I will chew and spit tobacco like my grandfather Jones


We went for a quick drive, all the way over to Cheadle Hulme. And we realised our car is filthy, it really does need a clean. If only we weren’t living on the second floor, we could wash it ourselves, but neither of us wants to be lugging buckets of water up and downstairs. I think in a parallel universe, life probably oozed from and evolved on a car very much like ours.

We enjoyed spending time in the garden with Martha and William and Jenny and Liam. It was a nice sunny day, too.

Martha’s thinking


We were still being careful not to get too close to each other. William and Martha opened a shop and took it in turns to serve the grown-ups. Interestingly, everything I wanted to buy was in stock.

William’s escaping


In fact, you could say, William’s sales are through the roof. As is he.
It was Easter weekend and straightaway, they bit the ears off the chocolate bunnies. But they did save the bodies for later on and for the next day.

Easter bunnies


I think it’s fair to say this was the highlight of the week, for us. A couple of days later, the temperature was right down, and snow was forecast. Yes, it is April. We had the warmest March day for decades recently, and now we’re experiencing unseasonally cold weather. This doesn’t enhance our overall sense of well-being, to be honest. Oh how we yearn for good, old-fashioned April showers.

So, let’s go back to the garden. There is now a goal net and both Martha and William have been taking and attempting to save penalties. William likes playing in goal. Literally.

William’s in goal


Northenden is a good place to live, but it does need some TLC. This map-of-the-UK-shaped defect has been marked up for as long as I can remember:

202569 (scheduled to be repaired in the year 202569?)


Just think, there are at least 202,568 such holes that might be repaired one day. But, what’s the point? Most of this damage is caused by cars being parked on the pavements, and there doesn’t seem to be any real effort to prevent this anti-social behaviour. There’s nothing as entertaining as watching people in wheelchairs rolling up the middle of the road* because they can’t squeeze by the numerous, inappropriately parked vehicles. There you go, that’s my whinge of the week. (*Actually there is: Mums pushing buggies and their young children up the middle of the road.)

Online, I watched Wall to Wall Bowie again, ‘a celebration of one of our greatest pop icons’! Janette Mason chatted with Sam Obernik as they celebrate the release of their new single, Wild is the Wind.

But, while the show itself was fabulous, I was knocked for six by ‘meeting’ not one, but two of my old buddies from many, many years ago. Out of an audience of about 40, that’s not bad. Patrick was a guy I met on a writing retreat I joined in 2002, and haven’t met in real life since a few years afterwards. And I don’t think I’ve met Miles since 2008. What are the chances? It’s been a while, but whenever Liesel and I go to a show, I always look around to see if there’s someone I know. It rarely happens, though.

So, did it snow? Yes, 2 days later, as predicted. Was it cold? Yes.

It was a big week for birthdays. Radio Northenden turned 1 but more excitingly, Martha turned 5. (Plus, it should have been my Mum’s birthday: 89.)
We had a family Zoom chat for Martha’s birthday. I think we all hope that next year, we’ll be there in person. This is Martha’s second birthday in lockdown, that’s 40% of all the birthdays she’s ever had.

Meet the family
Martha’s going wheelie fast


Martha loves her new, purple bike, and already she’s in the maillot jaune. Allez, Martha!

Martha’s having a good time

In lieu of a proper party with proper children in the same room, Martha and her friends and family were joined by magician Olly G online. I think she was thoroughly well entertained!

One motto that I try to live up to is ‘do something scary every day’. Well, obviously I don’t every single day, but an opportunity presented itself this week. Claire was unable to do her weekly show on Radio Northenden, so I thought I’d step in at the last minute, to see if I could do something more spontaneous, without the hours of preparation that I usually put in. Just a couple of outbreaks of cold sweat when I did something wrong, but other that that, it was OK. You can of course catch up with this and my regular show on the Mixlr Showreel. This week’s theme was Smith and Jones. Of course, I played a record for Martha, David Bowie’s When I’m Five, some lyrics from which I borrowed for this week’s title. I don’t think Martha will do that though, she doesn’t have a grandfather Jones. Maybe her teacher, Mrs Jones, chews and spits tobacco?

I thought it was raining hard against the windows this morning, But no, it was hailstones. It turned to snow after a while, and so again the thought crossed my mind: hibernation would be a wonderful thing.

Precipitation in the form of small white ice crystals formed directly from the water vapour of the air at a temperature of less than 0°C


If only the view from our luxury apartment were a bit more interesting. The little patch of grass over the road? Now covered in snow? Last week, the girl who lives in one of those flats was sunbathing on that very spot. Yes, it really was that warm that day.

Heron is an anagram of Horne

Well, the world really is a carousel of colour. Especially our little corner of Northenden. Just look at this. A splash of green, a dash of white, a hint of blue (a waste paper collection bag, unused) and one solitary red berry.

Where’s the berry?

The trees around our block are slowly turning green, or white if the blossom is taking over. More cherry blossom had appeared overnight in one front garden, totally at odds with all the rubbish and detritus dumped there.

I don’t know where the nearest McDonalds is, so I think some people must travel a long way to Northenden especially to dump their burger packaging and coffee cups. We ‘enjoy’ picking it all up for you, along with all the drugs paraphernalia. And I have a suggestion for Viz Magazine too.

Dear Dog Owners: Use green dog-poo bags, so they blend in better when, after use, you toss them into the bushes or hang them in a tree: obviously check nobody’s watching, first.

Looking up, not down, though, Liesel is still bringing colour into our lives, making good progress with her crochet blankets. One ball of yarn caught our attention  in the sunshine this week.

Orange yarn just waiting for a kitten or a Martha to unravel

What do these blankets look like, I hear you ask? Well, here’s a quick look at one of them. Not a bobble out of place.

Sneak preview of one of the blankets

OK, let’s go back outside now. We’re very proud of our potholes in Northenden. In fact, some of them are so deep, we have to put sandbags in them, we don’t want animals or small children falling in.

Sandbag in a pothole

And if you think that’s bonkers, do you want to know what’s Proper Nutty? Our latest peanut butter is presented in a tin.

