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.

Judge Una

You don’t often have to opportunity to witness history in the making. But it really was a privilege, an honour and a delight to witness our friend Una being installed as Judge of the Superior Court of Alaska. at the Boney Memorial Courthouse, Anchorage.

Una with here parents Lalita and Sharad, brother Ashwin and sister Geeta

This was such a positive event compared with what was happening on the other side of the country. Brett Kavanaugh has been appointed to the US Supreme Court. But several women have accused him of sexual assault. Will he take the seat? Probably. The pictures from Washington DC show old, white males, even if they believe the accusations, just not caring. It’s too horrible to contemplate. So I’m going to stick to events in Anchorage.

Alaska Skies by Suzanne Donazetti at the back of the courthouse

I don’t pretend to understand the details and niceties of the Alaskan judicial system but it was wonderful to hear five other judges, from various courts, speak about Una in such glowing terms. We’re really proud of her achievements. The Installation, sometimes referred to as Intubation, Inauguration, Ordination, depending on who can’t quite recall the correct terminology, was a very positive event.

Una becomes the first brown woman, or ‘woman of colour’, appointed to this position. Four out of the five other justices were women. We felt bad for the token white male. No, we didn’t: he was just as pleased to be there as the rest of us.

Administration of the Oath of Office: Una with the Honorable Susan M Carney, Justice, Alaska Supreme Court

The award for the best personal address of the day goes to Geeta, Una’s sister. She was very funny and I just hope someone recorded this talk: a little bit of self-deprecation but a beautifully told story of a close, supportive, if competitive family.

Liesel, Una, Leslie
The big family photo

After the formalities concluded, many of us went to the Snow City Café for the Reception, a chance to mingle and meet old freinds and new.

Liesel and I had picked her Mom up from work, leaving Dad at home. At Snow City, we drank wine, toasted Una and generally ligged.

Later in the evening, we repaired to Una and Phil’s house where a box of old photos provided much entertainment.

I’m going to be a judge when I grow up, just watch me
Liesel, Una and Jyoti when they were very young

Una’s been a good friend to Liesel for many years, decades even, and I too am very fond of her. Why?

Reader, she married us.

The Price is Right

In May 1980, Sarah and I were enjoying the World Snooker Championship Final on TV. Suddenly, the game was interrupted by a urgent news report.

A group of six armed men had stormed the Iranian Embassy in London a few days earlier. During this very exciting snooker match, the SAS stormed the Embassy in a bid to end the seige and liberate the hostages. All very exciting, yes, but we wanted our snooker back.

There were only three TV channels in the UK at the time and all of them were showing live pictures from the Iranian Embassy.

I think hundreds, maybe even thousands, of people must have complained to the BBC because fairly soon, we returned to the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield to watch the rest of the match. Canadian Cliff Thorburn beat Alex Higgins, becoming the first ever non-British World Snooker Champion.

All this came back to mind this morning when Klaus became very animated when his favourite TV show was interrupted by a long breaking news item. Bill Cosby has been found guilty of drugging and sexually attacking a woman, and will serve between three and ten years in jail.

Can’t we have ‘The Price is Right’ back, begged Klaus. To be fair, the report did go on a bit too long, and really, it’s not that big a news story. Certainly when compared with the storming of an embassy.

The big question now of course is, why were we in the same room while that show was on TV? Well, breakfast. The other question is, will Bill Cosby follow in OJ Simpson’s footsteps and write a book called “I didn’t drug and rape that woman but if I wanted to, this is how I would have gone about it”?

Docs and Glocks

A couple of days of mainly medical matters, not very interesting really. So here’s a picture of some daisies, Liesel’s favourite flowers.

Daisies for Liesel

Liesel went to the dentist as one of her teeth broke a couple of days ago. She also arranged to collect a new batch of her prescription drugs. The pharmacy was inside Walmart so while waiting, I wandered over to the firearms department. The handguns are cheaper than mobile phones. I couldn’t decide which one to go for, but like 99% of the population in USA, I don’t really need one anyway. On a day in which there were three, yes, three mass shootings in USA, I’m glad I decided to save my money.

Handguns – no idea if any of them are Glocks
More firearms – too much choice

We tidied up Jyoti’s house a bit, we were moving back to Klaus and Leslie’s today. Later on I walked home from Jyoti’s house and I can confirm that Autumn is here. The colours are changing.

