Pedalling and walking

Manchester is now in Tier 3 restrictions. This change won’t affect Liesel and me too much: we don’t go out to places, we can still walk around our neighbourhood, we still enjoy the odd takeaway coffee and we weren’t socialising at all. Not even with our grandchildren which is by far the most upsetting thing about this whole crazy situation.

We found more fruit growing in Northenden.

Quince

We had quinces in Chessington too, but even though I lived in that house for a third of a century, I never ate one nor made jam with them. I think I was put off partly by not being 100% certain they were real, edible, quinces, but also by the fact that we often saw one with a single bite taken out, by a fox or a squirrel, or whatever. But just one bite? That tells me, they just weren’t very tasty.

Our default walk is along the river, towards Didsbury and back. On one occasion, the following discussion took place.

Liesel: Look, there’s some Queen Anne’s Lace.
Mick: Oh, I thought it was Fox something, not Foxglove.
Liesel: Uh?
Mick: Fox’s something. Fox’s parsley.
Liesel: You mean Cow Parsley?
Mick: Yes, that’s what I said. You call it Queen Anne’s Lace?
Liesel: Yeah.
Mick: Is that the same as Cow Parsley, then?
Liesel: I dunno. Maybe.
Mick: I’ll look it up when we get home.

So I looked it up, and they are indeed the same plant. Other names include Wild Parsley, Adder’s Meat, Devil’s Meat, Bad Man’s Oatmeal, Keck (like the observatory in Hawaii), Wild Carrot, Bird’s Nest, Bishop’s Lace and Anthriscus sylvestris. Or, if you look elsewhere online, they’re not the same thing at all, but very similar. Please don’t trust any botanical information on this blog. Or on the rest of the internet.

As well as the vegetation, we do enjoy seeing our friends, the herons, geese, ducks and mergansers.

Heron
Heron

It was good to see the Environment Agency cutting back some of the grass, part of the flood protection scheme.

Flood risk
Lawn mower by Simon’s Bridge

Actually, the path was supposedly off limits today, but we didn’t realise until we saw the sign at the other end of the closed section.

Footpath closed

On at least one occasion this week, I went out for a walk without my phone, without the camera. I am so pleased we didn’t encounter anything unusually photogenic.

I had to pre-record my radio show this week so that I could attend the hospital appointment that clashed.

Selfie of the day

They asked me to take my mask off and put theirs on. I’m not sure it was better than the cloth one that Liesel had madefor me: it slipped off much more easily and more often.

Still, I enjoyed the 15 minutes on a supine cycle, pedalling at about 65 rpm, increasing my heart rate, while they monitored the performance of my old ticker. I think it’s good news, nothing wrong with the arteries, but I still have no explanation for the sporadic episodes of breathlessness that accompany the most innocuous of activities. For instance, a few days ago, I had to sit down and catch my breath after towel-drying my hair. So, to prevent that sort of thing happening again, I’ve decided to stop taking showers.

We really are in strange times and it’s messing with our minds. Each year, we watch the Tour de France and La Vuelta a España on TV. This year the races have all been re-scheduled for later in the season. Plus, we’ve been able to watch the highlights from Il Giro d’Italia as well. So that’s all three of the cycling Grand Tours available for our viewing pleasure.

But, even more unusually, this year the Giro and the Vuelta overlap by a few days. This makes keeping track a little more difficult.
‘They haven’t mentioned Chris Froome at all today.’
‘That’s because he’s not in this race.

Even worse when the commentator says the cyclists are approaching Borneo.
‘Borneo? That’s a long way from Spain.’
‘This is Italy.’
‘Ah. Well, Borneo’s a long way from Italy too. And it doesn’t snow this much in Borneo, I suppose.’

In fact, they were in Bormio, a small town in north Italy, and I’d misheard.

What else have we been up to? We binge-watched both series of the TV drama ‘Liar’. It was quite intense, something I enjoy but Liesel struggles with, sometimes.

The theme of this week’s incredibly long radio show was Dreams and Dreaming.
Martha is the star of the show, no doubt!

Bulldog clips and fences

You just can’t find a bulldog clip when you need one.

We enjoyed a few local walks this week, by the river, and beyond. It’s colder, especially when wind fresh from the Arctic comes along.

Crocodile in the Mersey

Of course, it’s not really a croc. We’re not in the Northern Territory any more, sadly, but we’re still on the look-out for dangerous animals. I wonder how far this log travelled? Is it now lodged on the part-time island in Northenden? Or is it a potential threat to shipping in the Irish Sea?

Even more mushrooms

It wouldn’t be a proper walk without encountering mushrooms. Are these liberty caps? Magic mushrooms? We now need a mycologist on our panel of experts, along with the botanist, arborist, architect and historian who can help out with my embarrassing lack of knowledge in those fields.

Erin McKeown

Liesel went to bed, but as the loyal fan I am, I stayed up until midnight to watch Erin McKeown online. She was performing outside her home in New England, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the release of her first album, Distillation. It was a fun show, and I slept well when I eventually turned in.

Northenden sunset

Sometimes, we glimpse a half-decent sunset from our living room, it’s just a shame about the intervening buildings.

We wandered over to Fletcher Moss Park and enjoyed a coffee under The Joshua Tree. ‘Not the Joshua Tree’, said Liesel, but I disagreed, pointing out the commemorative sign attached. I never knew Josh of course, but I was moved by seeing the lyrics from an Oasis song.

 
The Joshua Tree
That was a nice tree, that was

Elsewhere in the park, tree surgeons were at work. I say ‘surgeons’, but another word came to mind. This was a very nice tree, it didn’t harm anybody.

Selfie of the day

If it’s Tuesday, it must be time to watch Jessica Lee Morgan online again. So I did.

More pretty flowers
The heron

We don’t see our herons every time we go out, but it’s always a delight to be the first to spot him. Or her. This one was sitting there, surveilling his territory. Sometimes, we see one rooting about in the grass, maybe tracking something, but definitely treading quietly and carefully.

 

 

Needle-felt gnome

 

Indoors, Liesel is busy with her crochet and now, some more needle-felting with the WI. This chap with a big hat is very cute on our bookshelves. While Liesel was busy with this, I continued my search for a bulldog clip.

