In and around Anchorage

After a relatively long walk yesterday, we thought we’d take it easy and just walk up to the coffee shop and back. I say ‘just’ but even that little jaunt helps us achieve our daily target of 10,000 steps.

Our eyes were of course peeled for moose and bears. But in the end, the most exciting wildlife we saw on this occasion was a family of bald eagles. When we first saw the chick in flight, we thought it was a crow or something. Then, seeing it pursued by an eagle, we thought it was dinner. Then we realised: both parents were showing their chick the ropes.

Bald eagles

This was our first visit to Kaladi Brothers Coffee this visit and, since it wasn’t too busy, we enjoyed our coffee inside.

On the walk back home, Liesel pointed out a mound of snow that hasn’t yet melted. I didn’t recognise it as such, it was covered in so much debris.

Dirty snow

This is a typical Alaskan scene. Cooler boxes airing outside the garage, while a pair of waders is taking the air on the washing line.

Coolers and Waders (not to be confused with the 1970s prog rock combo)

It is a very outdoorsy place, and when the weather’s this good, it’s easy to see why. But the weather isn’t always this kind of course. When it snows, it snows. You can easily lose a fire hydrant in the snow. So to make it easier to find, they attach a red and white pole to it. This shows how deep the snow can be at its worst. You could bury an entire upright Liesel in it.

Hydrant, hi Liesel

As suspected, I starred in this week’s advert for Boxx 2 Boxx back at home.

Boxx 2 Boxx ad

Potter Marsh Bird Sanctuary is a lovely nature reserve, and we can enjoy walking on its extensive boardwalk. Again, the Sun was out, the sky was blue and the temperature was perfect. And again, you can’t escape seeing mountains way over there in the distance.

Boardwalk

There are several species of bird here, although we only saw a few flitting here and there, too fast to identify. Another family of eagles owned the sky while very pretty blue tree swallows stayed nearer our level.

Swallows

Another first for this visit was seeing a moose.

Moose

It seemed to be enjoying what it was eating. But we’d noticed the water here was a bit oily. This is effluent from residential and industrial premises. But the vegetation here prevents the nasty chemicals from entering the main body of water, so it all seems under control. I just hope the moose aren’t ingesting something really nasty.

We collected Jyoti from the airport. Her journey back from wherever she’d been was delayed by a food truck crashing into her aeroplane. They hadn’t boarded yet, but I can imagine the groan running around a planeful of disappointed passengers. So, we collected Jyoti but no luggage. This didn’t appear until late the following day.

In the evening, Liesel and I met up with Aaron and Jodi for a meal at a place called Ginger. The food was great, very flavourful, but I’d forgotten how large American meals are, and I couldn’t finish my curry.

I’d also forgotten that American toilets are different. I washed my hands and stood there for ages waiting for the air dryer to come on, only to realise it was in fact a paper dispenser. I’m glad nobody was there to witness my incompetence.

It hasn’t rained here for a long, long time, which means everything is dry, and it’s very easy for bush fires to take hold. As at home, these are often started by people lighting fires and barbecues in inappropriate places.

Liesel got up early, ridulously early, to visit the Strech Zone. I thought she’d come back about 6 feet tall, but apparently it’s not that kind of stretching. Just the muscles, and just enough to make you feel uncomfortable afterwards.

After breakfast, we drove over to Jyoti’s place where Liesel swapped me for Suvan, Jyoti’s son. Liesel drove him to Amrit’s office where he now works, at least part time, and I went for a nice long walk with Jyoti.

A small 7-petalled wonderflower

There are some small flowers, including this one with an unusual number of petals. Someone will tell us what it’s called!

The terrain was hilly in the forest over the way, something I’m not really used to any more. Basil the dog carried the bear bells so we didn’t have to. On the way back, a motorist stopped to tell us that there was a bear the other side of the roundabout: the roundabout that we’d just walked around. Yes, I’d like to see a bear in the wild but no, I don’t want to be that close!

We returned to Jyoti’s condo and then proceeded to drink coffee on a friend’s porch. That’s a bit presumptuous, I thought, but hey-ho, I’m sure she knows what she’s doing. We picked up our coffees from Kaladi Bros and yes, we really did go and plonk ourselves in someone else’s back yard.

Jetty on Sand Lake

Back yard? Patio? Jetty? I didn’t want to admit to my ignorance by asking, but what a vista to gaze upon each morning.

Carrie (sp? not sure) is a paediatrician and now lives right next to Sand Lake. She has a couple of little dogs.

Dog or Yoda?

What a lovely, peaceful place she has here,  well back from the main road.

Meanwhile, Liesel was at work with Amrit and Suvan. Before going out for dinner, Liesel had some errands to run. As she drove us round, I became more and more disoriented. Yes, I know the mountains are in that direction, but I would have struggled to find my way back if I’d needed to.

Catherine and Hans live in a fabulous house up the hill in the Golden View area. And the view is spectacular, looking out over most of the city.

Sunset over Anchorage

Catherine baked quiche and we ate outside, watching the Sun set. This picture was taken just before 10pm, although neither of us realised it was quite that late. It stays light here for most of the night!

They told us about a house fire that had recently taken place close by, down the hill a bit, and they watched the helicopters flying by at the height of their deck as they brought in large buckets of water to douse the flames.

What a long day that was, and I’m sure we both fell asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillows!

Touchdown in Anchorage

What a strange couple of days. Helen arrived from Australia one day, then Liesel and I went to Alaska the next. Oops, sorry: spoiler alert. Yes, it’s strange the way things worked out, but we’ll definitely spend more time with Helen later in the year.

