Here, there and everywhere

Never say never of course, but it’s very unlikely we’ll ever visit the Glastonbury Festival. The biggest and best festival in the world returned for the first time since the pandemic. And the thought of sharing a space with nearly a quarter of a million strangers is just too daunting. On the other hand, the site, Worthy Farm, is vast. See just how big compared with your neighbourhood here: just enter your postcode. (Thanks for this link, Jenny.)

I watched on TV from the comfort of my own sofa, enjoying beer from my birthday and from Fathers Day. The highlight for me was of course was Sir Paul McCartney. Seeing him live at the O2 a few years ago was the best Beatles concert I’ll ever experience.

Sir Paul McCartney

I was on my own at home so I sang along to all the songs: I had a wonderful little party, by myself! It’s mostly a young audience at Glastonbury and it was fantastic to see they knew the words to all the old Beatles’ songs, and to Diana Ross’s old hits, the next day.

Last time, I left you with the image of a small car parked badly on the island in the river. Well, someone waded in, retrieved and relocated it.

Rubbish parking

I went over to visit the grandchildren (and their parents) and their new pet.

Incey Wincey

This brought back unhappy memories of my time as a postman, walking through cobwebs at face height.

It was a joy to see William and Martha again after such a long time away.

Meanwhile, over in Alaska, Liesel went away for a quick break, visiting the little town of Hope, with her Mom and brother.

Aaron, Liesel and Leslie

On another occasion, Liesel reported seeing a porcupine walking along the road. Well, that puts the Northenden heron into perspective.

I couldn’t refuse the offer to look after William for a couple of hours one day, while Jenny and long-time friend Danielle had their hair done.

William and Grandad

I think this picture shows how absorbed William was and how bemused I was after watching several episodes and a full-length movie of Pokémon on TV. After a while though, William did get up and have a walk/slide around in his new footwear.

William’s new slippers

Slippers have never been more slippery.

In Anchorage, Liesel enjoyed a nice long hike up in the hills with Jyoti and Una.

Jyoti, Una and Liesel

If pushed, I’d probably have to admit that the scenery here is slightly more spectacular than anything Northenden has to offer.

This week I had reason to access Facebook, for a very specific purpose. And it annoyed me within two minutes. So no, I won’t be creating a new account for myself.

A much more uplifting experience was to be had on the two well-being walks I joined this week, one in Northenden and one in Wythenshawe.

Just a random garden in Northenden

This week’s photographic assignment was to capture a heavily laden bumble bee on this gorgeous hydrangea.

Hydrangea

But it would not keep still, flitting from flower to flower, and especially when I lifted up my phone to take the picture. Some beasties are intrinsically more cooperative, and stationary,  I’m pleased to report.

Snail

In sports news, local barista Jill Scott scored the fourth goal for England’s victorious football team, against Switzerland, in their final warm-up game before the Women’s Euro 2022 competition. A great advertising opportunity, of course!

Jill Scott
Boxx 2 Boxx

As I was walking through Wythenshawe, I noticed a plain concrete pillar in the middle of a fairly large area of lawn. I wondered if it might be an old milestone, it had that sort of shape to it. I couldn’t see any legible engraving, so I walked round to see what was on the other side.

No ball games

Well, we won’t be seeing any future Jill Scotts around here, I guess.

In Anchorage, Liesel and her Mom sat outside Carrie’s house, by the lake, enjoying the view and sitting in the Sun a little too long. This set them up nicely for a weekend camping trip to Willow, with Aaron and a group of friends. The last I heard, they were still partying well after midnight.

This week, I dedicated my radio show to the memory of Liesel’s Dad, Klaus, playing some of his favourite songs as well as some others in German.

Goodbyes

Going to bed late after a delayed flight, you think you’d go to sleep fairly quickly. Oh no, not me, not with my brain. I spent far too long counting, not just sheep, but the number of animals we’d seen in various airports: bears (polar and brown), moose and horses. Well, one horse.

Horse

This is Blackleaf, by Deborah Butterfield, 2017, taking pride of place at Seattle Airport.

Dall sheep

The glass cage at Anchorage Airport is not the Dall sheep’s natural habitat, they’re more commonly found in the mountains of Alaska.

So if I were counting sheep as an aid to sleep, I would have reached a grand total of one. But I got there in the end.

A bit of a lie-in was followed by a reasonably lazy day. The three Rs: reading, writing and arithmetic. And it was a delight to go back to bed at a more reasonable hour.

Sadly, in an almost repeat performance from a few weeks ago, in the middle of the night, Klaus fell out of bed on his way to the toilet. Three of us couldn’t help him climb back in so again, we called the paramedics. I think this one incident really confirmed to us just how ill he is now. No strength at all.

After breakfast, I wrote some more before Liesel took us over to Pam and Owen’s place for a barbecue. Well, we went to see Una and she drove us over to Pams’, with Monica. On this occasion, on meeting her, I did not give Monica a bear hug exacerbating her shoulder injury.

My eyes were watering and I put this down to hay fever. But no, it’s more likely to be smoke from bush fires quite a long way off, Una was suffering as well. And, sure enough, the mountains were all but invisible through the haze.

Mountains through the haze

From AP News: High winds have pushed a wildfire to within miles of an Alaska Native village in western Alaska, officials said Thursday.

No evacuation orders were issued for St. Mary’s though the East Fork Fire was within 8 miles (12.9 kilometers), the U.S. Bureau of Land Management Alaska Fire Service said in a statement. No structures have been burned.

The 78-square-mile (202-square-kilometer) fire was started May 31 by lightning…

Meanwhile, back at the barbecue, burgers were the order of the day. Liesel enjoyed her first burger for six years or something. And I enjoyed the salads on offer plus possibly my favourite comfort food: cheese and tomato sandwiches, albeit in burger buns.

Thanks Pam and Owen for a nice afternoon: I think it’s fair to say the ladies managed to solve the problems of the world while Owen and I sat quietly in the background!

While we were driving home, Monica received a call from her husband Gregg saying that a tree behind their house had been set on fire. That’s pretty scary, especially when you have lithium batteries in the garage that don’t mix with heat nor with water that might used to put the fire out.

On Monday morning, Klaus visited his family doctor. Straightaway, because he looked so jaundiced, she sent him to hospital, where he spent the next few days. While he was there, we tried to make the house more accommodating for him on his return. With this in mind, Liesel, Jodi and I went to Bailey’s Furniture shop to buy a new chair for Klaus, a powered one that would help him to stand up, that massages and reclines to nearly horizontal.

But what a fascinating shop. Never mind the wonderful range of furniture, the place is decorated in style.

A plane in Bailey’s

And I’m sure a little girl I know would love this chair.

Not Klaus’s chair

Liesel uses some software to be able to work from home accessing Amrit’s computer. She got a bill claiming she hadn’t paid. Which she had. Prove it. So I looked at the relevant account on my phone and tried to screenshot the payment. Oh no. For security reasons, I can’t screenshot from a banking app. If Liesel had been around at the time, I would have used her phone take a picture of my phone’s screen. But she wasn’t. Instead, I had to use an elaborate system of mirrors, a split screen with the required data in one half and the camera in the other half and take a picture using the timer, then reversing the image. I say ‘elaborate’ and it would have worked if only I could have held the phone perfectly still for a split second. Technology, eh?

Liesel and her Mom spent most of the next day in hospital with Klaus. My task at home, on Klaus’s computer, was to make sure we knew his passwords: bills need paying and he’s usually responsible. Klaus uses an Apple Mac, so that was an interesting learning curve having been using Windows for decades! Fortunately, my daughter Helen was able to provide some technical support. Thanks Helen!

Jodi brought her friend, realtor Andrea, around to look at Leslie and Klaus’s house, with a view to selling it after thirty years. It needs some work but it’s not in too bad a condition.

After they left, I started walking towards Jyoti’s house intending to go for a longer walk with her.

Mountains again

It was reassuring to see the mountains more clearly today. And I had the pleasure of gently pursuing a dragonfly for a minute. Last time I was here in Anchorage, I was notoriously unlucky in trying to photograph these flighty beasts. But today, I took a series of pictures, each one a little closer.

Dragonfly

I am very pleased with this picture, although I would have preferred the background to be a leaf rather then the pavement!

I thought I was on a roll. But no, that was the extent of my success. Attempts to capture a beetle in all its glory failed abysmally.

Did we have a nice long walk? Not today. Instead, we got coffee at Kaladi and took it to Sand Lake, traipsing through the grounds of the Elementary School. Sitting in the shade by the water was so peaceful. Thanks for the time-out, Jyoti.

Sand Lake

We collected Liesel from the hospital and went home for a short while. We spent the evening back at Catherine and Hans’ again, enjoying good food, outside, watching the Sun go down. We talked about Klaus of course and music and radio.