 

 


For the first time in a very long time, we walked over to Cheadle Hulme and back. Just because we can’t see William and Martha in the flesh doesn’t mean we can’t give them books from time to time.

Autumn colurs in Cheadle Hulme

This was by far the longest walk of the week, and we both felt much better for it. As we walked over a stream, I looked it up. It’s called Micker Brook, and, look, according to Google Maps, just over there a bit, there’s a bagpiper for hire.

Crash barrier in a residential area

What a shame that so much of our road system is geared up to cater for the worst of the bad drivers. This barrier makes it ridiculously difficult for pedestrians to cross the side road at this point. I wouldn’t want somebody driving into my house either, but that’s what speed limits are meant to be for.

The world-famous Gatley fence

This is the ever evolving ricketty fence in Gatley. The elderly gentleman can often be seen repairing it, introducing new branches, planks and, as you can see here, a couple of wooden pallets on this occasion. Apparently he’s always refused any help in repairing the fence properly, once and for all.

Bulldog clips

As we wandered through Gatley, I spotted this shop. Hooray! I went inside and asked for a bulldog clip. ‘Sorry,’ was the reply, ‘we don’t sell bulldog clips.’ But you have loads in your window, I pointed out. I was glared at, so I still don’t have a bulldog clip. Oh well.

Pretty fence

Ah, this fence looks much better, especially now with its new Autumn colours.

And, sorry, but here’s the oblogatory weekly photo of fly-tipping here in Northenden. This time, a carpet and lots of garden waste.

Fly-tipped carpet etc

Anyway, never mind that, here is some much more uplifting (I hope) family news.

Helen and Adam have been together now for fifteen years, and it don’t seem a day too long. To celebrate, they went for a balloon trip over the vineyards and the curious kangaroos of New South Wales. What an adventure!

Ballooning over NSW

Nearer home, Martha is doing very well at school. The first parents’ evening revealed nothing embarrassing, and the teacher is very happy to have Martha in her class, very interested, very observant, even to the point of noticing something that’s lined up for a surprise later on.

William told his Mummy one morning ‘I can’t get the puff out of my nose.’ A wheat puff, a vital component of his breakfast. Mummy and Daddy looked up the orifice but couldn’t see anything. Was he joshing? Hovering between laughing and sheer panic, a solution was found. I’d never heard of a ‘mother’s kiss’ or ‘parent’s kiss’ before but it’s very effective. So here’s a tip for parents of little ones with foreign objects rammed up the hooter:

  • Tell the child they will be given a ‘big kiss’
  • Place your mouth over the child’s open mouth, forming a firm seal as if performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation
  • Close the unaffected nostril with a finger
  • Blow until you feel resistance caused by the closure of the child’s glottis
  • Give a sharp exhalation to deliver a short puff of air into the child’s mouth, which passes through the nasopharynx and out through the unoccluded nostril
  • Repeat if necessary

In William’s case, the wheat puff shot out and ricocheted around the room. But if not, you might shift the object enough for it to become visible.

The following morning, at breakfast: ‘Mummy, I can’t get the Rice Krispie out of my nose.’

And finally, if you’d like to hear two hours of fabulous music about my desires to be a spaceman, listen to the show here on Radio Northenden.

Ammies and mushrooms

It’s been a wet week weatherwise. So much rain, so many deep puddles. The only good thing about the torrential rain is that, when it peppers the living room windows with millions of raindrops, we can’t see the leaden grey sky behind.

The raging torrent that is the Mersey

Again this week, we didn’t venture far afield, we just walked everywhere, in all directions, mostly avoiding the rain.

Where’s the heron?
The geese are back in town

We haven’t seen the geese for a while, we thought they’d migrated, but apparently not.

Wythenshawe Park is a nice big space, and there’s always something interesting to see.

Flaming Nora
This would make a nice jigsaw puzzle
Big stick, little dog

No, of course I didn’t laugh when the little dog tried to carry the huge stick through a gap that was too small. I did laugh though when it looked at me as if it were my fault.

Red lorry
Yellow lorry
Holly berry

I’d forgotten there were tennis courts in the park, and a few people were having a good game, but the girls weren’t grunting like they have to at Wimbledon.

Liesel and I might take up tennis one day, when ‘this’ is all over. My worst ever tennis related injury, years ago, was blisters on my hand from gripping the racquet too tightly.

All sorts to do
More mushrooms

Mushrooms are taking over the world, or at least, our small corner of it.

Another day, we watched a couple of people playing golf on one of our local courses.

Ball in a bunker

I suggested to Liesel that she bury the ball in the sand, just for a laugh, but she declined the offer.

Liesel and I might take up golf one day, although my GP advised me not to while I was having back issues when I was a postman. Sarah and I used to play Pitch and Putt when we lived in Peterborough. My claim to fame is that one day I pitched the ball so hard, it hit a passing bus.

It was my turn for a flu jab this week, so I walked to the GP surgery, hoping it wouldn’t rain until at least I was on my way home. Did I mention we’ve had a lot of rain recently?

Colours over the motorway
Oopsie

It looks like this small, bright yellow, protective barrier wasn’t up to the job after all.

I had a fantastic idea as I passed by this residence:

Solar panels

Rain panels. There must be a way of harnessing the energy generated by falling rain. And, as I may have hinted, there’s a lot of rain about at the moment. I just need to work out a few technical details.

I walked through Hollyhedge Park, another peaceful place, although you can still hear the hum and rumble from the nearby motorway.

Northen Etchells Bowling and Social Club bowling green

Liesel and I might take up bowls one day: we had a go in Chessington a few years ago and apparently, I’m a natural. A natural what, our host didn’t say.

Deserted playground

We’re looking forward to the time when we can once again take William and/or Martha to a playground. Or anywhere, really.

Wythenshawe AFC stadium

This is the home of Wythenshawe Amateurs Football Club aka the Ammies. Which is confusing, because nearby Salford City FC is also known as The Ammies. There’s a lot about football that I’ll never understand.

Liesel and I might take up football one day but, no, actually, it’s very unlikely. My games teacher at school knocked any real interest in football out of me, and Liesel doesn’t like being out in the rain.

But, if Martha or William take up any of these wonderful sports, or anything else, we’ll definitely be there to support them, whatever the weather!

