Alaska State Fair

“Well, that’s embarrassing.”

Thus spake Leslie when she arrived home from work that night to see the sign and the balloon at the bottom of the drive. But the happy couple were delighted to pose for a photo. Happy Golden Wedding Anniversary, Leslie and Klaus!

Leslie and Klaus, 50 golden years

On the day itself, we were all busy getting stuff ready for the Garage Sale. Liesel took me on an adventure into the crawlspace under the house. She’d left a lot of old things there when she moved to England, 13 years ago, and it’s now time to decide: keep or discard?

Busy, yes, but not too busy to decline the offer of a quick walk in Kincaid Park. One path was blocked by a female moose, but we just turned and went a different way. And, maybe I’m becoming Alaskan, but I didn’t even bother to take a picture of her.

Then, a few minutes later, we found a few people taking pictures of a big bull moose. They were standing a lot closer than I would have found comfortable.

People and a moose

And, no, I’m not too much of an Alaskan to take this picture. He wasn’t bothered by the people, his ears were twitching away flies and he was eating: he was a happy bunny!

What a guy!

We found an old, thankfully unoccupied, wasp nest too. Fascinating.

Wasps’ nest

In the middle of the night, I was woken by Liesel. Preparation for the first day of the Garage Sale and Liesel needed help. 6am. I’d forgotten that such a time even existed.

It was a slow morning’s business. And cold. The coldest I’ve been since we came. I think advertising on Craigslist and one other listings site with just two days notice wasn’t good enough. Plus, it’s Labor Day weekend and many people may have gone camping.

I went with Klaus to buy and set up a couple more signs pointing people in the direction of the sale.

It was good to see some friends drop by, and we made plans to visit the Alaska State Fair. I wanted to go because it’s such a big event. Disappointingly, though, the monkeys dressed as cowboys riding dogs and herding sheep weren’t here this year.

Six of us went in Jyoti’s car with Monica driving. The setting is below Pioneer Peak in the Chugach mountains on a huge site which really becomes a small town for the duration of the Fair.

Floral display
Yesss! This is our philosophy!!

We walked miles and ate loads. It became cooler as the Sun set, but still not as cold as it had been sitting in the garage, first thing in the morning.

We saw some funny sights too:

Mick’s next haircut
Giant pumpkin

I thought, if I can’t get a nice, close-up photo of a dragonfly, I’d borrow somebody else’s! This was one of the prize-winning photographs at the Fair. Thanks to Jonathan Snead.

Dragonfly close-up

Before you ask, it was not me who tampered with this rabbit’s reason for winning…

Prize-winning rabbit
Five lovely ladies in front of the lovely Pioneer Peak

There were fireworks at about 10pm, just as we were leaving. Fireworks, even though it was still fairly light. The girls commented on the fact that they just don’t see fireworks in Anchorage in Summer, it’s just too light.

But the days are getting shorter. When we first arrived at the beginning of August, we had 17 hours of daylight. Now, it’s a mere 14 hours. And we’ll lose another 5 hours or more by the time we leave.

Fireworks

After dropping everyone off, Liesel and I picked up our car from Jyoti’s. By now, it was proper nighttime. I walked to the bluff, away from the city lights and, for the first time since we’ve been here, I saw stars in the sky. Nighttime and no clouds. A dark sky. I would love to have stayed stargazing for longer, but it had been a long, exciting and exhausting day so we went home.

Sunday was day two of the Garage Sale. We decided to put some items up for sale on eBay, so I prepared the descriptions and we’ll do that in a couple of weeks.

Old, old, old National Geographic magazines

Again, very few people showed up. We packed up and when Monica arrived, she, Liesel and I walked up the road to collect our Garage Sale signs. We walked to Kaladi Bros where we met up with Jyoti and Una. They’d been on a long hike while the rest of us were slaving over a not-so-hot Garage Sale.

At Jyoti’s, we sat outside, drank tea or coffee, ate cookies and scones and I nodded off while the ladies talked several hind legs off a donkey.

We walked up to the bluff, looked out over the water, looked for sand cranes and just absorbed as much heat from the Sun as we could.

