Tranquility

Chester Zoo is featured in a TV series and it’s also the closest to where we live. We had a good day there with Jenny plus Martha and William and Auntie Helen. I told myself there was no need to take any pictures, we’ve seen all these animals before and they won’t have changed much.

The latest news is that just a few days ago, a chimpanzee gave birth and yes, the baby’s very cute, though we didn’t need to see the mum dragging her innards behind her like a really old, tatty, plastic bag. Sorry if you’re having your tea, but don’t worry, I didn’t waste any film on that.

We enjoyed being buzzed by the fruit bats in a dim, dark and very ammoniacal habitat. I’m not convinced their sonar had been correctly calibrated.

Fruit bats

William described one of the large, newly installed, predators as ‘scary’ which is quite perspicacious: I thought it was scary too, and I know it wasn’t real. But all the dinosaurs and predators are big, they all move and most are quite vocal. Rroarr!

Dire wolf
Martha being held by Helen with a Giant Bear behind (Winner, Obvious Caption Awards, 2019)
Quetzalcoatlus

The playground was great fun, with, amongst other equipment, a long, high slide. Martha found herself hanging around for a while.

Martha dangling

And as usual, children just can’t help copying each other.

Monkey see, monkey do

We were able to get remarkably close to an orang utan, just separated by the thickness of the glass. I don’t know if he/she was happy or not, but we humans were all being observed closely.

Looking into the eyes of an orang utan

The main objective of visits to zoos, of course, is to wear the the children out, and today, William was the first to succumb.

William having a nap

On this day, fifty years ago, I was enjoying a Geography lesson. The teacher wore a bright, primrose yellow dress and I’m embarrassed to say, I can’t recall her name. But I remember the lesson because she let us watch the launch of Apollo 11 on TV, slightly more interesting than the market towns of East Anglia. Saturn 5, you really were the greatest sight.

To celebrate this 50th anniversary, tonight was a full Moon and a partial eclipse. I went out for a walk late at night, but the light pollution near where we live is terrible. Not only that, I hadn’t realised just how many tall buildings there are all around. I did see the eclipse but I don’t think we’ll see a good sunrise or sunset from where we now live.

Partially eclipsed Moon

Another day out with the grandchildren found us at Stamford Park, Stalybridge. It still feels strange seeing these northern placenames on roadsigns.

It was a lovely, peaceful day, perfect for a gentle walk or, if you’re Martha, running around and climbing on all the playground equipment, or, if you’re William, running around and faceplanting in the sand.

Playing in the fountain

Later in the week, we had a couple of meals with the family, once at our place, once at Solita and then, all of a sudden, it was goodbye to Helen. She flies back home to spend some time with Adam before he jets off somewhere for work. I’m still no good at selfies so I’m glad Helen always manages to press the right button. Or, aims in the right direction and presses the button at the right time.

Helen, Liesel, Martha, Mick, William, Jenny, Liam

Didsbury in Bloom has won many awards for its floral displays over the years. And it is indeed a pretty nice little village to wander round.

A big bee (not scary)
One of many beautiful planters in the back streets

Liesel and I walked home, even though it threatened to rain. We had a stroll around Marie Louise Gardens, just off the main road. I like reading the plaques on park benches, there’s always a story, but I’m amazed at how many have a word spelt wrong. ‘A beautiful child and beautiful women’. It detracts from the sincerity of the message, somehow.

One advantage of letting the buddleia grow wild over the pavements is that it deters people from parking their cars there, which is a fairly ubiquitous phenomenon in Manchester.

Buddleia

There’s not much wildlife around here, so imagine our delight when we encountered some horses in a field.

Wild, wild horses

In the evening, we travelled by bus into Manchester, and walked to the Cathedral. It’s a busy old city, even early on a Saturday evening. We can never get away from cigarette smoke completely, but tonight was the first time we’ve had to hold our noses as we battled our way through clouds of the stuff.

The Cathedral has been a place of welcome and hospitality for over 1300 years. But for reasons well within our control, we arrived a little late, couldn’t find adjacent seats and the view of the performers was less than optimal.

Obstructed view

Yes, we should have left home just a couple of minutes earlier, then we would have caught the bus that we saw departing and avoided a 13 minute wait for the next one. Lesson learned. The restricted view didn’t spoil my enjoyment though. These old ears were very happy with the acoustics, and I couldn’t even hear the sound of traffic or people from outside during the quiet passages. This was a classical concert, with music by Mozart, Bach, Albinoni and a surprise tango, Oblivion, by Piazzolla. Nobody else got up to dance around the aisles, so I sat back down.