Proper Nutty Smunchy Peanut Butter

Someone in Yorkshire thought it would be a good idea to use an old paint pot for peanut butter. We even had to lever the lid off with an old screwdriver. And, as with paint, the layer of oil on top had to be stirred in. But, actually, this Yorkshire peanut butter is delicious spread on Yorkshire pudding and dunked in a mug of Yorkshire tea.

Back in the outside world, magnolia trees are beginning to blossom. So many colours to spot here, I wonder which one most closely matches the paint colour known as ‘magnolia’?

Magnolia

Sometimes when we’re out walking around the local neighbourhood, we find oursleves talking to the wall. Well, it would be rude not to.

Hello, wall

Liesel and I had a long discussion about how long it would take the chalk to disappear, given the amount of rain we get in this part of the world, bearing in mind this is a vertical wall and the force of the falling raindrops might not be enough to dislodge the chalk particles. Equally, now that someone’s set the precedent, it might encourage even more grafitti. If it’s a decent mural, that would cheer the place up, but it’ll probably be a tag of no significance to anyone other than the perpetrator. In which case, I think we’d probably just have to demolish the wall as it’s become an eyesore, and then we’d be able to see just what a mess the garden behind is. All that, and we only said a quick hello to the wall.

Some good news this week: he’s back! Yes, we haven’t seen him for a while, but here’s the heron, by the weir.

Heron on the weir

He then flew downstream to spend some time on the island. Other people have been on the island too, they even left a chair behind, which is very thoughtful, because we all need somewhere to sit when we’ve waded over.

Chair on the island
Peacock butterfly

It’s a long time ago, but I can remember when we used to say that today, we saw 12 peacocks, 20 cabbage whites, several red admirals, and too many commas to count. Now, we’re excited when we see a single butterfly on a walk. Two in one day is very rare. But it was nice to see this chap sunning himself this week. What a shame about the piece of plain wood he was sitting on, not a very good background for the photo. Plus, there was a fence in the way so I couldn’t get any closer.

 

In local news, farewell Salutem and hello Boxx 2 Boxx.

Boxx 2 Boxx

The new coffee shop will open in a couple of weeks and the new people are working very hard in there by the looks of it.

On a sunny but cold day, we visited The Northern Den and treated ourselves to a coffee and an Easter-themed mini egg blondie each. A blondie is like a brownie, only made with white chocolate. Earlier in the week, we’d experienced the hottest March day for 30, or 50, or 100 years, depending on which news source you believe. But the nasty old Arctic Maritime Air Mass moved in, it’s definitely colder, and unbelievably, snow has been forecast for next week. We certainly have interesting weather here in the UK!

Back indoors for more online entertainment. I watched Jessica Lee Morgan not once but twice. She performed Mary Hopkin’s album Recollections, to perfection, some great songs including some by Jim Croce. Then a couple of days later, I watched her again, this time singing some of her own delightful songs while poor old Liesel attended a WI committee meeting online: I know who got the better deal!

We first saw The Horne Section during the recording of a radio show many years ago. This week, we watched them online: they’re all very talented musicians but they are also very funny and entertaining.

The Hornes Section plus Robbie

There was a guest appearance by Robbie Williams, performing a much more upbeat version of Angels than the one we’re usually subjected to, which was refreshing.

Radio Northenden was set up one year ago, so my show this week celebrated the anniversary and, in passing, mentioned a few other favourite radio stations. You can listen back here or on Wythenshawe Radio WFM97.2 and online on Wednesday at 7pm. Some great music (I may be biased) and some wonderful old radio jingles.

Birds, birthday and blossom

I was delighted to see William and Martha when they visited, along with Jenny and Liam, of course, since neither of the children can drive yet, on account of their legs being too short, they can’t reach the pedals. They brought me a big gift box for my birthday, which was a few days later.

We all stayed outside, Covid restrictions still apply of course. Liesel and I played hide and seek with the children, which was fun, even if the only real hiding place was behind the oak tree growing outside our block of flats.

Mature oak tree, with a wide girth
The old oak tree

We also played tag, or ‘it’ as I used to call it, but that’s a strange game to play too when you can’t actually get close enough to tag someone. Good to see both William and Martha are learning new skills.

It won’t be long before Martha is skipping as adeptly as her Grandad (used to). And William’s counting skills are phenomenal. He knows his sums very well, and at one point, he was counting in 10s. He’s only 3 years old. Yes, we are very proud and boastful of our grandchildren. We can’t wait until we can sit down together and read a book or even watch something on TV. How we long to be able to pick them up spontaneously for a hug.

The oak tree is still quite bare, but that’s OK, it gave us an opportunity to watch the little birds for a while. We’re not sure whether they were great tits or blue tits, they just wouldn’t sit still long enough.

And of course, my attempt to capture them on film was a complete and utter failure.

As I mentioned, it was my special day this week. Helen sent me this photo of my birthday present all the way from New South Wales.

Well, it’s a terrific number plate, but as it turns out, the vehicle isn’t mine at all, just the picture. Still, thanks Helen, it’s the thought that counts.

Actually, my big box of goodies was epic. Oh look, I’ve used a word that young people use, even though I am suddenly a year older. Beer, chocolates, Smarties, TimTams, a huge coffee mug from Sydney, a Nespresso Aeroccino 3, a fab gadget for heating and frothing milk. I can make my own cappuccinos and lattés at home. No need to visit coffee shops ever again. Thank you very much for everything, Helen and Adam and Jenny and Liam and Martha and William. And thank you Pauline for my Double Choc Brownie making kit!

Speaking of coffee shops, it was a very sad day in Northenden today. Everyone was wearing black in honour of it being Salutem’s final day of business. Black arm bands, black face masks and in my case, black trousers, black t-shirt and an all black (apart from the silver fern) windcheater from New Zealand. Just one final visit to this delightful little coffee shop on Palatine Road. So, farewell then, Rachel, Ceilidh and Andie.

