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???

Light Relief

växjö-pendant-lampLast week, we bought a light fitting from Ikea. Yesterday, I installed it. We now have something remarkably like a flying saucer floating above the dining table. All we needed now was a lightbulb that would actually fit. None of our existing ones have the same fitting, of course. What we should have done last week was open the box in the shop, read the instructions and then purchase the correct, presumable Swedish screw-fitting lightbulb. Or read the instructions on the shelves telling us we needed custom lighbulbs. (There are no such instructions.)

So today, we returned to Ikea and purchased not one but two bulbs. Both physically fit but one is brighter than the other and we don’t really know how many candellas or lumens of brightness we need, nor power consumption. All we can say is, we would like it as bright as an old-fashioned 60-watt or 100-watt incandescent lightbulb.

On the way back home, my mind replayed the conversation that must have taken place one day in a dark, smoky room somewhere.

There’s too much CO2 in the atmosphere, greenhouse effect, global warming, we should do something about it.

Yes, I agree. But what?

How about these new energy-saving lightbulbs? We can force everyone in the world to use them instead of the old, reliable, bright, incandescent ones.

So each household will use less energy?

Well, sort of, yes, that’s right.

But they’re not very bright, are they.

We’ll get used to that. And brighter ones will come along soon.

They take a couple of seconds to light up when you turn them on, correct?

Yes, that’s to save even more energy.

Oh of course! But some people like to dim their lights at night, and you can’t do that with these new-fangled energy-saving lightbulbs.

Not all of them, no, but there are dimmable ones available. You just need to buy a special dimming device with each such bulb.

Won’t that use more resources when we’re meant to be saving on energy and materials?

A bit, maybe. The idea is to give people the impression that they’re doing something for the environment: they won’t necessarily be saving any actual energy, overall.

Oh, is that why they’re manufactured in China?

Yes: all the energy saved by not lighting up people’s houses properly is instead used for transporting lightbulbs half way round the planet.

Seems good to me. And when these bulbs stop working, they’re just thrown away?

No, they contain some very dangerous and rare elements and they should be disposed of in a controlled manner, not just thrown out with the rest of the rubbish.

Old lightbulbs came in a cardboard box, is that still the case?

No, of course not. These lightbulbs are much more expensive. They’ll be sold in non-reusable blister packs made from non-recycleable plastic. And there’ll definitely be no way to check that they work while you’re in the shop.

Hardly a giant leap forward, is it?

No, I think it’s fair to say, they’re not to everybody’s taste.

One more question, if I may?

Of course.

Lightbulb: is it one word or two words?

 

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!

Women, swimmin’ and trimmin’

Thursday was a busy day. The base of our new bed was delivered by a nice man from John Lewis and his grumpy junior partner. Liesel and I literally made the bed, thank goodness the instructions were fairly straightforward.

The mattress on top, lots of storage below, we were set for a good night’s sleep. The bed we left behind in Chessington kept us off the floor, but the last vestige of comfort disappeared ages ago. Liesel will say it’s never been comfortable, but it was OK when it was brand new, last century.

The other exciting event was the installation of our Internet connection. While Liesel was out taking loads of rubbish to the tip and returning an item to Ikea, I spent a couple of hours trying to get online.. So many usernames and passwords and so many places to enter them and over and over again it didn’t quite work. Every time the solid red light showed on the router, a puppy died. Such a palaver: it should just be plug in and go, by now, surely, in the 21st century? Eventually, it worked. Another one of those occasions where I have no idea what I did differently on the last go compared with several previous attempts.

How wonderful to hear Liesel come back home, walk in and say, “My phone’s got a wireless connection!” Just like that. After all that blood, sweat, toil and tears, her phone picked it up instantly. I think Liesel thinks I was sitting there while she was out, smoking my pipe, drinking Scotch and watching TV.

Online and in bed. Almost back to normal!

No lie-in though because on Friday, we went to London for the day. We joined the Women’s March to protest against Donald Trump’s visit to London. Liesel made her own placard, plenty of reasons why he is unsuitable to be a President, even if democratically elected by Russia.

The Virgin Train to Euston was packed: people were standing or sitting on the floor, all of which is unaccepatbel when you’re spending £60 or £70 to travel. I’ll know next time. If the online booking system doesn’t give me the option of reserving seats, it’s probably because they’re all taken. I think the system should say explicitly that all seats are taken, then at least you have the option of travelling later. But, standing for over two hours on a train was the worst thing that happened that day.