Stained glass window

The main piece at ‘Vivaldi – The Four Seasons by candlelight’ was The Four Seasons by Vivaldi. The conductor of the London Concertante chamber orchestra also read the sonnets that Vivaldi wrote to accompany the music. It was all very enjoyable. There was applause between the movements of every piece, almost the musical equivalent of grocers’ apostrophes, but there was no chatting amongst the audience members, something that’s de rigueur at modern music gigs.

It was still quite light at the end of the performance so the candles weren’t as delightful and homely as they might be in the depths of Winter.

Music by candlelight
The angelic keyboard player

In domestic news: number 1 on my ‘to do’ list is to bring together all the other ‘to do’ lists. There’s a lot to do. Good job I like lists. And doing things.

I stayed up to watch the Eagle land at Tranquility Base but I wasn’t allowed to stay up to watch the first Small Step taken by Neil Armstrong. Outside, looking up, I remember not being able to see the two men on the Moon but not wanting to disappoint my parents, I said I could. Fifty years ago, wow.

Manly to Moruya

We packed and dragged our bags back to Helen’s. We then breakfasted at Sketch, sitting outside in the warm sunshine. Helen took us to the next car rental place before we said our sad goodbyes. Not as sad as usual though, as Helen will be coming over to the UK in a month’s time, hooray!

Helen was delighted that the wine order she’d collected last week at Heifer was duplicated: a delivery was made this morning. So the dilemma is: drink it or return it? Helen did the right thing of course and was punished by having to carry the heavy box down to the post office!

The new car was much newer than the Queenland one, but a little smaller which is ironic since we now have a huge case as well.

And so began our final road trip in Australia, before our long journey home. Manly to Melbourne, mostly along the coast road.

After leaving Sydney and its suburbs behind us, we were able to relax a bit and enjoy the scenery.

Coledale was a nice little place to stop, rugged and rocky.

Coledale Beach

This sculpture celebrates the life of all-round local good guy, Mike Dwyer. It just invites you to walk round and round and admire it from all angles.

Comradeship by Didier Balez, 2007

It was quite windy and the sea was crashing onto the beach. Not surprisingly, nobody was on the beach nor in the water.

A little later, we stopped at Wollongong for lunch.

Wollongong Serpent, the Southern Siren

I went for a walk towards the lighthouse but was unable to complete the trek due to my inability to walk on water.

Sometimes, we gnarly old farts need a little help

I did make friends with a pelican in the harbour, though. We swapped stories and fishy tales.

Just the Pelly and Me

Today’s destination was Kiama Blowhole. It was windy enough for a good blow, but the tide was right out, so not much action today. Well, other than everyone walking around trying to keep their hats on.

Kiama Lighthouse

If being blown along by the wind didn’t convince you of its strength, the white horses out at sea certainly would. Yes, it was windy, but the Sun was out and it was a bright afternoon.

White horses

The rock formations in this area are fascinating too, especially the attempt to emulate the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland.

Kiama rocks, OK

There’s a large area of what can only be described as a lunar landscape. And in the middle of all the desolation, there’s one small plant, one giant leap for plantkind.

Little plant growing out of rock

Our b&b in Kiama was called Itchycoo Park so of course I had that song in my head all night.

The wind died down at some point overnight. The brief peace and quiet was disturbed though by a tradesman turning up early to demolish the balcony over our heads as a prelude to Neil, our host, building an extension, with a great view towards the northern Sun.

We returned to the blowhole in the morning where it was performing very well.

Thar she blows
Much calmer Kiama sea today

Today was Jenny’s birthday. I shouldn’t give away a lady’s age, but this is interesting. She is now 6². I am 8². If you add our ages, you get 10². Yes, we are like the squares on the sides of a right-angled triangle. Very special. That sounds better than saying that our ages now total 100, so I won’t mention that.

Liesel and I went for a walk on the beach at Gerroa. The wind had found us again and our legs were sand-blasted and exfoliated perfectly. Fascinating watching the little sand dunes form and move across the beach, like an old Open University Geography demonstration.

Whistling, whispering sands

Despite the strong wind and the raging sea, we found a group of hardy souls, actually in the water, trying to learn how to surf. A Surf Skool in the Sea in a Gale.

