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.

Paris in the Springtime

Walking around the streets of Paris, it’s easy to make comparisons with London. We’ve seen far fewer rough sleepers, just a couple really. But there are many more beggars, each with a much-used old paper cup with only a couple of coins in at the most. Some have dogs but most don’t. What most of them do have, that beggars in London don’t have, is a nice, big, comfortable cushion to sit on.

Another ploy is to come up and ask you to sign a piece of paper. You assume it’s a petition so you read it. Then you find out the person is ‘deaf and mute’. They’re asking for money and you’re supposed to indicate how much you’re donating when you sign. You’ve got to admire their bottle, but, pretending to be deaf?

And on the Metro, we’ve been privileged to have heard three different speakers presumably asking for the price of a coffee or a small contribution for their lodging tonight.

Ignoring all these people, some of whom may be in genuine need of help and not really just trying to fleece ‘tourists’, is tough. But I’m not really a bad person. I made friends with a tiny, old French lady in a bookshop who couldn’t reach what she wanted from the top shelf. We agreed that it was nice buying books for grandchildren, but that’s as far as my French language skills went.

The other problem we have is that our phones lose charge and we don’t have the correct adapter to charge them. I looked in an Apple shop that we happened to pass, but 25€ for a plug with an Apple logo seems a bit OTT. Fortunately, Monica came better prepared. So, my phone is fully charged now and my thumb is typing away and sometimes hitting the correct letter at the first attempt.

Earlier today, I was alerted to a new voicemail message. When I called to listen to it, the nice man said there weren’t any. However, I did retrieve it later, and a second one, both from our estate agent, asking me to call back.

Two more offers have been received, neither of which we want to accept right now. Someone really wants a downstairs toilet but doesn’t want to spend £25,000 installing it. I’m assuming it’s Donald Trump looking to install a gold-played one for that price. Another one wants to rent the house out but wanted to buy the house for a small amount, cheeky devil. There are a couple more people due to view the house later in the week. Yes, it does feel weird having hordes of strangers looking around our house while we’re not there, but equally, it feels wrong when we go and look at other people’s houses and flats.

Meanwhile, back here in Paris, many of the museums and other attractions are closed on Tuesdays. So yesterday, we all went for a long walk, via the Hôtel des Invalides and the Musée de l’Armée. Napoleon’s Tomb is in a church nearby, but we didn’t pay to see it.

We caught a bus, when we eventually found the correct bus stop, to start the main mission of the day: a tour of chocolate shops!

Lots of free samples were enjoyed of course, and we all bought a lot of chocolate to take home. How much really gets back to England, well, we’ll see.

Bon Marché is a big shop. Liesel, Monica and Neha looked around while I took refuge in the book department. I’m reading A Tale of Two Cities right now, it seemed appropriate, but I couldn’t find a French translation. This is where I met the little old French lady, by the way. I went for a coffee because the seats in the café were more comfortable than those in the book shop itself.

Today we visited the Louvre. It’s huge. I wanted to see he Mona Lisa of course, it being the star of a few stories that I’ve enjoyed over the years. Liesel enjoyed the Egyptian section, stuffed cats, stuffed crocodiles and all. I looked at a lot of Italian art and it was nice to see that not every Italian painting from the olden days is a Madonna and Child, which is what I remember from Florence, especially. The Islamic art was also interesting, and I learned a lot about Arabic script.

Yes, I was moved by seeing Leonardo’s most famous painting in the flesh, but it’s sad that it has to be hung behind a thick layer of bullet-proof glass.

We were hoping to take a boat to the Eiffel Tower but the river was flooded, the jetty and many riverside restaurants were under water. Literally, in Seine.

We took a bus instead, the 69 again, and queued to be security-checked then queued to buy tickets then queued for the lift and queued a few more times to take the lift up and back down again.

Wild is the Wind. Really wild. And very cold. So while I’d wanted to climb the stairs initially rather than taking the lifts, in the end, I was quite glad I didn’t. The cold wind went in one ear and out the other, despite my fleece ear-covering hat.

And while the views from the very top of the Tower were wonderful, it was a nice, bright , sunny day, it was bitterly cold in that wind.

On the walk back to our hotel, we stopped off for hot chocolate and crêpes with hot chocolate sauce. So much sugar, so much chocolate, but so nice to sit down in the warm.

Having watched TV a few times now, I can say that I’m very disappointed by the lack of Olympjcs coverage: we have to watch Eurosport 1 in German and we see a lot of German competitors, especially the medal winners.

Car adverts are just as terrible in French or in German, and all the roads are just as unrealistically empty as they are in British ads.

Trails for reality/talent shows are just as annoying as they are at home.

And of course, you can always find a food-based programme or two, just like on Freeview.

I was hoping to listen to some French radio but the device in the hotel room either doesn’t work, or it’s too complicated for little old me. And listening online, on my phone, would be OK, if I could guarantee being able to charge it again afterwards! I know, I know, first-world problems!

Liesel, Monica and Neha sought out cheese fondue for supper this evening, I was happy to eat whatever was in the room, but no, I didn’t eat all the chocolate, not his time.

Here are Monica, Liesel, Mona, Lisa, Neha, Mick and some other character at the Louvre.