To Takatsuki

Our time in Tokyo is over. That went fast. We saw about 0.01% of what was on offer, including some of what we’d planned to see. But after more than 40 years, there is still a lot of London for us to see, so what chance did Tokyo have?

We packed, ate most of the rest of our food for breakfast and left a few bits in the fridge for the next people. Our final walk back to Yamagome station with full bags this morning was hot and sticky.

This shopkeeper hasn’t quite got the hang of the 24-hour clock

Thank goodness we chose to travel light! But everything is relative, and we could both do with travelling lighter, that’s for sure.

Interestingly, we noticed that on the stairs to the platform, we were supposed to ‘keep right’. The ‘keep left’ ‘rule’ doesn’t even apply to the whole of the railway system never mind the whole of Tokyo or the country in its entirety.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, our lovely Martha and William were enjoying preparations for Halloween. Thanks for sending the pictures so we can stave off homesickness!

Martha and William being spooky
Martha (behind) and pumpkin (front)

The main task today was to validate our JR (Japan Rail) Rail Passes. The assistant was very helpful and very thorough, but what a palaver. We had vouchers and expected to be given real Passes. We didn’t anticipate that so many pieces of paper would have to be printed, annotated, highlighted, dated, stamped, signed, stapled, filed and when she started processing a Filipino’s form with my passport, I think I was quite justified in becoming a little worried. But, being British, I kept my mouth shut, of course.

Our Passes were subsequently stamped, that is to say validated, by the first ticket inspector we saw. We can’t use the automatic barriers, we have to show our Passes to a real person each time, in and out of a station.

The first, crowded, train took us to Tokyo Station. We then reserved seats for the second train, as this would be a three hour long ride on the Shinkansen service, the world-famous Japanese Bullet Train.

Our train arriving at Tokyo station

The seats are in groups of 3 and 2 separated by the wide aisle. There is plenty of legroom too.

Inside a bullet train carriage
Scrambled eggs, oh my darling, you’ve got lovely legs*

The ride was smooth and very comfortable. The highest speed we saw on my little phone app was 280 kph, about 175 mph.

Google Maps plus Speedometer

I think we were hoping to see more countryside once we left the metropolis of Tokyo, but the whole country seems to be pretty built-up. In some places, I had to look away from the window as the flickering of the fast passing buildings was making me feel a bit ooky.

We were hoping to see Mount Fuji, of course, but the train passed through a long sequence of long tunnels. The lady sitting behind pointed out Fuji, now way behind us, and while it was exciting to see it at last, in the flesh, it was too far away and I was too slow to take a picture. So, I had to make do with a photo of an advert at the next station!

(A poster of) Mount Fuji

We saw the sea for a a brief moment and eventually, we did see some actual rural scenery.

Fields whizzing by at over 100mph
Hills near Yasu
The sea at Atami-shi

In the station earlier, I’d used another app to translate the labels on some of the snacks in the shops. For some reason, the English translation was displayed upside down. And of course, the phone is so smart, when you turn it round, it turns the image round too, so it’s still upside down. But we were glad to have snacks, as the on-train service was hard to pin down. At least two crew members pushed a trolley through the carriage, but so fast, it was impossible for us to flag them down. What was cute though was that every member of the crew who passed through the carriage turned round and bowed before they left.

As we approached Kyoto, the densely built cityscape became more dominant again. Amongst the ordinary structures, we saw the beauty of an old shrine standing proud.

A shrine near Kyoto

The train was quiet and peaceful. There was nobody shouting the odds on their phone, nobody playing loud music through inadequate earphones, it was all very civilised. In fact, it’s normal here to turn your mobile devices to silent, and not to use them as phones while on board. So imagine how mortified I was when my Google Maps app started telling me where to go while we were on the train. It’s not like I was driving and had any control over where we went. Some apps are just a bit too up themselves.

Three hours on a bullet train and we duly arrived at Shin-Osaka station.

