Lofty Ambitions

The bottom line is, we still don’t know if we’re moving into a flat or into storage.

We are proceeding at a pace with the packing. So much stuff. There are at least five boxes of photos. Actual printed photos. It’s been on the to-do list for years, and I think it’s on everyone’s list: sort out the old photos.  We really feel that progress is being made, though. There is a nice pile of stuff to pass on to the children as soon as is convenient. (Don’t tell them.)

A removal man came along this afternoon to give us a quote.

It’s official: estate agents lie. This week, again, we tried to find out when our flat would be vacant. The agent said that because they’re moving into a newly built house that isn’t finished yet, they would never give a date.

But they gave us a date right at the start. They said May. Later revised to mid-June due to a spell of bad weather. But now they can’t give us a date because anything could go wrong. The agent couldn’t (or wouldn’t) see that they’d given us dates before so there can’t be hard and fast rules about getting dates from builders. Also, being told May, at the time, fitted in perfectly with our plans. If they’d said then that they had no idea when they’d be able to move out, I doubt that we would have put in an offer, regardless of how good the property is.

Our seller is under stress now, said the agent, as she tries to confirm with her solicitor that they can exchange this week and complete on 2nd July. I didn’t take the bait and tell that actually, we’re quite stressed out too. Yesterday, she regurgitated a conversation I’d had with her on 2nd March. I explained that the situation is totally different now.

Anyway, that’s where we are.

Freegle is a great resource: you can get total strangers to come to your house and take stuff away. I’ll miss the old 1990s stereo system that hasn’t worked properly for years. The record player was disposed of years ago. Buttons on the cassette player broke many moons ago. If you play a CD, it usually skips the first time, but is OK if you restart. Plus, one of the speakers only works intermittently. The FM aerial is meh. The AM aerial is meher. Other than that, it’s in perfect working order. I recorded may radio programmes on it in the olden days.stereo

It’s a lovely sunny day, we should be outside enjoying the weather, not inside packing and emptying the loft. Maybe we’ll go for an early evening stroll, after the man’s picked up his stereo system!

On this day in 2014, we went to the British Museum to see The Vikings Exhibition. We went with Myra, Sarah’s Mum and found it a very interesting display. They certainly got around, those Vikings. We ate at a Turkish restaurant afterwards. I must have been suffering from my earlier fast though, as there are, unusually, no photos.

Yes, I fasted for 12 hours overnight prior to my free old farts’ health check with the GP. This is when the rot set in. I was diagnosed with high blood pressure but as I was training for a long bike ride, I chose not to start taking medication until after that event. So, in the following November, I started taking anti-hypertension medication. Wow: shortness of breath, no stamina, I felt horrible. Even after a change of drugs, I still felt ridiculously weak and feeble.

Once I stopped working for Royal Mail, the BP dropped to fairly normal and I stopped taking the medication. But here I am, two years on, still with nowhere near the stamina I once had. I don’t have dizzy spells as often as I did back then, but every now and then, if I stand up too quick, I feel all wobbly. I know there are risks with high blood pressure, but really, I was much better off before I knew I ever had high blood pressure!

But that’s all in the past. The really exciting news is that Liesel had been talking to a Travel agent about our travels. All very exciting but the bad news is, I forgot we had to pay for it. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it, but the schedule so far looks quite breathtaking, although subject to change: Vancouver, Anchorage, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand, Botswana. This will be much more fun to write about when the time comes than all this house-moving mallarkey.

 

Plan B

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve looked at the wall where the clock used to be. It’s a surprise every time. Then I remember, it’s been packed. All the pictures have been taken down too and bubble-wrapped. We have twelve boxes of books, seven of CDs and DVDs and several more boxes yet to fill.

Yes, we’ve caught the disease from Jenny and our house is sagging under the weight of filled and empty cardboard boxes. Aha, so we have a moving date in mind, you’ll assume. Well don’t assume anything, as they say, you’ll just make an ass of u and me.

