Adventures with hair

I don’t think I’d even heard of Clifton Country Park before being invited to join the family there. It’s in Stockport which I thought was just a dirty old town with a Media City to brighten it up. But no, there is green space and a wonderful playground.

It’s easy to find, unlike the pay stations. But that’s because they don’t actually exist: very unusually, there’s no charge to park here. Don’t tell anyone, they might get ideas.

It was lovely to see Jenny and Liam and the children and their Auntie Helen and it was really nice to see Amy again after all this time too. Amy is one of Helen’s school chums and I haven’t seen her since her now 13-year old was a wee toddler. 

Amy and Helen

Here’s the latest school photograph and I apologise for the flasher in the background, I didn’t notice him at the time.

As you can see, it was a gorgeous day and Martha and William made good use of most of the play equipment.

Martha the swinger

Well, we all did.

Martha, William, Helen, Jenny, Mick, Liam on the rope swing

Helen is still plying her trade as a hairdresser and at home, she was more than happy to shear us all. Anyone would think there’s a big family event coming up, or something.

Meanwhile in Anchorage, Liesel is trying to do too much in the time left before she returns home to the UK.

Liesel and Jyoti : Ladies of leisure lounging about but just for a moment

The first blackberry of the year was disappointingly bitter. I think other people may have picked the best ones.

A blackberry

The apples growing in the church yard looked good though, but I did not go scrumping on this occasion. I left them for the people who turn up each week to tidy up the church yard and cemetery.

St Wilfrid’s apples
A goose washing his hair in the river

I didn’t get my 10,000 steps in one day this week, but I certainly burnt some calories. I walked up and down the stairs probably a dozen times, mostly carrying heavy, bulky stuff to take to the storage unit. Anyone would think I’m trying to make space in our luxury apartment for visitors or something. During this heatwave, any form of activity is really difficult. But then, sitting around doing nothing in this heat is quite exhaustng too!

The walking group on Wednesday was very popular this week, with far more participants then usual and, unusual for me, I had an iced coffee back at the café. Yes, it was a hot day.

In the afternoon, I spent some time with Martha and William, blowing bubbles, in their garden.

William’s back and Martha’s bubbles

Their blackberries looked much nicer than the ones in the woods. But for some reason, I didn’t actually pick any.

Mostly this week though, I was ticking things off the ‘to-do’ list. I’ll never get to the end though, because part-way through some projects, I’ll think of one or two other things I need to do. Or, I’d like to do. One day, I must go back to the ‘big to-do’ list that has been going since about 2006, when I very successfully collated all my then on-going lists into one single mega-list. Well, it seemed important at the time.

Recording the WFM radio show this week was a bit quicker than last week, only interrupted by a couple of phone calls, which is unusual. The theme this week is ‘Doubles’, by which I mean musicians who have the same name as another. Or groups with duplicate names.

Evil peas

On my final full day in Anchorage, Liesel and I spent some quality time together in Klaus’s office. I used his Mac to determine what was on each of the CDs and DVDs in quite a large pile. One CD had photos from 2012, including our trip to Hawaii. Everyone was there, including Liesel’s parents, Aaron’s family, Liesel’s Aunt Buzz and family, my sister Pauline and Andrew, my daughters Jenny and Helen and her boyfriend Adam. That trip coincided with a visit from President Barack Obama which disrupted a couple of shopping trips and a game of golf played by Adam and Liesel’s cousin Andi’s bloke Steve. It was nice to see the old photos again of course but I forced myself not to be distracted. The other CDs and DVDs were all, as expected, but still disappointingly, blank.

Meanwhile, Liesel was working on her own laptop. Or maybe paying Tetris, I don’t really know, we were sitting back to back.

The plan was to have an Ethiopian meal in the evening with friends. Unfortunately, the restaurant was closed and they didn’t return calls, so we resorted to Plan B: Pizza from Moose’s Tooth.

We drove over to Una and Phil’s house and later we were joined by Pam and Owen. Jyoti brought her friend Bill, the first time the rest of us had met him.

It was nice enough to sit outside and eat, so that’s what we did. It’s a bit disconcerting when you’re sitting there, soaking up the Sun, drinking some beer, chatting away and otherwise minding your own business, when a cat leaps up onto the table right in front of you.

The cat sat on the table

We left at about 10, and I bade farewell to everyone, knowing I wouldn’t see most of them again probably until next year. I couldn’t believe how busy the roads were on the way back home, it was like Piccadilly Circus out there.

Not really: empty roads

As we approached home, we saw a moose cross the road a couple of cars in front of us. I tried to get a picture as we passed, but the moose’s bum is just a blur in front of the sunset.

Blurry moose

The most recent post here details my horrendously stressful trip back home. I won’t dwell on it here other than to say it was three days before I felt normal again. Jetlag and lack of sleep don’t help of course, but that was the longest lasting attack of stress, anxiety, panic, that I’ve had for years. I was very conscious on arrival at home to do things that would help me recover. I wasn’t going to do anything that mattered for a while, I certainly wasn’t going to make any important decisions.

So, in no particular order, here are some things that cheered me up over the next few days:
🔴 Watching the last week of the Tour de France, even if the Freeview box decided it wasn’t worth recording the final two days. Oh well, I know who won.
🟠 Watching the England women’s football team beat Germany in the final of the Euros, if for no other reason than we might stop hearing about 1966 now.
🟡 Witnessing Jill Scott swear on the pitch during the game.
🟢 I didn’t see the race, but I was pleased to see that Laura Kenny won a gold medal for the track cycling scratch race at the Commonwealth Games.
🔵 Lying in bed a few times, drifting in and out of sleep, listening to the sound of seagulls outside, imagining I was at the seaside.
🟣 Seeing pictures of Martha and William playing on a beach for real, in the company of the other grandparents.
⚫ Walking by the river Mersey, yet wondering why there weren’t more people out and about: surely they’re not all away on holiday?

Jill Scott being congratulated by the President of the Football Association
Martha, the other Prince William and Papa
Ducks in a row

Oh, and I went for a massage and collected my new spectacles from the optician: Didsbury has everything.

