As the old folk song goes, Summer’s here and the time is right for dancing in the street. Some of our neighbours are not at all inhibited, and on a couple of late, warm evenings recently, while Darby and Joan here were throwing the duvet off, we were entertained by the merriment outside. It’s been a bit of a heatwave, not as hot as London and the south-east, but still, phew, truly swullocking and no mistake.
We’re still trying to get out every day but there are times when staying indoors in the (relative) cool is quite attractive. And there’s always plenty to do, even if we’re not getting fresh air.
But it was perfect weather for gongoozling and we did some of that on the Mersey. One day, we think for the first time with near certainty, we saw two different herons.
This one, by the weir, was teaching some ducks how to fly.
I did talk to a binoculars-bearing bird-watching lady about the herons, at a reasonable distance of course. She said there are two pairs of herons along this stretch of the river. Old old male has dark chest markings that look like a long beard from a distance. There is a fluffy youngster that likes to spend time in the bushes on the island, so we’ve almost certainly seen him too, on occasion. The lady agreed that one thing we don’t like seeing is a heron bend over and pluck a ducklet from the water. One day, maybe we’ll see two or more herons in the same spot at the same time.
There are plenty of geese and ducks of course, they like spending time together in herds, flocks, gaggles or skeins.
The latest local attraction is a beer keg, held in place by an enormous tree branch that has been caught by the weir for a few days now.
It’s been a while, but we’re catching up on medical matters. I visited the dentist for the first time since March, the longest gap I can remember. That’s the gap between visits, not the gaps between some teeth although they were a topic of conversation.
I walked home from the hospital after the test I’d been waiting for was deemed to be the wrong one. Oh well, I took advantage of the steamy sunshine.
These things come in threes of course, and my third medical mission this time round was an unexciting visit to the pharmacist where I saw me on the CCTV. There was a queue inside but worse were the people squeezing by as they left, not following the one-way system.
Liesel and I have been wary of booking tickets for anything, indoors or outside, any entertainment, anything. But we did go to a local comedy event that was outdoors, socially distanced, and would involve as little interaction with people as possible. It was a bit of an experiment really: we knew that if either of us felt un-Covid-safe for any reason, we could just go home.
But there were just 100 people in the audience. The venue was The Albert Bowling and Tennis Club in Didsbury. We were sitting on the bowling green, in a marked out grid. We plonked ourselves down right at the back. A photographer took our picture. He said it was because the background was so nice, but I think it was because we were so attractive. We took our own picture too, so you decide:
I am very proud of my luxuriant lockdown locks but I think it will still be a while before I visit a hairdresser: that seems an unnecessary risk at the moment. Plus, the mask I wear is held on around the back of my head rather than around my ears, and I can just visualise it flying out the door as the barber cuts through the elastic.
This foreshortened picture of the stage is misleading, the people were spread out far more than it looks, in accordance with the latest guidelines.
Kev Rook organised this Comedy Outsiders event, and he introduced the MC, Russell Kane. He was brilliant, talked for over half an hour, mainly about some people’s reactions to having to follow simple guidelines in the face of a lethal contagion.
A Welsh comedian, Anna Thomas came on next, and she was funny too, and I’m sure one day, she’ll be allowed on for longer.
Top of the bill was Boothby Graffoe. As he told us, one of his reviews claims that he is under-rehearsed, but (I’m pretty sure) that is all part of the act.
It was the right thing to do, from a healthy point of view, to sit at the back, but as for taking photos, from that distance, as it became darker, meh.
We ordered drinks on an app, and they were delivered in due course by one of a small team of masked servers.
For the second half of the show, we sat at a table, on chairs to be clear: we’d assumed initially that they were reserved for club members or something, but Kev assured us that this was not the case. It was nice to meet him at last, after having bothered him on his Radio Northenden show so often.
There are two more comedy nights here, so if you’re local to Northenden, Didsbury, south Manchester, please think about coming along for a great night’s entertainment. Buy tickets here: Nodding Dog Comedy is Kev Rook’s other name.
Northenden as I’ve mentioned before is a place of contrasts. On the same walk, almost on the same street, you can see something really pretty and something really nasty.
I’m sure there’s a correct term for this kind of decoration: it’s outside a fairly modern building. I look forward to receiving information from my architectural, construction and botanical correspondents!
And then, just along the road, someone had a nasty accident.
Where’s that flock of seagulls when you need them? Not the 1980s group, obviously, they can buy their own refreshments.
Recently, Manchester Central Convention Complex was converted to a Nightingale Hospital, in case the Covid pandemic was even worse in England than it has turned out to be. Thirty years earlier, one of my favourite bands from the 1990s played a gig there. Being a Londoner, I was of course oblivious to this at the time. The venue, formerly known as G-Mex, hosted the Inspiral Carpets and their performance, recorded by Granada TV, has gone down in history as one of the greats. I watched
a recording on YouTube along with about 650 other people on the anniversary, many of whom were at the show all those years ago. I was reminded again just how many great songs the band recorded. And then there’s Tom Hingley’s soaring vocals. I can’t wait to see him perform live again, either solo or with his new(-ish), tribute band, the Kar-pets.
We enjoyed a few days out, including a couple of longer trips in the car. The poor old thing doesn’t know what’s going on. But we still spent some time down by the Mersey.
Sorry, I borrowed that caption from the 1970s.
Meanwhile, some of the path in the woods is becoming overgrown. William would love it in this jungle.