Let’s start again. Helen was met at the airport by Jenny and William. We’d arranged to meet them later on, and William wanted to surprise us. When we arrived at their house, William was stomping about in his new Spidey shoes. The lights in the heels were flashing and he really wanted us to admire them. He invited me up to his bedroom which was darker, so easier to see the flashing lights. Then he pulled the bed covers back to reveal…
“Oh, a new cuddly toy?”
“No, it’s Auntie Helen!”

Helen’s plans this visit include a trip down south to see some friends. Today, we drove over to Bramall Hall, where we had lunch and spent some time feeding ducks and in the playground.

Liesel and Helen
William the duck feeder
Rhododendron

Back at home, Liesel and I did some more packing and I spent a long, long on hold on the phone before adding Helen to our car insurance policy. It didn’t cost anything in the end, but something as simple as that should be possible via the website. That would take some pressure off the under-staffed call centre.

Back at Jenny’s we had an Indian takeaway for our last meal before heading for Anchorage. Both William and Martha were in top form, very funny and engaging. Very happy to see Auntie Helen, and not just because she always comes bearing gifts. I was pleased to receive gifts of chocolate and TimTams, thank you Helen!

Helen, Martha and William with Jenny and Liam way over there

Liam drove us home in his car. We left our old jalopy for Helen to use. We went via the pharmacy to pick up the last of Liesel’s prescription. From the pharmacy where, at 8 o’clock that morning, we’d gone for the Covid test required before entering the USA.

Back at home, we finished the packing, prepared the flat to be deserted for a while and went to bed for a short sleep. The taxi picked us up at 4 in the morning. We thought we’d catch up on sleep on the long flight later on. Hah!

Manchester Airport was ridiculously busy that early in the morning, mostly for Easy Jet flights as far as we could see. We were off to Frankfurt on Lufthansa in the first place. It was good to be in the air, in my case, for the first time in over two years.

The myth of German efficiency was blown at Frankfurt Airport. We needed proof that we’d been vaccinated against Covid and a negative Covid test from within 24 hours. Without these documents, one uploaded at home yesterday and one stored on our phones and printed out, we would have had to complete a 7-page form supplied by the US authorities.

But at the first desk, the clerk didn’t even have a computer. So he couldn’t see our vax documents, nor my ESTA. Go to a second desk. The clerk here was busy chatting. Go to a third desk. At last, someone fully equipped to see that we were allowed to travel.

In the end, our flight was nearly an hour late taking off. Only at landing in Anchorage did we find out that some of the passengers were refugees from Ukraine. This ‘special’ group of people were allowed to disembark first. We didn’t know why: a sports team? A secret military operation? Nope, refugees, greeted by at least a couple of TV crews. I suspect if you see this footage, you’ll see me and Liesel at the back, gurning behind our masks.

Thomas Cook cup

The flight itself was uneventful, but this water cup brought back many happy memories of when I worked at this wonderful travel agents’ HQ in Peterborough. I wonder whether that horrible Cobol program IPP06 ever worked properly? Good to see the old stock being used and not just thrown away.

There be mountains

On seeing the first snow-covered mountain from the aeroplane, we knew we were very nearly at our destination.

On the Customs form, Liesel declared the chutney that we’d bought for a friend. This triggered a full search of all of our bags. They found an apple in mine, one that I’d forgotten to eat on the flight. I try not to commit crimes in the USA, yet here I am.

Going through immigration, the official asked to take a photograph of Liesel, something not previously required of an American citizen. When he asked to take my picture, I stood where Liesel had been standing. “Oh no sir, please stand over there, in front of the camera.” We suspect he didn’t get a picture of Liesel, but just didn’t want to admit that he’d asked for one in error. Welcome to the USA say the signs, and I always say to myself, I’ve never been made to feel so unwelcome anywhere.

Liesel’s Mom drove us home from the airport, and I think I just slumped for the rest of the day. I dozed off a couple of times in flight, but I didn’t have a long, satisfying sleep.

It was good to see Mom and Dad, Leslie and Klaus again: Liesel has of course been here quite recently, helping them both through various medical interventions.

Our first night’s sleep here was interrupted when Klaus had a diabetic hypo, and required assistance from 6 absolutely gorgeous paramedics. Liesel’s words, not mine: they were all wearing masks so I couldn’t gauge how attractive they were. But they were all very supportive, attentive, informative and helpful. And they arrived within a few minutes of the 911 call.

Our first full day in sunny Anchorage was taken up by walking in the great outdoors. And it really was sunny, and very warm. Liesel and I walked along part of the coastal trail starting near Westchester Lagoon.

Kayaking in the lagoon

It’s very picturesque with the snow-covered mountains in the background, and thank goodness all the snow has thawed in the city itself.

Sandhill cranes

The sandhill cranes were on the mud flats, where we are advised not to walk. We followed a railway line for a while and I though I heard the hoot of a train approaching, but we never saw one.

The cargo ship being towed to the Port of Alaska was huge. Apparently 80% of everything that comes into the state is imported through this port.

We walked back to the car through a nice, quiet neighbourhood. The New Sagaya supplied our first coffee of this trip and my first bagel.

We drove to Una and Phil’s house, about half an hour away.

Old, old, old, old car

We followed this old banger for a while and I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine whether it’s a Ford, a Daimler, a Buick, a Plymouth, a Chrysler or something else. Oh and look, there are mountains in the background.

Una’s parents are visiting from Florida too. Liesel and I haven’t seen them since Una’s investiture as a Judge nearly four years ago. Mom Lalita has written another book, this one about her family in India over several generations, and she kindly gave us a copy which we’re looking forward to reading.

Una, Phil, Liesel and I went for a walk around the neighbourhood: I think it’s fair to say it was a bit more affluent than where we’d been earlier in the day.