Surfers with L plates

Berry is a lovely, quiet little town. There are lots of interesting knick-knack type shops. We saw something nice or cute or unusual in most places, even some furniture that we like the look of, but of course, we didn’t buy anything. Except in the toy shop: that was totally irresistable. I just hope we don’t have to go out now and buy and even bigger case to put the new purchases in!

Alexander Berry, popular with birds, yes, and so popular with people, they named the town after him

The wind in Berry wasn’t as strong nor as cold, so it was delightful just walking up and down the streets, window shopping.

Dog taking shelter under a cow

I found one shop offering Intravenous Coffee, seems like a good idea, so I went in but they just gave it to me in a cup, like a normal coffee shop.

IV Coffee
Dog in a boat on the roof

Proceeding southwards on the A1, we were surprised to see smoke in a few places. Just a few, late, controlled fires even though it’s very nearly Winter here.

Smoke in the distance

By the time we reached Hyam’s Beach, a little later in the day, it was a colder breeze again. Neil had told us earlier that Hyam’s Beach claims to have the purest white sand in the world.

What does the sand at Hyam’s Beach do?

Well, it is white and soft and squeaky but I think the authorities at Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsundays might have something to say about Hyam’s claim.

What else does Hyam’s Beach have to offer? More black smoke over there, a couple of youngsters fishing, plus, at the water’s edge, a young couple reenacting that scene from the film ‘From Here to Eternity’.

More smoke over in the distance
Fishing
Just good friends

But the pièce de résistance was without doubt seeing this cloudbow, which appeared fleetingly just before the Sun set.

Cloudbow

The b&b today stunk: someone described it as ‘funky chicken’. It had the smell of an old person’s flat where they never open the windows, overcook all the food, and smoke. This hosts were friendly enough, admitted to smoking but only in the back of the house and they were proud to be cooking up two days worth of stew. Well, I hope they enjoy it because we certainly didn’t enjoy the stench it produced. We drove into Huskisson where we had a gorgeous meal.

Needless to say, we didn’t hang around in the morning for breakfast, we just wanted to get away before all our clothes became infected with the cigarette smoke and the stew grease fumes and the air fresheners that were fighting a losing battle. I just found it unpleasant, but poor old Liesel doesn’t have the most robust set of lungs at the best of times.

A few deep breaths of fresh air and we were back on the road.

To prevent landslides, there are a few places by the A1 (and presumably elsewhere) where they’ve sprayed concrete all up the hill, a common sight in Malaysia. But here, the colour they’ve chosen here is a better match to the background earthy colours.

We stopped at a place called Milton, where the views could be English pastoral scenes, evoking paintings by Constable.

Milton scenes

Breakfast at Ulladulla was very welcome. The Sun was out, the sky was blue, hardly a breeze, we found a place mentioned in some of the literature, Native!, and it lived up to its reputation.

Ulladulla Harbour

Boats in harbours always make me happy and I wonder if this is because one of my very first jigsaw puzzles, when I was small, depicted such a scene?

A fish out of water

I had more fun than Liesel did in Ulladulla for which I feel very guilty. No I don’t. I sat in the library writing while she sat in the car looking out for Traffic Wardens, or Rangers as they are called here.

When I reached a stopping point, I went to meet Liesel and was delighted to find this sundial, with its unorthodox orientation and gnomon placement. It told the right time as far as I could tell, taking into account the equation of time and daylight savings, but I could see no reason why it was set up this way. It was erected in celebration of Australia’s Bicentenary in 1988.

Sundial at Ulladulla

Burrill Beach at Dolphin Point has no crocodiles, hooray, no mention of jellyfish, fantastic, so a lovely place to go for a dip, you’d think.

Burrill Beach warnings

But even without those hazards, the high waves plus the strong winds were far too intimidating for us.

Burrill Beach surf’s up

I went for a quick walk along the beach and had the place to myself again. At one end of the beach, there was no wind. One minute, I had to hold my hat on, the next I’m standing feeling the heat of the Sun on my back. Magic.

Calm end of the beach

I tried to make friends with the oystercatchers, but they weren’t interested. I was intrigued by the structure of the beach’s surface here, though: usually you see roughly parallel lines in the sand, whether from waves or from wind.

Sand like orange peel

Yet another reason why I regret not pursuing a geology course at some point.

Burrill Beach has many holiday homes and would probably be a great place to spend more time. But a lot of those homes don’t look out over the sea. There are tall trees in the way. Or, if you’re really unlucky, you look out over the caravan park that is right next to the beach.