In other local news, Northenden’s Post Office has been closed all week. An in-depth and thorough investigation has failed to ascertain exactly what is going on here. Actually, I had a quick look on Twitter to see if there was an explanation, but no, there wasn’t.

Liesel and I picked another couple of bags of litter one day this week, and we moved some fly-tipped items to the pick-up point by the litter bin. It’s a thankless task to a certain extent, but the odd passer-by who expresses gratitude makes the exercise less disheartening, and in any case, it’s all worthwhile.

William paid a surprise return visit, bearing gifts: cakes that he’d baked, with Jenny’s help.

I’m sorry we tucked in before I was able to take a picture: the tray was full to start with!

It was lovely to have an online chat with Jenny and Helen and Liam and Adam on my birthday. Adam’s still in quarantine having returned to Sydney from the UK.

And then later on, I saw William and Martha online too. Thay sang Happy Birthday to me, blew candles out and I’m sure, enjoyed their cakes too.

I watched Jessica Lee Morgan’s 66th online show on my birthday, and she was kind enough to send me birthday greetings and perform some of my requested songs, with her partner, Chris.

Here’s a short excerpt, which I’d watch more often but I don’t want to wear it out.

Any more online entertainment this week? Well, yes, actually. We watched a comedy show that featured my Radio Northenden friend and co-presenter Dan Tiernan, live from the Frog and Bucket Comedy Club in Manchester.

Dan said it was strange performing only to a virtual audience, but I think he was glad to be performing at all. I just checked and the show is still up here.

On my big day, I walked all the way into Didsbury for the first time since, ooh, I don’t know when. Nothing much has changed there, apart from many of the flowers in the planters are blooming.

The golf courses are still being well maintained, even if we’re not allowed to play right now. And even if we were allowed, I probably wouldn’t, following my GP’s advice from about 10 years ago when I was having really bad back issues.

Marie Louise Gardens was nice and quiet. A good place to sit down and watch the world and the squirrels go by.

Sometimes, it does feel that time is flying by, but equally, sometimes it passes really slowly. I think Liesel and I are both happy with our current workloads: projects and hobbies that keep us occupied each day. But, we can’t wait to be able to go out and do something different, somewhere different. Like everyone else, I imagine.

When I was young, the only Cherry Blossom I was aware of was the shoe polish that bears that name. I can’t help but remember this fact every year when I see actual, proper, real-life cherry blossom making the place look more colourful.

On this week’s Radio Northenden show, I played some very long songs and some very short ones. This will be edited for Wythenshawe Radio, WFM 97.2, when it will be broadcast on 97.2 FM on Wednesday at 7pm, so please tune in if you’re in the area. Or, you can listen online of course. Or play the unedited version from the Mixlr Showreel.

Senior moment of the week. I got up as usual, had a shower and got dressed, which included of course, putting on a clean pair of underdaks. I went for a walk (as described above, to Salutem) and on returning home, I visited the lavatory, as I usually have to do. It was a ridiculously difficult task to perform on this occasion, so eventually, I had to look down to see what was occurring. Well, it turns out, that instead of adding yesterday’s dirty underwear to the laundry basket, I’d put them back on, on top of today’s clean pair. I was so embarrassed, I didn’t even tell Liesel about my faux pas. And I would appreciate it if you kept schtum too, thank you very much.

Spring is sprung

It is now well over six months since I last had a haircut. The advantage of having long hair is that I now have a variety of styles to choose from. I can drag it forward, so that the fringe impedes my vision. Or, I can comb it back like my Dad used to do, and like I did until about the age of 16. So far, it’s not so long that I step on it as I’m walking along. Somehow, Liesel with her long, equally long-uncut hair, manages to keep it looking nice and tidy. When people have asked if there’s anything I’d like for my birthday, this year the response has been ‘a hairnet’.

There I was, walking innocently through Northern Moor, when I made a momentous discovery.

St Aidan’s Church, Northern Moor

We are living in, or at least very close to, the Diocese of Shrewsbury. That is a huge diocese. I remember the last (and only) time Liesel and I visited Shrewsbury. We were on a bike ride through the town. We passed by a bowling green and agreed that yes, that was a sport we might take up one day. A few yards further on, Liesel fell off her bike. In front of a policeman. I still don’t know how that happened, but I do know I got the blame. I’m so glad we’ve both forgotten that incident.

Liesel: I’m not going to order as much milk this week.
Mick: Why not?
Liesel: We still have a lot of that UTH milk, and we should use it up before it expires.
Mick: UTH?
Liesel: UTH, UHT, whatever it’s called.
Mick: UTI.
Liesel: That’s it, UTI milk.

On the whole, it was a grey week. Grey and miserable. The Sun peeped through occasionally, but on the whole, it was solid grey sky, sometimes different shades of grey, but whichever window we looked through, there it was, hovering over us like a dreaded exam.

Wythenshawe Park was busy in places, not helped by the fact that the main path was still flooded from the torrential rain last week.

Lonely bench

I didn’t buy a coffee in the café here on this occasion, but if I had, I would have got very wet feet sitting on the only unoccupied bench. While it was exciting to see some sky lurking in the grass, it did make the task of walking from one side to the other quite challenging.

Reflections of my life

Here is one attempt at blue sky breaking through the clouds, during the week.

Not enough blue to make a sailor a pair of trousers

This week takes us to the Spring equinox, so while some things are looking bright and beautiful, the sky isn’t firing on all cylinders yet. But then, in New South Wales there are floods: compare that with the horrendous bush fires they’ve had in recent dry, hot Summers. 

Sometimes I feel the world imitates art.

Mark Rothko maybe

The highlight of the week for me was driving into Manchester. This is the first time I’ve been outside my local postcode area for months. Manchester, the big city, a whole six and a bit miles away. It was less than a half-hour drive, but it felt much longer. How will I cope when we go a really long way? Chester Zoo? Formby? London?

There was a moment when I realised that yes, I can remember how to drive. I knew the way to my destination but I still set up my phone to guide me, just in case. The lady on my phone was very loud, but I couldn’t adjust the volume while gripping the steering wheel so tightly.

