Melaka

We moved on to Melaka in the state of Malacca. The spelling varies, we’ve even seen Melaqa. Liesel started chanting Melaka-laka boom-boom but the nurse came by with her meds.

We paid one final visit to The Mossy Forest for breakfast: no freebies this time, and it was a fond farewell. We walked the rest of the way to the bus terminal, one of the local stray dogs showing us the way. I’m sure all the passers-by thought he was with us. There was a second dog, also wearing a collar, but he disappeared, perhaps to guide another group of visitors.

The rest of the day was spent sitting on a bus. Two buses, in fact, as we had to change back at Amanjaya Bus Terminal. Yes, it might be an ‘ekspres’ service but we had to travel twice the distance.

The second bus ride was nearly seven hours long. Seven hours! It was mainly a straight road though, so I was able to read and nod off and read and nod off. I was sitting by myself, Liesel and Jyoti having been allocated seats much nearer the front.

Not the local Hells Angels chapter

Motorcycles are very popular here, seemingly all over Malaysia. When the bus driver stopped for a quick break, I leapt off for biological reasons and bought some snacks. What I thought was mango slices turned out to be unidentifiable, almost tasteless slices of orange, sticky wood.

Our new residence was a 20 minute ride in a Grab cab from the bus station. A 44-storey monstrosity right on the waterfront. We’re on the 16th floor.

A quick meal and after such an exhausting day, we went to bed. The Chinese restaurant only had menus in Chinese so we had to rely on the pictures and trust that they understood the concept of “no meat”. Outside, a fire was burning in an open bin. The smoke came in, I closed the sliding door, sometimes sliding it too far, so the other end became exposed to the fresh outside air.

Jyoti witnessed sunrise through the haze

The next day was sad. Jyoti returned to Singapore to see some friends for a couple of days, before her 40-hour return to Alaska. That makes seven hours on a bus seem like heaven. So now, it’s just Liesel and me again. And what a busy day this was. Well, no, not really.

Top banana but we don’t need the bag

Melaka provides bananas in individual plastic bags. If only bananas grew with their own built-in protective layer. But at least, there’s a handy eating guide.

We went out for a short meander. The footpaths are hard to negotiate, steps, big cracks, broken tiles, steep kerbs, cut down trees, uncovered drainage ditches, water pipes, parked motorcycles and the odd restaurant making use of the pavement for their tables.

But every now and then, we come across a small shrine.

You have to watch where you’re walking

Some have incense burning which adds to the general smell of bonfires.

Silverscape Tower B

This is our current pad. Oh for the days of a cabin in the woods! Our apartment is on the other side, overlooking the sea. Sometimes, you can even make out the horizon, but there are so many bonfires and there is a lot of haze here.

Late morning looking east

Below us is a new shopping mall with a few shops, but most are empty lots and one floor hasn’t even been finished yet.

There must be a 7-Eleven here somewhere

It’ll be great when it’s finished, I’m sure, but we were perplexed by the proximity of this shiny new place to the old town, where many of the shops are run down, empty, up for sale or rent.

On the 13th floor of our tower is a swimming pool which sounds very appealing in the heat. There’s also an area of astroturf which needs to be finished. And over in the residential part of town, at least one fire is going.

Future picnic site
Smoke on the residential area

We’ve seen a few small fishing boats in the sea, too, plus a couple of faster vessels.

We visited two museums and an art gallery all in one day. First though, after a really long lie-in, during which I was accused of snoring, we went to the local Hard Rock Café for a late breakfast slash early lunch. Ceasar (sic) salad and chili fries for me. Cauliflower burger for Liesel.

And while we were in here admiring Tom Petty’s old jacket and Kiss’s old guitar and listening to Taylor Swift and Bob Marley, it rained. It was a torrential downpour and the purpose of the high kerbs became clear.

Rain and a big guitar

We ate slowly so as not to have to go back out into the rain, but we’ve never felt rushed anywhere in Malaysia or Singapore.

Sometimes here, it’s been like being in a self-help book. There are cute little slogans on many walls.