We received an email from our solicitor this morning telling us that our vendors are still waiting for replies to their searches and enquiries. A process that we followed several weeks ago, and we assumed they had too. See what I mean about making assumptions? We thought the hold-up at their end was that their new-build house isn’t finished yet. But no, it’s admininstration that could and should have taken place weeks, if not months, ago.

The sellers’ agent waffled a bit while I was on the phone, I didn’t get  a definitive moving date, so reluctantly, we threatened to pull out of the whole thing.

We want to get out of this house so that we can get on with our travels. There are reasons why we want to be in Alaska as soon as possible and not just because of its blink-and-you-miss-it Summer.

Plan B is to put all our stuff into storage for a year so that’s what we’ve arranged. A nice Big Yellow Storage room in (or somewhere close to) Cheadle. We’ll be homeless, yes, but the stuff will be as safe as possible, and we can look for a house when we get back. Scary, Mary. Ideally, we’d prefer Plan A, to move into the flat, which is still the best one we’ve found while searching online. And far better than any of the others that we actually went to look at.

This week, then, we’ll carry on with the packing up, dismantling the old stereo system and shelf units, disposing of items that we’re not keeping and that our buyer doesn’t want us to leave behind. We believe she’s keen to exchange soon and to complete maybe within a couple of weeks. And if we get the bulk of the packing done, we’ll celebrate by going into London and having some fun at the weekend.

I can’t remember the exact details but I suspect that this is the sort of nonsense that led Sarah and I to vow that we would never, ever again, move house when we first moved here, 33 years ago.

While we’re looking back: On this day in 2011, Liesel and I saw Alison Steadman in Noël Coward’s Blithe Spirit at London’s Apollo Theatre. We enjoyed her performance…

In 2007, we were having our new kitchen installed. This is the day on which Richard the plasterer plastered the kitchen. In the process, many water and gas pipes were hidden within the walls, giving us much more wallspace for storage.

In years to come, I hope we can look back at today’s conundrum and just laugh it off. We’re listening to some nice, relaxing songs. Moving house and all that is frightening but the music is soothing and we both started grooving, yeah, yeah, yeah…

Sorry if you were hoping to read something about Plan B, the musician!

Boxes and Cows

Boxes, boxes, we’ve never seen so many boxes. The good news is, Jenny and family moved house today, after a long, long wait. Originally, they wanted to move before Martha was born. Martha celebrated her second birthday in April. But now, they are officially SK8ers.

One of the bedrooms was inaccessible in the end, it was so full of boxes. There was the danger of running out of cardboard cartons, so Liesel and I went to the removal firm to pick up 20 more, and most of them were filled in the end.

And then, Alan, Liam’s Dad, and I helped unload another twenty or thirty cartons from the attic, not forgetting several plastic crates. What a big loft: much bigger than ours.

It was a pleasure to be able to help out, and for Liesel and me, it was confirmation that we’d been right to get rid of so much ‘stuff’ over the last couple of years.

And that’s good because, as far as our move is concerned, all of a sudden, our buyer’s solicitor wants to exchange and complete on the same day. Our solicitor advised against that: we can’t be in a position where, on the day of a potential move, our buyer changes her mind.

But if they’re that keen to get a move-on at last, we’re not complaining. We’re still trying to find out when our vendors will be able to move to their new build house in Glossop. It looks like mid-June is now out of the question, sadly. But if we’d moved this week, we might not have been able to help our family with their move, so it’s all worked out quite well.

We took Martha to Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry again one day and it is always a joy to spend time with her. She’s too young to understand the science of course but she loves running around and pressing the buttons, turning wheels, pushing plungers to make bubbles in three liquids of differing viscosities.

We travelled by train and then bus: the free Metroshuttle service is fantastic. And if we’d got off at the correct stop, we wouldn’t have had to walk so far back to the museum! Martha was nicely worn out by the time we’d had lunch, so she missed out of most of the return journey.

Martha
Martha

We spent some time looking after 6-month old William too. He’s a great little character. Usually, Mick walks up and down with him and he goes to sleep. Usually, when he sits with Liesel, he regurgitates some of his food onto her. Well, this time, Mick bore the brunt of his expulsions. On the other hand, Liesel experienced a rare leaking nappy! All of which he will be reminded of when he turns 18.

