Giving it 300 percent

We enjoyed a mini-heatwave, a few days when the temperature approached 30°C. So we went for a walk one evening when it was just a little cooler. We kept to shade as much as possible, avoiding the worst of the ultraviolet (there’s one) rays.

Selfie of the day

We found some blackberries in full bloom so I’m sure we’ll be back later in the year to enjoy the fruits. And, just a little further along the road (please don’t tell anybody where), we found some wild raspberries too, just a bit too far back through the thistles and brambles to approach in our besandalled feet.

Wild raspberries, for future enjoyment
Fireweed

Liesel pointed out the fireweed and explained that when this flower blooms, it will snow six weeks later. Quite an education (there’s one)! I suspect this is just Alaskan folklore, but, as a precaution (another one), I’m keeping my snow shoes handy.

The small tortoiseshell would look better against a natural background
Kindle error

The evening presented us with the first of the week’s technical faults that could have developed into an immensely vexacious (boom) affair. My Kindle displayed an error message that I’ve never seen before. Fortunately a hard reboot fixed it, which meant that I could continue my struggle with ‘Middlemarch’. After trudging through 11% of the text though, I’m sorry to say, I was so discouraged (aha), I gave up. I very rarely give up on a book once I’ve started. On the other hand, How to Argue with a Racist by Adam Rutherford is very readable.

Standing outside our luxury block of luxury apartments, looking up at the blue sky through the oak tree’s foliage, in a slight breeze on a hot day, is delightful. One branch is dead and bits of it fall down now and then. Maybe it was malnourished (oof) when it was younger.

Oak tree, blue sky, dead branch

Now that things are slowly opening up again, we enjoyed a couple of days out at National Trust properties. For the first time since the lockdown was implemented, we went to Dunham Massey. This is usually a very busy, popular place, but on this occasion, we had little problem keeping a safe distance away from people. We try to keep our levels of anxiousness (da-dah) down, but when you’re breathing the same air, the risk is always at the back of your mind.

This duck would look better against a natural background

I always investigate the sundial near the main entrance but it has never occurred to me before that the statue supporting it might be offensive: a ‘Blackamoor’ with white bulging eyes. There’s white privilege for you.

Blackamoor statue removed
A field with a few shrink-wrapped cows, I think

The deer were very prominent today: I suspect they’ve become used to people not being around, recently. Other visitors were indulging in the questionable (badoom) activity of approaching the deer and stroking them.

We paid a quick visit to Jenny to drop off some food items. It was an ideal day to deliver butter: 30° or so! We had a quick chat with Martha and William through the window, and I managed to get a good photo this time!

Martha and William through the window
Installing update
Unwanted software

Technical issue number 2. My PC still runs Windows 7, which has not been supported by Microsoft since January. So I was surprised one night when turning it off, it said it was installing an update. My heart sank.  This was not authorised (ooh) by me. Next time I booted up, it gleefully told me that Microsoft Edge had been installed. Ever since, it’s been nagging me to accept its terms and conditions. Why? I didn’t want it in the first place! I’ve been uninstalling a lot of unused software recently, and this is another candidate for the chop. But why am I worried? Because once when I uninstalled iTunes from a PC, it also took away that machine’s ability to play CDs. Technology’s great, when it works.

I can’t remember the last time I had a twelve hour sleep with only one interruption. But this happened at the weekend and I can only say I felt fantastic afterwards. Even the smell of freshly baked scones didn’t disturb my slumbers. Thanks, Liesel! We drove to Quarry Bank Mill, the second of the week’s National Trust venues, under changeable skies. Sunny and blue for a while, then cloudy and grey. We mostly avoided the rain and enjoyed a fabulous walk around the gardens. The mill itself is still closed, but we were able to buy a coffee, so that’s encouraging (bazinga).

A gorgeous display of colour
Mick in the thick of it

At one point, we could look down and see the rain in the valley. We felt just a few spots but took shelter under one of the rocks, which strangely, was reminiscent of the painted rocks in the Kakadu, albeit much cooler. Growing out of the cliff-like rock, was this tree, just clinging on by its finger-nails.

Hanging on
This dragonfly would look better against a natural background

As well as all the pretty flowers, they grow a lot of food here, but I was dissuaded from scrumping an apple.

Apple tree, artichoke, kohl rabi and coffee, cheers
Old, gnarly tree
More colour
Something went wrong

The third of our technical issues was on TV. BBC iPlayer usually just plods along and does its thing, once you’ve navigated to the programme you want to watch. But again, our hearts sank when we saw this. Could our Freeview box be on its last legs? Was a transmitter struck by lightning in one of the ongoing storms? Anyway, it was soon rectified and hasn’t recurred. It briefly interrupted our enjoyment of the Glastonbury Festival. This year’s 50th anniversary festival has been cancelled due to Covid, but the BBC are showing several performances from previous years.

Dolly Parton and her saxophone
Barry Gibb with Coldplay

So far this year, we’ve watched or re-watched quite a few of our favourites, most of whom we’ve never actually seen in real life. So, thanks to David Bowie, REM, Florence and the Machine, Christine and the Queens, Adele and her potty mouth. Coldplay persuaded the Glasonbury King, Michael Eavis, to sing My Way and sang a couple of Bee Gees songs with Barry Gibb. Dolly Parton is always good value too. As well as many of her greatest songs, she performed Yakety Sax on her saxophone. Elbow’s songs are often pretty straightforward, but Guy Garvey’s voice and his magnificent instrumentation (ooh, another one) always make the performance something special. Even from the comfort of our own living room.

What? You’re wondering how I can just briefly mention David Bowie at Glastonbury and not dwell a little longer on the subject? At the time of writing, I have watched this programme twice. It’s the first time the full performance has been broadcast on normal TV.  He enjoyed it, we fell in love with his bass player, Gail Ann Dorsey all over again, the band was all together.

David Bowie at Glastonbury in 2000. He’d first performed there in 1971 at 5.30 in the morning, there was no curfew in those days.