We made our way to Oxford Circus where we joined a large crowd of women, men and many others. The main focus of attention was the Baby Trump inflatable balloon that flew above Parliament Square for a couple of hours in the morning. Unfortunately, we’d missed that, but we did see the Baby before it embarks on, presumably, a world tour.

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Even Big Ben is hiding from Trump

We walked, slowly, down Regent Street, Piccadilly, Haymarket, by Trafalgar Square, down Whitehall to Parliament Square. The idea was to “make some noise” and sure enough, lots of people were banging their saucepans and shouting and chanting. Some of the placards were very funny, and most people were quite happy to have their photos taken. Liesel’s placard was snapped too by many people. We met quite a few Americans who were following the advice from the US Embassy to “keep a low profile”. Really? Not a bit of it, the consensus was that this advice was ridiculous.

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Liesel with some fellow Americans

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Mick and new best mate, Salena Godden

One highlight of the day for me was meeting Salena Godden, top poet, great performer, who I’ve been following on Twitter for a while and whose work I’ve enjoyed since hearing her on Radio 4 in the early days of Saturday Live.

We met up with Helen and Steve close to the Winston Churchill statue. Steve and I wandered off at times to hear the speeches, small the substances being enjoyed by others and to take more photos. A young lady approached Helen and Liesel and asked them to distract her child while she was strapped into the buggy. Helen and Liesel, neither of whom have extensive experience of child-rearing!

20180713_1528573526870392706878023.jpgSome of the 70,000 of us on the Women’s March drifted away, but many joined in the other, bigger march which numbered 250,000 at its height. Meanwhile, Helen, Steve, Liesel and I walked through St James’s Park where we were greeted by the sight of a heron (hooray!) chomping on a duckling (not so nice). He looked very pleased with himself afterwards.

We enjoyed a coffee and a late lunch before walking to Waterloo. We caught a train to Earlsfield as Liesel had an appointment with her physiotherapist: a good idea after standing on a train for two hours.

The climate of hate in the UK is getting closer to home. Liesel’s physio, Emma is Australian. So is Emma’s partner. He too is a physio and his application to have his working visa extended has been rejected. He has to leave the UK within a couple of weeks. He’s going home to Australia. Therefore, so is Emma. So we are losing two top, well-qualified medics because it’s government policy, pretty much, to deter foreigners.

It felt strange, after a day in London, to be coming home in a northerly direction. But at least we gots seats on this train, even if I did have to run to find them!

Saturday morning, I listened to Saturday Live live for the first time in ages. It was being broadcast live from Mousehole, where Sarah and I enjoyed our honeymoon in 1979.

Saturday afternoon, we enjoyed a big family gathering at Jenny’s. Liam’s parents Alan and Una were there, as well as his sister Andrea and her daughters, Annabel and Emily. It was a lovely, sunny day so we spent most of the time in the garden, forgetting that England were playing in the World Cup 3rd place play-off (they lost).

Sunday was another early morning: Martha’s swimming lesson this week began at 9am. She did very well as usual. We saw William swim in the afternoon too. It’s wonderful that they both enjoy it so much in the water. And in between, Helen offered to cut our hair, so we all had a trim. That grey stuff on the floor after she cut my hair? I have no idea what that was or where it came from.

In the evening, we had a lovely Indian takeaway, from Coriander in Chorlton. This was in part to mark the occasion of Helen’s departure today (Monday) to the old ‘hood in London to visit friends and to attend a couple of weddings. By the time she returns to Jenny’s, Liesel and I will have gone, departed, set off on our Travels….

 

Liam, Martha, Jenny, William, Mick and Helen

Yes, suddenly, we have less than two weeks to do all the admin that needs doing, to tell all outstanding bodies our new address and do whatever you do to a place before locking up and leaving it for several months. How many Es in eeeek?

Today for me was a lesson in patience, being kept on hold for ridiculous amounts of time, being told I didn’t need to register online accounts only be end up registering anyway because there was no alternative and then, being kept on hold for ten minutes only for the call to be cut off at exactly 5 o’clock.  But the good news is, this evening, someone came round and gave us actual cash for some of our old packing boxes.