Shinkansen at Shin-Osaka
Escalator does a whoopsie

The escalator thinks it’s a staircase. It goes down for a bit, then it levels off and then it goes down again, as if it has to pause for breath halfway down. (Or, indeed, up.)

In the stations, and outside, we noticed that many people were dressed for temperatures far colder than we were experiencing. Did they know something we didn’t? I’m still in t-shirt and shorts and I feel fine. Liesel feels cold well before I do, so her cardigan was on and off almost as fast as a pulsar.

The third train ride of the day was only about 20 minutes duration. We went back from Osaka towards Kyoto, as the new Airbnb is halfway between the two cities.

At Settsu-Tonda station, we were met by our host for the week, Masako. She actually gave us a lift in her little car to our accommodation and of course, on this occasion, we hadn’t had time to buy flowers to thank her for the lift! Oh well.

Our pink Airbnb home for a week

The house was easy to find from the station and it is pink: it reminded me of our old house in Peterborough. Masako showed us round: we had the choice of downstairs or upstairs. We went upstairs as it seemed more private. Plus, we’d be further away from any karaoke activity taking place next door.

We have much more space here too: it’s good to be able to sit and relax on a sofa. There’s a decent kitchen with cooking paraphernalia. The cutlery drawer is mostly full of chopsticks, but I’m sure we’ll get by.

We had a quick walk back up the road to the convenience shop, 7-Eleven. Not convenient enough to sell fruit and veg, though. So I walked further along to a greengrocer where I was able to procure apples, bananas and grapes. No tomatoes, though. And yes, I did ask for English tomartoes and for American tomaytoes.

Our evening entertainment was the start of a sequence of Slow Sunday programmes from last Sunday on BBC 6 Music. Cerys Matthews, Russell Crowe and Guy Garvey all played some fantasic, relaxing music.

Our beds are components from an old bunk bed, so it’s quite hard to get out of them with sides higher than the mattress thickness. At least we won’t fall out. And we won’t be struggling to get up from the floor, either! We’re here for a week, hooray!

* Scrambled eggs, oh my darling, you’ve got lovely legs… apparently these are the original lyrics to Paul McCartney’s song, Yesterday. No prizes for finding another Beatles song title here somewhere.

Basketball

Today’s afternoon walk only took me as far as KBC. The initial plan was to walk to the nearest barbershop, but it proved to be too far. If I could walk in a straight line across the international airport, it would have been a 20-minute walk. Going the long way round would take well over an hour and half. So my hair is still uncut, unkempt and certainly not making growing fast enough to give me a ponytail any time soon.

In the evening, we went to watch Kiran playing a couple of games of basketball. As we left the house, Liesel pointed out the moose. What moose, I asked, looking into the distance. That moose, said Liesel. Right by the car!

There’s a moose, loose, outside the hoose

Phil was coaching Kiran’s team and we watched from the gallery, with Una. Basketball is a very fast game, a lot more scoring than soccer, of course, and all the players were very skilful with the ball. Between the two games, Una took us to a nearby coffeeshop that shall remain nameless. No, it wasn’t the Voldemort Coffee shop.

Goal!!!
Yes, a very fast game

The venue was BHS. Not the now defunct UK chainstore, but Bartlett High School, way over on the other side of town.

The students are Bartlett Bears.

To round the evening off, Una took us to the Anchorage Ale House to watch and listen to an ’80s music covers band, I Like Robots. Really, ‘I Like Robots’ is the name of the band. (The copyrighted name for the Alaskan-based tribute band that we’re putting together is AnchoRage Against the Machine.)

I only had one beer, thanks
I Like Robots with all the best hits from the ’80s

We had a good old-fashioned singalong and had the pleasure of meeting a couple of Una’s friends, Lesley and Tina.

The place was heaving, really crowded, the music was loud, the hubbub was louder but man, was it a relief when we finally got seats! I think this is the latest we’ve been out, getting back home just before midnight. The Moon was peeping through the clouds accusingly.

