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!

A Day of Two Halves

As predicted, a slight cloud cover this morning made us wonder whether that was Summer, then. But no, it’s still warm, and we took the day off to go to the seaside.

We’d been to Formby before, but today was much warmer. In places, the sand was too hot to walk on with bare feet. The last time I remember that happening in England was on the Isle of Wight, in 1978, pre children, pre marriage, a long, long time ago!

We had a lovely walk on the beach though: where the sand was still slightly damp, it was much more comfortable underfoot. And the offshore wind farm was doing a good job of blowing a cool, calm breeze our way. We watched a large ship navigate through the turbines, or so it seemed from our point of view. That would be a fascinating photo, I thought. But no. Due to bad planning, I’d left the camera at home. Instead, here’s a selfie that we took with Liesel’s phone:

The Irish Sea behind us

We sat and lay down for a short while and I very nearly nodded off. But Liesel’s declaration of hunger prompted us to move off to find some lunch. A local Co-op provided sandwiches and crisps and, for me, a one-litre carton of chocolate milk. This is the drink of choice after a long bike ride and it was the best offering in the shop today. I must have been thirsty: it was all gone by the time we stopped at Sainsbury’s for some shopping.

It was a bit scary though. I was wearing a white polo shirt. These seem to attract food and drink stains, so the idea of drinking chocolate milk, from a carton, in a moving car, had an element of risk. But no spillage occured, the shirt is still pristine!

I thought the chocolate and the sugar would perk me up a bit. But no, it had the exact opposite effect. I really did need a nap, now. A cup of coffee in the supermarket didn’t help in this respect, either.

So, when we got home, I had to lie down and rest my eyes for a while. Meanwhile, Liesel was on the phone to our travel agent.

We have, she has, now booked our first few flights. So, we have the beginnings of the skeleton of our gap year travels. Plans to spend some time in Vancouver and/or take a cruise from Vancouver to Alaska have been shelved, this time round. Because we’re leaving home so much later than originally anticipated, we just want to reach AK before the really bad Winter weather sets in.

So that’s terrific. We’re under starters orders and we’ll soon be off.

Liesel also made a nice dip to take round to Jenny’s this evening. We went to join Jenny and Helen to watch England’s semi-final game in the World Cup.

On this day 33 years ago, Sarah, Jenny and I moved from Peterborough to Chessington, into the house that Liesel and I moved from just last week.

Although we were gathered together to watch a football game with Liam and his parents too, it felt strangely ‘right’ to be spending time with Jenny and Helen, and with the two grandchildren that Sarah missed out on.

Martha was fully supporting ‘our team’

and she knows ‘Football’s coming home’. I explained this motto to Liesel but as it’s from a song from 1996 and it has changed its emphasis and meaning over the years, I’m not sure I was convinced myself that I was telling the truth.

I also had to explain that World Cup Willie was the England mascot from the 1966 World Cup, not a medical complaint experienced by men who watch too much football on TV.

Well, England lost to Croatia and then Liesel and I came home instead.

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!

 

Lofty Ambitions

The bottom line is, we still don’t know if we’re moving into a flat or into storage.

We are proceeding at a pace with the packing. So much stuff. There are at least five boxes of photos. Actual printed photos. It’s been on the to-do list for years, and I think it’s on everyone’s list: sort out the old photos.  We really feel that progress is being made, though. There is a nice pile of stuff to pass on to the children as soon as is convenient. (Don’t tell them.)

A removal man came along this afternoon to give us a quote.

It’s official: estate agents lie. This week, again, we tried to find out when our flat would be vacant. The agent said that because they’re moving into a newly built house that isn’t finished yet, they would never give a date.

But they gave us a date right at the start. They said May. Later revised to mid-June due to a spell of bad weather. But now they can’t give us a date because anything could go wrong. The agent couldn’t (or wouldn’t) see that they’d given us dates before so there can’t be hard and fast rules about getting dates from builders. Also, being told May, at the time, fitted in perfectly with our plans. If they’d said then that they had no idea when they’d be able to move out, I doubt that we would have put in an offer, regardless of how good the property is.