One day, I’ll be taking a picture of someone’s flowers, and they’ll take offence and I’ll have to beg forgiveness while convincing them I wasn’t casing the joint, honest.
The shops are beginning to open, as the lockdown is relaxed. Well, until the recently implemented tighter lockdown in Greater Manchester. There are some pretty planters in Palatine Road.
I sat outside Salutem and enjoyed a lovely cup of coffee while watching people going by, all at a safe distance. It felt so civilised, such a simple pleasure, long denied.
In another first for a long time, we drove to the seaside. It’s a long beach at Formby, and as the tide was very far out, we had plenty of space. As advised by the sign, we tried swimming between the flags but to be honest, it’s so much easier to move through water than it is through sand.
It was the hottest day of the year so far, we had a marvellous walk along the beach before enjoying our picnic lunch. Luckily, we checked for sharp, pointy plants before sitting down on the dunes. Again, very civilised. Anything like this that can induce a holiday feeling has to be good for a general sense of well-being.
The kite-flyer was having fun, although I wanted her to run faster so the kite flew higher. In my photos, the kite is a mere three pixels in size.
To the south, we could see what we think was the city of Liverpool. Out at sea there is a massive wind farm. Liesel asked why not all the turbines were turning. I said, don’t worry, it’s probably windy enough already.
We haven’t walked to Didsbury for a long time either, but we took advantage of another warm day. There were more people having fun on the river.
We bought a coffee at Cidsin, and a slice of pear and walnut cake. While I was carefully carrying the goodies back to Liesel, looking down, making sure the coffee wasn’t slopping around in the cups, I walked between two posts and bashed my bonce on the sign that they held up. Liesel stopped laughing eventually.
A bright yellow front door always takes me back to my childhood. Our yellow front door at home was a more conventional rectangular shape, and it had a window, but whenever I see a yellow front door, it’s guaranteed to give me that Proustian rush that many authors write about.
We walked home through Marie Louise Gardens. There, we enjoyed watching a squirrel sitting at the bottom of a tree, pretending to be a lost, stuffed toy. After a few minutes, it ran up the tree and then had a rest on top of the birdbox. I don’t think there are any inhabitants. But I did enjoy watching a blackbird sitting in the tree, mostly in the shade, but with its yellow bill glowing in the sunshine.
We didn’t visit our family this week, but here’s the obligatory photo, and they’re all looking pretty good!
Many years ago, the aerial on our car was wrapped with tinsel, left over from Christmas. It too was easy to spot in a busy car park.
We walked to Wythenshawe Park, another site with plenty of space, easy to stay away from other people.
This litter bin is pretending to be some kind of alien invader. I’m not sure whether it appeals to young children in the nearby playground, encouraging them to deposit their rubbish here, or if it just scares them away.
Yes, of course we ate some blackberries.
At home, Liesel’s tapestry project is still going well. But she took time out to decorate a small stone that Martha picked up somewhere a few weeks ago.
Of course, now we have the kit to decorate stones, I thought we’d collect a couple of pebbles at Formby. Nope. It’s all sand, and shells, and dead jellyfish, none of which we wanted to bring home to paint.
We returned to Lyme Park for another fun, socially-distanced, walk. Well, it was fun, despite the rain. Look at this lovely blue sky. At the time, behind us, the clouds were grey and angry and, although we didn’t realise, coming our way.
We passed a raspberry bush in the woods, and I thought I’d eat one. I tried to pick it, but it wasn’t coming away. In fact, I suspect I wasn’t the first to try and pick it, it was already squashed and squishy. While we took shelter from the rain under the trees, I did use some of the rain water to wash my sticky fingers.
Berries? We have blueberries at home with our breakfast most days, and the question is: whose job is it to put one, just one, mouldy blueberry into every single punnet? If you leave them too long, others will become infected, but there’s always one, and always with the mould underneath so you don’t see it straightaway.
While hiding from the rain, I suggested to Liesel that we dismantle the wall and build a more sturdy, reliable shelter using its bricks. It seemed like a good use of resources, and it would keep us busy for a while. Plus, future visitors would be extremely grateful for the new facility. Reader: Liesel said ‘No’.
We couldn’t believe the size of this kite, being flown from the top of a hill that we didn’t walk up. We never saw the people run with it, so we never saw it fly any higher off the ground.
We’ve been enjoying some walks by the river while the Sun shines; and even when it rains, sometimes. No trips further afield this week, though.
I called it a rowan tree, Liesel said it’s a mountain ash. Who knew those two were the same thing? Probably everybody except me.
Our old friend, the heron, has returned after a few days’ absence. He tends to stand in the same spot by the weir, not bothered by the other water-loving birds.
Sometimes, the simplicity of an ivy leaf draws the eye. I suspect the owner of the garden behind this fence is desperately trying to cut back the ivy as it spreads.
We didn’t see our gorgeous grandchildren this week, but they had a lot of fun in the garden, and visiting Lyme Park and Quarry Bank Mill. Thanks to Jenny and Liam for these photos. Here’s William insisting that the sunglasses are on his ears. He might just have a point.
And here’s Martha rehearsing her rôle as Sister Maria. The hills are alive, with the Sound of Music.
Meanwhile, in a perfect example of rôle reversal, here is a big stick picking up a William.
One day, we picked and enjoyed the first blackberries of the season. There will be a glut very soon. I think that’s the technical word. Unfortunately, we failed to locate the raspberries we’d seen a couple of weeks ago. Maybe we were mistaken, or maybe we were just too late. The apples in the woods aren’t quite ready for picking yet.
