Wedding 11th October 2008

Chris’s speech

Jak, I’m so thrilled to see you so happy and delighted and contented today, and I want to thank you for giving me the honour of being a witness at your commitment ceremony.  It’s the closest I’m ever going to get to being a bridesmaid (so I hope you got some good pics of me)

Jak has been a true friend to me in so many ways over the years, so I feel qualified to sing her praises.  She has been a loyal and dependable, not to mention long suffering friend, for which I am truly grateful. She has stood by me through thick and thin, giving me her honest opinions and advice – without lecturing me – on some of the daft things I’ve done over the years.  She knew how to carefully vet my girlfriends with the essential questions – how old is she and has she got a job?  

She has so many useful talents   –  essential for the modern woman.  She’s a great cook and she  knows about carpentry and the inside of cars,   woodwork and window painting, gardening, how to get rid of mice and is a fount of all kinds of weird and wonderful knowledge.

I promised her that I wouldn’t embarrass her, especially not in front of Carol,  with any dreadful stories about her drunken and debauched past, and I won’t. But Kate and I had a good laugh about them last night.  Those of you who saw the collection of ‘big hair’ pictures that she got together for her 50th birthday will know that she’s quite capable of embarrassing herself, no need for me to add to it. 

The 50th birthday was  of course an auspicious occasion in itself, and it was then that the wedding was announced, following the prevailing custom in the  big cities  for a party to be given on the day of announcement. It’s been on the cards for years of course – will they, won’t they – so it was no real surprise, but a great delight to those of us, all of us here today I’m sure, who know and love them both.

It has been a long engagement.

The typical engagement period, from the time of the marriage proposal to exchanging vows, is 8-12 months.  Jak and Carol’s engagement has been rather longer than this, but they have been mindful of and followed the appropriate etiquette at all times.

They didn’t go in for fancy diamond engagement rings but I have it on good authority that they exchanged cuff links  and  waist-coat buttons, while close friends, following the advice of Emily Post gave gifts of  small afternoon teacups and saucers.

A long engagement  is an unnatural state in this era of liberty and naturalness of impulse.  It has been  trying for everyone  – Jak and Carol, families and friends alike.

Fortunately they have not subjected us to the vagaries of so-called “vulgar people” by allowing  an unrestricted display of uncontrolled emotions – although it has been difficult at times to provide them with the chaperones that custom dictates in these circumstances.  I’m sorry to say that they have on occasions been seen dining out together at road houses and escorting each other home from parties and theatre performances of questionable propriety.  They were also unable to resist going on journeys together that lead to an overnight stay …

Today however they have ‘made it legal’, and have made honest women of each other. I don’t know just how much progress Jak will be able to make in any efforts to support Carol litter-picking and cleaning up the neighbourhood and I don’t know how far Carol will get in persuading Jak ways to spend less time at the computer cataloguing her vast Bruce Springsteen collection – but I do know that they have and will continue to make each other happy.

It is said that success in marriage doesn’t come merely through finding the right mate, but through being the right mate – and I’m sure that you’ll all agree that Jak and Carol are the right mates for each other. They have found ‘something to hold on to when all the answers don’t amount to much’  They have made a wonderful partnership because they have found in each other ‘somebody to just talk to and a little of that human touch’. 

They truly deserve each other and I’d like to offer a toast:  to my wonderful friend Jak, her perfect partner Carol, and true love.

Canada 2022

On the back of a cartoon coaster

In the blue TV screen light

I drew a map of Canada

Oh, Canada

With your face sketched on it twice

Joni Mitchell – A Case of You

Friday 17th June 

This trip was conceived when I found out The Chicks were going to tour. At that time there was only going to be one show in Canada so I jumped in and bought a 2nd row ticket for Toronto.
Next I got a train ticket from Toronto to Vancouver, 4 days and nights on The Canadian.
Then I hit a wall. I had lots of ideas, there were suggestions from friends and they all made me feel tired. I felt tired just living my life at home, let alone hiring camper vans, driving for days on end etc. etc. Grief is the most tiring thing I’ve ever done and  I’m still recovering from all the years of both Carol and then Chris and then Carol being ill and how I hardly slept for long periods of time because I feared for what did happen.
How does this relate to a simple decision to travel? Because it’s a big deal, I’ve gained confidence in some areas and lost it in others. There’s the loneliness and the not wanting to keep going but somehow managing it day by day. It’s not the same travelling alone when they’re not there to return to. The last time I went to Canada was shortly after Chris died and I was very numb at that time but it did engender a love for the vastness and the beauty of the country.
Eventually I planned out a trip I felt I could manage incorporating meeting a new friend at the start in Montreal and staying with some good friends at the end. 

I got A Class Taxi to Sowerby Bridge station. The driver helped me with my bags but asked if I owned my house, weird question, MYOB!
The journey to London was fine. I like first class. I have an air conditioned room in a Premier Inn Hub at King’s Cross which is quiet. It was hot at 32 degrees when I arrived but I didn’t mind which is an unexpected change after a lifetime of hating heat.
I had a big salad in Francos next door, enjoyed the sexy wait staff and a guy selling me beer flirted with me. Watched Lady Gaga in the Gucci film, very bad film, don’t bother.