Just a small plane

There’s an airstrip just down the road, and later on, I filmed a small plane landing here.

Helicopter

Liesel turned down my invitation to sit on the chopper so I could take her picture. But here it is parked, or docked by the strip.

Just a small boat

There’s a new estate, or subdivision, here built in what looks like a big hole, just below the airstrip. I think these house are quite close together, given the amount of space there is in the largest state in the union. But you’re never too far from the sight of mountains.

New houses

Well that was a great walk, slightly hilly, hot and sweaty, but did I feel short of breath? Not at all. Not until I carried a bag of shopping up the short, steep drive back at home.

In the evening, Aaron, Jodi, Asa and Gideon came over for dinner. While everyone else tucked into their marinaded steaks, I enjoyed my Quorn nuggets.

I think we both slept much better this second night. This, despite the fact that it’s only properly dark overnight for a couple of hours at this time of year. 

Packing and stacking

Well that was a strange week that was a strange week for the 1st time in many years we watched the Eurovision song contest well I didn’t watch it but it was on a didn’t watch it but it was on in the background I was doing something else had my nose in a puzzle I’ve had my nose in a puzzle roller book or something and looked up at the TV screen and I saw a Spanish singer’s bottom and I thought she’s getting my vote but I didn’t vote for anyone I didn’t vote for anyone in the end Ukraine one and the uk came 2nd for the 1st time in a 143 years.

That’s how good the dictation option is on my phone. It doesn’t seem too concerned with punctuation. And I’m sure I didn’t recite all those things twice all those things twice. But it is interesting to see how the screen changes as the phone tries to work out what I actually said. I’ll mostly edit the rest of this post, so it more closely resembles what I meant in the first place, in better English.

Liesel and I went for walk around around Northern Ireland (no, it was Northenden). We couldn’t believe the number of ladybirds we saw on the bushes, literally hundreds: it must be the ladybird mating season by the looks of it.

Ladybird giving another ladybird a piggy-back

The heron was on the island, cowering: I think he was hiding from the swarms of ladybirds, maybe he felt under threat.

Spot the heron

We also caught sight of that other occasional visitor to the river Mersey in Northenden: an old car tyre. Lovely to see him sitting near the island.

Tyres

And what’s this lurking in the bushes near Riverside Park? Somebody’s parked their scooter in a good place. I hope they can remember where they left it.

Where’s my scooter?
Artistic shot of the week

The day after I took this picture of the daisies on the lawn by our communal car park, the mowing crew came along and cut the grass, moss, dandelion stems and, sadly, the daisies.

My regular brain exercise each morning is to play Worldle, Wordle and Nerdle. This week I managed to achieve a winning streak of a hundred games. Except on the actual day, I forgot to grab a screenshot, so here it is from the following day! I was so proud, I even tweeted this image!

Liesel and I had a nice walk with the Northenden group, along the river to Simon’s Bridge and back. We sat outside for coffee at Box 2 Boxx, Shelly took a picture and it looks like I’ll appear in another advert soon, hooray!

And so it came to pass that we collected the children from school. Instead of taking them home, we took them to Bruntwood Park, through the woods behind their school. En route, William looked at a puddle, then looked at me, I slowly shook my head, he walked on by. We spent a lot of time in the fabulous playground, which was quite busy. Children were there from three or four different schools, going by their uniforms. William is definitely a climber.

William the mountaineer

We had a picnic on the glassy nose Yeah sausage rolls cumbers tomatoes and Victoria sponge cakes from a shop. In English: We had a picnic on the grassy knoll (just a raised mound of grass, really). We had pizza, sausage rolls, cucumbers, tomatoes and Victoria sponge cakes from a shop (ie, not home-made).

Martha the runner

There’s a great game there where the children have to run around and tap each post as the lights come on. It’s all electronic and they both found it great fun. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Martha run so far, so fast and for so long. Thank goodness this was before we sat down for our picnic!

The different arrangements today for looking after the children were for a very special reason. We took them home at about 5.30 and then after going home to our place to get raedy, we drove into Manchester for a concert that we’d first booked in September 2019. It had been postponed twice because of the pandemic and Covid restrictions, but at last, tonight was the night.

We’d never been to the Band on the Wall venue before but it’s a good little place. Mostly it’s standing only, but I asked for a couple of seats for us old farts and they were very obliging. We were here to see Tom Robinson. The show was meant to celebrate his 70th birthday but that was two ago now. Before the support act, Lee Forsyth-Griffiths, appeared, Tom himself came out on stage and sang a couple of songs for us early birds, those of us who had bothered to turn up in time to see the support act. He performed a revised version of his old hit What if we live to be 50? This remixed, remastered, updated version What if we live to be 80? was quite funny, especially since it still referred to carrying a packet of three.

Lee sang a few songs and the presence of his Mam and his sister in the audience didn’t affect his potty mouth at all!

It was a pretty good atmosphere all night although there was one scuffle right in front of us because of one man who was very drunk, so he was escorted off the premises.

Oops, Tom, electric guitar, Tom as PM

The Hong-Kong… hahaha… The encore was Power in the Darkness during which Tom always does a skit on some contemporary issue. This time of course of course, he channeled Boris Johnson and as he said afterwards, it’s all beyond parody now.

As we left the venue, we walked through the bar, and at the back was another performer whose name I missed, a lovely soul singer. So we stood around and listened while she sang Dancing in the Street. Twice! This was a nice surprise and a good way to to end the evening

Not Martha Reeves

The rest of this sort of in-between a week was in between a week was taken up with packing and checking all the paperwork and checking all the paperwork and everything that we need to do for we need to do for our trip to Alaska next week next week yes we are going away for 4 weeks and all these last minute and all these last minute jobs it all take 5 all these last minute jobs that should just take 5 minutes take a long time and then you find something’s gone wrong now when anyone finds something’s gone wrong or what a nightmare but we’re getting there we’re getting there. I hope you get the gist. Basically, we prepared for a few weeks away in Alaska.