It’s fun and funny watching the geese walk up the weir, against the strong flow of water. Just as I’m vocalising this thought, one chap decided to show his wings off, after all. I’ll show you, Mick, he seems to be saying.
I’m no botanist but we think this might be an orchid*. Liesel didn’t believe me when I told her where the word ‘orchid’ comes from, nor what an orchidectomy is. The trouble is, when she doesn’t believe me, I can’t help but laugh even more, convincing her even moreso that I am making it all up. Which makes me laugh even more!
* This is not an orchid, after all. “It’s Himalayan balsam, an invasive plant that can take over river banks. It’s got explosive seed pods that send the seeds far and wide. As a conservation volunteer I’ve spent a few weeks pulling it up before it sets seed.” Thanks for your hard work, Ruth, and thanks for the information.
It was a lovely day to take a boat out. So somebody did. Not us.
Liesel spotted this heron on the golf course. Is it the same one? Or do we have at least two living in the area? As I told Liesel, a heron in golf terms means a score of 5 under par, but I’m not sure she believed me, to be perfectly honest with you.
There have been some fabulous innovations here in Northenden recently. We have a lot of rain, as I may have mentioned once or twice, so it’s good to see that, at last, the local authorities are installing bus shelters for very short, single passengers.
Liesel is making good progress with her crocheted blanket. Next time you see it, the last few rows may have changed. I think she quite enjoys unravelling a row or three and having another go, with different colour yarns.
I really hope this apple tree growing behind St Wilfrid’s Church is bearing Bramleys. Because then, it would be a bit like old man Steptoe: Wilfrid Brambelly. This old character was again brought to mind by a return visit from the local rag’n’bone man.
In other local news: our green, food waste bin wasn’t emptied this week. The new washing machine is doing a great job, and much more quietly than its predecessor. The 24-hour rainstorm proved too much for the gutters, again. The motion-sensored communal lights are again totally insensitive to any movement, staying on all day and all night. Radio Northenden has a shiny new website: watch this space.
We bade a sad farewell to a wonderfully entertaining old friend this week. The book of Sudoku puzzles we purchased in Japan over a year and a half ago is now propping up the world’s recycled paper mountain. All the puzzles were attempted, most were completed successfully and some remain not correctly solved, probably due to misprints in the given numbers, rather then our incompetence. Sayonara!
We witnessed some unusual activity down on the river. A group of kayakers passed through Northenden on their way from Stockport to Liverpool. I doubt they were paddling all the way, but I’m sure the highlight of the trip was gliding down the weir, without falling out
Most of them carried on towards the Irish Sea but a couple decided to have a break on the island.
One thing we don’t miss from Chessington is the eyesore that is Tolworth Tower. Sometimes, a setting Sun would illuminate it. We have our own version here too. A shorter block is visible from our luxury apartment, and it too is a blot on the landscape. But again, when the Sun sets, it almost glows and doesn’t look so bad, after all.
We went over to see the family again. Liesel had made some face coverings for Jenny and Liam, as we’ll all be compelled to wear masks inside shops from next week. We timed it so that we could spend time with William too, albeit at a safe distance.
From one William to another. This building is close to where we live. Liesel and I learned a lot about William Morris and the British Arts and Crafts Movement some years ago, during the course of one of out Bicycle Beano holidays in Shropshire. Ah, Shropshire, oh to be that far away from home!
It’s a nice memorial, but what a shame the building is now a carpet showroom. That’s progress, I suppose.
So there I was, ambling around the sordid streets of Northenden, when I came across this Royal Mail van.
Why did I did a picture of a boring old Royal Mail van? Because it’s foreign. Post Brenhinol tells me it’s Welsh. Why do we have Welsh vans in Manchester? According to the postal worker, they just supplied the wrong vans to our local delivery office. Can’t even rely on Royal Mail to deliver their own vans to their own offices, how ironic!
As I was taking the picture, a young man on a bicycle asked what I was doing. He seemed quite upset that I was taking a picture of a van. I said I thought it was interesting. He said it was like him taking a picture of my house. I thought, no it’s not, but never mind. The driver returned, I engaged in conversation with my (sort of former) colleague, and the interfering busybody cycled off. A couple of minutes later, I realised I should have told him that as a share-holder, I actually own the van. Several hours later I realised that what I should really have said was that I was off duty at the moment, but if he wanted to come down to the station later on to argue the toss, I’d be happy to see him there.
Northenden, especially the Mersey, is fast becoming the bird-watching capital of Manchester. Not that we know for certain, rarely going anywhere else at the moment!
One, day I’ll go with a proper camera and get, better, closer-up shots of the heron and the cormorants, if they hang around for a while longer.
We did go further afield. Hello, outside world! We booked a visit to Chester Zoo, having not been since early March. And yes, of course there were roadworks and hold-ups on the motorway. The car park was quite full, which was disappointing. This was by far the furthest we’d travelled since the lockdown and we hoped for a good day, but from the first moment, we worried that it would be too busy to keep safely distanced.
We stayed for a couple of hours and left just in time before the rain arrived. There were a lot of people there, and despite the zoo’s best efforts, with one-way routes, and Keep Left signs, far too many people just weren’t even attempting to maintain a safe distance. There are loads of hand-sanitising stations, though, which is good.