Ooh, exciting: here’s Northenden’s latest tourist attraction.

Fly-tipping capital of the world

If you need a three-piece suite, it’ll be in Homewood Road for a few more days.

We didn’t quite make it all the way to Didsbury this week, guess why?

Flood
Flood

Liesel and I might take up jogging one day, it looks so much fun, we just love running with shoes full of water, although I do realise that’s not compulsory.

Much more mushroom

Listen to Mick’s Multi-lingual Music Mix on Radio Northenden, very nearly three hours of music from 6 continents, 29 different languages, OD on DB, plus, enjoy my Album of the Week: Where Does It Go by Denise Johnson.

I’ll take that as a compliment!

Mushrooms mushrooming

It’s a thin line we’re treading at the moment, all of us, during the coronavirus pandemic. We’re fighting off the mubble-fubbles, that feeling of despondency and sense of impending doom. A word brought to my attention this week by Susie Dent, and as I promised myself at the time, I have now used it. Yes, it’s a thin line between staying safe and staying sane. I think Liesel and I are managing OK, but the sudden change in weather conditions can so easily affect our mood.

This week, we stayed local, walking as far as Gatley one day, and driving as far as the GP in Benchill one day. It’s flu jab time. Liesel’s had hers, I’ll have mine next week.

One of the trees nearby, on our default walking route by the river, has decided to grow some mushrooms. We watched their progress during the week.

Mushrooms

For a change one day, we walked in a westerly direction beside the river, on the south bank on the assumption that there would be fewer people on that side.

Take-off on the Mersey

But we’re never too far from some rubbish being dumped in the river, of course.

Heron looking forlornly at the rubbish

New ducks

We haven’t seen these ducks before, and we’re not sure what they are. They have the brown head of a pochard, the long bill of a merganser and the grey back of a widgeon. And in flight, the silhouette of a cormorant.

Mushrooms a few days later

Reflections of my life

This was a nice clear day, the river was low and as still and calm as we’ve ever seen it.

Autumn crocus


Online entertainment this week included Jessica Lee Morgan performing her ma, Mary Hopkin’s, gorgeous album Earth Song/Ocean Song in its entirety.

Jessica and Christian


I didn’t count them all individually, but I’m fairly certain I generated as many goosebumps as I did the first time I heard the LP, nearly half a century ago.

I also watched Terra Naomi online, and she was kind enough to give me permission to play one of her songs on my radio show this week. Which one? Listen here to find out. The theme was Medical Complaints, hosted by me, Doctor Mick. There’s a David Bowie song for every occasion, and I always play a record from my Mum and Dad’s collection. That’s the plug for my show this week. No more adverts.
Our Ocado order was delivered and as usual, I went straight for the bread. Quite expensive, but it was very nice, very tasty, thanks for asking. So what was wrong with it? The packaging. So much packaging. It arrived in a paper tray, like you would usually expect to find a cake in. This paper tray was inside a wooden crate. I’ll say that again. We had a loaf of bread in its own wooden crate. Which was made in and imported from France. This whole was enclosed in a paper bag, which, on its own would be quite adequate.

OTT wooden crate

All we can do is apologise to the planet, and move on. ‘Look up, look down’, they say. But if I do that, all I see, mostly, is battleship grey clouds where the blue sky should be! Oh well, mustn’t grumble. Sorry.

We walked to Gatley again, for the benefit of Liesel’s eye-lashes, which to me, now seem darker, longer and thicker, but they were really just tinted.

Multi-coloured leaves

While waiting for Liesel’s treatment to finish, I got my kicks at Lounge 66, the coffee shop just a few doors along the road. I sat outside because I felt there were too many customers inside.

It started raining, absurdly loud on the awning above: I was worried about having to walk home in the shower, but it only lasted a minute or two. The newly washed blue sky with its clouds was reflected in my coffee.

Clouds in my coffee

Clouds in the sky

Hang on, blue coffee? Well, it was the correct colour, but I played with the hue in my phone’s photo editor.
Northenden is rapidly becoming the fruit capital of north west England. Believe that and you’ll believe anything. We’ve had blackberries yes, and we missed out on the apples in Kenworthy Woods. But walking home a slightly different way, guess what we found?

I heard it through the grapevine

Grapes growing in someone’s garden, just round the corner from where we live.

Pears in a pear tree

And pears.

How are the mushrooms coming along?

Mushrooms another few days later

They are bigger, more numerous, and spreading up the tree.

Yellow bobbly things

By the river, we passed some yellow bobble plants. Small yellow balls against the green foliage. Again, my Masters in botany has let me down.
Finally, it’s conker time! I really want to play conkers with Martha and William, but we still have to maintain social distancing, and I don’t think playing conkers with string two metres long is very practical.

Conkers

Benches, boats, birds and bottoms

We’re about to be locked down again, so our world isn’t going to broaden any time soon. But we still enjoy our almost daily walks in and around Northenden. And we did have a proper day out, just once, this week.

We walked over to Fletcher Moss Park where Liesel again met up with her WI ladies.

Men in three boats

The river was flowing slowly on this occasion, so the kayakers couldn’t just drift along. They probably needed the exercise.

Two swans

We haven’t seen swans on the Mersey for a long time, so this was a rare treat.

In the park, one of the memorial benches received some love, presumably from the family.

Love

While Liesel chatted with her friends, I took my coffee to the rockery, found a bench in the Sun and read my book. What I didn’t anticipate was having company of my own.

My mate, the robin

The robin and I had a good chat. I couldn’t apologise enough for not having any food, certainly no mealworm, about my person.

Crocus

I have a few books on the go at the moment: poems, short stories, non-fiction but no novel, and that is very unusual. So I was pleased when Jyoti recommended a science fiction book that I might enjoy. Thank you!

Walking back home through the park,  we passed a crocus, which is unusual this time of year. It’s jolly lucky we didn’t stomp on it by mistake.

We’re told this is a wild Autumn crocus, new to both of us.

Something else I didn’t expect to see in the park was a bat. Neither a cricket bat nor a vampire bat.

Bat behind the bench

Later on, we saw the herons, two of them, flying up and down the river. Maybe they hadn’t migrated after all. Or maybe they had but didn’t like it there and came home. Anyway, one stopped, waited, watched and finally grabbed for a juicy titbit in the water. He shook his head, but who knows whether he was swallowing a small fish, or just stunned from bashing his beak on the river bed.