We visited Windermere last week, so this week’s radio show was about lakes and other bodies of water, lots of songs about rivers, oceans and a couple of lakes. Enjoy it, it’s the last one for a few weeks…

What’s that, the last one for a while? Yes, while we’re in sunny Anchorage to visit Liesel’s family and friends, I won’t be making more shows. I would have to take so much extra stuff with me and even then, I might not find the time. But if you really want to listen to some earlier radio (and non-radio) shows, this link gives you the full list available so far.

I also uploaded a special one this week, and that was the tribute to Sarah first put together last year. Unbelievably, it’s now 21 years since we lost Sarah and she is still much missed and loved.

Black tulips and babies

Sadly, no space is deemed too small for the application of graffiti. Even the fairy doors in the local woods aren’t safe from such desecration.

Fairy door needs attention

It is now No Mow May in which we are invited to leave the lawn alone for the benefit of the very few pollinating insects left alive in this country. A lot of people are indeed not mowing, but sadly, the local council’s grass-cutters are out in force, cutting the grass and shredding the litter embedded therein. Ooh, I do like a whinge, don’t I?

We took Martha and William to Lyme Park for a nice, long, brisk walk in the sunshine. Well, that was the plan. After confirming the adventure playground was indeed open, we decided to play there for a while, then walk up to the folly known as The Cage, at the top of the hill, then return to the playground.

William is very adventurous and despite many pleas from us, he decided to cross the small stream via stepping stones and a log. Not the most stable of logs.

William and the wobbly log

He jumped onto the opposite bank, and gave a victory salute at the top. But oops, on the return trip, he slightly overbalanced and had to step into the water. He wasn’t too keen on wet shoes, socks and feet. And he momentarily sat down on a wet stone.

A few minutes later, when Liesel was helping him change his shorts, he apologised for ignoring her when she’d told him not to cross the water, which was very sweet.

Martha and William on a table top

They enjoyed many adventures and we hadn’t even reached the playground yet. Yes, you’re right. Martha is indeed wearing odd socks and, at this point, William is wearing no socks at all.

It was fun watching Martha going round and round on this strange little thing, with her ponytail flying.

Martha spinning

As she was spinning, I asked her what happens when she pulls herself in? Oh, it goes faster, she observed. And in this way, Martha discovered the law of Conservation of Angular Momentum.

The playground was great fun, so in the end, we didn’t make it as far as The Cage. Later, when Liesel and I fancied a cup of coffee, we parked the children up on the branch of a tree.

Martha and William sitting in a tree

Yes, again, you are very observant. Martha is indeed crossing her eyes, a trick that she’d learned from her cousin Emily!

Liesel and I didn’t really go to the café by ourselves, that would be irresponsible and we’d probably lose our jobs. We had coffee and we treated the children to an ice cream. Of course we did!

Our challenge now was to keep them awake on the drive back home, which I did quite successfully, even if one of the games was to kick my arm as quickly and as often as possible. The bruises weren’t too bad.

William enjoys his weekly dance class, and although we didn’t see him at his terpsichorean activituies, we did pick him up from the venue to take him to the zoo. We’ll miss these odd days out with William when he starts going to school 5 days a week, with his sister.

Where’s William?

He’s wearing his hoodie in this manner to keep the cold draught out. He did eventually succumb to sleep on the long drive to Chester Zoo.

As is often the case, it was a bit cooler here than at home, but that didn’t stop us from having a really nice day. Treetop Challenge is always number one on his list and today was no exception. Apart from seeing the elephants first.

William on the zipline

He now needs no assistance in finding his way around this Challenge, and he really has conquered the ziplines.

William (l) and Boris the Gorilla (r)

The Bird Flu crisis is now over and the flamingoes’ aviary was open for business. By which I mean we humans are now allowed inside and we can see these gorgeous pink creatures other than through a close wire mesh.

Flamingoes
William with an otter

We were so pleased that William was interested in seeing so many animals on this visit. He did want to visit the shop so we made a deal: we’ll go to the shop at the end but only if you don’t mention it again. And that worked pretty much all day. But then “You know that place I’m not allowed to talk about? Are we still going there?”

We went. But we also passed by the elephants one more time.

Baby elephant

Our challenge now was to keep him awake on the drive back home, which I did quite successfully, even if one of the games was to kick my arm as quickly and as often as possible. The bruises weren’t too bad.

Liesel had an appointment near home with a pair of physiotherapists’ very strong hands, so William and I visited Riverside Park playground back in Northenden. On the way, we picked litter, a job he really seems to enjoy. But of course, the playground was more fun. He made friends with Misha, a 6-, nearly 7-year old from Ukraine.

William and Misha

I had a nice chat with Misha’s Mum while his younger sister played with a doll and followed the boys around. Her husband is still in Ukraine and of course we hope the war ends soon so he can come and join his family.

Soon, everyone else had left the playground: just me and William left, waiting for Liesel to collect us and take him home.

After two days with a varying number of grandchildren it was time to move on and see some grown-up people. Late in the day, after I’d attended my medical appointments, we drove north to Windermere. By coincidence, we were staying in the same place as Helen and Steve from Chessington. We’d not seen them on our recent trip down south for various reasons, so it was good to catch up now.

We dined in a greasy spoon just down the road from the hotel, you know, the sort of place that sells all kinds of food: chips, pizza, kebabs, burgers. It was alright though.