So, what prompted this venture into the almost unknown? A year since the last visit, it was time to give blood. We’ve both been vaccinated against Covid now, and I knew the venue would be as safe as possible. Because it’s been a year since I last went, I had to undergo a very long and thorough interrogation investigation into my recent health situation.

My blood flowed out as quickly as ever, but I’m so disappointed that none of the medics have referred to me as a ‘fast bleeder’ since the very early days, nearly half a century ago.

And, as a bonus, while resting afterwards, a beautiful nurse brought over the trolley for me, from which I selected a KitKat and a packet of Mini Cheddars. They’re still not offering hot beverages but I was delighted with my haul. I’ll be back!

Sky blue

And another bonus as I skipped out of the donation centre: proper blue sky with fluffy clouds.

The drive back home was interesting. I followed Google Maps’ suggested route, which seemed counter-intuitive, but at least it remembered to keep away from the motorway.

A window cleaner made us both jump when his brush suddenly appeared, spreading the dirt outside our windows. He was using one of those long poles with a supply of running water, and you can’t really scrub hard when you’re two floors down, holding a pole that long, but it’s the thought that counts.

A different window cleaner turned up a few days later and all he did was top up his water tank from a standpipe in the pavement. The following picture is not safe for work, for children, nor for people of a nervous disposition.

X-rated

My Radio Northenden show from last week was played out this week on Wythenshawe Radio, WFM 97.2. I listened for a short while on FM. Nobody’s complained so far, so I’ll be editing this week’s show for them too. Despite the grey skies, I thought it was only fair to celebrate Spring. So that’s what I did. Two hours of lovely, happy, Springtime music. And a couple of poems.

Spring is sprung, da grass is ris
I wonder where dem boidies is?
Dey say da boid is on da wing
But dat’s absoid
Da wing is on da boid.

Pink things and other colours

And all of a sudden, we’re halfway through March. Considering we’re not really doing much, time is certainly flying by. Liesel has been here in the UK for 15 years and in that time, several World War 2 bombs have been unearthed around the country and, in most cases, safely detonated. Nobody’s been injured, but some buildings were damaged recently in Exeter during a (badly) controlled explosion.

In more local news, Samosa Box is closing for a couple of months so we enjoyed our last box of Samosas for a while. Aloo aloo, very tasty and so, so spicy. While waiting to collect my order, I thought about working for the BBC.

A different BBC

It was also announced this week that Salutem will close at the end of the month. Oh no, that’s one of one top venues for coffee and cake and bagels within walking distance. Let’s hope the replacement coffee shop will be just as good.

While wandering around, I found this creature in the graveyard. Angel? Fairy? Bumble bee?

Another BBC, a Big Bee by the Church

We had over 24 hours of continuous rain, and this was enough to raise the river level by over a metre. The island is once again under water. Then 40 mph winds accompanied by more rain, so I think it’s fair to say, the weather wasn’t conducive to long walks outside this week. And pacing up and down our own hallway is a bit boring and repetitive, just not the same.

But we did go out, and we showed appreciation for the new sign by the woods, installed only a year late.

Sign o’ the Times

Pink Pixie

While wandering through the woods, we found the Pink Pixie’s residence, but she wasn’t in. She? We had a long discussion about whether fairies can be male and female. Similarly, angels: the ones we know with names are all male, Michael, Gabriel. And what about pixies? As if the debate about human gender isn’t complicated enough right now!

We’ve had some pretty sunsets, when the rotten weather permits. And it certainly lifts the spirits to watch the Sun set later and later each day as we approach the Spring equinox.

Pink skies

In admin news, I completed our 2021 Census form this week and took great delight in declaring my National Identity as European. Not sure what difference this will make in the long-term planning of the government and local authorities but, from the heart, it’s a big raspberry to all the brexiteers. There are 101 problems in society and there’s not much we can do about many of them. Signing petitions makes us feel better but I don’t know how many result in the desired outcomes. One thing we can do is pick up litter, so that’s what we do. Four bags this week. A total of over 3,600 so far this year in Northenden and Wythenshawe by a growing team of Wythenshawe Waste Warriors.

In family news, Martha returned to school this week and was very happy to do so. William attended one day at Nursery in January before it was closed following a last minute change of government guidelines. He happily returned this week as if nothing had happened.

Have I mentioned the wind this week? There we were, wandering through the woods when we came across an obstruction.

A fallen tree

There were two fallen trees in this area, which is a shame for the birds nesting and making babies.

Despite whingeing about the weather, it is good to see Spring in all its colourful glory.

Pink camellias

Another pink thing was in the news this week. An angry, gammony bully to young (and not so young) women everywhere flounced off the set of the TV show he was presenting. I blocked him on Twitter years ago yet he still appears and annoys me thanks to other people’s interest in the bloated old ham. Or at least in their descriptions of him, which are often very imaginative.

An unexpected splash of colour was to be found outside Northenden Superstore this week, I think for the first time, but we don’t always walk past this emporium. A glorious display of vegetable including okra and white aubergines.

Vegetable display

Liesel continues to make progress with not one, not two but three crochet blankets. So far, she hasn’t mixed up the patterns nor the yarn. We certainly don’t want people to get the wrong colours.

In really exciting news, my Radio Northenden show will be re-played on Wythenshawe Radio, WFM 97.2 next Wednesday evening at 7pm. The show this week was dedicated to Carers, a large but largely unrecognised group of lovely people.

 

White lines and a white cat

We’re all looking forward to the end of Covid-related restrictions. We’re trying not to look back to 2020 too much. And this graffiti artist agrees.

2020 Still don’t look back

The tag is very well done, but I can’t read it. Maybe it’s a secret message for young people, maybe it’s not meant for us oldies.

On the other hand, we enjoyed three online concerts within 17 hours over the weekend.

Seth Lakeman celebrated the 15th anniversary of the release of his album, Freedom Fields.

