Another Museum and a Zoo

Liesel and Mick spent a lovely long weekend in the company of granddaughter Martha as she celebrated her second birthday. She, her Mummy, Daddy and baby brother William are also in the throes of moving house. No date for moving yet, but such is the uncertainty, we weren’t sure that Martha would be having her birthday at the proper time (but don’t tell her).

We grandparents took Martha to Chester Zoo one day which was good fun. No, we didn’t tick many animals off the mental list because most of them seemed to be taking shelter from the cold weather. It’s April, and it should be warming up a bit but the cold spell is going on a bit.

The Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester is probably too old for Martha, really, but there is an area where she can play with things: move magnets, turn whees, press buttons, interact with the exhibits. She can also hide in the lockers which may have been a highlight.

Back home, Martha was having fun chalking on her blackboard.

Oma, Liesel, drew this:

Oma fish

 

 

 

 

 

 

“What’s that, Martha?”

“A fishy!”

Rounds of applause.

Grandad, Mick, drew this:

Grandad fish

“What’s that, Martha?”

“Horsey!”

Howls of laughter, and a whip-round so Mick can go back to art school.

Two Museums

The Museum of London is onre of those places we ought to visit more often. We’ve seen the Roman artefacts before, and the state coaches, but there is a lot more on offer. On one of the lower ground floor, some of the exhibits are from ouyr own lifetime. I visited the then new Post Office Tower in 1966 and I still have the brochure from that visit. It cost 2/6d. They have a copy in this museum.

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Post Office Tower brochure

The London Stone is usually hidden in a cage, at a bank in Cannon Street. While building works are taking place there, the London Stone is being exhibited at the Museum. It’s just a stone, yes, but there are so many stories round it, and it was good to see it close up.

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The London Stone

The other ‘main attraction’ is a small sample of the famous 130-tonne fatberg excvated a couple of years ago from the sewers of London. Not at all photogenic but we were pleased that there was no assault on the olfactory senses.

I used to watch Watch With Mother with my Mum half a century or more ago, and it was great to see some of the puppets here. If I remember correctly, the schedule was:

  • Monday – Picture Book
  • Tuesday – Andy Pandy
  • Wednesday – Bill and Ben
  • Thursday – Rag, Tag and Bobtail
  • Friday – the Woodentops

There’s nothing like seeing your childhood in a museum to make you feel old.

But being a museum exhibit yourself is a whole new experience.

The Museum of Futures in Surbiton is currently hosting the Wheels of Time exhibion, describing the history of cycling in the Royal Borough of Kingston.

This video talks about a couple of local cycling heroes.

Liesel and Mick attended the opening night of the exhibition which was very well attended. Mick’s mugshot is on the wall with a transcript of the interview conducted a couple aof weeks ago, about his experience of using a bicycle for his job as a postman. Snippets of the interview are available to listen to too, and are as embarrassing as you would expect. So embarrassing, I didn’t want to draw attention so I took a few photos with my phone, but not using the flash.

It was interesting to learn that there used to be a couple of tracks in the area, in the very early days of cycle racing.

A second visit is on the cards, not least so I can get some better pictures. If you can, go along and have a laugh at my bits look yourself.

 

Stairs & Ramps & Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll

I couldn’t find the car in the multi-storey car park. My ‘best friend’ from school, Oscar, was with me but he was still of school age. He said he knew where the car was and he set off. I tried, but I couldn’t keep up with his youthful speed.

On one level, there were no cars, just a lot of children playing and laughing and having picnics. It was wonderful. As I stepped through the door onto another level, I realised it was one huge carousel, rotating slowly, but without any horses to ride. So colourful, though.

I ran up and down stairs, up and down ramps, but I just couldn’t find the car, nor Oscar. So I went to the ground floor, to the ‘customer services’ desk to see whether they could locate my car using the CCTV system. Well, they couldn’t because they only had black and white cameras and my car is red. But they did say that just a few minutes earlier, a young man had asked the same question. Aha, I thought, so Oscar can’t find the car either.

It was at this point of course that I woke up. I was feeling quite excited about the possibilities of having shared use facilities: half car park and half children’s playground. But also feeling quite disappointed that I had a red car: that would never happen in real life.

It’s Bank Holiday Monday and  of course, it’s raining. In fact it’s rained quite a lot recently, the bottom of the garden is quite soggy. The grass is growing and probably needs its first cut of the year, but electric mowers and water-logged lawns don’t mix.

Another small contribution to Mick’s 15 minutes of fame was broadcast last night on Tom Robinson’s Now Playing show on BBC 6 Music.

Intrigued? You can listen to the whole show until May 2nd.

 

Nelson and Hardy

For a long time now, Liesel has wanted to visit The Hardy Tree in London. If you don’t know what that is, you’re not alone. Most people that we’ve told have never heard of it, either.

Before he became a well-known writer, Thomas Hardy worked in the cemetery at St Pancras Old Church. When the then new railways began to encroach on the graveyard, many bodies had to be exhumed and reburied. A young man was given the task of storing some gravestones. His solution was to place them around an ash tree in the graveyard, presumably intending to relocate them at a future date.

A century and a half later, the tree is still doing well, it has taken some of the stones to its heart, you can see the roots above the gravestones. Just another episode in the fascinating life of this church. The sign tells you all you need to know:

(Oh, here’s a tip: if you need the lavatory and you’re in the area, go to St Pancras Station, where the facilities are free.)

The Hardy Tree.

Yesterday, Liesel and Mick were both pleased to see the tree in real life after all this time. We should be inspired to read a Thomas Hardy novel I suppose, but I have quite a backlog and Liesel’s reading list is partly determined by her WI reading group.

We caught a bus to Trafalgar Square, mainly to see the latest installation on the fourth plinth. I never would have thought that 10,000 empty, repurposed, date syrup cans would look so good. The sign tells you all you need to know:

Fourth plinth: how a winged bull made of date syrup cans is defying Isis.

My favourite ever is still Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle from 2010, which can now be seen at my favourite museum, the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich.

Have a look at past commissions.

Nelson from the top of his column watched as we visited the so-called Lilliputian police station at the south-east corner of the Square. No longer a police station, of course, it contains bags of salt for ‘weather control’ and a comms link to the BBC.

As always in London, we walked much further than originally planned. Leicester Square, the Odeon is being refurbished and will in the fullness of time be more comfortable, offer more choice and no doubt, be even more expensive. We walked through Chinatown which always has the same smell, which neither of us could identify. On to Covent Garden, always busy, and then to the Duchess Theatre where we bought tickets for a performance in a couple of weeks time: thanks for the theatre tokens, Helen and Adam.

A few more photos here.

 

Looking forward, looking back

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

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

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

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

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Strawberry Fields, Central Park

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

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Liverpool’s Albert Dock

 

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

63: better than 57 was

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abba Super Troupers runs until April 29th.

Superflex One Two Three Swing runs until April 2nd.

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

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

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

Beast from the East 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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