A Pair of Drawers

It’s only a few weeks since my last check-up at the optician’s, but maybe it’s time for a revisit. I saw the sign ‘Wythenshawe Park and Ride’. Is Wythenshawe really that popular? Is it a major retail centre? No, of course not. On closer inspection, the sign said ‘Wythenshawe Park and Hall’. That was handy because my destination on this afternoon’s walk was indeed Wythenshawe Park.

Wythenshawe Park

It’s a very popular park, lots of young families, people with dogs, folk sitting on most of the benches and the odd, very odd, individual such as moi wandering through.

Wythenshaw Hall was damaged in an arson attack in 2016 so it’s out of bounds while being restored.

Wythenshawe Hall

This 16th-century manor house will be an interesting place to visit when we’re allowed back in: a nice, easy walk from home. And if there’s a decent café there, even better!

Something took a big bite out of this tree

It is worth reporting hateful, horrible, racist people on Twitter because once in a blue moon, they do something about it.

Twitter does the right thing, for a change

I felt quite smug about this success, ridiculously so. For a minute or two, anyway.

Grandchildren Day saw us returning to Chester Zoo. We call it it Grandchildren Day. They call it Grandad and Oma day. That’s what they call us, Grandad and Oma. I’m sure they’ll come up with worse names for us as they get older.

It was a beautiful day so, even though we arrived just after opening time, the car park was full. Despite noting that we were in the Crocodile Zone and taking a picture of the nearby tree as a landmark, I spent far too long later on trying to find the car.

Big but easily missed tree by the car park

Poor Martha needed to be carried the last few metres, aeroplane style, arms flapping (hers, not mine). Needless to say, Liesel and William had found the car straightaway after leaving the zoo, while Martha and I fought our way through the shop.

Martha and William are always happy to see the elephants, rhinos and lions, but this time, there was equal delight watching the native squirrel leaping from tree to tree.

Squirrel

Later on, at home, under the climbing frame, Martha collected nut shells that must have been dropped by a local squirrel. Probably not the same one.

We spent some time in the adventure playground with lots of other small humans.

Martha on the slide

If you’re wondering: yes, Martha is now wearing spectacles and she loves carrying the case around.

Meanwhile, William watched a slightly older boy rolling down a slope. He tried to copy but didn’t quite get the idea that you can’t roll sideways when gravity is trying to pull you downwards.

William not rolling sideways

On the other hand, he had to swing on every reachable horizontal bar he could find. This is why he has very long arms.

William swinging

As if the day with William and Martha wasn’t exciting and exhausting enough: back home in the evening, we had to move as much furniture out of our living/dining room as possible.

Our first new northern carpet arrived and was installed early the following morning. It’s much deeper and softer than the old, probably original one, and the best thing is, we no longer have to look at the previous occupants’ furniture’s indentations. We’ll make our own marks!

I bit the bullet, overrode my reluctance, dismissed my innate sense of incompetence, concealed my fear of the whole scary enterprise and began to install the new furniture. The so-called String System attaches to the wall. Yes, I had to drill holes in the wall and all I could think of is that the whole edifice would come tumbling down, one day. There are shelves, cupboards and a drawer unit, consisting of two drawers: yes, a pair of drawers. A phrase that always makes me snigger.

Mick doing it himself

At last, 13½ months after moving in, we can unpack the last few dozen boxes of books, CDs, DVDs and all sorts of stuff. Stuff that we’ve lived without for a year but which suddenly, we can’t bear to be parted from! Too much stuff. Liesel was the chief (only) shelf filler, and I think she’s done a very good job. But yes, after a couple of years of decluttering in Chessington, we still have far too much stuff, so it’s not as minimalist as we’d hoped.

The shelves were populated very quickly

I enjoyed putting together the two cupboard units and the pair of drawers, chortle, despite the fact that one of the supplied screws could not be screwed in due to a defective head (the screw’s, not mine).

With the new storage in place, we are able to dispose of some older items. eBay is the obvious place although it’s just not as successful as it used to be. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. No, not Christmas, home. Not like, feel! It’s beginning to feel a bit like home!

Melbourne to Manchester

And we’re home.

