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

 

Ice rink and Inspiral Carpet

Well, the good news this week is that Liesel wasn’t arrested after all. I would have visited her in jail of course, if the Covid restrictions allowed me to. The unsolicited phone call from ‘HMRC’ was a computer-generated voice, threatening arrest if she didn’t press button 1 straightaway to resolve some fictitious tax issue.

Is that the most exciting event of the week? Not quite. We went for a drive in the car for the first time since before Christmas. We still remember how to drive, always a bonus, but one of the tyres was flat. We got that fixed before setting off. Where did we go? We visited the Dark Lands beyond our own postcode.

After a snowy start last Saturday, it was my turn to cook our evening meal. I love a good non sequitur, don’t you? I have two selections in my repertoire and this time it was toad-in-the-hole. The rest of the week we enjoyed Liesel’s culinary delights, thank you, Liesel, much more skilful and with a much more varied menu!

We went for a walk and came across a fire engine near Northenden’s Riverside Park.

Fire appliance

The river was flowing fast but it was much lower than at the height of the floods last week. Lots of detritus had flowed downstream of course, plenty of trees and branches and so on deposited by the high water. But the ugliest sight probably is all the plastic caught in the trees on the island and tangled in the vegetation on the river banks.

Real plastic in trees

There is a large group of litter pickers in the area, Wythenshawe Waste Warriors, and one day, when we’re no longer shielding, we’ll join them. So far this year, they have collected nearly 900 bags of litter in Wythenshawe, Northenden and the general area. One day, someone will wade over to the island and collect all the rubbish from the trees there.

It was a good decision to wear my new wellington boots when I walked through Wythenshawe Park. The path was still flooded: in fact, half of its puddle was frozen too. The grass either side of the path was waterlogged to the point that one side resembled an ice rink. I was joined on this particular walk by Tina in Coventry. From a very safe distance, I hasten to add. Whatsapp was the means of communication.

Mick: I’m out for a walk! Just tried to break the ice in a puddle. Useless!
Tina: OMG 😮 Glad I went food shopping so I don’t need to go out!!
Mick: Yes I’m sure!

Mick: I found the ice rink! A big frozen puddle on the grass
Tina: Oh wow 🤩
Tina: Poor birds
Mick: It’s very quiet. Spooky- apart from the rumble of the motorway over there…
Tina: Looks dangerous
Mick: It is. Very thin
Tina: Well, stay on the paths

Mick: This is the path!!
Tina: Oh you can’t pass
Mick: Yes 👍
Tina: Oh you’ll have to find another route, don’t get lost!!!
Mick: I’m back on the path… I can see how deep it is here!

Tina: Gosh be careful
Mick: Made it 🙌 to the other side. Dry!
Tina: Well done but be cautious
Mick: My mate Oliver

Tina: He’s not covered in snow!
Mick: No and he’s not covered in graffiti any more, either!
Tina: That’s good.. graffiti would def ruin the monument
Mick: And the good news is, I can get a coffee!

Tina: Oh really that’s great 😀 will warm you up? Is Liesel with you on your walk? Which coffee shop is that? Bit of a queue
Mick: Liesel came out with me but I wanted to go further.
Tina: Oh trust you
Mick: Not sure what it’s called. It’s in the park!
Tina: That’s great it’s open during these times
Mick: The dog bowls are frozen!

Tina: Awwww
Tina: Oh dear there doesn’t seem to be much snow there anymore
Mick: It’s The Courtyard
Tina: Oh you got your coffee?
Mick: Patchy, still on the roof

Mick: In the queue still…
Tina: Oh yeah
Tina: Ha lol 😂
Mick: Decisions, decisions

Tina: Hot Vimto lol yes lots to choose from! They do food as well or just drinks? It’s not bad prices. What’s a barm? A batch or bread roll?
Mick: I have my coffee and chocolate orange brownie! Yes a barm is a plain bap, burger bun type thing. Usually. I have been given a sandwich before made with sliced white bread!
Tina: Ooh the brownie sounds lovely 😊 it’ll give you an energy boost 😂 Oh I see… I’ve never heard it being called a barm before
Mick: Yes, I’m still learning the language. I’m walking the long way home, trying to avoid all the people
Tina: That’s understandable, you’re having a good walk Mick, lots to see
Mick: Lots of snow on the grass. And more ice

