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

Lu-Lu Belle

Wednesday was the thirteenth anniversary of Liesel moving to England. We didn’t mark the occasion, mainly because we didn’t remember until the following day. Oh well, maybe next year.

But we did have a fantastic and fascinating 9-hour long trip on board the good ship Lu-Lu Belle.

Lu-Lu Belle

It was raining when we walked across the road to wait, under cover, for departure at 11 o’clock. It rained on and off all day, but that didn’t detract from our enjoyment of the cruise and everything we saw. Captain Fred Rodolf has been cruising Prince William Sound since 1979 so he’s had plenty of time to perfect his commentary which was both informative and very funny.

He was very proud of the oriental rugs on Lu-Lu Belle, so we passengers all had to wipe our feet before going on board.

Just one of the oriental rugs

A boat’s wake is so-called because it wakes up any sea otters that happen to be asleep as the boat passes by.

And we did indeed wake up a few otters, in cold water, yes, but snugly warm with their 100,000 hairs per square inch.

Sea otters

We saw Valdez Glacier as we left the harbour, just, through the mist and the haze. Fred told us that the Valdez we’re staying in is not the original town. That was destroyed in the 1964 earthquake. But why is there a place here at all? Because it’s the northern-most, totally ice-free harbour on the Pacific coast of America. It gets very cold but the sea doesn’t freeze here.

We passed by Glacier Island where we were met by the sight and the stench of sea-lions, great big lumbering slugs lolloping on the beaches.

Sea-lions

Fred told us several times that sea-lions weren’t very popular because they eat the salmon. And the Alaskan salmon industry is second only in size to its oil industry. The salmon population is closely monitored and if one year, not enough salmon return to spawn, then the permitted catch is reduced accordingly.

Further around the island, the boat nosed into several caves, yes, actually into the caves, to try and find some puffins. It was delightful to see them high up, nesting in the caves but it was impossible to get a decent photo from a moving boat while looking up, trying not to fall over and desperate not to drop the phone.

It really is a puffin

Pictures of humpback whales turned out a bit better. There was more time, they were further away and I was more steady on my feet. One of the whales resurfaced pretty much every seven minutes, but where he would appear was anyone’s guess.

Thar she blows!

One of the other passengers was eating ‘gorp’. I don’t know if that’s a well-known term for it, but trail-mix really is a different animal in these parts. At home, trail-mix is just a mix of nuts and dried fruit. Here in AK, it has nuts and raisins, yes, but it also includes little chocolate chips as well as M&Ms.

As we approached Columbia Glacier, we saw ice-bergs. Mostly quite small but there were some large ones too. Their blue colour is lovely, brought about by refraction in ice when all of the air has been squeezed out.

Sunbathing otter

Ice-berg

Approaching the glacier was something I never thought I’d do. Columbia has retreated several miles over the last forty years, and the leading edge is a mile and a quarter wide. From a few miles away, we could see mountains behind but as we approached to within a quarter of a mile, its 200 feet height obscured those mountains from view. That alone gave us an idea of the immense size of the glacier.

We heard chunks of ice crashing into the sea before we saw any calving. As close as we were, sound still reached us too late to be able to turn and look at the right place. It was a bit of a guessing game, but I think everyone saw a few splashes. A couple were big enough to generate waves that reached our boat, but, thank goodness, not strong enough to threaten us in any way.

Captain Fred let us watch the glacier and the calving for a good hour and just as we left, a tall pinnacle detached and fell over, though not while I was filming.

Columbia Glacier

Klaus will talk to anyone and everyone and somehow the crew discerned that it would soon be his and Leslie’s 50th wedding anniversary. They wanted to do something to mark the occasion, but as only one of the happy couple was present, Klaus received the gift of a free muffin!

Yin and yang, though. At some point when Klaus was on deck, the wind carried away his favourite cap, depicting Oregon Ducks, the football team of Leslie’s alma mater. American football, that is.

In the evening, for the first time in AK this trip, we dined out. Fu Kung Chinese but also Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai and presumably other oriental cuisine.

Fu Kung good food

The following day when I went for a quick walk before leaving Valdez, I bumped into Captain Fred again. I asked him to keep a lookout for Klaus’s cap. He said he would, it’s probably being worn by a sea-lion though!

We had to check out of the campground in Valdez by 11am, much earlier than the state-run places, but at least we had good weather for much of the journey today. We had planned to camp one more night, by Lake Louise, but in the end, it was decided to go all the way back home to Anchorage. Klaus thought nothing of the four-hour drive, but then there is a lot less traffic here on the highways than we have to contend with on motorways between London and Manchester.