Autumn colours

In the evening, Klaus watched Blue Bloods on TV. We all did. Too much TV recently. On the other hand, I did listen to some familiar radio programmes so I don’t feel too badly sullied.

It was my turn to visit a doctor today to get a prescription for my meds. Lots of form-filling for such a formality. A man came up to us in the car park. I thought we were being reprimanded for parking in the wrong place. But no. He was interested in buying Klaus’s sports car, the one Liesel and I were using. I was open to offers but it’s not really for sale at this time.

Klaus’s car – not for sale

I really should stop taking pictures inside lavatories, but this little graffiti made me laugh:

Toilet seat covers

We went to the airport to pick Jyoti up: she’d spent a few ore days with Gita and Josh in Portland. While waiting close by the Alaska Aviation Museum, I went to take some photos and Liesel warned me that I was about to walk over a working runway. I looked both ways and saw no planes coming before running across!

A plane with wheels
The Museum with a sad face
A plane with floats

We took Jyoti home and we had time for a quick walk before Liesel’s next physio appointment. More dry needling in the bum, with extra long needles today, woohoo! While she was being poked, and indeed having her back massaged as well, I walked to the post office to send off some items. Lots of form-filling for such a simple task.

Liesel and I met for a coffee before picking up my meds from Target.

Meanwhile, today, Klaus had a haircut and a pedicure. I too need a haircut, so so I keep being told. But I am not seeking treatment for my bashed-up nose.

The good news is that we’ve experienced the warmest September in Anchorage, ever! Maybe paying for temporary gym membership was worth it: we’d rather have the good weather than have to go to the gym because it’s horrible outside.

Today’s front page, Anchorage Daily News

The Drive to Portland

Wednesday was a sad day. We said goodbye to Holly and her family. We hope to see them all again soon, sometime, somewhere and of course they’ll always be welcome to visit us in Manchester when we’re back home!

As soon as Liesel started the car today, the audio system started playing music from my phone. Without asking, the Bluetooth connected and turned on my music-playing app. I’ll never understand this technology. A few days ago, the car and my phone didn’t want to talk to each other at all. Today, they couldn’t wait to rush into each other’s arms.

Also, it started to rain again more or less straightaway. So again, we didn’t see much from the I-5. Cascades? Over there somewhere, through the murk.

Liesel requested shuffle mode on the music, so we had quite a variety. Neil Diamond was the first artiste to give us two tracks while Seth Lakeman was the first to 3 and to 4. Not that I was counting. But the view from the car was disappointing. We’d not seen anything on the drive north the other night because it was dark. Today, it was raining. Raining so hard that Liesel was being hypnotised by the windscreen wipers.

Most of Washington state looks like this, apparently

We stopped at the first Panera Bread we found for coffee and a loaf of cheesey bread. The assistant apologised for cutting it thin instead of thick, but we didn’t mind, it wouldn’t last long! Like a good novel, it was unputdownable.

What a strange juxtaposition: Elbow followed by Slim Dusty.

I was quite happy that there were no duplicates played and no MP3 radio programmes being played. At least, not for a very long time. Much later, I had to hastily turn off episode 9 of the latest series of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

I commented on the absense of songs by Björk but of course, Liesel was quite happy about that. She said at one point, pretty soon you’re gonna have to start taking notes! I told her I already was. Liesel rolled her eyes.

Before Seattle, we were able to use the HOV lane. That’s for buses and cars with 2 or more occupants. We found out that HOV just means Heavily Occupied Vehicle. As we passed dozens, scores, hundreds of almost stationary cars in the other lanes, I said “so long, suckers”. Well, karma came up and bit us on the ass: we turned off the road by mistake, towards the Park & Ride car park, and lost a lot of time trying to rejoin the interstate.

Jyoti sent a message to say that she was already in Portland, it was sunny and she was cooking. It was hard to believe the weather would change that much during the next 80-odd miles. All we could see was black clouds and rain.

I wondered why the Highway numbers on the GPS and on road signs had a mushroom cloud as a background image. But on close inspection, I realised it’s a profile of George Washington!

Nuclear explosion or George Washington?

I chuckled at an Ian Dury song that came on: Razzle in my Pocket. I thought I should create a playlist from our music collection consisting of funny songs: that would certainly lift the mood on a long drive like this.