On the way to Melbourne Airport, we noticed a few people in crazy costumes. It’s the weekend of Melbourne Comic Con. We left home during the weekend of Manchester Comic Con. What are the chances of that?

We saw some pandas, an unexpected bonus. No, not real ones. To celebrate 2017 Australia-China Year of Tourism, there are about twenty pandas at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport.

A row of pandas
A panda
A panda and a koala together

The first laugh of the day was provided by Etihad’s poster – we all know about tolerance in middle eastern countries.

Year of tolerance

It was a long flight from Melbourne to Manchester, lots of hanging around and sitting and not much sleep. Plenty of time to read, watch films and TV programmes, play games, eat the meals, enjoy some of them but mainly to reminisce and think about the last ten months’ adventures.

Looking down on England

Jenny met us at Manchester Airport with Martha and William and it was lovely to see and to spend most of the day with them all! Best of all, though, were the spontaneous hugs from a couple of children who haven’t seen us in the flesh for a significant portion of their lives. Jenny and Liam have done a brilliant job keeping us in their lives, thank you very much!

We went for a walk to a local place for breakfast, the idea partly being for Liesel and me to stay awake until a reasonable bedtime. Martha is a very competent scooter user.

Martha the scooterer
Selfie of the day (thanks, Liam)
William won’t let Oma ride Martha’s scooter

We watched Martha and William swimming in the afternoon, both very happy and very competent in the water.

The Welcome Home evening meal was Pie and Roast potatoes. Gorgeous! We should go away for ten months at a time more often…

Now we have a tonne of boring but necessary admin tasks to perform, household appliances to kick into action, medical appointments to keep and, when we have a moment, many boxes to unpack from last year’s house move!

Hikes and Bites

We seem to have settled into a routine of going for a walk or a hike and going out to eat or drink. That’s OK, that’s what holidays are for.

An early walk with Jyoti in Kincaid Park was interesting because we had to make a detour to avoid getting too close to a moose, not once, but twice.

Follow the yellow-leaf trail….
Mountain bikes presumably – maybe skiers treat this as a challenge too

And then, in the bushes, we saw a group of three mooses all together. Photos? Nah: I’m pretty blasé about seeing them in the wild, now. Yes, it’s still a thrill (for me, at least) to see them, but they all look the same in photos (no offence, mooses)!

Nice signing

Liesel and I had a late breakfast (early lunch) with another long-lost friend at Organic Oasis. We all chose the same item from the menu, but whereas the two ladies went for small, I chose big. We all agreed that none of us know what we want to do when we grow up, having had a succession of jobs, in offices and elsewhere, that in retrospect, were just a stop-gap until the real thing comes along.

The musical accompaniment here was songs by Paul McCartney, then by George Harrison and a bit later, by John Lennon. No solo Ringo Starr, unfortunately, but we did hear the Beatles’ Hello Goodbye just before we left!

Having slipped on the muddy trail a couple of times in the morning, Liesel decided it was time to buy some new trainers, from REI.

We had a coffee, of course, and by coincidence, Una was having lunch in the nearby Yak and Yeti and she joined us for a moment.

While Liesel was having more treatment from the physio, I went for a walk down towards the railway line and the inlet. Despite being close to the city centre, there was still plenty of Autumnal colour.

Actually nowhere near the railway station

Another bear loose in town

At 10:18 on Wednesday 3rd, Liesel’s phone made horrible noise. “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.” Well, the klaxon certainly stirred me from my near slumber. But where was my message? I had to wait until 10:28 for mine. And then I received a second message six minutes later. Was the test successful? On Twitter, I saw that someone had received the alert three times. Another person complained that soon afterwards, they’d been sent a message inviting them to a rally being held by the President, and was this related? And of course, there was some fun to be had:

Liesel wanted to go out to have some quality girl time, sans moi. At one point, her plans included having two lunches! In the end, she only had a light first lunch, anticipating a second, which then didn’t happen. Oops.

Meanwhile I went for a long walk to Carrs to buy a mirror to replace the one that broke a few days ago.

Only in Anchorage….
Not a model village, but a whole new neighbourhood built in a big hole

A man walking towards me said, conspiratorially, “And so, the sky’s walking today.” I thought, he thinks I’m a fellow Russian spy, or something, and I don’t even know the secret reponse. Then my brain kicked in and I realised that he’d really said, “It’s all us guys walking today.”

