Goosebumps and chicken skin

Salford Lads’ Club is a place that has escaped our attention until recently. I joined Liesel, some other WI members and a large group of others on a tour of the place. We met the guide outside the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester and we walked briskly to our destination.

Salford Lads’ Club

Its story is over 100 years old and many local lads have made themselves at home here. In particular, they are very proud of Allan Clarke and Graham Nash from the Hollies and Morrissey from The Smiths. Boxing and gymnastics have been popular over the years too.

Boxing ring

Liesel declined my invitation to go for three rounds in the ring, even though this was the first time either of us had been in the presence of such an opportunity.

Moz Mosaic by Mark Kennedy

This world-famous mosaic is arguably the highlight of The Smiths Room: it was previously located at Affleck’s Palace in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, another venue that has escaped my attention until now. But this is what’s exciting about getting to know a new city and a new neighbourhood.

Mick in a hat

Here’s a picture of Mick following Conservative government policy: rules are for other people.

We walked back into Manchester and then on the way home, we stopped off at Sainsbury’s. I had a quick look at the laptops in John Lewis but again couldn’t see what I was looking for, whatever that is. None of them come with CD players any more. Maybe I’m clinging to the past. But I’m not asking for a floppy disk drive or a punch card reader, just a CD or DVD reader.

The highlight of the week was William’s birthday party. This was the first time we’d met up with the wider family in nearly two years. We had a good time and more importantly, so did the birthday boy.

Alright William?
Bike, balloon and Batman birthday boy

It was good to see the other grandparents but I probably didn’t need to see the scars on Uncle Paul’s recently broken but now healing arm. Nothing personal, but that sort of thing is the reason I am not a doctor.

Superwings cake

We sang Happy Birthday and cheered as William blew the candles out in one go. Then we sat waiting expectantly for a slice of the cake. Martha came over giggling and presented me with the smallest sliver you can imagine. The other grandfather, Papa didn’t fare any better. What a swizz! We did receive a proper, decent slice in the end, but you can go off people, you know.

Another highlight of the week was meeting up with Jenny for a coffee one day. It’s been so long since we’ve spent time together, on our own, without children around. Let’s not wait another two years, Jenny!

Knowing the weather was about to get much colder, Liesel and I went out for a long walk along the river, towards Chorlton on a bright and sunny but noticeably cooler day.

Trees by the river

We saw a robin then we saw a man with a big zoom lens taking pictures of a different robin. He told us there were goosanders around the bend, and indeed we did see a couple of what I thought were mergansers.

Goosander or merganser?

Well it’s confusing because the Latin name for Goosander is Mergus merganser and my ornithological knowledge is as rubbish as my botanical expertise. Last week for example, I referred to our flowering plant as a Christmas cactus. Thanks to Ann, we now know it’s actually a Michaelmas or Thanksgiving cactus. In which case, its timing is spot on. How is it doing now, you ask?

Blooming marvellous

It’s very pretty, but while it looks sunny here, the temperature outside is hovering around 0° and it feels much colder thanks to Storm Arwen. Speaking of which, we must have had a mini whirlwind in the communal car park overnight, because the fallen leaves had all been blown into a nice tidy heap behind a neighbour’s car.

Arwen tidies up the leaves

So much for leave blowers. In fact, I’ve just decided my new years’ resolution. Next time I hear a leaf blower, I’m going to go out and reverse its polarity so it sucks instead. Much more useful.

Anyway, it’s Thanksgiving and once again, Liesel pulled out all the stops and gave us all a pretty substantial and very tasty Thanksgiving meal. This was after we’d picked Martha and William up from school and, as a treat, let them pick litter on the walk home.

Little pickles / Litter pickers

Yes, it’s a City of Manchester binbag and we’re picking litter in Cheadle Hulme, which is in Stockport, but I don’t think the authorities will mind too much.

Martha was very impressed with Oma’s peppermint pie, possibly because of its Peppa Pig pink colour. But it was very nice, and minty, and very different to the pumpkin pie that we’re still enjoying a couple of days later.

Sunset collection

We’ve had some pretty sunsets and we even spotted Jupiter one night. Saturn would have been visible if it wasn’t for the trees in between. Spot the odd pic out. Three are here in Northenden and the other is from Australia’s Blue Mountains: thanks, Helen, wish we were there with you!