All is one

This is Hard Rock’s offering. Did you eat all the biscuits? No, I only ate one. Well, where are the rest? Meanwhile, in our own apartment, we have…

You’re my sunshine
Love generously

The wall in our place in Ipoh was full of these things: I wish I’d taken pictures, now. The best one, though, said “Do not conform”, and it was hung at a jaunty angle!

The Baba and Nyonya Museum, round the corner from Hard Rock, told the story of an immigrant Chinese family, the Chans. It’s a house, restored to how it would have looked about 100 years ago. No photos from inside, but what a fascinating insight to a totally alien culture which still managed to borrow from the west. There was a Victorian influenced teak wood sideboard. One of the ancestors was a real anglophile, playing the violin, setting up “gentlemen’s clubs” and playing lawn bowls and tennis.

Seven generations of Straits-born Chinese can be traced, much better documented than many western families.

It was hard to judge whether this was a typical family or a relatively wealthy one in the area.

The artwork was very well presented. The paintings tended to be narrow and tall, rather then the golden ratio portrait and landscape formats we’re more used to. I still find it interesting that, however different other cultures are, however separated from us by distance and by time, they very often produce arts and artifacts that are aesthetically pleasing to our western-oriented sensibilities.

There was a display of old banknotes here too: the original Malay dollar, the Japanese dollar known as “banana notes” because of the bananas on the $10 bill. The Malaysian ringgit has only been used since 1969.

Some of the costumes were stunningly gorgeous, a lot of work goes into these items.

Along the road, we found more pretty tiles to walk on.

More tiles for the collection

One local hero was depicted in the street. I had to keep moving so that other passers-by wouldn’t mistake me for him.

Mr Melaka aka Mr Universe, not Mick

Walking along, you’re usually looking down but when you do pause to look up, some of the old buildings are very attractive. I wouldn’t necessarily want to live here, but these are much easier on the eye than too much modern glass and steel.

Old colonial buildings
The first 5D Museum

We have no idea what a 5D Museum is. But if they’re messing with the spacetime continuum, I want nothing to do with it.

Next coffee stop and we came across more homespun philosophy.

Play fair, have fun, etc

These are all nice, positive, kind sentiments of course, but a bit twee when you see them all together and all over the place. Give me the old Wear Sunscreen song any day.

We met a celebrity: Simon the Traveler. Simon is a plush penguin from Ukraine travelling around the world with his friends. Today he was with Igor.

Simon’s postcard from Norway

We had a quick chat with Igor since Simon wasn’t really talking. Unfortunately, while we were drinking our coffee over the road, Simon and Igor were removed from the doorway they’d been sitting in.

Other than a durian flavoured ice lolly the other day, I’ve not tried a durian. They are a bit stinky, you can always sniff out the stall where they’re being sold. But staying away from them might be the best course of action.

A durian a day keeps everyone away

We were invited several times to take a ride on a trishaw. Like a rickshaw, only it’s a bicycle with a sort of sidecar. Highly decorated in a kawaii stylee, Hello Kitty for example, and playing very loud music in most cases. We declined all the offers.

Garish trishaws

Totally out of place in old Melaka is this Dutch style windmill.

Windmill not in old Amsterdam

It’s opposite a big so-called “Red House” which was also built by the Dutch.

The Maritime Archeology Museum was a little disappointing, to be honest. Very small and the best single exhibit was a couple of meteorites, and they were outside anyway.

Meteorite

The big pile of old Chinese pottery was quite funny, though, not much time spent arranging this in an orderly fashion.

The Ming Dynasty pottery was already broken, honest

The small Folks Art Gallery (Seni Rakyat) was very quiet, as they often are. Just one man at the desk, a few CCTV cameras, us and a couple of other viewers.

Sungai Melaka

Sungai Melaka (the river). I’d like to credit the artist but it turns out Cat Minyak just means oil painting. We liked a lot of the pictures here but couldn’t really see any of them in our own home.

We had a giggle at the combined optician and ice cream shop, not a common pairing.

Back at our place, I felt the need for more exercise, so I went for a walk. Very disappointed to find I couldn’t get anywhere near the waterfront, so I headed into town. Where I had a massage. RM40 for an hour. That’s about £8. Wow. And the masseues was nearly twice Dawn’s age, so I make that about 10 times the value! (Only kidding, Dawn!) She was powerful though, she got the kink out of my back that had been there since ducking under a tree in the jungle a few days ago. And she found the usual knots in my shoulders. You can also ride a trishaw for an hour for RM40. Hmmm, I think I got the better deal.