Well, maybe not everything. As far as I know, it doesn’t have a football champion. Northenden does, and I was pleased to meet her in her natural home, Boxx2Boxx.

Jill Scott MBE and Mick

A few days later, Jill appeared on the TV show Football Focus. She talked about working in the café this week and how lots of children had come along to see her and wear the medal…

But Jill wasn’t the only superstar I met this week. Later in the day, I went over to Jenny’s where Martha and William were excited because Auntie Helen had arrived from Australia. She’ll be here for a few weeks, making a few side-trips to exotic places such as Surrey and Greece.

After our evening meal, Martha engaged me in a game, which she made up as she went along. It was based on a drawing she’d made.

Martha’s drawing

The sad faces are Carrot and Fish Finger. The large character is SuperTato or maybe SuePotato. I was chastised for calling him/her/it SuperPotato. In retrospect, that was a ridiculous suggestion. The task was to kill the evil peas: they’re the little chaps in the top right hand corner. When killed, the evil peas miraculously grow hair, which Martha drew in with much force. The one that looks like a rocket isn’t in fact lettuce, it’s Celery. The one with the crown is Broccoli. Or Tomato, depending. If you want more details about this game, please ask Martha, I found it quite hard to keep up with all the rules!

This radio show this week was very tasty, all about food, glorious food.

I had to re-record the voice track because the first attempt had an annoying high-pitched whistle throughout. Now you might think it probably sounded better that way, but no, it really didn’t! The source of the whistle took some tracking down. I turned off all the other electric and electronic equipment, in case something was emitting a whistle that the microphone could pick up even if my ears didn’t. I tried recording with different software, and this was perfect, so the problem was within my preferred sound recorder. And after digging deep through the options, I found the culprit. An inadvertent twitch of the mouse or rogue keystrokes had, at some point, changed one of the settings. You can hear the results of this chicanery here:

And back home again

I was fully prepared for a stressful journey back home. I told myself that whatever happened, it was out of my hands, I could do nothing about it. I could control my breathing. What’s the worst that could happen?

But then reality kicked in and as I write this at home several hours after the events, I am still breaking out in cold sweats. This post is quite negative, so feel free to skip it. I’m only writing it because in years to come, it will be hard to believe that any individual trip can be this stressful.

If I were an explorer, venturing into the unknown, I would expect to be scared and hesitant. But my plans entail using supposedly well ordered 21st century travel infrastructure. It should be comfortable, safe, predictable, civilised.

After two weeks with the family in Anchorage, it was time to go back home. Liesel and Leslie dropped me off at the airport in very good time, at 10.00am, for my 12.40pm flight. The queue for checking in was already quite long but, as I said, I was in very good time.

At 10.30, I was able to report that the queue was moving, albeit slowly. There was only one person behind the desk but I told myself I’m sure they know what they’re doing. After all, this flight is a weekly event, they know how to process all these hundreds of people in good time, right?

As well as all the potential passengers, we were surrounded by dozens of chill boxes containing newly caught Alaskan salmon, destined for domestic freezers back home in Germany. I was glad I wasn’t checking in any luggage, it might have been crushed by all the fish.

10.50 arrived and so did the other queue, the so-called Premium Economy passengers. At this point, the still solitary check-in person gave them preferential treatment. This was the point at which I first began to feel uncomfortable. The dad in the family behind me in the queue was becoming agitated too. He was edging their luggage forward a centimetre at a time, even though nobody else in our queue was moving.

At 11.11, I reported to Liesel via Whatsapp that our queue hadn’t moved for 20 minutes. There were about 20 people in front of me at this point and probably well over 100 behind. 70 minutes in a queue seems unreasonable to me. Still just one person working, processing people in the other line.

The bloke behind spoke to a passing uniformed woman, asking for reassurance that we would be checked in in good time?
Uniformed woman: I don’t know, I don’t work for Condor.
Agitated bloke: But you work for the airport, no?
Uniformed woman: No, I work for a cruise liner.
Agitated bloke now deflated. This brought a rare smile to my face, thankfully hidden by the mask.

11.25, she took a group from my queue for the first time in 45 minutes. Via Whatsapp, Liesel commented that at least I had snacks. Well, yes, but eating was the last thing I wanted to do. Not throwing up was a major achievement. I know it’s out of my control, but that’s the problem. I can see the problem is not enough check-in personnel, and the solution is obvious: get more people. But I can’t do anything about that.

11.28, ‘holy moly’ is the phrase I didn’t use, someone else turned up to work at the check-in counter.

11.30, oh, she’s gone away again, a man appeared from nowhere to tell her that she couldn’t use that terminal.

11.42, Liesel asked if I’d reached the counter yet: nope.

11.45, I’m at the counter and my two boarding passed were printed within 30 seconds. 105 minutes waiting and less than one minute at the counter. Paradoxically, I felt short-changed, it should have taken longer, there should have been more of a ceremony, fireworks, everything.

Deep breaths as I now walked round the corner dreading the length of the queue I’d have to contend with before going through Security. It was now within an hour of the scheduled departure time.

12.00, Security was a breeze. A short wait, my bags went through without being pulled aside. At this point, I was shaking but no longer felt like I was going to be sick. I knew it was only a 10-minute walk to the boarding gate, so I took time out to buy a coffee. If I’m gonna be shaking, I might as well take on board some caffeine, was my strange train of thought.

I arrived at the boarding gate. No staff here and nothing displayed on the screen, just a lot of people sitting or milling about, some of whom I recognised because I’d been watching them ahead of me in the queue. What’s going on? Nobody knew. So I backtracked to find a screen displaying all the departure details, just to make sure the gate hadn’t changed since my boarding pass was printed. It hadn’t, but the information gleaned was much worse.

Destination Frankfurt

As you can see, my 12.40 flight actually departed at 11.55. Cue another surge of adrenaline, panic and cold sweat. How can a flight depart so early, especially when so many people were still in the check-in queue at that point? I know, I’ll ask a member of staff what’s going on. Only there were none.