Because I’m a wimp, I’d decided I wouldn’t drive this car on (to me) the wrong side of the road, but I did feel a little bit bad that Liesel was doing all the hard work, especially in such conditions.

Just as I was thinking how well the roads were constructed and how good they were at dealing with all this water falling from the sky, the spray from the other carriageway swept over the central reservation: we had our own little Niagara Falls.

It was a long drive and the music was varied, but even so, we were now hearing several songs from the same artistes and I realised that I should have copied over an even more extensive subset of our music collection. The other problem was, some tracks were a lot quieter than others, and not just because some are downloaded MP3 while others are copied from CDs. Plus, I do miss hearing new (to me) music from time to time such as you’d get from Cerys Matthews on 6 Music.

And as I was thinking that, along came Ruarri Joseph. Yes, we have the CD, but we’re not that familiar with it, yet. Good stuff!

As I was looking out of the right side of the car, Liesel told me Mount St Helens, the volcano, was on the left side. Somewhere. Through the murk! We’ll just add it to our list of places to go back to sometime.

Lo and behold! The Sun came out just as we heard sunshine from the car’s speakers: Israel Kamakawiwo’ole singing Panini Pua Kea in Hawaiian!

We passed close by Vancouver but this was a different, smaller one, in Washington. In fact, it’s a suburb of Portland, Oregon. One city divided across two states by the Columbia river. When we drove over the bridge, we felt we were nearly there.

At one place, two lines of traffic merge. The lights quickly flip from green to red to green, letting just one car at a time from each lane move forward. That’s strange, but it seems to work and you’re not relying on other drivers being courteous.

One of many Meccano bridges

The first stop was Beaverton, the location of our Airbnb. It’s just along the road from Nike’s world headquarters and they’ve been in the news recently for using Colin Kaepernick in their adverts.

Tyler met us at the door, showed us round. There is a white noise machine in our room, in case we need help getting to sleep: some noisy neighbours, apparently! What we didn’t realise was that the only noise would come from our hosts, Tyler and David, doing their laundry late at night!

We set off for Gita’s place in the centre of town. Not far away, but really awkward to get to. In the end, Gita and Jyoti came out on to the street to jump about and wave so we could see where we were trying to get to!

In the apartment, Jyoti gave us donuts and a coffee that she’d bought for me earlier.

It was good to meet Gita again after all this time. We’d last seen her in Italy a couple of years ago.

Gita’s partner Josh returned from work: this is the first time Liesel and I had met him although we’d heard a lot about him from Jyoti!

Over the course of the evening, Jyoti’s brother-in-law Eric arrived with his wife Laurie as did some of Gita’s friends from Portland State University. I think there were 13 people in the apartment at one point, plus a dog. Again, Jyoti’s food was the main attraction and brilliant it was too. And so much of it…

Gita’s Uncle Eric was chatting and as he moved back, he stood on the dog’s squeaky toy. This made eveyone laugh, but outside, there was an immediate and very loud clap of thunder. Eric won’t be standing on any squeaky toys for a little while! It rains a lot here, but apparently it’s very rare to have a thunderstorm.

Liesel drove us home and I think we were both asleep very quickly. Liesel was obviously worn out from all the driving but I’d had limited exercise all day and somehow still felt exhausted. Sympathetic fatigue, probably.

Canada

Monday morning saw a return to school for those who go to learn or to teach. Liesel and I stayed indoors chatting with Pat for longer than intended before we set off for Canada.

The I-5 in Washington becomes the BC-99 at the border, just 15 miles or so north of Ferndale.

The first moment of excitement was when I managed to connect my phone to the car’s audio system via Bluetooth. So we had music: our own music.

Welcome to a windy Canada

Crossing the border was OK: my electronic visa worked even though I had a minor panic when I read the confirmation email and it said I could enter Canada by air.

The Canadian border official asked if we were carrying any firearms.

With a totally different set of priorities, the US border official, on our return later in the day, asked whether we were carrying any clothing.

Very soon, we were welcomed to Surrey, followed soon after for signs to Westminster and Richmond. You know, just in case we were getting homesick.

Welcome to a wet and rainy Surrey

We drove to Vancouver and specifically, to Stanley Park, as recommended by Holly and her family. The weather was a bit dodgy, so we thought we’d hang out in a location where we could take cover if necessary.