This little chap joined us while we ate our picnic lunch. Yeah, we found a picnic table away from the maddening crowd and felt comfortable and safe for the first time, really.
We found a part of the zoo that was new to us, on this visit. A sunken garden with a magnificent sculpture. How come we’ve never seen this before? Probably because today, more than on any other occasion, we were deliberately walking away from and trying to avoid the larger groups of people.
As we were leaving, walking past the elephants, I spotted a large aeroplane. I thought it might be Boeing 747, a jumbo jet. I thought this was a great photo opportunity: a jumbo jet and an actual jumbo in the same shot.
But, no, it was just an Airbus pretending to be a whale, an Airbus Beluga.
Back in Northenden, guess what? Yep: more flytipping outside Barnado’s, despite the wooden hoarding.
On the other hand, there are some pretty flowers around.
And if the zoo, the Mersey, TV, radio, podcasts, books and puzzles aren’t entertaining enough, some of my dreams recently have been absolutely amazing. I’d love to share them, but nobody needs to know that much about the inner workings of my psyche.
PS Thanks again to our aeronautical and botanical correspondent, Helen, for the informative comment below!
This week, we got out and about a bit further afield, despite the rain and drizzle in some cases. Wythenshawe Park is worth exploring, and in the current social distancing climate, where I go is often determined by where there are fewer other people.
As I passed by the mushrooms, I thought it would be nice to see an actual real-life Ickabog come along to pick and eat them.
Yes, a California poppy, not a fancy buttock-up.
Many thanks to Helen, our horticultural correspondent, who identified these lovely flowers.
According to the annotated sign, this beech is the oldest tree in Wythenshawe.
The notice board has been neglected lately, for obvious reasons, but when things get back to (more) normal, I’m sure we’ll be following up some of the activities on offer.
I suspect we’ll be cycling over to the park so we can play baseball in the glasshouses.
Back at home, Liesel continues with her latest project, crocheting a blanket, using many colours. I often hear her counting the number of stitches in a row, and I try not to interrupt too much.
For the first time since the lockdown, and for quite a while before, come to think of it, we walked to Jenny’s house. We walked the long way round in order to avoid the local, very smelly, recycling centre.
We sat in the garden for a while, enjoying watching Martha play on the swing and count and do sums with the large plastic numbers from her floor mat. Sadly for us, William was taking his nap. The previous day, they’d all been to Reddish Vale for a walk.
William fell in the water but he was alright, so he fell in again later on.
It was a beautifully sunny day, we should have been drinking beer in the garden, really. Well, not Martha, I suppose.
The clouds were fascinating to watch, I guess it was more windy at the higher altitude.
Exciting news in Mick and Liesel’s household. We have a new washing machine and after installing it, one of the engineers thanked us for all the stairs. There’s only 32 of them, but I wouldn’t want to be lugging heavy white goods up and down those, either.
A new tray has arrived for the dishwasher, to replace the old one with its broken wheels. The new one is grey, not white, but I think we’ll get used it.
In the repair department, I successfully reinstated the knob on the waffle-maker. It now rotates between ‘off’ and ‘max’ without going round and round forever. Previously, we had to temporarily remove the knob and use pliers to turn the control inside.
I also reattached the lampshade to the ceiling in the living room, after it spontaneously succumbed to the gravitional pull of planet Earth.
We went to Dunham Massey again, and we noticed the car park was much busier than it had been last time. A lot of the grounds were roped off, to protect the deer and their fawns.
It was a while before we saw any deer at all, so I wonder if they’re retreating further away now that more people are turning up each day. I suggested to Liesel that she start a stampede and I’d film it,while yelling ‘Liesel, Liesel, LIESEL, LIESEL, Jesus Christ, LIESEL, LIESEL…’. She could be the new Fenton. But she said ‘No’.
For a moment here, I was taken back to New Zealand where the ferns are numerous and very pretty, especially the new, undeveloped ones. At some point in today’s walk around Dunham Massey, I took my 23,000,000th step since I first acquired a Fitbit all those years ago. I now use a mechanical pedometer, and I’ve missed a few days due to dead batteries, and being locked down and locked in, but I feel that this week, at last, my daily walk is getting back to normal.
These are the only badgers we saw today, but sadly, neither of them is a real one.
I had to take this picture of the silver birches, Liesel’s favourite trees, and again, I wondered whether we should have bought one of Teri Landseth‘s stunning paintings while we were in Anchorage.
There is a one-way system in the garden, with some paths completely roped off, and it works quite well, until someone is walking really slowly and somehow occupying the whole width of the path!
Another day out, this time, the default loop to the river Mersey, in the drizzle.
Some Dads are really good. This Daddy duck was showing his ducklings where to shelter from the rain: underneath the motorway, of course.
This week, we continued with our re-watch of Doctor Who on TV. I watched another play from the National Theatre, The Deep Blue Sea by Terence Rattigan. And we watched more from Glastonbury.
Ah, this is the section you’ve all been waiting for: the exciting, local news from Northenden.
The Barnardo’s shop has had its shopfront hidden by the installation of black hoarding. This is to deter people from kindly leaving donations flytipping outside the shop.
The bus stop has been cleaned and at last, we now know for sure that we’re supposed to wear masks on public transport, and that we can pay with a contactless card or phone.
This is the season for insects, which is OK, but these clouds of midges are annoying, especially when they won’t keep still so I can get a decent photo.