12.42, two minutes after the scheduled departure time, two members of staff turned up, the two who’d been checking people in, one of whom had turned up just as I was being processed. The screen here at the gate was still not showing anything, so people swarmed around them asking for information. It seems this flight was so over-subscribed, they’d squeezed in an extra flight. Well, that’s great, but why not tell us? Why not update the departure board to reflect this fact, rather than telling us our plane had taken off a long time earlier? The lack of communication probably caused more anxiety than anything else.

And now of course, I know this flight will be leaving very late, making it more difficult for me to make my connection at Frankfurt airport.

1.12, finally, I am sitting on the plane, trying to tell myself that I just don’t care any more, but even this little trick isn’t working today. The stewardess (do we still use that term?) welcomed me in German to which I replied ‘schanke dön’. Proof that my brain was well and truly addled.

The pilot made an announcement, welcoming us on board. He also apologised for the delay, which was because it took longer than usual to move the plane to the departure gate from the other terminal.

Some good news though: I had two seats to myself.

Oh, but the bad news: my vegetarian meal wasn’t. There was a huge lump of beige meat on a bed of vegetables. The crew-member took my ‘non-lacto’ meal away and replaced it with a proper veggie meal. This didn’t bother me at all. A mistake was made somewhere along the line, and the problem was resolved. This is on a different level to the general level of incompetence experienced at the airport.

At some point, over Canada or Greenland I guess, I asked a crew member what time we expected to land at Frankfurt. About 9am local time, she said. Which was good news. My onward flight to Manchester departed at 9.45. Last time I flew from Anchorage to Manchester, transiting at Frankfurt, I just walked from one gate to another, dead easy, took five minutes or so. I was happy that I would not, after all, miss my connecting flight.

I couldn’t sleep during the flight, but I did start to relax a bit.

It was an unusually bumpy landing in Frankfurt, and for a moment, I thought I had plenty of time. But no. Instead of disembarking into the terminal building (just a few gates away from where my next flight would be boarding, as I thought), we stopped in the middle of nowhere, and had to take a bus to to the building. A quick 5-minute ride, surely? Nope. 15 minutes, so of course, the panic is now beginning to build again. Still, once inside, it should be a quick walk. Breathe.

I followed the signs to my departure gate, checking the screen on the way, which was just as well, because we’d been promoted from B24 to B27. Follow the signs. Just round the corner, surely. Down the stairs. Round this corner, then. Nope. Down more stairs. To a shuttle bus that would take us to the gate. A quick 5-minute ride, surely? No, another tour, seemingly of the whole airport. I really had not considered the possibility that I’d have not one but two shuttle bus rides at Frankfurt.

At the gate, I joined the queue to go through, not really caring what ‘group’ of people they were letting through, I just wanted to get on board, now, with only 5 minutes to spare. The machine rejected my boarding pass, it flashed red, but at least klaxons and alarms didn’t go off. The flashing red light stirred an otherwise disinterested man into action. He told me to go to go to that desk over there.

In front of the desk was a woman asking the young assistant what had happened to her luggage, last seen in Bucharest. It was probably a short conversation but at the time, I thought she’d never stop talking and get out of my way. But she did, eventually, and I presented my errant boarding pass.
Assistant: Have you just flown in from Anchorage?
Me: Yes I have.
Assistant: You’ve been cancelled, you flight was delayed, we didn’t think you’d get here in time.
Me: Oh. (And much more in my head.)
Assistant: How many checked items do you have?
Me: I don’t have any checked items. (Thank goodness, good planning there.)
Assistant: Would you like to be reinstated?
Me: Yes, please. (People were still going through the gate, so I thought I was OK for time.)
Assistant: (A million clicks on the keyboard. Then she gave me a brand new boarding pass.)
Me: Thank you very much.

I walked straight back to the scanning machine, jumping the queue, I’d already queued once pointlessly, and I’ve never seen such a welcome sight as this green light.

Of course, my seat had been reallocated and I was now sitting much nearer the front, by an exit, with plenty of leg room but no little table in front of me.

Lots of space, man

This flight was uneventful. The worst part was me being in the toilet when they went round giving out the chocolates. Huh. So when a crew member was distracted by another passenger, I just grabbed a chocolate off his tray. He didn’t notice.

Going through passport control at Manchester airport was a breeze on this occasion. All the machines were working. I had to temporarily remove the protective ‘I am European’ cover from the passport before the machine could read it.

Nothing to declare of course, so straight through Customs, also straight through the unavoidable but I’m sure very lucrative duty free shop, and out into the real world. Of course, the taxi I took home only accepted cash, so we had to go via an ATM.

At home, I climbed the stairs, went inside, collapsed on the bed and had a quick and very welcome nap.

As I said to Liesel, if I were a spy and you wanted to extract my secrets, you couldn’t come up with a more severe form of torture than making me fly internationally through under-staffed airports.

Thanks, I feel better, now. Very cathartic. I feel purged and cleansed but I will be searching for ‘industrial strength anti-anxiety medication’ when I’ve had another nap.

Party, plants and Petra

It was good fun going through photos for a couple of days, on Klaus’s computer, on Facebook and some really old, physical photos. They made for a fascinating slideshow at the party to celebrate Klaus’s life.

Klaus

Here is former marathon runner Klaus, with baby Liesel and her grandmother, with a freshly caught fish and barbecuing. Here’s Klaus’s obituary.

There was far too much food for the hundred or so people who turned up, so it’s been leftovers all week. Huli-huli chicken and kalua pig are two Hawaiian dishes that Klaus was especially fond of. The family have been enjoying the leftovers for a few days now.

Klaus was famous for his sense of humour. He was always telling jokes, so with that in mind, we set up a Joke Board, inviting contributions from the guests. Well, needless to say, some of the jokes are too rude for this family-friendly blog, but here goes anyway:

Joke board

Fifteen years ago, Liesel and I visited Bremen with Klaus and Leslie, a family reunion with some long-lost German relations. One of the side-trips was a tour of Beck’s brewery. Afterwards, we were given some samples to try: six, I think, small glasses of various beers and lagers. Which one did you like best, Klaus? To everyone’s surprise, he picked the non-alcoholic beverage. I imbibed some Beck’s today, it seemed the right thing to do. Prost!

Amongst the guests was Holly, our friend who flew up from Washington. Liesel and I were happy to give up our bed and sleep on the blow-up bed for a couple of nights, even if it did make farty noises every time one of us moved.