When I got back, with some shopping, I went down for a quick swim in the pool. It was very pleasant, with just a few other people.

Outdoor 13th floor pool

There was a full Moon and it’s the equinox. We’re just 2° north of the equator, so does that make it a Spring equinox for us here at Silverscape Tower B?

Silverscape Management: Hello, is that the Letter Company.
Letter Company: Yes it is. How can we help?
SM: We ordered a B from you but it’s too big.
LC: What do you mean, it’s too big?
SM: Well, it doesn’t fit on our pillar.
LC: Hmm. What size is it?
SM: We ordered an XXXXL size B but it looks more like an XXXXXL.
LC: I see. You know we don’t take returns: it’s in the Ts and Cs.
SM: But what can we do? We can’t just have a big B sitting in the lobby.
LC: It’s quite soft plastic. Have you tried bending it around the pillar?
SM: No. It’s not a round pillar, it’s a square one.
LC: In that case, it should stick on with no problem.
SM: But then some of the B will be poking out, blocking the path.
LC: Hmm. That’s tricky then. Let me think…
SM: …
LC: …
SM: Hello, are you still there?
LC: Yes, I’ve been speaking to my colleagues.
SM: And?
LC: And they’ve come up with the perfect solution.
SM: Which is?
LC: Stick the B on one face of your square pillar. Then saw off the overhanging part of the letter and stick that onto the neighbouring face, nicely lined up.
SM: That’s brilliant! Thank you very much.
LC: You’re welcome.

Silverscape Tower B’s big B

On our final full day in Melaka, we did some laundry then went for a walk to visit an old Sultanate Palace.

This bloke had a small bonfire going in his bin. He wasn’t the only one.

Bin fire or bonfire, the smoke’s just as offensive

This bloke must have thought he was in Manchester, parking on the pavement like that.

You park like a #### dot com

This bird, which someone named a magpie crow, wasn’t going to budge from his perch for anybody.

Magpie crow raven thingie

This frog was huge, it made us jump, just sitting there trying to cross the road like the old ’80s video game.

Frogger

This is a rare example of a pedestrian crossing, with a green man who gives you enough time to cross the road.

Pedestrian crossing

This is a rare example of catering for disabled people in wheelchairs and for buggies. How you’d get here in the first place along those horrendous footpaths and crossing the scary roads, well, that’s a different issue.

A rare, maybe unique, ramp
Looking good

The Melaka Sultanate Palace Museum itself was very interesting. The history of the Sultanate of Melaka only goes back to about 1400. We saw costumes, weapons, ceramics but unfortunately, the captions were hard to read: print too small and it was quite dark inside.

Some very colourful costumes
A couple of games that Sarah and I played in 1978

We’ll be decorating the walls in our Manchester apartment like this.

Gorgeous wood carving on the wall
Liesel with her new boyfriend

A small section of the incredibly wide Palace, a wooden structure, all built with no nails.

Melaka Sultanate Palace Museum

Another bit of a walk to find some lunch, during which meal, it rained again. Not just rain, it was a thunderstorm. Outside I was using Grab to book a cab, when lightning struck the along the road, a few feet away. We got wet just climbing into the cab: the driver had forgotten to unlock the back doors. I missed the opportunity of taking a picture of the storm, and we spent the rest of the afternoon inside!

One advantage of the rain was it cleared the air. Moving around outside through the bonfire smoke and the incense and then the smell of cleaning chemicals and perfume counters in the shopping malls, all that wasn’t doing Liesel’s lungs any favours. I suggested buying a surgical mask, but then it rained anyway.

At least, we found out how Melaka came to be so named.

How Melaka came to be

At lunchtime, Liesel had had a smoothie. The flavour reminded her of something from her youth: Orange Julius. I’d never heard of this before but I was delighted to discover that the company was founded by one of my long lost relations in America.