Seth Lakeman

Bic Runga was, I think it’s fair to say, the main attraction at the Ōtautahi Together concert in Christchurch’s Botanic Gardens, to mark the tenth anniversary of the earthquake. There was meant to be a real audience in the gardens, but due to last minute Covid restrictions, it was streamed online. Ideal for me as I fought insomnia at 4 o’clock in the morning!

Bic Runga

Every Tuesday evening, Jessica Lee Morgan performs online, singing her own songs as well as covers of other peoples’. She also now performs online on the last Sunday of each month, singing the songs of her Ma, Mary Hopkin. This time, Jessica performed the whole of Mary’s album Valentine.

Jessica Lee Morgan and Christian Thomas

Well, I enjoyed watching and listening to all the music, but if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it at least twice before, we can’t wait to see live music, performed live, in real life, in a theatre, concert venue or even in a park.

We don’t quite manage to get out for a walk every day. I’m sure we would if we were allowed to venture further afield, to National Trust properties for example, but we are limited right now. Litter picking isn’t the best way to keep the step count up. If we’re walking at a reasonable pace, we can achieve 10,000 steps in one and a half hours. But after two hours of litter picking at a slow, dawdling pace, stopping and starting, the pedometer said we’d only walked 5,900 steps. We certainly used as much, if not more, energy, but we don’t have a gadget to confirm this. Four bags collected this week, for those of you keeping a record.

As we passed by some houses, we were on the other side of the fence at the bottom of their gardens, we heard of chorus of people saying to each other, ‘You alright?’ ‘You alright?’ ‘You alright?’ ‘You alright?’ Honestly, it was like a live performance of The Royle Family.

Who remembers the old Pink Floyd song, Two Suns in the Sunset? Well, that’s what happens in Northenden when you take a late afternoon picture through the window.

Two Suns in the window

We spotted the lesser-spotted cup-and-saucer plant growing in somebody’s garden.

Cup-and-saucer plant

Again, we saw no herons this week, but it was good to make my acquaintance with this raven.

Raven

He was wandering around the beach by the Mersey. There’s always been a stretch of sand there, but the strand is much longer now, since the floods a few weeks ago.

I wandered by Old Bedians Sports Ground where the rugby pitches are used by dog-walkers, as recommended by the nearby sign.

Rugby pitch

The pitches are used to store flood water when necessary and I think this must be the sluice-gates control room, well-decorated on all four sides.

Control room

Fletcher Moss Gardens was also flooded a few weeks ago, and is now recovering well. There’s a warning though because it seems not everyone stood well back.

Careful, now

Still, I had a nice cup of coffee and a nice slice of carrot cake at the café here, thanks for asking.

I’d rather be in Whitby

They’ve taken away many of the benches in order to stop people congregating. So, instead, they were standing around in groups not really socially distanced. I sat in the rockery, watching the robin, and thinking about how one day, it would be nice to visit Whitby. No idea what planted that seed in my mind.

Last week our road was resurfaced and this week, the painting crew came to re-paint the white lines.

White line painters

Yes, we spend a lot of time watching people through our windows. But I did like the fact that in order to mark a straight line, they used a length of string covered in chalk dust, held tight between two points and pinged against the road. Old technology is sometimes the best.

I drove over to see the children and we tried to rescue a bumble bee with sugar water but I think we were too late. William liked standing close to it as it lay dormant on the drive, and jumping over it. Both he and Martha rode their pedal-less bikes and scootered and laughed. But all at a safe distance.

Martha’s still being schooled at home, and she dressed up for International Book Day, along with her classmates. That must have ben a fun Zoom call.

Martha as the little girl in the book

She’s going back to school on Monday, and William will return to Nursery on Wednesday. He’s only been for one day so far, before the government rules changed. He still enjoys a good ice cream though.

William missing his mouth

Otherwise, nothing much going on here: jigsaw puzzles, crochet, radio show, photos, writing, reading, podcasts, radio, turning on the TV and groaning because inevitably it’s a food programme, watching the white cat watching the squirrel but not chasing it until the squirrel’s right next to the tree.

Weatherwise it’s been a bit colder this week. This always happens when I blow the dust off my shorts for the first time as Spring begins.

For the sake of completeness, here is this week’s Radio Northenden show, the theme is Opposites. Why is there a Highway to Hell but only a Stairway to Heaven? Once again, Martha is the star of the show, thank you!

Flowered News

The government announced a roadmap telling us when things would be opened up after this long period of lockdown. They said decisions would be governed by data, not by dates. So, of course, we now know the dates when we’ll be able to go out, go places, go to a pub, go and see our grandchildren in their garden and maybe even go to a concert and eventually, go on holiday. But for us, this week was very similar to last week. Some weather, some walks, a radio show, some crocheting, a jigsaw puzzle or two, some looking through old photographs but mainly, just sitting at home, looking through the window, watching nothing much happen outside. Our road was re-surfaced and we took it in turns providing the running commentary. Yes, of course we could have done the job much more efficiently than they did.

But we really hope things aren’t opened up again too quickly: I don’t think a fourth lockdown would be welcomed by anybody.

Meanwhile, in New Zealand, they’re pretty much living a normal life, although a short lockdown has just been announced following a case of Covid. It’s ten years since the devastating earthquake, and my sister Pauline sent photos of some damage that is still visible close to Christchurch.

A crack in the rock

The whole area is still quite dangerous and the Summit Road will be closed for quite some time.

Damaged crash barrier

When you see this sort of destruction, it puts our little problems into perspective. This week, for instance, I’ve been thinking about blister packs. What a waste of resources. All our prescription drugs come in blister packs. Why? And why is there not a common size? I have packs of 10, 28, 14 and sometimes the pharmacist cuts up packs so I receive the correct total amount, usually 56 days worth but sometimes 60. You can’t recycle them because they’re a mix of plastic and aluminium foil. And when they’re cold, they’re very brittle. The blister pack snaps and you have to chase your pill across the room.

That was my moan of the week.

We found this old school on one of our walks.

The Boys’ entrance

I think the only reason we’ve not seen it before is that we’ve somehow never walked along this particular road. There’s also an entrance for ‘Girls’ and ‘Laundry’.

