Sunday 17 April 2011

Swimming in the Ganges, and Other Random Thoughts

So, I had one of my odd predictive dreams last night. I dreamt that I was swimming in the Ganges (as one does), and was really trying not to swallow any of the water, given all the yummy things I'm sure are floating around in that river. I woke about 7, needing to pee, only to be confronted with a completely flooded bathroom, as one of the intake pipes on the toilet had sprung a leak. Luckily, it was the downstairs (new) toilet, meaning that it didn't go through the ceiling, and that it will be under warranty. Still though, not a nice thing to discover when half awake early on a Sunday morning. I almost just went back to sleep, thinking that it would somehow magically fix myself if I did. I tried to wake David gently - he still woke with a huge start though. Last time I woke him at a slightly unsocial house the next door house was on fire, so I suppose he's a bit primed for disaster...

We've finally finished cleaning up the back yard, and have another huge pile of crap to be taken away out front. There seem to be hundreds of little dinky plants coming up, so either we're going to have the world's greatest weed crop (not unlikely), or some of the 8 jillion random flower seeds we scattered around are going to come up. I've trimmed back the (evil!) ivy even further, (it used to spread all over the ground), so David intends to use this bed for some vegetables. In the fall, the ivy is going to come out (God help us all, as well as the brick wall it's stuck to!) and get replaced with something nicer, like wisteria. We're also going to do something with the back more exciting than just scattering flower seeds - there's only so much one can do at once though.

We seem to be having a drought. We've only had something like 20% of our normal spring rainfall, and while it's green at the moment, it won't be long before everything turns into straw, at this rate. England isn't pretty when there's a drought, and they are already making ominous noises about "hosepipe bans". Sigh. (It doesn't actually rain very much here - only about 22 inches, compared with 18 in Sacramento, 38 in Seattle, and around 50 in NYC. It just tends to get spread around a lot...).

I just went for a nice long run, about 8 miles. Today was the marathon - there were jillions of people in central London for that. I think I'm going to put in my name for the lottery for next year - I've always wanted to do it... I'm planning a 100 mile ride next weekend (which I've not done in 2 years), and an overnight bike ride in Wales the next weekend - probably just me. A friend would like to go, but I don't think there are any more bike tickets for the trains left (it's an extra long bank holiday weekend, thanks to the royal wedding at the beginning of it, and I think there is going to be a huge exodus from London!). Anyway, that will be about 140 miles, with mountains, the Irish Sea, and lots of Welsh speakers (a very odd language if ever there was one!).

Right - some pics:

So, what's going on here then?

Yes, these really do exist here...

Ooh, pretty!

Springtime in southern England.

Random cute town on my bike ride - I knew the name at one point, but I forgot.

Say what?

OK, I really don't think I like where this road is taking me... ;-)

Our (fortunately shrinking!) ivy.

The back 40...

Sunday 3 April 2011

Planted the back 40...

That's back 40 square feet, not acres. You have to be specific about these things or it's easy to get confused. We decided, in all the jillion things that have to be done with this house, coming up with a permanent back yard solution was just not something that needed to happen this moment and decided to go for the 'riot of colour' design. We've removed all the crap (wow there was a lot of crap out there - basically like half a small dumpster - rocks, building parts, pieces of metal, broken plates, stumps. We've yet to find any dead bodies, which is probably a good thing - I know that London is absolutely full of things like old plague pits - how fun would that be to discover digging around in the back yard)! Anyway, we've put like 20 different kinds of flowers out there - thousands of seeds, all told. Something has to grow! The one problem with digging up and smoothing out the back yard though is that we've created the perfect litter box for the neibhourhood kitties. So, I decided to solve this problem with some cat repellant. Sprinkled it all over the place (it smells kinda nice, like citronella), and even as we were out there, the tabby from next door decided to come over and poop. Yeah, that was money well spent. I suppose, on the plus side, all that catshit means that the dirt's pretty good (well, that and all the worms), but OMG, not something you want to discover while putting in flowers. We've removed all sorts of bracken fern as well - it spreads by underground rhizomes - and it's everywhere. Apparently, if you disturb it, it makes cyanide, so we have to use gloves when taking it out (that and the bits of glass and catshit bombs cut down on the desire to dig through the dirt with bare hands!).

Anyway though, it's very much spring. The daffodils are starting to fade, the flowering cherries and plums are all in bloom, and the trees are thinking about budding. We have a lilac that is putting out flowers - we still can't figure out what colour it's going to be - I'm thinking yellow or white, though I was hoping for purple. I guess that's the fun thing about the first year of someone else's back yard - discovering what's in it! We were filling up the debris bag out front yesterday and a big gust of wind blew the front door shut. Shit - no keys! Front doors here tend to lock when they shut, and our windows don't actually open far enough to climb through. So, we had a bit of a panic, had a chat with many of the neighbours (this is a chatty area), and eventually ended up going through the house next door and climbing over (rather rickety) back fence. Drama solved!