On one of our walks to Kincaid Park, Liesel picked both of the raspberries. Yes, there were only two ripe ones on the bush, but there’ll be plenty more soon. Maybe all that rain helped speed up the ripening process.

Yellow toadflax

It’s nice to be out in the Sun again, of course. And we do like seeing the odd splash of colour.

Red elderberry

At least, I think this is elderberry. But I wasn’t confident enough to pick the berries with a view to making elderberry wine. Well, I can’t help thinking about the times you were a wife of mine. You aimed to please me, cooked black-eyed peas-me, made elderberry wine. That Elton John song came to mind and was my earworm for the rest of the day.

Fireweed

Well, I think this is fireweed, it’s quite prolific in some places.

Selfie of the day: Holly, Jyoti, Liesel, Mick

I have to confess: Holly took this picture: if I’d tried to take a selfie, there would have been at least half of someone’s face missing.

There is a cat who lives in the house with Leslie. Her name is Petra and she is very shy, timid, secretive. I have often seen the tip of her tail disappear around the corner as she heads towards her favourite hiding place, the back of the closet. But one day, I was at home on my own, glanced down from the den, the upper landing. I saw the cat. The cat saw me. The cat crouched, ready to move off. I slowly extracted my phone. Turned the flash on. And I now have photographic evidence that the beast exists.

Petra

As you can see, her headlights are on full-beam. And this is the face that greets Leslie when she wakes up each morning. Luminous green, scary, starey eyes and everything.

Liesel, Holly and I walked on the boardwalk at Potter Marsh. One of those borderline days when even I was taking off and putting on my coat as the wind cooled and warmed up again.

The water in one of the streams was a bit murky, but it was good to see the salmon swimming upstream

Salmon

No birds to speak of, but I had some success with the dragonflies. One was on a lady’s shoe, so we helped it escape, and out of the way, we didn’t want anyone to stomp on it.

Dragonfly on a stranger’s shoe

And then there was this chap.

Dragonfly on the fence

He was very cooperative, he stayed very still, but at least he was alive. Or she, I don’t know how you can tell. I was able to get a nice close-up without him flying off.

Face to face with a dragonfly

We drove up to see Catherine and Hans. Their rhubard crumble was delicious. Holly knew Catherine from a long, long time ago. Holly and Liesel were travelling in Europe and spent some time with Catherine and Hans in the Netherlands. We had a good chat, enjoyed the view and the sunshine. George the Bernese mountain dog lives with Catherine and Hans. He wears children’s grippy socks indoors so that he can walk on the wooden floors without slipping.

George

When he’s out for a walk, he’ll let you know he’s had enough by lying down on his back, in the middle of the road.

Later that afternoon, Aaron, Jodi, Asa and Gideon came round with friends visiting from Germany: Fee, Jorn and Philip. It was a raucous evening, and again, there were stories about Klaus.

Jyoti, Liesel and I had a quick walk around Little Campbell Lake, also known as Beercan Lake. The ladies had a longer walk than I did, but it was nice sitting on the bench, watching the young people in their kayaks. This lake is where Liesel and I were married all those years ago. It was frozen at the time, so a very different vista today.

Beercan Lake

In Kincaid Park, near the chalet, we admired the multi-coloured bench.

Bench

It was windy here today, and a few people were flying kites. The clouds were fascinating to watch, swirling and whirling around. Someone suggested it was like a scene from Harry Potter.

Kites and clouds in Kincaid Park

Indoors, I was quite busy doing some DIY. The key lock box combination is … haha, I nearly revealed it. I tightened up the screws holding up the hanging basket bracket. I changed a lightbulb outside the garage, quite possibly the most awkward lightbulb in the world, in a brass and glass case, with a hole not quite big enough to fit a bulb and fingers at the same time. Duct tape, as is often the case in Alaska, was my saviour.

Last week’s radio show was themed around Religion, but as someone commented, it’s not at all dry and preachy. Please give it a listen here.

If you would like to see a list of all the shows that I’ve uploaded from Wythenshawe Radio and beyond, then please follow me, mick_the_knife, on Mixcloud, you’ll be notified every time a new show appears.

An unexpected job was to clear out some cr I mean rubbish, old stuff, from the garage. Some was thrown away but a lot was taken to the charity shop. This provided the day’s scary moment. Do something scary every day, someone once said. Well, I don’t manage to every single day, but I made up for quite a few days on this occasion. I had to climb up the ladder several times, to take things down from high shelves and to put other items up there. My palms were sweaty, but I didn’t show my fear to Liesel and her Mom. I am very proud of my stoicism. Ladders and me have never really got along. This was after Liesel had taken me to the local supermarket, Carrs, for my second Covid booster jab. I have a slightly sore arm, but otherwise, no problem. The bonus was, the pharmacist gave me a voucher, so we got 10% off the groceries we bought. $12 saved. That’s almost as good as the chocolate I was given with my very first Covid jab, last year. Almost! 

My time in Anchorage is nearly over. Before I arrived, Liesel and I had the following telephone conversation. (Remember, on my last trip, I ((very) briefly) swam in the lake at Nana’s Cabin in Talkeetna):

Liesel: When you come over, will you bring my swimsuit?
Mick: Yes, of course, where is it?
Liesel: Under the bed, I think.
Mick: OK. Why?
Liesel: We’re going to Talkeetna and I thought I might go for a swim in the lake.
Mick: Oh great, I’ll bring my budgie smugglers too.
Liesel: You’re not going.
Mick: Uh?
Liesel: I’m going with Mom and Jyoti after you’ve gone back home. (There was an evil cackle at this point, or maybe I imagined it.)

Huh.

Ou est le soleil

Yes I’m back in Anchorage. I described the journey earlier and a couple of people have asked for the password. I wrote the previous post more in sorrow than anger, mainly for my family, with the feeling that I’d never, ever go anywhere else. Someone pointed out that I’d have to go back home sometime. Well, yeah, s’pose so. And then the travel bug will bite again. If my recent experience is as bad as it gets, at least I now know I can cope with the situation. And in the end, of course, the mechanics of the journey aren’t as important as the fact that I’m going somewhere different. But, if you would like to catch up, the password to Wows and Woes is anchorage, obvious really, all lower case of course.