Sunset over Turnagain Arm

Jyoti and I did go for a nice long hike the next day. She took me to Kincaid Park and we followed one of the trails. Well, maybe: we might have missed a turn somewhere, but it was still a very pleasant walk.

Basil

The only wildlife we saw was Jyoti’s dog Basil who probably walked and ran twice as far as we did and on little legs too. And how green is that vegetation? So lush. It’s hard to believe that it hasn’t rained here since the snow melted a couple of months ago, but further out of the city, as we’ve seen, there is a real risk of fire.

I’m sure Margaux was a wonderful person

On the way out, we saw this little chap just mooching along the pavement, minding his own bees wax.

Moose

At Fire Island, we bought some high-calorie content cupcakes for ourselves and for Liesel and Leslie who again had stayed with Klaus in hospital. And coffee again from Kaladi Brothers for us. Again, we collected Liesel and took her home.

Leslie returned a little later, after which we all went out to view an apartment that would suit Klaus and Leslie, should they decide to move.

We met Andrea and Jodi there and had a good look round. It seemed ideal, to me. If we’d seen such an apartment when we were looking four years ago, I think we would have seriously considered it. My job was to walk around with the walker to make sure it fits through all the doorways. In my head was Bill Withers: Lean on me. One selling point is that it’s quite close to Aaron and Jod’s house, as well as just over the road from New Sagaya, a supermarket and coffee shop.

We were told that Klaus was to be discharged. The house isn’t ready. So, in a rush, with the help of Asa, Gideon and their friends Addie and Alec, we moved the dresser out of the bedroom, lowered the bed and rotated it 90° to make it easier for Klaus to get up in the night.

Later, it emerged, he wasn’t coming home today, after all. Communication failure.

Still with a view to maybe selling this house, the next morning, Liesel, Jyoti and I threw away loads of food. Now, none of us like throwing away food, but this was all out of date. I don’t mean just a couple of weeks old.

Old, old, old food

Oh no. Some of it was years old. Even decades. The oldest items had no best before date, they were that old. But the record goes to Liesel who threw away something from 1992.

The plan is, eventually, to empty the pantry and move the washing machine and dryer to that space, up from the garage. This should be more attractive for any potential buyer.

Sorting through old food and disposing of it is ridiculously hard work. Luckily it was bin day, so much of it was taken away, leaving a nice empty bear-proof wheelie bin for the next few bags of old food.

I had a bit of a break by continuing with the passwords project on the Mac.

Liesel and I went to Walmart to collect some prescription drugs for Klaus, because he really was being discharged today. Good to see the pandemic’s over in the city. Very few other people were wearing masks.

Klaus came home, and sat in his new chair for a short while before going upstairs to bed.

And so, my time in Anchorage comes to an end. After saying goodbye to Klaus and Leslie, Liesel dropped me off at the airport. She was originally going to fly back with me but is staying on for a couple more weeks to help and support her Mom.

I went through security. That’s it. No trauma today. I had a middle seat so I looked around trying to predict which two fatties I’d be wedged between. But no. Both my seat-mates were skinnies. And,the young lady to my left moved to a different seat, leaving me her aisle seat.

Transit at Frankfurt was a doddle. A ten-minute walk from one gate to the next. It makes you wonder why USA has to make such a big deal out of these things. It certainly doesn’t make  us feel any more secure.

Clouds over Germany

As we flew past Cheadle, I took some pictures, hoping to be able to pinpoint Jenny’s house from the sky. This is still a work in progress.

I kept mine on, but just about everyone else removed their masks on disembarkation. Even when entering the overheated, windowless depths of Manchester Airport to go through security, which was a slow process.

I took a taxi home, and immediately felt very welcome. Jenny and Helen had left Fathers Day cards for me as well as a box of Maltesers and some beer. Cheers! I slumped for most of the day and went to bed really early. I never seem to get a proper sleep on an aeroplane.

And of course, I woke early, listened to a couple of podcasts and did my usual three puzzles, Wordle, Worldle and Nerdle. Horror of horrors: I lost my winning streak on the first two. I’d forgotten to play in the short ‘day’ between leaving Anchorage and landing in Manchester.

On my first full day back at home, I waited in for a grocery delivery from Ocado, ate Maltesers, wiped out the now empty fridge, after its inadvertent defrosting while we were away, and wrote for a while while listening to old, recorded radio shows. And, in an effort to convince myself I was doing something useful, I gathered together all the to-do lists.

On my second full day back at home, I ticked a few items off the to-do list. Don’t worry, I did them first. And there is still plenty to keep me occupied. I’m lucky to have the freedom to nap whenever the urge takes me.

At 4.50 in the morning, I answered the phone. It was Liesel telling me that her Dad had died. Just three days after I’d left. I really had said goodbye to him. Very sad, but not totally unexpected. We didn’t like seeing him in such distress and discomfort, and we’ll certainly miss him and his humour.

The rest of the day was taken up with mundane chores, nothing that required too much thought. In a bit of a daze, to be honest. I started putting this week’s radio show together and finished it the following day. I think this one took longer to prepare than any, since the very early days when the whole process was new to me.

You can listen to my Postcard from Alaska here. Or catch the repeat on Wythenshawe Radio WFM 97.2 at 10pm on Wednesday.

Some exciting, good news to end on. After completing enough tasks (an arbitrary target, I admit), my reward was to visit the local coffee shop here in Northenden. The latté art made me smile.

Very arty, very tasty

It’s reassuring to see that some things never change. I don’t think our heron has moved from this spot for at least five weeks.

Heron on the weir

On the other hand, car parking skills in Northenden haven’t improved since I’ve been away.

How did they end up here?

Parties in Portland

After breakfast on another spontaneous workday for Liesel, we picked Suvan up and drove to Amrit’s office. I don’t really know what it’s like to work in there, but the view from the window is magnificent. A park outside and, of course, mountains in the background. I was tempted to fiddle with the office equipment, but I didn’t touch anything. Instead, leaving Suvan and Liesel to work, I went for a walk on yet another sunny day. I don’t know why sunny days in Anchorage still surprise me, but the word ‘Anchorage’ itself, I think, has a sort of synaesthetic link with cold and snow and discomfort.

The Cuddy Family Midtown Park has a playground and a pond and was very pleasant to walk through. Canada geese expect to be fed.

Be kind to geese

Not on my watch, baby! I didn’t have any food on me at all.

Anchorage Municipal Library aka Z J Loussac Public Library

Which is why almost as soon as I found the café in the library, I bought myself a muffin to go with the coffee. I made myself comfortable and spent the next few hours writing.

A few other people were there too, mostly studying or reading the newspaper. The homeless man used the facilities and made aggressive noises as if looking for a fight, but nobody paid him any attention and he soon wandered off.

I went for a longer walk, visiting New Sagaya for a coffee, that was good, but they had no WiFi, outrageous!

Telecoms

I passed by this telecommunications centre and checked, but no, my 4G signal was still not working properly. It comes and goes. Maybe I should have forked out for a local SIM card for these few weeks.

The signs of homeless people on streets or even in amongst the trees near the park is always  distressing. But the family flying the kite in the park cheered me up. Just as I arrived back at the office, I received a message from Liesel asking me to bring back an iced coffee. Well, if I’d had a decent signal, I might have received the message in time. Sorry, Liesel!

It was nice to see Amrit in the office now too, keeping an eye on Suvan and Liesel.

Back at home, after everyone else had gone to bed, I watched Spelling Bee on TV. This is a national contest for children aged 15 or under, and they do indeed have to spell some very unusual words. Just my thing, you’d think. And so it should be, but the TV presentation was awful. You see two contestants, then some waffle then a load of adverts. And I mean a lot of adverts. The interesting part of the show accounted for less than ten percent of actual broadcast time. What a shame for those children whose moment of glory was squeezed out by an advert for prescription only laxatives or something.

There are several channels playing music, called Music Choice. I found one playing Tiny Dancer, probably my favourite Elton John song, which I enjoyed before going to bed myself.

Woke up and got up early and had a jolly good stretch. Other than that, and a spot of packing, what a lazy day.

Mom drove us to the airport for the start of our next adventure. We flew to Seattle. But, before boarding the plane, what a palaver.

Going through Security, my Passport and boarding pass were deemed acceptable.  Then the queue split into two: Liesel went to the left, I to the right. Ok. Liesel was processed, scanned, bag X-rayed, no problem. Me? I’m just a trouble-maker.

I started to remove the electronics from my bag, as usual. Officer #1 aggressively: ‘Leave everything in your bag. If you want to take your things out, go to the back of the other line’. So I put my stuff back: Kindle, keyboard, and the pedometer which has caused so much concern on other occasions.