In the Premier Inn Hub before the tooth drama

Saturday 18th Jun

In the morning I knew very early on that I needed to get my tooth looked at urgently before flying. I got myself over to Whitton near Twickenham where Margaret lives.
I tried the dentist opposite the station in Whitton when I got off the train but they had no appointments available.
Then 2 hours of trying to get a Saturday emergency appointment in an area I don’t know. It took over an hour to get a referral from 111 but when I rang the dentist was off sick. I then rang 4 private dentists and the last one in Kingston gave me an appointment. I managed to eat some breakfast at a cafe while doing this and while Margaret had her Italian class.
She very kindly whizzed me over to Kingston and an hour later I was minus one large rotten molar.
Back to Margaret’s lovely home. Shaunn arrived and was in charge of the bbq. We had a nice quiet time together with chicken and salad. I ate slowly and took lots of ibuprofen.

Swan in the Thames at Kingston wanting to eat my foot, losing tooth is more than enough!
Margaret’s garden with old air raid shelter

Sunday 19th June 

The tooth was so much better this morning that I only had one ibuprofen. I slept well and woke without pain, just a bit of discomfort. 
Margaret and I hung out, picking vast quantities of yummy cherries from her tree. I feel blessed to have made new friends through our queer bereavement group. Margaret drove me to the station at Whitton and I got trains to Gatwick.
Today is one of the first days when I’ve thought it’s worth having a future. 
I’m now in the Sofitel at Gatwick North terminal. Have eaten something unmemorable in the hotel very slowly which is no bad thing. And so to bed.

Blurry cherries

Monday 20th June 

Security at Gatwick took 15 minutes. 
I went to Pure for breakfast and it was fairly horrible, should have stuck with what I know and like. 
The plane was 2.5 hours late leaving because it had been delayed in Montreal plus it had to wait with us in it for the catering which took an hour.
Watched Belfast, very good and Downton Abbey which I managed to get to about 3/4 of the way through and realised I’d seen it before.  That’s how memorable it was! I must have seen it in the first foggy year after Carol died. 
I chatted a little with a Bulgarian woman who sat next to me. She was getting picked up by her pal and offered me a lift with her! I recklessly got into their car and they took me to a metro station.  She was late on the brake pedal, but it was very kind of them and I survived. 
The metro station had no elevator so I struggled down the stairs with my bags, I worked out how to buy a ticket and promptly wheeled my bags through the turnstile without me. Grumpy man in a box had to stop playing on his phone and help me.
Got to Berry UQAM station and then walked 5 minutes to La Loggia B&B. Yoyo gave me a room at the back opening onto the deck. Lots of towels and more pillows than I knew what to do with. Met Simon from Tasmania and later on Cass who are in competing in a triathlon at the weekend. Sleep.

I love this mad lamp
Room looks onto deck

Tuesday 21st June 

The Chicks have had to cancel 3 of their gigs because Natalie’s voice has given out due to allergies. They actually got half an hour into a show and had to stop. My gig is not yet cancelled. Slightly sorry I’m not seeing them at Pine Knob! Hope Natalie recovers in time for her appointment with me.
I walked round the old town and then to the river (St. Laurent) and did a boat trip. I suddenly felt really tired so had a  bol of veg for lunch  and returned to my B&B and used the huge top loader and huge dryer on my laundry. Read my book and relaxed. 
Then it was time for another meal. My B&B is on the edge of the gay village and I’d picked a well reviewed vegan restaurant which looked good but no spaces. I ended up in a vegan chain called Copper Branch, not bottom and had another bol of super foods. 
Raining and cool this evening.

Aldred Building
Sailors’ memorial tower

Wednesday 22nd June 

Pacing myself. Today I walked to the McCord Museum to see photos by Alexander Henderson who was a Scottish landscape photographer working here in the 2nd half of the 1800s. He documented native people a bit but his main focus was the landscape. There were also indigenous artefacts and a queer lives photo exhibition. 
Then I met Kayla for a long lunch in the village.  It’s great that such positivity and love has come from our queer bereavement group. We walked around the Village (which my Bulgarian friends had never heard of!) and Kayla showed me some of their old hangouts and places they and Cat, had played. They had a band called Dollhouse Riot. Kayla was just as great as I thought they would be.
Spent the rest of the day chilling. Managed to get into Tendresse for excellent vegan food.  Back at the B&B had some wine with Simon from Tasmania.

KPMG spending their dosh on big buildings
In McCord museum
Alexander Henderson
Rainbows everywhere
Lots of new construction