The smell of newly cut grass is pleasant, but often leads to a sneezing fit. This happened by the river the day they cut the grass by the river.
One morning this week, I was woken by what I thought were hundreds of geese flying round and round our house. I’ve no idea how many there were, really, but a couple of days later, we saw quite a few had set up camp on the island in the stream.
As mentioned previously, we’re re-watching old series of Doctor Who, one or two, sometimes three episodes a day. I know how he/she feels when she/he encounters the Daleks yet again. I have the same feeling whenever I some across bindweed out in the wild. At least I no longer have to fight this particular alien invasion in my own backyard.
Many, many years ago, when walking through the woods in Guildford, we would pop the little white flowers off, like miniature shuttlecocks. Granny-pops-out-of-bed, we called them. Who knew that such an innocent, childhood pastime would result in total world domination by this weed?
Much as we love Northenden and the surrounding areas, the local authorities are never going to win an Oscar for best supporting infrastructure.
Potholes on roads are just annoying, a result of too much traffic and not enough investment, maybe. On the other hand, dumping your rubbish in the woods is not acceptable.
Looking on the bright side: at least this rubbish wasn’t ‘donated’ to the local Barnardo’s charity shop, as is often the case.
I wonder if the perpetrator of the fly-tipping was also responsible for this. Someone was desperate to get onto the golf course, by the looks of it.
As an antidote to the black bin bags blighting the landscape, I was desperate to see some colourful flowers but in the end, I just thought, thistle do.
The river Mersey was flowing quite fast in the aftermath of a lot of rain. I’m not sure whether this bloke was fishing was food or trying to pull up an old tyre for his car.
After the rain, you can see the water’s just a little higher than usual, due to its incursion onto the island.
My phone installed a new update this week and I didn’t realise at the time, but some of its operations have changed. That is the reason I have no footage of the geese having a good time. One was walking up the weir then sliding down on his belly. I filmed him a couple of times. Except I didn’t. But I do have some mad footage of me moving about in between those attempts, featuring some nice shots of my shoes and the grass and the sky.
I’ve mentioned the rain a couple of times. But you ain’t seen nothing yet! It rained all night again, and when we retraced our steps next time, this is what we encountered. Remember that baby pothole? Well, see what it’s grown into.
Remember the island? After a whole night’s torrential rain, the river was flowing as fast as we’ve ever seen it, and it had risen significantly.
Plans for scrumping in Kenworthy Woods have been made: we’ll just give these little beauties a chance to fully ripen.
Bin day is always exciting. Are we going to be woken up really early or not?
Despite walking around Northenden for several hours this week, we didn’t see a single person doing the hokey-cokey with their rubbish. I wonder if the fly-tipper was dancing under cover of darkness?
It didn’t take more than 24 hours before the river began retreating, revealing the island once again from its watery depths.
In fact, it was a Spring-like day, the Sun was out, you could feel its heat on your back, but it was ridiculously cold in the shadows. The insects seem to like it though, having been hiding and cowering away from all that precipitation. Flies, bees, butterflies, ladybirds, midges, you name it. No, not locusts.
Liesel joined in a Zoom call with her old WI chums from Chessington. I wasn’t eavesdropping, honest, I was just finishing my breakfast. But my ears pricked up when I heard Liesel ask if they were all doing penance? I was hoping to hear salacious details of the ladies’ sinful, sordid activities. But no. To mark and commemorate the current pandemic, they’re all making pennants.
In other, local news, Radio Northenden has received funding from Manchester City Council’s Neighbourhood Investment Fund! So it looks like our local, parochial, isolation station will continue broadcasting beyond the lockdown.
Thanks to and RIP Ennio Morricone who wrote the music for the film that inspired this post’s title. He composed over 400 scores for cinema and television, as well as over 100 classical works. This makes my 300 blog posts seem incredibly insignificant.
We paid a return visit to Lyme Park, where the gardens are now open too, but not the house. Again, it wasn’t too busy: maybe the rain kept some people away.
We had a very pleasant walk around the gardens, admiring the plants and the views.
Yes, I am still wearing that tatty old titfer that travelled with me a couple of years ago, much to Liesel’s consternation. One day, I’ll go shopping and buy a new one. One day. When this is all over. When it’s safe to go shopping. Meanwhile, we spent some time watching the squirrel. It made no attempt to climb up for the bird food. Instead, it waited nearby for birds to come along and shake the feeders, then it would pick some food up from the ground.
We were just a little too far away, so I didn’t manage to get pictures of the robin, various tits and other birds.
It was raining very lightly, not enough to be uncomfortable. But the Park suffered from huge floods a few years ago, and parts of the park are still recovering.
If I’m going to get Lyme Disease, I suppose it makes sense to pick it up at Lyme Park. I felt a pin prick on my leg, saw a black thing, brushed it off before I had time to interrogate it. Apparently, depending on what you believe, you can only catch Lyme disease from female ticks, and only if they’ve recently been on board a deer, and only if they stay attached for three days. As I didn’t ascertain its gender nor its recent history, I just hope that Germoline does the trick. But I shall be taking pictures every day to see whether the bite mark is getting worse.
We followed a track that we thought would take us back to the car park. Unfortunately it didn’t. This cow and nocow else in the herd bothered to tell us that we were on a road to nowhere. And, by the time we reluctantly turned around, to retrace our steps, my phone had died and we couldn’t even look at a map. On the way back, several cows were blocking the road, so we climbed over them to get by.