Another beautiful view
A noisy raven

Postmen in the UK and mailmen in the USA deliver all kinds of crap. And the mooses know where to deliver their crap too:

Moose poop

La Vuelta continues and a Brit, Simon Yates is now in the lead, rule Brittania! He’s leading by one second.

Hikes and bikes

I hope I never get bored with walking, hiking and generally welcoming the opportunity to be outside rather than indoors.

While Liesel stayed in with her Mom to start the process of ‘sorting stuff out (*)’, I accepted invitations from Liesel’s friends to join them.

Jyoti, Suvan and I had a nice walk in Kincaid Park, on yet another trail. Each one seems to be hillier than the previous one! We saw a moose and her baby but, other than a couple of birds, no more wildlife.

Moose and mooselet

Jyoti was kind enough to offer me fried eggs and toast for lunch and I’m too much of a gentleman to decline, so…

After a chat, we walked again, this time along the road where the roadsweeper swept by in a flurry of water and gravel from what may be a quarry over the road, or. more likely, a building site.

I turned left for home, Jyoti turned right to meet up with another friend. The rest of my day involved puzzles and looking at Liesel’s ‘stuff’.

(*) When I say ‘sorting stuff out’, I mean Liesel is going through her possessions deciding what to keep and what can go. At the same time, she is hoping to encourage her folks to get rid of some of their clutter too, 50 years of it.

This whole project will be a labour of love and hard decisions. Liesel and I spent two years selling things on eBay, giving away via Freegle (formerly Freecycle) and taking to charity shops. Sadly, some items ended up in a landfill site. Liesel’s parents’ house is even more chockerblocker fuller of stuff than ours ever was.

For my next hike without Liesel, Una and Jyoti took me to another skiing venue, Hillside. The only reason I didn’t have a go at the ski jump was, there was no snow. Also, the idea of climbing up that ricketty-looking structure is even more scary than actually skiing, never mind jumping. Plus, I’m not Eddie the Eagle.

Ski jump

It was great to see so many other people out today, too, mountain bikers, hikers, runners and I know that most of them are probably skiers in the Wintertime.

Back at home, the pile of stuff on the landing had grown. There is talk of a garage sale at some point.

Liesel and I went out to do some errands and we later watched Gideon playing soccer. His team won by a mile – but compared with the team he played with in Fairbanks a few weeks ago, they all looked so titchy!

Arsenal

The football pitch must be close to the airport, judging by the number of planes that flew over. We also saw a skein of geese. Flying south for the Winter? Not yet: they landed in the pond just behind the fence.

Gooses and gooselets

But most excitingly, my quest to take a good photo of a dragonfly continues. It they won’t land and sit still for me, I’ll just have to capture them in flight. So here are a couple of the best pictures so far:

Dragonfly

Liesel and I went to the gym where I spent some time on the treadmill, including a 12m37s mile. Liesel spent longer exercising here, but by the time we left, we’d both built up a good appetite.

It’s week two of the quest to acclimatise me to Japanese food. Tonight, we went to Sushi Garden. I thought I’d have a beer and asked for an IPA. I didn’t expect a bottle that big, a pint and a quarter of ice cold beer. No wonder I couldn’t finish my meal of two different vegetarian rolls. There was a lot of food there, to be honest. The first plate was enough for me but when the second plate turned up some time later, I knew then I wouldn’t complete the mission.

Then a lot of TV, more than we’d usually watch. Two early episodes of Father Brown but more interestingly, the first stage of this year’s Vuelta a España, the Spanish cycling grand tour. The commentary was cringeworthy but at least we found a way to fast forward through the adverts. And we turned off the annoying loud beeps that accompany every button press on the remote control.

London Bye Ta-ta

When we first decided to move away from Chessington and from London, I came up with a few different ways to mark the occasion. Some were more successful projects than others.