Christchurch

A rainy day in Christchurch, it seems like it’s rainin’ all over the world. We’ve been so lucky with the weather during the last few months, so we shouldn’t really complain but this rain in Christchurch is just so ///wet/// and penetrative and persistent. We could have stayed in all day and looked miserably through the windows but we had to go out for reasons of health and beauty. I was forced to wear my actual waterproof coat, the weather was that bad! So, if you’re not interested in bodily or medical issues, just scroll down to the first picture.

It’s three months since my last visit to the dental hygienist so it was time to have another session of oral torture. She was very good, realy, a couple of sensitive spots, but mostly OK. She didn’t know my kiwi periodontist back at home.

I also visited the local GP to obtain a prescription for my next three months of medication. The limit of three months at a time seems to be universal.

Liesel was attended to from top to bottom. Eyebrowsn and eye lashes all polished up and then a pedicure which was different to the ones enjoyed in Alaska.

Liesel also wants a massage and/or some physiotherapy. Her ‘slipped disc’ / piriformis muscle issue is still not resolved. We didn’t walk nearly as far in Fiji as we did in Japan so that helped a bit, but those two days in Auckland reminded us of the level of discomfort that can be felt.

On the other hand, I feel pretty good. I’d like a massage but don’t feel I ///need/// one right now, but they usually find something that needs loosening up, in the shoulders or thereabouts.

Occasionally, one of my feet complains. It’s like there’s a length of string between the second toe and the heel that just doesn’t want to stretch for a while, so I have to walk funny, almost limping. Pauline said I always walk funny anyway!

That is the end of the medical news! Spoiler alert: there’s a haircut coming up soon.

Rain on the decking, in case you don’t know what rain on decking looks like

We bought some groceries and then hung around waiting for the rain to stop. And waited. And waited. We had coffee and tea and muffins. And waited.

In the end, we started walking home but just as we left the shopping centre in Barrington, a taxi pulled up in front of us. The driver dragged us in, kicking and screaming, and reluctantly, we took a ride home to Pauline’s house.

When my sister asked me a while ago what food I wanted in New Zealand, I suggested PIES! I have missed pies, with proper pastry, and I’ve missed proper, tasty, crusty bread.

Tonight for supper, we had a pie. It was fabulous. So pastry-y and tasty. There was a filling too, apparently, but the pastry… mmm.

While walking to The Tannery the following day, we were in danger of an attack of homesickness. (No, not really.)

Palatine Tce

Palatine Road is the main shopping street near where we now live in Northenden. And this poor old postman still has use of a bicycle. I think if he tried harder, he could really load it up.

Kiwi postie’s bike

It was a pleasant walk, not sunny, but at least it was dry. There are many areas around here that share their names with parts of London: Sydenham, Beckenham, Waltham, Edgeware, even a St Martins.

We always go for the low-hanging fruit. Well, Liesel does as she’s so short. But I think this is the first time we’ve been scrumping, for plums, in New Zealand. Small but sweet, and if any officers of the law are reading this, it was Liesel’s idea.

Small plum tree. The plums are small, the tree was quite big
Small plum or big fingers

One local sport seems to be fly-tipping. These guys parked across the pavement, forcing us to walk in the road, while they threw hundreds of plastic bottles over the fence. It might have been a legitimate place to dispose of the waste items, but what a bizarre way to go about it. They could have driven into the yard, just along the road a bit.

Let’s park on the pavement while we’re fly-tipping
The owner needs a p

The Tannery is a cute, little Boutique Shopping Centre in Woolston. There are bars and restaurants too. When we arrived, there were two girls performing but they soon disappeared, unfortunately: they were making quite a nice noise.

While we ate lunch, we enjoyed some classical music but as there was so much background noise, Shazam was unable to confirm it was by Mozart.

While Liesel went window shopping, I found a barbershop and had a haircut and a shave. The girl was from Greenwich, has been in NZ for twelve years and hasn’t lost her accent. Yet.

Pauline joined us after work and we had drinks at the chocolate shop.

The Tannery
Trompe l’oeil great tiles

In the evening, while Pauline was doing stuff in the kitchen, Liesel, Andrew and I played a game of Scrabble. Then, Andrew taught us a new card game: 500s. I don’t think I’d heard of it before but it was fun learning a new game. Especially one in which, under certain circumstances, the jack of clubs pretends to be a spade.