The set list:

Wild is the Wind
Little China Girl
Changes
Stay
Life on Mars
Absolute Beginners
Ashes to Ashes
Rebel Rebel
Little Wonder
Golden Years
Fame
All the Young Dudes
The Man Who Sold the World
Station to Station
Starman
Hallo Spaceboy
Under Pressure
Ziggy Stardust
Heroes
Let’s Dance
I’m Afraid of Americans

We still miss Mr Bowie, and many of us think that the equilibrium of the world was upset by his early death in 2016. So happy we still have his music.

The heatwave came to an end and the rain returned.

I can’t stand the rain against my windows bringing back sweet memories

It was a quiet Sunday, but I was definitely wabbit by the end of the day: wish I could justify my state of exhaustion (yes).

Liesel’s been busy knitting a beautiful hat.

A bobble hat before the application of the pompom
Sanny Rudravajhala

Radio Northenden broadcast its 50th show today, Monday, and I, Mick the Knife, was invited to take part, have a chat and pick three songs on lock, three tracks that I like to listen to while on lockdown. Thanks for the opportunity, Sanny, and I hope I’m not too embarrassed when I listen back later!

If you want to hear me and my little show, visit the Radio Northenden showreel and listen to Monday 29th June 2020.

So there’s a 50th, and here’s a 300th. Yup, you are reading the 300th post on this blog so as a bonus, to celebrate, here is a list of 300 words, each of which contains all 5 vowels. I’ve been collecting these for several years. In fact, the first one I was aware of was while still in education (ding). A teacher at school accused me of being facetious (dong). I very nearly said, “Did you realise that ‘facetious’ contains all five vowels?” But luckily I realised just in time that that would just be confirming her ridiculous opinion.

I’ve been adding to the list pretty much ever since then, moreso recently, as I know how fascinated Liesel is(n’t) when I announce a new discovery. Most of them are from books, some from subtitles or dialogue (ooh) from TV shows and, this week, in the space of ten minutes, I spotted a few on my Twitter feed.

In (more or less) the order I noted them down, here are 300 words all containing at least one incidence each of A, E, I, O and U:

        1. Precaution
        2. Precarious
        3. Exhaustion
        4. Nonsequential
        5. Equiproportional
        6. Persuasion
        7. Insouciance
        8. Remuneration
        9. Augmentation
        10. Autoinjector
        11. Overpopulation
        12. Delusional
        13. Ecuadorian
        14. Dishonourable
        15. Rheumatologist
        16. Unsociable
        17. Expostulating
        18. Coeducational
        19. Neuroradiology
        20. Recapitulation
        21. Pseudobirthday
        22. Neuroplasticity
        23. Favourite
        24. Gregarious
        25. Intermolecular
        26. Consequential
        27. Equinoctial
        28. Manoeuvrability
        29. Autopsies
        30. Equatorial
        31. Malnourished
        32. Institutionalised
        33. Exsanguination
        34. Encouraging
        35. Repudiation
        36. Proceduralism
        37. Deucalion
        38. Autoimmune
        39. Anxiousness
        40. Hermaphroditus
        41. Refutation
        42. Unequivocal
        43. Authoritative
        44. Communicative
        45. Dehumanisation
        46. Misdemeanor
        47. Deputation
        48. Reputation
        49. Unifoliate
        50. Eunomia
        51. Unconscionable
        52. Housewarming
        53. Pterosauria
        54. Overqualified
        55. Uncontaminated
        56. Discombobulated
        57. Housemaid
        58. Unnegotiable
        59. Reconfiguration
        60. Moustachioed
        61. Denticulation
        62. Neurological
        63. Insurmountable
        64. Intercommunication
        65. Pelargonium
        66. Unprofessional
        67. Sequoia
        68. Authorised
        69. Authorities
        70. Endocarpium
        71. Autoerotic
        72. Mountaineer
        73. Education
        74. Abstemious
        75. Unmethodical
        76. Facetious
        77. Harbourside
        78. Carnoustie
        79. Cointreau
        80. Immunotherapy
        81. Evacuation
        82. Bivouacked
        83. Businesswoman
        84. Regulation
        85. Recuperation
        86. Euphoria
        87. Euphorbia
        88. Nonequivalence
        89. Unfashionable
        90. Revolutionary
        91. Cauliflower
        92. Behaviour
        93. Chivalrousness
        94. Pneumonia
        95. Boundaries
        96. Authentication
        97. Gelatinousness
        98. Absolutist
        99. Evolutionary
        100. Exclusionary
        101. Unaffectionate
        102. Encrustation
        103. Equation
        104. Prosecutorial
        105. Tambourine
        106. Unprofitable
        107. Auctioneer
        108. Trepidacious
        109. Tenacious
        110. Emulation
        111. Evaluation
        112. Undiscoverable
        113. Seismosaurus
        114. Ostentatious
        115. Crematorium
        116. Quaternion
        117. Discourage
        118. Mountainside
        119. Exhumation
        120. Functionalities
        121. Unemotional
        122. Preoccupation
        123. Semiautomatic
        124. Byelorussia
        125. Mendacious
        126. Excruciation
        127. Beautification
        128. Ejaculation
        129. Reunification
        130. Undomesticated
        131. Warehousing
        132. Documentaries
        133. Atrioventricular
        134. Fontainebleau
        135. Questionable
        136. Autofellatio
        137. Overcultivate
        138. Simultaneous
        139. Documentation
        140. Perambulation
        141. Auditioned
        142. Discontinuance
        143. Exculpation
        144. Exultation
        145. Sanctimoniousness
        146. Instrumentation
        147. Andouillettes
        148. Microcephalus
        149. Pandemonium
        150. Endeavouring
        151. Spermatogonium
        152. Nefarious
        153. Vexatious
        154. Manoeuvring
        155. Mozambique
        156. Ratatouille
        157. Bougainvillea
        158. Renunciation
        159. Biconjugate
        160. Savouries
        161. Endocranium
        162. Houseplant
        163. Intellectualisation
        164. Unequivocally
        165. Heliopause
        166. Duodecimal
        167. Boatbuilder
        168. Sacrilegious
        169. Sequestration
        170. Reuploading
        171. Filamentous
        172. Unapologetic
        173. Ketonuria
        174. Overfatigued
        175. Resuscitation
        176. Coequality
        177. Gubernatorial
        178. Labourite
        179. Simultaneously
        180. Flirtatiousness
        181. Dunbartonshire
        182. Boardinghouse
        183. Numerlogical
        184. Quadrisection
        185. Outdistance
        186. Jalousie
        187. Ultraviolet
        188. Aeronautical
        189. Unintentionally
        190. Unostentatious
        191. Authorise
        192. Glamourise
        193. Radioluminescent
        194. Communicated
        195. Contextualisation
        196. Conceptualisation
        197. Gigantopithecus
        198. Authenticator
        199. Perturbation
        200. Austronesian
        201. Fluoridate
        202. Uneconomical
        203. Unexceptional
        204. Grandiloquence
        205. Misbehaviour
        206. Muscoidea
        207. Beaujolais
        208. Boulangerie
        209. Praetorium
        210. Dauphinoise
        211. Jailhouse
        212. Questionableness
        213. Preoccupational
        214. Gauloise
        215. Consubstantiate
        216. Quatrefoil
        217. Plesiosaur
        218. Misfortunate
        219. Undemocratically
        220. Secularisation
        221. Dialogue
        222. Antineutrino
        223. Obituaries
        224. Heterosexuality
        225. Efficacious
        226. Uncomplimentary
        227. Unconstipated
        228. Gelatinous
        229. Repopulation
        230. Dehumanisation
        231. Neurobiochemical \
        232. Speculation               /   these two in a row in this book 
        233. Portraiture
        234. Sulfonamide
        235. Tenaciously
        236. Langoustine
        237. Excommunication
        238. Carboniferous
        239. Eunoia
        240. Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis
        241. Crenulation
        242. Gourmandise
        243. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious
        244. Enumeration
        245. Menstruation
        246. Overhauling
        247. Pasteurisation
        248. Reevaluation
        249. Neurofibromatosis
        250. Boulevardier
        251. Conceptualise
        252. Physiotherapeutic
        253. Automobile
        254. Autoshield
        255. Pseudohermaphrodite
        256. Larcenious
        257. Outpatient
        258. Unmotivated
        259. Uncontaminated
        260. Contextualise
        261. Autosuggestion
        262. Magnanimousness
        263. Overenthusiastically
        264. Equivocal
        265. Consanguineous
        266. Permutation
        267. Unexceptionable
        268. Armouries
        269. Humectation
        270. Underestimation
        271. Australopithecus
        272. Hallucinogen
        273. Europeanise
        274. Tragedious
        275. Putrefaction
        276. Fountainbridge
        277. Expurgation
        278. Groundbreaking
        279. Thermocoagulation
        280. Revolutionary
        281. Abstentious
        282. Miscellaneous
        283. Multimillionaire
        284. Audiophile
        285. Elocutionary
        286. Praseodymium
        287. Unsensational
        288. Housecleaning
        289. Eukaryotic
        290. Genitourinary
        291. Mykobacterium
        292. Abdoulie Sallah
        293. Prepublication
        294. Unsportsmanlike
        295. Anticoagulative
        296. Countersurveillance
        297. Decoagulation
        298. Gratuitousness
        299. Salaciousness
        300. Misevaluation
        301. Recurvation
        302. Ambiguousness
        303. Inoculated
        304. Tautologies
        305. Outlandishness
        306. Overenthusiastic
        307. Regularisation
      1. Oh, extra, extra, here are a few that don’t really count!
        1. (Tamsin) Outhwaite
        2. Jo Caulfield
        3. (Simone de) Beauvoir
        4. Serge Gainsbourg
        5. Liquorice Allsorts
        6. Au revoir!