Heron going for it

We had a good day at Chester Zoo, which I don’t think was as busy as last time. The temperature was perfect. But the animals were not at all cooperative, turning away as soon as they knew I was about to take their picture.

Beaucoups de derrières
Fascinating menu

Here are just a few of the animals that we saw, some more easily than others.

Selfie of the day
More Autumnal colours
Penguins
Himalayan monal

The beautifully iridescent Himalayan monal is the national bird of Nepal, and one of the few inmates to turn round and pose for a photo.

Liesel finished her second crochet blanket this week, and it’s a wonderful work of art. It has been exported to Chessington where I hope it lives happily ever after.

Liesel’s blanket

While Liesel’s busy crocheting, I can usually be found pursuing one of my interests on the computer. For instance, this week, I completed the ‘How to Read Poetry’ course. It was interesting but very intense and I learned a lot of new words and concepts.

Here’s a pretty leaf
It fell out of a tree
If I’d been there at the wrong time
It might have fell on me.

A pretty Autumnal leaf

Yes, I should probably do a ‘How to Write Poetry’ course too.

We wandered over to Gatley under a blue sky. Mostly. Big grey clouds appeared ominously, the temperature dropped a few degrees and we were convinced we’d be rained on before we returned home. But no, our luck held.

Blue sky over Gatley

We went for another walk, this time through Kenworthy Woods. The apples that we’d planned on sampling have long gone, and the few that remain are a bit moth-eaten, or squirrel-eaten. I left Liesel at the hairdresser where she kept her mask on, and enjoyed her first haircut in over six months.

I’ll never be a big fan of snails, but now that I am not growing plants that they find very nice and very tasty, I can almost admire their beauty.

Snail

This week on Radio Northenden, we went to the zoo: a couple of hours of music about zoos, zoo animals or some songs with a very tenuous link to the above. Listen here. Thanks again to Martha and William for helping out. Nobody could ask for better broadcast assistants.

Martha was VIP in her class one day at school, this week. This was because she turned up at school bearing a huge smile. Mummy said she was very proud of Martha. Martha said, ‘I’m proud of me, too. I’m proud of my mouth.’  

Mandelbrot Extinction

A big week in mickandlieselsanticsland – it was a big birthday for Liesel. We celebrated by going to the seaside, not once, but twice.

Formby – at its busiest

The car park was full, but the beach is huge, so although there were pockets of people, it was easy enough to find our own space. Luckily, we’d arrived early, because by the time we left, there was a very long queue of cars waiting to get into the car park. The final Sunday before the ‘Rule of 6’ restrictions kick in, maybe. Or just a Sunday.

Not really a hidden message

These shapes are a result of small stones and fragments of shell on the beach, combined with the angle of the Sun and the wind direction. At first glance, it reminded me of some old Babylonian cuneiform writing, all those little triangles.

Selfie of the day

We had a nice long walk along the beach. The wind was borderline acceptable, quite strong but not cold. Nonetheless, for protection, I was walking along the beach with a finger in my ear like a really intense folk singer.

On Monday, lots of flowers arrived, so I was up and down stairs like an old, wheezing yoyo [edited]. The bell rang, I ran downstairs, thought it was weird because I’d ordered flowers from Interflora, not M&S, then I thought maybe Interflora uses M&S round these strange northern parts. Plus when Liesel opened the box, I thought, those don’t look like the flowers I’d ordered! The attached card revealed that this bouquet was actually from Helen and Steve. My flowers arrived a couple of hours later, I’m glad to say. And a third one from Pauline, Andrew and Rob in New Zealand arrived a little later. So far, my birthday card hasn’t arrived, which is embarrassing and very disappointing: I should have just handed an old one over in the first place. but I didn’t want to go into a shop and buy one, so I ordered it online. Oh well, there’ll be another birthday next year.

Early on birthday morning, we had a Zoom call with Jenny, Liam, Martha and William here in UK, and Helen and Adam in Australia. Martha and William sang Happy Birthday, blew out candles and ate cake. (Later in the day, William wanted to sing Happy Birthday again, but I think the main attraction was more cake.) Liesel opened her presents and it looks as though she’ll be busy for the next several weeks doing a 2000-piece jigsaw puzzle (a collage of photos of our grandchildren and our adventures, put together by Helen), and making cheese (a great idea, Jenny)!

Later on, it was good to have an online chat with Sarah in Exeter too.

Empty beach

We returned to Formby, and even though it was much later in the day this time, it was far less busy. Everyone’s back at work and at school now, hastening the second wave of Covid infection, presumably

A monkey with a very long tail

Hoof prints in the sand

We had a fantastic picnic lunch of samosas and veggie sausage rolls. The wind was less strong today, too, so overall, we had a very pleasant time. The tide was a long way out, so if there were any jellyfish around, we didn’t see them.

Where’s Liesel?

It was a hot day, and possibly the last really hot day of the year, if the forecast is anything to go by.

Horses and a wind farm

I could have made a cake, I could have gone out and bought a cake, but Liesel made her own cake, a small but perfectly formed chocolate cake. Somehow, we made it last three days. Very nice, very tasty.

We walked around the local area again a few times, visiting the river, and Fletcher Moss Park. We don’t know if our herons have migrated at all, but we haven’t seen them all week.

Fletcher Moss

The Autumn colours are really coming out now.

We talked about these tall trees. Are they conifer? Or are they dancer? Answers on a postcard please!

Very tall trees

One morning, we went out really early, the ground was covered in dew, our feet got wet, but we saw some beautiful sights.

Bedewed web

No results!

So, the title, Mandelbrot Extinction. Any ideas? No, nor me. I woke up one day with the phrase buzzing around my head like a fly trying to get out of a room with no windows. I assume it’s the only remnant from what must have been a very interesting dream. I googled the phrase, of course I did, and there is nothing. My strange nocturnal mind has invented something brand new. At least I have a name the next time I form a rock band.There used to be a game to play on the internet: enter two random words into Google and try to get exactly one result. Googlewhacking! Well, once this blog has been published and the web crawlers have done their job, maybe Mandelbrot Extinction will be a successful Googlewhack, bringing you right back here!