Towards Northern Moor and I was reminded that a good pun is the only way to name your hairdresser’s shop.

Ali’s Barber

I also found not one, not two, but three further hairdressers whose names each contain all five vowels. You may remember I provided a long list of such words several posts ago. A small part of my mind with nothing better to do is still on the lookout for these delightful pentavowelled words. Or phrases. I think Sienna Guillory is still my favourite in so many ways.

Three more hairdressers

It was lovely walking through Wythenshawe Park without having to avoid big puddles and ice. Someone at the café is very positive and uplifting.

Everything will be OK

Martha’s been painting her bedroom.

Martha v paint

It’s a darker colour than we anticipated but I think Mummy and Daddy probably finished off the decorating.

Then there was the day we went out litter-picking and we found this phone-recharging station on an old telegraph pole.

20,000 volts

The connector was incompatible with either of our phones, though, being the barest of bare wires. But another three bags collected adding to the total so far in Wythenshawe of 2780 this year, at the time of writing. What a load of rubbish! Plus another bag this morning before our longer proper walk in the sunshine.

And during the course of our very pleasant walk by the river today, even if there were too many other people, we realised that we haven’t seen the herons for a while. So, this one in Riverside Park will have to do.

Riverside Park heron

And look at this gorgeous blue sky.

Mr Blue Sky

How is the village green looking? Absolutely stunning. We feel we should plant bulbs and sow seeds all over the place now.

Northenden Village Green

Of course, one of the reasons it looks so good there is that other litter-pickers have been at work.

I mentioned the radio show earlier: it was Brothers and Sisters this week, and you can listen to it here.

And if you’ve stuck with it this far, you may be curious about the title of this post. It’s a David Bowie lyric. Make of it what you will.

The Princess and the Martian

We’ve had lots of weather this week. A temperature range of about fifteen degrees. It’s warmer now and there are more signs of Spring. Even the village green is showing some more colour.

Northenden Village Green

One day, when the pandemic’s all over, and things are getting back to normal, there will be a Festival of Northenden on this village green. It’s only a small space, so we’ll have to attend in shifts. I’m sure that can be arranged, and it’s always good to have something to look forward to.

Princess Aurora

We found a princess in the woods. Very familiar but in the heat of the moment, we couldn’t identify her.

Thanks to Helen, we now know this is Princess Aurora. It’s always good to encounter real stars in our neighbourhood. Readers of a nervous disposition might want to look away now. We are sorry to report that just a couple of days later, Aurora had been decapitated.

Luigi, a friend of Mario


And if we ever need a plumber, we now know where Luigi lives.

Liesel and I celebrated our Crystal Wedding Anniversary this week. But a day late. This was so that we could have a meal from Greens in Didsbury and dessert from The Northern Den, both of which were closed on the actual day. Beautiful meal though, accompanied by the last of the wine from our visit to Heiffer Station two years ago.

Heiffer Station Merlot

It was a nice of drop of wine, too, thanks for asking: we’re going to have to go back and get some more one day.

Another highlight of the week was visiting the children (and their parents). We still find it very sad that we have to maintain a safe distance, and we can’t really interact.

William and Martha, scooterers

It was half-term so the home-schooling was taking a break.

Martha stripping the wallpaper

Martha’s been helping decorate her own room. First, draw on the walls, then rip the wallpaper off. Then leave the hard bit to Mum and Dad, removing several layers of paint hiding all sorts of defects and flaws in the plasterwork. And then, evenually, the exciting, interesting part of the job: the actual painting and decorating.

2,000 pieces, count them

Liesel finished the 2,000-piece jigsaw in double-quick time. I think I contributed about 5 pieces, but they made all the difference. It’s a collage of family photos from the last few years. Lots of sky and lots of grass all adding to the complexity.

More blankets

After concentrating on the puzzle for a while, Liesel has returned to her crochet project, a blanket each for William and Martha, but please don’t tell them and spoil the surprise.

William (left) and gingerbread man

Martha and William made gingerbread men but sadly, none for Grandad nor Oma. One day…

William supervising the decorating

William loves supervising the decorating project, it’s a bit of a mess in there at the moment, but he’s following all the health and safety guidelines.

Somebody worked really hard to dump this wooden pallet in the bushes in a park a long way from any residential or industrial property.

Let’s carry this pallet half a mile through the park

That was just one of the strange items Liesel and I came across during our litter-picking walk this week. We couldn’t fit it into our green bag of course, but we did take away the semi-deflated football and a trainer amongst all the usual litter discarded by rude and lazy people.

Wythenshawe Waste Warriors was the inspiration behind my radio show this week, which was Rubbish. All things rubbish, garbage, waste and litter, not to mention some Dirty characters. Martha’s contributions were absolutely fabulous, thank you. Listen back here.

We’re still consuming lots of TV and radio and podcasts of course, but we had some unusual online viewing this week too.

We attended the online funeral of Myra Jean Waring, Sarah’s mother, who died last month. Like everything during the pandemic, it was very different. The people attending in person wore masks and weren’t allowed to sing the hymns. The vicar Fiona conducted a good service and I think we all appreciated (Sarah’s brother) Michael’s eulogy. Afterwards, we family members had a chat online, just as we’d met up on Myra’s 90th birthday only a couple of months ago. But there was no post-funeral standing around eating sandwiches. These are strange times.

The following day, online, I watched NASA Live as Perseverance landed safely on the surface of Mars. You could feel the excitement from JPL and from all the contributors to the broadcast.

Mars

This is my picture of the first picture taken by the rover on Mars. Someone commented that Mars looks like their cheesecake. Well, they might have a point.

There is now a helicopter on Mars too, Ingenuity, and it will be interesting to see how that flies in the very thin Martian atmosphere.

At the risk of being overtly political, our government has spent ten times the cost of the Perseverance mission on a Covid Track and Trace system that has never worked properly.

On Valentine’s Day, we watched  was six hours of folk music. The Folk on Foot LOVEFest was a pretty good substitute for a live music performance.

