Looking forward, looking back

This hasn’t been the most exciting of weeks. Today is Liesel’s final day at her current job, which is quite exciting but otherwise, nothing special. From now on, we’re sailing with the wind until we can move house.We have a trip planned to visit Martha for her 2nd birthday. And once Liesel’s not working fulltime, we’ll make a few trips into London and further afield: watch out Canterbury, Mary Rose and Ireland…

The For Sale board outside our house has been changed to Sold.  And we have received the form from Northenden listing the items that our vendors are leaving in the apartment, if we want them. Our buyer should be receiving the equivalent form any day now too. One of the most frustrating aspects of this whole project is, we don’t really know what’s happening, the agents and solicitor don’t keep us up to date with all the activity. And we’re waiting for the next surprise.

On this day in 1989, I had the day off work and Sarah and I took Jenny and Helen to Drusillas, a small zoo park in Sussex. They were aged 5 and 2 respectively and both have very fond memories of that day. Maybe.

On this day in 2006, Mick flew to New York for a long weekend with Liesel. We visited museums and saw a couple of theatre shows. Theater shows, I suppose. But the main point of this trip was to bring Liesel back to her new home here in Chessington. We’d married 6 weeks earlier in Alaska, Liesel had her visa, and I felt it was important to escort her into the country. We ventured further afield to meet Liesel’s old friend, ‘Aunty’ Pauline, in Connecticut. So far, this is Mick’s only visit to New York.

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Strawberry Fields, Central Park

On this day in 2009, Liesel and I visited Liverpool, and it’s impossible to think about Liverpool without thinking about the Beatles of course. We wanted to go into one of the cathedrals, but somehow missed the front door. The docks were a nice peaceful area to wander round.

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Liverpool’s Albert Dock

 

On this day in 2019, well, watch this space…

63: better than 57 was

Liesel and I were in a shop and she asked me what sort of doughnut I wanted.

“Oh, a normal jam doughnut, with the jam at the back, please.”

As she was being served, David Jacobs walked by us, said “Hello” and walked behind the counter into the kitchen. Well that’s strange, I thought.

Then Liesel looked at me in horror and said, “Mick, you’ve spilt coffee on your shorts”, in a manner that implied I was always spilling coffee down my otherwise pristine, white shorts. I looked down and was horrified at the large brown stain. Then I realised, it was a map of the world, printed on my shorts at a quirky, jaunty angle. But the map is meant to be on the back: yes, I’d put my shorts on back to front. The text is meant to be on the front of the shorts.

Then of course, I woke up and realised, hooray, it’s my birthday.

I don’t know if dreams really mean anything but in this case, it was half right. I did meet David Jacobs just the once: at a Kingston Readers’ Festival event, he asked me if I knew the way to the lavatory.

When I was a child, sometimes as a treat when she took me and my sister shopping in Guildford, Mum would buy us a doughnut. I could never understand how doughnuts worked. Wherever I took the first bite, I wouldn’t find any jam until I’d nearly finished. It was always at the back.

On the other hand, I haven’t worn lily white shorts for a few decades, not since I gave up playing squash. And I have certainly never worn shorts adorned with a world map, nor any other decoration. And I don’t think I’ve spilt coffee on any of my shorts. The living room carpet, yes; the shorts, no.

Back to real life. Today was Mick’s birthday and we had a fun day in London with our friends Helen and Steve.

In the morning we enjoyed Abba Super Troupers: The Exhibition at the Southbank Centre. We walked through nine immersive rooms, taking in the music and creativity that saw four talented Swedish musicians shoot to international stardom. There was plenty of memorabilia, lots of music, and an opportunity to remix one of the songs in a replica of their recording studio.

In Gabriel’s Wharf, we ate all, well, some of, the pies at Pieminister. It had been warm enough briefly in the morning for me to take my coat off. Nobody else did. But walking around in shirt sleeves, albeit briefly, is a sure sign that at last, maybe, possibly, finally, Spring is on its way.

We continued our walk along the South Bank stopping at the Tate Modern for coffee and cake. Not birthday cake, but close enough, thanks for asking. While sitting in the café there, we saw the royal barge Gloriana heading towards Putney for the University Boat Race tomorrow. I think that at the speed it was travelling, it wasn’t being rowed and should therefore not be allowed to compete.

There was a group of people filming on the South Bank beach. Maybe a film, maybe a TV programme. But if in a drama, you ever see someone fishing in the Thames with a rod, let us know, we were there!In the turbine room, the current exhibition is Superflex One Two Three Swing, lots of swings each of which has room for three people, so Liesel and I had a go. Great fun: it’s so good to be allowed, even encouraged, to act like children once in a while.

Steve is a big, big fan of buses, so we went for a quick bus ride to pass some time, catching the RV1 from near the Tate Modern to Tower Gateway, then a 15 to Aldwych, then another RV1 back to the Southbank Centre.

At the Royal Festival Hall, we enjoyed the London Concert Orchestra playing music from James Bond films, and other related films and TV series. The two singers Louise Dearman and Oliver Tompsett did pretty well: we’ll never see Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey, Matt Monro, Lulu, Louis Armstrong and all the others performing their James Bond film songs live. Yes, I was nudged a few times for singing along, but come on, it is my birthday.