Friday in Northenden was big. Up Your Street was an opportunity for local businesses to highlight their wares. Thankfully, the weather was kind, and Palatine Road and the surrounding area was very busy. Dan McDwyer and a couple of singers from his Youth Choir, part of The Choir Project, provided the entertainment outside Salutem.

Dan’s choir

As well as playing keyboards, singing and conducting his singers, he was broadcasting on Radio Northenden. And yes, it was good to see Radio Northenden in the list of participants.

Up Your Street

Liesel and I had a fantastic breaded halloumi burger in The Northern Den, highly recommended! We met Sanny and Katie from Radio Northenden there, with (baby) Byron: he sometimes gatecrashes his Mum and Dad’s shows. It felt strange talking to people, in a restaurant, outside, because after six months of lockdown, of course, it is strange.

Before walking up the road to Up Your Street, I presented my own regular show on Radio Northenden. Because it was her birthday this week, Liesel picked all the music and there were some lovely messages from family and friends too. Due to bad planning on my part, I had to leave out a couple of the songs, and many of the stories I’d planned ended up on the cutting room floor. And now, they’ve ended up here, in this very blog. Here comes a tarted up version of the ‘script’ for Liesel’s Birthday show. Tarted up? I’ve fixed the many typographical, grammatical and punctuational errors and I’ve left out all the adverts for, and references to, Up Your Street – if you missed it, you missed it! Listen here for two hours of fab and groovy music.

Mort Stevens and his Orchestra – Theme from Hawaii Five-O
Dave Matthews – American Baby

We’ve seen Dave Matthews Band in concert a few times, with Liesel’s cousin Andrea, and Steve. And just like Whispering Bob Harris, we can’t understand why they’re not bigger here in the UK. At one show, Liesel was approached by a stranger. Liesel thought he was a ne’er-do-well, a random stranger. But no. He was only Dave Matthews’ guitar player, and he was here, at Andrea’s behest, to give Liesel a guitar pick.

Queen – Radio Gaga

I saw Queen support Mott the Hoople at Hammersmith Odeon. Liesel didn’t, on account of being a mere toddler at the time. Embarrassing. Mott the Hoople played a long set, they wouldn’t leave the stage, and the curtain came down in front of them.

U2 – Bullet the Blue Sky
Dolly Parton – Coat of Many Colours

Nope, neither of us have seen U2 nor Dolly, live.

Delighted that Liesel chose a David Bowie song, almost without prompting. You may remember the video for China Girl ends with a passionate embrace on a beach. Well, Liesel and I spent part of her birthday at Formby [see above], walking and picnicking, rather than rolling around in the surf: the tide was too far out.

David Bowie – China Girl

Liesel’s celebratory birthday meal this year, after our day at the seaside, was fish and chips from the Church Road Chippy. Sadly, they had no cheese and onion pies for me this time, so a bit of a let-down.

Unthanks – Magpie

We’ve seen them just once in concert, at the newly renovated Roundhouse in London.

Martha Tilston – Survival Guide

We’ve seen Martha probably more often than any other single artist, at various venues around the country. [Most recently]

Billy Joel – Piano Man

We’ve seen him in concert once, great show, Piano Man, Uptown Girl, Scenes from an Italian Restaurant. He invited his guitar player Mike del Guidice to sing a song. He performed Nessun Dorma and of course we sang along. Well, until security intervened.

Neil Diamond – I am I said

We wanted to see him in concert a few years ago, but the tickets were far too expensive.

Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto – Desafinado

That’s another song that I murdered while learning to play the saxophone.

Shanukh Khan and Sapna Awasthi – Chaiyya Chaiyya

I was doing all the Bollywood moves there, screwing in light bulbs, picking cherries from trees. I can’t do the pigeon head movement though. From the 1998 film Dil Se.

Adele – Skyfall

One of those songs that took a while to grow on me after being played on autorepeat on a radio station that I couldn’t switch off, when I was at work. [Chessington Delivery Office]

Gordon Lightfoot – Rainy Day People

We saw him on his first visit to the UK after a 30-year absence. He still has a great voice and some timeless songs

Bill Withers – Ain’t no Sunshine

One of Liesel’s favourite songs. Bill Withers’ first job was making toilet seats for Boeing airlines. He wrote this song during that time.

Pink Floyd – Another Brick in the wall

We haven’t seen Pink Floyd but we’ve been close. We once cycled from Bakewell to Buxton, along the A6, in the rain, as it was getting dark, an experience that Liesel doesn’t need to repeat. The reward was seeing a Pink Floyd tribute band at the Opera House. We only had time for a bag of crisps for dinner that evening. [We’d been told that buses between Bakewell and Buxton have bike racks on the front. They don’t.]

A better experience was watching Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, in Hyde Park in London. He performed Dark Side of the Moon in its entirety. I found it it incredibly moving. I don’t think Liesel quite understood why me and other fans of a certain age were in tears. That’s how powerful music can be.

Sister Sledge – We are Family
Simon and Garfunkel – 59th Bridge Street Song

We saw them at a reunion gig in Hyde Park, our first outdoor show together. Liesel was slightly intimidated by the size of the crowd, so much so, that she wouldn’t even let me go to the toilet by myself. The show was good but I don’t think Paul and Art made eye contact once, which is quite sad. The support act was The Everly Brothers.

Nina Simone – Missisippi Goddamn
Wynton Marsalis Septet – Linus and Lucy

We saw Wynton Marsalis at a late night concert many years ago, maybe it was one of the Proms that year. And we can hear a version of that song on Amy Lamé’s 6 Music show each week as she tells us what delights we can look forward to. Amy is also big fan of Christine and the Queens. During a recent interview, I wondered whether they shouldn’t just get a room.

Christine and the Queens – Christine
[Baz Luhrmann (Quinson Tarver speaking)- Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen – not played because I was running out of time]
Duran Duran – Ordinary World

We nearly saw Duran Duran in concert several years ago, we had tickets, but sadly illness overtook us.

Rick Braun – Nightwalk

We saw him in concert at Pizza Express in London. We had a table right at the front. Rick left his trumpet on the stage, easily within reach. Tempted to have a go? Of course I was, but Liesel said No.

