Homework

Gideon went to a birthday party where the highlight seems to have been consuming a whole bowl of pilfered Doritos! Kids, eh?

Asa went for a bike ride, something we weren’t too keen on: suppose he got kidnapped by a bear? Liesel and I went for a walk with the dog. It’s alway great exploring a new city, you’re always finding new things. I didn’t know about the Martin Luther King memorial until today.

Dr King
Hmmm, food for thought

The snow on the mountains is a few more inches lower down. It’s now officially a race: does the snow reach Anchorage before we leave? Or will we have to beg, borrow, buy or steal snow shoes? Watch this space!

Icing sugar sprinkled on a slightly stale and chopped up chocolate sponge cake

Another thing you don’t expect to see in the city centre, a long way from the railroad, is No 556, an S-160 class locomotive. It was one of 2,300 locomotives built for the US Army in 1944. They lacked the typical steam engine domes because many were sent to Europe where the bridges and tunnels were much lower than in America.

Funny place to park a steam engine

No 556 was built in 1943 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Pennsylvania. They were stripped down for war action and acquired the nickname ‘Gypsy Rose Lee’ locomotives, after the famous striptease, burlesque dancer.

In the evening, we watched Indiana Jones, Raiders of the Lost Ark on TV. Asa and Gid played video games where far too much was going on for us old farts to keep up with. Learning to use the X-box controller really is, for us, beyond rocket science. We happily accepted that Gid had no homework and that Asa had finished all his.

Sunday morning, Gideon played a couple more games of Futsal. In the afternoon, while Asa was having his cello lesson, Gideon and I went to a nearby school where we had a go at soccer.

Calm down, girls, but these are the socks I was ‘encouraged’ to wear. With shin guards that flew out whenever I kicked the ball.

Cool socks

I displayed limited ball skills, but it’s fair to say, my goal-keeping days are well over: mainly because I didn’t want to get my clothes dirty by diving onto mud where the grass used to be.

Gideon’s drop-kicking is very good

But he really is good with the ball, and this was a good way to pass an hour while Asa was bowing away.

We happily accepted that Gid had no homework and that Asa had finished all his, so we went to the movies and the choice today was Goosbumps 2: Haunted Halloween. It was very funny, scary in a cartoony way and I think the boys liked it!

Can’t wait to see this film in December

Back at home, Asa revealed the Time Capsule that he’d made for his project. Fallen Autumn leaves stuck to an oak chest with real mammoth blood.

Time capsule to be opened in 2118

Then, an hour bedtime, Asa realised that he did have more homework to do, after all. Kids, eh?

Once upon a time, a man went into the car registration service center. The clerk asked him “What would you like your six-character number plate to be?” The customer thought about it for a long time, umming and ahhing. The clerk got fed up with waiting.

Mmmmmm

Socktober

A very lazy morning: I ate breakfast while messing up a Sudoku puzzle. In the afternoon, I walked to the coffee shop and back, enjoying the sunshine but not so much the cold. It’s borderline right now: too cold without a jacket, too warm with it.

Jewel Lake branch

It’s Socktober: a campaign to donate socks to homeless people. Elsewhere it’s Inktober, a challenge for artists all around the world to draw an ink picture every day and post it online. And it’s Stoptober, the campaign in England to help people give up smoking. But I like Socktober as a word…

Socktober

After dinner, we went to Aaron and Jodi’s. They were packing for their trip to New Orleans. Asa and Gideon went to bed after we watched a couple of episodes of Flight of the Conchords on TV.

Gideon likes to go to Campfire, the big breakfast party at school. Which is fine, except that it starts at half past seven. Far too early for civilised people. Liesel drove him while I stayed behind to look after Asa, who then walked to school on his own.

Liesel had another physio appointment and we walked there as it’s not too far from the house. We took the dog, Zipper with us, and while Liesel was being treated, Zipper and I found the coastal trail. Zipper pulled a lot and sniffed everything. I didn’t.

Someone had a placard in their front yard which I thought was quite sad.

