Very exciting day, we had our first official visitors. Helen is here from Australia especially to see our new flat. Well, that, and to attend two weddings over the next few weeks. She visited us this afternoon with Jenny, Martha and William.
Martha was in top form, very chatty and curious about the things lying around. William was asleep and after he woke up and was fed, he was fun too. So close to crawling forwards but not quite, yet.
Helen arrived at Manchester Airport first thing in the morning and was met by the three of them. Martha and Helen chat to each other most days on the phone and I believe Martha still thinks Helen comes out of the phone when she’s here in person!
The other visitor we had was the washing machine engineer. The spin cycle wasn’t working and in the end we had a new pump installed. Still, this inherited machine is in a far better state than the one we disposed of before we moved!
Yesterday, Liesel and I built the chest of drawers that we’d bought at Ikea. It’s always satisfying when it all works out and there are no bits left over! Now a lot of our clothes have been put away and our bedroom is beginning to look like a bedroom rather than a storage unit. The second bedroom really is a storage unit right now! Wall to wall boxes, crates, cases and bikes.
Yes, we will get the bikes out soon, but this morning we went into Manchester by bus as we had a couple of things to do there. In a first for both of us, we have rented a safe deposit box. This will contain all our really valuable items while we’re travelling.
Manchester is, obviously, very different to London. We’re no longer used to paying fares on buses but that’s the norm here. Also, the buses don’t display the name of the next bus stop, something we just take for granted in London.
We noticed the pavements in the city centre are really dirty. Yes, lots of chewing gum but the surface just looks really mucky. Maybe it’s because of the long, hot, dry spell we’re having.
Piccadilly Gardens, a small patch of green, was very busy, lots of workers having their lunch breaks there by the looks of it. The heatwave continues. It’s tempting to ask, does it ever rain in Manchester? What were we worried about?
Part one of our new bed was delivered this evening. The mattress. The base arrives on Thursday and then, at last, we’re hoping for a good, comfortable night’s sleep! We’ll have our internet connection on Thursday, too and then, ta-daaa, we’ll be able to book our travels! There is a lot to do indoors still, but we’ve only been here a week and we feel we’ve achieved a lot.
Early Thursday morning, I drove Liesel to the railway station. Gatley is the closest, but Stockport made more sense. From Gatley, to go to London Euston, you’d have to change at Manchester Piccadilly or Crewe. It’s a 2-hour trip from Stockport. The train was packed, and Liesel had the pleasure of standing up in the train manager’s special little compartment. She was standing and chatting with a barrister, both really needed a seat for medical reasons. The train manager gave them permission to go and sit in First Class. Which was great, but the air conditioning was on full blast. But it would have been churlish to complain about that, so they did the British thing, whinged to each other, assumed stiff upper lips and enjoyed siting down, at least!
Meanwhile, I was having more fun, taking the first car-load of rubbish to the local tip. Lots of our packaging material that can’t really be reused, although the hundreds of emptied cardboard boxes are up for grabs.
The long process of informing businesses of our new address continues. Thames Water have sent their final bill from our old house. Great. But somehow, we have acquired two different account numbers with United Utilities, our new water supplier. This is the company that didn’t even know it had installed a new water meter here, so that I wondered whether I’d just read the wrong one! Fun and games with water companies!
Our solicitor sent another form for me to sign. He sent it by email, a PDF attachment. I was to print it out, sign it and post it back. So I had to set up my computer and the printer. But before that, I had to build the desk for the PC, the shelf unit for the printer and find all the other bits and pieces and cables. Here’s a tip: make sure all the tools and the nuts and bolts and screws for furniture are easy to find!
And we have no internet yet either, so it was with a great sense of relief that I was able to copy the PDF file to the computer via a USB cable. Not sure I could have done that with the old iPhone: top marks, nice, new Samsung Galaxy!
Form printed and signed. Now, where are the envelopes and the stamps?
In the local newsagent and the local Post Office of course. This was my cue (and excuse) to go for a walk in the local neighbourhood. Errands complete, I continued along Palantine Road to the bridge over the river Mersey. Yes, that river Mersey, the famous one. I followed it for a while and took the first interesting photo in this neck of the woods.
I suspect, in the fullness of time, when we’re more settled, we’ll be walking and cycling along the towpath a lot.
On Friday, I waited in for the Futon to be delivered. I was told it weighed 250kg and my first thought was, I hope it doesn’t fall through the floor.
I knew I’d never carry it upstairs on my own, and I suspect Liesel and I would have struggled together. So I went onto Grindr and looked for two, strong, strapping young men to come round and (help me!) carry the Futon up two flights of stairs. No, not Grindr. Google. I Googled a local removal company in the hope that they would help out at short notice. And I found one.