Do I take my shoes and belt off? ‘Yes, of course’. Was I beginning to get flustered? A bit. By mistake, I left the phone in my pocket, so that raised alarm when I went through the body scanner. (Meanwhile, nobody seemed at all bothered by the two trays with bags that nobody claimed ownership of.)

Officer #2 frisked me, and found the phone, which then had to go back and through the Xray machine in the other line. But wait, there’s more! The metal poppers on my pockets always set off a klaxon. Maybe your machine is a bit too sensitive?

So now I’m waiting for things from both sides: my bag, shoes and belt from this side and my phone from the other side, from where Liesel had emerged unscathed about three decades earlier.

I notice that the tray containing my bag has been pulled to the side. Officer #3 is going through another, female, passenger’s bag. Her problem? The ice pack keeping her insulin cool had thawed during the day. So it’s now full of liquid water. I expected Officer #3 to go through my bag, for whatever reason, in the fullness of time. I saw Liesel waiting patiently and tried very hard not to make any signs that might cause suspicion here in Paranoia Central. Officer #3  told me and the others waiting here to go behind the screen over there, which we did, about 5 or 6 of us. She looked through someone else’s bag first, but this was a quick process.

She then began to chat with a colleague.

Officer #4 (at last!) held up my my tray. ‘Is this anybody’s? No?’ Not giving me a chance, he started to take it away again. I had to shout that it was mine. I don’t like shouting at the best of times. But here? In a high sceurity zone? Where I really don’t want to attract any attention? If #3 hadn’t sent me so far away, I would have been on the spot when #4 picked up my bag.

He looked inside, and picked out my water bottle. Oh no. I think even he was surprised at how few drops of water there were inside. I wonder if he too thinks that this new machine is a bit too sensitive? Maybe we should leave our electronics in the bag and take out the water bottles? He was very polite as he gave me my tray but I was still stunned by the whole ridiculous process, I almost forgot to take it with me.

Still a bit war-weary I started to unhitch my hat from the bag, something I really didn’t need to do. I only tied it up there because it was a big deal last time, when it was perched on my head. What I should have been doing is putting on my shoes and belt. And breathe.

I know the rules change from trip to trip, from country to country, from airport to airport, but I think the rules should be consistent in the same place at the same time. And, if the new equipment being  tested (in place of the well-known Xray machine) can’t ignore a few drops of water in a bottle, then it would be no hardship for us to remove bottles from our bags, honest.

Liesel tweeted a complaint to TSA but has had no response. And having written it all down, I now feel purged of the whole sorry incident. Grrr. Whinge of the day.

What a relief to finally be able to sit down on the plane, a small QX E175, built by Brazilian company Embraer, although they’re now pretty much owned by Boeing.

There are no middle seats, everyone is by the window or by the aisle. And, according to the Alaska Air site: the E175 maximum takeoff weight is equivalent to approximately 10,000 Copper River salmon.

I read my book and did some puzzles but the main entertainment was provided by the gentleman sitting behind me. He had trouble stowing his bag under the seat in front. The steward was very patient as he spent several minutes trying to explain the concept of turning the bag sideways!

The flight was pleasant and what a surprise to see it turn dark outside after the Sun set.

Seattle

I suspect this is not the best photo ever taken from an aeroplane, of Seattle at night.

From the airport, a short bus ride took us to the car rental facility. The car was waiting for us and after a long, long day, Liesel drove us to our beds.

Red Roof was alright, and our room had been cleaned by Eulogia, which I thought was a beautiful name, specially since it contains all five vowels!

And you’ll never guess where we had breakfast the next morning? IHOP was a better bet than Denny’s, we felt. Neither of us could finish our omelettes. American portions win again.

We drove south through the state capital, Olympia, but I blinked and missed it. Apart from a couple of showers, it was a nice sunny drive to Portland, Oregon. We commented on how much longer the trucks and tankers are here compared with what we’re used to at home.

Funny old number plate

So: what did you think when you first saw this number plate? Liesel thought ‘squirt one’ but even though this isn’t an imaginary car, I read it as ‘square root of minus one’.

Our rental car on this occasion is a Toyota Prius and whenever we turn the engine off at the end of a trip, a message flashes up on the screen: ‘Check rear seats’. And every time I turn round to look, I see that they are in fact still there.

Also, it gives you a mark at the end of each journey telling you how good or bad a driver you are. Liesel was typically getting 70+ out of 100. (Once, later on, I sat in the driver’s seat trying to change the speed display from mph to kph. I was unsuccessful, drove absolutely nowhere, but was given  95 / 100!)

The plan was to meet people at The Rose Garden but we arrived a bit too late. Nevertheless, we had  a good workout here, walking up and down some of the steeper inclines.

Just a few of the gorgeous roses currently in bloom

The Oregon Holocaust Memorial was incredibly moving. As it should be.

Bronze representation of a child’s doll

The children’s toys are especially poignant. Such a contrast with the colourful roses just a short walk away.

We found our Airbnb in Portland, and it was no coincidence that we were greeted by Jyoti, Suvan, Gita and Troy as well as some of Jyoti’s relations who we’d not met before: sister Preeti, cousin Guddu, nieces Simran and Suchi.

We were gathered here for a few days to help Gita celebrate her graduation from Lewis and Clark College. She is training as Family Therapist and we’re all very proud of her.

Guddu put together a wonderful charcuterie but the main debate was on how to pronounce it. I think we spent most of the rest of the day chatting and eating and eating and mixing and chatting and eating. And dancing, although I still have this phobia of stomping on other people’s feet.

It’s the first time we’ve shared a b&b with lots of people we know, and there was a bit of a party atmosphere.

It was a bit overcast and even drizzly as we drove over to Gita’s house the following morning.

Pavement art

I think this literal splash of colour is celebrating June being LGBT Pride Month.

We walked to a nearby street food market on the site of Hawthorne Asylum. There was almost too much to choose from: food from Guyana, Korea, Japan, South Africa.

Rubbish!

The canopy over the table kept us dry: yes, it was still raining a bit. Despite this, we walked the long way back. Jyoti wanted to introduce us to Urbanite, a shop that sells everything, lots of old stuff, vintage items, treasures, works of art, things you don’t even know you don’t need.

Bluetooth speaker

This bluetooth speaker is bigger than usual, being based on the design of a drum. Try me! I did. I treated the shop to David Bowie singing Everyone Says Hi! What I really wanted to play was a recording of Martha and William laughing, but such an MP3 doesn’t exist on my phone. Yet.

After the fun and games in the shop, it’s despressing to see sights like this.

Tent in the street

Homeless people are living in tents all over the city. You might wake up one day and find someone camping on the pavement outside your luxury apartment. There are even ‘tent cities’ in some locations.

Back at Gita’s house, it was party time, party number 2! We met Gita’s housemates Jessica, Mark and Jackie. Many, many other people turned up, fellow students and tutors and family and friends. Music was provided by Abba, until the record stopped.

What a noisy, busy, happy hubbub. But so many people. Do something scary every day. OK. My opening line was something like ‘You’re not a big fan of big crowds. either, then?’ After which, Jan (I think that was her name, hard to be sure with all that background noise) and I had a really nice chat. I don’t why I find it so hard to talk to new people. Probably being told ‘you should be seen and not heard’ too often doesn’t help.

Pizza

A large truck pulled up outside and delivered a mountain of pizza, from CostCo, one of Liesel’s favourite places.

I spoke to Gita’s mentor about Prince and music and not at all about Gita, although I think I may have accidentally told Gita otherwise later on!

In the evening, there was the option of going to a parade, or going dancing, or going to bed. You have one guess…

In the morning, Liesel drove Guddu to the airport while I slept on obliviously. Liesel came back to bed but when we rose at about 9, there was nobody else around to say goodbye to. Today was the day of Gita’s Graduation ceremony, which looks like a marvellous affair.

Suvan, Gita and Jyoti

A rightly, very proud family, Gita’s worked really hard and I’m sure will continue to do so. Congratulations to you all.

Meanwhile, Liesel and I were driving north on Interstate-5. And that’s another story…

We go to Talkeetna

Jenny celebrated a birthday at home while Liesel and I were in Anchorage. I’m sorry we missed the party, but there’ll be plenty more later on. Happy birthday, Jenny!

Meanwhile, having been south to Juneau for a couple of days, it was now time to head north. We paid a return visit to Talkeetna, where we had our wedding party all those years ago.

The drive was uneventful, and sadly, one of the most notable features was the after effects of bush fires. Burnt trees from last year, or maybe several years ago. Despite the damage, some trees were trying to come back to life.

Burnt but regenerating trees

We drove through Willow, which at one point wanted to become the state capital. We stopped at Wasilla (famous for Sarah Palin) for coffee and use of WiFi (I went to Kaladi) and some shopping (Liesel went to Carrs). Nothing special.