The Vancouver skyline

The aquarium suited us very well, some interesting animals there, including a dolphin named Helen.

Looking up at a turtle
A very small tree frog
Helen the acrobatic dolphin
Am emerald tree boa (real, I think)

Hmm, we were in two minds but I think on balance, we’re glad the only killer whale we saw was this bronze sculpture by Bill Reid.

Killer Whale by Bill Reid

There were many large ships in the sea, and just one little kayak making slow progress towrds the beach.

Ships ahoy

We attempted a selfie with a nice background and this is as good as it gets. Selfies is for young people, obvs.

Selfie, Mick and Liesel and a pretty background

In the city, there were many flags telling us about Vancouver Pride, but we still don’t know when that takes place. We did like the rainbow pedestrian crossings: almost as cool as the pedestrian crossing lights at Trafalgar Square!

Rainbow pedestrian crossing

Yes, it rained on and off, but we missed it, either being in the car, or inside at the aquarium. Mission accomplished. The drive home was easy (for me).

Later in the evening, Kira was in her own little world playing Minecraft. She showed me her chickens and her cat, a skeleton horse and a zombie horse. She navigated the world that she’d built herself: Kira’s fingers were a blur on the controller.

One thing I thought I’d never say out loud: “You can’t feed raw fish to a horse”. Kira did ride a real horse: well, real in the Minecraft world! And she confirmed that yes, the donkey is stuck inside the wall.

Meanwhile, the grown-ups were watching Rachel Maddow on MSNBC, catching up on events in the real world. It’s a tough call, but I think I know which world is safer and more peaceful.

The Big Breakfast

A pleasant early morning walk around to Jyoti’s for breakfast. Banana loaf from Una, plus fried eggs and toast. Lots of toast. While Liesel, Jyoti and Una went shopping, I went back home and caught up on the admin: journal, bills, emails, deleting rubbish photos.

It’s election time here in Alaska, well, the Primaries at least. There are boards all over the place. This one intrigued me as being slightly oxymoronic:

She’s not getting our votes

Yes, what a big breakfast. I had no need for lunch nor dinner, just an apple and some crisps. It was nice having a bit of a break in the house though.

45 minutes on a treadmill is not as much fun as walking around outside for 45 minutes. Every time I go to the gym, I come to the same conclusion.

On the other hand, I did listen to part 1 of a radio dramatisation of The Scarlet Pimpernel. Everyone else in the gym was probably plugged in to some high-BPM, motivating, loud, thumpy-thump music. Not me!

It was raining. Some of the gutters above the shops have broken, so walking from one shop to another meant having to dodge cascades of water.

I was on my own after being dropped off by Liesel and her Mom. While entertaining myself, they went shopping. That’s two days’ shopping in a row for Liesel. She’s going to need a bigger bag.

I wandered around Title Wave too, noting down some books that I’d like to read one day. I was delighted to hear the Bee Gees playing in the shop. Well, a record of theirs.

It was raining. Cars driving through the car park had to try very hard not to splash people as they drove through the puddles.

I had a coffee at Kaladi Brothers again: possibly the best coffee in Anchorage. One thing I’ve noticed is that the free wifi offered in shops here seems to work. No need to register, just enter the well-publicised password and it works. Now that is civilised.

It was raining. There were some bedraggled people around, but nobody looked particularly miserable.

I wandered down to REI. I do need some new shoes and I thought I’d have a quick look here. I know what I want, I know the make, I know the size. But the choice available was overwhelming. Familiar brands as well as far too many unknown ones.

Liesel collected me, we went home and before going round to Jyoti’s for dinner, I attempted some of the puzzles in the newspaper. They seem to be much harder on a Sunday.

It was still raining.

I mentioned the Scarlet Pimpernel earlier. I brought recordings of a few radio dramas with me, and I was hoping they would last me most of the year. Well, I’ve listened to all 10 episodes of Dust: La Belle Sauvage read by Simon Russell Beale, but I think in the wrong order thanks to the way the BBCiPlayer works and/or the way I saved the files. I also listened to The Citadel, a series from Woman’s Hour about a Welsh doctor in the 1920s written by the same author as Dr Finlay’s Casebook.

I do miss listening to my regular favourite radio programmes and podcasts, though, but at least we’re not spending too long with our brains being turned to mush by American TV.