Thursday 23rd June 

Looking good for Friday, a message has come from The Chicks to say the gig is going ahead!
Heavy rain and cool. I left the b&b with its slightly disturbing bouncy floor this morning. Taking a shower felt like being at sea.
Took the metro to the Gare Centrale and found the Via Rail business class lounge and had free coffee and juice. 
Very efficient train boarding operation. Plenty of luggage room and plenty of seat space. Masks are mandatory as they were on the flight over. I now know what it’s like to wear one for 8 hours.
There was a cat called Abi accompanying her human in the seat behind me. Abi was in a holdall not a cat carrier. Reminded me of when our cat Bumbles travelled in a holdall on a motorbike with me. He still loved me even so.
Copious amounts of drink and food. I had a Canadian whisky which I had to water down and wine with my meal also watered down, for my sore mouth. Pasta pockets and parmesan with tomato and mozzarella plus a chocolate coconut bar. Not so dusty.
Lots of grain silos and old barns along the flatlands, not so very different from East Anglia. 
We went along the side of Lake Ontario, you couldn’t see the other side and it’s one of the smaller great lakes. It looked like the sea.
5 and a half hour journey, very smooth. Started off in big wet in Montreal, Quebec and ended up in hot sun in Toronto, Ontario. 
Google said go to Dundas subway station and walk. Dundas was like arriving at a rock gig, very loud music on a massive screen and hot and quite stressful because of that. A horrible introduction to Toronto, wondered if I’d made a big mistake. It’s Pride this coming weekend so the rainbows are everywhere as are the queers which feels OK. So long since I’ve been around anything like that. 
It turned out the nearest subway was not Dundas but Queen station. I walked right past the Pantages hotel with its too discreet signage. Checked into huge suite on the 15th floor which moves and feels slightly disturbing!
It had been hard to get a room in Toronto because a lot of events were taking place including Pride. 
Out to eat at Planta Cocina, really good vegan food. They brought me cauliflower balls by mistake and I pointed it out and was allowed to have them gratis!! Then a Caesar salad with mushroom “bacon” and almond dressing. Washed down with sparkling water that came from Finland. Nice water but why?

Request or demand?
Lake Ontario
Toronto Union Station
Winter Garden Theatre

Friday 24th June 

Walked to Distillery district as recommended by Cliff for brunch. Then to the harbour for another boat trip.
Back to hotel to wash out my smalls as mum would say and to get ready for The Chicks 24th June. See separate entry at end for this.

Distillery district
CN tower
Yes that is a dog on a paddle board
From the boat

Saturday 25th June

Decided not to go to Niagara or up the CN tower. The tower way too scary to contemplate.
I went to Pride. It was very hot and it reminded me why I stopped going. I don’t drink when I’m on my own in crowds, or when other people are drunk so not at all in Toronto. Life is hard enough without making it more difficult for myself. I hung on to watch the dyke parade i.e. dykes on bikes go past. That was nice to see, total time warp. Several almost completely naked people, however butt naked with sliders and socks is not a good look. More like Naked Attraction!
Back to hotel to get cool and ready for the gig and to do the packing. There will be no access to the big case for 4 days so had to think it through carefully! 
Huge blister on sole of foot. 
Ate at Planta Burger which was the fast food version next to Plants Cocina. Food out of a box and not quite as good as the proper restaurant.
Then I went to see The Chicks 25th June again and my write up of this is also at the end of the post.

From hotel window
Physical distancing, not social, that wasn’t hard was it?

Toronto Pride

One of Carol’s best lines was “the sights you see when you haven’t got your gun”!

Sunday 26th June 

Today is the start of my 4 day train ride to Vancouver. Toronto is great but I’m all done with crowds and noise and drunks. Looking forward to beautiful scenery and some p&q.
Up early. Glad I did the packing well ahead. Walk and subway to Union station. Checked in the big case, reminded again that I won’t see it for 4 days! Checked in myself at the business lounge. Allocated my meal sitting for today. A slick operation. My cabin for 1 is compact. It’s a bit old and tired but everything works. Two girls gave me and my neighbour Ann from Wellington NZ our safety talk and showed us how to unfold the bed. It was a rumour that there are no charging sockets on the train other than in the washrooms, at least there are plenty in the cabins. Not much wireless though. Nibbles and champagne in the observation car. The “champagne” was orange and is called a mimosa, which I didn’t know! It had a tiny bit of alcohol in it.
The train left about 15 minutes late then somewhat disconcertingly reversed for 45 minutes so it could get on the right track.
Lunch was tomato soup, veggie burger with salad. I skipped the bun. Lots of dietary requirements were catered for. Sat at a table of 4. Masks are mandatory throughout the train other than when eating and drinking and we get reminded if we forget them.
Today is the first day I’ve put my tongue in the tooth hole. It was not hard at all not putting it there, my tongue was very well behaved! My mouth has been very sore but 7 days in I can feel it’s starting to really get better. 
Mostly the train is quite slow, we just had a little burst of speed but now we have stopped in the middle of nowhere. It does this a lot while freight trains go past, passenger trains always give way to freight, and sometimes we stop for ages while we wait for a train ahead to do something. Our train is long, it has 2 observation cars. I’ve walked up and down a bit because the only place we stopped at where we could get out was during my dinner sitting. The food is good. Nice salad, good steak and a chocolate mousse. They have Canadian whiskey and Johnny Walker. 
Going to bed is a tight fit, and requires organisation but bed is comfy enough.

Ready for the off

Monday 27th June 

Slept on and off. Alternately too hot or too cold. Managed not to need to wee in the night thus didn’t have to lift the bed but had tested it out just in case. Woke at daybreak but quite gloomy so slept a bit more. Eventually woke at 6, which was 5 because we’re in central daylight time now. I went to bed shortly after sunset and watched the light go. Stunningly lovely and exciting. 
I wanted a shower, these have to be unlocked and staff start work at 6.30. I rang for Erin and got a shower. Think camping. Lots of hot water, towels and toiletries. 
Breakfast with Alma and 2 others. Vegan tofu rice veg scramble. Ok.
Sunny day, sat chatting with Alma in observation car.
Lunch with Alma, Lily and Jim. Tomato juice. Quinoa salad. Blueberry tart.
Stopped at Sioux Lookout. Pop. 5,272. I walked 1.5km in the 17 minutes we had. First time we could get off the train since Toronto, after 30 or so hours! I have lost the time zones plot. I walked the length of the train as fast as I could. Nice and warm outside after cool air con. This journey is 2775 miles.
Read and dozed.
Dinner with Alma, Lily and Jim. Mushroom bacon tomato soup. Cod, potatoes, red peppers, broccoli. Canadian whiskey with Alma. She’s not a great listener but bought me a beer.
Stopped at Winnipeg, pop 749,607, for 45 minutes off train. Wanted chocolate but card not accepted in shop. Got back on but train took another hour to leave. Tired and had to wait for the water to come back on in order to use the facilities!