In Talkeetna, we drove straight to Diane’s log cabin, where we stayed for a couple of nights. It’s secluded, in the woods, close to a pond (large pond, or small lake?) Surprise, surprise, Jyoti appeared!

Log cabin

The grebes on the water were determined not to swim too close to us. Maybe they had chicks to protect, but we’ll never know for sure. It was still warm and sunny, and we couldn’t believe how lucky we were with the weather.Diane,

Diane came by and we made our way into town. Well, Jyoti drive us into town.

Talkeetna itself was much more busy than we’ve ever seen it. There was the Arts Festival, there was live music and I’m sure some of the people were here to climb or explore Denali, the highest mountain in north America. Unfortunately, the Roadhouse has been closed since the pandemic. We were unable to go inside to check that the bottle top commemorating our marriage was still in place, nailed to the doorframe.

There’s a moose, loose, ootside the hoose

It’s always exciting to see wildlife but I wasn’t convinced by this moose. We spent some time looking at the various artworks on display. Would we like any of it in our flat? Yes, of course, some of it was really clever and attractive. Did we buy any? No. On another level, it’s just more stuff.

The live music was great though: I enjoyed listening to Lauren Crosby. She was meant to play the previous evening but, like us, her flight from somewhere extremely remote had been delayed. The organisers let her play a few songs this afternoon. I wouldn’t be surprised if she makes an appearance on my next radio show… watch this space!

Also: Ukulele Russ played ukulele versions of rock songs such as Van Halen’s Jump. Did I think to record it? Not until it was too late, sorry.

While the girls were looking at more stuff in shops, I went for a quick walk along the main street, in search of coffee. I’d heard about the world famous espresso milkshakes offered by Conscious Coffee and of course, I tracked it down after visiting the wrong emporium first.

Softball

There was a sporting event in town too: softball. This is a variation on baseball, which is a variation on rounders, and there was quite a crowd watching the game. Including Jim, Diane’s husband, who she tracked down by locating his bicycle.

Back at the cabin, we sat beside the pond for a while. Did I go in for a swim? No: I dangled my feet in up to my ankles and told myself, it’ll still be here tomorrow!

We ate dinner outside too and it was nice to have a long, light evening, by the pond, without being bothered by mosquitoes or midges.

No official name, so: Mick’s Pond

The pond doesn’t have an official name, but all the local people refer to it in their own way, referring to previous occupants of their property, or to the men who built our cabin.

In fact, it didn’t really get dark all night. For the usual reason, I was up at about midnight and again about 2am, and it was light enough to read by. Did I mention mosquitoes? Well, one did manage to find its way into the cabin.We heard the high-pitched whine, but we never managed to track it down. On the other hand, it didn’t track me down either.

I’ve missed Jytoi’s fried eggs on toast so I was delighted when she offered to cook my breakfast in the morning. In fact, I probably accepted the offer far too quickly, before it had been fully vocalised.

Liesel is working for lawyer Amrit. Amrit and her husband Siri also have a cabin near Talkeetna. Jyoti drove us over to see them. Cabin? It’s huge! It’s a big barn that, at one point in its history, could have been turned into a boarding school. It’s a fascinating place, full of stuff, it’s not for me to call it junk, but lots of old books and hundreds of boxes of other… clutter, yes, that’s the word.

Amrit’s barn

In a feat of strength, I helped Siri carry a huge DeWalt saw to the back of his car. This is probably the heaviest item I’ve lifted for many years. Muscles and back were OK, but that 30 seconds of exercise were enough to leave me short of breath for a few minutes.

After showing us around the cabin/barn, Siri took us for a hike through the woods. I thought we were headed for nearby Sunshine Lake, but we didn’t find it. Maybe we were walking the boundary of the property, like we sometimes walk the parish bounds at home, but there were no stakes marking the different properties.

Jyoti, Amrit, Liesel, Siri

Eventually, what drove us back was the devil’s club, a really thorny, prickly, aggressive looking plant that was growing at the edge of the trodden path, but occasionally on it. No need to scratch our delectable legs more than necessary.

Devil’s club

If it had started walking towards us, I wouldn’t have been surprised. I’m sure it was partly the inspiration for John Wyndham’s triffids.

When away from the others talking, it was so peaceful: the only sound was birdsong, but other than the large American robin, I didn’t see any birds here.

Birch bark

This birch bark felt like thick paper and it gave me the idea of maybe pulping wood, and turning into paper. It would be ideal for writing on and maybe even for wrapping birthday presents.

Back at the cabin, I thought about going for a swim in the pond. It would be refreshing, after the hot, sweaty walk in the woods.

Just jump in, they all said. No, thanks. I climbed down the steps very slowly, getting used to the temperature. Or, letting my lower legs grow numb with cold. The water was refreshing yes, but just a little too cold for comfort.

In the end, I swam for just a few minutes. When I climbed out, I lied that it wasn’t the cold water that beat me, but remembering the dead fish we’d seen floating by yestertday.

Jim told us that it really was worthwhile going on a flight around Denali. You land on a glacier and have a quick walk and a quick gawk. We didn’t have time on this visit, although the weather was ideal for such an adventure.

Denali

But near Talkeetna, is a fantastic lookout point, so this was the best sighting we had of the mountain.

After tea and crackers, we bade farewell to Jyoti, who was heading back to Anchorage prior to flying to Portland.

It was Diane’s birthday, and she invited us over to her place for cake. There, we met Stacey and Troy, local artists, woodworkers and generally all-round good guys. They were off to Portland soon, too!

Everyone in Alaska has dogs. And in any group of people, everyone else is fond of the dogs and one of us isn’t that interested. So guess who the dogs come over to bother every time? They sniff and puff and pant and sit by my feet and beg for a stroke and I’m thinking, you’d get far more attention from everyone else in the room!

It’s been dry lately, almost a drought in Alaska. So there’s lots of dust in the air. And it’s far less humid than at home. I suspect this change in conditions has affected my fingerprints. I rely on this biometric to start my phone a hundred times a day. But just lately, it hasn’t recognised my fingerprints at all. And after five attempts, I get locked out for 30 seconds.

Take me home, dusty roads

There’s a 9-hour time difference between Alaska and home, so that meant Liesel had to attend an online WI meeting early in the morning. I think she enjoyed showing off the cabin and the pond to the ladies of the WI, before getting down to WI business.

We packed, locked up and drove back to Anchorage, again stopping briefly in Wasilla. In Anchorage, we visited Kohl’s where Liesel bought some shorts for our next little trip. She hadn’t brought any with her from home because, seriously, who expects heatwaves in Alaska?

Mountains again

Of course I had to take another picture of the mountains. And of course, I had to share it.

Just be grateful I didn’t take pictures of the game shows we endured on TV, Wheel of Fortune, Double Jeopardy, and another one whose name escapes me. There are some vey excitable, excited people in America!

I slept pretty well, albeit with some strange, vivid dreams that shall remain private.

We need to talk about Juneau

Jyoti picked us up, me and Liesel that is. Not physically, but in her car. We spent some time at her place and went for a short walk in the woods nearby, overlooking the bluff. We sat outside her condo for a while, admiring the tree that’s been chopped down (for some unknown reason) but is slowly trying to come back to life.

Jyoti’s regenerating tree

It was entertaining to watch the relationship between the dog, Basil, and the cat. Don’t ask who’s in charge, because it’s very hard to tell.

Jyoti kindly drove us to the airport and then back home so that Liesel could pick up her passport. Then back again to the airport. Did you know, Ted Stevens Airport at Anchorage is the fourth largest cargo airport in the world? At least, according to the mural inside.

We were flying to Juneau, the isolated state capital, only accessible by air and by sea.

My pedometer caused grief as we went through security: just because you never walk anywhere, doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t keep records of our daily perambulations, Sir, I thought but didn’t say out loud.

The flight was delightfully short: everywhere should be this close. As the plane started its descent, we saw Southeast Alaskan mountains for the first time. You can never have too many pictures of mountains. (Oh yes you can.)

Mountains (southeast Alaska)

Michael drove the shuttle bus to our hotel. Entertainment here was provided by an Indian lady berating her husband. Sadly, not in English. The ingratitude of the wife rose an octave when she saw the fairly dilapidated state of the Driftwood Hotel. It really does need some TLC. It’s supposed to be a completely smoke-free environment, but our room had the faint tinge of cigarettes from years past, which almost but not quite concealed the aroma of cleaning chemicals.

Having said that, our room was clean and comfortable and secure enough. We were on the top floor. Our friend Monica was staying here too while working in Juneau for a week. The staircase closest to her room was taped off. I don’t think it was long for this world.

It was lovely to see Monica, and she really didn’t deserve the extreme pain and grief I caused while hugging her and squeezing the shoulder injured a few weeks ago when she slipped on ice. I was mortified. There was no way I could undo the damage. If you’re reading this, Monica: once again, I am truly, truly sorry.