Being able to see the sights today was wonderful too. The Horsetail Waterfall was very popular with visitors.

We saw lots of lakes and glaciers and mountains as we drove westwards along the Glenn Highway. In places, it looked like a sheer drop to the left, the other side of the road.

The trees were noticeably different from place to place. Tall, bushy white spruce and birches were dominant in places. But in between, where the ground was swampy and the roots less strong, the trees looked really weak and feeble. These are black spruce.

Black spruce

When I saw black spruce a couple of days ago, I thought they were just trees recovering from a bush fire: not much foliage yet and blackened, wizzened trunks. But no, this is what they really look like. If you imagine a nice, thick, leafy spruce as being a healthy, well-fed fox’s brush, then black spruce are the tails of mangy foxes.

We were delighted to see a few groups of cyclists on the Glenn Highway, including one group of about six German girls. They were all doing well even though the road was quite hilly in places. Helped of course by the decent weather we were all enjoying.

I learned something else in the last few days. Where the road is rollercoaster-like bumpy up and down due to melting frost below the road surface, the term used is ‘frost heaves’.

We arrived back home about 6.30pm, and after a chat and something to eat, Mom and Dad went to bed and for the first time in nearly two weeks, the TV was turned on. 666 channels of absolute tosh. Liesel settled for a Harry Potter film.

Someone left the kayak out in the rain

Three Sleeps to go

On Tuesday, we spent the morning with Martha again. We didn’t take her out anywhere as she’d had a busy few days, visiting London, meeting Great Granny (Sarah’s Mum) again, and spending an exciting day at Peppa Pig World in Southampton. Instead, we had a nice, calm time, playing with Playdough and reading books.

Later in the evening, Jenny, Liam and the grandchildren came round for dinner, the first time Liam’s been. It was good fun with Martha here. If there’s a button, she’ll press it. If there’s a bed, she’ll bounce on it or pretend to sleep in it.

20180724_1853264924580644945846465.jpg
Who’s been sleeping in our bed… and she’s still there!

What I didn’t realise until this morning was, she’d set my alarm to go off at 5.00am. I haven’t needed such an early alarm since I retired from Royal Mail! Luckily for me, and for Liesel, the alarm starts off with a light slowly brightening, a sort of electronic sunrise, rather than an audible tone. It made me chuckle, though!

We both went to the GP practice this morning for our first appointments, to meet our new GP. Instead, we met a Healthcare Assistant who did a good job of taking some basic measurements. Then, after lunch with Jenny, I went for a massage at Clarins in John Lewis. Lots of hot oil, cold water and goosebumps involved and I still wonder whether falling asleep is a compliment or an insult to the masseuse.

Last night, I watched the latest episodes of Ackley Bridge and of The Handmaid’s Tale. Both are better(*) but both have a few episodes remaining and I’ll miss those. There’s a small sense of incompleteness but I think the excitement of travelling for several months outweighs that loss! (Sorry, Sam.)

Three more sleeps until we leave so we, well, Liesel, started packing this evening. We’re trying to stick to one backpack each. Then I saw Jenny’s packing list. Twelve pages? I know they have two children to pack for too, but even so, my old list fits on one side of A4 and we just wanted to look at Jenny’s in case there’s something obvious that we’ve forgotten.

The last of the PC-based admin has been done, the paperwork needs filing away, and the ‘to do’ list is getting shorter rather than longer. Progress is being made. But we found time to watch today’s stage of Le Tour. A short stage, only 65km, but up and down steep Pyrenees all day. I was tired just watching it. And Geraint Thomas is still in the lead.

(*) “Both Are Better”. This is the name of a book written by a friend of mine, Jane Schnell, about her cycle trips in Britain and France. Highly recommended, a very good read, and not just because I get a brief mention.

Hello to our Fans

After two nights staying at Jenny’s place, we are tonight sleeping on the blow-up bed in our own luxury apartment. I carried Liesel over the threshold. There are only 32 stairs, not the expected 40, I don’t know where we got that idea from but the 20% reduction in climbing is a bonus.

It’s still hot and sticky and even after the long, long, wet Winter, we are being threatened with a hosepipe ban. But that’s ok, we no longer have a garden and we have passed on the garden hose to a nearby daughter with a nice garden to water sometimes!

The removal men were fantastic. They lost several pounds in weight by lugging all our stuff up two flights of stairs. I was on the phone when they arrived at Jenny’s to drop off a few crates, all Jenny’s and Helen’s old, old, old schoolwork, toys, books and so on. So Liesel drove to our flat to let them in there. I followed a bit later, walking the three and a bit miles. It was a nice, quiet walk, mostly through residential neighbourhoods. But then, the last half mile or so was a bit smelly. The tip is quite close and it was ripe. This would be a good cycling route, in the future, so that’s good!