Abba Super Troupers runs until April 29th.

Superflex One Two Three Swing runs until April 2nd.

And if you’ve got this far, you may be wondering about the title. Why is 63 better than 57 was?

Today was a great day, in the greatest city on Earth, all good, nothing bad. It was my 63rd birthday. 63 going on 29.

But I had to work on my 57th birthday: and that was the day I got bit on the bum by a dog.

Beast from the East 2

This weekend has seen the return of the so-called Beast from the East. The Russians are sending over their coldest wind again, resulting in more snow and a drop of ten degrees in temperature between Friday and Saturday.

But that didn’t stop me from going for a walk to Victoria Park, Surbiton today, to do something just a little bit scary.

I haven’t cycled in the snow for many years, possibly not since I had to for work as a postman. And on my own bike, probably not since I commuted into Kingston.

And I have never ridden a penny farthing. A kind of bike that Liesel didn’t even think was real until a few years ago.

But that all changed today: I had a go on a penny farthing. Around a snow-covered football field. Not a full-size, genuine Victorian one, but still high enough to give me cause for concern.

There’s a small stop half-way up the main stem, and you’re supposed to swing your other leg over and start pedalling straightaway. Well, I didn’t, and promptly fell over on the first attempt. With help, I got going and probably cycled between a quarter and a half a mile, being chased, I mean, followed by the bloke ready to catch should I fall off again.

Going along was OK, but stopping and getting off again was quite hairy. So, just like flying a aeroplane, starting and stopping are the difficult periods.

The event was to celebrate Cycling in Surbiton which was home at one point to a High Wheeler Race Track. Part of the Wheels of Time celebration of cycling in the Royal Borough – for which I partook in the interview last week.

Pauline and I were in Kingston a couple of days ago, following our two days in London. She wanted to see some ‘old things’. So I showed her a mirror.

Then we saw the Coronation Stone of course. And we spent some time in Kingston Museum which has some really old stuff.

Meanwhile, Liesel is counting down the days: just eight more with her current employer. Then our big adventure can really begin. We can deal with the practicalities of moving house while planning our gap year travels for real.

Two Days in London

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London is probably always going to be my favourite city. I can walk around it for hours, always find something new, or something silly, or something historical.

I was joined by Pauline, my sister over from New Zealand for (so far) two days pounding the streets in London.

Yesterday, it was Kensington, where I re-visited the places I used to frequent when I was a student in the 1970s. My old halls of residence in Campden Hill Road is now a block of luxury apartments. The maths department, which used to be in the Atkins building, is no more.

Holland Park was and still is a fascinating place to walk around. Peacocks, moorhens, a heron and a pond full of fornicating frogs and lots and lots of frogspawn.

We walked back along Kensington High Street and along Church Street, I wanted to see again 96 Palace Gardens Terrace, where I lived for 18 months or so in a really small bedsit. Kensington Palace was beyond the fence at the bottom of the garden.

Then through Kensington Gardens which was not too crowded at all. Through the Orangery, past the Palace and to Kensington Town Hall where we met Liesel who’d been on a course there.

Wagamama’s for dinner and finally home.

Today, Pauline and I joined an official London Walk around the Inns of Court which is always fascinating. And we went into the Royal Courts of Justice, wandered round for ages, quite legally but we did feel a little bit naughty.

 

 

The Craic Was Good

BBC 6 Music is our Sunday soundtrack, usually. Not necessarily all day, but the presenters are all pretty good, the music is fab, and if we hear a song we’re not too keen on, we know something good will come along later.

Today though, there was some competition. The 2018 Winter Paralympics are taking place in PyeongChang. I have two whole legs and I can’t ski and steer where I want to nor stop when I need to. So to watch disabled skiers, some sitting down on monoskis, do their stuff is awe-inspiring.

But the most intriguing game is the Wheelchair Curling. And it made me think of Albert Einstein. Hold on, that’s quite a leap, isn’t it? Well, he is reported to have said, “I do not know with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones”.

Here is a game in which large stones are slid along an ice rink and points are scored in a similar way to bowls: it’s determined by how many stones are closer to the centre of the target than those of the opposing team.

Wheelchair players have to push the stones with a long broom handle. Or stick. There is no sweeping as there is in conventional curling.

So there you have it. Sticks and stones. Wheelchair Curling is really World War IV.

Oh well, back to the radio.

Amy Lamé presents a show every Sunday afternoon between 4 and 6pm. Everyone is welcome, boys, girls and everyone in between. There is a ‘French Fancy’ each week, which is great, we don’t hear much French music on the whole. But on Amy’s page of the official website, it’s billed as ‘a Gallic tunage feature’. Tunage? One of my all-time most disliked words! Ever.

Another feature was promoted on Facebook thus: “We’re celebrating music with a #NorthernIreland connection today on BBC Radio 6 Music 4-6pm GMT. What track helps you kick back, relax and get that ‘Lazy Sunday’ feeling?”

One song immediately sprang to mind, so I sent off an email very quickly.