See you soon for the 301st!

 

Nothing to see here

Mick or Avatar?

I was playing around on my phone and created this little chap. He’s incredibly lifelike, isn’t he? I’d been doing sudoku puzzles and fancied a break. Liesel’s been doing sudokus too. It’s always exciting when we finally crack one that had seemed impossible at first sight. Usually when I get stuck, I just say there must be a misprint. Even when I’m doing a puzzle in a phone app.

We’ve had more rain and thunderstorms this week, in between the warm, sunny days. This week’s highlight was popping over to see the grandchildren. We had things to deliver, including some new items for Martha and William. No photos because the Sun was so bright, we couldn’t easily see them through the socially separating window. They’re all in good spirits, and I think Martha is happy to be back at nursery for a couple of days a week.

As it was Fathers Day, Jenny and Helen bought me a huge brownie from a local café, The Damson Tree, well, fairly local, in Cheadle Hulme. Very nice, very tasty, thank you!

Brownie and ice cream
A very long book

At home, I downloaded a new, controversial book onto my Kindle. I probably won’t read it and this notion was confirmed when I saw the estimated reading duration! Yes, it’s about American politics and yes, I did a search on David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson. Hardly a mention, such is the importance of the ‘special relationship’ between the USA and the UK!

I was quietly taking my ease, reading the next chapter of The Ickabog, when from outside, I heard the strains of Old Ned, the theme tune from Steptoe and Son. We haven’t seen them for a while, but I guessed this meant the return of the local totters, the rag-and-bone men. The shouts of ‘any old iron’ confirmed my suspicion. So I ran downstairs, out to the bin cupboard, retrieved the broken ironing board that had been dumped there several weeks ago, then ran along the road to offer it to young Mr Steptoe. As he followed me back to where I’d left it, he got closer and closer, I just couldn’t walk fast enough to maintain a safe two metres distance from him. He said that old people seem to like hearing Steptoe and Son, it attracts their attention. I’m pretty sure it must have been young people that ‘donated’ the mangled bikes on the back of his van.

Jess and Chris

We’ve watched Jessica Lee Morgan and Christian Thomas a few more times, on their virtual world tour, promoting Jess’s new album, Forthright. And yes, I really would recommend listening to and buying the album. My favourite song (today) is The Less Said the Better. It’s a bit of an earworm. I’m not going to go all clickbaity and ask what your favourite is, don’t worry.

Here is Martha recreating the ‘serving suggestion’ from a box of Shreddies.

Martha and her cereal

What else have we been up to then? Not much. Watching Doctor Who, listening to podcasts, CDs and radio, baking, watching the neighbours, listening to the neighbours doing DIY late at night, celebrating the Summer solstice and mourning the loss of birdsong now that traffic noise has returned to ‘normal’.