Friday was Pauline’s last half-day at work this year and to avoid meeting her just after lunchtime, Andrew drove us into town. He joined us for a short while in the Botanic Gardens and we continued after he left for home.

Very colourful Botanic Gardens
Southern hemisphere Sun dial
Invisible reindeer
Chaffinch
Diminish and Ascend by David McCracken, 2014
Waxeye

We continued our slow walk into the city centre.

Rubbish selfie of the day, in front of big bubbles

It’s all new to us of course, and I don’t suppose the earthquakes were at the front of other people’s minds. There is a lot of building work going on, but apart from that, Christchurch is a lively, bright, functioning city. It’s not as busy as usual because at this time of the year, many people go away, especially to Nelson at the north of the island. There are plenty of visitors such as ourselves, of course.

This building needs a lot of support and love
Cathedral and cairn

There is a great window display in the big department shop, Ballantyne’s, and plenty of other Christmas decorations, but it doesn’t ///feel/// like Christmas to me. I know it’s the middle of December, but this whole adventure of ours sometimes feels so unreal, it’s hard to add more excitement to it.

Christchurch Christmas tree and bauble
The Merry Mice of Dunstable House, window display

We took the bus home and arrived an hour before the rain. Pauline was in the garden pulling up some big weeds. I was not at all gallant, I didn’t offer to help. I would only pull up the wrong things.

We’re Off!

We’re off! After a couple of rather hectic and busy days in Northenden, we are now in London for the weekend. The journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step. And today, although not planned, we walked just short of 20,000 steps. I feel fine but Liesel’s piriformis is a PITA still.

We think we’ve done all the last minute jobs that need doing when you go away from home for a while, but I keep thinking of things. Did we turn off all the devices? Computer? TV? Internet? Yes, yes and yes. Windows all closed and locked? Yes. Gas turned off? We don’t have a gas supply so that shouldn’t be a problem, but it still crossed my mind.

When we go abroad for a break, whether short or long like this one, we ask each other, do you know where the plug adapters are? No. Of course not. They’re all together in a small basket somewhere. But we’ve moved house, and they could be anywhere in the spare room and its 99 boxes, crates and piles of stuff. Oh well, we’ll just have to buy a new one, or two.

In between overseas trips, we sometimes come across the collection of plug adapters and we wonder why we have so many. Funny, that.

Yes, we have our passports and our tooth brushes, thanks for asking. Anything else is a bonus. Each of our backpacks weighs 9.9 kg, 11 lb, which we hope will satisfy the airlines’ limits. Plus, we each have a ‘handbag’. And that’s it: we are travelling very light.

On Thursday, before serious packing ensued, we joined Jenny to watch Martha and William swimming. Both were great and very happy in the water. But trying to undress William when he’s all sweaty is not very easy. Babies aren’t supposed to have temperature control, but he was having a jolly good try! After her swim, all Martha was interested in was a snack. Fair enough. We had coffee and a snack and Martha had a babyccino with bonus, unexpected marshmallows on top. Not sure her Mum was too pleased about that!

After lunch at Jenny’s, we went home and sweltered in the sweltering heat, yearning for, craving for, almost begging for a thunderstorm.

Everything, packing, printing stuff, moving around, was hard work. No, not a lot got done.

On Friday, we drove to Jenny’s and handed over the car key plus keys to our flat. She has been volunteered to pay a visit every few weeks to check everything is hunky dory. Our car will blot the view from the children’s playroom for a while, but I think they’re too little to worry about that, for now.

Here’s today’s obligatory ‘Martha’s brilliant’ paragraph. There’s a map of the world on the wall of the playroom, carefully hand-painted by Liam. When asked where Grandad and Oma are going on holiday, she points to Alaska, says ‘America’. Where does Auntie Linda live? Also America, but she points towards New England. Auntie Helen? Australia and she knows where that is. Unfortunately, England is hidden by a decorative leaf but she knows that’s where we all live.
She noticed that the blue of Greenland (I know, weird) was the same colour as the blue key on her toy piano. ‘I will get down, show you which one blue is’, she said, a 10-word sentence. She expands on ideas too. Mummy was packing for a trip, and she asked Martha to ask Daddy for his PJs. ‘Can I have your PJs, Mummy wants to pack them’, she said.