What a long walk, just to buy a hand mirror. Yes, maybe, but I rewarded myself with another massage while I was there.

As it was two days after International Coffee Day, on the way home, I felt obligated to stop at Kaladi Bros on Jewel Lake for one of their delicious lattes. With a breakfast burrito, this time, for a late lunch. Which was just enough fuel to get me home again. Except…

As I was walking home, Liesel drove by and picked me up. We delivered the chalk to the local elementary school. Chalk that was left over from the garage sale and has been in the boot of the car ever since. The staff at the school were grateful, so I hope the children have some fun with it.

At last, we decided on and bought a wireless speaker. It’s not too bulky, nor too heavy, and it means we can listen to music from both our phones anywhere in pretty good quality. And as I type, I can confirm: my phone can talk to two devices via Bluetooth at the same time!

Asa was supposed to take part in a cross-country run in the afternoon but as he wasn’t feeling well, we didn’t have to go and show support nor did we have to risk sending the runners the wrong way in our rôle as marshals! Instead, Liesel suggested to her parents that we go out for dinner.

We went to Siam Cuisine where I had a bowl of curry noodles with tofu and vegetables. When I say bowl, I mean it was nearly the size of a washing-up bowl. No way could I finish it, and I took the rest home in a carton. Klaus had oxtail soup and I recalled my favourite ever oxtail soup: from a vending machine at Waterloo Station, forty years ago or so!

Cafés and restaurants often (usually?) play music from the Beatles. Well, Siam Cuisine didn’t, they were playing Siamese music, I think. But they did have this blackboard as a nod to the fab four:

All you need is love…

Jyoti’s car is now just like me: re-tired. Yes, Jyoti took her car in to have the snow tyres fitted in anticipation of it being snowy and icy when she returns home from her forthcoming trip to Indianapolis and the east coast.

She drove us to Hilltop for a hike through the woods. It was quite chilly and I was very nearly tempted to put on my jacket. But I managed to stay warm enough, the trail was undulating and we had the place to ourselves. Apart from the lady near the beginning who walked by hurriedly with her dog close behind. Hurriedly, and we soon found out why: her big dog had left a big steaming pile on the trail. Very unusual for local dog owners.

The only other person came by on his mountain bike at about 90 mph. Twice. We saw a moose in the distance, thinking about having a go on the ski-jump. Other than that, and a spruce-head bird, nothing. Although Liesel was heard to say “There’s too much wildlife in Anchorage”.

Not all evergreens are ever green
Spot the moose eyeing up the ski jump

When Liesel and Jyoti are walking, they are also talking. I can’t talk that much. Don’t know what they’re talking about as I listen out for the sound of animals in the bushes!

And I think I’ve found out why they call Autumn ‘Fall’ in America: it’s because that’s when the trees start falling over like drunken teenagers or Judge Kavanaugh.

One…
Two…
Three… Timber!

Yes, I know we used to call it Fall in England too until a couple of hundred years ago, when we started to use the French word Automne!

Oh guess what I found in the email Spam folder? A message from the estate agent that sold our house, asking for a review. Here’s the link, it said, to make it easy for you. Except the link just took me to the page that I would see if I Googled the name of the estate agent. So, sorry, they won’t be getting a review.

In the evening, we joined chef Jyoti at her house for supper: aloo gobi, saag paneer and rice. Us two, Jyoti and Jyoti’s daughter’s boyfriend’s brother Calvin! It was cold and raining when we left, but we were well sated.

Visitors

Very exciting day, we had our first official visitors. Helen is here from Australia especially to see our new flat. Well, that, and to attend two weddings over the next few weeks. She visited us this afternoon with Jenny, Martha and William.

Martha was in top form, very chatty and curious about the things lying around. William was asleep and after he woke up and was fed, he was fun too. So close to crawling forwards but not quite, yet.

Helen arrived at Manchester Airport first thing in the morning and was met by the three of them. Martha and Helen chat to each other most days on the phone and I believe Martha still thinks Helen comes out of the phone when she’s here in person!

Helen, Martha, William, Jenny

The other visitor we had was the washing machine engineer. The spin cycle wasn’t working and in the end we had a new pump installed. Still, this inherited machine is in a far better state than the one we disposed of before we moved!

