Thirteen

We were hoping to visit Hope to join Una, Phil and Kiran for the day but Jyoti didn’t sleep much and Liesel’s knee wasn’t in a fit state to drive. It was also raining hard. All weasel excuses maybe, and I feel we let Una down, especially after her request to bring along some toilet paper.

Instead, we went out for breakfast with Liesel’s parents. Gwennie’s Old Alaska Restaurant was very busy, lots of people and lots of stuffed animals. And upstairs, lots of photos from the old days.

Arctic fox (stuffed)
Beaver (stuffed)
Gwennie’s old car

The highlight of the day was the start of a new series of Doctor Who. There was a global simulcast, presumably to limit the number of spoilers. Jodie Whittaker is playing the thirteenth Doctor and we enjoyed this first episode. No, we didn’t watch it live, as we were out for breakfast. To make time for more adverts, BBC America didn’t bother with the opening titles nor the closing credits. So disrespectful to the production team.

There is a balcony outside the main bedroom at Klaus and Leslie’s house. It was built thirty years ago with half a dozen wooden planters attached. No plants can survive the winds that constantly bombard them. And a few days ago, one of the planters, earth and all, fell off and covered the Durango in soil. So this day, Liesel and I helped Klaus dismantle the rest of the planters before they had a chance fall onto my head.

In the process, the botttom fell out of one, missing Liesel, who was emptying the dirt by a rock wall. She did however suffere from water spray when we hosed the floor of the balcony down.

We met Una when she finished work and went for another walk along the coastal trail. Again, it was really clear and we could see Denali way over there.

View from the coastal trail

I found Jupiter, another point on the Planet Walk.

Jupiter on the coastal trail

On the return walk, for the first time, I felt the cold breeze and actually donned my jacket.

Una took us into the courtoom and we visited her office with the new artwork.

The court’s in session
Seal of the State of Alaska

How she gets any work done with a view like this is beyond me!

View from Una’s office window

The War Memorial in Delaney Park Strip is quite extensive, and it was very sad and moving to see that conflicts on the other side of the world are still claiming local lives.

Anchorage War Memorial
So sad and unnecessary

Twitter told me that there would be an announcement on BBC 6 Music about David Bowie. It was on at half past midnight our time and I couldn’t not tune in to listen! The exciting news is that there will be two TV programmes featuring David Bowie. The first is this month: an hour from the two-hour set he performed at Glastonbury in 2000. Then, next year, another documentary in the Five Years series. David Bowie: The First Five Years includes stories from his early auditions at the BBC, 1964-1968, I guess. I’ve asked Jenny to record both for me, but anyone else in the UK, please record these for me, I’ll come round and watch them when we get back, and I’ll be your best friend forever!

Despite staying up late, we had to get up early next day as Liesel had another physio appointment. More dry needling in the butt.

I walked up to Kaladi on Jewel Lake Road where she picked me up to go to CostCo, woohoo.

The main objective here was to receive our flu jabs. Flu shots, as they say here. My resistance had finally been worn down by the combined forces of my wife and two daughters and I had my very first flu vaccination. It didn’t hurt at all. Pulling the plaster off my hairy arm later did hurt. Liesel also had a tetanus jab. Hepatitis A and B was on offer too, but I’ll need time to think about that.

In the evening, Jyoti drove us to the Beartooth for dinner. Una joined us as did Suvan and Kayla. Later that evening, Jyoti left for Indianapolis. We’ll see her again in February, in Australia.

After all the needles poked into her today, I’m glad Liesel didn’t drink too much water, she would have leaked like a cartoon watering can.

To Pluto and Beyond

Kincaid Park is full of bears. At least, according to Jyoti, who saw two black bears in the valley, eating and otherwise minding their own business. She was hiking with Lisa and they made a hasty retreat. Sadly, no photos were taken.

When I later hiked in the same sort of area with Jyoti and her friend Cammie (sp?) (she has a broken arm), we had bear spray, just in case.

