That’s Impossible, Mummy

I went for a walk in Chessington a couple of days ago. During that time, I chatted with four former colleagues at Royal Mail.

Our own Postie, Michael, is very helpful and we’re happy to return the favour, to make his day-to-day duty a little bit easier.

Duncan, the Delivery Office Manager, had a hip replacement last year and says he hasn’t felt this good for a long time. Royal Mail senior management don’t get any better. Duncan has just been copied in to a long thread of emails discussing the sale of Chessington Delivery Office and moving the staff into the spare space the Epsom office. All the plans have been made, values estimated, timetables agreed. But there’s just one problem. Royal Mail sold this office ten years ago and have been paying rent ever since.

Paul usually works indoors, serving customers who come to collect items that couldn’t be delivered. He also prepares the up to seven, yes, seven, door-to-door leaflets (unaddressed junk mail, pizza menus mostly) that have to be delivered to each house. 99% of which go straight into the recycling box.

Steve had two knees replaced last year and is recovering well. In fact, he chose to retire a few weeks ago too and syas he’s loving it. Not having to get up at 5 o’clock in the morning. Not knowing what day of he week it is. He thinks he might get bored one day, in which case he’ll look for a very part-time job.

But he has grand-children too and I have a sneaky feeling he will be spending more time with them.

It’s a funny feeling spending time with our Martha and William, knowing it’s never going to be enough time, but also planning to leave them for a year while we go travelling.

William has just turned 5 months of age. He has a gorgeous, cheeky little smile and if he doesn’t become the number one joker in his class at school, I’ll be very surprised. He will be able to pick us out in an ID parade, no problem, given the amount of time he scrutinises our faces, while trying not to laugh.

And here we are now, boasting about Martha, just over 2 years old. She is incredibly bright. Not only can she count from 1 to 10, she knows when he has 2, 3, 4 or 5 balls in front of her. Proper counting.

Playing in the garden today, she slipped on the slide, and when her Mum asked if she was alright, she said, “I’m fine.” She usually refers to herself in the third person, as Moo-moo. So, pronouns too.

And when her Mum asked if she wanted to climb up the slide, for the second time in two days, and we just looked at each other the first time, she said, “That’s impossible, Mummy.” What a concept for a 2-year old.

Salisbury and Ireland

Salisbury has been in the news recently for all the wrong reasons. A Russian migrant, his daughter and a police officer were affected by Novochok, a nerve agent that can only be made in Russsia. They’re still cleaning up the town, but not everyone wears a biological protection suit. So when Liesel and I went to meet a friend there, we chose to wear ordinary clothes.

A lot of ordinary clothes, as it happens, because it was one of the coldest days of the month. None of us walked as far as we would have liked, from the car park to a coffee bar to the Boston Tea Party for lunch, a quick visit to the bookshop and then back to the car park.

The car park was free of charge for up to three hours, in an effort to attract visitors to the town again.

Today, we drove to Reddish to see Jenny, Liam, Martha and William. We’re staying in an Airbnb place because their house is in a state of flux right now, and probably will be until they can move to their new house.

In a first for Liesel, she asked our Airbnb host to sign her book. Our host happens to be Fionn Davenport, a travel writer who wrote the Lonely Planet Guide to Ireland that Liesel was reading on the drive today, as we’re off to Ireland next week.

Small world, innit?

Two Gigs and More Music

At the River by Groove Armada has just been played on the radio. It took me back to the late ’90s, listening to GLR while doing the washing up. The sky was blue, the sun was out, I could hear the waves crashing on the beach, the sound of gulls squawking in the distance, and feelings of comfort and warmth. Nostalgia. It seems along time ago, now, twenty years in fact, but it’s funny how hearing a song can evoke all those feelings from so long ago.

The previous song was Blues in the Night by Rosemary Clooney. Not many songs remind me of my Dad, but this one did. Far more songs remind me of my Mum, Dad just wasn’t interested in music, apart from a very select, short list of songs.

Thanks to Guy Garvey on BBC 6 Music for proving that mentally at least, time travel is possible.