Meanwhile, we’d missed the People’s Vote march in London. An estimated 700,000 people made it the second largest march ever in the UK. More people even than the total population of Alaska! No trouble, no violence, no arrests. A few weeks ago, 7,000 people attended the Leave Means Leave march and caused plenty of trouble. I hope I’m able to participate if there is a second referendum, especially if the option to remain in the EU is included.

Over the last few days, I’ve caught up on a few radio programmes and podcasts. Highlights include Danny Baker talking to Sir Bernard Cribbins and playing Right Said Fred by Maya Angelou and Jessica Mitford! Who knew? And the now award-winning podcast Fortunately! with Fi Glover and Jane Garvey, which you sometimes have to listen to through your fingers.

Thirteen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

View from the coastal trail

I found Jupiter, another point on the Planet Walk.

Jupiter on the coastal trail

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

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

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

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

View from Una’s office window

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

Anchorage War Memorial
So sad and unnecessary

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mountains

It’s Wednesday again. The day the cleaners arrive by 7.30am meaning that we have to be up and out of bed. So we went out for breakfast. It was cold that early in the day, brrr, Liesel even suggested I put on a coat and long trousers. Pfft. Later on, the weather lady on TV confirmed that it was indeed the coldest start to a day since mid-May.

We went to see Yoshi, a friend of Wayne’s, for some advice about our trip to Japan. He’s been organising tours for many years and knows the place backwards. He’s also Japanese. While speaking with him in his 12th floor office, we watched a bank of fog roll in over Anchorage and roll away again. We have our train tickets sorted and a tour of Tokyo a couple of days after we arrive.

Later on, we went for a walk with Jyoti down in Kincaid Park. We hiked along a very damp grassy trail, quite hilly in fact, and we ended up overlooking the inlet and Fire Island and some mountains way over there.

Jyoti and Liesel plus a lovely view

We came across an old open-cast car-tyre mine, which is obviously no longer in operation.

The old tyre mine

The snow-clad mountains look like a postcard. Looking at a map, this is either the Neacola or the Chigmit Mountain Range, but as always, I’m open to correction. Either way, the snow came down much further than that in the Chugach range. So far, but the season is young.

Proper Mountains
Another Mountain

Good Greeff, another unusual sign. And no, on this occasion, there were no high-speed skiers or mountain bikers coming our way.

A reminder that we were on a ski trail

Nutburgers and chips for supper. I listened to Word of Mouth twice (because I nodded off during the first attempt) and to the Cerys Matthews Blues Programme.

Docs and Glocks

A couple of days of mainly medical matters, not very interesting really. So here’s a picture of some daisies, Liesel’s favourite flowers.

Daisies for Liesel

Liesel went to the dentist as one of her teeth broke a couple of days ago. She also arranged to collect a new batch of her prescription drugs. The pharmacy was inside Walmart so while waiting, I wandered over to the firearms department. The handguns are cheaper than mobile phones. I couldn’t decide which one to go for, but like 99% of the population in USA, I don’t really need one anyway. On a day in which there were three, yes, three mass shootings in USA, I’m glad I decided to save my money.

Handguns – no idea if any of them are Glocks
More firearms – too much choice

We tidied up Jyoti’s house a bit, we were moving back to Klaus and Leslie’s today. Later on I walked home from Jyoti’s house and I can confirm that Autumn is here. The colours are changing.

Autumn colours

In the evening, Klaus watched Blue Bloods on TV. We all did. Too much TV recently. On the other hand, I did listen to some familiar radio programmes so I don’t feel too badly sullied.

It was my turn to visit a doctor today to get a prescription for my meds. Lots of form-filling for such a formality. A man came up to us in the car park. I thought we were being reprimanded for parking in the wrong place. But no. He was interested in buying Klaus’s sports car, the one Liesel and I were using. I was open to offers but it’s not really for sale at this time.

