Shoe shopping and Sunday Soccer

One of my favourite things is shoe shopping. No, hang on, I mean: one of my least favourite things is shoe shopping. But today, Liesel took me to REI and we bought me a new pair of hiking shoes. I tried on two pairs, both fitted ok and were comfortable, so I chose the ones that were 0.5 grammes lighter. And $30 more expensive, of course.

I’ll never forget the day, nearly 44 years ago, when I went out with Sarah, one of our first dates. We were with Sandra and Nick, on one of their early dates. The thing is: we walked the length of London’s Oxford Street, along one side, back along the other, visiting every one of the 19 shoe shops and shoe departments in department stores, Sarah and Sandra trying on shoes in most of them. And we returned to shop number 1, where a purchase was made. Despite this, Sarah and I married a few years later. By comparison, today’s shoe shopping expedition was a breeze.

No. I was tempted to show you a picture of my new shoes, but unless there’s a real clamour, that’s not going to happen!

Instead, here is a shop that we didn’t go into, even though I thought a hash brownie would go very well with a cup of coffee.

Catalyst

In the afternoon, we went to watch Asa play soccer, at the arena in Kincaid Park. It was raining, so we dressed appropriately and took umbrellas with us. Unfortunately, it was very windy too, so the umbrellas spent most of their time being inside out.

The pitch was astroturf and surrounded on three sides by bushes and who knows what beasts were taking shelter there. The game was football, but it mostly seemed to be the blue team kicking the ball into those bushes and the white team going on safari to find and retrieve it.

Soccer
Soccer

I went for a wander, with a view to taking some spectacular photos, get some steps in and oh, alright, I’ll admit it, to try and find somewhere more sheltered from the wind.

There really is a ski trail called Toilet Bowl
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What a great idea: a bike repair kit

The really tragic news is that my Fitbit battery died and I lost three hours of data, which is probably about 50,000 steps, or 25 miles. I might be exaggerating.

How to open a bear-proof litter bin

In the evening, we went to Jyoti’s for dinner. It was a houseful. I’d met Suvan and Kayla before, of course, and Una. But this was the first time I’d seen Pam on this trip, and the first time I’d ever met Melanie, although I’ve heard a lot about her.

Sorry, there are no photos of the food which was all delicious, Pam’s cauliflower, Jytoi’s chole, Melanie’s kale, Liesel’s cucumber, Jyoti’s rice and koftes.

We watched la Vuelta on TV, despite the uninspiring commentary, before bed.

London Bye Ta-ta

When we first decided to move away from Chessington and from London, I came up with a few different ways to mark the occasion. Some were more successful projects than others.

1) While out on my daily (-ish) walks, I decided to walk along every road in Chessington, Hook and Malden Rushett one more time. This would retrace all the roads I’d walked along at least once while delivering mail over the previous ten years. The rule was, I had to start at home or finish at home; I couldn’t get a lift to some remote part of the south of the borough, walk around a small block and then get a lift home. In fact, in the end, the only time I got a lift was when Liesel dropped me off at the southern tip of Malden Rushett on her way to work and I walked all the way home, including offshoots such as Fairoaks Lane and West Road. I think in every other case, I left home, walked a few miles, at least 10,000 steps usually and then back home. I completed this project in just a few months. Easy.

2) I thought it would be interesting, challenging and fun to cycle along every road in Chessington, Hook and Malden Rushett in one go, on one single day. But after a bad experience with blood pressure medication leaving me short of breath, riding a long distance became, if not impossible, certainly something not to be attempted lightly. So, this is a fail, so far.