Talking about music, this week, Liesel and I went to two gigs. Not on consecutive nights, that would just be too much for these old bones.

Martha Tilston appeared at The Half Moon, Putney and showed us her new film, the Cliff Top Sessions, in which she invites a group of fellow musicians around to her place to play and sing.

Afterwards, she performed some of her own songs too, both old and new. I think we’ve seen Martha play live more often in the last twelve years than any other musician and she’s always good value. We bumped into her Mum too, but never did get around to having a long catch-up.

O’Hooley and Tidow are rising stars from Yorkshire whose songs are usually about real people and real events. They have great harmonies and Belinda O’Hooley’s keyboard playing is fantastic (classically trained, surely?) and their on-stage presence is lovely, very friendly and funny. They were at The Ram Folk Club based in a sports club in Thames Ditton, not a stone’s throw from where we live. We wish we’d found out about The Ram Club years ago but somehow, it’s been under our radar. And just before we move away, too. How’s that for rotten luck?

Sadly, on this day in 1993, Mick Ronson passed away. He was in David Bowie’s band in the early 1970s, during the time most of us fell in love with the science-fictiony, strange new music. When I went up to University in 1973, there were very many Michaels so to differentiate, I chose to be called Mick, in honour of Mr Ronson. I shared a room with Nick. Mick and Nick, well, it made sense at the time. The only people to carry on calling me Michael or Mike were my parents and official bodies such as banks, the NHS and the passport office. I still feel like a ‘Mick’ and when someone does call me Michael, I still expect to be told off for something. I remember seeing Mick Ronson join David Bowie on stage at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in 1992, a very moving event in many respects.

Practice Run

It’s going to take a lot of planning, this long trip of ours. So we’re having a practice run. The house sale seems to making good progress, if a little slower than we would like, so we’re taking a couple of weeks out and going to Ireland.

We want to see if we can manage with just one bag each, a backpack, with up to two weeks of clothing plus all the other paraphernalia we’ll need.

My list has been drastically reduced. If I’m going to blog, I’ll need a device, probably a laptop. Or so I thought. I need a new camera too. And my old iPhone is on its last legs. Well, it is nearly 6 years old, which is about 150 in dog years.

But instead, and after weeks and months of cogitation, seeking advice and careful thought, I bought a new phone a couple of days ago. A new smartphone. I bought a keyboard too, which connects to the phone via Bluetooth. And that’s it. All I’ll be taking is the phone, the keyboard and my Kindle. No laptop needed. And no camera, new or otherwise, because according to the adverts, my new phone has reimagined the camera.

It’ll take ages to get to grips with the new cameras on the new phone, but no moreso than if it were a standalone item.

It’ll take a while to make the most of this keyboard too, to be honest. This is its maiden voyage, and typing ordinary text seems to be working OK. When I’m not in blogging mode, I’ll mess about with the other keys: F-keys, volume control, ctrl, alt, cmd, fn, arrows, all the others. As with most modern tech and gadge, there’s no manual, in this case, not even a quick start guide.

New phone and keyboard combo

This is what my blogging setup looks like. And good to know I can add photos, a bit of a faff, but good to know it can be done. And probably can be done quicker and more efficiently with experience.

So, we’re trying to manage with one backpack each. We now own brand new, light backpacks. We’ll take them to Ireland with a minimal amount of clothing. And the first test after Ireland is likely to be Alaska, which can be a bit chilly and might warrant warmer, thicker clothing. The plan is to be there in Summer, though, not in the depths of Winter. And after that, a series of nice, warm destinations.

But first, we conquer Ireland. We thought about taking the car with us on the ferry from Holyhead or from Liverpool, but that is so expensive. We will now fly there and hire a car for a few days less than a fortnight. We’ll be staying a some Airbnb places and trying not to do too much. We’re saving Dublin for last, and will be making use of public transport there. Liesel’s done all the planning and the booking on this occasion, so I’m sure it will all work out.

Regarding the house: we have received some enquiries from our buyer and a form that needs to be signed and witnessed.