The caption speaks for itself

After meeting up with Liesel again, we walked home via a baker slash coffee shop that we’d been to before: Fire Island: On the way, we passed dear old Star, the reindeer. Not the same Star that was here before, apparently. Like the good Doctor, Star regenerates every few years.

Star the Reindeer

It’s a pity he, she or it has to be behind such a dense fence though, with just a small area of dirty perspex to look through.

Ain’t nobody gonna get outta here

But we did like this park bench, seemingly inspired by Vincent van Gogh.

Front porch bench project

At Fire Island, we had a second, late breakfast.

In the evening, we took Gideon to play Futsal. He and his team wear the red shirts of England, hooray! It’s an indoor version of soccer, similar to 5-a-side football that I was no good at, at school. The indoor court is probably about the same size as a basketball court. The ball is smaller and less bouncy than a soccer ball and the goals are smaller too. But there are still five players on a team.

Klaus and Leslie met us there to look after the boys while Liesel and I went out for a Thai meal with Bob and Margot. Bob was Liesel’s boss in Anchorage until I dragged her kicking and screaming away to London. It was good to see them again, and Liesel and Bob caught up on news of many old acquaintances.

Bob and Liesel

We collected our charges from their Opa and Oma. I read Gid the first chapter of The Wolf Book after which he pretended to be asleep.

Here’s the first of today’s bonus pictures:

Registration number of the beast

My Dad had a Vauxhall Viva with the number THO666H, and you can imagine what teenage me and my sister thought of that! It was seen on TV once. No, not as a getaway vehicle on Crimewatch. More innocently, in the car park at Epsom races.

And here is the optical illusion of the day. I’ve seen it posted several times on Twitter and Facebook recently, so here it is, just so you know what you’re missing.

You want it to stop, but it won’t ….

Cross-country Runs

Wednesday morning at five o’clock as the day begins… we had to get up early as the cleaners were due at 7.30. We went out to the Bagel Factory for breakfast. Very nice bagel with far too much salad including bean sprouts that think they’re dental floss. And a huge gherkin (pickle) that even Liesel didn’t fancy.

Liesel had booked a massage at the gym so to keep her company, I walked fast on the treadmill for half an hour. Every time I do that, I think how much I prefer walking around outside. But I told myself that it was OK to be exercising inside when it’s so cold outside.

Boring photo of gym activity

Cold and wet. Klaus went out to run some errands, came back and told us about the big black cloud heading our way.

I was going to walk to Kincaid Park but by the time I’d got ready, it was raining really hard. Surely, I thought, they’ll cancel the cross-country race. But no.

In the end, I accepted a lift from Klaus and we watched the race that Asa took part in. It was cold and raining hard, just how I used to enjoy my cross-country runs at school. (I didn’t. See below(*))

Thanks to Jodi for the photo
Asa just finishing the race

There was a huge discrepancy between the actual temperature and what the internet told me. 16°C is 60°F. In fact, it was 47°F, a chilly 8°C.

47 chilly degrees
In a parallel universe, 60 degrees

We drove over to Aaron and Jodi’s in the evening for dinner and to be shown around the house. They’re off to New Orleans for ten days and Liesel and I are in charge of looking after Asa and Gideon!

They live downtown, nearer the city centre, so hopefully we’ll still be able to do some walking, even if much of it is inside the gigantic shops and department stores, away from the cold weather.

Did I mention that it has suddenly become really cold? Aaron commented that it was the first time he’d seen me wearing long trousers and long sleeves.

We have plans for our nephews: and that is meant in the best possible way, no manic laughter implied!!

(*) Yes, cross-country running wasn’t my favourite sports activity at school, mainly because I can’t run fast nor far, never could. I can still visualise the route through the woods at school, and how grateful I was when a friend, who lived nearby, showed us the shortcut.

A couple of years later, in a moment of madness, I volunteered to join the school team in a race which happened to be close to where I lived in Park Barn, Guildford. It was on what was then Bannister’s playing field, now occupied by Tesco. It was raining that day too, but at least I’d been taken most of the way home on the coach.