Tina: Your coffee got me making a coffee too. It’s freezing can’t believe it’s snowed but it’s going to rain next week so hopefully it’ll clear up. Hope it doesn’t get icy and slippery though!
Mick: So far, I haven’t slipped, but it will happen sometime
Tina: That’s good hopefully not!
Mick: Once when I was a postman, all the snow and ice had gone, or so I thought, but I found the last square inch of ice and went arse over tit. Bashed my elbow. Kept hold of the bloody mail though!
Tina: Oh no that’s sounds hilarious 😂 but I bet it hurt! Typical
Mick: Look what I just did

Tina: Looks good but graffiti is a shame, ruins the buildings. Oh my you’re having some walk
Mick: It is an eyesore yes
Tina: How was your brownie? Coffee any good?
Mick: Very nice it had a segment of Terry’s Chocolate Orange on top! Coffee ok but not the best, but at least the place was open
Tina: Oh that would be really nice. True and it kept you going
Mick: Look what I just made!

Mick: Should be home by 2.30 then it’ll be time for a coffee 😉
Tina: Ha lol 😂 looks like you’re back to where houses are!
Tina: Good timing
Mick: Yes far fewer people this way
Tina: Oh that’s good
Mick: Nearly home
Tina: Oh good I’ve just made a sandwich 🥪
Tina: You home ? 🏡
Tina: With your coffee ☕️
Mick: Yes I am, now with a coffee, thanks for joining me on my 5 mile walk!!
Tina: It’s quite alright was fun! There is nothing on tv so I’ll listen to the radio for a bit!
Mick: Me too in a minute, probably Radio 2 Sounds of the 70s
Tina: Well enjoy. I’m listening to Capital fm
Mick: Ah, Capital Radio in the 70s was terrific, it’s not really my taste in music now, enjoy, sing along, dance!!

Another day, another walk, another stop for coffee. You can pick up the feel-good vibes in Salutem.

Be stronger than the storm

I invited Rachel from Salutem to join me on my Radio Northenden show this week. And she very generously agreed. You can hear our chat plus two hours of music loosely themed around Shopping right here.

Martha telling a story

Martha told a wonderful story about a Witch and Gnome and a dragon that morphed into a dinosaur! We watched online of course.

Heron of the week – on the opposite bank, of course
Men at work

Some highly visible men working by the sluice gates, after the deluge last week.

And so we come to the real highlight of the week. Salutem and snowman and spammy phone calls are all well and good, but nothing beats spending time with our grandchildren, William and Martha. Yes, SK8 was the destination for our first road trip for a long time.  We still have to maintain a safe distance of course, hugs are out of the question, we saw them from the end of the drive.

Martha

Martha knows that she only needs to dress the top half for her online schoolwork. Truly, a member of the Zoom generation.

 

 

 

William

And William insisted on wearing his backpack while scootering outside the house: maybe he thought he’d be going further away from home. He was doing sums. Just turned three years of age and he can do simple arithmetic. And he loves saying two and two equals four rather than just plain old ‘is‘.

We’ve been entertained this week by more online content, which is a horrible term, but covers everything from Netflix to gigs to Twitter and Instagram as well as videos of Martha and William. In fact, if you want to hear Martha’s sensational new hit single, please listen to this week’s Radio Northenden show.

We watched all 8 episodes of Bridgerton, and not just because it was described as Regency porn. I think we both enjoyed it on the whole, but I found the use of some Americanisms in the very English setting a bit grating. Liesel wondered about my sudden gasps of exasperation when a character said, ‘I’ll be with you momentarily’, or something was done ‘differently than’ something else.

We watched more of the Celtic Connections festival. I loved the Kinnaris Quintet especially, and enjoyed the very different Indian group, Jodhpur RIFF. Jessica Lee Morgan is still doing a weekly show on YouTube and from this Sunday, once a month also on Mary Hopkin’s YouTube channel.

Tom Hingley, lead singer of Inspiral Carpets and the Kar-pets

Someone I haven’t seen live in concert for far too long is Tom Hingley, so it was good to catch him online performing in aid of the John Peel Centre in Suffolk, a small venue that we’re unlikely to attend in real life, but it was good to hear some of the old songs performed live from his home. His camera was cunningly placed to reveal a nice warm fire plus the gold disc on his wall. Well done, Tom!

And finally, some more good news: Liesel received her first Covid vaccination this week. I’m not expecting mine until March but the roll-out of the vaccine seems to be going well, so far. A second day out for the car this week. Maybe we’ll start venturing out a bit more often, if anything, just to keep the poor old thing ticking over and to stop the mould from growing on the outside!

Liesel also completed another blanket, her crochet skills are improving by the minute.

Crochetted blanket
This really is a labour of love, I don’t know how many times Liesel counted the stitches in each row, just to make sure… and how pretty is it?