RHS Wisley

Another hot, sunny day invited us out. We drove to Clandon Park but we didn’t go in because we’d left the National Trust cards at home. There’s nothing like great planning. And this was nothing like great planning.

So we continued on to the horticultural gardens at Wisley, just by the A3. There, we had a lovely, long walk, a coffee and carrot cake.

The beds were of course very pretty, and the grass was mostly in top condition. One area of lawn was being cut by a robot, a little mower that was moving autonomously or had been programmed to follow a certain route.

Other areas were a bit more wild. Lots of dandelions in some places. Dandelions, named after the French for lion’s teeth, dents de lion. Because as we all know, lions have bright yellow teeth. Here’s a great work of art:Dandelion sculpture

And here’s today’s rubbish selfie. Trying to get the waterfall in the background. We discussed getting a selfie stick but decided against it: it’s just more rubbish to leave at home when we go out because it’s too cumbersome.

Rubbsih selfie

If you’re taking notes, we walked about six miles today.

I went to the GP this morning (never mind why). While sitting in the waiting room, I saw a sign saying “Are you having problems with your memory? If so, discuss it with your doctor.” I thought I might as well, since I do sometimes forget names and words.

I forgot.

 

#thehottestdayoftheyear

Yes, it was the hottest day of the year so far. This usually occurs in April of course, only to be surpassed later on in the year. But the main topic of conversation on a few of the radio stations we briefly tuned into on the way home was the fact that the top trending hashtag today on Twitter is #thehottestdayoftheyear. Other hashtags are available too, such as #hottestdayoftheyear and #warmestdayoftheyear. And capitalised versions. But after such a long Winter that didn’t really want to finish, it’s fabulous to see blue skies, see the Sun and feel its heat.

We went for a walk in Richmond Park, the biggest and our favourite royal park in London. We saw a couple of single deer, several dogs, some even on leads, loads of birds and many, many muddy puddles. One day, we’ll take our grandchildren there to jump in them.

We enjoyed a picnic under a tree, listening to the birdsong. The occasional aeroplane was seen and heard as it flew towrads Heathrow Airport. A group of young menĀ  were listening to music on their ‘device’: radio, ghetto blaster, phone? We’ll never know.

IMG_6467
Mick and Liesel

I am no good at taking selfies. At least we’re both in this one, but I usually miss. And of course, the horizon is horizontal in real life.

IMG_6463
A tree

This is the dead tree that we didn’t climb, despite the temptation.

We walked over five miles today, not bad since it’s the first time in the park for ages. Other firsts for the year today include me wearing shorts, we both had an ice cream and it was the first application of sunblock (one of us, not me).

 

The Daisy Chain is Growing

We knew that moving house would be long-winded, emotionally stressful, probably not straighforward and yet, full of surprises.

What we hadn’t anticipated was that as time went on, the whole process would become so much more complex, with many more links in the chain, and so many more bodies involved.

We found a place to buy. Our seller has an estate agent and a solicitor. We can pay for it with the proceeds from selling our house.

We put our house on the market, someone made an acceptable offer quite quickly, so we accepted it. Our agents told us she was in a position to buy. We all thought that meant she had the money available in used fivers in a suitcase.

But then it transpired that she needed a mortgage. So we had the house surveyed by her mortgage provider. A very long time later, we learned that the mortgage had been offered.

An even longer time later, we learned that she is having an existing property re-mortgaged so that she can raise some cash for the deposit. That means the mortgage provider is having to conduct a survey at the old property too.

All these surprise are annoying because they’re holding up the whole process by adding more links to the chain. And all being done serially, not in parallel. Many more bodies are involved too.

We have to deal with two estate agents (our own and the one selling us our new abode) and a solicitor. We might deal with the seller’s and/or buyer’s solicitor, but not necessarily so.

Our buyer is living in east London and planning to rent out our house. That’s not a problem, but there’s no sense of urgency on her part. To now be dealing with a broker and another mortgage provider is really disappointing.

It leaves us wondering what other steps we’ll have to go through that we’re not aware of at present. Out agent is (or says he is) confident that the sale will go through. But if the buyer changes her mind for any reason, we’ll have to start all over again.