Sioux Lookout
Bridge into Winnipeg
Late evening Winnipeg
Back of the train

Tuesday 28th June 

Slept ok. In Central standard time. I think I’m gaining time all the way across. Breakfast is 6.30-8.30 daily regardless. I think I get more sleep but I can’t work it out and it doesn’t really matter, I wake when it’s light. 
Breakfast feta omelette and hash browns.
The prairies are flat and green. I was expecting dry and yellow. Maybe that’s later in the year or further south. 
This is latitude nearly 51. Home is 53.
We had a 45 minute stop at Saskatoon, pop 266,141, just now while they emptied the sewerage tanks. Lucky Saskatoon! When my septic tank at home is emptied there is no smell at all, not so with the train! 
There was nothing at the station, no taking advantage of the sitting ducks with ££ to burn. Nothing at all except for railroad things.
Lunch rice and ginger beef and ice cream.
Edmonton, pop 1,010,899. We arrived here mid evening and the stop was for 4 hours. The station is a long way from the city and there is nothing to do in the immediate environs. Now raining heavily.
Yet another time zone: Mountain Time but a definite lack of mountains!!

Dear deer
Front of train

Wednesday 29th June 

Breakfast fruit and yoghurt and granola.
The Rockies. Jasper, pop 4,738. Early morning, Tim Horton’s was open as was a mini mart so I bought potato chips. It was v cold, 9 degrees because its altitude is 1050M . My warmer clothes are on the baggage van to which we have no access. Great journey through the mountains, some rain. Pyramid falls. Bear sightings but not by me.
Lunch tomato omelette and hash browns.
Lovely chat with Tracy, drank my first Caesar. Clamato juice, vodka, asparagus and celery plus spices.
Dinner salmon rice guacamole and veg, v good.
Early evening we stopped at Kamloops, pop 97,902. A short 15 minutes stop. 
Then dramatic change to arid desert scenery. Fascinating and beautiful. Along Kamloops Lake and the Thompson River for miles and miles as the sun set. Tracy, Mike and I watched it all from the Park car at the end of the train. Laughed a lot.

Cold in Jasper
Mike and Tracy
Train at Jasper
Kamloops Lake/Thompson River
Kamloops Lake
Kamloops Lake
Thompson River

Thursday 30th June 

The train arrived in Vancouver on time. Finished the journey with breakfast of tomato omelette and hash browns with Helen,  Kevin and Nathan who have lived in Canada since emigrating from China 10 years ago. We talked a lot about the situation in China at a previous meal. 
Disembarked and it was nice to be reunited with my suitcase!
Farewells with new friends Tracy who introduced me to Caesar cocktails (Bloody Mary with a salad in it!) Weird but nice! Mike who introduced me to The Tragically Hip. I had a great time with them knocking up the miles walking up and down the train and laughing. 
Also farewell with Susan and Kevin. 
I walked to my hotel and left the bags.
Walked to Stanley Park and bumped into Helen, Kevin and Nathan, so odd to bump into people I’d only just left.
Did a very touristy horse and cart ride round the park, because I was so tired. 
Back to Marriott hotel to my huge and far superior suite on the 27th floor with no wobbling.
Checked out where to go tomorrow, just as well because it’s not at all obvious. 
Wandered round the harbour area.
Back to hotel and promptly fell fast asleep which I never do. I blame it on the ever changing time zones and the train sleeps. Writing this now and I’ve been sleeping at the drop of hat anytime at all since I got home!
Had a beer and a chicken Caesar salad  and ready for bed again.

Vancouver station
Marine building
Marine building

Friday 1st July 

The swish hotel was a very good part of the plan. I slept well with no air con on and the window open as far as it was allowed on floor 27.
Buffet breakfast, fruit yoghurt granola, cheese salad croissant.
I had allowed just over an hour to get to the ferry terminal at Tsawwassen but then left at 9.15 giving myself an hour and 3/4. Walked to the station and got the train to Bridgeport bus station. Then no bus for ages. I only just got on before they turned people away. Busy because of Canada Day. However it arrived at the terminal after my boat had gone. 
Lovely day for the 1 and a half hour ferry to Victoria. When I did this the other way around 5 years ago it wasn’t warm enough to be outside, today it was.
Karin met me and drove us to their home in View Royal which is to the west of the city. It feels pretty rural. The ferry comes to the north at Swartz Bay.
Karin and Fred showed me my quarters for the next few days. They have a whole apartment under the house which I’m in. Beautifully decorated with lots of lovely things and very comfortable. Fred hooked me up to Wi-Fi and showed me the TV and we had a beer.
Put my laundry in the washing machine!
Out in Fred’s truck to the local pub for beer and grub. I had a Buddha bowl. Good meal. Then we did a drive round Victoria which was busy with Canada Day and various demonstrations.
Back home to my clean laundry and stocked cupboards. What a wonderful welcome.

