Exchanges

It was a pleasure to meet up with my old friend Michael B today, in Paddington. Yes, after ten years, we managed to be in the same place at the same time once again! We caught up on our careers (well, his) and our travels. He’s still very interested in hospital radio, which is great, podcasting and writing.

A shout-out to Marie as well, another friend with whom I met up a couple of days ago, over in Orpington. We had a good chat and a coffee.

Both will be very welcome to visit us in our new, northern home, in the fullness of time. As will anyone else that we don’t meet up with one final time before we move on.

And last night Liesel and I went out to see Jeremy Nicholas again, this time at the Museum of Comedy. His show, ‘After Dinner Stories from my Disastrous Broadcasting Career’, was much more slick than last time. Some stories have gone, some new ones are in. And no drunken heckler. Go and see him in Edinburgh if you’re there in August.

And what a fascinating venue. Lots of artefacts from the world of comedy. I don’t know if this is the one from Steptoe and Son, but here is a picture of Liesel with a bear behind:

liesel bear

On this day in 1973, David Bowie’s ‘Life on Mars?’ was released as a single. It’s still one of our favourite songs of his and it’s still fascinating to hear which radio presenters play it right to the end. When the phone rings, I emit a small cheer and Liesel rolls her eyes.

So here’s the news you’ve come along for… Our solicitor called early this morning to tell us that we’ve exchanged on both our sale and our purchase! Liesel and I had a bit of a hug and a cry and a bit of a dance, such a relief! We’re definitely moving out on July 2nd, the lorry will be loaed up with our stuff which will move into the flat on the 3rd: the poor removal guys will set off at 5 o’clock that morning. As described a few days ago, if the flat becomes unavailable for some reason, we have storage booked. So, yes, definitely moving out!

So now, the emotion will begin to set in fully. It has a bit already, as we’ve been packing up stuff from 33 years in this house.

We’ve packed up well over half the contents of the house and we’ve set ourselves the target of finishing off by Friday, disposing of the stuff we don’t want, such as the washing machine that should have been replaced a long time ago.

And the best news of all: here comes the weekend!

 

The Roof Needs Mowing

Liesel visited the physiotherapist again today in Earlsfield so we took advantage of what might be the last decent day for a while and spent the rest of it in London.

It might be one of the last chances to do that in any case, as we’re suddenly making progress on the house-moving front. But more of that later.

Today involved using nine forms of transport which is always a joy: we hope moving around Manchester is just as easy once we’re there.

  • Walked from home to Chessington North station, caught a SWR train to Earlsfield, then
  • Caught a Southern train to Clapham Junction, then
  • Caught an Overground train to Denmark Hill, then
  • Caught a 185 bus to the Horniman Museum, then
  • Caught another 185 bus to Lewisham Station, then
  • Caught a DLR train to Greenwich Cutty Sark, then
  • Caught a Clipper boat to Shakepeare’s Globe Theatre on the South Bank, then
  • Walked to Waterloo Station and caught a SWR train to Berrylands station, then
  • Walked up the hill and caught a K2 bus to Gosbury Hill, then
  • Walked home!

But what exciting things did we do in between? Liesel had physio, I left a bit later and met her in a coffee bar in Earlsfield. Chocolate and Coffee, it’s called, and it has very nice coffee and plenty of chocolate based confectionery, as the name suggests. Come out of Earlsfield Station, cross the road, turn left and it’s past the first turning on the right.

We’ve wanted to visit the Horniman Museum for a long time. I’ve only been once before, when Sarah, Jenny, Helen and I went, about 20+ years ago, to see live video footage of  a volcano erupting in Hawaii. This was exciting technology for the time and very interesting, well worth the tortuous drive there around the South Circular Road.

Anyway, today, Liesel and I went by public transport and as you can see, it’s not a straightforward journey. We debated whether to go via Penge (note 1) but in the end, catching a bus from Denmark Hill made more sense as it stopped right outside the museum.

The gardens were fantastic. There’s a Sundial walk although we only managed to find a few dials, numbers 2, 6, 7 and 8, all different models.

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20180606_1405589085956331979416553.jpgBeing on top of hill, we shouldn’t really have been surprised to see the London skyline, even the arch at Wembley Stadium. Planes flew over from London City Airport at regular intervals slightly spoiling what should have been a quiet, peaceful experience.