3) One thing I’ve always wanted to do is ride on every line on the London Underground, visiting every station at least once. I started this in 2000 when I was working in London, short rides at lunchtimes, longer ones at the end of the day. Unfortunately, Sarah died before I finished this, so I lost interest and this project was shelved. Well, 16 years later, I thought I’d start again. I did visit Brixton on the Victoria Line soon after David Bowie died, to see the mural and the flowers left by mourning fans. I rode the Victoria Line to Walthamstow at the other end. One line completed. And that’s it, I’ve not pursued this project, even though I have plenty of time. One day, maybe …

4) There are 32 London Boroughs plus the City of London. I thought it would be good to visit each one, to actually visit a destination or venue in each one, not just pass through on a bus or a train. How am I getting on? Here’s the list:

  • Royal Borough of Kingston – This is where we lived, worked, shopped, took children to school, so we I can definitley tick this one off
  • Bromley – I visited my friend Marie in Orpington a few times.
  • City of London – We visited the Tower of London, Tower Bridge and more
  • City of Westminster – Covent Garden, Hyde Park, Tate Britain, all visited many times
  • Camden – Camden Market and London Zoo are just two venues
  • Richmond upon Thames – Richmond Park, Bushy Park, Richmond Theatre and I worked in Isleworth for a short period
  • Merton – Wimbledon Theatre and Wimbledon Common
  • Sutton – Nonsuch Park and the shops
  • Croydon – Fairfield Halls and the college where I had some OU tutorials and non forgetting Ikea and CostCo
  • Kensington and Chelsea – I went to Uni here, lived here, Holland Park, Kensington Town Hall, the old Commonwealth Institute, Biba, Kensington Market, Kensington Gardens
  • Hammersmith and Fulham – lived here, Shepherds Bush Empire, Bush Hall
  • Wandsworth – Battersea Arts Centre
  • Lambeth – Southbank Centre, National Theatre, Old Vic and Young Vic Theatres
  • Southwark – HMS Belfast, Tate Modern
  • Tower Hamlets – Tower of london, Tower Bridge, Royal London Hospital where Sarah trained and lived for a year
  • Hackney – Stoke newington Church Street: Andi’s
  • Islington – Union Chapel, probably our favourite venue in London
  • Brent – Wembley Stadium and Wembley Arena
  • Ealing – lived in Acton for three months, and we’re staying in an Airbnb place here before we fly off to Alaska
  • Hounslow – Heathrow Airport from where we fly off to Alaska
  • Lewisham – Horniman Museum
  • Royal Borough of Greenwich – The National Maritime Museum, probably my favourite museum, Greenwich Observatory, the Millennium Dome (now the O2 Arena)
  • Bexley – Dad took me and Pauline to visit his old haunts in Welling, 50 years ago
  • Barking and Dagenham – I visited the Dagenham Ford Motorworks when I was at school
  • Newham – ExCeL Exhibition Centre, Olympic Stadium
  • Waltham Forest – Olympic Velopark
  • Haringey – visited my Dad’s Uncle Charlie before he passed away in 1979
  • Barnet – we visited Golders Green recently
  • Hillingdon – Heathrow airport spans two London boroughs and the country of Surrey, and we used to stop at Yiewsley when driving from Peterborough to Guildford, before the M25 was complete
  • Harrow – nothing
  • Enfield – nothing
  • Havering – nothing
  • Redbridge – nothing

Not too bad, then just missing out on four and I admit, some of the historical ones are a bit of a stretch!

5) Cycle on every page of the old Surrey Street Atlas. I did this once in the 1990s, a good way to force myself to go on long bike rides to the extremes of Surrey. Again, I was part way through a second pass on this when Sarah died. It would be nice to be fit enough to have another attempt but as I mentioned above, I am a bit, maybe unjustifiably, scared to attempt very long rides because of my breathlessness issues.

There are also some ideas that I discarded as being a bit too ambitious:

Ride every London bus route

Ride every Overground line, every DLR line,

Cycle the length of the Thames from the source in Gloucestershire to the estuary at Dartmouth or maybe beyond. I’ve ridden it all, in stages, from Walton on Thames to the Thames Barrier in Greenwich, plus a short section near Oxford.

We’ll miss London and Surrey and Chessington but moving away is an adventure and it will be fun coming up with similar, equally silly plans in Northenden or Manchester or Greater Manchester. Any ideas are very welcome!

London Bye Ta-ta is a song recorded by David Bowie just over 50 years ago, and, unbelievably, rejected by the record label!