Helen pointed out this picture in a shop window.

David Bowie

Well, we haven’t seen a David Bowie in a shop window for a couple of weeks, but this is a good one. The artist is Don Pearce and the artwork is outside our price range.

Liesel and I shared a four-poster bed and at first, we thought the mattress was too hard. But actually, it was alright and we both had a reasonable night’s sleep.

Breakfast was served by a lovely Scottish lady whose name I never did catch, after which we set off for Beatrix Potter’s old home, Hill Top, on the other side of the lake itself. Last time Liesel and I visited, many years ago, we took the ferry across and walked up the hill.

Many of the roads are very narrow and in some places, I couldn’t see what to do if we encountered another vehicle coming towards us. But we were very lucky in that respect.

The scenery is of course gorgeous, but this is also a good time of year to enjoy the azaleas and the rhododendrons as well. And the garden behind Hill Top is a very peaceful and pretty place to pass some time. The gardener, Pete, is doing a very good job.

Baby azalea

How do we know the gardener’s name is Pete? Well:

Gardener Pete

The parts of the garden that he’s not responsible for are totally Pete-free.

Black Tulips

When I first read The Black Tulip by Alexander Dumas, as a school-boy, I thought it was a made-up flower. But no, they really exist and there are some here at Hill Top. One day, I might read the book again because I can’t remember the story at all.

Even though our tickets were timed, the house was still quite busy, just on the borderline of what we find uncomfortably crowded vis-à-vis Covid. Beatrix Potter had some cool stuff, including a doll’s house with furniture and other items that really aren’t made to scale.

Beatrix’s doll’s house
Selfie of the day

Bizarrely, I think of all the photos I took today, this is my favourite.

Watering can

It is so reminiscent of the Peter Rabbit stories, and I can only surmise that this is the original watering can from Beatrix Potter’s time.

Did I mention Peter Rabbit?

Warning: Peter Rabbit

We drove Helen and Steve back to Ambleside. Funny place, Ambleside: all the shops are named after mild exclamations.

Shops in Ambleside

We took Helen back to the guest house for a nap leaving Steve to enjoy a bus ride in peace and quiet.

The drive home was uneventful. But you can never go on the M6 without there being a traffic jam somewhere!

And as if that wasn’t enough excitement for one week, Liesel dragged me to asked me if I wanted to accompany her to Ikea. We haven’t been for a while and the thought of those juicy tender 50p veggieballs, well, how could I refuse?

In a strange case of pareidolia, here’s one of the machines in the café looking particularly grumpy with that thing in its eye.

Smiley tea machine

And back in Wythenshawe, there were more goslings near the path in Painswick Park.

Baby geese on land

And as if they’re not cute enough, there was again another family in the pond.

Baby geese on water

I just hope they stayed safe from the fishing lines on the opposite side.

There was a park bench on which I decided not to rest awhile, because of the nettles growing underneath and up through the gaps. I didn’t want to give my arsenic.

Uncomfortably numb, potentially

Here is evidence of Liesel’s latest craftwork.

This cross-stitch was a labour of love, and will be part of a collection being put together by the ladies of the WI to commemorate the 1948 London Olympics. No further details are available at this time. But jolly well done, Liesel!

Last week’s Wythenshawe Radio show was Girls, Girls, Girls, so this week it had to be Boys, Boys, Boys. Catch up here. Or don’t.

Walking in Memphis

Haha, no, not really, I’ve never been to Memphis. But we did do a lot of walking around our local ‘hood this week, three days in a row. Not as far as we wandered last week in London, of course.

Day 1. It was raining, but I didn’t let that deter me. Plus, I had to go out anyway to run some other errands. I was at first annoyed to see the Post Office was closed when it should have been open. I was concerned because I didn’t want to walk around in the rain any longer than necessary with a very important letter. The counter clerk let me in and I concluded my business.

Remember last week, the incident with the pharmacy? Well, they still hadn’t fulfilled my recent prescription. As requested, I paid a fifth visit only to be told once again that the item in question wasn’t in stock. It should be in tomorrow. I asked them to just send me a text message when it’s in, rather than having to go in every day of the off-chance. Two days later, I received the SMS, I went along, and eventually I was given my medication. Six visits for one prescription. I hope I never have to use this pharmacy again. Grrr.

Not only that, but there’s the issue of the fraudulent activity. Well, in the end, the card company said it wasn’t fraud, someone had just made a mistake. The money was refunded. So I returned the £9.35 in cash to the pharmacy, of course. But still, we’re unhappy with the staff’s lack of concern over what might have been a much bigger issue, whether fraudulent or otherwise.

Anyway, I interrupted the walk. It was wet.

A puddle

I don’t think I’ve included a photo of a puddle for a while, so here’s one for all the pluviophiles, limnophiles and toddlers.

Day 2. It’s hard to believe now, but I spent far too much time trying to remove dandelions from our garden in Chessington. Even then, I didn’t mind the odd one, but for some reason, it felt like they were taking over and not giving other weeds a sporting chance. But they can be quite attractive, when they’re in other people’s gardens or out in the wild.

What’s the time?

This walk started and finished at Benchill Community Centre, and on this occasion, Liesel and I were the only ones keeping Chantel company. It was a nice walk, despite being close to the very loud motorway.

Back in the Community Centre, we had coffee while being entertained by someone untangling a string of fairy lights.

Day 3. This is the walk that begins at Woodhouse Park Lifestyle Centre. I was on my own this time, as Liesel chose to join the WI’s walk for a different walk.

Painswick Park was more about daisies than dandelions on this occasion.

Daisies

Further round the lake, I think most of today’s group of nine oohed and aahed at the sight of this young family.