Liesel’s becoming more crafty as the (now voluntary for us) lockdown continues. This week, she did some fabulous needlework.
I like this, because it looks as though it’s floating.
On one of my local walks, I had a close encounter with Uri Geller.
As you can tell, there has been a lot of rain recently. Liesel woke me and asked me to take the car in for its MOT. ‘Of course, darling,’ I said. It was raining again and Liesel quite rightly didn’t want to walk home in it. So I took the car in, but there was nobody at reception. Our time was 9.00 but another man there was booked in at 8.30. The car-wash people next door told us the car mechanics are usually in by this time.
Someone did eventually roll in. He took down all our details in very slow hand-writing and I thought, this doesn’t seem like the nice helpful mechanic Liesel had spoken to a few days earlier, when he’d repaired something on the car.
I walked home in light drizzle, not bothering to go via any of the local coffee shops, as they weren’t yet open. At home I said that the guy wasn’t very helpful, I shouldn’t have had to give him all the details all over again. My reward was sausages in a baguette with lashings of English mustard, thanks Liesel. After further discussion, we realised that I’d only gone and taken the car to the wrong place. I should have gone to a garage a bit further along the road. Liesel phoned the correct place, apologised for her husband’s incompetence and admitted she didn’t know where the car was currently located. I asked Liesel why she’d chosen Oakfield Autos. ‘Because it contains every vowel, of course.’ ‘Oh, don’t start that nonsense again,’ I said.
I walked back to retrieve the car from the, as it turns out, nameless place where I’d left it. With profuse apologies, I got the key back and drove the car about 30 feet to the correct venue. The guy behind the counter here tried very hard not to laugh and yes, this place did seem much more professional, and he was very helpful.
Again, I walked home in the rain, again choosing not to visit a café. Later in the afternoon, the mechanic called, the car was ready, so I traipsed back, in the rain, and brought the car back home.
In a wonderful government initiative, pubs and restaurants were allowed to reopen on 4th July, a Saturday. Locally, the light rain seems to have kept most people away, and I was pleased to see there was no large crowd outside our local pub, as I’d expected. Even the main road was deserted, although there was a pre-lockdown volume of traffic. Liesel and I have no desire to visit such places until we feel the coronavirus is much more under control.
Liesel’s at it again. This morning, she knitted (knat?) a pair of fingerless mitts. Any colour you like as long as it’s white, at least until yarns of other colours are delivered.
This was lovely to see, our Martha making up a story based on a book sewn together by her talented Granny, Sarah, over 30 years ago.
Today’s highlight, after Martha? The dishwasher repair man. He couldn’t fix the broken parts, but we will get a whole new tray, which seems an unnecessary waste of resources when a couple of little plastic wheels would do. So that’s the car and the dishwasher that required repairs. What’s the third item? Well, sadly the washing machine is beyond repair, so we’ll be investing in a new one soon.
Oh and as I write, of course it’s still raining! Sideways, the wind is so strong.
We enjoyed a mini-heatwave, a few days when the temperature approached 30°C. So we went for a walk one evening when it was just a little cooler. We kept to shade as much as possible, avoiding the worst of the ultraviolet (there’s one) rays.
We found some blackberries in full bloom so I’m sure we’ll be back later in the year to enjoy the fruits. And, just a little further along the road (please don’t tell anybody where), we found some wild raspberries too, just a bit too far back through the thistles and brambles to approach in our besandalled feet.
Liesel pointed out the fireweed and explained that when this flower blooms, it will snow six weeks later. Quite an education (there’s one)! I suspect this is just Alaskan folklore, but, as a precaution (another one), I’m keeping my snow shoes handy.
The evening presented us with the first of the week’s technical faults that could have developed into an immensely vexacious (boom) affair. My Kindle displayed an error message that I’ve never seen before. Fortunately a hard reboot fixed it, which meant that I could continue my struggle with ‘Middlemarch’. After trudging through 11% of the text though, I’m sorry to say, I was so discouraged (aha), I gave up. I very rarely give up on a book once I’ve started. On the other hand, How to Argue with a Racist by Adam Rutherford is very readable.
Standing outside our luxury block of luxury apartments, looking up at the blue sky through the oak tree’s foliage, in a slight breeze on a hot day, is delightful. One branch is dead and bits of it fall down now and then. Maybe it was malnourished (oof) when it was younger.
Now that things are slowly opening up again, we enjoyed a couple of days out at National Trust properties. For the first time since the lockdown was implemented, we went to Dunham Massey. This is usually a very busy, popular place, but on this occasion, we had little problem keeping a safe distance away from people. We try to keep our levels of anxiousness (da-dah) down, but when you’re breathing the same air, the risk is always at the back of your mind.
I always investigate the sundial near the main entrance but it has never occurred to me before that the statue supporting it might be offensive: a ‘Blackamoor’ with white bulging eyes. There’s white privilege for you.
The deer were very prominent today: I suspect they’ve become used to people not being around, recently. Other visitors were indulging in the questionable (badoom) activity of approaching the deer and stroking them.
We paid a quick visit to Jenny to drop off some food items. It was an ideal day to deliver butter: 30° or so! We had a quick chat with Martha and William through the window, and I managed to get a good photo this time!