More than twenty top folkies

Also on Valentine’s Day, we welcomed the launch of a brand new radio station, Boom Radio, aimed at us baby boomers who feel driven away from Radio 2 other stations who no longer play our sort of music.

We can’t visit Chester Zoo in person right now, but sometimes we enjoy watching their YouTube live broadcasts and videos.

Giraffes and their lunch

We probably watched the giraffes chomping for a bit too long, but it was interesting to see the sun bears and the tigers a bit more closely than if we were there in person, with too many other visitors. How will we cope with the crowds when that time comes back?

The deep dark woods

For example, in the woods, we feel violated and grossly inconvenienced when we see one or two other people. It’s wrong to feel that the place belongs to us, and us alone, but that’s what happens after being isolated for so long.

Twigs and sticks

We have no idea what this green twiggy knitting is, but it’s a very pretty colour. Just a shame about all the cans and bottles nestling within, but we’ll get in there one day.

At the risk of confirming my role as Grumpy Old Mick, can I just say that sometimes the internet is infuriating? I went to sign into a site that, admittedly, I’ve not used for a very long time. Over a decade, in fact. It says ‘There’s no such username, email address or password.’ Oh well, quite right, they probably deleted my details after a period of inactivity. So I clicked on ‘Sign Up’, as if for the first time. Why not use the same details as before? Because it then says ‘An account already exists for this username / email address’. I detect a slight discrepancy here. I do have another email address that I can use, and I can easily concoct a new username. But why should I have to? I tried to sign in again and this time, I clicked on the ‘Forgotten Password’ option. They sent me a link to ‘change my password’. So I did. I came up with a lovely new password. And, unbelievably, I was able to sign in, no problem, this time. And, as a bonus, I was able to access my activity from all those years ago. The trouble is, after all this faffing about, I’d forgotten what I wanted to do in the first place.

Vaccine and Maxine

I can announce that in a very real way, there is light at the end of this very long, dark, isolated tunnel. The end is indeed nigher. I received my first Covid vaccination this week and it was quite an emotional experience. I floated out of the centre singing about my invincibility! Well, not really, but I am a very happy and grateful bunny.

This event took place on the 42nd anniversary of the day Sarah and I married in Headcorn. And, as if to remind me just how cold it was on that February day, I had to scrape ice and snow off the car before driving to the vaccination centre. I can’t remember the last time I did that. Not because the weather’s been really warm of course, but because we just haven’t been  anywhere.

My appointment was at exactly the right time too. As I sat down, one of the volunteers brought in hot chocolate and biscuits for the staff. ‘Perfect timing’, I uttered. She gave me a biscuit and then said ‘You might as well have one of these as well’.

Vaccination and bonus biscuits

‘Don’t flash them about, otherwise they’ll all want one!’ So please don’t tell anybody.

Liesel and I went out for our first litter picking walk this week, too. We didn’t go too far from home, but did we collect much? Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full.

Absolute rubbish

It was chilly but thankfully the cold east wind wasn’t too strong today.

We watched some more online entertainment this week, of a political nature, unusual for us, but fascinating just the same.

Christopher Eccleston

Christopher Eccleston read a story about the 1984 miners’ strike which was very moving, about how one family had fallen apart. There followed a discussion which reminded me of a lot of the goings-on at the time.

Karen, the host from Hosmans; Maggie Gee; Maxine Peake

The following evening, we watched the always delightful Maxine Peake read a story about the night cleaners’ strike of 1972. The ensuing discussion included Maggie Gee, an author whom I met several years ago at Kingston Readers’ Festival.

These two events were hosted by Housmans bookshop in London. Won’t it be lovely when we can visit in real life? Any bookshop. Anywhere, really.

Despite the baltic conditions, Liesel and I did venture out for a wander by the river, which has receded to its previous, low, safe levels. And here’s an early sign of Spring.

Little biddy crocus

On the other hand, here’s a sign that really, we’re still in the depths of Winter.

I see icy fields

This is the field where we sometimes have a chat with the horses, but they were out of sight today, hopefully indoors, sitting round a nice warm fire, watching daytime TV.

Liesel spotted a block of ice on top of a fence post.

Block of ice

Well, not really on top. It looks like the pole filled with water which then froze, and as it expanded the ice escaped through the top. I haven’t seen anything like this since the really olden days when we had milk delivered in bottles. The milk and cream would freeze, expand, push the top off the bottle, and reach for the sky.

We didn’t see our heron today, but we did see this happy couple gliding by.

Mergansers – or are they?

You can win a bonus point by telling us what these birds really are.

There was a slight smell of smoke in the air and we finally tracked down the culprits. They were burning some wood on the golf course which, a couple of weeks ago, had been the flood relief plain.

Fire on the golf course (not to be confused with the latest single by Sophie Ellis-Bextor)

When you see that much wood deposited, you realise just how powerful the river must have been during those few days.

One of the funniest things we saw was this dog.

Offenbach? No, it’s Haydn

It was down by the river, hiding form its owners who were delighted to be playing the game.

The island has been revealed for the first time in a while. And, with the grim inevitablity of Paul McCartney performing Hey Jude with far too much audience participation at one of his concerts, there is already a car tyre lying there.

Tyre Island

Northenden is proud to announce that it has become the new headquarters for NATO.

NATO HQ – or is it?

I don’t want to breach their security or anything, but this compass is on the pavement outside Boho Tanning and Beauty and Himalayas Tea in Palatine Road. And yet I don’t think I’ve noticed it before.

Something else new to Northenden (well, new to me in Northenden):

Our very own busker

He didn’t mind me taking his picture, even though I had no cash on me to put in the hat that he didn’t take off. I offered him a coffee instead but he declined, saying it was too cold for this game and that he was going home. I next saw him at the bus stop.

On a palindromic date, 12/2/21 or 12022021, I presented a show on Radio Northenden posing the question, What is Love? Two hours of silly love songs. This is in honour of my 42nd anniversary with Sarah, mentioned above, my 15th with Liesel next Tuesday and it being Valentine’s Day on Sunday. Love is in the air, everywhere I look around. Love is in the air, every sight and every sound. Oh, I just realised, I didn’t actually play that particular song. But please listen if you want some of that love thang.