William about to move house

For these busy few days, we stayed at another excellent Airbnb b&b: thanks to Iris and David for their hospitality, the breakfasts and the local recommendations which will come in handy when we finally move to the area. They are also keen cyclists and it was good to see the bikes stored inside the house, something we’ll have to think about when we no longer have a garage.

One day, I’ll have the camera ready to take a picture of the cows walking across a bridge over the M60. We’ve seen them a few times now, an arc en ciel, a monochrome rainbow, a long line of black and white cows walking in single file, presumably to be milked.

It’s always lovely to spend time with Jenny and Liam, of course, and with the grandchildren, but this week was quite hard work, and the drive home could not end soon enough. We were doing fine on the road until we joined the slow-moving traffic just before Hampton Court. But eventually: home, sweet home.

Liesel went out, with our friend Helen, to what might be her final WI meeting in Chessington. It was a wine tasting evening and when I collected them later in the evening, neither of them were too intoxicated.

What a good night’s sleep we both had, though. My dream was weird, I can’t remember all the details, but it involved a wall (not Pink Floyd’s), Bond girls, a sports car and a TV game show.

Baker’s Doesn’t

We saw Danny Baker’s latest show a couple of nights ago. Over four hours of pacing up and down and talking really fast about his job in the record shop, about The 6 O’Clock Show and only just getting to the point where he started presenting on GLR. We were in the Upper Circle and just above the lights. Yes, it was hot and the odd whiff of hot metal added to the experience.

The performance was at the New Wimbledon Theatre which as far as I can remember ios exactly the same building as the old, original Wimbledon Theatre.

Sarah and I saw Doctor Who on stage here about 25 years ago. Jon Pertwee played the Doctor, didn’t take it too seriously and frequently came out of character. And I think he threw some Worzel Gummidge lines in too. The funniest thing though was… watching the Daleks, on coasters, as they rolled down the slightly sloping stage towards the audience!

This is the third time we’ve seen Danny Baker in the last 15 months or so. First time in Guildford where he performed his first show, From the Cradle to the Stage, which tookm us through his life as a young boy. By the end of three and half hours on stage, he still hadn’t left school. Some great stories, especially centred around his Dad, Spud.

His stage shows certainly give you value for money, especially when you take into account that he’s a very fast talker. More words per minute than anyone else I can think of. Another performer would run out of steam much sooner, and their show would stop after a couple of hours. But Danny Baker’s doesn’t.

Later in the year, we saw him at Waterstones in Piccadilly where he spoke for a while about the newly published third volume of his autobiography, Going on the Turn. We also bought a copy of his new children’s book, Lucie Goose, for Martha. Both were signed and will be worth a fortune on eBay eventually.

In life, only three things are guaranteed: death, taxes and that when you phone an estate agent, they’ll be on another call already.

Our sellers are ready to exchange, we are ready to exchnage with our buyer, but we fear that her solicitor might still be sitting on paperwork and not doung his job very well.

We still don’t have a moving date, but surely it can’t be more than three or four weeks away now? We had the first removal firm round this morning and they’ll send their quote later on.

And after all this time, the house is still, albeit half-heartedly, fighting back. The front door lost its ability to be locked. Luckily for us, it’s still under warranty, and when the guys turned up, the problem was solved in less than ten minutes. I’ll know what to do next time and I’m so glad I still follow what the internet told me about toeing and heeling, removing the windows from the door, unscrewing all the locking mechanism, moving the hinges all of which would reult in a door that didn’t open or close either.

The zip on my shorts broke just as we were leaving the house to see Danny Baker. Luckily, it was closed when it broke. But come on, dear house, sabotaging my legwear isn’t going to make me chnage my mind about moving.

It’s Summer so the garden is growing at a rate of knots. We could leave a wilderness for the new occupants but that seems a bit unfair. We wanted to renew our subscription for garden waste collection but the online system wasn’t working. Our faithful old house somehow hacked into the local council’s website and caused it to fail. We got there in the end, and thanks to the intervention of one of our local councillors, our garden waste bin was emptied this week. All ready for the next session of lawn mowing, bush trimming, weeding and general tidying up.