Klaus’s car – not for sale

I really should stop taking pictures inside lavatories, but this little graffiti made me laugh:

Toilet seat covers

We went to the airport to pick Jyoti up: she’d spent a few ore days with Gita and Josh in Portland. While waiting close by the Alaska Aviation Museum, I went to take some photos and Liesel warned me that I was about to walk over a working runway. I looked both ways and saw no planes coming before running across!

A plane with wheels
The Museum with a sad face
A plane with floats

We took Jyoti home and we had time for a quick walk before Liesel’s next physio appointment. More dry needling in the bum, with extra long needles today, woohoo! While she was being poked, and indeed having her back massaged as well, I walked to the post office to send off some items. Lots of form-filling for such a simple task.

Liesel and I met for a coffee before picking up my meds from Target.

Meanwhile, today, Klaus had a haircut and a pedicure. I too need a haircut, so so I keep being told. But I am not seeking treatment for my bashed-up nose.

The good news is that we’ve experienced the warmest September in Anchorage, ever! Maybe paying for temporary gym membership was worth it: we’d rather have the good weather than have to go to the gym because it’s horrible outside.

Today’s front page, Anchorage Daily News

The Big Breakfast

A pleasant early morning walk around to Jyoti’s for breakfast. Banana loaf from Una, plus fried eggs and toast. Lots of toast. While Liesel, Jyoti and Una went shopping, I went back home and caught up on the admin: journal, bills, emails, deleting rubbish photos.

It’s election time here in Alaska, well, the Primaries at least. There are boards all over the place. This one intrigued me as being slightly oxymoronic:

She’s not getting our votes

Yes, what a big breakfast. I had no need for lunch nor dinner, just an apple and some crisps. It was nice having a bit of a break in the house though.

45 minutes on a treadmill is not as much fun as walking around outside for 45 minutes. Every time I go to the gym, I come to the same conclusion.

On the other hand, I did listen to part 1 of a radio dramatisation of The Scarlet Pimpernel. Everyone else in the gym was probably plugged in to some high-BPM, motivating, loud, thumpy-thump music. Not me!

It was raining. Some of the gutters above the shops have broken, so walking from one shop to another meant having to dodge cascades of water.

I was on my own after being dropped off by Liesel and her Mom. While entertaining myself, they went shopping. That’s two days’ shopping in a row for Liesel. She’s going to need a bigger bag.

I wandered around Title Wave too, noting down some books that I’d like to read one day. I was delighted to hear the Bee Gees playing in the shop. Well, a record of theirs.

It was raining. Cars driving through the car park had to try very hard not to splash people as they drove through the puddles.

I had a coffee at Kaladi Brothers again: possibly the best coffee in Anchorage. One thing I’ve noticed is that the free wifi offered in shops here seems to work. No need to register, just enter the well-publicised password and it works. Now that is civilised.

It was raining. There were some bedraggled people around, but nobody looked particularly miserable.

I wandered down to REI. I do need some new shoes and I thought I’d have a quick look here. I know what I want, I know the make, I know the size. But the choice available was overwhelming. Familiar brands as well as far too many unknown ones.

Liesel collected me, we went home and before going round to Jyoti’s for dinner, I attempted some of the puzzles in the newspaper. They seem to be much harder on a Sunday.

It was still raining.

I mentioned the Scarlet Pimpernel earlier. I brought recordings of a few radio dramas with me, and I was hoping they would last me most of the year. Well, I’ve listened to all 10 episodes of Dust: La Belle Sauvage read by Simon Russell Beale, but I think in the wrong order thanks to the way the BBCiPlayer works and/or the way I saved the files. I also listened to The Citadel, a series from Woman’s Hour about a Welsh doctor in the 1920s written by the same author as Dr Finlay’s Casebook.

I do miss listening to my regular favourite radio programmes and podcasts, though, but at least we’re not spending too long with our brains being turned to mush by American TV.

Women, swimmin’ and trimmin’

Thursday was a busy day. The base of our new bed was delivered by a nice man from John Lewis and his grumpy junior partner. Liesel and I literally made the bed, thank goodness the instructions were fairly straightforward.