Bic Runga – When I see you Smile

We were lucky enough to see her in concert a couple of years ago, in a vineyard on an island off Auckland, New Zealand, what a beautiful day, she really made us smile.

James Taylor – Steam roller [Swear word beautifully edited out, if I do say so myself]

Of course we’ve seen James Taylor on stage! Just the once.

We’ve also seen REM: at Twickenham Stadium. They played their music, not rugby, of course.

REM – Man on the Moon
Frank Sinatra – Young at Heart

Have we seen Frank in concert? Yes, if a holographic projection counts. ‘He’ was accompanied by a live orchestra.

[Dave Matthews – What would you say? – not played, no time]
Elbow – Grounds for Divorce
PS Yes, I was surprised at how many of these artists we’ve seen perform in concert over the last 16 years or so together. What an adventure! We can’t wait for live shows to start up again.

Walks on the wild side

Liesel and I are both happy about going out for a walk most days. There’s usually something interesting or funny to see in our local neighbourhood. But, equally, we can’t wait to go further afield. New York. London. Paris. Munich. Everybody talk about pop music. Our one trip out of the area this week was to Dunham Massey, the National Trust venue. Last time we went, it was far too crowded, so we were quite prepared to take a look at the car park and leave straightaway if necessary. But no: our luck was in.

Pretty little white flowers but not snowdrops, we think

 As usual, we await corrections from our botanical correspondents.

Thanks go to Sally who identified these beauties as cyclamen. Of course, deep down, I knew that all along. I remember being told off as a youngster for trampling on my parents’ cyclamen in the garden, whilst retrieving an errant ball.

It really was a much more pleasant walk today than last time, we never felt there were too many people, too close to us. Schools are back and many people are now back at work, so that probably helped.

Tortoiseshell butterfly

It was nice to see so many butterflies, especially in the garden. But I am old enough to remember when, on a nature walk, we asked each other how many species of butterfly we’d seen, not just how many individual specimens.

This fox has lost its nose. How does it smell? Terrible

Proper social distancing

This is a good view, other people, far, far away in the distance. Yes, of course we came across groups of five, walking slowly, side by side, occupying the full width of the path, but really, we were very relaxed about the situation today.

Dragonfly

Regular viewers may recall my several failed attempts to take a decent photograph of a dragonfly, when we were in Alaska a couple of years ago. And other places, subsequently. Well, I think this is my most successful shot so far. Yes, I would prefer a more natural background, not the fence post, but that’s where he decided to settle.

Sparring buddies

We were able to walk around the deer park on this visit, an area that was restricted last time. And we saw quite a few deer. These two young males were having a pretend fight. The clatter of the clashing antlers resonated around the park. They scared a little fawn, who ran back to its mother, but there was no real malice in their sparring. Liesel was (rightly) concerned that I wouldn’t get too close, but none of the deer even twitched an ear in my direction.

We chose to walk to Fletcher Moss Park on what must have been National Dog-Walking Day. We saw at least three people, each with four or five dogs, of various shapes and sizes, the larger ones bounding about like jacks in boxes, the little ones with their little legs whizzing round and round like cartoon characters.

In the park, we admired the way the grass cutting operative had, literally, cut the corner.

The lawn mower was here

We walked through the rockery and rewarded ourselves with a coffee at the Alpine Tea Rooms.

Pretty red, Autumnal leaves

Our early-morning weekly walk to Didsbury was very pleasant.

Silverback wasp

This thing looks like a wasp rather than a bee, but it has a silver back, like an elderly male gorilla. But I didn’t think wasps were bothered about pollinating. We await further information from our entomological correspondents.

The Moon but not really the Milky Way

The sky was blue and the contrails were out in force this morning.

Feed the birds, tuppence a bag

This young lady was enjoying herself, bonding with the ducks.

We’ve seen a lot of heron activity during the week: one seems to hang about by a particular spot on the riverbank, maybe there’s a colony of tasty frogs there, or something.

We’ve seen far fewer geese this week: I wonder if they’ve started to fly south for the Winter? Another missed photo opp was a pair of squirrels, both standing upright on their hind legs, each holding an acorn in their front paws. A very cute pair of bookends.

We saw a very long worm on the path. I don’t know if we saved it from being consumed, but the robin wouldn’t return after we’d inadvertently scared it away. I’d like to say we saw a couple of chickens this week too, but no, just empty boxes from the local fried chicken emporia. A couple of horses thought about coming over the see us for a chat, but in the end, they changed their minds.

Apart from our perambulations, what have we been up to? Three weeks ago, we started studying poetry online. It’s a Future Learn course, of which I’ve completed quite a few now. How to read a Poem is very interesting, very detailed, very technical and very time-consuming. The funniest comment I’ve seen so far on the poetry course: “I do struggle with the idea that anything can be poetry but then I’m not a big fan of Tracy Eminem’s work either so I’m possibly just too old school.”

Jessica Lee Morgan and Christian Thomas

Online, I always try to catch Jessica Lee Morgan’s shows. If you want to hear her music, visit her YouTube channel, she’s performing live every Tuesday evening, 8pm, during September.

Or, listen to my latest Radio Northenden Show. I’ve played one of her songs every week so far, and I’m not apologising for that. This week’s theme was ‘Time Travel’, an excuse to play songs that I wouldn’t otherwise choose. Please bookmark this link and join me next Friday at 2pm to help celebrate Liesel’s birthday!

In other news: following my haircut last week, I am pleased to report a fantastic return on my investment. Yep: my shampoo bill has been more than halved.

Local Herons

We stayed within the local area this week, no trips abroad, to Yorkshire nor Chester for instance. The poor old car feels neglected, out there in the car park, all by itself, unloved except by passing birds.

August Bank Holiday weekend was different, this year: no Notting Hill Carnival in London and no Manchester Pride in, well, anywhere. Instead, we started watching the Tour de France on TV, taking place a few months later  than usual, is this year of the Virus. On YouTube, we watched Jessica Lee Morgan perform a couple more shows from home, one to mark the release of her mother, Mary Hopkin’s, fantastic new album, Another Road. Buy your copy here. Highly recommended ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐, lovely songs and still a beautiful voice after all these years.