Yesterday, Liesel and I built the chest of drawers that we’d bought at Ikea. It’s always satisfying when it all works out and there are no bits left over! Now a lot of our clothes have been put away and our bedroom is beginning to look like a bedroom rather than a storage unit. The second bedroom really is a storage unit right now! Wall to wall boxes, crates, cases and bikes.

Yes, we will get the bikes out soon, but this morning we went into Manchester by bus as we had a couple of things to do there. In a first for both of us, we have rented a safe deposit box. This will contain all our really valuable items while we’re travelling.

Manchester is, obviously, very different to London. We’re no longer used to paying fares on buses but that’s the norm here. Also, the buses don’t display the name of the next bus stop, something we just take for granted in London.

We noticed the pavements in the city centre are really dirty. Yes, lots of chewing gum but the surface just looks really mucky. Maybe it’s because of the long, hot, dry spell we’re having.

Piccadilly Gardens, a small patch of green, was very busy, lots of workers having their lunch breaks there by the looks of it. The heatwave continues. It’s tempting to ask, does it ever rain in Manchester? What were we worried about?

Part one of our new bed was delivered this evening. The mattress. The base arrives on Thursday and then, at last, we’re hoping for a good, comfortable night’s sleep! We’ll have our internet connection on Thursday, too and then, ta-daaa, we’ll be able to book our travels! There is a lot to do indoors still, but we’ve only been here a week and we feel we’ve achieved a lot.

Water Sports

Early Thursday morning, I drove Liesel to the railway station. Gatley is the closest, but Stockport made more sense. From Gatley, to go to London Euston, you’d have to change at Manchester Piccadilly or Crewe. It’s a 2-hour trip from Stockport. The train was packed, and Liesel had the pleasure of standing up in the train manager’s special little compartment. She was standing and chatting with a barrister, both really needed a seat for medical reasons. The train manager gave them permission to go and sit in First Class. Which was great, but the air conditioning was on full blast. But it would have been churlish to complain about that, so they did the British thing, whinged to each other, assumed stiff upper lips and enjoyed siting down, at least!

Meanwhile, I was having more fun, taking the first car-load of rubbish to the local tip. Lots of our packaging material that can’t really be reused, although the hundreds of emptied cardboard boxes are up for grabs.

The long process of informing businesses of our new address continues. Thames Water have sent their final bill from our old house. Great. But somehow, we have acquired two different account numbers with United Utilities, our new water supplier. This is the company that didn’t even know it had installed a new water meter here, so that I wondered whether I’d just read the wrong one! Fun and games with water companies!

Our solicitor sent another form for me to sign. He sent it by email, a PDF attachment. I was to print it out, sign it and post it back. So I had to set up my computer and the printer. But before that, I had to build the desk for the PC, the shelf unit for the printer and find all the other bits and pieces and cables. Here’s a tip: make sure all the tools and the nuts and bolts and screws for furniture are easy to find!

And we have no internet yet either, so it was with a great sense of relief that I was able to copy the PDF file to the computer via a USB cable. Not sure I could have done that with the old iPhone: top marks, nice, new Samsung Galaxy!

Form printed and signed. Now, where are the envelopes and the stamps?

In the local newsagent and the local Post Office of course. This was my cue (and excuse) to go for a walk in the local neighbourhood. Errands complete, I continued along Palantine Road to the bridge over the river Mersey. Yes, that river Mersey, the famous one. I followed it for a while and took the first interesting photo in this neck of the woods.

Mersey at Northenden

I suspect, in the fullness of time, when we’re more settled, we’ll be walking and cycling along the towpath a lot.

On Friday, I waited in for the Futon to be delivered. I was told it weighed 250kg and my first thought was, I hope it doesn’t fall through the floor.

I knew I’d never carry it upstairs on my own, and I suspect Liesel and I would have struggled together. So I went onto Grindr and looked for two, strong, strapping young men to come round and (help me!) carry the Futon up two flights of stairs. No, not Grindr. Google. I Googled a local removal company in the hope that they would help out at short notice. And I found one.

The delivery guy left our furniture on a pallet outside at the back of the flats. He wasn’t allowed to enter the premises for cock and bull ‘not insured’ reasons. So thanks to Dave and his mate who came by and did the heavy lifting for me.