Floods and food

This was another wet week, extremely so later on. Another week of not doing much, really. But another week closer to the end of lockdown and returning to some sort of normality. We’re still pounding the local beat, and I think the furthest away from home I’ve been is to the medical centre in Benchill for my annual MOT.

Flooded field

Often, we have a chat with the horses in this field, but I think they must have migrated to the nearby shelter.

The heron is becoming braver. I was fully prepared for him to take flight, he doesn’t usually let humans approach this closely, never mind dogs.

A very brave heron

But it did remind me that in order to get decent, sharp, photos of the heron on the other side of the river, I really do need to take my proper camera.

We had an unexpected visitor one day this week, in the pouring rain. Yes, the window cleaner turned up. He was using a long pole to reach the higher windows, squirting water from a reservoir in the back of his van. Or maybe he was just making use of the free rainwater. A box ticked, no doubt, but what a wasted effort.

Liesel and I managed one nice long walk by the river this week, but maintaining a safe distance from everybody can be difficult.

Seems like a coach party walking towards us

I know there’s a foreshortening effect, but by any standards at the present time, that is a lot of people walking towards us. We decided on this occasion to take the low road, closer to the river, even though it does tend to be more muddy there.

It’s the middle of January and yet there are already signs of Spring.

Over-exposed bulbs

We couldn’t work out whether somebody had planted these bulbs and forgot to fill in the hole afterwards, or whether someone or some animal had tried to dig them up. I assume they didn’t survive events later in the week.

Selfie of the day

Some exciting local news. The Northern Den has had a makeover. The windows have been redecorated. We treated ourselves to something sweet this week to go with the coffee.

The Northern Den

As I came to life one morning, I noticed a pink glow in the sky. Straightaway, I took a couple of pictures before crawling back into my nest. The pictures were nothing special, the sky appeared washed out, so I made some adjustments.

A Northenden sunrise

And the sky came out more orange than pink.

Some exciting local news. Salutem has had a makeover. The windows have been redecorated. We treated ourselves to some bagels this week to go with the coffee.

Salutem
UFO

I have no idea what this object is but it’s very well protected. I suspect the rest of the rocket or nuclear power plant or whatever will be delivered soon.

But never mind local news. This week, Northenden made the national news. And not for a good reason. We’d noticed the Mersey rising and falling but this week, it threatened to overflow and flood the area. Several people were evacuated as a precaution. The sluice gates were opened, and the flood basins filled to capacity. In the end, Northenden and Didsbury were OK, but people in other place such as Lymm and Northwich weren’t so fortunate.

As if the threat of floods wasn’t bad enough, the prime minister decided to come and pester the Environment Agency workers in Didsbury.

The new wellington boots are great, very comfortable: the rim at the top doesn’t dig into my shin bones, sheer luxury. Let me know if you want my old boots, size 10, probably best worn with wicket keepers’ pads.

These boots are made for wading
Bridge over troubled water

Sometime, we walk along this path under the main road, going towards Chorlton. Well, not today. Not even with the new wellies. The following day, this whole stretch of path had been fenced off.

Even away from the river, the ground is very saturated. Any dip or indentation is filled with water. Storm Christoph came with a lot of rain, a months’ worth in a couple of days.

Sign o’ the times

That big puddle is in Kenworthy Lane Woods. The gate is telling the truth.

Here is Ford Lane, probably our most-often visited walking route, as seen on BBC News at Six.

Six O’Clock News

Yes, we obviously couldn’t walk along here this week. But there is one benefit of this road being flooded: there won’t have been so much fly-tipping!

Floods? In the middle of the night, we had a blizzard too, wind and snow, just what the police officers needed while knocking on people’s doors, advising them to evacuate.

Receding river

Later in the day, the river had subsided significantly. This fence had been totally submerged the previous day.

Liesel has been learning a new skill this week: quilling: curling or rolling up thin strips of paper to make very pretty designs.

Quilling

I wish I could say I was being creative in some way, but my pastimes all involve using the PC, in the studio. When I’m not preparing a radio show, or throwing together a blog post, I’m still processing the thousands of photos from our travels. There are a couple of other projects on the go as well, and these too require acces to the PC.

I woke up this morning and was shocked, shocked I tell ya, to see it was snowing. Heavy, massive snowflakes, but the storm didn’t last long, and it soon started to melt. Then we had a second snowstorm, and so far, at the time of writing, it seems to have settled more permanently.

Let it snow

Yes, the snow’s quite pretty when it falls, but the background in my picture isn’t so attractive. Maybe I’ll photoshop in a mountain scene or something.