The mattress on top, lots of storage below, we were set for a good night’s sleep. The bed we left behind in Chessington kept us off the floor, but the last vestige of comfort disappeared ages ago. Liesel will say it’s never been comfortable, but it was OK when it was brand new, last century.

The other exciting event was the installation of our Internet connection. While Liesel was out taking loads of rubbish to the tip and returning an item to Ikea, I spent a couple of hours trying to get online.. So many usernames and passwords and so many places to enter them and over and over again it didn’t quite work. Every time the solid red light showed on the router, a puppy died. Such a palaver: it should just be plug in and go, by now, surely, in the 21st century? Eventually, it worked. Another one of those occasions where I have no idea what I did differently on the last go compared with several previous attempts.

How wonderful to hear Liesel come back home, walk in and say, “My phone’s got a wireless connection!” Just like that. After all that blood, sweat, toil and tears, her phone picked it up instantly. I think Liesel thinks I was sitting there while she was out, smoking my pipe, drinking Scotch and watching TV.

Online and in bed. Almost back to normal!

No lie-in though because on Friday, we went to London for the day. We joined the Women’s March to protest against Donald Trump’s visit to London. Liesel made her own placard, plenty of reasons why he is unsuitable to be a President, even if democratically elected by Russia.

The Virgin Train to Euston was packed: people were standing or sitting on the floor, all of which is unaccepatbel when you’re spending £60 or £70 to travel. I’ll know next time. If the online booking system doesn’t give me the option of reserving seats, it’s probably because they’re all taken. I think the system should say explicitly that all seats are taken, then at least you have the option of travelling later. But, standing for over two hours on a train was the worst thing that happened that day.

We made our way to Oxford Circus where we joined a large crowd of women, men and many others. The main focus of attention was the Baby Trump inflatable balloon that flew above Parliament Square for a couple of hours in the morning. Unfortunately, we’d missed that, but we did see the Baby before it embarks on, presumably, a world tour.

20180713_1359393658687263119572356.jpg
Even Big Ben is hiding from Trump

We walked, slowly, down Regent Street, Piccadilly, Haymarket, by Trafalgar Square, down Whitehall to Parliament Square. The idea was to “make some noise” and sure enough, lots of people were banging their saucepans and shouting and chanting. Some of the placards were very funny, and most people were quite happy to have their photos taken. Liesel’s placard was snapped too by many people. We met quite a few Americans who were following the advice from the US Embassy to “keep a low profile”. Really? Not a bit of it, the consensus was that this advice was ridiculous.

20180713_1414262874022680780826119.jpg

20180713_1437273766978093549328092.jpg

20180713_1432494520469994001696348.jpg

20180713_1459508067784656970761534.jpg

20180713_1446516205937084437315133.jpg

20180713_1349121439070859344009777.jpg
Liesel with some fellow Americans

20180713_1450256673839058392856386.jpg

20180713_133826542017147078545853.jpg

20180713_1341457106952342160785194.jpg

20180713_1309385012778342882034236.jpg
Mick and new best mate, Salena Godden

One highlight of the day for me was meeting Salena Godden, top poet, great performer, who I’ve been following on Twitter for a while and whose work I’ve enjoyed since hearing her on Radio 4 in the early days of Saturday Live.

We met up with Helen and Steve close to the Winston Churchill statue. Steve and I wandered off at times to hear the speeches, small the substances being enjoyed by others and to take more photos. A young lady approached Helen and Liesel and asked them to distract her child while she was strapped into the buggy. Helen and Liesel, neither of whom have extensive experience of child-rearing!

20180713_1528573526870392706878023.jpgSome of the 70,000 of us on the Women’s March drifted away, but many joined in the other, bigger march which numbered 250,000 at its height. Meanwhile, Helen, Steve, Liesel and I walked through St James’s Park where we were greeted by the sight of a heron (hooray!) chomping on a duckling (not so nice). He looked very pleased with himself afterwards.

We enjoyed a coffee and a late lunch before walking to Waterloo. We caught a train to Earlsfield as Liesel had an appointment with her physiotherapist: a good idea after standing on a train for two hours.