Parks and Recreation

The weather here has been as strange as it can be. Hot and muggy, torrential rain and thunderstorms, but we have been out and about, a little further afield, so things are looking up. This week saw the release of a couple of new records. I joined Anna Neale and a few other fans as she launched her new single Anarchy. I surrepticiously tried to take  a picture of the Zoom screen but it didn’t really work. It was good to see the world premiere(!) of the accompanying video, even if Zoom couldn’t quite keep up. You should view the video here, not just for the song itself, but for my first ever (minor) contribution to a ‘pop video’. See if you can spot it. Answers at the bottom.

Anna Neale and Mick

The song itself talks about the decline in societal standards including littering and graffiti. But sometimes, we see something daubed on a wall and it’s a positive message. So much better than the boring tags, however convoluted and multi-coloured they are.

Some positive graffiti

It’s a bit more risky these days to walk on a golf course, but you never know what you’ll come across. I found a lawn mower behind a bank of trees. I assume the green-keeper left it there on purpose. There were no golfers around on this occasion, so I didn’t need my tin hat after all.

The business end of a lawn mower

I walked along the river, a little beyond Simon’s Bridge and rather than retrace our stroll from a couple of weeks ago, I carried on as far as the beach. I was surprised that it was free of litter, very unusual around here, sadly. In Millgate Fields, there are ground-nesting birds apparently, but I didn’t see nor disturb any.

Costa del Mersey

A few other people were out and about too, but I was surprised to see a couple with walking poles. The terrain around here isn’t that bad, really. I tried using walking poles once. Never again. Mobile trip hazards. I’m still not sure if this is the one and only local heron or if there are a few living at different places on the river. It would be nice to see more than one at a time, though!

Friend or stranger?
Another family of ducks

And so we come to the most exciting day since March. We gathered up our passports and ventured outside and away from the local neighbourhood. Away from Northenden, further even than Didsbury. Our wonderful car started at the first attempt and we drove to Lyme Park for a walk. This, like all other National Trust properties has re-opened, but you have to book a time slot in advance.

BDM

The cafés are still closed and only one toilet is open, but that’s OK, we had a lovely walk, on hilly grass and, best of all, there weren’t many people, so it was easy to maintain social distancing.

Lyme Park mansion house itself is still closed too, so we had no excuse to not carry on walking.

Lyme House and Liesel
The Cage (a folly) and to the left, Manchester in the distance

The views from the top of the hill near The Cage were pretty good. We couldn’t work out whether the haze was mist or just air quality returning to pre-lockdown levels already.

Little white flowers
Foxgloves

The only wildlife we encountered were some cattle. We did see plenty of evidence of deer, sheep and rabbits, but they were all hiding in the trees and bushes because they’re not used to seeing people any more.

Cattle

We had a good reason to venture into Cheadle too, one day, saving ourselves 40p as car parking fees have been suspended. While Liesel conducted her business, I walked around. I think the S4G guys were a bit concerned, but I wasn’t deliberately loitering near their van while they took millions of pounds in used fivers into the bank. The housewares shop should be cautioned for their misleading descriptions.

This tub is quite clearly yellow, not red

But the floral display in the High street is magnificent.

Cheadle High Street is blooming marvellous

As I was walking home later on, I bumped into an old friend, well, old enemy. I think I’ve mentioned before that I lost my Thirty Year War with bindweed in our garden in Chessington. Well, it’s thriving well in some gardens near where we live, but I am so glad I don’t have to fight that battle any longer.

Bindweed

In local news, we learned that the Nat West bank, which has been closed for as long as we can remember, has been used as a cannabis farm. It’s in the middle of our main street.

And, just along the road from us, we think there was one of two drugs raids taking place in Northenden. And we found out why the local authorities aren’t bothered about all the vehicles that are parked on pavements.

Police but no traffic warden

The second exciting record release this week is Jessica Lee Morgan’s ‘Forthright’ album. It’s her fourth and, I think, her best so far. I can’t wait to see her live in concert again. Meanwhile, she’s been performing on YouTube, in a virtual world tour.

Jessica Lee Morgan – Forthright

And in case you’re wondering, my bit of Anna’s video is at 22 seconds. It’s graffiti local to where we live in Northenden. ‘Live work consume die?’ Which nicely summarises just about everything!

PS a couple of people in real life have asked what podcasts we’re listening to. Well, I’ve started compiling a list right here, so please take a look. Over and out.

Bird watching

We’ve been to the Green Note, London’s favourite music venue (Time Out, 2015) a few times. My last visit was with Esther a few years ago and we enjoyed watching and listening to Erin McKeown perform live. Well, the venue’s not open right now so they too are putting out shows online. We watched Erin McKeown, Dar Williams and Cara Luft at virtually at Green Note and it was really enjoyable. We sat on our own sofa rather then the beer kegs that you get in real life, if you’re a bit late to the party. Of course, at the end of a virtual gig, there’s no point hanging around for a selfie or an autograph.

Erin McKeown

We’d recommend watching and buying Erin’s latest single, The Escape, which reflects what many of us are thinking about right now. And there can’t be too many songs that namecheck ‘Hydrochloroquine’!

For some reason, the video won’t load or play here, but here’s William at home, laughing  at a cartoon called Bing about feeding ducks that he finds hilarious. We miss his laugh in real life.

William

We took a couple of nice walks by the river this week too, still avoiding people even if they don’t always try to avoid us. Joggers are the worst culprits in this respect.

Heron

Ducks

Magpie

Heron on the weir

Hmm, I don’t know whether we have more than one heron in Northenden, or whether this is the same one having taken a short flight.

Girls, girls, girls

Three girls daring each other to get into the water which was absolutely freezing apparently. It looks deeper here than I’d realised, making me reconsider my plan one day to wade over to the gravel island.

Geese on the island in the stream

Keep Northenden Tidy

Thanks, bin, we did enjoy our walk and he had no rubbish to take home. One day, we’ll go out with litter pickers and pick up the litter that litter bugs have littered all over our little village.