The first sight of land from the plane was Greenland.

Greenland

Its stark beauty certainly helped me put all the nasty, ridiculous airport shenanigans into some sort of perspective.

And then, several hours later, was that Denali I saw way over there in the distance?

Denali (maybe)

In any case, at this point, I knew we would very soon be landing at Ted Stevens Airport, Anchorage.

A groan of disappointment made its way around the cabin as we realised how hard it was raining here. But this dismay was somewhat mitigated, for me at least, when I noticed the registration number of the aeroplane we’d flown in on.

D-ABUM, the 28-year old Boeing 767

I don’t know why the word ‘bum’ always lifts my spirits. But it does. It did a few days later in a local shop as well.

Trust the bum

Two bums for the price of one. And no, I didn’t investigate, I shall let the mystery of ‘trust the bum’ float in the air.

The house feels emptier without Klaus of course. Just Liesel and Mom and me. And, outside, the rain and a bird having a bath. Which, of course, I wasn’t quick enough to take a photo of.

The rain showed no sign of relenting, so Liesel and I walked wetly to the stadium in Kincaid Park to watch Gideon’s team play football against what seemed to be an older team. I don’t know what’s worse: walking in the rain, playing football in the rain or standing around watching people play football in the rain, in the rain. Actually, I think the last option was the least pleasant.

Football fans, soccer spectators

On the path, a couple of cyclists stopped to ask us whether we’d seen any moose. Not today, no, they’re probably all taking shelter somewhere. We did however see a million and one earthworms on the path, some very long and juicy ones. Any blackbird passing by would be spoilt for choice.

Liesel and I went to visit Jyoti for a quick cuppa. We decided against going out for a walk, we still weren’t fully wrung out from the earlier jaunt to the football game.

The shop I mentioned above? Well, we went to buy me a new, waterproof coat. I might need it but really, I’m hoping I won’t, because the rain will stop sooner rather than later.

Liesel, Leslie and I paid a visit to Costco. I’d been happy to help with the chores at home, on this occasion, shredding years and years of confidential documents, now surplus to requirements. Well, sadly, the shredder too is now surplus to requirements. It overheated, stopped shredding and never recovered. We bought a new one at Costco, and this new model completed the job beautifully within a couple of days. We bought some other stuff as well, it would have been absurd to go to a shop like Costco for just one item. In particular, we’re preparing for the party at the weekend to celebrate Klaus’s life. Another task of mine is to gather together photos of Klaus for a slide show at the party.

Mountains. We can see the mountains again, hidden until now by the rain. Look:

Mountains
I’ll bear this place in mind next time I have back issues

I was hoping the rain might ease. It did, briefly. But as far as rainfall is concerned, this is a record-breaking month in Anchorage. The average rainfall here for July is 0.06″. The record from 1981 is 0.39″. On this one day, we had 1.00″ of rain. There are flood warnings. There are floods. Aaron had left the motorhome parked up near Willow and was advised to go and move it due to the river potientially breaking its banks.

Meanwhile in the UK, they experienced record-breaking temperatures approaching 40°C, and even the long, hot Summer of ’76 was nowhere near this hot. Climate crisis? What climate crisis?

Jyoti, Liesel and I went for a walk over at Potter Marsh. The rain had stopped, but I took my new coat, just in case. We didn’t see many birds of interest, no eagles nor swifts, but we did see a baby moose and its mother. I don’t think Liesel was impresssed, they see mooses here all the time, but such a sight is still novel to me.

Mom and baby moose
Common hawker (maybe)

I want to believe this insect was just having a rest, but I fear it was an ex-dragonfly, it was defunct, demised, expired and had gone to meet its maker, it had shuffled off this mortal coil, kicked the bucket, run down the curtain and gone to join the choir invisible.

Wows and woes

You’ve probably seen this picture before, but it was undoubtedly the best photo I saw this week, the first taken by the James Webb Space Telescope and released to the public.

Gaze in awe

Galaxies 13.5 billion years old with gravitational lens effects, I couldn’t stop gawping at this picture for a very long time.  It reminds me, I still want to be a spaceman.

Closer to home, these poppies brighten up an otherwise dreary part of Northenden.

Poppies

So where else have I been this week? The dentist where again the hygienist asked the same questions about my oral hygiene regime and I reminded her that I am 145 years old and I will continue to look after my teeth and gums as well as I can.

Not sure if it’s more exciting or not, but I took the car in to have a light bulb replaced. Not a 5-minute job as you’d expect, because they had to take out the wheel arch to access it. Why do they design cars that way?

What is definitely more exciting and interesting is that the heron was not in his usual spot this week, on the weir. He was in the river, halfway to Didsbury.

Heron

I went with Jenny and William and Liam to a suit hire shop, funnily enough to hire a suit, for a future event. Later in the week, I went clothes shopping, by myself, not my favourite pastime, and came home with a pair of shirts and a pair of shoes. Not trainers but actual, Italian leather shoes.

Martha and William both enjoyed their sports day at school, and not only because all the children got an ice lolly afterwards. It was a very nice day for the event.

Liesel reported a couple of earthquakes from Anchorage. At home, three pictures fell off the walls within 24 hours. Now, I’m not saying the earthquakes caused this, but what a coincidence. One frame broke and by luck, the glass remained in tact. Another one, I think the Blu Tack just melted in the heat, same as the rest of us.

I may have mentioned my very long to-do list from a few weeks ago. Mostly quick jobs that weren’t so quick in the end for one reason or another, mostly ticked off now, and this week I succeeded in preparing, recording and editing three radio shows. That was quite a feat, and I probably won’t repeat it.

In Anchorage, Liesel has been working with Amrit and Suvan again, staying out of the scorching Alaskan sunshine. There’s a heatwave here in the UK, but Anchorage was much hotter for a while.

I enjoyed a few walks locally this week, including a couple with the well-being walking groups. And in a repeat performance from two months ago, I got up ridiculously early on Saturday morning, to take a taxi to the airport for my flight to Frankfurt and then onwards to Anchorage for a couple of weeks.