I was destined to come in last place from the very start, but my fate was sealed when, running back, my shoe became stuck in the mud and came off. Trying to pull a shoe out of thick clay, in the rain, while trying not to put the shoeless foot down and trying not to fall over was difficult but I managed. And yes, I secured my last place.

I was never picked for a cross-country team again, and I never volunteered.

Thirteen

We were hoping to visit Hope to join Una, Phil and Kiran for the day but Jyoti didn’t sleep much and Liesel’s knee wasn’t in a fit state to drive. It was also raining hard. All weasel excuses maybe, and I feel we let Una down, especially after her request to bring along some toilet paper.

Instead, we went out for breakfast with Liesel’s parents. Gwennie’s Old Alaska Restaurant was very busy, lots of people and lots of stuffed animals. And upstairs, lots of photos from the old days.

Arctic fox (stuffed)
Beaver (stuffed)
Gwennie’s old car

The highlight of the day was the start of a new series of Doctor Who. There was a global simulcast, presumably to limit the number of spoilers. Jodie Whittaker is playing the thirteenth Doctor and we enjoyed this first episode. No, we didn’t watch it live, as we were out for breakfast. To make time for more adverts, BBC America didn’t bother with the opening titles nor the closing credits. So disrespectful to the production team.

There is a balcony outside the main bedroom at Klaus and Leslie’s house. It was built thirty years ago with half a dozen wooden planters attached. No plants can survive the winds that constantly bombard them. And a few days ago, one of the planters, earth and all, fell off and covered the Durango in soil. So this day, Liesel and I helped Klaus dismantle the rest of the planters before they had a chance fall onto my head.

In the process, the botttom fell out of one, missing Liesel, who was emptying the dirt by a rock wall. She did however suffere from water spray when we hosed the floor of the balcony down.

We met Una when she finished work and went for another walk along the coastal trail. Again, it was really clear and we could see Denali way over there.

View from the coastal trail

I found Jupiter, another point on the Planet Walk.

Jupiter on the coastal trail

On the return walk, for the first time, I felt the cold breeze and actually donned my jacket.

Una took us into the courtoom and we visited her office with the new artwork.

The court’s in session
Seal of the State of Alaska

How she gets any work done with a view like this is beyond me!

View from Una’s office window

The War Memorial in Delaney Park Strip is quite extensive, and it was very sad and moving to see that conflicts on the other side of the world are still claiming local lives.

Anchorage War Memorial
So sad and unnecessary

Twitter told me that there would be an announcement on BBC 6 Music about David Bowie. It was on at half past midnight our time and I couldn’t not tune in to listen! The exciting news is that there will be two TV programmes featuring David Bowie. The first is this month: an hour from the two-hour set he performed at Glastonbury in 2000. Then, next year, another documentary in the Five Years series. David Bowie: The First Five Years includes stories from his early auditions at the BBC, 1964-1968, I guess. I’ve asked Jenny to record both for me, but anyone else in the UK, please record these for me, I’ll come round and watch them when we get back, and I’ll be your best friend forever!

Despite staying up late, we had to get up early next day as Liesel had another physio appointment. More dry needling in the butt.

I walked up to Kaladi on Jewel Lake Road where she picked me up to go to CostCo, woohoo.

The main objective here was to receive our flu jabs. Flu shots, as they say here. My resistance had finally been worn down by the combined forces of my wife and two daughters and I had my very first flu vaccination. It didn’t hurt at all. Pulling the plaster off my hairy arm later did hurt. Liesel also had a tetanus jab. Hepatitis A and B was on offer too, but I’ll need time to think about that.

In the evening, Jyoti drove us to the Beartooth for dinner. Una joined us as did Suvan and Kayla. Later that evening, Jyoti left for Indianapolis. We’ll see her again in February, in Australia.

After all the needles poked into her today, I’m glad Liesel didn’t drink too much water, she would have leaked like a cartoon watering can.

Traffic

One constant source of amusement here in Anchorage, and probably the rest of the state, is the imagination used in devising 6-character long personalised car number plates. Often, they’re on the road going too fast to grab a photo, thanks, CMOMGO and DOMATH, but in car parks, no problem:

See you later
A bit of a cheat: these were in the Christmas shop at North Pole

One thing that grates on this British mind is the use of the word ‘handicapped’, as in ‘handicapped parking’, where we would use the word ‘disabled’.