The climate of hate in the UK is getting closer to home. Liesel’s physio, Emma is Australian. So is Emma’s partner. He too is a physio and his application to have his working visa extended has been rejected. He has to leave the UK within a couple of weeks. He’s going home to Australia. Therefore, so is Emma. So we are losing two top, well-qualified medics because it’s government policy, pretty much, to deter foreigners.

It felt strange, after a day in London, to be coming home in a northerly direction. But at least we gots seats on this train, even if I did have to run to find them!

Saturday morning, I listened to Saturday Live live for the first time in ages. It was being broadcast live from Mousehole, where Sarah and I enjoyed our honeymoon in 1979.

Saturday afternoon, we enjoyed a big family gathering at Jenny’s. Liam’s parents Alan and Una were there, as well as his sister Andrea and her daughters, Annabel and Emily. It was a lovely, sunny day so we spent most of the time in the garden, forgetting that England were playing in the World Cup 3rd place play-off (they lost).

Sunday was another early morning: Martha’s swimming lesson this week began at 9am. She did very well as usual. We saw William swim in the afternoon too. It’s wonderful that they both enjoy it so much in the water. And in between, Helen offered to cut our hair, so we all had a trim. That grey stuff on the floor after she cut my hair? I have no idea what that was or where it came from.

In the evening, we had a lovely Indian takeaway, from Coriander in Chorlton. This was in part to mark the occasion of Helen’s departure today (Monday) to the old ‘hood in London to visit friends and to attend a couple of weddings. By the time she returns to Jenny’s, Liesel and I will have gone, departed, set off on our Travels….

 

Liam, Martha, Jenny, William, Mick and Helen

Yes, suddenly, we have less than two weeks to do all the admin that needs doing, to tell all outstanding bodies our new address and do whatever you do to a place before locking up and leaving it for several months. How many Es in eeeek?

Today for me was a lesson in patience, being kept on hold for ridiculous amounts of time, being told I didn’t need to register online accounts only be end up registering anyway because there was no alternative and then, being kept on hold for ten minutes only for the call to be cut off at exactly 5 o’clock.  But the good news is, this evening, someone came round and gave us actual cash for some of our old packing boxes.

Baker’s Doesn’t

We saw Danny Baker’s latest show a couple of nights ago. Over four hours of pacing up and down and talking really fast about his job in the record shop, about The 6 O’Clock Show and only just getting to the point where he started presenting on GLR. We were in the Upper Circle and just above the lights. Yes, it was hot and the odd whiff of hot metal added to the experience.

The performance was at the New Wimbledon Theatre which as far as I can remember ios exactly the same building as the old, original Wimbledon Theatre.

Sarah and I saw Doctor Who on stage here about 25 years ago. Jon Pertwee played the Doctor, didn’t take it too seriously and frequently came out of character. And I think he threw some Worzel Gummidge lines in too. The funniest thing though was… watching the Daleks, on coasters, as they rolled down the slightly sloping stage towards the audience!

This is the third time we’ve seen Danny Baker in the last 15 months or so. First time in Guildford where he performed his first show, From the Cradle to the Stage, which tookm us through his life as a young boy. By the end of three and half hours on stage, he still hadn’t left school. Some great stories, especially centred around his Dad, Spud.

His stage shows certainly give you value for money, especially when you take into account that he’s a very fast talker. More words per minute than anyone else I can think of. Another performer would run out of steam much sooner, and their show would stop after a couple of hours. But Danny Baker’s doesn’t.

Later in the year, we saw him at Waterstones in Piccadilly where he spoke for a while about the newly published third volume of his autobiography, Going on the Turn. We also bought a copy of his new children’s book, Lucie Goose, for Martha. Both were signed and will be worth a fortune on eBay eventually.

In life, only three things are guaranteed: death, taxes and that when you phone an estate agent, they’ll be on another call already.