Just when you’re thinking, ooh, we haven’t seen any wildlife for a while, we turn a corner in Kioloa and find a field full of kangaroos relaxing.

Field of kangaroos

And if that wasn’t enough, just along the road, we passed by a house with several kangaroos in the front garden. These were not at all timid: in fact, they seemed disappointed that I didn’t offer them any food. But I swear the one at the front rolled his eyes when I asked, “What’s up, Skip?”

Garden of kangaroos

It was bright and sunny in Bateman’s Bay too and although we didn’t see much of the town itself, we did find some great sculptures.

The octopus on a buoy certainly drew our attention.

Buoyansea by Jesse Graham
Lavender is an old, old, old, old lady (RIP Ken Nordine)
Dance by Haruyuki Uchida
Selfie on the Bay
Portal by John Fitzmaurice

Our final stop tonight was at our b&b in Moruya. On the way, we passed this sign, so now I had another song in my head.

Roll over, Batehaven

When we entered the premises, we held our breath but, phew, this place didn’t smell too bad at all. And relax!

Mount Maunganui

It’s hard to believe that a year ago, we were planning to move house and then go travelling. Out of the darkness came forth this very blog. We documented the nightmare that is selling a house and buying a flat. And we’re sharing our travels and adventures with anyone willing to join us here, or because they can find nothing better to do.

So, as we tuck into our first anniversary cake and swig our anniversary champagne out of the bottle, we would like to toast all our readers, followers, supporters, stalkers, anyone who’s liked or commented and especially anyone who’s come back for more. Cheers!

We stayed fairly local today, visiting Mount Maunganui.

First sighting of Mt Maunganui

We saw the mountain itself and thought actually, every High Street should have a mountain at the end. But the town itself was heaving. So many people, and we’re not used to that any more, really! So easy to become snobbish and not want to hang out with other tourists and visitors.

Yarn-bombed trees

There was a street market in the park which we had a quick look at. Disappointingly, there was no bread on offer, but we did, of course, buy a cake! (Disappointing on two counts: we like fresh, crusty bread but also, we later found the sliced bread at home to be mouldy, grrr.)

The live music was very good and enjoyable. We were even treated to an Oasis/Bob Marley medley, possibly a world first. Wonderwall and Stir it Up: who knew they’d sound so good together?

The mountain in the distance

Maunganui wasn’t the only mountain we saw in or near Tauranga. There were mountains and mountains of containers in the docks, the biggest port on North Island. I know they’re important for trade, we all need food and other stuff, but when you see that many stacked up just the other side of the fence from the road, they’re really ugly. On the other hand, the mountains of salt didn’t look so bad. It could have been sand, after all.

There are three Toll Roads in New Zealand and today, we found the third, so yippee, a hat-trick for us, and another opportunity for me to forget to pay online later in the day, be chased down by the authorities and banged up for a long period.

Kaiate Falls was the venue for our first proper walk of the day. Maybe a hike: it was down a sloping path and back up, including 244 steps.

Liesel creeping down the steps

The cascade of falls was quite stunning and despite warnings about microbial contamination, some people were playing in the water.

Water babies

The soundtrack here consisted of running water, birds and cicadas.

Selfie of the day

We drove to Te Puna Quarry Park, passing through both Judea and Bethlehem on the way. This was a lovely park and we enjoyed a longer walk through the bush. Without the rushing water, somehow the cicadas seemed much louder and more confident.

Cicada

We still don’t know the definitive pronunciation for this populous but hard to spot insect. Is it sick-arder? Or sick-Ada? Or sicker-duh?

As well as some pretty and fragrant flowers, there were some good sculptures here, some of them quite humorous. And as for the unexpected animals, there were plenty of those:

Exotic tool birds
Recycled bicycle
Stone flower and, er…
Waterwheel
Dragon

We watched the birds for a while and realised that if we weren’t travelling light, we might have had binoculars with us. And a camera with a good zoom lens and a tripod. But that would be a different kind of trip, and we’ll bear that all in mind next time.

I think it’s a tui but it’s definitely a silhouette
Peacock
Monarch butterfly
From certain angles, a Star of David
Choo-choo train and Thin Controller
Springtime
Mosaic owl and mosaic tui
Hobbit house door
Human beings
Snail
Runestones

Afterwards I realised, I should have had my photo taken here, wearing my proper wide-brim hat, packing a six-shooter, sitting on horse. Then I could have been The Runestone Cowboy. But it’s too late now.

