Basketball

Today’s afternoon walk only took me as far as KBC. The initial plan was to walk to the nearest barbershop, but it proved to be too far. If I could walk in a straight line across the international airport, it would have been a 20-minute walk. Going the long way round would take well over an hour and half. So my hair is still uncut, unkempt and certainly not making growing fast enough to give me a ponytail any time soon.

In the evening, we went to watch Kiran playing a couple of games of basketball. As we left the house, Liesel pointed out the moose. What moose, I asked, looking into the distance. That moose, said Liesel. Right by the car!

There’s a moose, loose, outside the hoose

Phil was coaching Kiran’s team and we watched from the gallery, with Una. Basketball is a very fast game, a lot more scoring than soccer, of course, and all the players were very skilful with the ball. Between the two games, Una took us to a nearby coffeeshop that shall remain nameless. No, it wasn’t the Voldemort Coffee shop.

Goal!!!
Yes, a very fast game

The venue was BHS. Not the now defunct UK chainstore, but Bartlett High School, way over on the other side of town.

The students are Bartlett Bears.

To round the evening off, Una took us to the Anchorage Ale House to watch and listen to an ’80s music covers band, I Like Robots. Really, ‘I Like Robots’ is the name of the band. (The copyrighted name for the Alaskan-based tribute band that we’re putting together is AnchoRage Against the Machine.)

I only had one beer, thanks
I Like Robots with all the best hits from the ’80s

We had a good old-fashioned singalong and had the pleasure of meeting a couple of Una’s friends, Lesley and Tina.

The place was heaving, really crowded, the music was loud, the hubbub was louder but man, was it a relief when we finally got seats! I think this is the latest we’ve been out, getting back home just before midnight. The Moon was peeping through the clouds accusingly.

Meanwhile, we’d missed the People’s Vote march in London. An estimated 700,000 people made it the second largest march ever in the UK. More people even than the total population of Alaska! No trouble, no violence, no arrests. A few weeks ago, 7,000 people attended the Leave Means Leave march and caused plenty of trouble. I hope I’m able to participate if there is a second referendum, especially if the option to remain in the EU is included.

Over the last few days, I’ve caught up on a few radio programmes and podcasts. Highlights include Danny Baker talking to Sir Bernard Cribbins and playing Right Said Fred by Maya Angelou and Jessica Mitford! Who knew? And the now award-winning podcast Fortunately! with Fi Glover and Jane Garvey, which you sometimes have to listen to through your fingers.

Bear Trouble

It was a long walk to the nearest Post Office, mainly due to the fact that I didn’t check before I left the house. So I ended up walking three sides of a long thin rectangle rather than along the fourth, short side.

Actual Sunflowers (and yes, that dog did bark at me)
This is where boots grow

Not that I’m complaining about long walks. I also spent some time looking for 100% cotton socks in a couple of department stores. I don’t think they exist in Anchorage and yes, I should have ordered them from eBay a few weeks ago.

Arty farty photo of the day, taken in downtown Anchorage:

One building reflected in another

A couple of people have commented on my addiction to Kaladi Brothers Coffee shops. Yes, I’ve been a few times, it’s very nice coffee, thanks. But it’s a bit much when even the phone comments on the frequency of my visits:

My phone knows my habits

One night after finally persuading the boys to get ready for bed, Asa came out and said it might be a good idea to practice his cello. Liesel and I looked at each other and said, yes of course, dear, 9.30pm is the ideal time to play a loud musical instrument while your young brother’s trying to get to sleep. (We didn’t say that.)

It’s Hallowe’en season and there are some scary sights around town. This chap is just down the road form us:

Ooh, spooky!

We took Asa and Gideon out to buy costumes and I can confirm, they look just as scary with their outfits as they do without! We went to a Chinese restaurant as Gideon wanted Mongolian beef. Mongolian beef but without the green stuff, which we learnt was onions. In his excitement, he knocked a large glass of water, with ice, off the table.

Thursday was Alaska Day, a day off work for Leslie, so she and Liesel went shopping. I had a massage and walked back home. Asa went to a school dance, but didn’t stay too long because it was boring: all the boys chatting on one side of the room and all the girls on the other. Some things don’t change with the passing years. Asa and Gid stayed with their grandparents: there was no school the following day, so Liesel and I were able to tidy up Jodi and Aaron’s house in peace.

On Tuesday, a black bear had demolished part of the fence in Mom and Dad’s back garden. No photos, but the neighbours heard the sound and saw the bear not going over the fence, not going under the fence, but pushing the fence over and going through the gap. By Friday, the fence had been repaired. In England, we’d still be waiting for a man to come round and look at it it and then wait several weeks for the actual repair.

On Friday night, Asa had a sleepover with a friend. The rest of us stayed at Mom and Dad’s: by this time Liesel and I had tidied the boys’ house and done all the laundry.

It was interesting living ‘downtown’ for a week, but it was a lot noisier than being close to Kincaid Park. Apart from the nearby airport, of course.

So here we are. It’s our final weekend in Alaska. The snow continues to settle further and further down the mountains. I think we’ll be flying out of Anchorage before it lands on us, but I don’t think the city will be free of snow for too much longer.

Chugach mountains with the ever descending termination line

We’re confidant it will be warmer in Japan and we’re looking forward to being in a totally different cultural setting for a few weeks. Our only contact in Tokyo hasn’t responded, so we’ll be on our own. Our main concerns are getting by without speaking more than a couple of words of Japanese and in my case, keeping to a vegetarian diet. It’ll be an adventure but it is a little scary, especially compared with the last few months here in Anchorage, in the bosom of friends and family! I think that’s the first time I’ve used the word ‘bosom’ in this blog.

Apropos of nothing at all, here is the car number plate of the day:

Blymee o’Riley

Crabs

A few more-relaxed days while Asa and Gideon are at school. We’re into our final week here in Anchorage and so we have been planning our trip to Japan. We? A million thanks to Liesel who has been so much more pro-active in this respect.

I walked around the neighbourhood a couple of times, even though it was drizzling slightly.

No idea what inspired this bike rack design

We watched Star Wars on TV, Chapter 4, ie, the first one made but later enhanced with more special effects. I particularly enjoyed the ‘ding’ sound when the startrooper bangs his head on the door frame, definitely not in the initial release.

We had lunch with Amrit and her husband Siri. He’s a retired teacher and has spent a year demolishing a house and recycling anything that could be reused.

Liesel, Amrit, Siri

We ran a few administrative errands in town under cover of battle grey clouds. In fact, I was reminded of chilly, grey, cloudy November days at home. In food news, we had grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. I think those two statements might be related.

Pizza: we each customised our own pizza. We? I am indebted to Liesel who made mine perfectly!

In wildlife news, I saw some crabs in Sagaya, a nearby supermarket with, by luck, a Kaladi coffee bar.

They’ve got crabs

In sailing news, here are some yachts correctly sailing with the wind.

The boats on the post go round and round…

And in gardening news, this is a great idea and a great pun!

Garden of Weedin’
One bed per gardener
How to make a boring fence look attractive

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.