Our sellers are ready to exchange, we are ready to exchnage with our buyer, but we fear that her solicitor might still be sitting on paperwork and not doung his job very well.

We still don’t have a moving date, but surely it can’t be more than three or four weeks away now? We had the first removal firm round this morning and they’ll send their quote later on.

And after all this time, the house is still, albeit half-heartedly, fighting back. The front door lost its ability to be locked. Luckily for us, it’s still under warranty, and when the guys turned up, the problem was solved in less than ten minutes. I’ll know what to do next time and I’m so glad I still follow what the internet told me about toeing and heeling, removing the windows from the door, unscrewing all the locking mechanism, moving the hinges all of which would reult in a door that didn’t open or close either.

The zip on my shorts broke just as we were leaving the house to see Danny Baker. Luckily, it was closed when it broke. But come on, dear house, sabotaging my legwear isn’t going to make me chnage my mind about moving.

It’s Summer so the garden is growing at a rate of knots. We could leave a wilderness for the new occupants but that seems a bit unfair. We wanted to renew our subscription for garden waste collection but the online system wasn’t working. Our faithful old house somehow hacked into the local council’s website and caused it to fail. We got there in the end, and thanks to the intervention of one of our local councillors, our garden waste bin was emptied this week. All ready for the next session of lawn mowing, bush trimming, weeding and general tidying up.

Eek, we’ll be moving soon and suddenly there is a huge backlog of radio and TV programmes to catch up on. I usually downlaod about 15-20 hours a weeke of radio programmes, plus some podcasts and I can bearly keep up. Then there are several TV dramas that we’re halfway through right now. It would be a disaster if we moved house and were unable to keep up to date with all that stuff.

Then I remember, we’re going travelling for several months, it doesn’t matter! There are times when I’ve thought about getting rid of the TV altogether, but I could never get other family members to agree. But it doesn’t matter!

What sort of programmes would they be, then, I hear you cry? All sorts, but I’m not going to list them, because it doesn’t matter!

When I Live My Dream

On this day, June 1st, 51 years ago, David Bowie released his first eponymous album. Obviously, we were oblivious to this at the time. The BBC Light Programme would never play it, maybe one of the pirate stations did, and David Bowie never really came to prominence until Space Oddity in 1969, two years later.

Bowie-davidbowie

Nobody could have predicted that the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, released on exactly the same day, would have achieved so much more publicity and airplay!

I first heard the David Bowie album in 1973 and thought it was OK, actually. The songs are simple, cute and sometimes very funny.

Once when I went home for the weekend from university, a singer in a local pub covered Uncle Arthur, and I’m sure my Mum and Dad didn’t believe that this was an early David Bowie song.

I think my favourite song is ‘When I Live My Dream’. I used parts of it when I was courting Sarah. And I emailed the lyrics to Liesel when I was wooing her. When we watched the film A Life Aquatic, I was delighted to hear Seu Jorge’s Portuguese version. That was great. I was, however, miffed when, a few years ago, London Heathrow Airport used it in an advert to celebrate its 50th anniversary. No! Sacrilege!

Today is the 68th birthday of top singer/songwriter Tom Robinson. On this day, eight years ago, Liesel and I saw him and his band in concert at Shepherds Bush Empire. The gig, celebrating his 60th birthday, was titled ‘Glad to be Grey’, a fantastic pun on one of his best-known songs, ‘Glad to be Gay’.

tom robinson 1475
Tom Robinson

He sang a medley of his greatest hit, ‘2-4-6-8 Motorway’ as he had done when he performed at my 50th birthday party, some years earlier. Yes, my very good friend Tom was good enough to visit Chessington and entertain us for an evening. Top bloke! I’d first met him at a writing retreat in 2002. This was less than a year after Sarah had died and I was still feeling very fragile. He was incredibly helpful and supportive and the group from that weekend kept in touch for many years afterwards. In fact, we met up with Marko beforehand for a quick drink. Cheers!
(I know what you’re thinking. ‘Hey Mick, you’re writing this nonsense 16 years after attending a writing workshop? You should ask for your money back, mate!’)