Some other highlights this week. Bin day: it was the turn of all the landfill bins, the food waste bin and the paper and cardboard recycling bins. I disposed of more of the oak tree. there’s one or two dead branches and every few days, another big, dead lump falls down.

As I was putting out the bins, overhead honking alerted me to a skein of geese flying south. They weren’t in a V-formation, though. Something went wrong with the organisation, there was just one leg of the V: a /-formation, so to speak.

Ocado came and delivered again, as they do about every three weeks now. The driver said if we keep ordering that much, he’s gonna need a bigger lorry. Liesel wonders whether we have more food her now than we ever had in Chessington. I don’t think so because we have so much less storage space.

Car insurance. Every year, we have to buy car insurance but it seems to some round much faster. After a bit of searching, I found a policy that was less than half the price quoted by our broker of several years. They couldn’t match the new quote, so we jumped ship. Oh yuss.

These things really shouldn’t be the highlight of the week, should they! It’s funny how every day, trivial matters have acquired greater significance and importance and even entertainment value.

We’ve just started watching the whole of Doctor Who, starting with series 1 from 2005. It’s amazing how much of it I remember when I see it again, but if, out of the blue, you asked me to jot down the story lines, I don’t think I’d be able to write much. Funny how memory works. I would love to watch the classic series from the ’60s and ’70s, of course, but I’m happy to save those for the next pandemic lockdown.

We’ve both read last year’s Booker prize winning novel, ‘Girl, Woman, Other’, by Bernardine Evaristo. We both gave it five stars out of five, making ten altogether.

Next on the list is a virtual visit to Manchester Museum to see Egyptology in Lockdown, at 3pm BST, every Thursday.

Apropos of absolutely nothing, here is a short list of notable people who have all five vowels in their name.

      • (Tamsin) Outhwaite
      • Abdoulie (Sallah)
      • Jo Caulfield
      • (Simone de) Beauvoir
      • Serge Gainsbourg

Lockdown week 11

Welcome to Week 11 of the official Lockdown. Liesel and I had been isolating for a while beforehand but that seems a long time ago, now. And now, despite the UK still experiencing hundreds of Covid-related deaths every day, HM Goverment want to relax the restrictions ooh hang on a minute, déjà vu or what?

To celebrate the arrival of a short hot Summer, Martha and her Daddy went camping, in their garden. Martha was so excited to sleep in a tent that first time and she slept through from 10pm to 7am.

Martha and Minnie

Despite the warmer weather, we’re still not going out as often as we’d like. More people are out and about now of course, so we’re aware that keeping our distance from strangers will be even more difficult now. What a shame. The lost Summer of 2020.

I’m still doing Sandwich Sudoku puzzles and I’m so pleased that my first reaction on seeing this message was to laugh! It took well over two hours to solve it, but I got there in the end. 12-year old me polished my nails on my lapel.

Liesel is doing Sudoku puzzles too, from a book that we’ve had for a few years now.

Another kind of puzzle that I tried to solve in Malaysian newspapers last year is Slitherlink. I’d never come across such a thing before, and I never got anywhere near completing one. You have to join the dots on a diagram, the numbers tell you how many sides of the square have a line segment. The line has to be one continuous loop.  I’ve found an app now for this kind of puzzle too. And I solved one. It took far too long and I’m sure I will get faster, but I’m very proud of my achievement. It was much, much smaller than those in Malaysian newspapers! 12-year old me punched the sky.

We’re not totally confined to the flat, we did still go out for our exercise a few times.

Aromatic

The highlight of the week was visiting Jenny and Martha, outdoors. We went for a walk around the block, Martha on her scooter.

Martha, the fastest scooterer

Mostly we kept a safe distance but I did step over the invisible boundary a couple of times by mistake, especially when Martha fell off the scooter. My instinct was to rush over to pick her up, but before I’d taken one step, she announced that she was alright.

Sadly, we didn’t see William, but through the magic of the internet, we do know that he helped with the baking one day, partly by licking the bowl.

William the most diligent of bowl lickers

In terms of entertainment, I watched a political comedy, ‘This House’ by James Graham. This was a National Theatre production, depicting the Labour government from 1974-1979. It ended with Margaret Thatcher reciting, and ruining for many people, the prayer of St Francis of Assisi outside 10 Downing Street. ‘Where there is discord, may we bring harmony. Where there is error, may we bring truth. Where there is doubt, may we bring faith. And where there is despair, may we bring hope’. Irony died that day.

Jessica Lee Morgan has embarked on a ‘Time Zone Tour’ of the world, performing at 7pm local time at many places around the world, from the comfort of her own home. So in the UK, each show is at a different time of day. She has ‘been to’ Anchorage and Adak, Alaska, two different time zones, Christchurch and Sydney. The tour continues and you can catch up here on YouTube.

Jessica Lee Morgan and ChristianThomas

We heard the thwack of metal on golf ball as we wanderd by the golf course. We did see a ball but Liesel wouldn’t let me kick it towards the hole.

Golfers and a pylon

Blig black clouds

It had rained earlier in the day but we stayed dry mostly and the Sun came out again. Until the big black cloud appeared and it started precipitating again just as we arrived home. Good weather for ducks, though.

The cleanest duck in the Mersey

The latest local news is that the sofa has now been removed from the river. I informed the local radio station, Radio Northenden and I think they’ll be putting out a special programme about it soon. More exciting news is that another local coffee shop has opened for takeaways. Salutem is also on Paltine Road and we (I) had our (my) first coffee there yesterday.  We’ll be supporting both them and The Northern Den, just over the road.

Lockdown week 10

Welcome to Week 10 of the official Lockdown. Liesel and I had been isolating for a while beforehand but that seems a long time ago, now. And now, despite the UK still experiencing hundreds of Covid-related deaths every day, HM Goverment want to relax the restrictions next week. Yes, even though many scientists are saying it’s still too early. Then there’s the whole Dominic Cummings (government advisor) thing last weekend: he broke the rules that he helped implement, because he feels very special and entitled. He managed to unite the country, ironically against himself. Then there was the murder of George Floyd in America, another black man killed by a police officer pretty much because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. All of these news stories, whether they affect us directly or not, slowly, slowly erode any sense of well-being. This isn’t the place for a commentary into current affairs, but if you, dear reader, detect a slight undercurrent of dismay in this post, that’s why, and I apologise. But I’ll try to keep looking up, not down.