We drove to Auke Bay where we ate at the Forbidden Peak Brewery. At these breweries, each person is only allowed to consume 32 oz per day of alcoholic beverages. None of us reached this target. I ate salad and chips, which is my default option at these meat-heavy places. Very nice, very tasty.

On the way back to Juneau, we stopped off at Mendenhall Glacier for a few minutes.

Mendenhall Glacier

It was too late to walk to and around the glacier on this occasion, but it’s been added to the ever-growing list of places to return to, one day.

A nearby hut displayed copious information about the glacier and the surrounding area. This hut had been invaded by a couple of families of swallows, we saw them nesting in the rafters.

Mountains (the view from our hotel window)

We slept well and as Monica was working, we rose quite early for breakfast. Needless to say, I was the slowest to get ready, but I soon caught up with Liesel and Monica at The Rookery. Even if Google Maps took me the really long way.

The barista drew a wonderful fern on my latté. I complimented him on his artwork, he said he’d give it a C. The second cup (yes, yes, I had a second cup, so what?) he thought he decorated better. C+.

Northern lights

The atmosphere is enhanced by photographs displayed on the walls. We won’t see the northern lights at this time of year in Alaska, so this is a good second best. Yes, I should have made a note of the photographer’s name, sorry.

Monica went to work, leaving Liesel and me to visit the museum. Which, strangely, is where Monica was working.

It covers the whole history of Alaska, from its first settlement from across the then Bering land bridge, the Russians, the Americans. Again, we were embarrassed by the white Europeans mission seemingly to disrupt and destroy any other culture that had survived for thousands of years.

Thunderbird screen

Xeitl X’een Thunderbird screen

In southeast Alaska, Tlingit clan history was preserved in precise detail between generations. Stories of their origins and early activities were passed orally over thousands of years. Elders coached young people to commit to memory these histories. Accuracy was very important. These histories are also represented in songs, personal and place names, and as symbolic crests on regalia, totemic carvings, and other decorated objects, To this day, clan history, tangible and intangible, is considered sacred property. This screen documents the history of the Thunderbird House of the Yakutat Tlingit. In the early 20th century, clan leader Frank Italio, Kuchein, commissioned the screen from artist Woochjix’oo Eesh (In Everybody’s Arms-Father), a L’uknax.ádi man. The Shangookeidi clan claims the thunderbird crest through their ancestors’ contact with the creature. At the center of the screen is the sculptural carving of the Thunderbird, and painted below this figure are two Shangookeidi ancestors. These figures may be young men, whose fatal encounter with a thunderbird’s feather is memorialized in a clan song. Four stylized raindrops fall down the sides of the screen, and two long black clouds float above the thunderbird’s wings. The faces all around represent hailstones, falling on the Thunderbird’s mountain home.

[Xeitl X’een Thunderbird Screen Thunderbird House (Xeiti Hit), Shangookeidi clan, Yakutat Tlingit, 11-3-845]

I’m glad I committed this story, from the museum, to memory: I just wish I knew what the Tlingit words all actually meant.

The focus was on south and southeastern Alaskan natives, which Liesel found particularly interesting since her previous knowlecge focused on the northern peoples.

Totem pole fragment of the first white man

This totem pole fragment marks the local people’s first encounter with a white man. You may think he looks familiar. The wood carver, over 100 years later, based his design on Abraham Lincoln, probably the most famous white person known at the time. The local Indians were considered a problem for the invaders. ‘The only solution of the problem of the Indian is found, it seems, in the simple theory that there are no good Indians except dead ones’. No, this isn’t from a current edition of The Daily Mail, it’s from Douglas Island News, December 1900.

Well, to cleanse our palates from the interesting, if sometimes disturbing, exhibits in the museum, we walked around Juneau, making our slow way towards the tram. There’s a map of the world marked out in studs on the boardwalk.

Map on the boardwalk (down by the sea…)

I wonder how many of the thousands of passengers from the cruise ships actually notice it?

Tram

This tram took us 1800 feet up Mount Roberts from where we enjoyed a terrific view of the town and the inlet. It’s a very popular destination for cruise ships, of which we saw four docked today, and a few different ones later on.

Cruise ships visiting Juneau

Disney Wonder: 2,400 passengers.
Viking Orion: 930 passengers.
Quantum of the Sea: 4,905 passengers.
Zuiderdam: 1,916 passengers.
That’s a substantial increase on the city’s resident population, about 32,000 people.

Up at 1800 feet, the last of the snow is melting. Liesel wasn’t interested in a snowball fight so, like a tourist, I just posed.

Mick v snow
So many restrictions!

Many towns have a surplus of pigeons. Not Juneau. No, here, ravens rule the roost, and I think their song (if it can be called a song) might well be my next ringtone.

Raven

Back down in town, our late lunch was a shared plate of nachos, nothing special, but with a nose-eye view of one of those ocean-going liners.

Take a bow

Our wandering continued, upwards. Inside the Russian Orthodox Church, we weren’t allowed to light candles in remembrance of our lost loved ones. It’s very dry here right now, and people are very conscious of the risk of fire.

Russian Orthodox Church

Cope Park marked the summit of our ascent on this occasion, nice and peaceful, with a river running through.

Did I mention how steep some of the roads are?
Cope Park

Given how much it snows here, I was surprised to see that most of the roofs aren’t as steep as this place.

Steep roofs (or is it rooves?)

There are stories of rooves (or is it roofs?) caving in under the weight of so much snow and ice. Yet we at home in England begin to worry when there’s more than half an inch of snow!

We found the Whale Fountain and sat there for a while. Monica set out to meet us but didn’t quite make it. Well, you wouldn’t, if you walk in exactly the wrong direction!

Takhu the whale
Takhu with bonus rainbow

I calculated the best place to stand in order to see rainbow colours in the water spray. Spherical geometry, trigonometry and knowledge of the refractive index of water all played a part. Really? No, I just stood with the Sun behind me, that worked.

We were delighted to see our hotel bedecked in bunting for Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee. Nope, it was for America’s Memorial Day this weekend. Monica was back from work now, and we walked over to a restaurant called Salt for dinner. Several of Monica’s colleagues joined us: Ellen, Sarah (from the UK), James and there I’m afraid my memory runs out. James’s partner is one of a set of identical triplets. By an amazing coincidence, Monica has met with another identical triplet, from a different family, all interested in the field of restoration and preservation

Thinking I might have dessert, I had a so-called starter as my main course, a salad in fact. But: American portions, no dessert for me.

It had been a busy old day, lovely to meet some new people of course, but I was glad to find myself horizontal in bed, with no desire to read nor listen to a podcast. Zzz.

Sandpiper ravens

Next door to our hotel is The Sandpiper, probably so-called because of the ravens that have taken up residence here. This is where we broke our fast before another day of sightseeing.

I think Liesel and I very quickly came to realise how much we liked Juneau. And how we would like to spend more time here. But the weather was gorgeous, warm and sunny on this occasion. It’s famous for its rain and occasional very strong winds, I wonder if we’d be so keen in such conditions? I commented on how nice it was not to see the the usual suspects, McDonalds and Starbucks, anywhere. Liesel said she had seen a McD, but it was much closer to the airport.

Impulse buying doesn’t only apply in supermarkets, when you grab a bar of chocolate at the check-out desk. Native gift shops are quite attractive too. There’s a lot here that we couldn’t buy, because we can’t take it out of Alaska, or into the UK, such as seal fur, walrus and mammoth ivory. But that didn’t stop Liesel buying a pair of earrings. Or me buying a tie. Yes. me, Mick, bought a new tie for the first time since I had long hair and a full beard. What on earth is going on?

Monica drove us to Jensen-Olsen Arboretum, where we enjoyed looking at and sniffing the flowers. Plus, a quick walk on the beach.

Jensen-Olsen Arboretum
Japanese wood poppy

A short drive away is the Shrine of St Thérèse. For someone who only lived to the age of 24, she seems like a good sort, and is very popular. The shrine did bring back a memory that I long ago buried though. When my Mum was dying, I wondered whether, as a lapsed Catholic, she might take some comfort from being visited by a priest. When I suggested this to Dad, the look of horror, fear, defiance, even hatred, on his face, told me that that was never going to happen. So sad.

National Shrine of St Thérèse
Merciful Love Labyrinth

No, we didn’t walk through the labyrinth: too risky, we might get lost. Or leapt upon by a hidden wild animal.

Driving back towards Juneau.
‘Why are those people letting their dog go to the other side of the road? And why are they taking pictures of it?’
‘That’s not a dog, it’s a bear.’

And it was, a black bear minding its own business noshing on something. Those people had stopped for the photo opp, but by the time we realised, we were too far away. Still, I can tick ‘black bear’ off the list, now!