Also on TV, we completed our ‘binge-watch’ of the modern Doctor Who series. I can’t believe the Doctor is now in prison, in solitary confinement, between series, after the Judoon managed to materialise inside the Tardis, normally the safest place you can be. Sorry. Spoilers.

Also on YouTube, we watched the Folk on Foot’s third Festival in our Front Room. Forty musicians from around the UK got together with their respective bandmates and entertained us from their own homes, socially distanced where necessary. Watch it here, 7 hours of fabulous folk music.

Peggy Seeger with her sons, Neill and Calum MacColl

We walked back to Didsbury on Bank Holiday Monday, specifically to Fletcher Moss Park, where Liesel met up with a group of ladies from her WI group for ‘muffins and mugs’: bring your own coffee and refreshments. While they were wagging their chins, I walked around the park, visiting the rockery, the rose pergola garden and the grass tennis courts which are in as much need of a haircut as I was at the time. I ended up, of course, buying myself a coffee in the little family-owned café.

Hidey-hole tree
More Autmnal colours
Spaghetti tree

After several hours, I gave up trying to untangle this mess.

Bright white and blue

🎼 Sun is in the sky, oh why oh why would I wanna be anywhere else? 🎵

There’s not a lot of wildlife round our way, so imagine our excitement when we saw this one morning by our oak tree.

Dead bunny

Liesel thinks it looks more like a dog’s toy and, sure enough, it disappeared a few days later.

Another day, another walk by the river. In fact, we walked along the river several times this week. The level of the water varies quite a lot each day, almost regardless of the amount of rainfall. The depth of the puddles on the road and footpath fluctuates too: we have to do a funny little dance sometimes to avoid them all.

Heron standing around

For the first time ever, we saw two herons in the same place at the same time. They flew off together before going their separate ways.

Martha started school. Yep, that short sentence makes me feel old. She went for an hour on the first ‘settling in’ day and she now wants to walk to school on her own. She loved it and can’t wait to go full time next week.

Martha modelling her new uniform

The jacket says CHPS: I think that’s California Highway Patrol, whose remit is to provide the highest level of Safety, Service, and Security. Sarah and I used to love watching CHiPs on TV on a Sunday afternoon BC, before children!

Almost as momentous, on the same day, I had a spontaneous haircut. As we walked by Massimo on Palatine Road, we noticed there were no customers. So we deliberated. Should I? Shouldn’t I? Yes, this long lockdown hair had to go. The barber wore a mask, the customers’ seats were separated by plastic sheets, so it was as Covid-safe as they could manage. The clippings were knee-deep by the time he finished. My reward was a cup of coffee on the way home after my second visit to Massimo. I had to return in order to pay: they only accept cash and I haven’t carried anything other than my phone to pay, contactlessly, for months, now.

Flowers of Palatine Road

Even the flowers in the Palatine Road planters smiled when they saw my newly shorn bonce: they said I looked ten years younger.

Artistic photo of the week
Tatton Arms

The Tatton Arms, our local riverside pub, was probably a very nice place once, but it’s been closed and derelict since 2007. We’ve heard that the site is, maybe, possibly, going to be redeveloped. But we’ve never seen any activity there. Until now. We noticed people behind the fence that protects the building. There was a van, a few cars, and several Important Looking Men standing around in Important hi-visibility vests, with Important hands in Important pockets and all with Important clipboards. Let’s see what happens.

Mick the DJ

I successfully broadcast a second show on Radio Northenden, and I was asked to keep going for an extra half hour after the usual two hour-long stint. No problem, I just played more of my favourite records! Catch up here and forgive the odd mistake. And if you can, please feel free to join me ‘live’ next Friday at 2pm. (Thanks Helen for pointing the type: Friday or Friyay indeed!!)

Liesel took this picture of Mick the DJ in the stygian depths of his Studio, formerly known as the Office, earlier known as a Storage Facility and laughingly described by the estate agent as a Third Bedroom.

Early this morning, we again walked into Didsbury, the village itself this time, not just the park. There were very few other people around, which made for a pleasant walk, no need to avoid anyone.

We were lucky enough to see two herons again, on the way to Didsbury (us, not them), and yes, the photo’s a bit blurred, but it was very satisfying to capture one in flight, after so many failed attempts. Their call is something between a honk and a screech, not very attractive, except maybe to other herons.

Heron in flight

We were lucky enough to see a wine glass in Didsbury, out in the wild, presumably after a fun night out.

Wine glass

We were lucky enough to see a splash of colour in Didsbury, in an otherwise drab little side street, nice and bright on this early, sunny morning.

Yellow rose of Texas

We were lucky enough to see a professional footballer in Didsbury, but what a shame he was only in an advert for shoes.

Raheem Sterling

We were lucky enough to see a fox, on the walk home from Didsbury. This is the first one we’ve seen since we moved here to Northenden, and he looks pretty healthy too.

An actual fox

Precipitations and celebrations

Martha under water

We couldn’t join them, sadly, but Martha and William went swimming in a pool for the first time since the lockdown started in March. We did enjoy watching the videos of them playing in the water, swimming, jumping in and even diving to the bottom to pick up objects, something I’ve never been able to do.

Wet wet wet

Martha and William weren’t the only ones to get wet this week. We all did. It rained. And it rained. A lot. Storm Francis got the blame, it brought strong winds and a lot of rain. So we didn’t go out every single day this week. Which was OK, we had plenty to do indoors, but it’s just so disheartening when every time you look out of the window, it’s grey and rainy: early onset November. Liesel finished her first crochet blanket and it looks really good.

Finished blanket

I was especially impressed with the fringe around the edges, a very professional finish. Liesel has now started on a second one, with a different combination of yarn colours.

We visited Lyme Park despite the threat of rain. It held off mostly on this occasion, and we had a very pleasant walk, if a little shorter than usual.

Fire escape

No doubt, if William had been with us, he would have been up this ladder like a shot.

Selfie of the day

Very pretty, delicate, little flowers

We have no idea what these flowers are, but when our botanical expert lets us know, I’ll amend this caption.

Helen has been in touch, thanks. She says: I think the plant might be a viburnum. The RHS website describes 439!

Fountain boy

This fella’s fish was spouting a very weak column of water. We have no idea who he is or what he represents, but as soon as our ornamental fountain expert lets us know, I’ll amend this caption.