Martha planning her own travels

William is good fun too. He’s just turned eight months, and is a wriggler. He now crawls at full speed, blink and you’ll miss him spotting the smallest scrap of paper on the floor, or making a beeline for the cables near the TV. His head is magnetically attracted to the coffee table, that’s where he chooses to do most of his rolling over and sitting up. He understands a lot, can make a lot of noise but despite my best effforts, I don’t think ‘Grandad’ will be his first proper word.

We had lunch again with them all before we left. We had no car, now, so we walked to the bus stop. But I hadn’t anticipated such an emotional parting. Suddenly, the enormity of going away and leaving this lovely family behind hit us. We’ll talk to them and even see them online of course, but not for a long time in real life.

We had a sorbet on the way home as it was still very hot out, and we caught the bus the rest of the way. Last minute jobs all ticked off. A rubbish night’s sleep with some happy but forgotten dreams preceded an early rise.

Last night was the fantastic sight of the longest duration lunar eclipse this century. Not for us in the UK though where the clouds won. I had a quick look out of the window and could see there was no point going outside for a clearer view.

Everything was turned off, unplugged, locked and bags zipped and strapped. We left. We bade farewell to our new home and set off on our adventures. What a strange feeling. It still feels like we’re on holiday living in a new place, never mind going away for an actual holiday.

We took the bus into Manchester, walked to Piccadilly Station, caught the train to London Euston. It rained en route but not for long. In London, a bus to Kings Cross and then the Piccadilly line to Northfields where we are staying in an Airbnb for a couple nights. I realised what a good idea this was: if we have forgotten something important, there’s a sporting chance of being able to go home and pick it up. Hope we don’t need to, though.

Roseanna, our host, is very nice and friendly and knows how to make her guests feel welcome.

After a rest, we got the tube back to Leicester Square: Roseanna advised us that a bus, while more pleasant, would take far too long to get there.

It was cooler now, with a nice breeze to ruffle our hair a bit: Liesel’s more than mine, of course, since she has much more. We visited some tat shops looking for a specific item of tat, ‘a souvenir of London’, so to speak. But I remember the song of that name by Procol Harum, and we don’t need that sort of souvenir!

We stopped for a coffee and a snack at what we thought was a Japanese place. Nope: it’s Turkish. An easy mistake to make. We can recommend Simit Sarayi.

English might not be their first language

We walked towards Piccadilly Circus then to Trafalgar Square. Today was the day of Ride London, when a lot of otherwise busy roads are closed to motorised vehicles so that cyclists can have a go. And what a pleasant sight that is: we were slightly envious when we saw lots of families riding by St Martin’s in the Field.

We wandered through Charing Cross station where they were playing Pink Floyd’s Shine On You Crazy Diamond, for some reason. Then over the Millennium Bridge. ‘Bob Marley’ was singing one of my favourite songs, No Woman, No Cry. And, for the first time ever, after giving a busker some cash, I received a fist bump. Rasta.

On the South Bank, we decided not to walk on the beach.

The tide is high

Liesel called her Mom while I had a wander and tracked down an apple. Yes, still got to have an apple a day.

David in the Southbank skateboard park

We then walked along as far as and up onto Blackfriars Bridge where we waited for a bus. Not a sign. I looked at the app on my phone and it said there wouldn’t be one for at least half an hour. So we walked on, towards Kings Cross. A young Chinese girl had been waiting for the bus too, so we told her there wouldn’t be one for a while. We saw her several times on the way, also walking towards Kings Cross, or thereabouts.

There is a newly opened branch of Mildred’s and we were lucky enough to get a table straightaway. The original branch in Soho, where we’ve been a few times, is always packed and busy. And so was this new one. The food, all vegetarian and often vegan is terrific. We came away sated. Another recommendation for visitors to London.

Sitting next to us was a girl in a yellow skirt and her friend. She could talk the hind legs off a donkey and chose to do so, very loudly. Even the couple sitting on our other side kept giving her looks. No idea what she was blabbing on about, really, something about work, I think, but she didn’t waste a lot of time and energy breathing in. As they were getting ready to leave, I looked at Yellow Skirt’s friend. She had aged about thirty years in that time and looked bored stiff. Maybe it was her mother all along. It was noticeably quieter in the restaurant after they’d left.