There’s just one bridge between Juneau and neighbouring Douglas Island, and that’s where we spent the rest of the afternoon.

I’m so insecure in my cultural awareness, I had to make sure it’s still ok to call this thing a totem pole.

Totem pole

It is, and this bright colourful one is right by Savikko Park, which is partly a nice sandy beach. We watched some people having fun in the sea, which I assumed would be quite cold because over the other side, you can see freshly melted snow running down the mountains.

Mountain (from Savikko Park) > snow > ice > water

Further along, there’s a nice trail on and around the old Treadmill mine. If you want to set up a mine of your own, there is plenty of discarded old (and sometimes rusty) equipment just left lying around.

Flange (used for flangeing, I think)

Actually, just leave it all where it is. Some of the mines are nearly half a mile deep, and I am reminded how lucky I am to be around in a time and place where I didn’t have to work in such places.

Wharf

This is what’s left of the wharf where all the equipment and supplies were delivered.

For a late lunch, we had pizza at The Island Pub, as recommended by a couple of people.

Back in Juneau, we rested by the whale fountain for a while. I noticed how prickly the grass was, but maybe it’s for walking on, not lying on.

After Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, people of Japanese ancestry living on America’s West Coast were forcibly removed and incarcerated in isolated government internment camps.

In May 1942, the seniors at Juneau High School left an empty chair during their graduation ceremony to underscore the absence of their Japanese-American valedictorian, John Tanaka. By extension, this empty chair honors all of the Japanese uprooted from their homes and communities.

The Empty Chair Memorial represents the void the people of Juneau felt for their missing friends and neighbors impacted by this injustice. The names of those interned are etched on the bronze floor.

A time may come when these names will be forgotten, but the symbol of the empty chair will remind future generations of the lessons learned from this compelling and poignant story.

Yes, we made the pilgrimage.

Empty Chair Memorial

Monica literally drove us to the end of the road. This was south, along Thane Road, through a place called Thane, to the signs saying ‘This is the end of the road, turn around, go back, here be dragons’, or something. A reminder that Juneau can only be reached by sea and air.

Speaking of which, we returned to the airport where Monica dropped off the rental car, and we went through security before our flight back to Anchorage. And, in another first-time-ever scenario, my hat was searched. I was too, but my hat looks big, so, do you mind if I have a look at it?

Note to self: when smuggling contraband, the hat is no longer a safe hiding place

In and around Anchorage

After a relatively long walk yesterday, we thought we’d take it easy and just walk up to the coffee shop and back. I say ‘just’ but even that little jaunt helps us achieve our daily target of 10,000 steps.

Our eyes were of course peeled for moose and bears. But in the end, the most exciting wildlife we saw on this occasion was a family of bald eagles. When we first saw the chick in flight, we thought it was a crow or something. Then, seeing it pursued by an eagle, we thought it was dinner. Then we realised: both parents were showing their chick the ropes.

Bald eagles

This was our first visit to Kaladi Brothers Coffee this visit and, since it wasn’t too busy, we enjoyed our coffee inside.

On the walk back home, Liesel pointed out a mound of snow that hasn’t yet melted. I didn’t recognise it as such, it was covered in so much debris.

Dirty snow

This is a typical Alaskan scene. Cooler boxes airing outside the garage, while a pair of waders is taking the air on the washing line.

Coolers and Waders (not to be confused with the 1970s prog rock combo)

It is a very outdoorsy place, and when the weather’s this good, it’s easy to see why. But the weather isn’t always this kind of course. When it snows, it snows. You can easily lose a fire hydrant in the snow. So to make it easier to find, they attach a red and white pole to it. This shows how deep the snow can be at its worst. You could bury an entire upright Liesel in it.

Hydrant, hi Liesel

As suspected, I starred in this week’s advert for Boxx 2 Boxx back at home.

Boxx 2 Boxx ad

Potter Marsh Bird Sanctuary is a lovely nature reserve, and we can enjoy walking on its extensive boardwalk. Again, the Sun was out, the sky was blue and the temperature was perfect. And again, you can’t escape seeing mountains way over there in the distance.

Boardwalk

There are several species of bird here, although we only saw a few flitting here and there, too fast to identify. Another family of eagles owned the sky while very pretty blue tree swallows stayed nearer our level.

Swallows

Another first for this visit was seeing a moose.

Moose

It seemed to be enjoying what it was eating. But we’d noticed the water here was a bit oily. This is effluent from residential and industrial premises. But the vegetation here prevents the nasty chemicals from entering the main body of water, so it all seems under control. I just hope the moose aren’t ingesting something really nasty.

We collected Jyoti from the airport. Her journey back from wherever she’d been was delayed by a food truck crashing into her aeroplane. They hadn’t boarded yet, but I can imagine the groan running around a planeful of disappointed passengers. So, we collected Jyoti but no luggage. This didn’t appear until late the following day.

In the evening, Liesel and I met up with Aaron and Jodi for a meal at a place called Ginger. The food was great, very flavourful, but I’d forgotten how large American meals are, and I couldn’t finish my curry.

I’d also forgotten that American toilets are different. I washed my hands and stood there for ages waiting for the air dryer to come on, only to realise it was in fact a paper dispenser. I’m glad nobody was there to witness my incompetence.

It hasn’t rained here for a long, long time, which means everything is dry, and it’s very easy for bush fires to take hold. As at home, these are often started by people lighting fires and barbecues in inappropriate places.

Liesel got up early, ridulously early, to visit the Strech Zone. I thought she’d come back about 6 feet tall, but apparently it’s not that kind of stretching. Just the muscles, and just enough to make you feel uncomfortable afterwards.

After breakfast, we drove over to Jyoti’s place where Liesel swapped me for Suvan, Jyoti’s son. Liesel drove him to Amrit’s office where he now works, at least part time, and I went for a nice long walk with Jyoti.

A small 7-petalled wonderflower

There are some small flowers, including this one with an unusual number of petals. Someone will tell us what it’s called!

The terrain was hilly in the forest over the way, something I’m not really used to any more. Basil the dog carried the bear bells so we didn’t have to. On the way back, a motorist stopped to tell us that there was a bear the other side of the roundabout: the roundabout that we’d just walked around. Yes, I’d like to see a bear in the wild but no, I don’t want to be that close!

We returned to Jyoti’s condo and then proceeded to drink coffee on a friend’s porch. That’s a bit presumptuous, I thought, but hey-ho, I’m sure she knows what she’s doing. We picked up our coffees from Kaladi Bros and yes, we really did go and plonk ourselves in someone else’s back yard.

Jetty on Sand Lake

Back yard? Patio? Jetty? I didn’t want to admit to my ignorance by asking, but what a vista to gaze upon each morning.

Carrie (sp? not sure) is a paediatrician and now lives right next to Sand Lake. She has a couple of little dogs.

Dog or Yoda?

What a lovely, peaceful place she has here,  well back from the main road.

Meanwhile, Liesel was at work with Amrit and Suvan. Before going out for dinner, Liesel had some errands to run. As she drove us round, I became more and more disoriented. Yes, I know the mountains are in that direction, but I would have struggled to find my way back if I’d needed to.

Catherine and Hans live in a fabulous house up the hill in the Golden View area. And the view is spectacular, looking out over most of the city.

Sunset over Anchorage

Catherine baked quiche and we ate outside, watching the Sun set. This picture was taken just before 10pm, although neither of us realised it was quite that late. It stays light here for most of the night!

They told us about a house fire that had recently taken place close by, down the hill a bit, and they watched the helicopters flying by at the height of their deck as they brought in large buckets of water to douse the flames.

What a long day that was, and I’m sure we both fell asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillows!

Touchdown in Anchorage

What a strange couple of days. Helen arrived from Australia one day, then Liesel and I went to Alaska the next. Oops, sorry: spoiler alert. Yes, it’s strange the way things worked out, but we’ll definitely spend more time with Helen later in the year.

Let’s start again. Helen was met at the airport by Jenny and William. We’d arranged to meet them later on, and William wanted to surprise us. When we arrived at their house, William was stomping about in his new Spidey shoes. The lights in the heels were flashing and he really wanted us to admire them. He invited me up to his bedroom which was darker, so easier to see the flashing lights. Then he pulled the bed covers back to reveal…
“Oh, a new cuddly toy?”
“No, it’s Auntie Helen!”

Helen’s plans this visit include a trip down south to see some friends. Today, we drove over to Bramall Hall, where we had lunch and spent some time feeding ducks and in the playground.

Liesel and Helen
William the duck feeder
Rhododendron

Back at home, Liesel and I did some more packing and I spent a long, long on hold on the phone before adding Helen to our car insurance policy. It didn’t cost anything in the end, but something as simple as that should be possible via the website. That would take some pressure off the under-staffed call centre.