I couldn’t find GLR 94.9 🙂

But the highways have to be admired for the almost compete absence of litter. There is some, of course, but you have to look for it. I wonder whether this is partly due to the signs warning of a potential $1000 fine for littering, compared with the threat of a hardly-ever imposed £50 fine at home in the UK?

And we do like the signs warning or roadworks ahead. From a distance, one looks like a small person with his arms in the air. In fact, it’s a pair of orange flags fluttering in the breeze. And as for the bollards, I think these would win in a fight with British bollards.

Bollards

Report Every Dangerous Driver Immediately, invites the sign. I can’t imagine this going down well with the hard-done-by British motorist .

Car drivers seem to be much happier to let me, a mere pedestrian, cross the road, even when I might be in the wrong place. Sometimes it’s hard to see the driver waving at me through the tinted windows, so I very cautiously walk across as I signal my appreciation.

But even after all this time, over two months in Alaska, I still have to look in all directions at least twice, I still have to concentrate really hard to work out from which direction the traffic is coming. Plus, of course, many of the roads are much wider than we’re used it in a town centre.

At many intersections, there are groups of homeless people, some with signs, some asking for money but seemingly many native Alaskans. And as with Australian Aborigines in Alice Springs, one of the ie few comforts is alcohol.

Interestingly, other than these people living in the streets, we’ve seen very few people smoking here in Anchorage, just one or two in multi-storey car parks or, strangely, outside the gym. The pavements are not littered with dog-ends, not even chewing gum stains. As I said, the whole place is much cleaner than, say, London.

To Pluto and Beyond

Kincaid Park is full of bears. At least, according to Jyoti, who saw two black bears in the valley, eating and otherwise minding their own business. She was hiking with Lisa and they made a hasty retreat. Sadly, no photos were taken.

When I later hiked in the same sort of area with Jyoti and her friend Cammie (sp?) (she has a broken arm), we had bear spray, just in case.

I walked there on my own today to watch Asa’s last soccer game of the season. Another opportunity to mess about with my smartphone camera.

Hardly a level playing field, right?

On the walk back, I encountered a moose on the shared path. Being gallant, and giving them the opportunity to take better pictures, I let the girls on bikes get between me and the moose.

Moose on the path and two cyclists
Oh no, more people. I’m off…

Late lunch for me was the soup and noodles from Siam Cuisine from a few nights ago. It was OK but I realised I should have left some of the interesting components too, and not eaten all the veg and tofu in the restaurant!

In other news, Una now has blue hair:

Una with blue hair

I’ve been scratching my head trying to think of a Pythagorean caption for this picture:

The bicycle on the hypotenuse is equal to…

In Kincaid Park, I visited Pluto. There’s a Light Speed Planet Walk in Anchorage that follows 5th Avenue and the coastal trail. You walk at the speed of light. Each step you take represents the distance light travels in one second, 300,000 km or 186,000 miles. So, just as light takes eight minutes to travel from the Sun to the Earth, here it takes eight minutes to walk from the model Sun to the model Earth. Pluto is of course the furthest from the Sun, taking five and a half hours to walk the full distance. What a shame Pluto is no longer considered a major planet!

The demoted Pluto

In the evening, a disparate group of ne’er-do-wells enjoyed a concert given by the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra. They were playing the music of John Williams, mainly famous for his film scores but he is a great composer of other works for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and the re-opening of the Statue of Liberty for instance.

Some folks came dressed up:

Harry Potter

Music from ET brought back memories, of course. I first saw it with Sarah. Jenny was in utero and in her first scan, she looked just like ET, so that became her name. Until we decided Jenny might be better.

Anchorage Symphony Orchestra

The encore featured three themes from the Stars Wars films – taking us to a galaxy far, far away.

Star Wars

It was a late night for all of us: me, Liesel, Leslie, Asa, Jyoti and Amrit.

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.