A short walk to Kings Cross again, Piccadilly line again, back to our accommodation. The lighting in our room isn’t that bright but I can just see the keys on the keyboard. Liesel’s reading, listening to some music and nodding off.

Night night, Sooty, night night. No idea where that came from.

Manchester is All Abuzz

We drove into Manchester today and the car park we found was a bit of a challenge. The spaces were small, the corners were tight, the pillars were insulated by yellow concrete and the ramps from one floor to the next were nearly 45°. It stunk like a urinal, the only ticket machines were, of course, at the opposite end of the car park from where we parked. We worked it out. It was cheaper to park there for a couple of hours than to catch the bus. But next time, we’re definitely going by bus!

It was reportedly the warmest day of the year, so far, but I don’t think Manchester quite reached the 33.3° of the south-east.

We bought some American dollars and some Japanese yen. Guess where we’re going? It occurrred to me that it would be useful if every M&S had the same layout, then you’d know your way around. But then, you’d lose the sense of adventure. We also had lunch at Marks & Spencer. The restaurant there has a strange service system, not at all intuitive. You get an electronic device that we thought would flash when our beverages were ready. But no, it’s just to tell the waiters where to deliver the drinks. But not all drinks, only the cold ones. We had top collect our own hot coffee from the counter ourselves. Hot food would be delivered, but we carried our own cold snacks to our table. We got there in the end.

Manchester is full of bees at the moment. Not real, pollinating ones but a collection of sculptured bees each decorated by a different person or organisation. Bee in the City is only on until the end of September so get along while the weather’s good.

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As we found with the elephants and Paddington Bears in London, it’s hard to get good photos without other people in the way. But they’re probably very appreciative of our presence in their pictures!

Yesterday’s solitary walk around Northenden was interesting. It’ll take a while to find every all the little, interesting things around here: 33 years in Chessington wasn’t long enough to see everything there, never mind the rest of London. But Northenden is the place to come if you want something done to your body: face, eyes, hair, teeth of course, but especially hands, feet, nails and tattoos, such emporia are in abundance.

I found a few charity shops, so we’ll be able to get rid of, I mean, to donate more stuff as we get more settled here.

I thought this place looked interesting, but when I knocked on the door, they hid behind the sofa and pretended not to be in.

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Assembly Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses

The Tour de France has just one week to go. Today was the second rest day and Geraint Thomas is still in the lead. it’s fascinating to watch: who will win? Him or Chris Froome? Or will Tom Dumoulin surprise us all? Six more days racing to go.But as there was no TdF on TV, we caught up on a couple of series we’re watching. Will we get to the end of all the serials before we go travelling? Will we have to try and use the catch-up services from overseas?? What new programmes will we miss???

Adventure before Dementia

It’s sad, so sad, it’s a sad, sad situation. It makes me feel a little bit guilty, asking to be removed from the Rose Theatre mailing list after all this time. We’ll miss Kingston’s own little theatre. I was a Founding Friend too: there’s even a seat with a memorial plaque for Sarah, so have a look the next time you go. But we have to move on, change is difficult sometimes but it’s worthwhile in the end.

The Government website is a vortex of looping, self-linking pages telling you that you should do something but not how to do it. That’s another two hours I’ll never get back. But the good news is, when the time comes, I will receive the maximum possible state pension in the UK, just over £9000 pa. In Sweden, I’d get nearly three times as much. Here’s an old but interesting article. Yes, I wasted more time reading up on this and trying not to feel cheated.

But in eight days, we’ll be leaving this little nest of ours for a while. As we have to fly out of London Heathrow, we throught we’d spend a couple of days in the capital before we jet off. Sunday is the day of the Prudential 100-mile bike ride around London and Surrey. We’ll probably watch them roll in on The Mall, just as I did myself four years ago. And hope to do again one year.