Another highlight of the week was enjoying my first massage in nearly two years. The bones creaked, the muscles popped, the ligaments groaned, the second toe complained, but even my goosebumps had goosebumps at times. I’d forgotten just good it feels to be well and truly straightened out and stretched and poked and pummelled.

On a philosophical note: if there are numerous highlights in a short period of time, are any of them, in fact, highlights? Or do I just accept that I’ve had a very good week, thanks, even if the cold weather is now giving me chicken skin. And why is ‘goosebumps’ one word while ‘chicken skin’ is two words?

Let’s Dance! This was the title of my Radio Northenden show this week. Catch up here. It’s extra long this week because there were just too many good tunes to leave any out. A bargain for so-called Black Friday. Wythenshawe Radio WFM 97.2 will get the usual two hours. Proof that Radio Northenden is much better value.

The Last of the Summer?

For the second year in a row, our Christmas cactus has leapt into bloom a few weeks early, brightening the kitchen with a wonderful display of almost fluorescent pink flowers.

The pinkest pink

Sadly we had to leave it behind when we went away for a few days. Yes, way down south to  Exeter to see our friend Sarah. It’s a long way but bizarrely, it’s a much easier drive to Exeter from Northenden than it is from Chessington. Motorways most of the way, M6 and M5 take us to within a stone’s throw of Sarah’s place.

Wellington

Naturally, on passing this sign, for a brief moment, I wished we were driving towards Wellington, New Zealand, especially now they’re heading into Summer. But we’ll be back one day, and meanwhile, we can enjoy everything that Exeter has to offer.

On arrival, we threw a stone at Sarah’s place and she showed us to the car park where we parked up and didn’t even think about the car until it was time to depart.

Sarah hasn’t changed a bit since we last saw her nearly two years ago and I think she was very happy to accept the blanket hand-crafted by Liesel.

Sarah and Liesel, blanket buddies

We went for a nice walk through the town, down to the river and the canal, and it was very pleasant even if the Sun had long since disappeared below the horizon.

St Leonard’s

This church spire is prominent, you can see it from most of the town so it acts as a good landmark.

While Sarah visited someone the following day, Liesel and I joined a guided tour of Exeter and we retraced some of our steps from the night before. The guide, Mike, was interesting and gave us a quick history of the town: Romans, wool, textiles, imports, exports plus some stuff he made up, probably. There are lots of old warehouses, all now being used for other purposes, most notably, coffee shops.

Abseiling tower

The abseiling tower is under-utilised, which is a shame. But no, we didn’t volunteer to have a go, either.

Exe and weir

The river Exe is no longer tidal in Exeter but the old chain ferry is still in operation across the river, just not this time of year. So that’s 50p each we’ve saved.

Liverpool

No, not really,  but this part of town stood in for Liverpool in the old TV series The Onedin Line. Filming was done carefully. Ships had the sails fully hoisted in some shots purely to conceal the gasometers over the river. These have now been dismantled.

And what a gorgeous day. The weather app said it was 13° today, but it felt much warmer than that to me. Even so, people were walking around wearing three or four layers of clothing. Me? Just a shirt and shorts. I got some admiring glances from the locals*. I got some funny looks from the locals*. *Delete as you see fit. All I can say is, I have a great metabolism which doesn’t complain about the temperature unless it is extreme. 

We walked around the town for a while and met up with Sarah later. The Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the museum was most enjoyable, with some terrific pictures and a few that were a bit distressing.

Keep Looking

I think if I had to pick a favourite, it would be this one of a lion through the grass. It was taken by Greg du Toit, from South Africa, in a reserve in Botswana. He wished to convey the feeling of standing on the edge of a wilderness, looking in through a dividing curtain. One day, Liesel and I hope to visit Botswana and see this for ourselves.

In the evening, we walked down into town again because we had tickets for a very special show. Count Arthur Strong and the team recorded not one but two Christmas Specials, which will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 sometime. Probably around Christmas, come to think of it. One show this year and one next year.

Count Arthur String In the hat) and cast

On our final day down south (for now), Liesel and Sarah enjoyed a shopping expedition while I wandered aimlessly around town. I did look at the laptops on offer at John Lewis, but there wasn’t much choice here. I know there’s a worldwide shortage of microchips, but even so, what a disappointment. I walked around the town, back to the river, and beyond.

None Here

Steve McCraken has decorated the town liberally with these attractive birds. No idea why he uses the name ‘None Here’. And what a shame someone feels the need to spoil it with their own tag.

Grim Reaper?