Eek, we’ll be moving soon and suddenly there is a huge backlog of radio and TV programmes to catch up on. I usually downlaod about 15-20 hours a weeke of radio programmes, plus some podcasts and I can bearly keep up. Then there are several TV dramas that we’re halfway through right now. It would be a disaster if we moved house and were unable to keep up to date with all that stuff.

Then I remember, we’re going travelling for several months, it doesn’t matter! There are times when I’ve thought about getting rid of the TV altogether, but I could never get other family members to agree. But it doesn’t matter!

What sort of programmes would they be, then, I hear you cry? All sorts, but I’m not going to list them, because it doesn’t matter!

The Roof Needs Mowing

Liesel visited the physiotherapist again today in Earlsfield so we took advantage of what might be the last decent day for a while and spent the rest of it in London.

It might be one of the last chances to do that in any case, as we’re suddenly making progress on the house-moving front. But more of that later.

Today involved using nine forms of transport which is always a joy: we hope moving around Manchester is just as easy once we’re there.

  • Walked from home to Chessington North station, caught a SWR train to Earlsfield, then
  • Caught a Southern train to Clapham Junction, then
  • Caught an Overground train to Denmark Hill, then
  • Caught a 185 bus to the Horniman Museum, then
  • Caught another 185 bus to Lewisham Station, then
  • Caught a DLR train to Greenwich Cutty Sark, then
  • Caught a Clipper boat to Shakepeare’s Globe Theatre on the South Bank, then
  • Walked to Waterloo Station and caught a SWR train to Berrylands station, then
  • Walked up the hill and caught a K2 bus to Gosbury Hill, then
  • Walked home!

But what exciting things did we do in between? Liesel had physio, I left a bit later and met her in a coffee bar in Earlsfield. Chocolate and Coffee, it’s called, and it has very nice coffee and plenty of chocolate based confectionery, as the name suggests. Come out of Earlsfield Station, cross the road, turn left and it’s past the first turning on the right.

We’ve wanted to visit the Horniman Museum for a long time. I’ve only been once before, when Sarah, Jenny, Helen and I went, about 20+ years ago, to see live video footage of  a volcano erupting in Hawaii. This was exciting technology for the time and very interesting, well worth the tortuous drive there around the South Circular Road.

Anyway, today, Liesel and I went by public transport and as you can see, it’s not a straightforward journey. We debated whether to go via Penge (note 1) but in the end, catching a bus from Denmark Hill made more sense as it stopped right outside the museum.

The gardens were fantastic. There’s a Sundial walk although we only managed to find a few dials, numbers 2, 6, 7 and 8, all different models.

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20180606_1405589085956331979416553.jpgBeing on top of hill, we shouldn’t really have been surprised to see the London skyline, even the arch at Wembley Stadium. Planes flew over from London City Airport at regular intervals slightly spoiling what should have been a quiet, peaceful experience.

There were some animals there too, rabbits, sheep, goats, alpacas. Lots of plants from which we get different coloured dyes as well as other flowers. The Sun was out and so it was a beautiful day for a long walk outside.

The library building was interesting: the roof has wild grass growing on it. I wondered whether the weight would be too much, but I wasn’t going to volunteer to mow the roof.

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Thatched roof but the grass is still living

In the museum itself, which is free apart from the special exhibitions, we were stunned by the range of stuffed animals. There was even a walrus which breathed its last in 1890 or something. The dodo (note 2) was magnificent, bigger than I thought. As was the porcupine (note 3).

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Dodo
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Porcupine

OK, notes explained:

  1. As mentioned in the David Bowie song ‘Did you ever have a Dream?’
  2. As mentioned in the David Bowie song ‘Dodo’.
  3. As mentioned in the David Bowie song ‘Cracked Actor’.

The mastodon tusk was a million years old. It’s funny how your sense of time changes: only a million years old, we just missed it. That’s a short period of time compared with the extinction of dinosaurs, 65 million years ago.