Snake

You might think we’re easily entertained, and sometimes we are. The car stereo thought it was performing a Two Ronnies sketch as we drove from one scenic viewpoint to another. It kept displaying the name and performer of the track before the one that was actually being played. “That doesn’t sound like Ofra Haza, it sounds more like Eddi Reader.” And so it was. The only remedy was, of course, to turn it off and on again.

I finished Nicholas Nickleby a few days ago and my next book was totally different. A collection of stories, poems and essays written by British Muslim women. Items suggesting that Islam is a wonderful religion were followed by stories suggesting that it really isn’t, especially as far as women are concerned. Lots of food for thought, and so, my next book is a bit lighter. Lethal White by Robert Galbraith. Much to Liesel’s chagrin: she wanted to read it first!

“Where’s Namibia?” asked Liesel. “South-west Africa, I think.” “No, Nivea, hand-cream?” “Oh!”

And while we were sitting on a bench, enjoying nature, within a couple of minutes, I used a couple of words that I very rarely use. Liesel commented on the greyness of the clouds. “Portent of a big storm,” said I.

Liesel pointed at an object gliding in the air, suggesting it was a butterfly. “No, it’s a bird, surely? I didn’t know butterflies glid like that.” But sure enough, a little later, we witnessed butterflies gliding between the flowers.

My phone downloaded and installed a Major Upgrade last night. OMG, it’s all changed. Buttons have moved, some are well hidden, functions that used to be one ‘click’ are now two. Even keys on my Logitech keyboard have been reprogrammed: the and the @ have swapped places. Android Pie. The first bite was a little bitter, but I’ll adapt to the taste fairly quickly, I hope. And one day, I might even find exciting new flavours.

Too Shy

I felt the need to go for a long walk. Fukuoka is a big old town and I thought I’d wander over to the docks, stop by at the onsen for a hot bath before going back to the hotel.

Yes, it’s a big city but the most interesting, picturesque places are by the rivers.

Fukuoka
Confluence
One of the more interesting buildings

I wandered through a park where I came across a disused open-air theatre.

Open-air theatre

The most disappointing thing I saw though was a couple of homeless people. We were just talking about this a couple of days ago: where do all the homeless people in Japan go? We hadn’t seen any in Tokyo, or Kyoto, anywhere. Maybe there are none. Maybe everyone is looked after? But I saw a man and a lady today, each pushing a supermarket trolley full of plastic bags of stuff. These people looked a bit shabby too, which is most unusual.

Liesel missed out when I visited the art gallery. A collection of impressionist paintings on loan from the Burrell collection usually based in Glasgow.

The sign on the wall said it was OK to take pctures, but no flash, no tripod, no selfie stick. But I was told off when I tried to take a picture of the van Gogh painting.

A voyage to impressionism

I walked towards the docks but it was heavily industrialised, not a place to go for a walk, so I never did see the sea. Instead, I went to the onsen. Such a disappointment. I only have myself to blame, of course, for not even trying to learn some basic Japanese. But surely, if I go into a public bath, it’s pretty obvious what I’m there for? The receptionist pointed me in the direction of the café area. But I couldn’t even see how to order a cup of tea, if I wanted one. A few guys were sitting there with towels around their necks. But I couldn’t see where to go, for lockers, to pay, to take my clothes off, nothing. Too shy, shy, hush, hush, eye to eye. Very disappointed with myself but there are plenty of other public baths.

The docks are way, way over there somewhere

So, I thought to myself, I’ll go for a massage instead. I looked one up, followed directions and oh my goodness, I know I was still close to the dock area at this point, but this wasn’t the kind of massage I was looking for.

Another bridge

I walked back to the hotel where I had a bit of a lie down!

William looking good, happy birthday xx

Meanwhile, back in the UK, lovely William was celebrating his first birthday. We won’t miss his second, it’s too hard!

And so, on to our next port of call. The name of it has proved to be a bit of a mental block for me. Kajagoogoo. No. Kamikazi. Kama sutra. It’s on the tip of my tongue but I just can’t remember what it’s called.

To be fair, it’s not just Japanese place names I have such problems with. There was that night a couple of years ago when I was awake for hours trying to remember the name of Sherlock Holmes’s nemesis. Yes, I know it’s Moriarty. But I couldn’t recall it that night. Montgomery, Montmorency, Mycroft (close but…), Moorcroft, Moorcraft, on and on.

And while out walking the streets of Fukuoka yesterday, I kept thinking of Cosa Nostra, Kate O’Mara, cash ‘n’ carry.