We’ve been watching more of the Celtic Connections shows online this week, and this gave me the idea for my radio show: lots of songs by Scottish singers. You can catch up here if you want to enjoy some old and some modern Scottish songs.

What a strange week. Another one bites the dust.

Bowie, birds and bagels

Last weekend was a big David Bowie commemoration. We should have been celebrating his 74th birthday but instead, the world marked the fifth anniversary of his death.

I watched Lazarus, the musical that was one of Bowie’s final pieces of work, online, a recording of the London performance that I saw twice with our friend Helen, with Liesel joining us on one occasion. Liesel and I also saw Lazarus in Melbourne, and that seems a long time ago now.

And yes, it was just as enthralling for me the fourth time round.

Sophia Anne Caruso and Michael C Hall

Photos from TV screeens will never be as good nor as clear as those taken inside a theatre, of course. But you’re not supposed to take pictures in a theatre, apparently.

I stayed up late to watch A Bowie Celebration. This concert was put together by Bowie’s long-term piano player Mike Garson, and was shown online at 2am our time. Sadly, it was postponed for 24 hours, so I had to stay up late for a second night in a row, and that hasn’t happened for a long time. Actually, I grabbed a few hours kip before getting up, just in time, to enjoy three hours of wonderful and sometimes very moving music.

In real life of course, I would have run up to the stage and stolen the set list. Luckily, we can see the full set list here. Also in real life, Liesel would probably rather not let me run up to the stage!

Ian Hunter

It was good to see Ian Hunter perform his tribute to David Bowie, Dandy as well as All the Young Dudes and what’s scary crazy is, he’s 81 years old and still rocking and rolling. Many other Bowie alumni took part, including Tony Visconti (although we never saw him) and Rick Wakeman (confined to a very small box on the screen).  Yungblud never worked with Bowie of course, and I think he was trying to do a Covid test on himself with the microphone.

[Added two weeks later] I just found a list of some of the best comments from the Chat that accompanied the show. I couldn’t keep up with all the comments, there were far too many participants.
‘I small pot’.
‘Warszawa here’.
‘I got front row tickets’.
‘How do you mirror this show to TV?’
Mike Garson disappeared for one song: ‘Mike spilt coffee on his pants, changing now’.
‘Paid for a live concert, the energy ain’t there’.
‘I’m in space’.
‘The woman in front of me won’t sit down’.

Other than those two events, there were about twenty shows on radio to enjoy, BBC and elsewhere, never mind what was on TV. I’m still catching up of course, and what with a slight backlog of podcasts, it’s a good job we’re in lockdown and I don’t have to go to work! Always look on the bright side, as they say.

[10,000 words omitted]

Well, if Robert Heinlein can use that device in his novels, so can I in a blog. I could have written so much more about the David Bowie weekend but that’s for another place. Maybe.

The week was full of four letter words: rain, snow, cold, wind, dull, grey. Despite that, we did venture out a few times, but again, we confined ourselves to our own postcode.

The river was surprisingly low early in the week, we could even see the bricks that make up the weir. And our old friend the heron was sitting there wondering where all the water had gone.

Heron

But no need to panic. Within a couple of days, the river was as high as before, totally hiding the weir and covering the island. Anyway, our friend flew off, of course, and we next saw him standing on the grass. So here’s a bonus portrait of the heron.

Bonus heron

One day, we’ll go along with some fishes in our pockets to feed him.

The larger volume of water just a couple of days later was enough to shift large bits of, if not whole, trees.

Tree bashing one of the pillars holding up the M60

There’s a new lake in Wythenshawe Park.

A big puddle

A few seconds after taking this picture and putting my phone away, those two dogs had a really good time running through the puddle and shaking water over some other passers-by. A big puddle, yes, and the grass on both sides was under water too. Can’t go over it, can’t go under it, oh no, we’ll have to turn round and go back the way we came.

What a nice young van

The sentiment on the back of the van: seconded!

In other local news, as well as coffee this week, I bought some bagels from Salutem. Possibly the best bagels I’ve had since we were in Anchorage over two years ago. Anchorage: that city so well-known for its bagels.

The drizzle didn’t prevent me from walking to the GP for a quick visit. I certainly didn’t expect to see flamingoes, but there they were, two of them, large as life in somebody’s garden.

Pretty flamingoes

To be honest, I’m not sure they’re real life flamingoes, I couldn’t see a pond  anywhere nearby.

Yes, it was only drizzling lightly, but the puddles in Sharston Road were out in force. You have to time it right as you walk on by.

43 bus making a splash

I’ve always wondered, given that Manchester is famous for its rain, why is its drainage so bad? This should be the capital city of run-offs and storm drains.