The delivery guy left our furniture on a pallet outside at the back of the flats. He wasn’t allowed to enter the premises for cock and bull ‘not insured’ reasons. So thanks to Dave and his mate who came by and did the heavy lifting for me.
And just in time too. I had to collect Liesel from the station after her very short return visit to Chessington.
She’d met up with our friend Sarah, up from Exeter, at Waterloo Station. Then in the evening, she went to the WI Book Group meeting, and they were kind enough to give her a £45 book token for Waterstones. This, plus the M&S vouchers she was given by the WI group as a whole is a sign of real affection and gratitude. Much more generous than Liesel’s former employers: she’s well out of that company.
It took Liesel and me about an hour to construct the Futon and it is really comfortable. Much nicer than the sofa we’d left behind 😉
We went round to Jenny’s for fish and chips (cheese and onion pie for me). Poor Martha was heart-broken when Mummy and Daddy ‘went out to the shops’. I remember when Jenny was inconsolable whenever her Mum went out too. I know it’s just a phase, but it’s horrible to watch, because there’s nothing really you can do. Except, on this occasion, they took Martha with them and she fell asleep in the car.
Today, Saturday, though, we went round to look after the children again. And again, Mummy and Daddy went out but this time, they couldn’t take Martha. It was lunchtime, and all we could do was try and distract her with Peppa Pig and encourage her to eat her lunch.
Which she did. Hollow legs has Martha: two Babybels, yellow pepper, tomatoes, cucumber, bread, crisps, cake, water melon, ice cream with a Flake. She was, by now a really happy bunny!
William’s a wonderfully laid-back little guy. He’s really happy playing by himself but he likes company too. Liesel had her first really dirty nappy changing experience with him! He is so close to crawling, but he just can’t quite get pushing his little legs. He can push himself backwards, rotate on his belly, roll over onto his back and onto his front. But not move forwards, yet!
And fidget. Boy, does he fidget. Always moving, arms twitching, legs kicking. I can hear my old teachers saying to him in the future, “Sit still, William”, “Stop fidgeting, William”, “Have you got ants in your pants, William?”
It’s been a joy to spend time with both of them after being so caught up in our own little house-move for so long. In the garden Martha had a great time in her paddling pool. Even William had a bit of a paddle. Fun and games with water!
After a while, I realised he was in need of a kip, so I carried him back inside and he very quickly fell asleep.
But all good things come to an end. And when Jenny and Liam came home this afternoon, Liesel and I went to a little bit of Sweden while their football team played England in the World Cup quarter finals. Yes, we bought some more furniture and other bits and pieces from Ikea. More heavy stuff to lug upstairs, but we manged this time. Here’s a tip: it’s OK to unpack Ikea furniture at the bottom of the stairs and carry it up piece by piece!
Never mind the World Cup, though, the Tour de France started today. Unusually, today’s first stage was a proper road race in which most of the main contenders fell off, broke wheeels or got held up by other crashes.
Boxes, boxes, we’ve never seen so many boxes. The good news is, Jenny and family moved house today, after a long, long wait. Originally, they wanted to move before Martha was born. Martha celebrated her second birthday in April. But now, they are officially SK8ers.
One of the bedrooms was inaccessible in the end, it was so full of boxes. There was the danger of running out of cardboard cartons, so Liesel and I went to the removal firm to pick up 20 more, and most of them were filled in the end.
And then, Alan, Liam’s Dad, and I helped unload another twenty or thirty cartons from the attic, not forgetting several plastic crates. What a big loft: much bigger than ours.
It was a pleasure to be able to help out, and for Liesel and me, it was confirmation that we’d been right to get rid of so much ‘stuff’ over the last couple of years.
And that’s good because, as far as our move is concerned, all of a sudden, our buyer’s solicitor wants to exchange and complete on the same day. Our solicitor advised against that: we can’t be in a position where, on the day of a potential move, our buyer changes her mind.
But if they’re that keen to get a move-on at last, we’re not complaining. We’re still trying to find out when our vendors will be able to move to their new build house in Glossop. It looks like mid-June is now out of the question, sadly. But if we’d moved this week, we might not have been able to help our family with their move, so it’s all worked out quite well.
We took Martha to Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry again one day and it is always a joy to spend time with her. She’s too young to understand the science of course but she loves running around and pressing the buttons, turning wheels, pushing plungers to make bubbles in three liquids of differing viscosities.