Three Sleeps to go

On Tuesday, we spent the morning with Martha again. We didn’t take her out anywhere as she’d had a busy few days, visiting London, meeting Great Granny (Sarah’s Mum) again, and spending an exciting day at Peppa Pig World in Southampton. Instead, we had a nice, calm time, playing with Playdough and reading books.

Later in the evening, Jenny, Liam and the grandchildren came round for dinner, the first time Liam’s been. It was good fun with Martha here. If there’s a button, she’ll press it. If there’s a bed, she’ll bounce on it or pretend to sleep in it.

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Who’s been sleeping in our bed… and she’s still there!

What I didn’t realise until this morning was, she’d set my alarm to go off at 5.00am. I haven’t needed such an early alarm since I retired from Royal Mail! Luckily for me, and for Liesel, the alarm starts off with a light slowly brightening, a sort of electronic sunrise, rather than an audible tone. It made me chuckle, though!

We both went to the GP practice this morning for our first appointments, to meet our new GP. Instead, we met a Healthcare Assistant who did a good job of taking some basic measurements. Then, after lunch with Jenny, I went for a massage at Clarins in John Lewis. Lots of hot oil, cold water and goosebumps involved and I still wonder whether falling asleep is a compliment or an insult to the masseuse.

Last night, I watched the latest episodes of Ackley Bridge and of The Handmaid’s Tale. Both are better(*) but both have a few episodes remaining and I’ll miss those. There’s a small sense of incompleteness but I think the excitement of travelling for several months outweighs that loss! (Sorry, Sam.)

Three more sleeps until we leave so we, well, Liesel, started packing this evening. We’re trying to stick to one backpack each. Then I saw Jenny’s packing list. Twelve pages? I know they have two children to pack for too, but even so, my old list fits on one side of A4 and we just wanted to look at Jenny’s in case there’s something obvious that we’ve forgotten.

The last of the PC-based admin has been done, the paperwork needs filing away, and the ‘to do’ list is getting shorter rather than longer. Progress is being made. But we found time to watch today’s stage of Le Tour. A short stage, only 65km, but up and down steep Pyrenees all day. I was tired just watching it. And Geraint Thomas is still in the lead.

(*) “Both Are Better”. This is the name of a book written by a friend of mine, Jane Schnell, about her cycle trips in Britain and France. Highly recommended, a very good read, and not just because I get a brief mention.

Manchester is All Abuzz

We drove into Manchester today and the car park we found was a bit of a challenge. The spaces were small, the corners were tight, the pillars were insulated by yellow concrete and the ramps from one floor to the next were nearly 45°. It stunk like a urinal, the only ticket machines were, of course, at the opposite end of the car park from where we parked. We worked it out. It was cheaper to park there for a couple of hours than to catch the bus. But next time, we’re definitely going by bus!

It was reportedly the warmest day of the year, so far, but I don’t think Manchester quite reached the 33.3° of the south-east.

We bought some American dollars and some Japanese yen. Guess where we’re going? It occurrred to me that it would be useful if every M&S had the same layout, then you’d know your way around. But then, you’d lose the sense of adventure. We also had lunch at Marks & Spencer. The restaurant there has a strange service system, not at all intuitive. You get an electronic device that we thought would flash when our beverages were ready. But no, it’s just to tell the waiters where to deliver the drinks. But not all drinks, only the cold ones. We had top collect our own hot coffee from the counter ourselves. Hot food would be delivered, but we carried our own cold snacks to our table. We got there in the end.

Manchester is full of bees at the moment. Not real, pollinating ones but a collection of sculptured bees each decorated by a different person or organisation. Bee in the City is only on until the end of September so get along while the weather’s good.

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As we found with the elephants and Paddington Bears in London, it’s hard to get good photos without other people in the way. But they’re probably very appreciative of our presence in their pictures!

Yesterday’s solitary walk around Northenden was interesting. It’ll take a while to find every all the little, interesting things around here: 33 years in Chessington wasn’t long enough to see everything there, never mind the rest of London. But Northenden is the place to come if you want something done to your body: face, eyes, hair, teeth of course, but especially hands, feet, nails and tattoos, such emporia are in abundance.