We miss going to all the music festivals this year, like everyone else. Well, we sometimes go to one in Hyde Park. Instead, we watched the Folk on Foot Front Room Festival from the comfort of our homes. It was a wonderful, uplifting day of music. I produced a list of performers who we would like to see live in concert at some point and whose music we need to buy more of:

O’Hooley and Tidow

      • Chris Wood (he was sitting in a wheelbarrow while performing)
      • O’Hooley and Tidow (with baby Flynn) (we’ve seen them once live)
      • Gwilym Bowen Rhys (lovely Welsh songs)
      • Kathryn Tickell (Northumbrian pipes)
      • Cara Dillon and Sam Lakeman (we’ve seen these two too)
      • Duncan Chisholm (fiddle)
      • Kitty Macfarlane (guitar)
      • Rioghnach Connolly and Ellis Davies (Antrim girl now lives in Manchester)
      • John Smith (guitars)
      • The Unthanks (presented their film “As We Go”) (we’ve seen them!)
      • Frank Turner and Jess Guise (The time of my life)
      • Kate Rusby and Damien O’Kane (the voice of England)
      • Johnny Flynn (guitars)
      • Eliza Carthy (you know Eliza)
      • Richard Thompson and Zara Phillips (you know Richard)

All of the performers

I would recommend any of these and if you wish to enjoy the festival too, it’s still up here on YouTube.

The Sun set as the show ended and I realised that we haven’t seen nearly as many vapour trails in the sky as we usually do.

Pink con trail

We did go out a couple of times to walk around the area, for some fresh air, for some exercise and to enjoy a hot, hot late May. It should be peaceful, but there was a lot of noise. Just up the road from us, someone was trimming a hedge and their friend was blowing the trimmings off the road and back into the hedge. Round the corner, someone was washing a car with a powerful powered hose. Up the road, there were men at work. Except they weren’t, they had downed tools for a welcome break.

A man with a leaf-blower

A robin

The robin often appears when we walk along this path. A bit later, we were walking by the river and we heard the sound of a creaky gate approaching. It was our old friend, the heron flying by and, if the passer-by (socially distanced of course) is to be believed, it nearly gave her a heart attack.

Yes, it’s much hotter now, and there are many more insects about. Of course, I always feel obliged to count the spirals on a daisy, just to confirm they are Fibonacci numbers!

Fly on a daisy

On different days, one or both of walked on and around the golf course, just for a different point of view, really. One day, a player asked if I’d seen where his ball went. I hadn’t, and I didn’t feel comfortable lying that it had ended up in the river, either.

A path through the golf course

I walked on this side of the river, adjacent to the golf course, because there was nobody else here. There were many groups of people on the other side, some of whom were having a picnic on a small ‘beach’ that I’d previously been unaware of.

To the left, the golf course; to the right, the Mersey

There’s more to golf than walking around and bashing a ball until it falls into a rabbit hole, it seems. Staircases and bells are involved too.

Stairway to Heaven

You can ring my bell

The duck family were nowhere to be seen, the geese have moved in instead.

Goose family

Hot, hot, hot, and a good enough excuse for some folks to go out sunbathing.We just go out for a walk, keep going, however far, avoiding everyone, go home and check for mail.

Soaking up the rays

We walked along the river, to Stenner Woods, then Fletcher Moss Park, on to Didsbury.

View from the Rockery

One thing you don’t expect to see in Didsbury is a squat: I apologise if this isn’t a squat, but that’s what we both thought.

Homes for people, not for profit

We wandered through Marie Louise Gardens then back home. One thing you don’t expect to see in the Mersey is people sunbathing.

Soaking up the rays

We visited The Northern Den for more coffee and Viennese whirls. The local council seem to be deterring people from sitting outside on park benches, sadly. They’d squirted tomato ketchup over them, and nobody wants to sit on that, thank you very much.

A moment of excitement soon evaporated when I realised this wasn’t a real Tardis.

Not the Tardis

In between our trips outside, what have we been doing?

I watched ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ from the National Theatre. Gillian Anderson was in it, and the play itself was good and well performed, if a little long. But that might be because I was fully aware of and distracted by the camera work. Yes, the play was performed ‘in the round’, but that doesn’t mean I want to watch while walking round and round the stage.

We’ve been listening to lots of radio, BBC Radio 2, 6 Music, Classic FM and even local Radio Northenden is back this week!

We’ve watched a lot of TV, a lot of lot of TV. Current favourites include Killing Eve, series 3 and we’ve  watched 8½ series of Spooks so far, but we have avoided news most of the time.

I’ve been watching YouTube a lot, not just folk festivals. On the Cracking the Cryptic channel, you can watch Simon solving sudoku puzzles, some of which are ridiculously complicated, but his enthusiasm and enjoyment are infectious.

We’re listening to ‘Harry Potter and the Philosophers’ Stone’ being read by a series of actors and others who have links with the Harry Potter world. Harry Potter at Home.

Simon Callow reading chapter 5

If that’s not enough good stuff from JK Rowling, I can recommend her latest, being published as a serial online for now, 2 or 3 chapters a day. The Ickabog shouldn’t give you nightmares, but, so far, it’s a good old fashioned fairy tale!

Many museums and galleries have put their exhibitions up online too. As ever, we can’t wait until we can visit these places in real life.

This morning, I played the album Young Americans from my phone. It was on shuffle mode, which I had a little whinge about. ‘Why does it matter?’ asked Liesel. Because it messes with my expectations, I said. And then, of course, it repeats one track and another while some tracks remain unplayed at all. To make it funnier, Liesel misheard the lyrics to Fascination as vaccination!

(Fascination) Your soul is calling
Like when I’m walking
Seems that everywhere I turn
I hope you’re waiting for me
I know that people think
That I’m a little crazy

Well, we’re trying not to go crazy in these crazy times, there’s certainly plenty of good stuff out there, but it doesn’t take much bad news to rock the boat. Stay safe, stay alert, stay at home!