Mr and Mrs Goose and their babies

There was another family in the lake, so maybe the goslings were just taking it in turns to have their swimming lessons.

Liesel has taken up the craft of cross-stitch. Very small stitches with a very short needle with a microscopic eye. The good news is, I knew exactly where the magnifying glass was.

This week’s radio show was Girls, Girls, Girls. Due to some technical issue beyond my ken, the first hour stopped after just 17 minutes. It’s repeated next Wednesday at 10pm, or you can listen at your leisure here:

A Tale of, like, Two Cities (Part 3)

The story so far: we’ve been to London and now we’re back home in Northenden.

Jenny and the family were going away for the weekend so to enhance their packing experience, I was asked to look after William for a couple of hours. We went to Wythenshawe Park which he immediately recognised from a previous visit. He scootered straight to the playground from the car park.

I think it’s fair to say he had a go on all the equipment, and I certainly got my steps in following him around. There was no logic to his choice of activity. My only embarrassing moment was growling at the wrong child as they emerged from an enclosed slide.

Was there a climbing opportunity? Of course there was.

William, King of the Castle

He knew the way to the café too, where I had a coffee while he enjoyed a strawberry ice cream in a tub. He was very specific about the flavour and the container: no cone today. Do you want to go back to the playground? No, I want to go home now. Hmm, that was a problem because I hadn’t heard from Mummy yet: either they were still packing or taking a well-deserved break.

To play for time, I took him to Quirky Misfits in Northenden. I thought he’d be interested in the shelves stocked with skulls, not to mention the hot chocolate. Marshmallows yes please, but no cream.

William, King of the Hot Chocolate

And yes, I had another coffee. It would be rude not to.

Where was Liesel while I was having fun with our grandson? At her coronation. Having a crown fitted.

For my birthday, Jenny and Helen had given a walk around Manchester. Well, the day for the Manchester Music Walkabout Tour arrived.

We drove into the city on a clear sunny day and parked about ten minutes away from the meeting point, outside Bridgewater Hall.

Tower of Light

The Tower of Light is a visible commitment to sustainability, designed by award-winning architectural practice Tonkin Liu. This 40m high flue tower and shell lace structural façade encloses a highly efficient source of heat and power for some of Manchester’s most iconic buildings; Manchester Town Hall, Central Library, The Bridgewater Hall and Manchester Art Gallery among them. Reflectors moved by the wind reflect sunlight to fill the tower with shifting light during the day, while at night the gently-lit tower and white brick podium form a holistic energy landmark. One day, we’ll see it at night.

From a distance, I thought his building looked a bit like The Midland Hotel.

Looks like the Midland Hotel

I later discovered that it is in fact The Midland Hotel, it’s just that we approached it from a different direction. Slowly, slowly, Manchester landmarks are coming together to form a coherent, cohesive map in my mind.

Our guide, Emma, took us on a fascinating tour of places in Manchester of particular musical significance. There were 13 of us in the group, an ideal size for gathering round on the street and listening to her speak.

Free Trade Hall is where Bob Dylan turned electric in 1965 to calls of ‘Judas’ from the audience. The Sex Pistols played here just 11 years later. Both events seem a long time ago now, and as time goes on, more and more people claim there were present at these events. I know I was there: got the t-shirts and everything.

Christabel Pankhurst and Annie Kenney

This plaque commemorates another small step on the road to giving the vote to women.

Emma spoke about the Madchester scene, Tony Wilson, the Bee Gees, Hollies, the Gallagher brothers, a nice potted history.

The Temple of Convenience is a pub located on the site of old subterranean public toilets. It’s celebrated as ‘there’s a hole in my neighbourhood’ in Elbow’s song, Grounds for Divorce. It’s close to where Guy Garvey of Elbow used to live and where they celebrated winning a Mercury award several years ago. Emma suggested having a quick pint here before moving on. It would be rude not to. So we did. Cheers!

The Temple

Naturally, the duration of the walk was much longer than the scheduled hour and a half!

Haçienda Apartments

These apartments, as the name suggests, are on the site of the Haçienda Club, a venue I never visited. I was aware of its existence from down south in London, and what it meant to the Manchester music scene, but now: luxury apartments. Could be worse I suppose: could be a multi-storey car park.

We thought about having a quick meal at the nearby Tiffin Room. Fate determined otherwise. It was closed. We were in the gap between late lunch and early evening dinner. If only we hadn’t stopped at the hole in the neighbourhood.

This concludes our Tale of Two Cities. London and, like, Manchester.

Another day, another walk. And we laughed at this example of neighbours being kind to one another.

The long and short of it

I wonder if the mowing family are just unfriendly? Or maybe the non-mowing family deliberately chose to keep a sort of wild-flower meadow outside their house? We’ll never know.

We saw this on our hike to Wythenshawe Park. Where we were surprised to find that, even at 2.30pm, the grass in the park was still covered in dew. On the other hand, our shoes probably needed a bit of a wash.

Where’s Liesel?

We know how to have a good time, as you know. It was a pleasant walk through the park, and no, we didn’t stop for coffee. Instead, we paid a visit to Aldi for some shopping, after which we walked a slightly longer way home, avoiding the busy industrial estate roads. And OMG, we need to go back to that quiet, secluded path next to the railway and pick up several bags of litter. We won’t be able to reach it all, there’s a fence, but in years to come, listen out for announcements such as: Your train’s been cancelled due to too many Coke cans on the line.

A Tale of, like, Two Cities (Part 2)

The story so far: we’re in London, now temporarily residing in a flat close to the South Bank.

We agreed it was probably too far to walk to Paddington Station this early in the morning, so instead we enjoyed a bus ride. Two buses in fact, changing in Oxford Street. Yes, Oxford Street, famous for Selfridges, John Lewis and the now ubiquitous Candy Stores.