Every time we pack, we think we have too much stuff. We walked to the station having a late breakfast slash early lunch on the way. Hard Rock Café, as it happens, salad and chips, always a good combination.

Today’s journey on the Shinkansen would be our final train ride in Japan, on this occasion. Such a shame it only took an hour and a half to get to kalamati, no, Kalahari, grrr…

Kagoshima. It’s Kagoshima, of course.

Our Airbnb host, Jin, picked us up from the station, took us to our apartment, way up on the fifth floor and there’s no lift. He introduced us to the local greengrocer, told us how good the chicken was, told us where we could get chicken sushimi for only 100, very cheap.

I went for a walk to confirm that I would be able to find the local hot bath tomorrow Yes, there’s one here too, just a two minute walk away, and I will persevere this time.

Sun sets, shrine appears on the hill

We should be used to it by now, but when the Sun sets here, it sets good and proper. No messing about with twilight and all that nonsense.

We look forward to exploring this place, Kagoshima, Kagoshima, more fully tomorrow!

Sharks, Shrek and Churros

Remember, remember the fifth of November. Well, I always do: this year it would have been my Dad’s 93rd birthday. He never made it to Japan, but his ship was on its way when the war there ended, having, as he told us, finished off the conflict in Europe.

So here we are now in Japan, experiencing everything it has to offer. Including, this morning, a very slight tremor. I felt the bed shake and in the kitchen, the pot of cutlery toppled over into the sink.

Here’s a clue to the Japanese experience we chose to experience today:

The Harry Potter Universal Studios train that we didn’t take

Yes, Universal Studios Japan is a two train ride from our abode. The entertainment began early as we again enjoyed the announcements at Osaka Station. The musical cues are fantastic, no simple ‘bing-bong’ here, you get a whole tune. I recorded a few minutes and when I edit it down, I’ll have a brand new ringtone.

The young lady sitting next to me on the train kept sniffing. I wanted to offer her a tissue but that would have been a mistake. In fact, to sneeze or blow your nose into a tissue here is considered rude. Sniffing is much more acceptable. If you use a tissue, you have to (try to) be very discreet. I tried the sniffing method but that still feels wrong and rude to me.

Universal Studios was a five minute walk from the station and apart from the Japanese script on all the signs, we could have been in America.

Merry Christmas!

Another Christmas tree getting us in the mood

That is indeed the Sun shining through the star at the top of the Christmas tree. We heard Christmas songs during the day too. We headed straight for Jurassic Park and my first ride was The Flying Dinosaur.

The pteranodon is scary-looking
The ride looks scary, there’s even a safety net, presumably to catch digestive tracts that people lose

OMG.

That was the best/worst ride I’ve ever been on. Incredibly scary and I will never do it again. It’s the longest rollercoaster in the world, reaching speeds up to 62mph, there’s a 120-foot drop, you’re lying facedown, prone, you’re taken through 360° loops at least twice and, and, and, my palms are sweating just reliving the experience. Yes, it’s exciting, but it’s so fast, you can’t really see what’s coming, so there’s no anticipation. If you close your eyes, you might as well be inside the world’s maddest, fastest out-of-control tumble dryer.

I had to sit down for a while to recuperate from that. With a small cup of coffee and some soy beans.

The rest of the day was calmer: all good fun but much less frenetic.

The trio playing msuic was very good, and not playing Christmas songs which was a bonus.

A happy string trio

We were taken on an adventure in New York with Spiderman. Backdraft and Terminator 2 were both a bit disappointing. The former was just too much standing and watching people talk before a final few seconds of actual pyrotechnics. The latter was just too long a build-up for a couple of minutes of good special effects at the end. There’s a clever mix of film footage, real actors, lighting and effects but sometimes you feel that waiting in queues that long should be better rewarded.

Just a view of the water

Shrek 4D was very good. The 4th D is, I assume, the sensurround seating, you feel the horses galloping and the bump when you land hard. It was a very funny storyline too, even if we couldn’t entirely follow the Japanese dialogue.

As it’s so popular, we had a timed ticked for the Harry Potter Forbidden Journey ride. This was very enjoyable too, and probably the onlky time we’ll ever invade a game of Quidditch. Great stuff, and it was nice to see so many visitors dressed up in the Hogwarts School uniform.

Harry Potter’s battered Ford Anglia

Again, I told Liesel that I wish I still had my toy Ford Anglia from when I was little: it was blue/turquoise, the same colour as the one used in the Harry Potter films. I think I gave it to Garry next door.