I walked there on my own today to watch Asa’s last soccer game of the season. Another opportunity to mess about with my smartphone camera.

Hardly a level playing field, right?

On the walk back, I encountered a moose on the shared path. Being gallant, and giving them the opportunity to take better pictures, I let the girls on bikes get between me and the moose.

Moose on the path and two cyclists
Oh no, more people. I’m off…

Late lunch for me was the soup and noodles from Siam Cuisine from a few nights ago. It was OK but I realised I should have left some of the interesting components too, and not eaten all the veg and tofu in the restaurant!

In other news, Una now has blue hair:

Una with blue hair

I’ve been scratching my head trying to think of a Pythagorean caption for this picture:

The bicycle on the hypotenuse is equal to…

In Kincaid Park, I visited Pluto. There’s a Light Speed Planet Walk in Anchorage that follows 5th Avenue and the coastal trail. You walk at the speed of light. Each step you take represents the distance light travels in one second, 300,000 km or 186,000 miles. So, just as light takes eight minutes to travel from the Sun to the Earth, here it takes eight minutes to walk from the model Sun to the model Earth. Pluto is of course the furthest from the Sun, taking five and a half hours to walk the full distance. What a shame Pluto is no longer considered a major planet!

The demoted Pluto

In the evening, a disparate group of ne’er-do-wells enjoyed a concert given by the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra. They were playing the music of John Williams, mainly famous for his film scores but he is a great composer of other works for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and the re-opening of the Statue of Liberty for instance.

Some folks came dressed up:

Harry Potter

Music from ET brought back memories, of course. I first saw it with Sarah. Jenny was in utero and in her first scan, she looked just like ET, so that became her name. Until we decided Jenny might be better.

Anchorage Symphony Orchestra

The encore featured three themes from the Stars Wars films – taking us to a galaxy far, far away.

Star Wars

It was a late night for all of us: me, Liesel, Leslie, Asa, Jyoti and Amrit.

Soccer 2 Airports 1

Sunday was an early rise. We drove to Snow City Café and there we met Catherine, another friend from a long time ago. I think the last time we saw her and her husband Hans was when they took us out on their boat into Prince William Sound, maybe ten years ago.

She and Hans now live in a big house outside Seattle, bigger than the whole block of five flats where we now live! It was, as ever, great to see Liesel and Catherine picking up where they left off.

Liesel with Catherine

And while we were eating our breakfast, watching the fog slowly dissipate, who should come in but Una’s family!

After bidding farewell, we went for a quick walk before visiting Sagaya for coffee (me) and a cookie (Liesel) and then the really exciting part of the day: a trip to CostCo.

It’s the end of the outdoor soccer season in Alaska and in the afternoon, Gideon and his team played two games, which I though was a bit unfair, especially as their second opponents were fairly fresh.

We couldn’t walk to the venue on this occasion as it was by Waldron Lake. And I thought, what are the chances of that? Waldron Lake. Sam Waldron is a character in the Postman Pat stories. These were much enjoyed by Jenny and Helen when they were young and, of course, hinted at the final ten years of my working life. Jenny and Helen also liked another animated children’s TV programme, Rosie and Jim. Both were devised by John Cunliffe and the sad news is that he died this week. A slightly tenuous link there, but that’s how this old mind wanders during a football game!

Arsenal 07

As well as the games, we witnessed geese flying in the wrong direction if they thought they were heading south for the Winter.

Geese flying west for some practice
The perfectly calm Waldron Lake

Daylight now arrives much later in the morning. When you wake up, it’s dark, it could be 3 am or 7 am. So easy to go back to sleep until after 9 am. But I hope to hit that habit on the head pdq. We rose early yesterday and I’m sure I can do so more often than I presently do.

Liesel called downstairs to see if I was alright. Yes, thankyou, why? She’d felt an earthquake and I hadn’t. Unlike the one a few weeks ago, that I felt while in bed but Liesel had missed. Leslie had felt it at work that day too.