Sarah wasn’t due to arrive from Exeter until about 10:30 so we passed the remaining few minutes at a coffee bar. Of course we did. In the station, I found the statue of Paddington Bear, from whom the railway terminus takes its name.

Paddington Bear

Liesel wanted to visit another clothes shop, but before setting off in the direction of St Christopher’s Place, Sarah forced us to sit down for another coffee. We hadn’t seen her since our visit to Exeter before Christmas, and to be honest, she hasn’t changed much.

It was a nice day for another long walk along the streets of London, but the sunny side was so much warmer than the other, shady, side of the street. And of course, it’s always good to explore places new to us.

Just a shop window

I thought this dress would look good on Liesel, but no, we didn’t even go into this shop. It’s in an area called Hyde Park Estate, which I’d not heard of before, and, as I confirmed when I looked at the map, it’s not even that close to Hyde Park. Probably an invention from the tortured mind of an estate agent.

As the plaque says:

St Christopher’s Close

“From a forgotten backwater to one of London’s loveliest shopping streets” 18th Century- Originally known as Barretts Court after the local owner John Barrett In the 18th Century and early 19th Century the area became a slum, situated off Tyburn Street, now Oxford Street, which lead directly to the Tyburn Gallows at Marble Arch. The last public hanging took place in 1783.

19th Century – Redeveloped in the 1870’s for social housing under the patronage of Octavia Hill, joint founder of the National Trust, the street also included a variety of historic trades – lampmaking, chandlers, cheese-mongers, drapers and bookmakers. The Lamb and Flag public house became a favourite haunt for anarchists.

20th Century – While adjoining Oxford Street became the busiest shopping street in Britain, St Christopher’s Place declined and by 1987 there were many empty properties. A major modern office redevelopment was proposed with the buildings being demolished.

It was then that Robin Spiro, a somewhat unconventional property developer, appeared on the scene believing, against the prevailing trend, that demolition was not the answer and that a period, small scale, shopping thoroughfare could successfully preserve something of the past in today’s busy world. And so St Christopher’s Place was transformed into one of London’s loveliest shopping streets.

It really is very cute. And surprisingly quiet given its proximity to Oxford Street.

We thought The Hour was a whole shop. But it turned out to be just one rack of clothes in a larger shop. I left the women there to do their thing while I went for another solo wander. From Oxford Street, it would be so easy to miss the turning into St Christopher’s Place, it’s a very narrow entrance. And certainly, over the decades, I have always missed it.

I wanted to pay a quick visit, a pilgrimage even, to Hyde Park, where I spent many happy hours and days when I lived, studied and worked in London. The window displays in Sefridges are as good and creative as ever. The current theme is SuperFutures, Tomorrow in the Making.

What if the wind could be candyfloss…

Future generations came up with the ideas and concepts. What if we could control the weather? Well, I’d probably whinge about it a lot less, that’s for sure!

What if houses could fly…

I wasn’t sorry to miss seeing the Marble Arch Mound, an unattractive £2,000,000 pile of mud, but I was sorry to see the state of the site now. I hope they’ll tidy the area up soon. Marble Arch, the place where I bought my first typewriter, where I spent too much time browsing in the Record and Tape Exchange and where we saw many movies in the late 1970s.

Over the road into Hyde Park, and specifically, Speakers’ Corner.

The Hecklers

The Hecklers are as important as the Speakers on a Sunday or whenever there’s a ‘debate’. My main contribution, once, was to half-heartedly wave a fist at someone but I can’t remember what annoyed me so much. That was a long time ago.

Hyde Park

I didn’t make use of the service, but I was happy to see the deck chairs out for hire on such a sunny day. This was close to the area where Liesel and I have enjoyed so much music over the years. The first concert we saw here together was Simon and Garfunkel supported by The Everly Brothers.

The lawn is being watered but so are some of the paths.

Nicely watered path

Liesel said she’d text me when she’d finished shopping. But after about three quarters of an hour, I thought I’d better make my way back anyway. I was excited to see a poster advertising Doctor Who: Time Fracture.

Doctor Who: Time Fracture, a ground-breaking immersive theatrical adventure, plunges you into the incredible universe of Doctor Who.

The Doctor needs you! The Universe as we know it is at stake – now is the time to step up and be the hero. For decades, in a quiet corner of Mayfair, London, a dangerous rift in time and space has been monitored by a group of loyal members of the long-thought-disbanded Unified Intelligence Taskforce – or UNIT for short. Until now they have managed to protect the people of Earth from the threat the rift poses but, weakened and beaten back as the Time Fracture grows out of control, they’re now close to defeat.

With 43 live actors and 17 different worlds to explore, take an epic journey across space and time, travel to exciting new (and old) places, confront menacing monsters and encounter ancient aliens – all while you battle to save all of existence!

Really exciting, right? So exciting, that I totally forgot about it until long after we’d returned home. And, it was fully sold out anyway.

Oh, here’s a surprise:

Candy Surprise

After meeting up with Liesel and Sarah, following a very successful shopping expedition, we gave consideration to lunch. We walked along Oxford Street towards a place that we know and love but instead, we ended up at Willows, on the roof of John Lewis.

View from the roof garden

We enjoyed a very nice, civilised meal in the sunshine, before, oh no, more shopping in John Lewis itself. I browsed the TV department and had a quick look at printers while Liesel and Sarah looked at shoes and handbags and other fascinating wares.

I can only look at TVs and printers for a finite amount of time before becoming overwhelmed. Technology is all so complicated these days. So I went out the back door of the shop intending to wait for the ladies in Cavendish Square. But I wasn’t allowed in, they’re setting up a funfair or something.