Welcome to Hogwarts

Our churros were long, hot and very sweet, providing enough energy to keep going for three more rides. And bo9om. Five o’clock. Suddenly it’s dark. Twilight doesn’t get much of a look-in here.

Jaws entailed a nice gentle boat ride with the odd appearance of a shark. It really needs to see a dentist, though.

Boo!

We returned to Jurassic Park and again, I did the ride by myself. And yes, I did get wet: very wet. Liesel sent a picture of wet me to our grandchildren.

Mickey Drippin’ (as I used to be known)

And finally, at our second attempt, we went on the Minions ride. The ride was good fun, but again, I think the preamble was too long. Or maybe it just felt that way because we don’t know the language and consequently missed some very funny gags in the narrative.

We dined at that famous Japanese restaurant, Hard Rock Café, sitting at a table next to one of Beyoncé’s old basses, apparently.

We arrived home much later than anticipated. Probably fatigue and lack of concentration on our part meant that we didn’t notice that the train we were on had turned round and so we ended up paying a second vist to Universal Station. Oh well, it’s all an adventure, hey!

Yikes, more hikes

The general tidy up continued but we were in the garage today. The one car that normally resides there has been relegated to the bottom of the drive leaving plenty of space on the floor for all the items that are being disposed of. For a number of reasons, the weekend coming up is the only one free for a Big Garage Sale, the local equivalent of a car boot sale. Only here, everyone comes to your garage. Which means of course it has to be publicised ahead of time. There’s a lot of stuff in the garage, but Liesel’s Dad seems to know what and where everything is. The ‘to go’ pile is satisfyingly big, especially now the items from the upstairs cupboards have been added.

So if, for instance, you want a really heavy chain once used by horses to drag logs, you know where to come…

With a view to fully preparing for the Garage Sale at the weekend, we paid a visit to The Home Depot. That place is huuuuge. This must be one of the biggest DIY shops anywhere: it’s like Homebase on steroids. Full of people buying stuff with which to do jobs themselves. It was a good 5-minute walk to the bathroom at the back. Inside which the soap comes out of the dispenser, water comes out of the tap and hand-drying paper is dispensed all with a quick wave. Because DIY folk don’t like working too hard to wash their hands.

On sale were sit-upon lawn mowers and traffic cones amongst other exotic items. We just splashed out and bought a sign to tell people where the garage sale is located.

Cones
Spooky
John Deere lawn mower

In the evening I joined Jyoti for a hike down to the beach. Funnily enough, it started right by the football pitch where we’d been yesterday. It was much warmer and much less windy tonight though. It’s gone now but fairly recently a wahle carcass washed up on the beach to be thoroughly enjoyed by the bears.

View along the beach towards Chugach mountains
Makeshift Tibetan shrine
Gonna be a gorgeous sunset in two hours time

Sunset is still after 9pm, so we reluctantly decided not to wait for it. The sea was lovely and calm so of course I skimmed a couple of stones.

The beach was sandy where I was expecting mud, so that made a more pleasant jaunt. We passed a few people jogging on the path and along the beach. Or, more precisely, they passed us.

Next day, we both went to the gym. I covered one mile in 11m58s. Then, after a bit more time on thr treadmill, it was over to the stationary bike where I cycled nowhere, or 1.5 miles, depending on how you look at it. Liesel did a yoga session. I don’t know which of us had more fun.

Liesel and I joined Jyoti for a walk on the (in)famous Flat Top Trail and Powerline Trail. The sky was blue, the Sun was out, it really was a beautiful day for a hike. A strenuous hike. I think the path started off at about a 40° slope and I thought, if this lasts much longer, I’m gonna have to crawl up on all fours.

But that was the worst part, and the ensuing four miles or so reavealed some spectacular views of the mountains, near and far, glacial valleys and of Anchorage itself. We were joined by a friend of Jyoti’s, Lisa: everyone knows everyone in this town.

Mountains just over the valley
Looking down on Anchorage
Anchorage and (I think) Denali on the right, at the back
Great views, photos don’t do justice to the scale of the landscape

In the evening, we went to the Bear Tooth where you can eat a meal while watching a movie: very civilised. We saw Three Identical Strangers, a documentary about a set of triplets separated soon after birth and each adopted by a different family. As a human interest story, it was indeed very interesting and moving. But there was an undercurrent of unethical psychological research practices.