In the afternoon, I went for a long, solo walk. When I set off, the fog was still rising and I was able to enjoy the sight of some early afternoon dew.

Grass with dew

I enjoyed looking at the Fall colours again and wondered what do Americans use instead of the adjective Autumnal? Fallal? Fallic?

I wandered over to the airport hoping to take some exciting photos of aeroplanes, but the security fence that surrounds the airport is a bit intrusive.

I wanted to cross the road but this subway was too small

I saw one guy taking pictures with professional equipment. I didn’t take out my smartphone until I was well away from him: zoom lens envy is not a pretty sight and he had one the size of a World War 1 cannon.

A small aeroplane overhead
Ted Stevens Airport buildings with mountains in the background

Again the mountains were visible in the distance and I’m sure every time we see them, there is more snow on them. In fact, Liesel said that snow was forecast, on the Yahoo! site, for Anchorage at the end of the week. But I checked the BBC weather site, and it didn;t mention snow at all.

I had a quick look at deLong Lake on the way back and I’m glad I didn’t fall in deWater.

The slightly sloping deLong Lake

As it was International Coffee Day, on the way home, I felt obligated to stop at Kaladi Bros on Jewel Lake for one of their delicious lattes. With a bagel. Which was just enough fuel to get me home again.

And, as it’s the first day of the month (just where did September go?), I caught up with some of the monthly admin tasks. Yes, I found an activity even more exciting than going to CostCo!

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.

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.

Update from Liesel

So, has anyone wondered what I’ve been up to while Mick’s been out hiking, walking and generally sightseeing?

The majority of my time has been spent catching up with friends and family, sorting, and deciding what to do with, my childhood belongings, putting together a couple surprises to make my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary special, and addressing my back injury.

In my opinion, you know you have a good friend, or even brother for that matter, when you can just pick up where you left off the last time you saw them. Sure I’d like to know the ins and outs of their daily lives but that just isn’t how life works when you live so far away from your loved ones. We all have busy lives and no one has the time or inclination to talk or FaceTime for hours at a time. The thought exhausts me. However, I can spend hours, in person, and never tire but come away with a fulfilled feeling.

Thank you:

Mom for taking off work while I’m here, Dad for letting me disrupt his routine.

Aaron, Jodi, Asa and Gideon for allowing my invasion back into their lives/activities as if I’d never left.

Jyoti, Una, Monica and Pam for your unbelievable support, kindnesses, passion, food and time. . . It’s been such fun, so far!

My childhood belongings have been lovingly stored in my parents house for decades. Some stuff has been easy to get rid of e.g. old books and records to the 2nd hand book/record store. Other stuff not so easy, e.g. blankets knitted by my paternal grandmother, or beanbag and angel handmade by my maternal grandmother.

Liesel in her donut

As I was already in every nook and cranny (crawl space included) of the family home, my parents utilised the opportunity, to go through all of their stuff. We now have enough for a very large garage sale. Now all we need are people willing to buy all this stuff or take it away! This may take several weekends as this weekend is a long holiday weekend and most Alaskans are taking advantage of the sunshine to go camping, hiking, fishing, State Fair, etc and as a result we have had little traffic. We also missed the deadline for the local paper so we’ve only advertised online. . . If you read this please come and buy some of our ‘lovely stuff’.

Loads of stuff for sale

My parents celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary on 31 August. To be honest, it hadn’t crossed my mind to do anything but go out to dinner as a family (all 8 of us!).

Eight of us at Orso

What do you do for a couple who have too much of everything? You certainly don’t buy them more stuff! In the end Aaron and I arranged: dinner out as family, a homemade sign for the front garden, two tiered (my parents have completely opposite tastes) wedding cake (they eloped to Reno and never had a wedding cake), and boutonnières for the five guys and corsages for us three ladies. It was a lovely evening enjoying each others’ company and sharing my parents special day with them. Very different than my memories of my paternal grandparents 50th party, held at the village hall with a live band and a hundred friends and family.