We travelled by train and then bus: the free Metroshuttle service is fantastic. And if we’d got off at the correct stop, we wouldn’t have had to walk so far back to the museum! Martha was nicely worn out by the time we’d had lunch, so she missed out of most of the return journey.
We spent some time looking after 6-month old William too. He’s a great little character. Usually, Mick walks up and down with him and he goes to sleep. Usually, when he sits with Liesel, he regurgitates some of his food onto her. Well, this time, Mick bore the brunt of his expulsions. On the other hand, Liesel experienced a rare leaking nappy! All of which he will be reminded of when he turns 18.
For these busy few days, we stayed at another excellent Airbnb b&b: thanks to Iris and Dave for their hospitality, the breakfasts and the local recommendations which will come in handy when we finally move to the area. They are also keen cyclists and it was good to see the bikes stored inside the house, something we’ll have to think about when we no longer have a garage.
One day, I’ll have the camera ready to take a picture of the cows walking across a bridge over the M60. We’ve seen them a few times now, an arc en ciel, a monochrome rainbow, a long line of black and white cows walking in single file, presumably to be milked.
It’s always lovely to spend time with Jenny and Liam, of course, and with the grandchildren, but this week was quite hard work, and the drive home could not end soon enough. We were doing fine on the road until we joined the slow-moving traffic just before Hampton Court. But eventually: home, sweet home.
Liesel went out, with our friend Helen, to what might be her final WI meeting in Chessington. It was a wine tasting evening and when I collected them later in the evening, neither of them were too intoxicated.
What a good night’s sleep we both had, though. My dream was weird, I can’t remember all the details, but it involved a wall (not Pink Floyd’s), Bond girls, a sports car and a TV game show.
Melinda was mine ’til the time That I found her Holding Jim And loving him
So begins Neil Diamond’s song, Solitary Man, which shuffled into play in the car a few days ago. This song went through my mind today when I was in the depths of the forest. Not that I’m a solitary man, and I don’t think I’ve ever known a Melinda, but I was making the most of my solitude.
Today is the seventeenth anniversary of Sarah’s departure from us. Another Thursday 17th May. In some ways, it’s a lifetime ago but in other ways, it’s such a recent event.
I took advantage of the opportunity to go for a long walk my myself, while Liesel went shopping, did some cooking and otherwise had a relaxing day.
Within walking disance of Catherine’s house in Ballina is Belleek Forest Park. It was quiet, peaceful and I saw very few other people. The paths are well maintained, well sign-posted and there is a lot to look at.
I followed the river Moy for a while too, thinking I might get as far as where it enters the Atlantic, but looking at a map afterwards, that was far too ambitious.
The Crete Boom is a ship made of concrete that was used by the Royal Navy but now sits gathering moss and seaweed in the Moy.
I was surprised to see warning signs of Japanese knotweed in a couple of places: not the vegetation I would have sought out. The forest was of course full of trees, some of which I could identify and some of which I identified from the flyer I’d picked up. Sycamore, lime, beech, oak, willow, elm, hornbeam and Monterey pine trees are all there, standing tall and proud. And putting all the world’s problems into perspective: I didn’t want to think about Brexit, Trump, Iran, North Korea, Israel, Palestine, plastics in the oceans. I wanted to spend time with Sarah, who has missed out on all our adventures over the last seventeen years, missed out on meeting her grandchildren, and I tried not to go through the cycle of thinking how unfair it all was, and what if, and if only.
Instead, I recalled the happy times we’d had together, with regret that those times didn’t last longer, but equally pleased that we’ve all moved on. I am so proud of Helen and Jenny and I’m sure their Mum would be very proud too.
There are red squirrels in the forest, but I didn’t see any. I didn’t see any rabbits either, nor any other animals bigger than birds. But it was a beautiful day to commune with nature while my thoughts meandered backwards and forwards through time.
Hmm, yes, I was enjoying communing with nature. Meanwhile, some other folks had been closely communing in nature.
When I left the forest, I walked along the road for a while, having seen a sign for Moyne Abbey. I thought that would be a good place to stop, but after every brow of a hill, I could see no sign of an abbey. So as a last resort, I looked at the map on my phone and realised I was still an hour’s walk away. I went back to the forest, again saying hello to the cows and the bulls and the donkey and standing well to the side of the road when a tractor appeared.
In the forest, I followed different paths until I found Belleek Castle. Yesterday, Catherine had said there was a coffee shop here, so that became an urgent destination. Coffee and a scone. I recalled the holidays Sarah and I had had BC, before children, often in the Cotswolds, often in the rain. Tea shops rather than coffee shops usually supplied the scones for afternoon tea, but it’s funny to note how things have changed over the years, but not much, really.