And just in time too. I had to collect Liesel from the station after her very short return visit to Chessington.

She’d met up with our friend Sarah, up from Exeter, at Waterloo Station. Then in the evening, she went to the WI Book Group meeting, and they were kind enough to give her a £45 book token for Waterstones. This, plus the M&S vouchers she was given by the WI group as a whole is a sign of real affection and gratitude. Much more generous than Liesel’s former employers: she’s well out of that company.

It took Liesel and me about an hour to construct the Futon and it is really comfortable. Much nicer than the sofa we’d left behind 😉

We went round to Jenny’s for fish and chips (cheese and onion pie for me). Poor Martha was heart-broken when Mummy and Daddy ‘went out to the shops’. I remember when Jenny was inconsolable whenever her Mum went out too. I know it’s just a phase, but it’s horrible to watch, because there’s nothing really you can do. Except, on this occasion, they took Martha with them and she fell asleep in the car.

Today, Saturday, though, we went round to look after the children again. And again, Mummy and Daddy went out but this time, they couldn’t take Martha. It was lunchtime, and all we could do was try and distract her with Peppa Pig and encourage her to eat her lunch.

Which she did. Hollow legs has Martha: two Babybels, yellow pepper, tomatoes, cucumber, bread, crisps, cake, water melon, ice cream with a Flake. She was, by now a really happy bunny!

Martha

William’s a wonderfully laid-back little guy. He’s really happy playing by himself but he likes company too. Liesel had her first really dirty nappy changing experience with him! He is so close to crawling, but he just can’t quite get pushing his little legs. He can push himself backwards, rotate on his belly, roll over onto his back and onto his front. But not move forwards, yet!

And fidget. Boy, does he fidget. Always moving, arms twitching, legs kicking. I can hear my old teachers saying to him in the future, “Sit still, William”, “Stop fidgeting, William”, “Have you got ants in your pants, William?”

William

It’s been a joy to spend time with both of them after being so caught up in our own little house-move for so long. In the garden Martha had a great time in her paddling pool. Even William had a bit of a paddle. Fun and games with water!

In the pool

After a while, I realised he was in need of a kip, so I carried him back inside and he very quickly fell asleep.

But all good things come to an end. And when Jenny and Liam came home this afternoon, Liesel and I went to a little bit of Sweden while their football team played England in the World Cup quarter finals. Yes, we bought some more furniture and other bits and pieces from Ikea. More heavy stuff to lug upstairs, but we manged this time. Here’s a tip: it’s OK to unpack Ikea furniture at the bottom of the stairs and carry it up piece by piece!

Never mind the World Cup, though, the Tour de France started today. Unusually, today’s first stage was a proper road race in which most of the main contenders fell off, broke wheeels or got held up by other crashes.

Hello to our Fans

After two nights staying at Jenny’s place, we are tonight sleeping on the blow-up bed in our own luxury apartment. I carried Liesel over the threshold. There are only 32 stairs, not the expected 40, I don’t know where we got that idea from but the 20% reduction in climbing is a bonus.

It’s still hot and sticky and even after the long, long, wet Winter, we are being threatened with a hosepipe ban. But that’s ok, we no longer have a garden and we have passed on the garden hose to a nearby daughter with a nice garden to water sometimes!

The removal men were fantastic. They lost several pounds in weight by lugging all our stuff up two flights of stairs. I was on the phone when they arrived at Jenny’s to drop off a few crates, all Jenny’s and Helen’s old, old, old schoolwork, toys, books and so on. So Liesel drove to our flat to let them in there. I followed a bit later, walking the three and a bit miles. It was a nice, quiet walk, mostly through residential neighbourhoods. But then, the last half mile or so was a bit smelly. The tip is quite close and it was ripe. This would be a good cycling route, in the future, so that’s good!

Sainsbury’s on a Wednesday morning here wasn’t too frenetic, compared with all the supermarkets local to Chessington which seemed to be incredibly busy all the time, which is why we’ve been using Ocado for the last few years. A nice group of robots do our shopping for us and then a nice (usually) man (usually) delivers it to our door. We are not being paid for this endorsement of Ocado.