The most worrying thing is that one day, our vendors may get fed up with waiting for us to sign the contract. We can’t do that until our buyer pays a deposit for our house, and we can use that as a deposit for our new place.

We’re trying to keep our vendors up to date and fully informed, but that’s not easy when we don’t know what’s happening ourselves. We have to call the agent for an update when we think that for their fee, their commission, it wouldn’t hurt them to call us every few days, even if only to say there’s been no further progress.

What we want to do is start packing up, even if the moving date is still several weeks in the future. We dare not bring all that stuff down from the loft because if we have to prepare the house for new viewings, well, that would be so frustrating, to say the least.

More importantly though, we want to start making detailed plans for our travels, booking flights and accommodation and so on. It’s hard to get really excited about all that while we’re still in a state of flux.

There are some things about this house that I will miss, though, some quirks that we might leave as a surprise for the next occupants:

  • The bathroom hot tap that supplies hot water for a few seconds, then turns to a trickle, so you have to turn it up more.
  • The shower that, if you turn it to its limit, causes some water to also come from the bath tap. The solution is to turn the main control back a notch.
  • The bedroom door handle which works by pushing up rather than down. I’ve tried many times to fix it, but if I put the handles in the other way round, they don’t move at all.
  • I don’t think we’ll leave the washing machine, because it leaks, but if we did, the new user would notice the on/off switch is permantly on.
  • We won’t be taking the old stereo system with us. Nor can we leave it. The record player went many years ago, the cassette players’ buttons are broken, AM reception is ropey, FM reception requires the stereo option to be turned off, any CDs played will jump and worst of all, only one of the two speakers works.
  • In one of the bedroom windows, there’s a patch of what looks like grease, that can’t be removed. It’s in the cavity between the two panes of glass.
  • We like our garden but we do the bare minumum, just maintenance work, in it, and I won’t miss the guilty feeling I have when I can’t be bothered to do any gardening, because we won’t have a garden.
  • I will misss the view of The Shard from the second bedroom. But since that tree has grown an extra few inches over the last couple of years, it’s not as easy to see, except an night when its lights are on. The loss of this view is the main reason we’re moving, of course.

We won’t miss the neighbours: rude, inconsiderate, disrespectful, loud.

  • The stench of fish curry on a Monday, a cauldron of thick, pink gruel that might be fish or it might be offal, boiling away outside on their patio.
  • They and their visitors parking on the shared drive preventing us from driving into our own garage.
  • Their almost daily coming back from somewhere late at night and slamming car doors over and over. The record was 19 car door slams one night, from one, two, maybe three cars. Nineteen. You may well be shaking your head in disbelief too.
  • Talking very loudly outside their house (and therefore just below our bedroom window) late at night.
  • The pile of rubbish that they leave in a pile at the end of the shared drive, outside their garage, until such times as they take it somewhere to be fly-tipped. They take it to the correct facility, surely? Not in the middle of the night, they don’t. And don’t call me Shirley.

No, we won’t miss them at all.

But that’s all in the future. How far in the future, we can’t say. Meanwhile, here are a couple of nice things to look back on.

On this day in 2004, Liesel and I saw ‘When Harry Met Sally’ on stage in Haymarket. We’d known each other for less than a year at this point, so it was maybe a bit risky going to see a story that discusses whether men and women can just be friends. It was very good though, great fun, and the famous scene in a restaurant was very well done.

One of the attractions for me was that the leading lady was Alyson Hannigan who we knew from playing Willow in ‘Buffy, the Vampire Slayer’.

On this day in 2011, we went into London for the London Marathon. I could lie and say that both Liesel and Mick ran and both did so in the best times ever. But really, we were just there to cheer on Adam, along with Helen and some of their friends. Liesel and Mick used hire Bikes from Waterloo to beyond London Bridge to see Adam as near the start as we could reach. We then we watched from a bridge near the Tower. His time was 4h37m, not bad with not much training due to dodgy knees thanks to some unfortunate footballing injuries.

Adam so enjoyed the experience that within a year, he and Helen had moved to Sydney, Australia, so that neither of them would be tempted to enter again.