Karine Polwart

The end of the week saw the start of the 19-day long Celtic Connections. Liesel and I have wanted to visit Glasgow for a while for this music festival, but obviously, not this year. Instead, we’ll enjoy it online, like everything else. But we’re certainly not alone in wanting to be able to see live music again, sometime.

One day this week, I poured out my breakfast cereal only to realise I’d finished off the milk in my first cup of tea. Fresh milk would be delivered later, so I was reluctant to open the emergency bottle of long-life milk. And there’s no way I was going to separate the Shreddies from the muesli and the blueberries, not to mention the Weetabix crumbs, and return all the cereal to the various correct containers. Only one thing for it. I poured on the last of the Christmas Baileys and had a very nice start to the day, thank you very much.

This week on Radio Northenden (newly updated website, go and have a look), we went back to school, had a few lessons and said thank you to our teachers. Catch up here.

Locked down, locked in

In lockdown, we’re allowed out for exercise and for food shopping and to collect medication. As requested, the GP sends our prescriptions electronically, directly to the pharmacy. One day this week, we got extra steps in by visiting one pharamcy, walking to the other branch then all the way back to the first, where we finally collected what we’d been in for in the first place.

The occasional coffee to take away is fundamental to our mental well-being, as well, of course. All our shopping is done online, it’s all delivered by some very nice young men and, last week, by a very nice young lady.

Northenden’s very own mermaid

When you’re lurking inside a pharmacy while the staff are failing to find what you came for, all you can do is admire the tat on sale, such as this little ladyfish.

I was in danger of succumbing to a full-on panic attack when my PC lost touch with the internet.

Scary, misleading, error message

After failing to fix it by turning the PC off and on again, I went for a walk to breathe and to calm down and to try and think of possible solutions that didn’t involve a sledge hammer.

24 hours later, everything was back to normal. I have no idea what it was that I did but I tried to set things up as if for the first time. And tried again. Plugging and unplugging everything that I could think of. And tried again. Then it was all working again. So I don’t know what went wrong and I don’t know how it was fixed.

St Wilfrid’s Church in the sunshine

We enjoyed a few local walks this week, in the cold but sometimes in bright sunshine. Quite rightly I suppose, Liesel’s Mom queried why I went for a walk in the graveyard. Well, it was somewhere different to go. The gravestones were very slippery though, like a field of miniature ice rinks.
In the sunshine, the distant stones resembled a rather sophisticated stoney toast rack.

Graveyard
Artwork of the week

That picture was a mistake, phone in the wrong place at the wrong time. Some people in the family are a bit better at taking pictures though. Just look at this one taken by Helen during a storm in Manly.

Lightning in Manly

This week marks what should have been David Bowie’s 74th birthday. Jessica Lee Morgan kicked off the celebrations on her regular Tuesday night online show.

I continued celebrating the great man on my own radio show on Friday afternoon . Listen back here: songs that David Bowie covered plus several of his songs covered mostly by female singers.

Another day, another walk and we have a new visitor, or maybe a new inhabitant, on the river. Is it a cormorant?

Cormorant

He didn’t move from his stone, despite quite a few people walking by on both sides of the river. Stone? Actually, it looks more like an old Roman plate, when you zoom in.

Shutters

Nice to see the cheeky grin on the shutters outside this closed beauty parlour. But hooray, the coffee shop next door, Salutem, was open.

The new year started off with some sad news for us. Sarah’s mother Myra passed away in her sleep. We saw her online last month on the occasion of her 90th birthday, and she was looking forward to celebrating in real life later on. We’ll miss our occasional visits to London with her, to the National Theatre, to the British Museum, to Pizza Express. And her occasional visits to Manchester. Martha and William love saying the words ‘Great Granny’. Yes, even when she was locked in her room at Premier Inn, hanging out of the window asking for help, she remained positive and upbeat.

When will I see you again?

There’s a new word to describe the no-man’s land between Christmas and New Year: Merryneum. The time of year when even more than usual, we don’t know what day of the week it is. And it still doesn’t matter really. Except when we miss Doctor Who because they showed it on a Friday, which is just bizarre.

It was much colder here in Northenden* and we took a break from our (not quite) daily strolls. *I know, it was colder everywhere, but Northenden is our universe for now.

Blue sky after rain

Blue skies are always welcome of course, along with bright sunshine. The Sun’s low, just above the horizon, even at noon, this time of year. So sun-hats are no good, the brim will never be wide enough. I am now wearing my beanie hat, to keep my the ears warm.

Following all the recent rain, the river is really high. The weir is totally submerged, its location given away only by surface turbulence.