1) While out on my daily (-ish) walks, I decided to walk along every road in Chessington, Hook and Malden Rushett one more time. This would retrace all the roads I’d walked along at least once while delivering mail over the previous ten years. The rule was, I had to start at home or finish at home; I couldn’t get a lift to some remote part of the south of the borough, walk around a small block and then get a lift home. In fact, in the end, the only time I got a lift was when Liesel dropped me off at the southern tip of Malden Rushett on her way to work and I walked all the way home, including offshoots such as Fairoaks Lane and West Road. I think in every other case, I left home, walked a few miles, at least 10,000 steps usually and then back home. I completed this project in just a few months. Easy.

2) I thought it would be interesting, challenging and fun to cycle along every road in Chessington, Hook and Malden Rushett in one go, on one single day. But after a bad experience with blood pressure medication leaving me short of breath, riding a long distance became, if not impossible, certainly something not to be attempted lightly. So, this is a fail, so far.

3) One thing I’ve always wanted to do is ride on every line on the London Underground, visiting every station at least once. I started this in 2000 when I was working in London, short rides at lunchtimes, longer ones at the end of the day. Unfortunately, Sarah died before I finished this, so I lost interest and this project was shelved. Well, 16 years later, I thought I’d start again. I did visit Brixton on the Victoria Line soon after David Bowie died, to see the mural and the flowers left by mourning fans. I rode the Victoria Line to Walthamstow at the other end. One line completed. And that’s it, I’ve not pursued this project, even though I have plenty of time. One day, maybe …

4) There are 32 London Boroughs plus the City of London. I thought it would be good to visit each one, to actually visit a destination or venue in each one, not just pass through on a bus or a train. How am I getting on? Here’s the list:

  • Royal Borough of Kingston – This is where we lived, worked, shopped, took children to school, so we I can definitley tick this one off
  • Bromley – I visited my friend Marie in Orpington a few times.
  • City of London – We visited the Tower of London, Tower Bridge and more
  • City of Westminster – Covent Garden, Hyde Park, Tate Britain, all visited many times
  • Camden – Camden Market and London Zoo are just two venues
  • Richmond upon Thames – Richmond Park, Bushy Park, Richmond Theatre and I worked in Isleworth for a short period
  • Merton – Wimbledon Theatre and Wimbledon Common
  • Sutton – Nonsuch Park and the shops
  • Croydon – Fairfield Halls and the college where I had some OU tutorials and non forgetting Ikea and CostCo
  • Kensington and Chelsea – I went to Uni here, lived here, Holland Park, Kensington Town Hall, the old Commonwealth Institute, Biba, Kensington Market, Kensington Gardens
  • Hammersmith and Fulham – lived here, Shepherds Bush Empire, Bush Hall
  • Wandsworth – Battersea Arts Centre
  • Lambeth – Southbank Centre, National Theatre, Old Vic and Young Vic Theatres
  • Southwark – HMS Belfast, Tate Modern
  • Tower Hamlets – Tower of london, Tower Bridge, Royal London Hospital where Sarah trained and lived for a year
  • Hackney – Stoke newington Church Street: Andi’s
  • Islington – Union Chapel, probably our favourite venue in London
  • Brent – Wembley Stadium and Wembley Arena
  • Ealing – lived in Acton for three months, and we’re staying in an Airbnb place here before we fly off to Alaska
  • Hounslow – Heathrow Airport from where we fly off to Alaska
  • Lewisham – Horniman Museum
  • Royal Borough of Greenwich – The National Maritime Museum, probably my favourite museum, Greenwich Observatory, the Millennium Dome (now the O2 Arena)
  • Bexley – Dad took me and Pauline to visit his old haunts in Welling, 50 years ago
  • Barking and Dagenham – I visited the Dagenham Ford Motorworks when I was at school
  • Newham – ExCeL Exhibition Centre, Olympic Stadium
  • Waltham Forest – Olympic Velopark
  • Haringey – visited my Dad’s Uncle Charlie before he passed away in 1979
  • Barnet – we visited Golders Green recently
  • Hillingdon – Heathrow airport spans two London boroughs and the country of Surrey, and we used to stop at Yiewsley when driving from Peterborough to Guildford, before the M25 was complete
  • Harrow – nothing
  • Enfield – nothing
  • Havering – nothing
  • Redbridge – nothing

Not too bad, then just missing out on four and I admit, some of the historical ones are a bit of a stretch!