Saturday 2nd July

In the morning Karin and I went for a walk around Thetis Lake which is just a few minutes from their house. Really lovely lake on their doorstep where people walk or do things on the water. Later on we went for a great drive round Bear Mountain and Shawnigan Lake we ended up at the Alpina restaurant which overlooks the Finlayson Arm. Stunning location for our meal and excellent food.

Karin and Fred’s home
Thetis Lake
Thetis Lake
Fred, vroom vroom
Dining view!
Karin and Fred
At restaurant
Finlayson Arm

Sunday 3rd July

Today we set off early to reach the Juan de Fuca trailhead on the west side of the island. Stopped on the way at Shirley Delicious (and Shirley did not disappoint!). The best coffee I’ve had in a long time and a great vegan burrito. 
We walked through the rainforest, past the huge stumps of old growth trees.  It was dark and magical. Got down to Mystic Beach which had only a few visitors other than us. It was worth getting there early as it began to get busy when we went back up. 
We had a bit more picnic and returned via Sooke where Karin and Fred had lived for a while and then back to the sea across a narrow spit that’s overlooked by Hatley Castle. Here there were driftwood sculptures made by a native artist, Paul Lewis,  they looked quite old.

Rainforest hike
Mystic Beach
Debris from old logging operations
Paul Lewis art
Mystic Beach
Paul Lewis art

Monday 4th July

Very sadly, Karin and Fred’s dog Lilli died in the night, early morning. Lilli was 14 and old for a French Bulldog but so very sad.
Karin and I went into Victoria and wandered about and then had lunch.
On return I took a wander back to Thetis Lake which was lovely.
Fred and I had beer together and made our farewells.

At the end of Karin and Fred’s road, just 50 metres from their house
Karin and Fred’s home
The Empress Hotel in Victoria
Thetis Lake
Thetis Lake

Tuesday 5th July

Karin asked me what the highlight of my trip was and I said seeing The Chicks live.
While that was important to me on several levels,  really the highlights have been the people: Margaret and her kindness to me in London; meeting Kayla in person; Mallory, my new Chicks buddy; making new friends on the train Tracy and Mike. I’ve had a lovely relaxing time staying with Karin and Fred, a home from home. I feel all loved up!
I’ve also really enjoyed the scenery and the food!
Karin took me to the ferry and we bid each other farewell. I had such a good time with Karin and Fred. From the ferry it was onto the bus and then the train to the airport. I arrived with quite a bit of time to spare so had a sit down meal of Caesar salad which wasn’t very good.
The plane behaved as expected and I sat next to 2 gay men from Northampton and we amused each other.

On the plane
On the ferry

Wednesday 6th July

The baggage reclaim at Gatwick took nearly an hour. 
I’ve been in car, ferry,  bus, train, plane, 3 trains and a taxi since Karin’s house. The taxi driver for the last 4 miles of my journey was a total arse. He had a filthy vehicle, he didn’t get out to help me put my bags in the back, stopped the car so that I had no option but to get out into any traffic, lucky there wasn’t any, didn’t help me get my bags out and this driver also wanted to know if I owned my house, why? don’t I look like a house owner? He made a “joke” and said the fare was £20. I said I wasn’t born yesterday as could see the meter said £8.50. I told him to give me £1 in change. He didn’t hand it over and then when I asked he waved it at me from the window. He didn’t deserve any tip at all. This is A Class Taxi in Sowerby Bridge by the way.

I’ve had a great trip, it did me a lot of good and I’m thinking about the next one!

Train videos

Food and drink!

The Chicks Gigs

Toronto 24th June 2022

Subway then streetcar to Exhibition station. To Budweiser Stage, chatted to 2 senior dykes, one of whom had seen Judy Garland and Janis Joplin sing! Wandered about and bumped into Mallory. Mallory recognised my Terri Hendrix cap because she knows Terri. I only know Terri because I’ve watched her shows with Lloyd Maines online and I attended a guitar class with Lloyd that Terri set up. Lloyd of course is Natalie’s dad. It turns out Mallory lives in Austin and is a massive Chicks fan. She introduced me to her pals.
The Budweiser holds 16,000 so smaller than I am used to for Bruce. I got a kale salad and sweet potato fries which were good. Can’t imagine any of our arenas offering such healthy fare. Everyone was very friendly and kind. I was in the second row. Bonny and Grace behind me said they were going to laugh and cry. I expect they did! 
First up to open, Patty Griffin and David Pulkingham who were excellent. Shine a Different Way, really beautiful song with mandolin. David is a very talented classical and jazz guitarist.
The Chicks were everything I wanted, Natalie’s voice in full glory having recovered from the allergy problems. Her son Slade played guitar and keyboards. Martie’s daughter Eva played fiddle. Emily added piano and fiddle to the long list of instruments she plays. Her daughter Violet took a part in the roll the dice to pick a song for us to play game. It was Ready to Run. 
Regarding the Supreme Court overturning Roe v Wade, Natalie had this to say “Fuck the Supreme Court”. Excellent video backdrop for March March. No doubt on where they stand.
Back via streetcar and subway. Not busy. Bought a front row ticket for the Saturday because I could.