I found a few charity shops, so we’ll be able to get rid of, I mean, to donate more stuff as we get more settled here.

I thought this place looked interesting, but when I knocked on the door, they hid behind the sofa and pretended not to be in.

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Assembly Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses

The Tour de France has just one week to go. Today was the second rest day and Geraint Thomas is still in the lead. it’s fascinating to watch: who will win? Him or Chris Froome? Or will Tom Dumoulin surprise us all? Six more days racing to go.But as there was no TdF on TV, we caught up on a couple of series we’re watching. Will we get to the end of all the serials before we go travelling? Will we have to try and use the catch-up services from overseas?? What new programmes will we miss???

Adventure before Dementia

It’s sad, so sad, it’s a sad, sad situation. It makes me feel a little bit guilty, asking to be removed from the Rose Theatre mailing list after all this time. We’ll miss Kingston’s own little theatre. I was a Founding Friend too: there’s even a seat with a memorial plaque for Sarah, so have a look the next time you go. But we have to move on, change is difficult sometimes but it’s worthwhile in the end.

The Government website is a vortex of looping, self-linking pages telling you that you should do something but not how to do it. That’s another two hours I’ll never get back. But the good news is, when the time comes, I will receive the maximum possible state pension in the UK, just over £9000 pa. In Sweden, I’d get nearly three times as much. Here’s an old but interesting article. Yes, I wasted more time reading up on this and trying not to feel cheated.

But in eight days, we’ll be leaving this little nest of ours for a while. As we have to fly out of London Heathrow, we throught we’d spend a couple of days in the capital before we jet off. Sunday is the day of the Prudential 100-mile bike ride around London and Surrey. We’ll probably watch them roll in on The Mall, just as I did myself four years ago. And hope to do again one year.

Then early on the Monday, we’ll fly to Anchorage for Part One of our Gap Year Travels. This is why we’re trying to tie up all the loose administrative ends this week. We don’t want any important mail to end up in Chessington, after all. And we want the flat to be secure. Plus, the car will have a nice little holiday of its own somewhere. For a while, we thought about selling it but having lived here for a whole two and a bit weeks now, we accept that we really do need our own set of wheels. Public transport is OK, but we’re quite a way from the nearest train stations and tram stops.

The other day when we were driving somewhere, we passed a campervan with a brilliant sticker on the back. “Adventure before Dementia”, it said. And we thought, that’s great, that’s our philosophy right now!

This morning, I needed to go out to get some milk. I asked Liesel if she fancied going for a walk, and she said “Yes”. So we walked to Palatine Road, the main street, bought some milk and enjoyed our first coffee in the coffee bar, The Northern Den, recommended by our old Airbnb host, Iris, a few weeks ago. Liesel bumped into our old Airbnb host, Iris, just along the road. She’d left the café just before we arrived. What are the chances?

Instead of walking home, we walked further along the main road and after the bridge under the motorway, we started to walk along the path by the Mersey, towards West Didsbury. Liesel thought it would be great to have lunch at Greens, a fab vegetarian restaurant that we’ve been to several times with Jenny and Liam. It was a nice walk, yes, but poor old Liesel’s piriformis was playing up again.

We had a lovely lunch, the food’s always good. But it was so much quieter at lunchtime than it’s ever been in the evening. And as there aren’t enough pictures of food on this blog (said absolutely nobody, never ever), here’s one of what was left of my double chocolate sponge cake with chocolate sauce:

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On this day last year, I was in an MRI scanner watching a silent Buster Keaton film while strange beeps, whoops and other sounds were being played. I was worried I might fall asleep, but I manged not to. This was some research being conducted on perception of sound by people and how it changes with age. I hope the right bits of my brain lit up while I was processing the information.

One thing we won’t miss from Chessington is our old neighbours’ frequent habit of cooking up fish curry outside. A big cauldron of pink goo that can be sniffed from hundreds of yards away. Such was the case on this day 9 years ago. It must have been especially strong that day because I mentioned it on Facebook. Pee-ook. I hope they enjoyed it, we didn’t!