Yes, I’m sure we will always miss Sarah, she and Liesel would have a lot of laughs at my expense, I’m sure, if they’d ever met.
Back at home, we enjoyed the pasta salad and the banoffee pie that Liesel had made, along with a bottle of beer from Catherine that Lochlainn has chosen for me!
Solitary Man? Not me, I’m a very lucky bloke, I’ve met and fallen in love with two wonderful women, I have two beautiful daughters and two fantastic grandchildren. This is what’s important, not the stupid stuff that I tend to whinge about a bit too often.
So, a million thanks and lots of love to all of you who have made and who continue to make my life as fantastic as it is.
On Saturday, before returning home, we had breakfast with our family in Chorlton. The drive from our Airbnb took a long time as we’d been advised to avoid the M60 motorway.
But slowly, slowly, all these little places, towns, villages, suburbs around Manchester and Stockport are coming together in our mental map. I think today for the first time, I learnt for sure that Chorlton is the same place as Chorlton-cum-Hardy. And we realised that we weren’t all that far from Northenden where we will soon be living.
We’d planned to meet up at The Lead Station for a late breakfast, or brunch, and we all thoroughly enjoyed the food. We’ll definitely be back! It was a warm day and I regretted listening to my wife and not bringing my shorts: she’d said it was supposed to be cold all weekend. On the contrary, we might be having the warmest May Bank Holiday weekend, ever!
Liesel and I parked the car and as we were a bit early, we stopped off for a coffee just down the road at the Foam Coffee House. The coffee was lovely and I’m sure we’ll go back for cake or toast or something one day. We might even go along and play the board games. They had one that I’d never seen before: Subbuteo Table Rugby. I’m intrigued, how does that handle throwing the ball, drop-kicks, scrummages?
There’s a nice little park just down the road too. Very small, is Beech Road Park. Bijou.
The previous day, we’d taken the children to The Ice Cream Farm, a bit further afield, towards Chester. Martha had a whale of a time in the indoor water play area, Europe’s biggest, apparently.
And I had a whale of a time too, playing with my new Samsung phone, learning how to use the super slow-mo feature, which requires some dexterity with the aged fingers. It was a gorgeous day, and I wish I’d been wearing my shorts… have I said that already?
Here’s the first go:
It’s been edited for duration but the picture is too big for this page. Things can only get better.
I went for a walk in Chessington a couple of days ago. During that time, I chatted with four former colleagues at Royal Mail.
Our own Postie, Michael, is very helpful and we’re happy to return the favour, to make his day-to-day duty a little bit easier.
Duncan, the Delivery Office Manager, had a hip replacement last year and says he hasn’t felt this good for a long time. Royal Mail senior management don’t get any better. Duncan has just been copied in to a long thread of emails discussing the sale of Chessington Delivery Office and moving the staff into the spare space the Epsom office. All the plans have been made, values estimated, timetables agreed. But there’s just one problem. Royal Mail sold this office ten years ago and have been paying rent ever since.
Paul usually works indoors, serving customers who come to collect items that couldn’t be delivered. He also prepares the up to seven, yes, seven, door-to-door leaflets (unaddressed junk mail, pizza menus mostly) that have to be delivered to each house. 99% of which go straight into the recycling box.
Steve had two knees replaced last year and is recovering well. In fact, he chose to retire a few weeks ago too and syas he’s loving it. Not having to get up at 5 o’clock in the morning. Not knowing what day of he week it is. He thinks he might get bored one day, in which case he’ll look for a very part-time job.
But he has grand-children too and I have a sneaky feeling he will be spending more time with them.
It’s a funny feeling spending time with our Martha and William, knowing it’s never going to be enough time, but also planning to leave them for a year while we go travelling.
William has just turned 5 months of age. He has a gorgeous, cheeky little smile and if he doesn’t become the number one joker in his class at school, I’ll be very surprised. He will be able to pick us out in an ID parade, no problem, given the amount of time he scrutinises our faces, while trying not to laugh.
And here we are now, boasting about Martha, just over 2 years old. She is incredibly bright. Not only can she count from 1 to 10, she knows when he has 2, 3, 4 or 5 balls in front of her. Proper counting.
Playing in the garden today, she slipped on the slide, and when her Mum asked if she was alright, she said, “I’m fine.” She usually refers to herself in the third person, as Moo-moo. So, pronouns too.
And when her Mum asked if she wanted to climb up the slide, for the second time in two days, and we just looked at each other the first time, she said, “That’s impossible, Mummy.” What a concept for a 2-year old.