerned, I got worse -- nothing screams “gracious houseguest” like barfing up your hostess's lovely homemade lasagne an hour after dinner.

After lots of sleep and some industrial-grade TLC including a pot of homemade soup, I am much better today, and more Brussels pictures will follow shortly.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Medieval masterpieces

I almost went to Bruges today; it's been on my list for a long time and I hate the thought of being so close and not seeing it. But I'm still tired, and the idea of spending hours on trains didn't appeal to me, and since I got to take my time wandering through the Grand Place on a sunny morning I can't say I didn't get a full immersion in Medieval Splendor.

Many pictures to come -- I really loved Brussels today, and I will definitely come back if I can.

Belgian reflections

Greetings from Brussels! This was the Palais des Congrès built for the 1958 World's Fair, now a convention center. It's a nice hyper-modern contrast to the older facades in the reflections and the background.

My hotel room wasn't ready until late afternoon yesterday, and I hadn't managed much sleep on the stuffy, overcrowded flight, so I wandered around Brussels in a gray haze that matched the drizzly Northern European weather, without having much sense of where I was going or what I was seeing.

The pictures I managed to take show how out of it I was; I'm thinking of them as placeholders for better shots I might manage today. Both my phone and the BBC promise me there will be sunshine later, despite the sludgy gray skies I'm looking at now. My brain is a little on the sludgy side as well, despite having had a double espresso with a cappuccino chaser for breakfast, but a brisk walk in bracing air should help with that. And I know that I can count on the “bracing” part, anyway.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Astronomy Wednesday

Apologies for being a day late -- getting through those two days at the office was a little more challenging than expected, and I had no time for blogging.

I'm at Newark airport, waiting for my flight to Brussels, so finally have a chance to catch my breath. The United lounge is closed for renovations and I am sitting in the charmless “pop-up” temporary lounge. It isn't much more comfortable than sitting at the gate -- it doesn't even have a bathroom -- but there are free snacks and wi-fi, so at least I can post this lovely image: NGC 7789, also known as Caroline's Rose, after its discoverer, Caroline Herschel. She's a fascinating character in the history of astronomy; her brother was William Herschel, best known for discovering Uranus. While she spent most of her time assisting him, she also discovered eight comets on her own, and was one of the first women granted honorary membership in the Royal Society.

Image Credit and Copyright: Guillaume Seigneuret

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Sunday bird blogging

Here's another twofer: a pair of northern flickers. They were way, way up at the top of a very tall tree, and though they were relatively close to each other, I didn't manage to get a single shot that had both of them in any kind of focus.

I love that tail!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Saturday reflections

Here's a twofer: a gaudy bracelet and a truly unfortunate necklace in the windows of Cartier on Fifth Avenue. I like the effect of photographing the windows at an angle so the reflections are all smooshed together and the focus is on the jewelry.

Two photos, two more days in the office and I'm off to London for Thanksgiving, with a brief stopover in Brussels on the way.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Urban poetry

A bin of colorful crabs for sale in Chinatown.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Astronomy Tuesday

Well, this is very cool.

I posted an image from the surface of comet C67/P Churyumov-Gerasimenko several years ago, commenting that the Rosetta probe wasn't getting a sufficient charge on its solar panels and there might not be any more pictures. But Rosetta, like the Mars Rover, just kept going, and sent this picture last July, shortly before self-destructing. This plume of dust and water-ice emerging from beneath the comet's surface may show how a comet gets its tail.

Image Credit & Copyright: ESA, Rosetta, MPS, OSIRIS; UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Sunday bird blogging

A couple of weeks ago, when I walked past one of the birding groups in the Ramble, the leader said, "Always follow the bird photographers." I laughed, because anyone who follows me thinking that I'm going to know where the birds are is sadly misguided. And in fact, I often follow the birding guides because they're much better than I am at identifying the less common birds, especially the warblers.

That's how I know this is a yellow-rumped warbler.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Saturday reflections

I took this picture with my phone Thursday when I was running errands at  lunchtime -- a clear autumn sky over the towers and flags of Rockefeller Plaza, reflected in a temporary glass enclosure.

But what's all that red behind the glass, you might wonder. Since it's only a few weeks until Thanksgiving, the answer should be obvious -- it's cranberries.

Our friends at Ocean Spray had built a temporary cranberry bog outside 30 Rock where passersby could have all of their burning questions about cranberry harvesting answered once and for all. Since my only question was Why is there a cranberry bog in Rockefeller Center? I accepted my free pack of Craisins and went on my way.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Urban poetry

Here are a dozen variations on the theme of the Bat Signal shining above Gotham City, for sale to the tourists in Rockefeller Center.

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