A pair of crocs

Yesterday, we registered with our local GP. It’s not as close as the ones we used in Chessington, being a bus ride away, but according to the reviews, it’s much better than the one just round the corner.

In the afternoon, we went to the Savoy Cinema in Heaton Moor to watch Ocean’s Eight. This is the first time we’d been to a cinema in a couple of years, maybe more. The ticket was my birthday present from Jenny and Liam, so thank you!

We opted to sit on a sofa which was very comfortable and although we thought we might be too far back from the screen, it was perfect, the screen was at our eye level.

We’d forgotten how many adverts you have to sit through before a film. Lots and lots and lots. But the film itself was good, not too challenging, we enjoyed it, even if the gang of eight females did have to enlist the help of a couple of men to carry out their heist! Rihanna was delightful but at first, I didn’t recognise her: she kept her clothes on.

But I’m sure we will revisit The Savoy Cinema at some point.

This morning, we had no dial tone on our phone. I tried both phones and both sockets in the flat. Nothing. Strangely, the broadband connection was still up and running. I called the supplier whose tests all indicated that there was nothing wrong with the line. But they’ll look into it further.

When we returned, several hours later, we had a dial tone. Which is great, of course, but it would be nice to know whether we’d been affected by a larger issue or if our local problem had been resolved.

More time was wasted today on hold trying to tell organisations our new address. Another reason not to move house too often!

Following on from the crocodile seen from the boat on Tuesday, there seems to be a theme in today’s Martha section.

William has finally, after being so close for so long, learnt how to crawl forwards, on his belly. Martha said, “William’s walking like a crocdile”. Very perceptive.

And as we left today, I said, “See you later, alligator.” Martha replied, “In a while, crocodile.” And I felt so proud 🙂 I’ve been trying to teach her that for ages!

And better late than never, here are pictures of William and Martha swimming under water a couple of days ago. A marvellous thing is Auntie Helen’s GoPro camera.

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Princess Katherine

The best part of today was looking after Martha for seven hours while her Mummy was ‘at work’.

This is going to read like a Granny’s boasting book, but Martha really is terrific. Very bright, interesting and interested, she has a fantastic vocabulary, she loves any opportunity to climb up stairs, often without holding on, and best of all, she eats like a trooper. If a trooper eats a whole bowl of cucumber, peppers, tomatoes, Babybels and a bag of Hula-hoops, followed by a pouch of strawberry and apple juice or whatever plus a bag of Paws, a fruit-based delicacy.

We took her to Salford where we went for a one-hour long boat trip on the Princess Katherine. We row, row, rowed the boat, gently down the stream and when we saw a crocodile, we didn’t forget to scream.

Martha began to count the many bridges we sailed under but they weren’t regular enough. She enjoyed seeing ducks, swans, geese, coots and a cormorant. She wasn’t so bothered about seeing Media City UK, BBC, ITV studios and the Coronation Street set.

The most disappointing aspect of seeing the river and the canal so close up was: they are really dirty, full of rubbish, fridges, scum and yet, fish are returning after a long absence.

We took Martha to the People’s History Museum. We thought she’d be fascinated by the history of people fighting for their rights and for better working and living conditions. Well, maybe in a few years’ time. Liesel and I found the subject matter and the exhibits interesting but Martha was more taken by the large bees on display.

A bit of family history. In the 1950s, my two aunts and their husbands emigrated to Australia. They took advantage of a relatively cheap ticket to sail, and joined the small population of ten-pound poms. I guess this is one of the posters that attracted them:

Sixty years on and my younger daughter Helen has moved to Australia too, but it cost her much more than £10!

Martha was becoming tired so a babyccino and a cookie was called for. (Oh, alright, we had a coffee and a cookie too!) She fell asleep in the buggy on the way back to the car park but as we’re not as adept at the transfer as her parents, she woke up when we put her back in the car seat.

A lovely day with a lovely child and we’re wondering, just why are we going away for a year? Oh well, c’est la vie!