There were some animals there too, rabbits, sheep, goats, alpacas. Lots of plants from which we get different coloured dyes as well as other flowers. The Sun was out and so it was a beautiful day for a long walk outside.

The library building was interesting: the roof has wild grass growing on it. I wondered whether the weight would be too much, but I wasn’t going to volunteer to mow the roof.

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Thatched roof but the grass is still living

In the museum itself, which is free apart from the special exhibitions, we were stunned by the range of stuffed animals. There was even a walrus which breathed its last in 1890 or something. The dodo (note 2) was magnificent, bigger than I thought. As was the porcupine (note 3).

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Dodo
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Porcupine

OK, notes explained:

  1. As mentioned in the David Bowie song ‘Did you ever have a Dream?’
  2. As mentioned in the David Bowie song ‘Dodo’.
  3. As mentioned in the David Bowie song ‘Cracked Actor’.

The mastodon tusk was a million years old. It’s funny how your sense of time changes: only a million years old, we just missed it. That’s a short period of time compared with the extinction of dinosaurs, 65 million years ago.

We thought it would be nice to get a boat back to Waterloo, unless of course we could find one that went all the way back to Kingston. (There wasn’t one.) We sat at the back of the boat where we enjoyed the stench of diesel fumes.

But it always a joy to spend time on the Thames.

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We disembarked by the Globe Theatre and walked along the South Bank back to Waterloo, slowly, admiring the sand sculptures as usual and again thinking how wonderful it is that the Garden Bridge idea has been hit on the head.

The other day, I was walking around Chessington and I came across a nice, friendly wall. Well, friendly, optimistic graffiti, really:

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Opportunities for walking around Chessington, 10,000 steps or not, are becoming limited. After a few phone calls and a visit from Liesel to the estate agent, we feel that progress is being made on our house move.

I’ve signed (but not dated) both contracts, one for our sale and one for our purchase.

We have received all (or at least, a lot) of the reports on our flat, in which we learnt about the risk of flooding (small), the affect of the next phase of the high-speed railway, HS2 (at least 300 metres away and not scheduled for construction for a long, long time) and more. Nothing to worry about.

We have lots of rules imposed by the landlord, the leaseholder, but again, nothing too onerous, unexpected or unreasonable. Storage in the attic and storage of our bikes might be difficult, but we’ll try the informal approach.

It seems that our buyer’s solicitor is no good. He’s been sitting on paperwork that he should have passed on. Now that we’ve got our estate agent on the case, we have, at last, receieved from our buyer the list of furniture that she wants to keep. We’re happy to leave all those items for her but more importantly, we now know what we need to dispose of or to take with us when we move.

The agent spoke to her yesterday and today: she wants to move fast and is just as dismayed at the performance of her solicitor as we all are.

We can start packing things up, now: we have several crates but we’ll need lots of packing boxes too. Progress at last!

On this day 45 years ago, as I described here, I said goodbye to my appendix.

I also remember 6/6/66. Mr Price, my final and only male primary school teacher was great. He tried to explain the news to us 11-year olds, mostly about Nigeria, Biafra and Rhodesia I seem to remember. And of course, we were looking forward to the World Cup.

This day in 1945 was D-Day, the Normandy Landings. General Eisenhower planned the invasion from his headquarters in Bushy Park, a frequent destination for our walks and bike rides.

My worst ever June 6 experience, even worse than an emergency appendectomy, was in 2005. I took my Dad to the Royal County Hospital in Guildford for a series of tests. He was frail, weak, in a wheelchair and I pushed him from one department to another, follow the blue line, follow the green line, X-rays and other examinations. After taking him home, I really should have paused before driving up the A3 to my own home. It was a hard, very emotional day for me, and I was just the helper. Dad had many medical issues and he still thought he’d be able to look after himself.

It’s funny how certain days have a theme. My appendectomy, Dad’s long day having hospital tests, Liesel visiting the physio today. And last year, this was the day I had stitches out following surgery on my gum by my periodontist.

On the other hand, on this day in 1992, David Bowie, who I mentioned earlier, married Iman, so that’s lovely!

And today’s June 6 adventure in London was lovely too, thanks Liesel xx.

When I Live My Dream

On this day, June 1st, 51 years ago, David Bowie released his first eponymous album. Obviously, we were oblivious to this at the time. The BBC Light Programme would never play it, maybe one of the pirate stations did, and David Bowie never really came to prominence until Space Oddity in 1969, two years later.