An unusual feature to have on a shop front, and it’s not even an undertakers’ premises.

1988/89 was designated The Year of the Pedestrian. To mark the occasion, Devon County Council commissioned this statue.

Family of pedestrians by Carole Vincent

It’s good to see that local folks are still able to enhance this work of art. I think we all need googly eyes and coconut shell hats, that would cheer us all up. I think this ‘vandalism’ is more acceptable than boring old tagging because at least it’s creative and quite funny.

The drive home was long and uneventful. Lots of cones on the motorways, but I suppose they have to be stored somewhere.

And at home, we had a medical week. I went to the dentist, as did Liesel, but she also visited the physiotherapist and the beautician.

The Wednesday Walk in Northenden was good, we went along the river to Simon’s Bridge and back. Just a couple of muddy patches on the path.

In the evening, we attended a concert. This time, we saw Seth Lakeman at Stoller Hall in Manchester. He’s celebrating the 15th anniversary of the release of his album Freedom Fields. He and the band performed the whole album in the second half of the show, but before that, they also sang some songs from his new album. No, I didn’t buy the new CD. I would have, but when I went on my interval wander, I left my coat behind on the seat and my phone was in the pocket. And I rarely carry cash these days, of course, pretty much everything is contactless payment.

Seth Lakeman and band

Thursday is our childminding day. William came out of school as usual full of energy: he probably ran a mile by the time Martha came out and another by the time we got home.  This week, Martha told us about Grace Darling, a hero that Mr Price told me about at primary school a few years decades ago.

After some craftwork and playing, we ate dinner with Jenny and Liam. We asked William a question, and he didn’t answer immediately. Instead he started tapping his head with his forefinger declaring, “I’m thinking”. He carried on thinking until he reached that ‘aha’ moment at which point he did the head exploding sign.

A phantasm approached me, shimmering in the moonlight, almost glowing, in an unknown colour somewhere between white and gold. She spoke to me in hushed tones and I wondered where she came from.
“Are you a tooth fairy?” I wondered.
“Oh no, I’ve been promoted” said the ethereal being. “I have come before you on this momentous day, dear Mick, marvellous Mick, to grant you three wishes.”
“Three wishes?” I repeated. “And presumably I can’t use one of those wishes to ask for three more?”
“That is correct. Now think carefully.” So I gave it a great deal of thought. This might be my only opportunity to end world hunger. To stop all the wars. To finally end the climate crisis. But no: surely these things have been wished for a million times efore?
“Please, oh wonderful and exalted being,” I effused, “please arrange for the foliage fallen from our favourite oak tree, just outside, to be picked up and taken away before it blows around and blocks up our the drains.” A million leaves were in our communal car park, and it would be good to see them put to good use in someone’s garden.

And lo, in the morning, I beheld a wondrous sight. A flatbed truck in our car park and two men picking up the leaves. One was raking them into piles and the other was picking them up with the aid of a pair of outsize plastic grabbing gloves. They had several large bags of leaves and I thought they were doing a brilliant job. I silently thanked my nebulous visitor and again wondered why I’d been chosen to have these wishes granted.

Picking up leaves

I sat there enjoying a brew, listening to the radio and congratulating myself on a brilliant choice of first wish. I should have known better. The universe shattered like an old plate and I heard the dreaded noise that should not be named. The ubiquitous sound of a leaf blower. There, I said it. Yes, one of my heroes was down there blowing the last few thousand leaves off the hard surface and into the bushes. So disappointing. That tip I gave them? I felt like going down and asking for it back. If I’d given them one.

Leaf blower

And yes, of course, by the following morning, the leaves had found their way back onto the wider parking area. I realised that this wish-granting business is a bit of a con. I probably won’t bother with the other two.

Liesel went to CostCo and while I appreciate the invitation to join her, I decided instead to join the usual Friday Wythenshawe Walk. I just missed a bus, so rather than get off halfway and walk the rest of the way like I usually do, I thought I’d stay on the bus all the way. Big mistake. It goes all round the houses and waits in the bus station for several minutes. It really would have been quicker to get off and walk.

On arrival at the Lifestyle Centre, the start of the walk, I was surprised to see nobody else waiting, even though I was, in the end, only a couple of minutes late. I remember Chantel saying that the Wythenshawe Walk was cancelled next week, but I got to thinking, maybe I’d misremembered, and it was this week’s walk that was not taking place. It was such a nice day, I decided to walk around the circuit anyway and then have a cup of coffee. So off  I set for Painswick Park, around the lake, chatting with the geese and the moorhens.