This week’s radio show is all adverts. Well, a few actual adverts but mostly songs that have been used in commercials over the years. Sing along to a couple of old favourites!

Gathering in Gatley

As regular readers will be aware, I didn’t quite make it to Glastonbury Festival this year. But I did venture out to Gatley Festival. This has the advantage of being within walking distance. And a lot smaller. Just one performance area, rather than 96 stages. Lots of food stalls and some fairground attractions too. Perfect! Extra points if you noticed the musical allusion.

Eclipse Parade Band

The parade through Gatley consisted of a few bands, some school parties and other local groups. Those of us watching from the pavement (just outside a coffee shop, in my case, unbelievably) then followed the parade to the Festival ground itself, Gatley Hill.

Colin and Hayley from Wythenshawe FM were compèring, although the event wasn’t being broadcast live on the radio. I made up for it: see below.

Just one of many gymnasts plus Hayley talking to the tutor

We were able to enjoy some music and a gymnastics display, we could play rugby and lacrosse, we could have our faces painted and hair coiffed, we could splat the rat and ride a donkey. We could even drink and drive.

Gatley Driving School

There was a very long queue at the beer tent but it was good to see the vegan Indian stall, Bhaji Pala, being well attended too.  We’ve had meals from the restaurant a few times and can highly recommend it.

I met Neil, who will be rowing across the Atlantic later in the year for Alzheimer’s.

Neil’s boat

This isn’t the actual boat they’ll use but very similar. Follow his progress here and if you can, show your support!

Gatley Hill House

This is a new building to me, normally rooms are available for hire, but given the fencing all around it right now, I think it’ll be a while before we’re allowed back in.

The omelette I made for myself was very nice, but I’m no good at cooking, and rather than being one solid piece of food, it came out of the pan in several lumps. I’ll try again in another five years or so.

It’s been a while since we’ve been able to watch either of the children swimming, but I did take Martha for her lesson this week. She’s so confident in the water, swimming below the surface and later, treading water for a whole minute. As she explained, this is because if she falls out of a boat she might have to tread water for a minute, or ten minutes, an hour or ten hours or even longer.

Similarly, it’s been a while since I picked the children up from school.

Wild flowers

But I did this week and at home, we watched a YouTube video in which a couple of men dug a big hole in the ground to make a swimming pool, with a couple of slides and an underground house. Impressive work, as Martha said. We wondered where in the world this was taking place. When they began to chop down bamboo for making a fence and other decoration, Martha suggested it was China. Why? Because that’s bamboo, pandas eat bamboo and pandas live in China. Can’t fault the logic, there!

Meanwhile, in Anchorage, Liesel is enjoying a heatwave. There she was, relaxing in the Sun at Carrie’s house, when a visitor appeared.

Water moose

I think Liesel’s been walking a lot, probably more than I have here in Northenden, but she has also been in to work a couple of times.

On another occasion, she saw a baby moose with his big momma. And in an unexpected turn of events, Liesel has been bitten by a mosquito. Usually they go for me, but I’m several thousand miles away, out of sniffing range, so I guess even in the mosquito world, beggars can’t be choosers.

Didsbury in bloom

A nice explosion of colour here with the flowers and the bins. This is in Didsbury where I went for my annual visit to the opticians and while I was in the village, I went for a very welcome massage too. After which I wanted to sleep for the rest of the day.

But I didn’t.

This week’s radio show theme is Festivals. Glastonbury and Gatley, to be precise. Listen here on on WFM 97.2 next Wednesday at 10pm. A wonderful way to nod off at the end of the day.

Now it’s time for a whinge. The email says:

We look forward to welcoming you on board soon.

To start your journey well-prepared, we have compiled the most important information relating to travel during the pandemic

But they haven’t compiled the most important information at all. They just told me to check this and check that and in the process, introduced an unnecessary level of anxiety. Grrr. Yes, you read my palms correctly: I am going on a journey.

Here, there and everywhere

Never say never of course, but it’s very unlikely we’ll ever visit the Glastonbury Festival. The biggest and best festival in the world returned for the first time since the pandemic. And the thought of sharing a space with nearly a quarter of a million strangers is just too daunting. On the other hand, the site, Worthy Farm, is vast. See just how big compared with your neighbourhood here: just enter your postcode. (Thanks for this link, Jenny.)

I watched on TV from the comfort of my own sofa, enjoying beer from my birthday and from Fathers Day. The highlight for me was of course was Sir Paul McCartney. Seeing him live at the O2 a few years ago was the best Beatles concert I’ll ever experience.

Sir Paul McCartney

I was on my own at home so I sang along to all the songs: I had a wonderful little party, by myself! It’s mostly a young audience at Glastonbury and it was fantastic to see they knew the words to all the old Beatles’ songs, and to Diana Ross’s old hits, the next day.

Last time, I left you with the image of a small car parked badly on the island in the river. Well, someone waded in, retrieved and relocated it.

Rubbish parking

I went over to visit the grandchildren (and their parents) and their new pet.

Incey Wincey

This brought back unhappy memories of my time as a postman, walking through cobwebs at face height.

It was a joy to see William and Martha again after such a long time away.

Meanwhile, over in Alaska, Liesel went away for a quick break, visiting the little town of Hope, with her Mom and brother.

Aaron, Liesel and Leslie

On another occasion, Liesel reported seeing a porcupine walking along the road. Well, that puts the Northenden heron into perspective.

I couldn’t refuse the offer to look after William for a couple of hours one day, while Jenny and long-time friend Danielle had their hair done.

William and Grandad

I think this picture shows how absorbed William was and how bemused I was after watching several episodes and a full-length movie of Pokémon on TV. After a while though, William did get up and have a walk/slide around in his new footwear.

William’s new slippers

Slippers have never been more slippery.

In Anchorage, Liesel enjoyed a nice long hike up in the hills with Jyoti and Una.

Jyoti, Una and Liesel

If pushed, I’d probably have to admit that the scenery here is slightly more spectacular than anything Northenden has to offer.

This week I had reason to access Facebook, for a very specific purpose. And it annoyed me within two minutes. So no, I won’t be creating a new account for myself.