5) Cycle on every page of the old Surrey Street Atlas. I did this once in the 1990s, a good way to force myself to go on long bike rides to the extremes of Surrey. Again, I was part way through a second pass on this when Sarah died. It would be nice to be fit enough to have another attempt but as I mentioned above, I am a bit, maybe unjustifiably, scared to attempt very long rides because of my breathlessness issues.

There are also some ideas that I discarded as being a bit too ambitious:

Ride every London bus route

Ride every Overground line, every DLR line,

Cycle the length of the Thames from the source in Gloucestershire to the estuary at Dartmouth or maybe beyond. I’ve ridden it all, in stages, from Walton on Thames to the Thames Barrier in Greenwich, plus a short section near Oxford.

We’ll miss London and Surrey and Chessington but moving away is an adventure and it will be fun coming up with similar, equally silly plans in Northenden or Manchester or Greater Manchester. Any ideas are very welcome!

London Bye Ta-ta is a song recorded by David Bowie just over 50 years ago, and, unbelievably, rejected by the record label!

Two Museums

The Museum of London is onre of those places we ought to visit more often. We’ve seen the Roman artefacts before, and the state coaches, but there is a lot more on offer. On one of the lower ground floor, some of the exhibits are from ouyr own lifetime. I visited the then new Post Office Tower in 1966 and I still have the brochure from that visit. It cost 2/6d. They have a copy in this museum.

Post Office Tower.jpg
Post Office Tower brochure

The London Stone is usually hidden in a cage, at a bank in Cannon Street. While building works are taking place there, the London Stone is being exhibited at the Museum. It’s just a stone, yes, but there are so many stories round it, and it was good to see it close up.

img_6320.jpg
The London Stone

The other ‘main attraction’ is a small sample of the famous 130-tonne fatberg excvated a couple of years ago from the sewers of London. Not at all photogenic but we were pleased that there was no assault on the olfactory senses.

I used to watch Watch With Mother with my Mum half a century or more ago, and it was great to see some of the puppets here. If I remember correctly, the schedule was:

  • Monday – Picture Book
  • Tuesday – Andy Pandy
  • Wednesday – Bill and Ben
  • Thursday – Rag, Tag and Bobtail
  • Friday – the Woodentops

There’s nothing like seeing your childhood in a museum to make you feel old.

But being a museum exhibit yourself is a whole new experience.

The Museum of Futures in Surbiton is currently hosting the Wheels of Time exhibion, describing the history of cycling in the Royal Borough of Kingston.

This video talks about a couple of local cycling heroes.

Liesel and Mick attended the opening night of the exhibition which was very well attended. Mick’s mugshot is on the wall with a transcript of the interview conducted a couple aof weeks ago, about his experience of using a bicycle for his job as a postman. Snippets of the interview are available to listen to too, and are as embarrassing as you would expect. So embarrassing, I didn’t want to draw attention so I took a few photos with my phone, but not using the flash.

It was interesting to learn that there used to be a couple of tracks in the area, in the very early days of cycle racing.

A second visit is on the cards, not least so I can get some better pictures. If you can, go along and have a laugh at my bits look yourself.

 

Springtime

The first thing I saw when I got up this morning was a spring. On the floor. Ah, a metaphor, I thought, Spring has arrived. And indeed, the sun was out, the sky was blue, it’s significantly warmer than last week and it was quite pleasant to walk around Chessington and Kingston today. spring in bedroomBut it’s a bit worrying, finding a small spring. Where did it come from?

Well, the house continues to fight back against being taken to the knackers’ yard. In our bedroom, there is a built-in wardrobe. One of the doors hasn’t closed properly for years, not since the last time thse doors were painted. There’s a little catch that should click smoothly and keep the door closed. With a bit of a slam, the dried-up paint flaked off, and that door managed to close properly and satisfyingly.