Cavendish Square lilac (I think)

This lilac tree certainly stands out amongst all the London plane trees.

Time for another pilgrimage? Of course. We continued our walk along Oxford Street to Soho Square where we sat on Kirsty’s bench for a while after booting out the previous occupants. Yes, we should have brought flowers in memory of the late, great Kirsty MacColl, but we did play her song Soho Square and (quietly) sang along.

Sarah, Kirsty, Liesel

We said our goodbyes and left on buses travelling in opposite directions. Liesel and I dined at a restaurant near our accommodation, but what with the slow, uncoordinated and unprofessional service, not to mention the unwelcome visitors, we won’t be going back there again.

Our final night in London was uneventful. It didn’t take long to pack in the morning and to walk to Waterloo Station where I was delighted to look at a photographic exhibition. Another reminder that I really should take my real camera out sometime instead of solely relying on the phone camera.

Waterloo and hire bikes
Comet Neowise over Stonehenge

I think I remember when comet Neowise was around, and that whenever I looked for it, I just saw clouds. I would be very proud to have taken a picture like this. Congratulations to Historic Britain Runner Up James Rushforth.

Comet Neowise over Stonehenge
Comet NEOWISE passes over Stonehenge in the United Kingdom. It’s fascinating to think that this historic site did not exist when NEOWISE last passed the Earth. The comet is due to return in approximately 6,800 years, I wonder if the stones will still be standing? This is a single-exposure photograph taken early on the morning of July 2020. The orange glow is light pollution from the nearby villages of Durrington and Larkhill, and a passing lorry very kindly painted the rocks with light.

We caught a train to Chessington, a very familiar route of course, we lived there for so long. Walking past our old house felt very strange. It’s not our house any more of course, but after living there for 33 years, I can’t help be a little bit nostalgic. It’s none of my business, I know, but the carbuncle of a loft extension is just wrong.

Roof extension

Interesting to see that they haven’t replaced the windows that Liesel and I installed over ten years ago. And I was pleased to see that the tree planted in the street outside our house about 30 years ago is still thriving. As is our old lavender bush in the front garden, which will very soon take over the whole neighbourhood.

Round the corner and what a joy to see Dawn again after all this time. She had two years of massages to catch up on. That and a pedicure set me up for the day. She’s now working in a purpose built shed in her garden, although I’m sure there must be a better term than ‘shed’. I was treated first while Liesel went inside the house to work online for a couple of hours. And of course I went for a wander while Liesel herself was being pampered.

I bumped into my old postie mate Michael who seemed as surprised to see me as I was him. Duncan, our manager, has now retired. But I get the impression the job itself hasn’t improved. They’re discouraged from taking time off just because they have Covid.

What else is new in Chessington? Any yarn-bombing? Why, yes, actually.

Station Road at its best

The tile shop Versatile has moved down a couple of units. One of the many, many barbers in Chessington has moved from the station forecourt to North Parade. The party shop is now a, groan, mobile and vape store. Another hairdresser has become a tanning lounge. Good to see Jenny’s Café is still there though.

We caught a bus to our final accommodation on this occasion, the exciting Premier Inn at Tolworth. After dumping the bulk of our luggage, we ventured into Kingston.

Signal Park, Tolworth, cranes

This site has been under discussion for, what, 25 years? There were many inappropriate plans for over-development submitted over the years, so it’s good to see that, at last, the old and long derelict government land being developed. We need more housing. Signal Park has a selection of 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom apartments for sale or part-ownership.

Behind Tolworth Station, at the edge of the building site, look at the Crop-Ups, small planters for local people on the waiting list for allotments, growing all kinds of (to me) unidentifiable produce!

Crop Ups (not a Manchester bee)

We realised the error of our ways as the K2 took us the long way round Berrylands and Subiton, before arriving in Kingston. We could have walked to the next bus stop for a bus that would go directly into Kingston. Where, bizarrely, we realised how much colder it was. The swans and flamingoes on the Thames here are huge, there must be something in the water.

Birds on the river Thames

We had dinner at Comptoir Libanais, one of our favourite Kingston restaurants. I say dinner, but really, it was mid-afternoon, and there were very few other customers inside. The food was, as always, delicious.

Futon shop

We wandered aimlessly around the town for a short while and I’m not sure this Futon shop was here before. As I said to Liesel though, it’s nice to have a spring sale, but shouldn’t they have a sale on the rest of the furniture too?

An early, relaxing evening reading and doing puzzles and listening to the radio and podcasts was followed by a good night’s sleep, thanks for asking.

We ventured, by bus, into Surbiton where we had a late breakfast at another favourite venue, Allegro’s. We had the place to ourselves. After the full vegetarian breakfasts, and filling our flasks with coffee from The Press Room, just round the corner, it was time to set off home.

Two trains, then, and two buses today. As the train passed by Vauxhall, I had to check that The British Interplanetary Society was still there and thriving. From Waterloo, we caught a bus to Euston, but decided to get off at Russell Square and sit for a while.

Talkative girl

This young lady was having a very long telephone conversation with someone, husband or partner probably, but I suspect not a work colleague.

Where’s Liesel?

From Russell Square, we walked along the road to Tavistock Square. I think I already knew, but it was still strange seeing the juxtaposition between a statue of Gandhi, the man of peace and a memorial to the victims of the Hiroshima bombing.

Mahatma Gandhi
Hiroshima memorial tree

There was music in the air too, which we finally tracked down to the sax player having a jolly good time.

Saxophone player

And so, our short break comes to an end. Walk to Euston, train to Manchester, bus to Northenden, back to normal.

To be continued…

What? Really? Oh yes. Two cities, remember?