Sainsbury’s on a Wednesday morning here wasn’t too frenetic, compared with all the supermarkets local to Chessington which seemed to be incredibly busy all the time, which is why we’ve been using Ocado for the last few years. A nice group of robots do our shopping for us and then a nice (usually) man (usually) delivers it to our door. We are not being paid for this endorsement of Ocado.

We rearranged the boxes and crates, seemingly hundreds of them, so the flat is now much more ordered. I rebuilt some items of furniture and there were no bits left over. Bonus! Liesel is making the best of a much smaller kitchen than we had before, but like most things, we’ll get used to all the differences, in time.

It was a delight to find and unpack one of our fans. We really need the air to move around, especially late afternoon into early evening, when the Sun shines in through the living room windows and the two main bedroom windows. It was even better to locate the second fan, so tht’s now cooling down the bedroom where we’re sleeping tonight.

Last night, we watched most of the World Cup football game between Colombia and England. As a Kirsty McColl fan, I was really hoping the score would be England 2 Colombia 0, but sadly not. England won the penalty shoot-out (hooray!) and will play in the quarter finals on Saturday.

Wimbledon tennis championships started this week too. But the sporting event we’re both looking forward to is the Tour de France, which starts on Saturday. Chris Froome is trying to win for the fifth time. And the good news is, we’ll be able to watch it on TV because that was unpacked, connected up, plugged in and retuned late yesterday afternoon. Priorities: get the TV working! But, really, we just wanted to be able to listen to the radio, which we can do via Freeview. We do have some actual radio sets somewhere, but despite some fairly rigorous labelling, all the boxes look the same after a while.

So here we are. New digs. It feels a bit like being on holiday at the moment, living in a strange place.

Liesel’s had enough though. She’s going back to Chessington tomorrow: she set up the Hook and Chessington WI Evening Book Group a few years ago and tomorrow she will attend a meeting for the final time. Will she finish this month’s book? There’s a two-hour train journey, so there’s a good chance she will!

I’ll be continuing the administrative chores: informing organisations and businesses of our change of address. Some have been very helpful and it’s not been a problem. Some have proved more difficult though. Naming no names. I’ll set up my PC tomorrow too, in anticipation of being connected to the internet. Which might take another week. Why so long? I have no idea. It’s not like they have to send an engineer round any more.

One advantage of moving away from Chessington is that we no longer have to look at the eyesore that is Tolworth Tower from our back bedroom.

Instead, we have this… thing… to look at! Oh well…

I think the Peak District is roughly in that direction so I hope this… building isn’t blocking the view, that would be really unlucky!

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!

Practice Run

It’s going to take a lot of planning, this long trip of ours. So we’re having a practice run. The house sale seems to making good progress, if a little slower than we would like, so we’re taking a couple of weeks out and going to Ireland.

We want to see if we can manage with just one bag each, a backpack, with up to two weeks of clothing plus all the other paraphernalia we’ll need.

My list has been drastically reduced. If I’m going to blog, I’ll need a device, probably a laptop. Or so I thought. I need a new camera too. And my old iPhone is on its last legs. Well, it is nearly 6 years old, which is about 150 in dog years.

But instead, and after weeks and months of cogitation, seeking advice and careful thought, I bought a new phone a couple of days ago. A new smartphone. I bought a keyboard too, which connects to the phone via Bluetooth. And that’s it. All I’ll be taking is the phone, the keyboard and my Kindle. No laptop needed. And no camera, new or otherwise, because according to the adverts, my new phone has reimagined the camera.

It’ll take ages to get to grips with the new cameras on the new phone, but no moreso than if it were a standalone item.

It’ll take a while to make the most of this keyboard too, to be honest. This is its maiden voyage, and typing ordinary text seems to be working OK. When I’m not in blogging mode, I’ll mess about with the other keys: F-keys, volume control, ctrl, alt, cmd, fn, arrows, all the others. As with most modern tech and gadge, there’s no manual, in this case, not even a quick start guide.

New phone and keyboard combo

This is what my blogging setup looks like. And good to know I can add photos, a bit of a faff, but good to know it can be done. And probably can be done quicker and more efficiently with experience.

So, we’re trying to manage with one backpack each. We now own brand new, light backpacks. We’ll take them to Ireland with a minimal amount of clothing. And the first test after Ireland is likely to be Alaska, which can be a bit chilly and might warrant warmer, thicker clothing. The plan is to be there in Summer, though, not in the depths of Winter. And after that, a series of nice, warm destinations.