Mr Blue Sky

Unexpectedly, as we bought our coffees just before leaving, a lovely patch of blue sky appeared. It didn’t last long, but it cheered us up.

Our next trip was to Biddulph Grange Gardens, a National Trust property that we’d not visited previously. By coincidence, Jenny and Liam had been a few days earlier, with Martha and William. Today, it rained on us pretty much all the time.

There’s a one-way system in place around the grounds, but one couple were backtracking in a hurry, presumably some sort of biological emergency.

Baby monkey puzzle tree

Obviously, even monkey puzzle trees have to start life as a seed, but I’d never seen one this small before. Very cute and I’m sure we’ll be back in 70 years time to see it fully grown.

Tiles

These tiles probably look very attractive on a dry, sunny day, but thery’re not as pretty covered in wet, muddy footprints.

Bridge

This bridge reminded us of those we’d seen in Japan, but in fact, it’s part of the Chinese area here. I think the one-way system meant that we couldn’t see all the various gardens at their best. But we had a very pleasant walk, and it’s easy to see why Martha and William thought it was a big adventure playground, with lots of steps and other obstacles to climb.

Dahlias

See-saw

Wet selfie of the day

The funny (?) thing is that by following the correct route, and choosing not to go into and through the house, we found ourselves at the exit with no way to go back and invest in a nice warming beverage.

Well, rain, mostly, since you ask

Back in Northenden this very morning, we did go for a walk locally. It was unexpectedly cold and we could tell from the puddles and the very high, fast-flowing river, it must have been raining a lot lately. You don’t say! The canoeists weren’t deterred though, but they had combined two vessels together for stability, as they drifted downstream: not a lot of paddling going on today, it really wasn’t necessary.

Canoes on the Mersey

Fast walking Indian lady

As we walked along the river on the high bank, an Indian lady was walking fast on the lower bank. I tried to capture her speed in a photo but it didn’t really work out, did it?

Bottles

Presumably this gathering by the riverside was illegal, but even so, that’s no excuse for not taking your empties home.

Show 100

Fifty years and nine days after Whispering Bob Harris first took to the airwaves on BBC Radio 1, Mick here took to the airwaves of our local, community, isolation station, Radio Northenden. It was also, by chance, the 100th show broadcast on this wonderful little station, and you can listen to them all here. Specifically, if you would like to hear my first show, listen here.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been busy learning new software, talking to myself, choosing music, practicing, rehearsing, reading books, talking to professionals, compiling pre-flight check-lists, trying to soak it all up. So here I am, broadcasting to a small but perfectly formed audience. During the first show, of course there were a couple of mistakes, but nothing too embarrassing, and, at the time of writing, no complaints have been made to Ofcom.

I look forward to next week’s difficult second show, and if you’d like to join me on Friday between 2 and 4pm, please do, from here, or download the Mixlr app on your phone or other device, and search for Radio Northenden. If you register, I’ll see your name on the list of visitors and I might even say hello.

It was good fun, it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time: I did write to a Hospital Radio station 25 years ago, but they never got back to me.

Mick the Knife aka Mick the DJ.

Autumn draws on

For the first time in a long while, we had three days out in quick succession this week. First up, another nice long walk at Lyme Park where we noticed the first signs of Autumn.

First Autumnal colours of the year

On the lookout

The sky was monochrome today, thirty-seven shades of grey, but at least the rain kept away this time.

Selfie of the day

Here’s the famous Lyme Park folly – I am referring to The Cage in the background, of course. Yes, I know, I know, I need a new hat.

Meanwhile, back home on the Mersey, the birds are having fun.

Duck playing football

Heron today, gone tomorrow

This heron was, unusually, sitting up on the grassy bank. The first time we saw it there, before I had time to get my camera out, it was chased away by someone’s loose dog.

Again, later on, we saw a second heron by the weir, giving a lecture to the geese, on this occasion.

We spoke about never having seen otters or water rats in our section of the Mersey, so it was a bonus when we  caught up with a giant otter a couple of days later. Not in the wild, but at Chester Zoo.

Giant otter v fish

Usually, we just miss feeding time, but today, luck was on our side. As we were peering at the otter way over there in the distance, a zookeeper came up and called his name. I wasn’t fast enough to capture the giant otter’s belly flop on film, of course, but he swam over to accept the fish that was thrown his way. Shame about the fence, I’ll photoshop it out one day.

It rained quite a lot today, but Liesel persevered and we had a jolly good time. The elephants were playing in the mud, in the rain. The rhinos were outside enjoying the lack of sunshine. Liesel asked someone about the duct tape on one of the camels’ humps. The poor old thing has a lesion and the tape is to prevent birds from pecking at it. I asked Liesel why she hadn’t asked whether it was a British Lesion or, since camels live in the desert, a French Foreign Lesion. Liesel wondered why I hadn’t asked the question. I said I didn’t want to look daft.

Baby meerkat

Someone had seemingly gone to a lot of trouble, dressing a mouse up to look like a miniature meerkat. Or meerkitten, I suppose. Very cute, though.

Our third major expedition this week was in an easterly direction, to Yorkshire. We visited another National Trust property, Wentworth Castle Gardens, near Barnsley.

Artichoke

The artichoke flowers drew our attention, but the bumble bees they attracted were probably more useful. We had a good walk here too. But: hills. We aren’t used to these hills, and we felt sorry for people pushing buggies, never mind those with wheelchairs. The views towards Leeds are spectacular though. We’d enjoyed the views all the way there, really, but there were far too many cars parked on what was the main road through some of the villages. They all need a decent bypass! More roads, please!!

Stainborough Castle

Stainborough Castle isn’t really a castle, but the edifice does have some castle-like features, lots of castellations and battlements. And a good view all round, of course.

Sun monument

The Sun monument is an obelisk with a golden orb on top. The actual Sun was too high in the sky to get a good shot of the two together. But, hey, the Sun was out, and we’re not complaining about that!

Archer’s Hill Gate

There seemed to be no reason for this gate to be located where it is. But it frames another stunning view over Yorkshire.

Selfie of the day

Regular viewers will welcome this rare occurrence of a second self-portrait this week. Yes, sorry, I know: the hat. Wentworth Castle isn’t open to the public, it is one of the Northern College buildings.