We thought it would be nice to get a boat back to Waterloo, unless of course we could find one that went all the way back to Kingston. (There wasn’t one.) We sat at the back of the boat where we enjoyed the stench of diesel fumes.

But it always a joy to spend time on the Thames.

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We disembarked by the Globe Theatre and walked along the South Bank back to Waterloo, slowly, admiring the sand sculptures as usual and again thinking how wonderful it is that the Garden Bridge idea has been hit on the head.

The other day, I was walking around Chessington and I came across a nice, friendly wall. Well, friendly, optimistic graffiti, really:

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Opportunities for walking around Chessington, 10,000 steps or not, are becoming limited. After a few phone calls and a visit from Liesel to the estate agent, we feel that progress is being made on our house move.

I’ve signed (but not dated) both contracts, one for our sale and one for our purchase.

We have received all (or at least, a lot) of the reports on our flat, in which we learnt about the risk of flooding (small), the affect of the next phase of the high-speed railway, HS2 (at least 300 metres away and not scheduled for construction for a long, long time) and more. Nothing to worry about.

We have lots of rules imposed by the landlord, the leaseholder, but again, nothing too onerous, unexpected or unreasonable. Storage in the attic and storage of our bikes might be difficult, but we’ll try the informal approach.

It seems that our buyer’s solicitor is no good. He’s been sitting on paperwork that he should have passed on. Now that we’ve got our estate agent on the case, we have, at last, receieved from our buyer the list of furniture that she wants to keep. We’re happy to leave all those items for her but more importantly, we now know what we need to dispose of or to take with us when we move.

The agent spoke to her yesterday and today: she wants to move fast and is just as dismayed at the performance of her solicitor as we all are.

We can start packing things up, now: we have several crates but we’ll need lots of packing boxes too. Progress at last!

On this day 45 years ago, as I described here, I said goodbye to my appendix.

I also remember 6/6/66. Mr Price, my final and only male primary school teacher was great. He tried to explain the news to us 11-year olds, mostly about Nigeria, Biafra and Rhodesia I seem to remember. And of course, we were looking forward to the World Cup.

This day in 1945 was D-Day, the Normandy Landings. General Eisenhower planned the invasion from his headquarters in Bushy Park, a frequent destination for our walks and bike rides.

My worst ever June 6 experience, even worse than an emergency appendectomy, was in 2005. I took my Dad to the Royal County Hospital in Guildford for a series of tests. He was frail, weak, in a wheelchair and I pushed him from one department to another, follow the blue line, follow the green line, X-rays and other examinations. After taking him home, I really should have paused before driving up the A3 to my own home. It was a hard, very emotional day for me, and I was just the helper. Dad had many medical issues and he still thought he’d be able to look after himself.

It’s funny how certain days have a theme. My appendectomy, Dad’s long day having hospital tests, Liesel visiting the physio today. And last year, this was the day I had stitches out following surgery on my gum by my periodontist.

On the other hand, on this day in 1992, David Bowie, who I mentioned earlier, married Iman, so that’s lovely!

And today’s June 6 adventure in London was lovely too, thanks Liesel xx.

When I Live My Dream

On this day, June 1st, 51 years ago, David Bowie released his first eponymous album. Obviously, we were oblivious to this at the time. The BBC Light Programme would never play it, maybe one of the pirate stations did, and David Bowie never really came to prominence until Space Oddity in 1969, two years later.

Bowie-davidbowie

Nobody could have predicted that the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, released on exactly the same day, would have achieved so much more publicity and airplay!

I first heard the David Bowie album in 1973 and thought it was OK, actually. The songs are simple, cute and sometimes very funny.

Once when I went home for the weekend from university, a singer in a local pub covered Uncle Arthur, and I’m sure my Mum and Dad didn’t believe that this was an early David Bowie song.

I think my favourite song is ‘When I Live My Dream’. I used parts of it when I was courting Sarah. And I emailed the lyrics to Liesel when I was wooing her. When we watched the film A Life Aquatic, I was delighted to hear Seu Jorge’s Portuguese version. That was great. I was, however, miffed when, a few years ago, London Heathrow Airport used it in an advert to celebrate its 50th anniversary. No! Sacrilege!