Walkin’ to New Orleans

This time I’m walkin’ to New Orleans
I’m walkin’ to New Orleans
I’m going to need two pair of shoes

Well, obviously, I’m not really walkin’ to New Orleans, not with a whole ocean being in the way. Plus, I don’t much fancy going shoe-shopping either, that’s definitely not my favourite pastime. But we are walkin’ around Northenden a lot. Summer’s here and time is right for dancing in the street. No, not that. Time maybe right, but such behaviour is totally inappropriate.

The two main local attractions are the river that way and Wythenshawe Park in the opposite direction. Any splash of colour is welcome: in fact, anything that produces whatever chemicals in the brain to make us feel good. It’s all about mental health during the current crisis.

Pretty blue flowers
Pretty yellow weeds concealing the river

There were a few people in Wythenshawe Park but everyone was keeping their distance from each other.

Rhododendrons (I think)
Blossom

There were a few dogs out for their walk, a squirrel, some horses in a field and best of all, more bees than we’ve seen all year so far. Thus concludes our wildlife inventory.

Buzzy busy bumble bee on a buttercup

‘Wow! That bee is sooooo big!’ said Martha when she saw this picture. Well, it was quite big but mostly, I was just really close to it!

There’s a wildflower meadow that was, ironically, overgrown, so we didn’t fight our way through that. We did find an enchanted forest which we hope to take little William to ‘when this is all over’. He likes going into the ‘forest’ at the zoo, I’m sure he’ll love it here.

A little bridge over a little stream

I chose not to leap across the stream at the point when the path became impassable. William might have other ideas, though! We’ll see.

The end of the path

There is no truth in the rumour that I nearly fell in the river while trying to take a picture of this swan: the bank of the river was a bit less solid than it appeared.

Swan

The new kid in town. There were lots of ducks and geese on or by the river, but I don’t think we’ve seen this chap before.

Black-headed gull (my bird expert thinks)
Our heron, still playing on the weir

It’s hard to avoid the local golf courses, and there were a few people playing here today, so we stayed clear of the low-flying golf balls.

Didsbury Golf Club

At home, I wandered into the kitchen to be greeted by the sight of a man outside the window. We’re on the second floor. He was in a cherry-picker, painting the outside of the premises.

Painting the exterior

And here’s an external shot. It’s so easy to forget that other people have jobs to go to, that not everyone is locked in, staying at home and staying alert.

Cherry-picking good

Sadly, not everything is uplifting around here. There is a lot of rubbish being dumped outside the local charity shops. All they’ll be able to do is throw it all away.

Don’t leave donations outside the shop

But we do have a different class of park bench to rest on as we pound the local highways and byways.

Rest a while

Of course, it might not have been fly-tipped, maybe it’s on its way to a new forever home. At least it didn’t join its sibling in the river. Yes, that one’s still there, slowly, slowly, nudging down towards the weir.

My Dad isn’t responsible for this graffiti but it did remind me of him.

Bad mash

His mashed potato was more lumpy than a bed at a cheap motel. And don’t ask about his gravy and his porridge.

It’s not all gloom and doom, and sometimes even the most pessimistic of messages brings a smile to the face.

Abandon all hope

 

Some Clever People

Happy birthday to Mormor in Ferndale. Hope you had a good day, hope you’re staying well, and we hope we can get together again, sometime, when ‘this is all over’, this plague and pestilence, isolation and social distancing.

We’re all trying to keep up our sense of mental well-being in this time of Coronavirus, and we can pick up hints and tips from the most bizarre and unexpected places. For instance, who knew that delivery drivers would be advocating meditation and reciting Buddhist mantras?

Om mani padme hum

Van Gogh did some eyeball pleasers
He must have been a pencil squeezer
He didn’t do the Mona Lisa
That was an Italian geezer

There ain’t half been some clever bastards
(Lucky bleeders, lucky bleeders)
There ain’t half been some clever bas-tards

Random songs pop into my head at random times, many of which I’ve not actually heard for a very long time. This classic from Ian Dury and the Blockheads is the latest example. And he’s absolutely right. Some members of the family are being very creative at the moment. Liesel has been putting the sewing machine to good use. Let me introduce Cyril. He is the latest occupant in our luxury apartment, serving time as a draught-excluder. Why Cyril? Because I momentarily mis-remembered the name of my parent’s draught-excluder, Cedric.

Cyril

We may be encouraged to wear face masks when we go outside, so Liesel has been making these too. We look forward to messing with the local facial recognition systems.

Selfie of the day: either Mick or Liesel, I can’t remember

William has been very creative with the paints. The paint was liberally applied to the rest of his body, not just his hands.

William’s hands

Meanwhile, way, way over there in Anchorage, Alaska, it’s good to see Asa still playing the cello.

Asa sawing away

Martha planted a few seeds in the garden a while ago and she is now reaping the rewards. She was very happy to find this radish, and eat it. She liked it. She likes little ones but not big radishes because they’re too spicy.

Martha and a radish

Both William and Martha made chocolate lollipops in the shape of animals. William was happy to share: Mum could have a tiny little bit.

William and Martha and chocolate

There may be a dearth of fruit pickers in the UK this year, so William’s been learning to drive a tractor in case his services are required.

William on a tractor

And the latest creations from Liesel are the front and back of a cushion. We haven’t got the stuffing yet, but it’s on order. What did we stuff Cyril with, then? About 10% of the shredded paper that I produced a couple of weeks ago, naturally.

Liesel’s cushion cover<ph cushion cover x2

So, all those resourceful, creative and, as Ian Dury said, clever… people. Meanwhile, what have I been up to? Reading, writing and doing sudoku puzzles, mostly. This one took over 98 minutes but at least I got 8 stars for it!

Very difficult sandwich sudoku

Again, we haven’t ventured further afield than our ‘hood. We had a cold few days, but it was soon warm enough to go topless.

A bin with no lid

We bought some goodies from the Northern Den, Viennese girls and coffee. Actually, Viennese whirls, but a bit of finger trouble on the phone and it autocorrected whatever I typed to ‘girls’. So I left it.