Moorhen

Then I saw some familiar faces ahead. Yes, it was the gang of Wythenshawe walkers. I caught up and walked the rest of the way with them. Being British, of course I commented on how lovely the weather was, and how I wouldn’t complain if our whole Winter was like this. Then I received the devastating news that snow is forecast for next week. I now wish I hadn’t given away my last two wishes. It’s funny old waether: Autumnal, yet we’d be happy to have days this warm in the middle of Summer. Maybe colder days are a-coming.

I walked home, taking advantage of the nice weather and couldn’t help but notice this poster:

Turn and face the change

It’s very nearly a David Bowie lyric, after all.

The radio show this week is based on the theme of Dinosaurs, in honour of William’s upcoming birthday. No, he’s not a dinosaur, but he is a big fan of the old beasties. Listen back here or listen to the repeats on Wythenshaw FM 97.2 at 7pm Wednesday and again 2pm next Friday.

All day yesterday, every time I stood up from the sofa, Liesel’s started laughing. I could have taken it personally, but it wasn’t my fault. Apart from all the usual CostCo purchases, Liesel had bought me a new pair of shoes. I was trying them on for comfort, walking round the house. Comfortable, yes, but they squeak. The left one is especially loud, but the right one didn’t like being left out and soon joined in the chorus. So I squeak my way to the kitchen and to the radio studio. Squeak squeak squeak squeak. It reminds of of dear old Mrs Winters, the cleaner in our hall of residence, all those years decades ago. Her squeaky shoes were a good early warning to make ourselves decent before she came into the room. By my reckoning, she is now about 140 years old.

Double double W

Liesel met up with her WI mates in Didsbury for a coffee. I accompanied her to the venue, walking along the river for part of the route. We weren’t particularly aware of any strong winds recently, but one tree had blown down and was lying across the path.

Is this why Americans call Autumn ‘Fall’?

But despite the recent rain, the path wasn’t too muddy. Which is nice when you’re wearing your Sunday best shoes to meet the ladies of the WI. After depositing Liesel at the selected venue, I carried on to Withington, where I planned to have a coffee. Unfortunately, my chosen café wasn’t open on this occasion, so I waited until I’d walked all the way back to Northenden for my fix. Here are some of the unusual things I saw in Withington and beyond.

Big bird mural, Withington
Higher class of graffiti
Marcus Rashford without the messages of support

So that’s Withington. Next up, Worsley. We went there to follow a suggested walk from our book. And what a delightful place that is. We walked towards and along Bridgewater Canal and yes, we have visited other stretches of this canal in the past.

Bridgewater Canal

We followed directions to Worsley Delph, not knowing what such a thing was. It’s the entrance to the Duke of Bridgewater’s underground mines, and marked by a strange object which probably had some use in the past.

Worsley Delph

After a mile or so of the canal, we crossed the bridge and walked back, through Worsley Woods, to complete the circuit.

Worsley Woods*

*Blimey, this picture looked OK on my phone. Screw your eyes up and pretend it’s an impressionist painting, OK?

It will be interesting to see this place at a different time of year. We heard a few birds but saw even fewer: maybe there were just too many people around. The fresh air was welcome of course, but the fumes from the passing Environment Agency van were a bit strong.

One squirrel

Autumn colours, brown and yellow were definitely prominent today, so this splash of red from an acer was a surprise. Hard to miss, really.

Acer

After completing the 5-mile loop, we returned to The Horsebox which we’d seen on the way out. It really is a converted horsebox, selling coffee, tea and in our case today, the best hot chocolate we’ve had for ages.

As if that wasn’t enough adventure for one day, on the way home, we acquired a flat tyre. On the M60. We pulled off at the first opportunity and called our breakdown service. But within five minutes, a man on a motorbike stopped and offered to help. After 10 minutes, he’d swapped the driver’s wheel for the half-size spare. 10 minutes. Things like that make me feel useless. Last time I changed a wheel, it took me well over half an hour. Unfortunately, neither of us had cash, so we were unable to buy a pint for this Good Samaritan.

To warn other approaching drivers of our hazardously parked vehicle, I moved some cones out into the road: thank goodness they’d been left behind by someone.

We often see a squirrel on or close to the oak tree outside our flat, but there was a whole herd of them when I returned from a walk with the Northenden group of walkers.