Then early on the Monday, we’ll fly to Anchorage for Part One of our Gap Year Travels. This is why we’re trying to tie up all the loose administrative ends this week. We don’t want any important mail to end up in Chessington, after all. And we want the flat to be secure. Plus, the car will have a nice little holiday of its own somewhere. For a while, we thought about selling it but having lived here for a whole two and a bit weeks now, we accept that we really do need our own set of wheels. Public transport is OK, but we’re quite a way from the nearest train stations and tram stops.

The other day when we were driving somewhere, we passed a campervan with a brilliant sticker on the back. “Adventure before Dementia”, it said. And we thought, that’s great, that’s our philosophy right now!

This morning, I needed to go out to get some milk. I asked Liesel if she fancied going for a walk, and she said “Yes”. So we walked to Palatine Road, the main street, bought some milk and enjoyed our first coffee in the coffee bar, The Northern Den, recommended by our old Airbnb host, Iris, a few weeks ago. Liesel bumped into our old Airbnb host, Iris, just along the road. She’d left the café just before we arrived. What are the chances?

Instead of walking home, we walked further along the main road and after the bridge under the motorway, we started to walk along the path by the Mersey, towards West Didsbury. Liesel thought it would be great to have lunch at Greens, a fab vegetarian restaurant that we’ve been to several times with Jenny and Liam. It was a nice walk, yes, but poor old Liesel’s piriformis was playing up again.

We had a lovely lunch, the food’s always good. But it was so much quieter at lunchtime than it’s ever been in the evening. And as there aren’t enough pictures of food on this blog (said absolutely nobody, never ever), here’s one of what was left of my double chocolate sponge cake with chocolate sauce:

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On this day last year, I was in an MRI scanner watching a silent Buster Keaton film while strange beeps, whoops and other sounds were being played. I was worried I might fall asleep, but I manged not to. This was some research being conducted on perception of sound by people and how it changes with age. I hope the right bits of my brain lit up while I was processing the information.

One thing we won’t miss from Chessington is our old neighbours’ frequent habit of cooking up fish curry outside. A big cauldron of pink goo that can be sniffed from hundreds of yards away. Such was the case on this day 9 years ago. It must have been especially strong that day because I mentioned it on Facebook. Pee-ook. I hope they enjoyed it, we didn’t!

Princess Katherine

The best part of today was looking after Martha for seven hours while her Mummy was ‘at work’.

This is going to read like a Granny’s boasting book, but Martha really is terrific. Very bright, interesting and interested, she has a fantastic vocabulary, she loves any opportunity to climb up stairs, often without holding on, and best of all, she eats like a trooper. If a trooper eats a whole bowl of cucumber, peppers, tomatoes, Babybels and a bag of Hula-hoops, followed by a pouch of strawberry and apple juice or whatever plus a bag of Paws, a fruit-based delicacy.

We took her to Salford where we went for a one-hour long boat trip on the Princess Katherine. We row, row, rowed the boat, gently down the stream and when we saw a crocodile, we didn’t forget to scream.

Martha began to count the many bridges we sailed under but they weren’t regular enough. She enjoyed seeing ducks, swans, geese, coots and a cormorant. She wasn’t so bothered about seeing Media City UK, BBC, ITV studios and the Coronation Street set.

The most disappointing aspect of seeing the river and the canal so close up was: they are really dirty, full of rubbish, fridges, scum and yet, fish are returning after a long absence.

We took Martha to the People’s History Museum. We thought she’d be fascinated by the history of people fighting for their rights and for better working and living conditions. Well, maybe in a few years’ time. Liesel and I found the subject matter and the exhibits interesting but Martha was more taken by the large bees on display.

A bit of family history. In the 1950s, my two aunts and their husbands emigrated to Australia. They took advantage of a relatively cheap ticket to sail, and joined the small population of ten-pound poms. I guess this is one of the posters that attracted them:

Sixty years on and my younger daughter Helen has moved to Australia too, but it cost her much more than £10!

Martha was becoming tired so a babyccino and a cookie was called for. (Oh, alright, we had a coffee and a cookie too!) She fell asleep in the buggy on the way back to the car park but as we’re not as adept at the transfer as her parents, she woke up when we put her back in the car seat.

A lovely day with a lovely child and we’re wondering, just why are we going away for a year? Oh well, c’est la vie!

Visitors

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!

Helen, Martha, William, Jenny

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.