Steve the producer wrote back and asked for my phone number so I sent it. Well, I haven’t been on air for a long, long time.

The phone rang, I spoke to Amy, talked about my Mum and about Jenny, William and Martha, and she played my suggested song. And after all that, the song still managed to bring a lump to my throat.

Wouldn’t it be great if it was like this all the time?

Springtime

The first thing I saw when I got up this morning was a spring. On the floor. Ah, a metaphor, I thought, Spring has arrived. And indeed, the sun was out, the sky was blue, it’s significantly warmer than last week and it was quite pleasant to walk around Chessington and Kingston today. spring in bedroomBut it’s a bit worrying, finding a small spring. Where did it come from?

Well, the house continues to fight back against being taken to the knackers’ yard. In our bedroom, there is a built-in wardrobe. One of the doors hasn’t closed properly for years, not since the last time thse doors were painted. There’s a little catch that should click smoothly and keep the door closed. With a bit of a slam, the dried-up paint flaked off, and that door managed to close properly and satisfyingly.

Until today. The little catch has broken. The spring sprung loose and the rest of the plastic must have shattered. I don’t think there’s any way to fix it.

Unlike the stay at the top of the front door. I replaced that, after the estate agent had problems last weekend. So unless there’s (again) a very strong gust of wind, the front door should no longer swing open and bash into the window sill outside the fron room.

Probably tempting fate but the door bell is still working a week or so after I fixed it and sealed it in again, despite the snow and rain. Touch wood.

No more news on the home front.

“Wheels of Time” is an exhibition aiming to document the story of cycling past and present in Kingston upon Thames. An important part of this will be people that cycle as part of their job.

I was invited to be interviewed in my capacity of ex-postman. I used a bike for the job, and they wanted me to talk about it. So I visited Kingston History Centre in Kingston’s Guildhall for the first time where I met Alex, the Heritage Services Officer, and Jarek, who conducted the interview.

I don’t think I slagged off Royal Mail management too much for the decision to replace bicycles with trolleys. Big, fat, red High Capacity Trolleys. But it was fun to talk about why I liked the job using the bike, and not so much with the trolley. The changing nature of the job over the years, especially with regard to online shopping resulting in many more parcels and packets being delivered by Royal Mail, is I think not recognised by most members of the public. And dogs came up. Like the one that didn’t like the noise the bike made. Or the one that didn’t like my helmet.

The exhibition opens towards the end of the month and I’ll put more details up nearer the time. I think this is the first time I’ve potentially been a museum exhibit.

I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t cycle into Kingston today: it was quite nice outside but I didn’t want to turn up looking bedraggled, with helmet hair and stinky.

Oh, alright: it was too cold. I’m a wimp. Turning into a fair-weather cyclist.

 

Bannister, Baylis

Roger Bannister is famous for being the first person to run a mile in under four minutes. He’s also big in my world because he shares my birthday. In fact, he was the first notable person that I was aware of to share my birthday.

When I gew up in Guildford, there was a sports field named Bannister’s. I never did know for certain that it was named after Roger, but I like to think it was. My only sporting event there was a cross-country race for my school. I was not a big fan of cross-country running but one day, I decided to volunteer for the team, thinking I was safe. It was not  to be.

The only reason I volunteered, really, was it was close to home. I would get a ride to the event and then I’d be able to walk home afterwards.

What I didn’t anticipate was the weather though. It was raining very hard. The mud was awful. I stood no chance of winning in those conditions. Especially when the gloop managed to pull of my shoe at least once. With water and mud now inside my running shoes too, I was not very happy. I could have been on the usual, dry bus going home.

So that’s my memory of Bannister’s sports field. Sadly, it is now the site of  big ugly Tesco.

But I still feel special having the same birthday as Roger Bannister, who, sadly, died yesterday.

Other people with the same birthday include:

  • Chris Hoy
  • Mo Farah
  • Steve Redgrave
  • Mike Atherton
  • Gail Porter
  • Damon Albarn
  • Barry Cryer
  • Jimmy Edwards

and we are all very special. I feel I mised out on the sporty genes though…

Another ‘hero’ died today. Trevor Baylis invented the clockwork radio for people who didn’t have a reliable power supply. What a wonderful invention. Like everyone else, I wondered why nobody had invented one before. It’s so obvious. Clockwork toys, clockwork clocks and even a clockwork orange have been around for years, so why not clockwork radios?

Trevor lived on Eel Pie Island which I have cycled by a few times over the years. But my real Trevor Baylis story takes place in about 1998. I met him at Clapham Junction railway station. In the heat of the moment I couldn’t remember his name. Trevor Something. But I wanted to say ‘Hello, Mr Something’, instead, it felt more polite.

Anyway, I shook his hand, he shook me off and resumed talking to his companion. I never did own a clockwork radio.

RIP Roger Bannister and Trevor Baylis.

Well it’s all go on the house front. Miss Sharma and her family came to look at our house again this afternoon, and especially at the furnitiure we’ll be leaving behind. The agent seems as certain as he can be that they are very interested in the house.

But still no more viewings organised for new people. At least the weather has improved dramatically from last week’s so-called Beast from the East, which included the coldest March day on record.