Back at Jenny’s we had an Indian takeaway for our last meal before heading for Anchorage. Both William and Martha were in top form, very funny and engaging. Very happy to see Auntie Helen, and not just because she always comes bearing gifts. I was pleased to receive gifts of chocolate and TimTams, thank you Helen!

Helen, Martha and William with Jenny and Liam way over there

Liam drove us home in his car. We left our old jalopy for Helen to use. We went via the pharmacy to pick up the last of Liesel’s prescription. From the pharmacy where, at 8 o’clock that morning, we’d gone for the Covid test required before entering the USA.

Back at home, we finished the packing, prepared the flat to be deserted for a while and went to bed for a short sleep. The taxi picked us up at 4 in the morning. We thought we’d catch up on sleep on the long flight later on. Hah!

Manchester Airport was ridiculously busy that early in the morning, mostly for Easy Jet flights as far as we could see. We were off to Frankfurt on Lufthansa in the first place. It was good to be in the air, in my case, for the first time in over two years.

The myth of German efficiency was blown at Frankfurt Airport. We needed proof that we’d been vaccinated against Covid and a negative Covid test from within 24 hours. Without these documents, one uploaded at home yesterday and one stored on our phones and printed out, we would have had to complete a 7-page form supplied by the US authorities.

But at the first desk, the clerk didn’t even have a computer. So he couldn’t see our vax documents, nor my ESTA. Go to a second desk. The clerk here was busy chatting. Go to a third desk. At last, someone fully equipped to see that we were allowed to travel.

In the end, our flight was nearly an hour late taking off. Only at landing in Anchorage did we find out that some of the passengers were refugees from Ukraine. This ‘special’ group of people were allowed to disembark first. We didn’t know why: a sports team? A secret military operation? Nope, refugees, greeted by at least a couple of TV crews. I suspect if you see this footage, you’ll see me and Liesel at the back, gurning behind our masks.

Thomas Cook cup

The flight itself was uneventful, but this water cup brought back many happy memories of when I worked at this wonderful travel agents’ HQ in Peterborough. I wonder whether that horrible Cobol program IPP06 ever worked properly? Good to see the old stock being used and not just thrown away.

There be mountains

On seeing the first snow-covered mountain from the aeroplane, we knew we were very nearly at our destination.

On the Customs form, Liesel declared the chutney that we’d bought for a friend. This triggered a full search of all of our bags. They found an apple in mine, one that I’d forgotten to eat on the flight. I try not to commit crimes in the USA, yet here I am.

Going through immigration, the official asked to take a photograph of Liesel, something not previously required of an American citizen. When he asked to take my picture, I stood where Liesel had been standing. “Oh no sir, please stand over there, in front of the camera.” We suspect he didn’t get a picture of Liesel, but just didn’t want to admit that he’d asked for one in error. Welcome to the USA say the signs, and I always say to myself, I’ve never been made to feel so unwelcome anywhere.

Liesel’s Mom drove us home from the airport, and I think I just slumped for the rest of the day. I dozed off a couple of times in flight, but I didn’t have a long, satisfying sleep.

It was good to see Mom and Dad, Leslie and Klaus again: Liesel has of course been here quite recently, helping them both through various medical interventions.

Our first night’s sleep here was interrupted when Klaus had a diabetic hypo, and required assistance from 6 absolutely gorgeous paramedics. Liesel’s words, not mine: they were all wearing masks so I couldn’t gauge how attractive they were. But they were all very supportive, attentive, informative and helpful. And they arrived within a few minutes of the 911 call.

Our first full day in sunny Anchorage was taken up by walking in the great outdoors. And it really was sunny, and very warm. Liesel and I walked along part of the coastal trail starting near Westchester Lagoon.

Kayaking in the lagoon

It’s very picturesque with the snow-covered mountains in the background, and thank goodness all the snow has thawed in the city itself.

Sandhill cranes

The sandhill cranes were on the mud flats, where we are advised not to walk. We followed a railway line for a while and I though I heard the hoot of a train approaching, but we never saw one.

The cargo ship being towed to the Port of Alaska was huge. Apparently 80% of everything that comes into the state is imported through this port.

We walked back to the car through a nice, quiet neighbourhood. The New Sagaya supplied our first coffee of this trip and my first bagel.

We drove to Una and Phil’s house, about half an hour away.

Old, old, old, old car

We followed this old banger for a while and I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine whether it’s a Ford, a Daimler, a Buick, a Plymouth, a Chrysler or something else. Oh and look, there are mountains in the background.

Una’s parents are visiting from Florida too. Liesel and I haven’t seen them since Una’s investiture as a Judge nearly four years ago. Mom Lalita has written another book, this one about her family in India over several generations, and she kindly gave us a copy which we’re looking forward to reading.

Una, Phil, Liesel and I went for a walk around the neighbourhood: I think it’s fair to say it was a bit more affluent than where we’d been earlier in the day.

Just a small plane

There’s an airstrip just down the road, and later on, I filmed a small plane landing here.

Helicopter

Liesel turned down my invitation to sit on the chopper so I could take her picture. But here it is parked, or docked by the strip.

Just a small boat

There’s a new estate, or subdivision, here built in what looks like a big hole, just below the airstrip. I think these house are quite close together, given the amount of space there is in the largest state in the union. But you’re never too far from the sight of mountains.

New houses

Well that was a great walk, slightly hilly, hot and sweaty, but did I feel short of breath? Not at all. Not until I carried a bag of shopping up the short, steep drive back at home.

In the evening, Aaron, Jodi, Asa and Gideon came over for dinner. While everyone else tucked into their marinaded steaks, I enjoyed my Quorn nuggets.

I think we both slept much better this second night. This, despite the fact that it’s only properly dark overnight for a couple of hours at this time of year. 

Welcome Home

Well that was an exciting week. Liesel came home from Anchorage and what a celebration. I tied not one, not two, but a hundred yellow ribbons round the old oak tree. The brass band played welcoming tunes while the dancing girls’ performance was immaculate. Someone suggesting bringing on the dancing horses, but that seemed a bit over the top.

Sorry if you weren’t invited to the ‘Welcome Home’ party, but you should receive a slice of cake in the post any day now.  The flowers that bedeck our luxury apartment are beautiful and the aroma is almost overpowering. I didn’t know whether the smell of fresh coffee or toast would be best, but I think the natural scent of roses, jasmine and frangipani was spot on.

Mainly, though, I am very proud of the large banner I embroidered saying ‘Welcome home, my lovely wife, Liesel’. Sorry about the blood stains, but I kept stabbing my fingers with the needle.

Sadly, in all the excitement, I forgot to take any pictures of this remarkable reunion. Oh well. Sorry.

Earlier in the week, we celebrated Mothers’ Day.

Cheers, Mummy!

I find it hard to believe that it’s now 31 years since I last bought a Mothers’ Day card for my own Mum. I have to re-calculate every year and then sadly shake my head.

People’s gardens are brightening up now that Spring is here.

Primroses

Oh, did I say that Spring is here? Well, it was. But this week we were treated to Winter 2.0, a surprise few days withe a cold, northerly wind, timed perfectly to kill off all the newly blooming flowers. It even snowed in places: we had a few flakes. We shouldn’t really blame Liesel for bringing the snow back with her from Alaska, but who knows how the universe really works?

I made a mistake. I went to Wythenshawe by bus to attend a meeting about a potential opportunity to start cycling again. Yes, I went by bus. And arrived 15 minutes late. It was a good meeting and as I was wandering around aimlessly, I found this churc.

Saint Richard’s

Yes, I’m still taking photos of signs with missing letters.

And so the time came for Liesel to say goodbye to her family and friends.

Una, Liesel, Jyoti and Monica

After 10 (or is it 11?) weeks in Anchorage, I think the parting was made easier by the knowledge that Liesel and I would be going back in May.

I managed to tidy up most of the flat in time before collecting Liesel from the airport. There is no evidence of any of the debauched parties I enjoyed in her absence.

Jetlag and fear of Covid infection following the long flights meant that we didn’t have the children this week. Instead, they had a disco at school, and posed for some pictures beforehand, in the very light and barely visible snow.

William and Martha

William aspires to be Spiderman, as you can see. What’s that, Skippy? There aren’t enough photos of nature here today? Well, let’s rectify that. These are from a walk in and around Wythenshawe’s Painswick Park, with the regular Friday group.

Geese in the haze
Bare tree

This tree keeps an eye on the weather, it knows what’s happening. It knew we’d have another Winter so it hasn’t bothered to blossom yet. Look at the contrast between the blue sky and white clouds here and the battleship grey clouds over there…

Grey cloud

There are a few Christmas trees now incarcerated probably because of their anti-social behaviour.

The caged Christmas tree

Liesel’s been out with the WI a couple of times since her return, giving me the ideal opportunity to visit the coffee shop.