The site of the weir

And what a shock to wake up one morning to the sight of snow. Yes, it was forecast, but it was still a surprise.

Fresh snow of Northenden

It soon melted, only to be replaced the following night. The clatter of the snowflakes pounding against the window disturbed my slumber.

More snow in Northenden

I took some pictures and crawled back into my pit.

Martha and William built a superb Snowman and Snowdog way over there in Cheadle. Sorry we couldn’t help out on this occasion.

William, Snowdog, Martha, Snowman

When William was asked why he’d put a glove on the side of the Snowdog, he pointed out that that’s what a Snowdog looks like. And, sure enough, Raymond Briggs’s Snowdog does have this embellishment.

I don’t know who built a snowman in our car park, but the next day, all that was left was his nose.

Snowman’s nose

We did come across this little chap on one of our walks. If we’d known, we would have brought the discarded nose with us and performed a transplant.

Snowman in Northenden

We felt it was probably too slippery and muddy on the river banks, so we gave them a miss this week. (Translation: we are wimps.) Looking down from the bridge, that was a wise move, I think.

The River Mersey

So, a pretty lazy week, really. Every noise outside is an invitation to look through the window. ‘What’s goin’ on?’ we ask, like some freak from EastEnders. Someone in the flats over the road received a delivery. When she answered the door:
Liesel: Is that the girl who goes out sunbathing sometimes?
Mick: I don’t know, I don’t recognise her with her clothes on.

What did we achieve this week? Well, Liesel completed her jigsaw puzzle, thank you Helen and Jenny.

Liesel’s 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle

And my New Year’s Day radio show is here.

As a special treat, we enjoyed our first Samosa Box. The food was delivered, still hot from the oven and the samosas were delicious. Support your local business!

Samosas and chips

Here are some statistics from 2020.

The good news is, I read more books this year than previously, thanks to the opportunity presented by lockdown. 41 books, 21 of which were by female writers. This is probably the first time I’ve read more books by women than by men, a conscious effort on my part. (2019: 33 books, 13 by women.)

On the other hand, I walked only 1530 miles in 2020 compared with 1748 in 2019, but we were on our Travels for half of that year. And, walking locally, it’s so easy to think, ‘oh that’ll do, I’m going home now’.

It was a funny old year, but I think we got by OK. We are looking forward to 2021. Happy New Year and thank you for joining Liesel and me on our antics. When will we see you again? Sometime soon, we hope. Why did that song come to mind this week? Because the temperature was Three Degrees.

Yes, we’re looking forward to the new year, but I can’t help but look back on decades past.

I always listen to Johnnie Walker’s Sounds of the 70s and last week’s episode was especially good. Johnnie’s wife Tiggy talked to him about his broadcasting career during the 1970s, and they played some of his favourite songs from that decade. Listen again here before it falls off BBC Sounds.

Out of the 16 tracks played, I’ve seen most of the artists either in concert or in passing.

1 Simon & Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water

Liesel and I saw them at a reunion gig in Hyde Park, one of the first shows we saw together. Liesel was intimidated by the large crowd, she wasn’t used to that sort of thing. It was a great show, of course, all their songs are wonderful. But sadly, there was no chemistry between them, no eye-contact at all. The support act was The Everly Brothers.

In a previous life, I saw Simon and Garfunkel at Wembley Stadium, in about 1982, with Sarah and my sister Pauline and her then boyfriend John. Jobsworth Security Man wanted to take my camera away, no photos in those days. I followed him a short way to wherever he was leading, chose my moment, ran off, took off my jacket, and joined the others in the auditorium. My photos were of course rubbish. But the show was great.

2 Derek and the Dominos – Layla

Sarah and I saw Eric Clapton on the same bill as Elton John and Bonnie Raitt, at Wembley Stadium in 1992. The performance was good but maybe a bit subdued. It was a year after the tragic death of his 4-year old son Conor. He performed his very moving song Tears in Heaven, written in memory of Conor. We saw him again at Masters of Music in 1996.

3 Neil Diamond – I Am… I Said

Sadly no.

4 The Who – Won’t Get Fooled Again

As part of Masters of Music for The Prince’s Trust, The Who performed Quadrophenia on a cold June day in Hyde Park in 1996. It was so cold, I bought myself an extra t-shirt to keep warm. I know. Sarah, me, Jenny and Helen were here for a full day of music. We also saw Alanis Morissette and Eric Clapton again. But it was so cold, we, along with many hundreds of other people, left as Bob Dylan took to the stage.