Inside the Bear Tooth, waiting for food and for a movie

Anchored Down in Anchorage

Mick is hoping to purge this earworm by mentioning it here. Anchored Down in Anchorage by Michelle Shocked is a great song, but I wish my mind would concentrate on a different one about AK or preferably, about something entirely different.

Monday was a day of rest. Asa’s interested in cookery and he scrambled some eggs for our breakfast. And we went out for some shopping, stopping at a coffee bar, of course.

Unfortunately named napkins

In the evening, we went to collect Gideon from his football practice. He enjoys playing in goal but for the time we were there, all the play was at the other end of the pitch. As I walked back to the car with him, he was dribbling his football and his control was very impressive!

The field has several colonies of mushrooms should they get hungry during a game.

The next morning, we went to the gym where our 12-year old Training Assistant, Hannah, got us to do some exercises. And tried to sell us more services, of course. We’d rather be outside walking or cycling but the weather recently has been a bit damp and the immediate forecast doesn’t look too good either. But we do need to build up strength and stamina before our long trek in Japan.

In the coffee shop afterwards (it had to be done!), we bumped into Suvan: we were planning to see him later in the day too at his Mom’s house.

In the afternoon, we took Asa and Gideon to the movies. Christopher Robin is very enjoyable, very gentle with some nice nods to the original Winnie the Pooh stories.

We went round to Jyoti’s in the evening for her gorgeous Indian food. Suvan was there too with his gorgeous new bride Kayla.

Liesel, Suvan, Kayla, Jyoti

We took Asa to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center at Portage. Gideon didn’t want to come because the animals make his hands smell. Which may be a euphemism for he wanted to stay in to play computer games. The weather was dry but a couple more degrees of heat would have been welcome.

The Center does take in orphaned and injured animals and, for us, provided a good way of seeing some genuine Alaskan wildlife albeit in an artificial setting.

Moose
Noncustomary speed limit
Musk oxen
Arctic fox
Sitka deer
Three-legged porcupine called Kit-Kat
Black bear
Black bear in the water
Wood bison
Not a real bear

On the way to AWCC, we stopped at the Alaska Bakery. I have never been defeated by a cinnamon roll before but this one was enormous. Cinnamon roll?It was a brick! I ate it in three sessions during the day. Yes, I should have taken a picture of it.

When we got back home, Liesel and I went for a quick walk up the road with the dog who was limping a bit and she knew when she’d had enough. It was just great being outside for so long today.

It’s not every day you get woken by the phone ringing at 7.00am. It was the crew delivering the new dishwasher and the new oven telling us they were on their way. We both stayed in bed until they’d gone.

Jyoti called as well to say she was coming over at about 9am and as it was 8.45, I knew I had plenty of time: she is Indian after all 😉 but she showed up just a few minutes later, and the three of us went for a walk to Kincaid Park and around the trails.

Asa and Gideon went for a quick bike ride to Kincaid too, and on their way back home, they told us that there was a moose around the corner with her baby. We didn’t know how the dog would respond so we turned back, and found a different rute through the park.

Jyoti and Liesel

We found Beercan Lake, aka Campbell Point Lake, the location of our marriage ceremony all those years ago.

In fact, we realised it was exactly our 12½th wedding anniversary, half a silver!

Liesel and Mick, without skis this time

After the walk, we went to a great resaurant called South for a late but very welcome breakfast. I liked one of the paintings on the wall but Liesel thought we probably wouldn’t be able to afford it. So I snuck a photo instead.

A terrific painting
Lending library, we’ve seen a few of these cute little boxes
Yes, we went into this shop

In the afternoon, we took both boys to Color Me Mine, a paint your own ceramics shop. It was a lot of fun but it’s fair to say that other customers had more artistic talent than we do. The items will be fired in the oven and we’ll be able to collect them in 7-10 days.

Like the local orange juice, 100% concentration
Liesel’s penguin

I don’t think I’ve played Monopoly for a quarter of a century or more but the rules came right back to mind. We played the Alaska edition which was fun, but the funniest thing was, Gideon’s cheating was more blatant than Asa’s. Even so, I was declared the winner in the end because I had more properties. But, really, the game lasts far too long for young folks and I even thought that when I was myself a young folk.

Monopoly

The Alaska edition has groups of land mammals, sea mammals, cities, natural features and the Chance and Community Chest cards have been given an Alaskan flavour. No “You came second in a beauty contest” here, it’s “You have won second prize in the miners and trappers ball costume contest”. You can go to jail for “exceeding legal fishing limits”.