Selfie of the day
Слава Україні!

Last week I started preparing a radio show about Spring. Post-Covid, I couldn’t complete the project, so I repeated last year’s Spring show. But the exciting all-new Spring celebration was, finally, aired this week.

Again, welcome home, Liesel, it’s lovely to have you back!

Blossom and birthday

Liesel is in Alaska until the end of the month, working from home and sometimes in an office, and spending time with her Mom and Dad both of whom are recovering well from recent surgery. But mainly, she’s enjoying the snow and the spectacular scenery while walking and hiking with friends.

Jyoti and Liesel and the mountains

Nearer home, I’m now Covid free but I did have a few days of extreme lethargy. Yes, I know I can be a bit lazy sometimes, but this was a totally different feeling. I listened to my body and did very little. And when I did do something, I became fatigued very quickly. But slowly, slowly, things are getting better.  All helped by the much more pleasant weather of course, blue skies and sunshine, even if I couldn’t take full advantage for a while.

But when I did go out for a quick walk, it’s all change in Northenden. The island in the Mersey has had a Brazilian.

The bush has gone

The vegetation on this island was quite useful: it used to catch some of the plastic whenever the river was in flood. Well, this bush has now been well and truly trimmed. And, inevitably, you can see an old discarded tyre.

The village green continues to evolve. Where there were crocuses and snowdrops just a couple of weeks ago, the daffodils are now taking over.

Daffodils

So, having taken the plunge, I decided to join the regular organised walk in Northenden. About 10 of us walked through the woods and round the block before enjoying a coffee at a coffee shop. So this was my first time mixing with people since my Covid. Chantel had succumbed recently too, so we compared notes and symptoms.

The walking group

It was my birthday this week too. Happy birthday to me. Jenny invited me over for supper and, of course, this was the first time I’d seen the family for nearly three weeks. We had an Indian takeaway and Jenny baked a beautiful big cake for me, thank you!

Martha, William and the cake

And thank you Jenny and Helen and everyone too for my pressies: chocolate, chocolate, chocolate, chocolate and beer! And a walk around the Manchester music scene.

Not only that, but the laptop I ordered has arrived. It’s a refurbished Acer with all new components, built to my specifications. So at last, I’m going to have to wean myself off Windows 7 (and Windows XP) which I still use on my old desktop PC, and get to grips with Windows 11. The laptop came fully loaded with Netscape Navigator, Microsoft Works and Yahoo GeoCities. I don’t need to take advantage of the offer from AOL of 999 free hours of internet access this month.

After a quick visit to the hospital to be wired up with a heart monitor, I thought I’d go for a walk in Wythenshawe Park.

Young jockey

I still remember the first and only time I’ve been on board a horse. I was six years old, we went to the Epsom races, and I was lifted up onto what may have been one of the actual race horses. It was very high up and it didn’t move, thank goodness, but that experience has meant that I’ve never since mounted a horse. These young people seemed to be enjoying the experience, though.

Some trees are now blossoming: I was surprised how much has changed in the 10 days that I didn’t really venture outside.

Blossom

I was sitting on the bench listening to the birds when I was chucked out. Yes, I was in the horticultural centre and they close at 4.30. I think that’s the first time I’ve been kicked out of a park. So, a quick drive home and then supper? Well, no. I couldn’t go directly home because police vehicles were blocking Church Road. I drove the long way round and decided to go for another quick walk just to see what the excitement was.

A whole section of Church Road was closed, buses were on diversion, and a white-van man was remonstrating with a PCSO because he couldn’t make his delivery. The PCSO said there had been a fatality and later on, I overheard a conversation in which it was revealed that a hit-and-run driver had killed an elderly lady. I’ve not been able to verify this. Neither have I seen anything in the news about a collision between a cyclist and a vehicle which again delayed my drive home after joining the organised walk in Wythenshawe the following day. That completes this weeks tragic news from Northenden.

It was a very pleasant walk in Wythenshawe, but whether it gave my portable ECG device anything to get excited about, I don’t know.

A nice, friendly looking tree

As I was walking through Kirkup Gardens (I think it was Kirkup Gardens) a young lady gave me something to plant in my garden. What a nice thought. She’s from Manchester Forever, the only charity that raises money to fund and support community activity right here in the Wythenshawe area. So that might be an organsation to find out more about later on.

As seen from the bathroom window

I mentioned my post-Covid lethargy earlier. This is the reason why my Wythenshawe Radio show this week was a repeat from last year. There’ll be a brand new one next time. A celebration of Spring.

As I sit here on the sofa writing, listening to last week’s Cerys Matthews show, the Sun is streaming in through the window and I’m thinking I can’t wait to post this so I can go out for a quick walk! A great sign I think that the lethargy really has gone and I just need to slowly build up my stamina again after a week or so of not doing very much at all. The lesson from this is, avoid Covid if at all possible. I’ll be wearing a mask when necessary, and keeping social gatherings to a minimum. And I’ll be getting any vaccines on offer at the earliest opportunity. The government might be acting like the pandemic’s over, but we should all carry on being cautious. Stay safe!

Not much

The title sums it up. Not a lot happened this week. So, I was feeling a bit under the weather and lo, on the third day, I tested positive for Covid. Yes, after two years of being incredibly cautious, I picked it up. Whether from York, or public transport, or the streets of Notrthenden, or medical facilities, I’ll never know for certain. But at least I have it while Liesel’s 4,500 miles away in Anchorage.

One NHS site said I had to isolate for 10 days, another said 5 days and until I test negative two days in a row, while the governemnt’s advice is to do absolutely nothing to protect other people.

My symptoms did not include the classic loss of sense of smell and taste. No, it was more like a really bad cold, headache, earache, mucous glands working overtime, some fatigue and even more lethargy than usual. But mainly, it was coughing. It started with a tickly throat, turned to a sore throat, that eased and I’m still left with a niggly cough that won’t quite let go.

Covid testing centre

Help slow the spread of #COVID19 and identify at risk cases sooner by self-reporting your symptoms daily, even if you feel well 🙏. Download the app https://covid.joinzoe.com/

I joined Zoe two years ago and I’ve been reporting Liesel’s and my Covid status every day, all our tests, all our vaccinationss and lately for me, all the symptoms. Zoe told me to go for a PCR test, just to confirm my positive LFT results and this involved a walk to the test centre in Wythenshawe. Which was hard to find, but really obvious once I got there. Maybe being geographically challenged is a symptom. And this was my last visit to the outside world for several days. The result came through a lot more quickly than they’d predicted.

Another beneficial side-effect, if I can call it that, is that I was able to take part in a trial of an antiviral drug which may or may not speed up my recovery. Remember licorice comfits? I had to take four capsules bigger than those twice a day for five days. And as I said, I still have a cough, though nowhere near as frequently as a few days ago.

I think I was unlucky to catch Covid but I think I was pretty lucky that I only had it mildly. At least I’m still around to talk about it.

How did I keep myself occupied whilst confined to quarters? Radio, podcasts, TV, puzzles, books and eating and sleeping. Oh, and spending far too much time falling down rabbit holes on the internet. There’s some good stuff there, but there’s an awful lot of crap as well. Still, it passes the time. No matter how I try, I can’t get up to 10,000 steps a day pacing up and down our hallway.

Meanwhile, in another time and place, William became Gymnast of the week.

Flamingo of the week

I think the award was for forward rolls and other stunts rather than for standing on one leg, but we are all very proud of him.

And much further away, Liesel was greeted by a visitor lurking in the bushes.

Moose

Now if I’d planned this thing properly, that moose would have been standing on one leg as well. As would this little chickadee, enjoy the offerings in Liesel’s parents’ garden.

Chickadee

In Anchorage and here right outside our apartment in Northenden, the squirrels know that Spring is very nearly here and they’ve been playing kiss-chase up and down the trees and all over the place. Very entertaining.

The weather has improved a lot this week. In fact, it was so nice, I opened windows. Yes, fresh air blowing through the flat for the first time this year felt pretty good. Hopefully, the miasma of coronavirus has been well and truly smited. Smote. Smitten? Got rid of.

I did go out for a walk in the sunshine, a short walk, but it was nice to pay a quick visit to Quarry Bank Mill. I avoided people as much as I could, of course.

Greenhouses

In a couple of weeks, I think more flowers will be out and it will look quite pretty.

No, not beavers

I need a better map so I’m not sure whether this is the River Bollin or one of its tributaries, but it was flowing pretty fast. No, I don’t think this blockage is the result of beaver activity. It’s more likely to be the accumulated woodwork from the many times William and Martha have played Pooh sticks here.

This week’s Wythenshawe Radio WFM 97.2 radio show was a bit more challenging, as I had to record it between coughing fits. Still, you can listen to it here:

So, to summarise: not much.