Woman on left had seen Judy Garland and Janis Joplin live! Not together!
I have no idea who they were! Friendly!
Emily, Natalie, Martie
Natalie, Keith Sewell and Slade, Natalie’s son
Emily, Keith, Slade
Keith, Slade, Emily, ?, Natalie, Jimmy Paxson
Keith, Slade, Emily
Keith, Emily

Not my video, I could listen to Martie’s fiddle for ever

The Chicks Toronto 24th June 2022 gig photos and a couple of videos

Toronto 25th June 2022

Subway and streetcar back to Budweiser. Arrived a bit later as knew the ropes. Chatted a little with Mallory and her pals who were directly opposite Natalie. I sat there until people arrived for their seats and then moved along a bit. 
Patty and David were excellent again.
A tall man and I had the 2 end seats of the front row. I stuck with him as he checked to see if the 4 centre seats had sold. He was a bit of a dick but useful! Nobody had bought the seats so he and I stayed in the middle. I was 2m immediately opposite Emily and 3m from Natalie.
Two girls, Ashley and Tiffany became my next new friends. Ashley got Natalie’s guitar pick when it landed in front of her. 
The show was just as good. Emily looked at me and bestowed her beautiful smile on me which was the best moment of my night. She is still so in awe of attracting such bonkers amounts of adulation, makes her appear very approachable. I like that she thinks it’s funny too. Natalie is more aloof, smiles rarely but still full of feistiness. Tends to focus on the mid distance. Martie, can’t say as she was further away. She did take my tall man’s magazine off stage with her and it came back signed by them all.
The dice roll produced Truth #2, a Patty Griffin song and one of my favourites.
The gigs have been very healing for me on a lot of levels. Really hope they come to Europe so I can do it all over again. The Chicks are very clear on their politics and part of a tradition of protest. 
I wish they did full band introductions and wish they moved around the stage a bit more.
Getting back was very slow and the streetcar was packed, drunk Ethan began singing but his gang of girls told him to shut up. Then a dyke started off Travellin’ Soldier and  the entire tram joined in! This is why The Chicks are well paid for what they do and the streetcar riders are not. Late to bed.


Behind Budweiser Stage
Mallory, Diondra, Jenny and Charlie with great shirts
Fortune Feimster and Jacquelyn Smith

The Chicks Toronto 25th June 2022 gig photos and videos

Patty Griffin with David Pulkingham

Photos from both nights and videos of Shine a Different Way

Berlin February 2022

Sunday 13th
Stayed Hotel Marriott, with parking. Car stays in car park, take keys with you.
Comfy, actually slept fine until 03:45 alarm.

Monday 14th
Shuttle to airport, I was sole mask wearer. Airport better but still only 50% compliance despite repeated calls on intercom. Yoghurt breakfast at Pret. At Security I got told off for not taking the iPad out of the case (because it’s a mini and I had checked that I didn’t need to).
Flight fine, 100% compliance. Arrived at 09.30. I went cabin bags only with easyJet. Train to the Hauptbahnhof (main train station) then walked to Hotel Mercure near Checkpoint Charlie. Quite a long walk, but sunny. Left bag. Lunch at Beets and Roots, lentils and salad, excellent. Walked to Alexander Platz TV tower.
Back to check in.
Got takeaway salad from Mix and Match kiosk next to Hotel, too salty.

The Cube at Hauptbahnhof (main train station)
Remains from 12th century St. Peter’s church
The River Spree with the Reichstag (parliament) at the end
The Red Rathaus (town hall)
Fernsehturm (TV tower) Alexander Platz

Tuesday 15th
Nice breakfast. Supermarket for bottled water and German red wine.
Walked to Checkpoint Charlie then up Friedrichstrasse to Unter den Linden. The Hotel Sofia has gone, I pretty much knew it wasn’t there anymore after looking at Google Street View but I had to be sure. We stayed in it back in 1973 or 4, it was in East Berlin and was quite a rough hotel, my researches tell me it was known for gays and prostitutes and I was a bit young at 15 or so to realise that fully but I did know it seemed a bit dodgy. Gays were not allowed in the DDR. Onto Unter den Linden to the Brandenburg Gate then to the Reichstag.
Into the Tiergarten (literally a zoo but it’s just a park) to see the Roma, Soviet and gay memorials. Across to the Jewish memorial, very emotive. It is across road from site of Hitler’s bunker which was a car park when I was last here.
To Potsdamer Platz, salad lunch in cafe then to the Topography of Terror museum which was much better than it sounds. It’s a fully referenced exposition of atrocities on the site of Himmler’s HQs. The site contains a preserved section of the wall.
Hotel then back to Beets and Roots for more salad.

Hotel Adlon, as featured in the Bernie Gunther books by Philip Kerr!
Brandenburg Gate
Memorial to gay people murdered during Nazi rule
Memorial to Jewish people murdered under Nazi rule
Potsdamer Platz
Remaining chunk of Berlin wall on Niederkirchnerstrasse
Wasn’t expecting that to still be there, no one in residence
Brandenburg Gate from the other side
Gropius building (restored)
How prisoners were classified
Checkpoint Charlie (replica)
Ampelmann (traffic light man) shop
Memorial to Roma and Sinti people murdered under Nazi rule
The crier or caller, from 1966, calling into the void
A rather louche moose in the Tiergarten

Wednesday 16th
Walked to U Bahn Stadtmitte, 5 minutes from hotel. Up Friedrichstrasse then took the S Bahn to Oranienburg. Walked 20 minutes through the suburbs to Sachsenhausen.
Sachenhausen was the primary location for the incarceration of homosexuals. The camp also had a section for Soviets. It wasn’t built as an extermination camp however that certainly didn’t stop the regime from committing murders and atrocities. The site is big to walk round and the area that is available for visitors today is about 1/6th of the size of the complex during the Nazi era.
After my visit I had overcooked pasta and veg in a café outside camp. The café inside the memorial only sold drinks and cake.
Back to Berlin. I got off at Unter den Linden to visit the Ampelmann shop. Back to Stadtmitte U Bahn. Supermarket for more water.
Hotel, then out to Italian restaurant very nearby, Lungomare. Lentil and sausage soup and beer. I make it better!
Bereavement group online.