Three squirrels

I usually stay for a coffee with this group after the walk, but on this occasion, I didn’t: Liesel and I had plans to visit Windermere, about 1½ hours north. Only 85 miles north but much, much closer to the north pole if the temperature difference is anything to go by. I was excited to see the first Christmas tree of the year, outside the local branch of Lakeland. Actually, it’s also the headquarters of the company. Liesel bought a couple of small items while I inspected the facilities.

Christmas tree

We set off for a walk down to the lakeside and on towards Bowness. We stayed on a path by the lake, in the woods, for as long as possible, but we had to walk through a sheep field with all the usual hazards therein. The terrain was varied and much more hilly than Northenden, of course. Good exercise, and a beautiful part of the world.

Public jetty on Windermere

It’s always good to see young people smoking pot at the end of a jetty. A small child asked her Daddy if there were fish in the lake. Yes. Fish you can eat? Yes, some of them.

We didn’t go into the Windermere Jetty Museum because by the time we got there, we had to return, otherwise we’d be out after sunset and if that happens, we turn into pumpkins, or something. We always keep a lookout for wildlife of course, and Liesel spotted this pole cat.

Pole cat

As we passed by the Bowness Bowling Club, I briefly thought we should take up that sport again. Again? We gave it a go in Chessington and the guy said I was ‘a natural’. A natural what, he didn’t elaborate.

And so, we found ourselves back in Windermere and guess who we bumped into? Helen and Steve from Chessington, that’s right, how did you know? We’d arranged to meet them here for a meal at The Smith. A nice place with a menu limited to only 8 kinds of pizza. So we had pizza. There were rock’roll artefacts on the wall and I think when it grows up, this place will be a Hard Rock Café.

Walls inside The Smith

It was nice to catch up with these southerners: they’d mainly come up to the Arctic Circle to visit Helen’s Godmother. Our drive home in the dark was uneventful, and we were aware of passing the spot where we’d got the puncture earlier in the week.

Well, I say uneventful, but we stopped for a break on the motorway and I bought some Minstrels for Liesel and some Liquorice Torpedoes for myself. I used to like those when I was young. Sticky lump of liquorice coated in a thin sugar-based candy shell. You could suck the colour off or crunch them and enjoy the burst of liquoricy, aniseedy flavour. I’ve not eaten them for decades believing them not to be vegetarian. Well, this packet assured me they were suitable for freaks such as me. The torpedoes were bigger than I remembered, but the same shape. And hard. They were coated in coloured concrete rather than the thin candy shell like you get with Smarties or even M&Ms. These old choppers of mine struggled to crush the outer layer, but when enough had dissolved and I could crush the item, I did enjoy the liquorice taste. Liesel agreed they’re not your teeth’s best friend. I forced myself to finish this packet over the next few days, but I won’t be buying Liquorice Torpedoes again. Along with Mars Bars and Irn Bru, that’s three childhood delicacies that I can no loner enjoy. What a shame.

Vincent van Gogh is one of our favourite artists so we had to visit an exhibition. Van Gogh Alive is set up in a marquee on the Piazza outside the BBC in Media City, Salford Quays. It’s an immersive experience. You walk through projected images of his paintings, some animated, and it’s all accompanied by very suitable music.

Popular artist, popular show
Bedroom, based on a painting
Selfie of the day

After the main event, you’re guided into a room full of sunflowers and, you’d think, that would be a great photo opportunity. But because the walls are reflective, making the room seem much bigger than it really is, you can’t get a decent picture without including people, even if those people are your own reflection.

But it is a great show, you’ll learn a lot about poor old Vincent. Five stars from Liesel and me, highly recommended.

On the way back to the car park, we stopped for a coffee. Liesel chose gingerbread latté, one of the Christmas flavours. Some strange new force in the universe messed with the wiring in my brain and I decided to have one too, only a large one. What a disappointment. Not very gingerbready, not very coffee-like, just very sweet, hot milk really, with a nondescript flavour. I won’t be having that again, thank you very much.

On TV this week, at last, we’ve caught up with the incredibly tense drama serial, Vigil. That is probably the most claustrophobic I’ve ever felt, even though I wasn’t on board the submarine myself. Good drama, but it made my palms sweat.

To complete the week’s W walks, I joined the Wythenshawe group, in Painswick Park and around, back to The Forum for a coffee.