5 Lou Reed – Walk On The Wild Side

Sarah and I saw Lou Reed at Hammersmith Odeon around the time of his Magic and Loss album, March 1992. A great show but when on arrival, we saw him sitting at a bar, having a quiet drink, we were too intimidated scared to walk up and say ‘Hello’.

6 The Steve Miller Band – The Joker

Sadly no.

7 David Bowie – Life On Mars?

Sarah and I saw David Bowie five times in concert: Wembley Arena twice, Earls Court, Milton Keynes Bowl (with baby Jenny, 1983) and at the awful short-lived London Arena (with Jenny, 1990, and yes, she fell asleep again). We saw him again at the Freddie Mercury tribute concert at Wembley Stadium. But the only time I met him was outside the gallery hosting his art exhibition in 1995. He was coming out just as Sarah and I arrived. I shook his hand and thanked him for the music and asked for an autograph. ‘I’m gasping for a cuppa,’ he said, ‘I’ll be back in ten minutes’, he said, walking away with his assistant. Two hours is plenty of time to feign interest in wallpaper designs and other weird paintings. I’m still waiting for my man to return.

8 Cockney Rebel – Judy Teen

I saw Steve Harley, the lead singer, as a guest at a David Bowie Celebration in 2017. The band was put together by Mike Garson, Bowie’s long-time piano player, along with many other musicians who have played with Bowie. Steve Harley sang his own song Sebastian as well as a David Bowie song. I have a photo of the setlist. The woman was holding on to it really tightly, fearing I might run off with it.

9 John Lennon – Stand By Me

Sadly no.

10 Bruce Springsteen – Born To Run

Sadly no.

11 Elton John & Kiki Dee – Don’t Go Breaking My Heart

We saw Elton once with Eric Clapton (see above) and once before then at the Royal Festival Hall. The night before had been a Gala performance for a Royal personage which he must have found challenging, because he told us that tonight he could relax. The percussionist Ray Cooper stole the show.

Sarah and I also saw Kiki Dee at the Royal Albert Hall. She performed Don’t Go Breaking My Heart as a solo, despite the fact that from our lofty seats, we could see Elton lurking backstage. Good for him for not stealing the limelight.

12 The Eagles – The Last Resort

Sadly no.

13 Sex Pistols – Anarchy In The UK

Definitely no, I’m not even going to say I was at the famous 100 Club gig with 20,000 other people who were there in the tiny 350 capacity, iconic venue.

14 The Undertones – Teenage Kicks

Sadly no.

15 Patti Smith Group – Because The Night

I haven’t seen Patti Smith in concert, but I have had a deep and meaningless conversation with her. She curated the Meltdown Festival in London, 2005. As well as putting on several shows, she did some work with students from local schools. One lunchtime at the Royal Festival Hall, our paths crossed. I said ‘Hello’. She said ‘Hello’.

16 Jackson Browne – Running On Empty

Sadly no.

Liesel and I are looking forward to more live shows later in the year, as I’ve said before. Until then, radio and online gigs will have to do!

 

Christmas Crackers

‘Twas the week before Christmas and all through the house, nothing was stirring, no, not even us. Our movements were confined to Northenden. Much excitement to be had on bin day when I only had to take out five wheelie bins instead of the usual nine. We think we’re one of only two flats occupied in our block at the moment.

I fancied a quick snack, as is often the case at Christmastime. Well, not just Christmas, of course, but this was a particularly Christmaslike desire for a snack. I thought about some ridiculously delicious delights, since I’m one of those people who doesn’t have time for the mediocre. Scrumptious somethings for me, a double-or-nothing food lover, because my fancies are tickled by serious baking. I found some crackers, savoury biscuits in the cupboard. I topped them with a range of cheeses so outrageously indulgent, I couldn’t help but giggle in blissful, unbridled merriment.

There is some sad news though. We said goodbye to our old toaster this week. Its left-hand slot hasn’t worked well for quite some time. But at least, we can dispose of it safely. The bonus is, I didn’t have to get rid of all its crumbs, an exercise guaranteed to leave us walking on crunch in the kitchen for days afterwards, no matter how careful I am and no matter how diligent I am in sweeping up the mess. In the old days, cleaning the toaster was an exercise conducted out in the garden, much to the birds’ delight.

Local strolls took us to the river and through the woods, along our High Street, Palatine Road and very slightly beyond.

Brinkmanship

As described a couple of weeks ago, the seagulls are still playing brinkmanship by the weir.

Liesel – the bollard relief service

Traffic is no longer allowed along this little road. But someone decided to take shortcut. This is why Liesel volunteered to join the bollard replacement scheme. Conversely, the bollard was lying down in the road a few yards away, where Liesel often takes a nap.