We rearranged the boxes and crates, seemingly hundreds of them, so the flat is now much more ordered. I rebuilt some items of furniture and there were no bits left over. Bonus! Liesel is making the best of a much smaller kitchen than we had before, but like most things, we’ll get used to all the differences, in time.

It was a delight to find and unpack one of our fans. We really need the air to move around, especially late afternoon into early evening, when the Sun shines in through the living room windows and the two main bedroom windows. It was even better to locate the second fan, so tht’s now cooling down the bedroom where we’re sleeping tonight.

Last night, we watched most of the World Cup football game between Colombia and England. As a Kirsty McColl fan, I was really hoping the score would be England 2 Colombia 0, but sadly not. England won the penalty shoot-out (hooray!) and will play in the quarter finals on Saturday.

Wimbledon tennis championships started this week too. But the sporting event we’re both looking forward to is the Tour de France, which starts on Saturday. Chris Froome is trying to win for the fifth time. And the good news is, we’ll be able to watch it on TV because that was unpacked, connected up, plugged in and retuned late yesterday afternoon. Priorities: get the TV working! But, really, we just wanted to be able to listen to the radio, which we can do via Freeview. We do have some actual radio sets somewhere, but despite some fairly rigorous labelling, all the boxes look the same after a while.

So here we are. New digs. It feels a bit like being on holiday at the moment, living in a strange place.

Liesel’s had enough though. She’s going back to Chessington tomorrow: she set up the Hook and Chessington WI Evening Book Group a few years ago and tomorrow she will attend a meeting for the final time. Will she finish this month’s book? There’s a two-hour train journey, so there’s a good chance she will!

I’ll be continuing the administrative chores: informing organisations and businesses of our change of address. Some have been very helpful and it’s not been a problem. Some have proved more difficult though. Naming no names. I’ll set up my PC tomorrow too, in anticipation of being connected to the internet. Which might take another week. Why so long? I have no idea. It’s not like they have to send an engineer round any more.

One advantage of moving away from Chessington is that we no longer have to look at the eyesore that is Tolworth Tower from our back bedroom.

Instead, we have this… thing… to look at! Oh well…

I think the Peak District is roughly in that direction so I hope this… building isn’t blocking the view, that would be really unlucky!

Northenden – day 0

We were looking forward to spending the first night in our lovely new home, but that will have to wait! Due to circumstances that may have once been in our control, we are spending the night elsewhere.

In fact, we are staying with Jenny and Liam tonight, in their lovely new home of a mere 18 days. At least they have furniture. And a bed.

It was, as expected, quite stressful watching and listening to two strange but strong, young men carrying all our worldly goods out of the house. Every crash, every ‘oof’ and we thought something was broken.

One heavy duffel bag, full of bed linen, caused one of the men to utter, “the mother-in-law’s in this one”!

The van was half full but the house didn’t seem to be any more empty: we were sure they’d have to get a second van. But no: two hours later and everything was in, even the bikes and other bits and pieces from the garage.

We set off for Manchester well before the 12 noon deadline. We hoped that completion would take place, as planned, but for a while there on the motorway, we were homeless and penniless!

Confirmation of completion of our sale soon came from our solicitor. And of our purchase a couple of hours later. Phew!

We picked up the keys to the flat and the wonderful estate agents gave as a goody bag of several umbrellas, which we won’t need much in Manchester, obvs, a few keyrings and a couple of hessian shopping bags. Will we be proudly using these props to advertise an estate agent one of whose staff told lies and was rude to us? Very unlikely.

The big disappointment was arriving at the flat to find that there was no furniture at all. We were expecting a bed, at least, plus some storage items, all detailed on the fixtures and fittings form. I think by this time, we were both so tired emotionally and physically that this felt like the worst possible anti-climax.

But in the bigger picture, we didn’t really want their old tat, we can get our own new tat. And at least, the whole selling and buying saga is now over for us. For now.

We came over to Jenny’s and spent some time with Martha and William, our lovely grandchildren. Martha seems to have settled into her new home very well. Tonight, she is very happily sleeping in her own brand new bed.

Oh and welcome to all new subscribers, you’re both very welcome! It’ll be more fun when we’re writing about our travels, it’s been a bit functional writing about the house-moving antics.