Until today. The little catch has broken. The spring sprung loose and the rest of the plastic must have shattered. I don’t think there’s any way to fix it.

Unlike the stay at the top of the front door. I replaced that, after the estate agent had problems last weekend. So unless there’s (again) a very strong gust of wind, the front door should no longer swing open and bash into the window sill outside the fron room.

Probably tempting fate but the door bell is still working a week or so after I fixed it and sealed it in again, despite the snow and rain. Touch wood.

No more news on the home front.

“Wheels of Time” is an exhibition aiming to document the story of cycling past and present in Kingston upon Thames. An important part of this will be people that cycle as part of their job.

I was invited to be interviewed in my capacity of ex-postman. I used a bike for the job, and they wanted me to talk about it. So I visited Kingston History Centre in Kingston’s Guildhall for the first time where I met Alex, the Heritage Services Officer, and Jarek, who conducted the interview.

I don’t think I slagged off Royal Mail management too much for the decision to replace bicycles with trolleys. Big, fat, red High Capacity Trolleys. But it was fun to talk about why I liked the job using the bike, and not so much with the trolley. The changing nature of the job over the years, especially with regard to online shopping resulting in many more parcels and packets being delivered by Royal Mail, is I think not recognised by most members of the public. And dogs came up. Like the one that didn’t like the noise the bike made. Or the one that didn’t like my helmet.

The exhibition opens towards the end of the month and I’ll put more details up nearer the time. I think this is the first time I’ve potentially been a museum exhibit.

I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t cycle into Kingston today: it was quite nice outside but I didn’t want to turn up looking bedraggled, with helmet hair and stinky.

Oh, alright: it was too cold. I’m a wimp. Turning into a fair-weather cyclist.

 

Fairy Tale

 

Once upon a time, there were two beautiful teenage girls, Jenny and Helen.

Their lovely Mum, Sarah, had died and they and their Dad, Mick, were all very sad. One day, Mick said he didn’t think he should have a holiday, but Jenny and Helen thought he deserved a break. They needed a break from him, too.

Jenny and Helen collected together all their pocket money and paid for a holiday. Mick loved to ride his bicycle, so they booked up a week-long cycling holiday in Herefordshire. It was organised by a company called Bicycle Beano, led by Rob and Jane. The food was all vegetarian which was wonderful, and a week of organised rides in the countryside with a couple of dozen other cyclists seemed to be the ideal way to spend time away from the real world. And best of all, there was cake. Lots of cake.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, there lived another beautiful lady, called Liesel. Her father, Klaus, had moved to the USA, and eventually to Alaska, from Germany, when he was a small boy. After retiring, he was organising a meet-up in Germany with some of his extended family, most of whom he hadn’t seen for many years.

Klaus wanted to take his wife and children to Germany too. But Liesel thought that spending that much time in Germany with family that she didn’t really know would be a bit boring. So she booked herself some time off, away from the family. She loved riding her bike and she booked a week-long cycling holiday in England: in Herefordshire to be precise. This cycling holiday run by Rob and Jane from Bicycle Beano. Liesel wasn’t a vegetarian, but was happy to eat veggie food for a week. Especially the cake.

This was the long, hot Summer of 2003.

Mick and Liesel cycled together sometimes, although their cycling styles were totally different. On one occasion, Liesel missed a turning and roared off downhill at a hundred miles an hour. Mick chased, caught her up, and put her back on the correct route.

In the evenings, sitting around the campfire, Mick and Liesel found themselves sitting next to each other and, towards the end of the week, their fingers would sometimes touch.

After the holiday, Mick went home to Chessington and Liesel returned to Alaska. Mick visited her there for the following Christmas.

So, in the end, he had two holidays that year.

In February 2006, two and a half years after first meeting, Mick and Liesel were married. The small ceremony took place on a frozen lake in Anchorage, Alaska. Jenny and Helen were there to witness the event.

They didn’t expect to send their father to come back from a cycling holiday with a step-mother. But that’s exactly what happened.

Mick and Liesel are now grandparents and everyone is living happily ever after!

 

Happy Valentine’s Day!