Guard tower, Sachsenhausen
Memorial to those murdered by the Nazis at Sachsenhausen
S Bahn overground station
Entrance to Sachsenhausen
The grey outlines mark where barracks were, Sachsenhausen
Prison cell, Sachsenhausen

FFP2 mask compliance is about 99%. Most people know how to wear them, not many noses visible. It is requirement in inside places.
Also I have to give either proof of vaccination or proof of vaccination and ID in most indoor places: shops, cafes, restaurants and museums.

Thursday 17th
After a good night of sleep I managed to get out a bit earlier. Took the U Bahn to Unter den Linden then the U5 heading east. Got out at Magdalenenstrasse station on Frankfurter Allee straight into the massive complex that was the HQ for DDR Security. One very small part of the complex holds the museum. It’s not entirely logical in layout and some things could be better explained. I felt quite depressed at the lengths the regime went to to suppress freedom of thought.
I worried that when my mum and dad and I visited mum’s friend Ilse and gave her stocking and razor blades for her dad, that Ilse might have been subsequently investigated by the huge network of informers.
At the time we joked that the hotel rooms we stayed in were bugged but from what I’ve learnt today it would have been extremely likely.
The weather today was vile and the wind really howled when I stood in Erich Mielke’s office. The whole building is a fascinating study in 1960s/70s brown. I particularly liked the chairs covered in fake fur (I was allowed to sit on one!)
Afterwards I did think of looking at a Wall exhibition but the weather was a bit challenging, hard to stay upright, the U Bahn station had a lot of daytime drunks and undesirables in it so I cancelled that plan and got a train back to Unter den Linden. Short stop for a salad lunch. Walked back to the hotel to get a break from the wind.
After a reprieve from the wind, out again to take in the massiveness of the former Nazi Air Ministry, Goering’s empire, a huge building that is now the Finance Ministry. It had dull yellow lights on in some of the ground floor rooms which revealed ancient looking dusty box files which were a bit untidy! There I was thinking this would be an entirely computerised department! I only saw this as I walked past on the outside.
Then there was an intense but thankfully short cold windy downpour. Back to my warm room.
Out to Fontana di Trevi on Leipziger Strasse for beer, chicken in gorgonzola sauce with veg and then an amazing tartufo, my first proper dessert since October last year. Well worth waiting for.

Stasi HQ
Entrance to Stasi HQ, built on so you couldn’t see who was getting in and out of cars
The current Ministry of Finance, previously the Ministry of Aviation during the Nazi regime
Museum of Communication, previously the Ministry of the Post Office
Brass tablets outside buildings to show who lived there
Stasi boss Mielke’s sitting/bed room in Stasi HQ with bathroom at the back
East German concrete remnant, nothing to do with the wall
Art Nouveau building from 1905, built for the Württembergischen Metallwaren-Fabrik (Württemberg Metalware Factory). They originally made tableware but moved to armaments during both world wars using labour from Sachsenhausen and also set up their own concentration camp. Still in business doing tableware and coffee machines.
A small part of the Stasi HQ complex
Mielke’s office, his desk at the far end
Mielke’s “private” room

Friday 18th
Walked to the Jewish Museum. Stunning building by Daniel Libeskind. From the outside it’s even difficult to photograph, inside it’s difficult to walk round. The intention is to make you work and to put your mind a bit out of kilter. Clever use of technology to tell the stories of lives. I spent hours there.
Had some delicious inexpensive beetroot soup in the café.
Back outside I walked round the exterior of the Topography of Terror and the timeline exhibit. Despite the over the top name, the site is very well managed, a thoughtful way of dealing with hard facts. Yes the site was where atrocities were systematised but the museum has carefully worked out how to acknowledge that whilst also explaining the history.
It was by then very cold and wet so I went home to my room. Out briefly for wine and water.
Out later to go to an Art Deco brasserie which turned out to be shut for the duration. It was next to Gendarmenmarkt which has 3 huge buildings, concert hall, French church and German church.
Instead I went to Maximilian’s just off Friedrichstrasse for goats cheese and beetroot salad with sauerkraut and a glass of beer. Very good.

The Jewish Museum
Memorial in the museum garden
Art Nouveau building on the same street as my hotel, 1904. Restored
Opposite the Jewish Museum
The Jewish Museum
Each disc represents one life, there were 10,000 discs in this hall
After some children had finished jumping about on them
Trying to show the scale of this work
The huge Ministry of Finance
Gendarmenmarkt, concert hall on left, French cathedral on right
Art Deco restaurant, sadly closed for what looked like a long time

Saturday 19th
It was very cold today, we had terrible winds overnight, I couldn’t sleep and all the bikes and scooters were blown over again as well as some fencing panels and a big potted tree nearby. I decided to be indoors as much as possible.
This was the day I did too much on top of all the other museums.
I went to The House on the Wall, a large rambling exposition which desperately needs a curator to make it make sense. It’s well meaning but could be so much better.
Then I went to The Bunker near Anhalter station, this was a bit better.
I tried a different restaurant tonight but it was shut so I ended up at the Italian Lungomare across the road again.