So, I went back to my roots, gymwise. In every city I've lived as an adult - San Francisco, Sacramento, Minneapolis, Dublin and New York I've been a YMCA member, but not London. Six years at Fitness First (Shitness First) - the sort of 24 Hour Fitness of London (not as big or as well-equipped though), and 1.5 years at Nuffield, which was recently taken over by a private hospital, and feels increasingly like a clinic for fat people. Anyway, it will save me about $50/month, which ain't nothing, but it's the first time in almost 12 years that I've been a gym member by myself. However, seeing as how David and I met at the Y (THE Y, of song), I suppose it's somehow appropriate that I should be a member again (it's not convenient for him, so he's going to stay at the much more expensive gym). It's kinda nice to be back, actually - there is a certain "YMCA feeling" that I've never gotten at any other gym, and they tend to be pretty friendly (and this one is very well equipped as well). It's also screamingly gay as well, much like New York - I always thought it was slightly ironic that the Young Men's Christian Association was full of such a number of Nancys, but there you go. Thursday was my last day at the previous gym. I felt strangely wistful about it. Who thought I could feel moody about leaving a gym? I suppose it was probably more about leaving the same gym as David goes to (and also Robin - it was his gym first - I suppose the house that gyms together gets in shape together or something?). I felt like there should be a theme tune playing as I left the gym - Robin suggested the tune at the end of East Enders. Went for a 10 mile run today from the Y, up through Hampstead Heath. Ugh - I could bike all day - give me a 90 minute run though and I feel like it's the end of the world. I think I'd like to apply for London Marathon lottery for next year though - that would certainly require a lot of work!

Had a slightly uncomfortable conversation with a very good friend of mine about his usage of something that rhymes with "Beth". It is probably important to note, first off, that the usage profile of Beth in this country is completely, 100% different than in the US. For starters, until recently, I believe nearly all Beth was imported, b/c one of the main ingredients wasn't easily available. Not sure what changed though, but supposedly it's not being produced in the UK, though I have no idea where (I've not heard of any busts). Consequently though, the price has always been astronomical, and it's been pretty rare. Usage here seems to be about 100% for clubbing/sex, rather than just being sort of everywhere like in the US. And, worryingly, it's the gay community that is really picking up usage (being trend setters, and all). Straight people tend to go out and get completely wasted on alcohol in clubs here (and they fight, knife each other, etc), whereas gay men tended to take pills (e), and also (not surprisingly) tended not to fight. So, the cops generally look the other way b/c they didn't get any problems from the gay clubs (well, not until G came along and guys were passing out and dying on the dance floor - not pretty). Anyway, that (thank God) seems to be dropping off, but, for whatever reason, usage of Beth is now beginning to increase, as are, not surprinsingly, all the other nasty bits that are associated with excessive Beth. It's worrying, b/c Beth pretty much wracked ruin across the American gay community, and I fear it's going to do the same here - I just hope it remains astronomically expensive, as that, combined with it being (formerly) difficult to find, helped keep it at bay. But yeah, Beth usage is a completely different creature here, even if the eventual possible individual outcome remains the same.

So, I would never deny anyone their fun - God knows I've had plenty of my own and have gotten up to all sorts of sillyass thing over the years (and lived to tell the tales). Problem with Beth though is that she tends to move in and make herself at home if one isn't very careful. This wasn't every day, tweeker type Bething, but often enough that it was beginning to send up red flags - "Hon, you need to stop - you're not being normal" - that kind of thing. I don't like those sorts of conversations at all, and yet, oddly, I seem to be the one that gets to have them with people. I do actually think it will be OK, because I think it kinda hit him like a ton of bricks the insiduous nature of what was starting to happen. But yeah, not nice. I know a lot of people who have been acquainted with Beth, and I don't know a single one who feels she's a good long term guest. She's a bit of a sneaky bitch, that Beth.

Anyway, I think (I hope) that's going to be fine - as I said, friend was very very far away from ending up in tweekerland, but it's frightening anyway how easy it is to let things get carried away. I'll never be a prohibitionist - drugs are no different than alcohol - they are simply ways of altering one's reality, for any one of a billion different reasons. Living in Britain, it doesn't take much looking around to see the destruction wrought by alcohol - women yacking up and pissing in the gutter, winos hanging out on street corners with their cans of fortified lager at 8am on a weekday morning, young men beating the living shit out of each other b/c one of them looked at someone else's girlfriend, etc. So yeah, no different than drugs - just a lot more common (officially, anyway, but I have yet to find anyone my age or younger in this city who would not admit to having tried something illegal, at least once), legal, and completely and 100% societally acceptable.

Right - enough preaching - I could go on about that forever. I think my Beth discussion got me wound up. Time to go make lunches for the week. How thrilling.