Technical issue number 2. My PC still runs Windows 7, which has not been supported by Microsoft since January. So I was surprised one night when turning it off, it said it was installing an update. My heart sank. This was not authorised (ooh) by me. Next time I booted up, it gleefully told me that Microsoft Edge had been installed. Ever since, it’s been nagging me to accept its terms and conditions. Why? I didn’t want it in the first place! I’ve been uninstalling a lot of unused software recently, and this is another candidate for the chop. But why am I worried? Because once when I uninstalled iTunes from a PC, it also took away that machine’s ability to play CDs. Technology’s great, when it works.
I can’t remember the last time I had a twelve hour sleep with only one interruption. But this happened at the weekend and I can only say I felt fantastic afterwards. Even the smell of freshly baked scones didn’t disturb my slumbers. Thanks, Liesel! We drove to Quarry Bank Mill, the second of the week’s National Trust venues, under changeable skies. Sunny and blue for a while, then cloudy and grey. We mostly avoided the rain and enjoyed a fabulous walk around the gardens. The mill itself is still closed, but we were able to buy a coffee, so that’s encouraging (bazinga).
At one point, we could look down and see the rain in the valley. We felt just a few spots but took shelter under one of the rocks, which strangely, was reminiscent of the painted rocks in the Kakadu, albeit much cooler. Growing out of the cliff-like rock, was this tree, just clinging on by its finger-nails.
As well as all the pretty flowers, they grow a lot of food here, but I was dissuaded from scrumping an apple.
The third of our technical issues was on TV. BBC iPlayer usually just plods along and does its thing, once you’ve navigated to the programme you want to watch. But again, our hearts sank when we saw this. Could our Freeview box be on its last legs? Was a transmitter struck by lightning in one of the ongoing storms? Anyway, it was soon rectified and hasn’t recurred. It briefly interrupted our enjoyment of the Glastonbury Festival. This year’s 50th anniversary festival has been cancelled due to Covid, but the BBC are showing several performances from previous years.
So far this year, we’ve watched or re-watched quite a few of our favourites, most of whom we’ve never actually seen in real life. So, thanks to David Bowie, REM, Florence and the Machine, Christine and the Queens, Adele and her potty mouth. Coldplay persuaded the Glasonbury King, Michael Eavis, to sing My Way and sang a couple of Bee Gees songs with Barry Gibb. Dolly Parton is always good value too. As well as many of her greatest songs, she performed Yakety Sax on her saxophone. Elbow’s songs are often pretty straightforward, but Guy Garvey’s voice and his magnificent instrumentation (ooh, another one) always make the performance something special. Even from the comfort of our own living room.
What? You’re wondering how I can just briefly mention David Bowie at Glastonbury and not dwell a little longer on the subject? At the time of writing, I have watched this programme twice. It’s the first time the full performance has been broadcast on normal TV. He enjoyed it, we fell in love with his bass player, Gail Ann Dorsey all over again, the band was all together.
The set list:
Wild is the Wind
Little China Girl
Life on Mars
Ashes to Ashes
All the Young Dudes
The Man Who Sold the World
Station to Station
I’m Afraid of Americans
We still miss Mr Bowie, and many of us think that the equilibrium of the world was upset by his early death in 2016. So happy we still have his music.
The heatwave came to an end and the rain returned.
It was a quiet Sunday, but I was definitely wabbit by the end of the day: wish I could justify my state of exhaustion (yes).
Liesel’s been busy knitting a beautiful hat.
Radio Northenden broadcast its 50th show today, Monday, and I, Mick the Knife, was invited to take part, have a chat and pick three songs on lock, three tracks that I like to listen to while on lockdown. Thanks for the opportunity, Sanny, and I hope I’m not too embarrassed when I listen back later!
So there’s a 50th, and here’s a 300th. Yup, you are reading the 300th post on this blog so as a bonus, to celebrate, here is a list of 300 words, each of which contains all 5 vowels. I’ve been collecting these for several years. In fact, the first one I was aware of was while still in education (ding). A teacher at school accused me of being facetious (dong). I very nearly said, “Did you realise that ‘facetious’ contains all five vowels?” But luckily I realised just in time that that would just be confirming her ridiculous opinion.
I’ve been adding to the list pretty much ever since then, moreso recently, as I know how fascinated Liesel is(n’t) when I announce a new discovery. Most of them are from books, some from subtitles or dialogue (ooh) from TV shows and, this week, in the space of ten minutes, I spotted a few on my Twitter feed.
In (more or less) the order I noted them down, here are 300 words all containing at least one incidence each of A, E, I, O and U:
I was playing around on my phone and created this little chap. He’s incredibly lifelike, isn’t he? I’d been doing sudoku puzzles and fancied a break. Liesel’s been doing sudokus too. It’s always exciting when we finally crack one that had seemed impossible at first sight. Usually when I get stuck, I just say there must be a misprint. Even when I’m doing a puzzle in a phone app.
We’ve had more rain and thunderstorms this week, in between the warm, sunny days. This week’s highlight was popping over to see the grandchildren. We had things to deliver, including some new items for Martha and William. No photos because the Sun was so bright, we couldn’t easily see them through the socially separating window. They’re all in good spirits, and I think Martha is happy to be back at nursery for a couple of days a week.
As it was Fathers Day, Jenny and Helen bought me a huge brownie from a local café, The Damson Tree, well, fairly local, in Cheadle Hulme. Very nice, very tasty, thank you!
At home, I downloaded a new, controversial book onto my Kindle. I probably won’t read it and this notion was confirmed when I saw the estimated reading duration! Yes, it’s about American politics and yes, I did a search on David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson. Hardly a mention, such is the importance of the ‘special relationship’ between the USA and the UK!