The gig took place during a campaign to save BBC 6 Music, our favourite music radio station, from being closed down. Tom was and is a presenter and several other presenters turned up to wish him a happy birthday with a cake designed to look like the 6 Music logo, which itself resembles a record player.

finale 1937

Other guest musicians include Toumani Diabaté on the kora (don’t tell Tom, but I could have listened to Toumani’s kora all night) and Nitin Sawhney.

Overall, a fabulous night. And happy 68th, Tom, possibly greyer and gladder.

So, to summarise: David Bowie, the Beatles and Tom Robinson are amongst my favourite artistes of all time. And BBC 6 Music is still a favourite radio station.

Dingle Peninsula

A good night’s sleep and we woke up to rain. The bungalow is bigger than our own house, but much quieter. The only sounds from the outside world, other than the rain, are the Atlantic Ocean, some sheep and some lovely birdsong: heard but not seen.

In the kitchen/dining area, we found an extensive CD collection. Christy Moore and The Pogues. So we can at least drown out the sounds of nature.

Except the Christy Moore CD case is empty, and inside The Pogues’ 30:30 we found Now That’s What I Call Pop CD Three. How disappointing!

But the good news is, The Pogues’ CD was found in the CD player, and the CD player actually works.

But then again, this was the only one from the 2-CD set.

Yesterday in the car, I think it’s fair to say we were both disappointed with RTE Radios 1 and 2. Too much talk about Repealing The Eighth. It’s an important issue, yes, but we want to be entertained. And the music wasn’t to our taste, except on the Gaelic station, but the signal wasn’t as reliable

Also, the Vote Yes and Vote No posters on every lamppost don’t do much to enhance the beauty of what we’ve so far seen of The Emerald Isle, even the ones that aren’t blatant lies.

We took our time getting ready to go out, hoping the rain would ease, and that the Dingle Peninsula would live up to its reputation.

And it really did. Bright green fields, glacial valleys, mountains plus all that the Atlantic could throw at the coastline. We stopped at Inch and took a mile: in fact, we walked over three miles on the beach there, despite the wind. I think the word is ‘bracing’. But fortunately for us, the rain had stopped a long time ago.

Speaking of miles, we saw a poster for Ryan’s Daughter, the film, in the local café, and for teenage me, the big star of the film was Sarah Miles. It was filmed in the area, and they are very proud of that.

We had coffee and carrot cake at the café, part of our c-food diet, following the crisps and curry yesterday. As it’s not the full tourist season, the outside toilets were still locked up and there were no rubbish bins: recycling bins, yes, ordinary litter bins, no.

Inch Beach

This guy was the only one fishing on the beach, we have no idea if he caught anything but a few sea-birds looked hopeful. Lots of people had driven along the beach though and I made sure that if future archaeologists inspect the fossilised footprints, they’ll wonder just how 21st century walked.

After a cheese sandwich for lunch, we drove to and through Dingle itself and further west. We stopped several times to admire the views and there are not enough superlatives available, so just imagine us saying ‘wow’ on repeat.

At Dunmore Head, we joined the sheep and walked up and over the headland to within spitting distance of the furthest west point of mainland Ireland. It would be a terrific place to watch the Sun set, but that happens so much later than at home.

Dunmore Head
Dunmore Head

Tig Àine is probably the café with the best possible view anywhere. How anyone that works there does anything other than look through the window is beyond me. We had more coffee and cake while watching the waves crashing on the rocks, watching a group of five ducks amble by and admiring the pictures painted by local artists. Yes, we would have liked to buy one, but no, we didn’t, the overall plan is still to de-clutter.

After yesterday’s disappointment with the local radio offerings in the car, today I connected my phone via Bluetooth so we were able to listen to some old BBC radio programmes. Tony Blackburn’s Golden Hours is the fastest show in the world, apparently!

The drive back to base was gorgeous too and for supper we had a fry-up.

We could spent days here to be honest.