Our seller is under stress now, said the agent, as she tries to confirm with her solicitor that they can exchange this week and complete on 2nd July. I didn’t take the bait and tell that actually, we’re quite stressed out too. Yesterday, she regurgitated a conversation I’d had with her on 2nd March. I explained that the situation is totally different now.

Anyway, that’s where we are.

Freegle is a great resource: you can get total strangers to come to your house and take stuff away. I’ll miss the old 1990s stereo system that hasn’t worked properly for years. The record player was disposed of years ago. Buttons on the cassette player broke many moons ago. If you play a CD, it usually skips the first time, but is OK if you restart. Plus, one of the speakers only works intermittently. The FM aerial is meh. The AM aerial is meher. Other than that, it’s in perfect working order. I recorded may radio programmes on it in the olden days.stereo

It’s a lovely sunny day, we should be outside enjoying the weather, not inside packing and emptying the loft. Maybe we’ll go for an early evening stroll, after the man’s picked up his stereo system!

On this day in 2014, we went to the British Museum to see The Vikings Exhibition. We went with Myra, Sarah’s Mum and found it a very interesting display. They certainly got around, those Vikings. We ate at a Turkish restaurant afterwards. I must have been suffering from my earlier fast though, as there are, unusually, no photos.

Yes, I fasted for 12 hours overnight prior to my free old farts’ health check with the GP. This is when the rot set in. I was diagnosed with high blood pressure but as I was training for a long bike ride, I chose not to start taking medication until after that event. So, in the following November, I started taking anti-hypertension medication. Wow: shortness of breath, no stamina, I felt horrible. Even after a change of drugs, I still felt ridiculously weak and feeble.

Once I stopped working for Royal Mail, the BP dropped to fairly normal and I stopped taking the medication. But here I am, two years on, still with nowhere near the stamina I once had. I don’t have dizzy spells as often as I did back then, but every now and then, if I stand up too quick, I feel all wobbly. I know there are risks with high blood pressure, but really, I was much better off before I knew I ever had high blood pressure!

But that’s all in the past. The really exciting news is that Liesel had been talking to a Travel agent about our travels. All very exciting but the bad news is, I forgot we had to pay for it. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it, but the schedule so far looks quite breathtaking, although subject to change: Vancouver, Anchorage, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand, Botswana. This will be much more fun to write about when the time comes than all this house-moving mallarkey.

 

Plan B

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve looked at the wall where the clock used to be. It’s a surprise every time. Then I remember, it’s been packed. All the pictures have been taken down too and bubble-wrapped. We have twelve boxes of books, seven of CDs and DVDs and several more boxes yet to fill.

Yes, we’ve caught the disease from Jenny and our house is sagging under the weight of filled and empty cardboard boxes. Aha, so we have a moving date in mind, you’ll assume. Well don’t assume anything, as they say, you’ll just make an ass of u and me.

We received an email from our solicitor this morning telling us that our vendors are still waiting for replies to their searches and enquiries. A process that we followed several weeks ago, and we assumed they had too. See what I mean about making assumptions? We thought the hold-up at their end was that their new-build house isn’t finished yet. But no, it’s admininstration that could and should have taken place weeks, if not months, ago.

The sellers’ agent waffled a bit while I was on the phone, I didn’t get  a definitive moving date, so reluctantly, we threatened to pull out of the whole thing.

We want to get out of this house so that we can get on with our travels. There are reasons why we want to be in Alaska as soon as possible and not just because of its blink-and-you-miss-it Summer.

Plan B is to put all our stuff into storage for a year so that’s what we’ve arranged. A nice Big Yellow Storage room in (or somewhere close to) Cheadle. We’ll be homeless, yes, but the stuff will be as safe as possible, and we can look for a house when we get back. Scary, Mary. Ideally, we’d prefer Plan A, to move into the flat, which is still the best one we’ve found while searching online. And far better than any of the others that we actually went to look at.