Slightly further afield, there was excitement on Mars too. The first ever spacecraft from a middle eastern country, the United Arab Emirates, has gone into orbit around the red planet. And this is quite a coincidence because also this week, I started reading my first ever book of Palestinian science fiction! Who knew there was such a thing? It’s a collection of short stories, looking forward to 2048, a hundred years after the Nakba, when hundreds of thousands of Palestians fled or were expelled from their homes. Thought-provoking to say the least.

Palestine+100 published by CommaPress.

The most recent book I finished was Salena Godden’s Mrs Death Misses Death. I wrote a review, not as eloquent as all the others I’ve seen, but it’s from the heart:

This book turned up on my Kindle on the day of publication, and I started reading it straightaway. I’ve been a fan of Salena and her poetry for a long time so I knew this would be good. And it really was. It’s happy and sad and funny and thought-provoking all the way through, not at all maudlin as you might expect from a book about Death. I was torn between reading it quickly to see how it ends and reading it slowly to soak up and appreciate the whole story. I know film and TV rights have been acquired and I am intrigued to see how that develops. But I also know I’ll be re-reading this book very soon, and I very rarely do that. I can’t get over how clever some of the sections (chapters?) are, with their use of language.

Highly recommended! Mrs Death Misses Death published by Canongate.

Here’s a blast from the past, probably about eleven years ago. And another coincidence: remember the UAE spacecraft is named ‘Hope’.

We were in a small town in Alaska called Hope, with some friends. The plan was to go for a walk, or hike, through the woods.

The trail was very pleasant, it meandered and undulated a bit and after a while, I was offered a pair of walking poles, to ‘help’. Why would I need them, I can trip over my own feet quite well, thank you.

‘Try just one then’, someone suggested. Oh all right.

So now I had three things to guide safely to ground level: two feet and a stick. And, inevitably, I put the pole down just off the edge of the path, expecting it to meet a solid surface, but it didn’t: it was like finding an extra step when you think you’ve reached the bottom of the stairs. Yes, of course I tripped and fell over. I was aware of being close to the edge of a bluff, a drop of several dozen feet.

Well, I wasn’t worried for myself. I was more concerned about 3-year old Neha to whom I was giving a piggy-back at the time. I successfully rolled over to protect her, blamed the stupid stick that I didn’t want in the first place and couldn’t apologise enough to Neha’s Mom*.

Walking poles? Portable trip hazards if you ask me.

*We are still friends.

 

Hurdling and Hokitika

This blog is now three years old. When it started, we were looking forward to moving house and to travelling for a year. We accomplished both of those, all well documented here, if you want to look back.

But right now it feels like we’re just waiting for the next Big Thing. Real life is on hold while we fight and fight off the pandemic. On one hand, nothing much is happening right now. On the other hand, every day is an adventure.

Many, many years ago, Liesel’s Granny made a huge donut for little Liesel to sit on or in. This week the donut has been refurbished, re-stuffed, and it has taken up residence in the spare room.

Liesel’s donut

The ‘sprinkles’ are all new, randomly spaced over the toroidal surface and the stuffing is brand new too: it had been emptied for easier transportation from AK to the UK.

As requested, I went downstairs one morning to pick up the package that had been left but, disappointingly (for me), it was for Liesel.

Pretty yarn

A box of brightly coloured yarn that will be brilliantly turned into a brace of beautiful blankets for our beautiful grandchildren.

Plus, as if that won’t keep her occupied full time for a few weeks, Liesel has started work on a 2,000-piece jigsaw puzzle. Can you tell what it is yet?

2000 pieces: count ’em

By contrast, while my activities and pastimes are interesting and enjoyable, I can’t really point at the end results and say ‘Look what I done’. You can listen to my latest radio show of course. I spent far too long whittling a long, long playlist of songs about birds down to a mere two hours. Please catch up here for lots of birdie noises.

The long-term, long-deferred and long-duration project known as ‘Sorting out the photographs’ continues apace. So many photos but so many missing as well. I can’t believe there’s another box lurking somewhere, but there are some notable omissions. This is, of course, why they needed sorting out in the first place.

Here’s an example of an old picture that I found.

Mick the Hurdler

Not many people know that I was once a champion hurdler. Well, I was good at hurdling for one season when 12 years old, but the following year at school, the height of the hurdles was raised a couple of inches, and I found it harder to get my leg over (oo-er missus) and keep a good stride and rhythm. So, I had another go a few decades later, just for fun. And yes, that is Jenny in the background.

And here in The 100 Club is Joe Strummer, somebody’s big head and Bez from the Happy Mondays dancing on the left. That was a good, hot, sweaty, exciting night, remind me to tell you about it one day.

Joe Strummer and Bez

I know, the irony of the ‘No Photography’ sign is not lost on me!

Yes, Liesel and I did go outside a few times this week. I won’t mention the weather. D’oh! Nothing much changes around here. A recently flooded path, one that we sometimes walk on, has been churned up nicely.

Someone’s been driving on the path

Hi-tech river-height measuring device

This is a funny place to put it, but if you can find a way to get under the bridge over the Mersey, you can stand by the tape measure to see how tall you are. The gate it still locked, so if people want to walk along what is still a dangerous path by the river, they have to climb over it.

One morning, I woke up to another pretty sunrise.

A Northenden sunrise through the window

I realise that some of my photos should be sorted out straight into the rubbish bin, but we’ll take any amount of sunshine and blue, or even pink, skies right now.

Meanwhile, it’s Waitangi Day in New Zealand. So here’s some driftwood art.

Kia Ora, Hokitika

Hokitika in on the west coast of South Island. It’s a lovely little place and I hope we’ll be able to visit again one day. My sister Pauline is visiting for the weekend with Andrew and they kindly sent me some photos, thank you. You don’t see many dragons in New Zealand. Happy Waitangi Day!

Remember the donut? Every time we walk past the spare room, it seems to be bigger. It’s alive!

Donut one day

Donut a few days later