Goodies from Northern Den

 

Isolation

We sat on the sofa in eager anticipation. There was something on the radio or TV and I was reading Twitter or a book or maybe even doing a puzzle. Liesel was probably reading too and we were both nursing our second or possibly third cup of tea of the day. Suddenly, we heard the knocking, the crashing, bashing and banging of boxes outside. But looking through the window, we couldn’t see the Ocado delivery truck. He’d parked round the corner, which meant he had to carry our groceries a little further to our front door.

Because we’re only being serviced every three weeks or so now, instead of weekly, we had a lot of shopping. Down the stairs we trooped. I thought I could carry up most of the bags in one go, no need for a second trip down and back up. Big mistake. When I got to the top floor, I was puffing and panting and one arm was now much longer than the other. Don’t let me carry that much stuff ever again, please!

The good news is, Ocado’s plastic bags are bio-degradable, but the bad news is, they’re not taking them back any more, so we have quite a backlog in the cupboard.

Liesel stowed most of the items in the kitchen, some in the spare room, and the rest was for Jenny. Yes, we went over to see Jenny with a bag of shopping as requested. Something in the car is making a loud clanging noise. It sounds like it’s coming from the boot, but we can’t see what it is. I looked underneath the car too, but nothing seems to be falling off.

It was lovely to see them all, albeit through the window. But the view was obscured by a lot of drawing on the glass, both inside and out.

Martha through the window

The Sun was out and it was a gorgeous day, what a shame we couldn’t socialise more closely. We’ll have to learn how to hug all over again. It was a joy to hear Martha and William both chattering away, though.

Meanwhile, in Manly, Auntie Helen is keeping busy with her jigsaw puzzles. This is a holiday cottage, but who knows when we’ll be able to visit it in real life! Actually, seeing a Cotswold in the flesh would be quite exciting: certainly something to look forward to.

Helen’s jigsaw puzzle

More walking this week, part of the hour of outdoor exercise we’re allowed each day. I was ambling through Kenworthy Lane Woods, along NCN 62 and in order to keep my distance from other people, I went off piste and discovered a secret encampment. It looks pretty cosy in there, if not entirely waterproof.

Encampment, Roman or Saxon, I think

But this is Northenden, so inevitably it has attracted some fly-tipping.

Feeling tyred

May 8th was the 75th anniversary of V E Day, the day Germany surrendered, ending the second World War in Europe. My Dad was in the Navy at the time, in the Mediterranean Sea, I believe. (To be confirmed when I get around to checking out the records.) He said that as soon as he’d finished off the Germans, they set off to deal with Japan. And that, ladies and gentleman, is all I know.

The day was commemorated locally, not with street parties as originally planned, but a few people put up the flags and some bunting.

Bunting

A couple of days later, we wandered over to Rose Hill Woods. It was another nice sunny day that we took advantage of because cold weather was coming our way. A fallen tree across the path would have deterred lesser mortals than Liesel and me.

The end of the road

We found the golf course but until we checked, we didn’t realise it was part of Didsbury Golf Club, on the other side of the motorway from where we usually find it. Previously, I’d not wanted to walk on this ‘private’, well-groomed lawn, but Liesel had no such scruples. So we walked around and avoided the other walkers, including a pair actually playing golf.

Didsbury Golf Course

With a little imagination, you can see the distant mountains in the background. We did come across a small lake but we didn’t scale the fence for a closer look. Loonts Lake is the site of an old Brussels sprout field where a V1 flying bomb landed during the aforementioned WW2.

Loonts Lake

Elsewhere, we walked across a bed of cotton fluff on the fairways.

Cottonwood tree fluff

A few days later, on another little walk the neighbourhood, it was confirmed that Northenden is the fly-tipping capital of Manchester, if not of the UK. They’ll dump anything except the kitchen sink. Oh, Hang on…

Everything but

But the balance of the universe was restored when I saw the heron halfway up (or halfway down) the ramp below the weir.

Our heron

One customer at a time

This isn’t the place to knock the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, so I’ll just congratulate all those other governments that have performed so much better, especially those with a female leader: New Zealand, Germany, Taiwan, Iceland, Finland, Norway and Denmark. Anyway, the latest advice in the UK is just as confusing as it always was. Liesel and I will be staying indoors for at least the next few weeks.  One of the local pubs has opened up, but only for one customer at a time. The trouble is, all the customers are meeting up in a group over the road.

Anti-social distancing

Either that, or one customer is buying himself several pints at a time and then not managing to consume them all.

 

 

 

We’re afraid of everyone
Afraid of the Sun
Isolation

As the days go by, more and more mournful, sad songs are coming to mind, such as Isolation by John Lennon, which I haven’t heard for years, possibly decades. Not that we’re afraid of the Sun, we’re just very cautious of going outside with everyone else when the Sun’s out.

Keep on keeping on

We strolled up to the Northern Den to collect our brownies plus the coffee which we enjoyed while sitting on the wooden bench close to St Wilfrid’s Church.

Oreo brownies from Northern Den

Weird sort sequence…

One night, to convince myself I could still focus on something for long periods of time, post Liesel’s retirement to bed, I decided to sort our CD collection. Hercules would be very proud of my nine hours of more or less continuous struggle.

The Sun rose before I went to bed, one welcome, if unexpected bonus.

Sunrise over Northenden

We decided not to invest in this mobile burger business. I’ve hidden the phone number: we might reconsider sometime.

Burger business opportunity

The recycling centre round the corner re-opened but they’re restricting its use is determined by vehicles’ regnos.

Odd numbers only

No queue in sight, but Mr Jobsworth forced one even-numbered vehicle to turn round, go home. Ridiculous.

We’re still seeing weird things in the streets, together with some pretty flowers.

Lost Shoes (not to be confused with the 70s prog rock group correspondingly titled)

Pretty Flowers (not to be confused with the 70s prog rock group correspondingly titled)

It’s quite perilous strolling too close to one of the neighbourhood golf courses. My soft titfer definitely wouldn’t protect the bonce, I confidently predicted.

Golf sign

My new friend, the heron, introduced me to his chum, the crow, before flying off up-river.

The heron with his friend

Most fortuitous sighting of the week? The red growth in our hedge, complemented by the brightness of the Sun.

Red Hedge (not to be confused with Red Wedge)

Thus concludes the newest post. Short, but sweet this time, lovingly typed up without the use of one single letter ‘A’. (Well, just the one.)