This week, then, we’ll carry on with the packing up, dismantling the old stereo system and shelf units, disposing of items that we’re not keeping and that our buyer doesn’t want us to leave behind. We believe she’s keen to exchange soon and to complete maybe within a couple of weeks. And if we get the bulk of the packing done, we’ll celebrate by going into London and having some fun at the weekend.

I can’t remember the exact details but I suspect that this is the sort of nonsense that led Sarah and I to vow that we would never, ever again, move house when we first moved here, 33 years ago.

While we’re looking back: On this day in 2011, Liesel and I saw Alison Steadman in Noël Coward’s Blithe Spirit at London’s Apollo Theatre. We enjoyed her performance…

In 2007, we were having our new kitchen installed. This is the day on which Richard the plasterer plastered the kitchen. In the process, many water and gas pipes were hidden within the walls, giving us much more wallspace for storage.

In years to come, I hope we can look back at today’s conundrum and just laugh it off. We’re listening to some nice, relaxing songs. Moving house and all that is frightening but the music is soothing and we both started grooving, yeah, yeah, yeah…

Sorry if you were hoping to read something about Plan B, the musician!

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.

A Castle and a Common

Liesel asked if I’d like to go to heave a castle. This was a euphemism that I was not familiar with so naturally, I agreed, out of curiosity.

On Saturday we met up with our friend Rosie and we visited Hever Castle in Kent. Aha!

It was a beautifully warm, sunny day and we had a good wander waround the well-kept gardens. The castle itself has a long and interesting history and there are plenty of artefacts to look at. But not many that you’re allowed to touch.

Then we went to the Anchor by Pyrford Lock for a late afternoon meal. I opted for a so-called falafel vegan burger and chips. It was very nice, with a pint of IPA!

Sunday was a day to catch up on some gardening and in the process, I was reminded that the back of the garage needs a good sort-out before we move. Lots of stuff to get rid of, we even thought about having a Freecycle or Freegle day, leave it on the back lawn and hope people help themselves. The fewer trips we make to the tip, the better!

Bank Holiday Monday, we visited family for breakfast. Helen’s other half, Adam, had flown over from Sydney to watch his team, Fulham FC play at Wembley on Saturday. They won this play-offs final and next season will play in the Premier League. Which is good news for a lifelong Fulham supporter even if, as Adam thinks, the quality of the football is not as good in the Premier League compared with the Championship.

He invited us over to his Mum’s for breakfast this morning and it was good to see some of his family again. He’s had 10 hours sleep in the last three days, really needs a nap but he is flying home later today so I’m sure he’ll sleep well on the plane.

After that, Liesel and I went for a walk in the woods in Epsom, around Stew Ponds and Ashtead Common. We walked to The Star pub, on Leatherhead Road, but no, on this occasion, I did not have burger and chips. Two days in a row is OK, but three times in four days would be a bit OTT! Also, as it was so warm, I had no beer, just lemonade and lime. Liesel had soda water and lime. just so you know what to ask for when you see us in a pub, on a hot day…

On this day in 1983, Jenny was born, the most exciting day of my (Mick’s) life at the time. After leaving Sarah and the baby in hospital, I went around all the local shops and told everyone. Hppy birthday, Jenny!

This was 15 years to the day after Kylie Minogue was born. For a short while when she was small, Jenny was quite pleased to share her special day. Happy 50th birthday, Kylie!

On this day in 1988, Sarah, Jenny, helen and I attended the wedding betwieen Sandra and Nick. They’d known each other as long as Sarah and I knew each other but waited 9 years longer before tying the knot. We stopped in a country lane on the ay so that Jenny and Helen could put on the lovely dresses that their Mum had made.

On this day in 2009, Liesel and Mick attended a recording of Have I Got News for You at the London Studios on the South Bank. David Mitchell on the host. It was a full house of course, and a very funny show.