Today is the 68th birthday of top singer/songwriter Tom Robinson. On this day, eight years ago, Liesel and I saw him and his band in concert at Shepherds Bush Empire. The gig, celebrating his 60th birthday, was titled ‘Glad to be Grey’, a fantastic pun on one of his best-known songs, ‘Glad to be Gay’.

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Tom Robinson

He sang a medley of his greatest hit, ‘2-4-6-8 Motorway’ as he had done when he performed at my 50th birthday party, some years earlier. Yes, my very good friend Tom was good enough to visit Chessington and entertain us for an evening. Top bloke! I’d first met him at a writing retreat in 2002. This was less than a year after Sarah had died and I was still feeling very fragile. He was incredibly helpful and supportive and the group from that weekend kept in touch for many years afterwards. In fact, we met up with Marko beforehand for a quick drink. Cheers!
(I know what you’re thinking. ‘Hey Mick, you’re writing this nonsense 16 years after attending a writing workshop? You should ask for your money back, mate!’)

The gig took place during a campaign to save BBC 6 Music, our favourite music radio station, from being closed down. Tom was and is a presenter and several other presenters turned up to wish him a happy birthday with a cake designed to look like the 6 Music logo, which itself resembles a record player.

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Other guest musicians include Toumani Diabaté on the kora (don’t tell Tom, but I could have listened to Toumani’s kora all night) and Nitin Sawhney.

Overall, a fabulous night. And happy 68th, Tom, possibly greyer and gladder.

So, to summarise: David Bowie, the Beatles and Tom Robinson are amongst my favourite artistes of all time. And BBC 6 Music is still a favourite radio station.

A Pain in the Abdomen and a Pain in the Bum

This time 45 years ago, I was in the middle of my A-level exams. I took Pure Maths, Physics and Chemistry. In the middle of one of the papers, I had to be accompanied to the toilets as I felt sick. I was sick. I couldn’t continue and went home in agony. I’d been to the GP a couple of times already and he’d diagnosed my abdomenal pains as ‘exam nerves’.

Later on this Wednesday afternoon, I returned to the GP, saw a different one who, after a more thorough, intimate examination, diagnosed appendicitis and told me I had to get into hospital straightaway.

This was my first ride in an ambulance but I was in too much pain to really appreciate it. Mum was with me but I have no idea who was looking after my sister Pauline. Dad was at the Epsom Derby and didn’t get back until much later.

In hospital, I don’t remember the anaesthetic but I do remember the dreams of a golden staircase that went on and on. I woke up without an appendix, which someone described as a blackened gherkin, and I’m sure they asked if I wanted to keep it. Nope.

While in hospital, I missed one paper but took a Chemistry exam in the presence of one of my teachers, Jenny Nelson.

That was the end of school for me, and I missed out on all the end-of-term activities.

Even while I was at school and at university, I never had anxiety dreams about exams. So imagine my surprise when I woke up this morning from an exam-related dream. Weird.

I was due to take a Chemistry exam but I couldn’t be bothered. I’d had enough. So I went to a coffee bar instead and ordered my default, latte and carrot cake. After a few minutes, I had a pang of guilt. Mum and Dad and teachers and everyone had such high expectations of me. I knew that if I ran fast, I would make it in time to take the exam: I knew they let people in up to half an hour late and I also knew that until now, I’d finished all my exams well before time was up. This also wasn’t an anxiety dream, just an alternative train of events that never really happened. In 1973, I’d never even heard of latte or carrot cake.

Appendicitis was my medical complaint from a long time ago. Liesel is currently suffering from a painful piriformis muscle which is literally a pain in the arse that sometimes radiates down her leg. Yesterday, in the torrential rain, we visited a physiotherapist in Earlsfield who examined Liesel, poked and prodded a bit and suggested some exercises that will hopefully alleviate the problem.

Did I say it was torrential? We’ve had thunderstorms on and off for a few days now, and thank goodness, we’ve mostly been able to sleep through them. There have been some pretty spectacular photos of the storms on Twitter.