A much more uplifting experience was to be had on the two well-being walks I joined this week, one in Northenden and one in Wythenshawe.

Just a random garden in Northenden

This week’s photographic assignment was to capture a heavily laden bumble bee on this gorgeous hydrangea.

Hydrangea

But it would not keep still, flitting from flower to flower, and especially when I lifted up my phone to take the picture. Some beasties are intrinsically more cooperative, and stationary,  I’m pleased to report.

Snail

In sports news, local barista Jill Scott scored the fourth goal for England’s victorious football team, against Switzerland, in their final warm-up game before the Women’s Euro 2022 competition. A great advertising opportunity, of course!

Jill Scott
Boxx 2 Boxx

As I was walking through Wythenshawe, I noticed a plain concrete pillar in the middle of a fairly large area of lawn. I wondered if it might be an old milestone, it had that sort of shape to it. I couldn’t see any legible engraving, so I walked round to see what was on the other side.

No ball games

Well, we won’t be seeing any future Jill Scotts around here, I guess.

In Anchorage, Liesel and her Mom sat outside Carrie’s house, by the lake, enjoying the view and sitting in the Sun a little too long. This set them up nicely for a weekend camping trip to Willow, with Aaron and a group of friends. The last I heard, they were still partying well after midnight.

This week, I dedicated my radio show to the memory of Liesel’s Dad, Klaus, playing some of his favourite songs as well as some others in German.

Goodbyes

Going to bed late after a delayed flight, you think you’d go to sleep fairly quickly. Oh no, not me, not with my brain. I spent far too long counting, not just sheep, but the number of animals we’d seen in various airports: bears (polar and brown), moose and horses. Well, one horse.

Horse

This is Blackleaf, by Deborah Butterfield, 2017, taking pride of place at Seattle Airport.

Dall sheep

The glass cage at Anchorage Airport is not the Dall sheep’s natural habitat, they’re more commonly found in the mountains of Alaska.

So if I were counting sheep as an aid to sleep, I would have reached a grand total of one. But I got there in the end.

A bit of a lie-in was followed by a reasonably lazy day. The three Rs: reading, writing and arithmetic. And it was a delight to go back to bed at a more reasonable hour.

Sadly, in an almost repeat performance from a few weeks ago, in the middle of the night, Klaus fell out of bed on his way to the toilet. Three of us couldn’t help him climb back in so again, we called the paramedics. I think this one incident really confirmed to us just how ill he is now. No strength at all.

After breakfast, I wrote some more before Liesel took us over to Pam and Owen’s place for a barbecue. Well, we went to see Una and she drove us over to Pams’, with Monica. On this occasion, on meeting her, I did not give Monica a bear hug exacerbating her shoulder injury.

My eyes were watering and I put this down to hay fever. But no, it’s more likely to be smoke from bush fires quite a long way off, Una was suffering as well. And, sure enough, the mountains were all but invisible through the haze.

Mountains through the haze

From AP News: High winds have pushed a wildfire to within miles of an Alaska Native village in western Alaska, officials said Thursday.

No evacuation orders were issued for St. Mary’s though the East Fork Fire was within 8 miles (12.9 kilometers), the U.S. Bureau of Land Management Alaska Fire Service said in a statement. No structures have been burned.

The 78-square-mile (202-square-kilometer) fire was started May 31 by lightning…

Meanwhile, back at the barbecue, burgers were the order of the day. Liesel enjoyed her first burger for six years or something. And I enjoyed the salads on offer plus possibly my favourite comfort food: cheese and tomato sandwiches, albeit in burger buns.

Thanks Pam and Owen for a nice afternoon: I think it’s fair to say the ladies managed to solve the problems of the world while Owen and I sat quietly in the background!

While we were driving home, Monica received a call from her husband Gregg saying that a tree behind their house had been set on fire. That’s pretty scary, especially when you have lithium batteries in the garage that don’t mix with heat nor with water that might used to put the fire out.

On Monday morning, Klaus visited his family doctor. Straightaway, because he looked so jaundiced, she sent him to hospital, where he spent the next few days. While he was there, we tried to make the house more accommodating for him on his return. With this in mind, Liesel, Jodi and I went to Bailey’s Furniture shop to buy a new chair for Klaus, a powered one that would help him to stand up, that massages and reclines to nearly horizontal.

But what a fascinating shop. Never mind the wonderful range of furniture, the place is decorated in style.

A plane in Bailey’s

And I’m sure a little girl I know would love this chair.

Not Klaus’s chair

Liesel uses some software to be able to work from home accessing Amrit’s computer. She got a bill claiming she hadn’t paid. Which she had. Prove it. So I looked at the relevant account on my phone and tried to screenshot the payment. Oh no. For security reasons, I can’t screenshot from a banking app. If Liesel had been around at the time, I would have used her phone take a picture of my phone’s screen. But she wasn’t. Instead, I had to use an elaborate system of mirrors, a split screen with the required data in one half and the camera in the other half and take a picture using the timer, then reversing the image. I say ‘elaborate’ and it would have worked if only I could have held the phone perfectly still for a split second. Technology, eh?

Liesel and her Mom spent most of the next day in hospital with Klaus. My task at home, on Klaus’s computer, was to make sure we knew his passwords: bills need paying and he’s usually responsible. Klaus uses an Apple Mac, so that was an interesting learning curve having been using Windows for decades! Fortunately, my daughter Helen was able to provide some technical support. Thanks Helen!

Jodi brought her friend, realtor Andrea, around to look at Leslie and Klaus’s house, with a view to selling it after thirty years. It needs some work but it’s not in too bad a condition.

After they left, I started walking towards Jyoti’s house intending to go for a longer walk with her.

Mountains again

It was reassuring to see the mountains more clearly today. And I had the pleasure of gently pursuing a dragonfly for a minute. Last time I was here in Anchorage, I was notoriously unlucky in trying to photograph these flighty beasts. But today, I took a series of pictures, each one a little closer.

Dragonfly

I am very pleased with this picture, although I would have preferred the background to be a leaf rather then the pavement!