Leslie, Klaus and a two-tiered cake

Lastly, I’ve been dealing with my back and piriformis muscle problems. Two years ago I started having sciatic nerve problems with pain shooting down my right leg. This lead to the discovery of a slipped disk in my lower back, which inflamed the nerve, which inflamed my piriformis muscle, which inflamed my sciatic nerve. Typing all that makes me want sing about the old lady who swallowed the fly, oh my! Anyway up till now the suggestion has been to loose weight, exercise more, and treat the piriformis. Last week I’d had enough with pain and the fact I’m being left behind by my friends and husband who are going on hikes I can’t. So at a friend’s recommendation (thank you Melanie) and another friend’s nagging (Jyoti!), I made an appointment to see a physio here in Anchorage.

The physio here has recommended we start at the source, the slipped disc. Strengthening the area around the disc so that the surrounding areas do not get inflamed trying to protect the injured area. So, a new set of exercises to do, instructions to stop exercising when the pain starts (no more pushing through the pain), stick to short, off-road walking or hiking, cycling, and weights that I can do sitting or lying down. So basically completely different than what I’ve been doing for the last 2 years, which clearly was not working anyway. It seems for the immediate future Mick will continue to go on amazing hikes with my friends but hopefully I’ll be in a better place to towards the end of our stay in Alaska and ready to hike in Japan.

Shoe shopping and Sunday Soccer

One of my favourite things is shoe shopping. No, hang on, I mean: one of my least favourite things is shoe shopping. But today, Liesel took me to REI and we bought me a new pair of hiking shoes. I tried on two pairs, both fitted ok and were comfortable, so I chose the ones that were 0.5 grammes lighter. And $30 more expensive, of course.

I’ll never forget the day, nearly 44 years ago, when I went out with Sarah, one of our first dates. We were with Sandra and Nick, on one of their early dates. The thing is: we walked the length of London’s Oxford Street, along one side, back along the other, visiting every one of the 19 shoe shops and shoe departments in department stores, Sarah and Sandra trying on shoes in most of them. And we returned to shop number 1, where a purchase was made. Despite this, Sarah and I married a few years later. By comparison, today’s shoe shopping expedition was a breeze.

No. I was tempted to show you a picture of my new shoes, but unless there’s a real clamour, that’s not going to happen!

Instead, here is a shop that we didn’t go into, even though I thought a hash brownie would go very well with a cup of coffee.

Catalyst

In the afternoon, we went to watch Asa play soccer, at the arena in Kincaid Park. It was raining, so we dressed appropriately and took umbrellas with us. Unfortunately, it was very windy too, so the umbrellas spent most of their time being inside out.

The pitch was astroturf and surrounded on three sides by bushes and who knows what beasts were taking shelter there. The game was football, but it mostly seemed to be the blue team kicking the ball into those bushes and the white team going on safari to find and retrieve it.

Soccer
Soccer

I went for a wander, with a view to taking some spectacular photos, get some steps in and oh, alright, I’ll admit it, to try and find somewhere more sheltered from the wind.

There really is a ski trail called Toilet Bowl
Thank you to our sponsors
What a great idea: a bike repair kit

The really tragic news is that my Fitbit battery died and I lost three hours of data, which is probably about 50,000 steps, or 25 miles. I might be exaggerating.

How to open a bear-proof litter bin

In the evening, we went to Jyoti’s for dinner. It was a houseful. I’d met Suvan and Kayla before, of course, and Una. But this was the first time I’d seen Pam on this trip, and the first time I’d ever met Melanie, although I’ve heard a lot about her.

Sorry, there are no photos of the food which was all delicious, Pam’s cauliflower, Jytoi’s chole, Melanie’s kale, Liesel’s cucumber, Jyoti’s rice and koftes.

We watched la Vuelta on TV, despite the uninspiring commentary, before bed.