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Nobody could have predicted that the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, released on exactly the same day, would have achieved so much more publicity and airplay!

I first heard the David Bowie album in 1973 and thought it was OK, actually. The songs are simple, cute and sometimes very funny.

Once when I went home for the weekend from university, a singer in a local pub covered Uncle Arthur, and I’m sure my Mum and Dad didn’t believe that this was an early David Bowie song.

I think my favourite song is ‘When I Live My Dream’. I used parts of it when I was courting Sarah. And I emailed the lyrics to Liesel when I was wooing her. When we watched the film A Life Aquatic, I was delighted to hear Seu Jorge’s Portuguese version. That was great. I was, however, miffed when, a few years ago, London Heathrow Airport used it in an advert to celebrate its 50th anniversary. No! Sacrilege!

Today is the 68th birthday of top singer/songwriter Tom Robinson. On this day, eight years ago, Liesel and I saw him and his band in concert at Shepherds Bush Empire. The gig, celebrating his 60th birthday, was titled ‘Glad to be Grey’, a fantastic pun on one of his best-known songs, ‘Glad to be Gay’.

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Tom Robinson

He sang a medley of his greatest hit, ‘2-4-6-8 Motorway’ as he had done when he performed at my 50th birthday party, some years earlier. Yes, my very good friend Tom was good enough to visit Chessington and entertain us for an evening. Top bloke! I’d first met him at a writing retreat in 2002. This was less than a year after Sarah had died and I was still feeling very fragile. He was incredibly helpful and supportive and the group from that weekend kept in touch for many years afterwards. In fact, we met up with Marko beforehand for a quick drink. Cheers!
(I know what you’re thinking. ‘Hey Mick, you’re writing this nonsense 16 years after attending a writing workshop? You should ask for your money back, mate!’)

The gig took place during a campaign to save BBC 6 Music, our favourite music radio station, from being closed down. Tom was and is a presenter and several other presenters turned up to wish him a happy birthday with a cake designed to look like the 6 Music logo, which itself resembles a record player.

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Other guest musicians include Toumani Diabaté on the kora (don’t tell Tom, but I could have listened to Toumani’s kora all night) and Nitin Sawhney.

Overall, a fabulous night. And happy 68th, Tom, possibly greyer and gladder.

So, to summarise: David Bowie, the Beatles and Tom Robinson are amongst my favourite artistes of all time. And BBC 6 Music is still a favourite radio station.

The Small Room

The toilet is the smallest room in the house, but it’s still taken the best part of two days to paint it. Probably only a few hours actually painting, but preparation and clearing up afterwards is very time-consuming. Anyway, it’s done now. Barring any more catastrophes, disasters or accidents, we have no plans to decorate any more in this house before it goes on the market.

Having washed the paint out of the brushes and the rollers, I am pleased to report that the kitchen sink is now bright, shiny white.

The professional photographer is coming in a couple of days, so the idea is to make the house look bigger, tidier, brighter and cleaner, and we have our fingers crossed that nothing else fails, breaks, disintegrates or falls apart.

The Sun is out and even though it’s quite cold, I’m going out for a walk around the streets of Chessington. It’s nice to see some signs of spring: as well as the surprise  of bulbs in our own garden, there are snowdrops and daffodils elsewhere.

A few weeks ago I had surgery to remove a cataract from my right eye. It only took me 35 years to pluck up enough courage to go through with it, but that’s me, a squeamish coward.

Anyway, since then, what I see out of each eye is very slightly different. The colours with my new right eye are much brighter, the shadows darker and the contrast is much greater. The difference isn’t as extreme now as it was in the few days following the surgery, when my pupil was still fully dilated.

I asked Duncan Jones if his Dad had reported similar phenomena with his permanently dilated pupil. No: “only sensitivity to light in that eye, and terrible vision.”

But the snowdrops almost glow white with my new, bionic eye. I wish I could take a picture to show the difference, but until I have a little camera installed behind the lens, probably inside my brain, I don’t think that’ll happen.

And back indoors, in the bathroom, the bright white sealant looks almost dayglo, primrose yellow with the new eye. When I flick from left to right, it’s hard to believe I’m looking at the same thing, sometimes. It made painting the toilet interesting, to say the least.

And After All that, I can’t wait to get new prescription spectacles so that the right also sees in focus. I have a check-up with the surgeon later so maybe I’ll get new specs real soon!