I thought I was on a roll. But no, that was the extent of my success. Attempts to capture a beetle in all its glory failed abysmally.

Did we have a nice long walk? Not today. Instead, we got coffee at Kaladi and took it to Sand Lake, traipsing through the grounds of the Elementary School. Sitting in the shade by the water was so peaceful. Thanks for the time-out, Jyoti.

Sand Lake

We collected Liesel from the hospital and went home for a short while. We spent the evening back at Catherine and Hans’ again, enjoying good food, outside, watching the Sun go down. We talked about Klaus of course and music and radio.

Sunset over Turnagain Arm

Jyoti and I did go for a nice long hike the next day. She took me to Kincaid Park and we followed one of the trails. Well, maybe: we might have missed a turn somewhere, but it was still a very pleasant walk.

Basil

The only wildlife we saw was Jyoti’s dog Basil who probably walked and ran twice as far as we did and on little legs too. And how green is that vegetation? So lush. It’s hard to believe that it hasn’t rained here since the snow melted a couple of months ago, but further out of the city, as we’ve seen, there is a real risk of fire.

I’m sure Margaux was a wonderful person

On the way out, we saw this little chap just mooching along the pavement, minding his own bees wax.

Moose

At Fire Island, we bought some high-calorie content cupcakes for ourselves and for Liesel and Leslie who again had stayed with Klaus in hospital. And coffee again from Kaladi Brothers for us. Again, we collected Liesel and took her home.

Leslie returned a little later, after which we all went out to view an apartment that would suit Klaus and Leslie, should they decide to move.

We met Andrea and Jodi there and had a good look round. It seemed ideal, to me. If we’d seen such an apartment when we were looking four years ago, I think we would have seriously considered it. My job was to walk around with the walker to make sure it fits through all the doorways. In my head was Bill Withers: Lean on me. One selling point is that it’s quite close to Aaron and Jod’s house, as well as just over the road from New Sagaya, a supermarket and coffee shop.

We were told that Klaus was to be discharged. The house isn’t ready. So, in a rush, with the help of Asa, Gideon and their friends Addie and Alec, we moved the dresser out of the bedroom, lowered the bed and rotated it 90° to make it easier for Klaus to get up in the night.

Later, it emerged, he wasn’t coming home today, after all. Communication failure.

Still with a view to maybe selling this house, the next morning, Liesel, Jyoti and I threw away loads of food. Now, none of us like throwing away food, but this was all out of date. I don’t mean just a couple of weeks old.

Old, old, old food

Oh no. Some of it was years old. Even decades. The oldest items had no best before date, they were that old. But the record goes to Liesel who threw away something from 1992.

The plan is, eventually, to empty the pantry and move the washing machine and dryer to that space, up from the garage. This should be more attractive for any potential buyer.

Sorting through old food and disposing of it is ridiculously hard work. Luckily it was bin day, so much of it was taken away, leaving a nice empty bear-proof wheelie bin for the next few bags of old food.

I had a bit of a break by continuing with the passwords project on the Mac.

Liesel and I went to Walmart to collect some prescription drugs for Klaus, because he really was being discharged today. Good to see the pandemic’s over in the city. Very few other people were wearing masks.

Klaus came home, and sat in his new chair for a short while before going upstairs to bed.

And so, my time in Anchorage comes to an end. After saying goodbye to Klaus and Leslie, Liesel dropped me off at the airport. She was originally going to fly back with me but is staying on for a couple more weeks to help and support her Mom.

I went through security. That’s it. No trauma today. I had a middle seat so I looked around trying to predict which two fatties I’d be wedged between. But no. Both my seat-mates were skinnies. And,the young lady to my left moved to a different seat, leaving me her aisle seat.

Transit at Frankfurt was a doddle. A ten-minute walk from one gate to the next. It makes you wonder why USA has to make such a big deal out of these things. It certainly doesn’t make  us feel any more secure.

Clouds over Germany

As we flew past Cheadle, I took some pictures, hoping to be able to pinpoint Jenny’s house from the sky. This is still a work in progress.

I kept mine on, but just about everyone else removed their masks on disembarkation. Even when entering the overheated, windowless depths of Manchester Airport to go through security, which was a slow process.

I took a taxi home, and immediately felt very welcome. Jenny and Helen had left Fathers Day cards for me as well as a box of Maltesers and some beer. Cheers! I slumped for most of the day and went to bed really early. I never seem to get a proper sleep on an aeroplane.

And of course, I woke early, listened to a couple of podcasts and did my usual three puzzles, Wordle, Worldle and Nerdle. Horror of horrors: I lost my winning streak on the first two. I’d forgotten to play in the short ‘day’ between leaving Anchorage and landing in Manchester.

On my first full day back at home, I waited in for a grocery delivery from Ocado, ate Maltesers, wiped out the now empty fridge, after its inadvertent defrosting while we were away, and wrote for a while while listening to old, recorded radio shows. And, in an effort to convince myself I was doing something useful, I gathered together all the to-do lists.

On my second full day back at home, I ticked a few items off the to-do list. Don’t worry, I did them first. And there is still plenty to keep me occupied. I’m lucky to have the freedom to nap whenever the urge takes me.

At 4.50 in the morning, I answered the phone. It was Liesel telling me that her Dad had died. Just three days after I’d left. I really had said goodbye to him. Very sad, but not totally unexpected. We didn’t like seeing him in such distress and discomfort, and we’ll certainly miss him and his humour.

The rest of the day was taken up with mundane chores, nothing that required too much thought. In a bit of a daze, to be honest. I started putting this week’s radio show together and finished it the following day. I think this one took longer to prepare than any, since the very early days when the whole process was new to me.

You can listen to my Postcard from Alaska here. Or catch the repeat on Wythenshawe Radio WFM 97.2 at 10pm on Wednesday.

Some exciting, good news to end on. After completing enough tasks (an arbitrary target, I admit), my reward was to visit the local coffee shop here in Northenden. The latté art made me smile.

Very arty, very tasty

It’s reassuring to see that some things never change. I don’t think our heron has moved from this spot for at least five weeks.

Heron on the weir

On the other hand, car parking skills in Northenden haven’t improved since I’ve been away.

How did they end up here?