30+ years on there is very little to see of the wall, other than where it has been deliberately preserved. Sometimes there are markers like these.
The DDR symbol
Keith Haring’s work on the wall, sadly not preserved
This facade is all that remains of Anhalter Station
Bunker used during WW2 air raids, prone to flooding so not great
Gropius building
More markers to show where people lived

Sunday 20th
Set off on the U Bahn to Zoologischer Garten station. Had a quick look at the Gedachtniskirche but it was not open. Also cast my eyes down the Kufurstendamm. Got back on the tube for a few more stations to Olympiastadion. I was the only person at the station, by then it was raining heavily. Walked up to the Stadium entrance but it was shut to visitors because of an event. Back to the train. Got off at Bülowstrasse. I do worry that I’ll accidentally get off into a bad area but this was fine. It seemed quite trendy, I passed 3 nice looking cafés all shouting vegan! I didn’t go in because I can’t see with specs, mask, hat on a wet day and it makes me quite cross.
I crossed over the Landwehrkanal to reach the Memorial to German Resistance. It’s located in the Bendlerblock building on Stauffenberg Strasse where Stauffenberg was executed.
This is an excellent museum and is free. The best ones I’ve been to have all been free: Sachsenhausen, Topography of Terror, Jewish Museum and this one. This one even gave me a book of pretty much everything in the exhibits. It felt strange to be in the offices of Stauffenberg and Fromm, they are all full of exhibits. It’s good to know that there was so much resistance.
I walked back via Café Dallmayr which is in the ex Ministry of the Post Office now a museum of communication, this is one museum I did not visit, and had a great apple cake.
Wish I knew how the abandoned scooters work as I would have got round a lot quicker! It’s an app and a cheap rental system. Not much helmet wearing though so potentially lethal.
I’d wanted to see the Funkturm and the victory column but it’s been a bad week wind wise for going up anything. Also the Bauhaus museum but that was shut today.
I’ll need a holiday now to recover from museum overload.
Nowhere open other than Vapiano to eat so I took the plunge. I’ve been avoiding it all week.
I’m now totally au fait with providing my vax proof and my ID at all restaurants.
Did that, I was then given a card, this notched up all my spends. Next I went to the order point and ordered my salad, presenting the card. I was then given an electronic gadget and had to ask what it’s for.
I got a beer on the card, sat down and waited for the gadget to do something. Quite quickly, it was only salad, it buzzed insistently. I exchanged it for my meal.
The food was fine but the fiddling about is just an excuse not to pay some people to wait tables.

On Kurfürstendamm
Kaiser Wilhelm memorial church, bombed in 1943
Olympia Stadion, built for the 1936 Olympic Games and the site of Jesse Owens’ 4 gold medal wins
Bendlerblock courtyard, site of the murder of Stauffenberg and many other conspirators who tried to overthrow Hitler
Bendlerblock, now a museum to those who resisted the Nazi regime

Monday 21st
Got up and came home. The hotel gave me a packed lunch because I was too early for breakfast. I walked to Stadtmitte U Bahn and left the lunch there. I had forgotten to say to them no bread, etc. A man picked up the bag of lunch and then he too left it on a bench. It was all wrapped up so I hope someone hungry got it.
I couldn’t even find the platform let alone the airport express train at Friedrichstrasse so I just got on the only train I could see going to the airport. That worked fine, got there in good time even if it did stop at every single station.
Because I only had cabin bags, (I’d paid for a large cabin bag which allowed me to have 2 bags in the cabin) I was eligible to do Speedy Boarding. It took me nearly half an hour to get through Speedy Boarding because the couple in front had not done something or other so it ended up being Very Very Slow Boarding.
Then security, this time I thought I’d get it right and got the iPad out of the case but no I got told off for not having Berlin airport plastic bags for my toiletries, I had to have to full works scan and open up my case.
Once I’d done all this, I was thinking I’d get some breakfast however it was time to get to the gate and there were panic messages saying it was 20 minutes walk away. It turned out to be about 7 minutes. No breakfast! Then the bloody flight was delayed by half an hour so I ate what easyJet call a snack box which was crackers, hummus, red pepper dip, olives and a baklava. It was ok.
The flight back was fine, a bit of a bumpy landing. It took forever to get through border controls. I felt sorry for all the German people arriving in maskless Manchester. What a rude shock for them.
Free taxi back to my car at the Marriott, the driver ignored all the speed limits. I got home to find my house still standing, but no internet. It came back of its own accord much later.

I still don’t really know how to do holidays. I spent a week without any conversation with anyone apart from my bereavement group but that’s a fairly normal week anyway. I just did it in a different location. I managed not to stuff myself and put on loads of cake. Hey ho, guess I’ll work it out eventually. At least I don’t mind my own company and it doesn’t stop me doing stuff. I didn’t bother with any gay bars because by the time I’d been out sightseeing and then found somewhere to eat, I was knackered each night. Most nights I sorted my photos, read my book and drank some wine.