But first, we conquer Ireland. We thought about taking the car with us on the ferry from Holyhead or from Liverpool, but that is so expensive. We will now fly there and hire a car for a few days less than a fortnight. We’ll be staying a some Airbnb places and trying not to do too much. We’re saving Dublin for last, and will be making use of public transport there. Liesel’s done all the planning and the booking on this occasion, so I’m sure it will all work out.

Regarding the house: we have received some enquiries from our buyer and a form that needs to be signed and witnessed.

Palaces and Princesses

A bit of a lie-in today, Saturday, after two very long but very different days. It’s been said many times but we both feel as if we need a holiday after our week here in Paris.

We’re still coming across French or Parisian stereotypes and clichés. Watching the Olympics with a French commentary is very entertaining. I thought the ‘ooh lala’ was pretty good. But during the skiing down a halftime event, someone crashed out and we were treated to a ‘ooh lala lala lalalalala lala’.

Beware: in some restaurants, the vegetarian salad option boasts salmon as a main ingredient. Mostly though, while it’s been difficult sometimes, I’ve enjoyed the veggie food, even when it’s a bit, let’s say, unusual. White pizza is one that has no tomatoes.

We were entertained on a train by a man playing his piano accordion. A medley of French tunes which had a few of the passengers dancing in their seats.

The tickets to Versailles were valid on any reasonable route via Metro or RER. Which sounds typically French in a way. And the RER train itself was decorated to look like one of the great Halls at the palace, even the ceiling.

More people seem to smoke here than they do in London but we’ve seen very few electronic devices being enjoyed. You have to hold your breath while entering some eating places as the enclosed but ‘outside’ seating area is for smokers.

The train journey to the Palace of Versailles revealed that most graffiti in and around Paris is nothing more than tags, ugly and not very creative. Such a contrast with the artworks here and at the Louvre, for instance.

We left the station, Versailles Château Rive Gauche, to be greeted by a depressing sight of the unholy trinity: a KFC, a McDonalds and a Starbucks. Under slightly different circumstances, this would be cause for a revolution.

The Palace of Versailles is huge. Most of the halls are bigger than our house. The Hall of Mirrors is as big as Wales. The audio commentary was purely factual but in the end I think we both took a dislike to all the opulence. It could very well cause a revolution under slightly different circumstances.

One of the halls contained busts of notable men from mostly the arts. Men. Yes, apart from a queen and a mistress, I don’t think women were much good in those days. I was pleased to see a couple of astronomers and mathematicians represented, though, Cassini and des Cartes for instance.

We declined the offer of a 20-minute wait for lunch and instead walked back towards the railway station, and in particular, to a nice, small, independent coffee shop by the name of The Stray Bean. The carrot cake, pistachio cake and the coffee all scored maximum points.

We briefly met up with Monica and Neha on our return. But we went out and had dinner on our own: a surprisingly tasty rice-based veggie burger with chips.

Friday we all got together again for a day at Disneyland Paris. We were joined by a friend of Monica’s, Hannah, who’s from Ireland but studying in Lyon.

For Neha, I think the highlight of the day was the Princesses’ Lunch. While eating, we were addressed by Cinderella, Snow White, Ariel and Aurora. Sadly, no Belle. The waiter, Moez, insisted on referring to the ladies as princesses and called me Doctor. He asked a couple of times where he knew us from and given the present, young company, I’m glad I didn’t respond that I’d been in a couple of porn movies recently that he might have seen.

We walked and stood and waited in line and queued up for several rides. It was cold, though: the wind was biting, some puddles were still frozen and there were icicles in the waterfall. But Neha didn’t care, she was just excited to be there.

The Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom ride was too much for my back which was beaten black and blue by the hard plastic. Don’t mind the 360° turns and being upside down but please stop bashing me on the same vertebra over and over and over again.

There were a couple of more peaceful rides , drifting along the water being serenaded by children from all around the world. The depiction of England was wonderful: a red bus jumping over the opening bascules of Tower Bridge.

Altogether, we walked over 10 miles on this day and I think we were all glad to get to bed.

During the day, three different estate agents called. One more, improved offer on our house, but we’ll hold out for a few more days. So now it’s a, it’s a, it’s a Drive-in Saturday. We’re on our way home.

I’m sure we’ll come back to Paris at some point, probably before the 2024 Summer Olympics. It’s a great place to just wander round, the signage, the architecture, the transport systems are all fascinating in their own way. It’s so easy to compare with London of course, but 40 years in London v one week in Paris is hardly a fair fight.

Not everything is real at Versailles as revealed when the green screen system breaks down.