In the great ongoing war between trees and fences, this tree recently won a minor battle.

Tree 1 Fence 0

The big astronomical event of the week was the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, appearing close to each other in the night sky. Usually we can’t see anything interesting in the sky because of the thick layers of cloud, but on the day before the closest approach, we were met with clear blue skies. So, just after sunset I looked southwest and saw the two planets. It took a while to convince myself that it wasn’t just the headlights from a passing aeroplane, but hooray, I saw the two largest planets in the solar system. I tried to take a picture with my phone, it’s obviously not the best picture taken of the event.

Conjunction photo – fisrt attempt

Next time, I hope to be better prepared, and maybe my photo too will show the rings of Saturn and the moons of Jupiter, like this one I saw on Twitter.
[I would like to credit whoever took this picture, but aarrgghh, I can’t find it]

Someone else’s photo of the conjunction

On Christmas eve, I was surprised by and delighted to see a nice sunset again, with clear blue skies once the orange red tints faded. I used binoculars to see the two planets, now a bit further apart, but ours aren’t strong enough to show any features. I did manage to take a clearer picture with my phone, through the binoculars.

Phone through bins

Liesel did a fabulous job of putting up our Christmas lights again. There’s no space really for a tree in our luxury apartment, but the shelves in our living room will do.

Christmas decorations

We’ve enjoyed a lot of online enetrtainment this week, all of which we would prefer to see in real life, in the flesh. But then, we wouldn’t go out three or more nights in a row.

Phil Cunningham holds a Christmas Concert every year but this, the 15th, was online only. In fact, there were two shows in the end. During one, Eddi Reader performed In The Bleak Midwinter, my favourite Christmas tune, I think. And in the other, she sang Scarlet Ribbons, my first ever favourite song, and one that always reminds me of my Mum.

Eddi Reader, Karen Matheson, Phil Cunningham and many others

Tuesday evening is Jessica Lee Morgan evening. She and her partner Chris keep us entertained for an hour while those of us watching exchange pleasantries and bad jokes in the chat box.

Jessica lee Morgan and Christian Thomas

Christmas eve, after dark, we were entertained by O’Hooley and Tidow singing songs for us, along with their little one, Flynn, who joined in a bit.

Belinda O’Hooley and Heidi Tidow with baby Flynn

I think the consensus amongst all these performers and audience members is, we can’t wait to get back to live gigs again. Until then, we’ll be walking around the highways and byways of Northenden, commenting on high the river is, how fast it’s flowing, enjoying the sunshine on our backs once in a while.

Every time we walk through the woods, I regret not bringing my tools. This fence has been broken for as long as I can remember, and I reckon I can fix it with a few nails and a couple of cable ties. Oops, I just remembered, I’ve passed on most of my tools. Oh well, it’s the thought that counts.

The fence keeled over

The Christmassy tree is looking better and better. There’s even a parcel or two there now.

The Kenworthy Lane Woods Christmassy tree

We passed the Winter solstice this week, so in theory, the days are getting longer again. But this week was also the first time we went for a walk while it was still frosty. I was persuaded to wear trousers. Trousers: they’re like shorts, but they cover whole legs, all the way down to the shoes. They also feel very strange.

Frosty
9½ hours I’ll never get back!

My achievement of the week was completing the biggest crossword I’ve ever attempted: 1284 clues. It was an app, with a few annoying adverts but good fun and quite challenging at times.

Yes, I sent off for and received a magnificent certificate!

If you want to have a go, and I would highly recommend it, here’s the link to download it.

Christmas isn’t the same without children, is it? I can still remember the sense of electric excitement I felt leading up to Christmas day. I relived it with Jenny and Helen growing up and now we see it in William and Martha.

The night before Christmas with Martha and William

On Christmas day, we all got together, online. So much fun, but definitely not as good as actually meeting up, playing with the children’s new toys and reading their new books.

Martha, Oma, Grandad and Auntie Helen

We were watching something on TV on Christmas day afternoon when Liesel suddenly exclaimed ‘It’s snowing!’ And it was. Everso slightly. Everso lightly.

Mick! It’s snowing!

And then, within five minutes, it had stopped. Hardly a white Christmas. Maybe next year. Or, if meteorologists are to be believed, it’s more likely to snow at Easter time.

Oh, the cheese and crackers mentioned above? We now have more outrageously indulgent cheeses from the Cheese Hamlet in Didsbury to enjoy with the scrumptious quartet of biscuits.

In the end, I didn’t do a radio show this week. But all the others are still available if you would like to catch up. And look out for a major re-launch of radio Northenden soon!

We’ll be back next week. Next year! Cheers!