I was quietly taking my ease, reading the next chapter of The Ickabog, when from outside, I heard the strains of Old Ned, the theme tune from Steptoe and Son. We haven’t seen them for a while, but I guessed this meant the return of the local totters, the rag-and-bone men. The shouts of ‘any old iron’ confirmed my suspicion. So I ran downstairs, out to the bin cupboard, retrieved the broken ironing board that had been dumped there several weeks ago, then ran along the road to offer it to young Mr Steptoe. As he followed me back to where I’d left it, he got closer and closer, I just couldn’t walk fast enough to maintain a safe two metres distance from him. He said that old people seem to like hearing Steptoe and Son, it attracts their attention. I’m pretty sure it must have been young people that ‘donated’ the mangled bikes on the back of his van.
We’ve watched Jessica Lee Morgan and Christian Thomas a few more times, on their virtual world tour, promoting Jess’s new album, Forthright. And yes, I really would recommend listening to and buying the album. My favourite song (today) is The Less Said the Better. It’s a bit of an earworm. I’m not going to go all clickbaity and ask what your favourite is, don’t worry.
Here is Martha recreating the ‘serving suggestion’ from a box of Shreddies.
What else have we been up to then? Not much. Watching Doctor Who, listening to podcasts, CDs and radio, baking, watching the neighbours, listening to the neighbours doing DIY late at night, celebrating the Summer solstice and mourning the loss of birdsong now that traffic noise has returned to ‘normal’.
The weather here has been as strange as it can be. Hot and muggy, torrential rain and thunderstorms, but we have been out and about, a little further afield, so things are looking up. This week saw the release of a couple of new records. I joined Anna Neale and a few other fans as she launched her new single Anarchy. I surrepticiously tried to take a picture of the Zoom screen but it didn’t really work. It was good to see the world premiere(!) of the accompanying video, even if Zoom couldn’t quite keep up. You should view the video here, not just for the song itself, but for my first ever (minor) contribution to a ‘pop video’. See if you can spot it. Answers at the bottom.
The song itself talks about the decline in societal standards including littering and graffiti. But sometimes, we see something daubed on a wall and it’s a positive message. So much better than the boring tags, however convoluted and multi-coloured they are.
It’s a bit more risky these days to walk on a golf course, but you never know what you’ll come across. I found a lawn mower behind a bank of trees. I assume the green-keeper left it there on purpose. There were no golfers around on this occasion, so I didn’t need my tin hat after all.
I walked along the river, a little beyond Simon’s Bridge and rather than retrace our stroll from a couple of weeks ago, I carried on as far as the beach. I was surprised that it was free of litter, very unusual around here, sadly. In Millgate Fields, there are ground-nesting birds apparently, but I didn’t see nor disturb any.
A few other people were out and about too, but I was surprised to see a couple with walking poles. The terrain around here isn’t that bad, really. I tried using walking poles once. Never again. Mobile trip hazards. I’m still not sure if this is the one and only local heron or if there are a few living at different places on the river. It would be nice to see more than one at a time, though!
And so we come to the most exciting day since March. We gathered up our passports and ventured outside and away from the local neighbourhood. Away from Northenden, further even than Didsbury. Our wonderful car started at the first attempt and we drove to Lyme Park for a walk. This, like all other National Trust properties has re-opened, but you have to book a time slot in advance.
The cafés are still closed and only one toilet is open, but that’s OK, we had a lovely walk, on hilly grass and, best of all, there weren’t many people, so it was easy to maintain social distancing.
Lyme Park mansion house itself is still closed too, so we had no excuse to not carry on walking.
The views from the top of the hill near The Cage were pretty good. We couldn’t work out whether the haze was mist or just air quality returning to pre-lockdown levels already.
The only wildlife we encountered were some cattle. We did see plenty of evidence of deer, sheep and rabbits, but they were all hiding in the trees and bushes because they’re not used to seeing people any more.
We had a good reason to venture into Cheadle too, one day, saving ourselves 40p as car parking fees have been suspended. While Liesel conducted her business, I walked around. I think the S4G guys were a bit concerned, but I wasn’t deliberately loitering near their van while they took millions of pounds in used fivers into the bank. The housewares shop should be cautioned for their misleading descriptions.
But the floral display in the High street is magnificent.
As I was walking home later on, I bumped into an old friend, well, old enemy. I think I’ve mentioned before that I lost my Thirty Year War with bindweed in our garden in Chessington. Well, it’s thriving well in some gardens near where we live, but I am so glad I don’t have to fight that battle any longer.
In local news, we learned that the Nat West bank, which has been closed for as long as we can remember, has been used as a cannabis farm. It’s in the middle of our main street.
And, just along the road from us, we think there was one of two drugs raids taking place in Northenden. And we found out why the local authorities aren’t bothered about all the vehicles that are parked on pavements.
The second exciting record release this week is Jessica Lee Morgan’s ‘Forthright’ album. It’s her fourth and, I think, her best so far. I can’t wait to see her live in concert again. Meanwhile, she’s been performing on YouTube, in a virtual world tour.
And in case you’re wondering, my bit of Anna’s video is at 22 seconds. It’s graffiti local to where we live in Northenden. ‘Live work consume die?’ Which nicely summarises just about everything!
PS a couple of people in real life have asked what podcasts we’re listening to. Well, I’ve started compiling a list right here, so please take a look. Over and out.