This week, the radio show features songs requested by people from Northenden, from the rest of the UK and from all around the world: yes, I have a small but international audience. You can listen back here.

It’s been a labour of love, but the good news is, Liesel has completed another blanket via the medium of crocheting. It’s quite nice this time of year, working with a heavy, woollen blanket on your lap, but in the height of Summer, not such a pleasant experience! What a great job, Liesel. Another five star review.

The latest very colourful blanket

People of a nervous disposition should leave now.

At last, after having had it wobbled in front of our very faces for the last several weeks, Martha’s first tooth has fallen out.

Martha: she doesn’t mind the gap

She enjoyed a visit from the tooth fairy: it almost makes up for us grandparents not child-minding this week, as  we had a previous engagement with Vincent, but everything’s back to normal next week. Also, next week, we hope to visit places which begin with letters other than W.

Muddy boots

Quarry Bank Mill beckoned and we had a good walk, enjoying the sunshine and the Autumnal colours. It wasn’t too crowded, but one of the paths was just a bit too muddy, so we had to do a U-turn. We made a mental note to take our wellies out of storage ready for the next time. I take a quick photo now and then, but it was good to see a small group of people taking the time to paint a picture.

Artists

Liesel is a big fan of these red shoots. I think I remember it being known as dogwood from when I tried to solve the riddles presented in the book Masquerade, all those years ago, clues to the location of a golden hare buried somewhere in the UK. Needless to say, I didn’t find the valued item.

Dogwood

There were a few clusters of mushrooms, which looked jolly tasty. Uh? But we left them for other folks to enjoy. Just in case.

Mushrooms
Selfie of the day

We stopped off at the Leisure Centre in Wythenshawe where I had my Covid booster jab. No issues this time, except a slightly tender arm. Oh, and I felt unusually cold for a couple of days, but that may have been because it had become significantly colder and it rained a lot during the course of 48 hours.

In the evening, we walked all the way up the road again to the Northenden Players’ theatre to watch some jazz. Alec Wares played tenor sax, accompanied by a keyboard player whose name I missed, despite it being announced twice. This was our third show from Northenden Arts Festival.

Alec Wares Jazz Duo

On the walk home, we saw this bloke looking a lot worse for wear, he needs to eat something fast, put some meat on those bones.

One of the neighbours

He’d disappeared the following day, I just hope he was taken indoors and wasn’t kidnapped by some local Nothendenizen ne’er-do-wells.

It is of course the season of Hallowe’en and Bonfire night, and I think the two have become conflated in the minds of some locals. I know I’m in danger of becoming a grumpy old Mick but I’m sure fireworks are getting louder every year.

Liesel says: Whaddya mean, ‘in danger of’?

The final Sunday of each month sees the arrival of Didsbury Craft Market. We risked walking there along the river despite the overnight downpours.

Muddy path

We did see our heron though, on our side of the river. He didn’t fly off when I got my phone out. He was stock still. I suggested it was just a cardboard cutout but no, he did move a couple of times.

Heron

That picture was taken looking towards the Sun but I knew that trying to get  a different angle would be futile.

Jenny and Liam came over to the market too, with Martha and William. We just hoped the rain would stay away, come again another day.

Martha the witch

Martha attracted some favourable comments from strangers, coming as she did dressed as a witch, complete with broomstick, wand and wellies. William was dressed as a skeleton but he’d just woken up, felt cold and had to put his coat on, hiding his very bones.

William the skeleton

We bought brownies to complement the other snacks that would last me and Liesel most of the week. The first few spots of rain were the cue for us to set off home.

In the evening, we walked all the way up the road again, this time in really heavy rain, to the Northenden Players’ theatre to watch a play and a Rat Pack Revival.

The play was Dennis Potter’s Blue Remembered Hills in which all 7 characters are children, but played by adults. It was performed very well and there was a very unexpected dark ending.

Northenden Players

We could have walked home and back again for the second show, but neither of us fancied it doing that in that rain. So we stayed glued to our seats, watching Bring on the Swing set up. They’re a large band, twelve members, and it’s quite a small stage. But what a show. Plenty of the old classics associated with Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack. By coincidence, they sang Have You Met Miss Jones? which Alec Wares had played the previous night.

Bring on the Swing

At least after walking home in the rain, we could climb straight into bed. But what a great weekend, five shows over four days. Let’s hope the Northenden Arts Festival becomes a regular attraction.

We haven’t been to Lyme Park for a while, so we returned for a long walk. And yes, we wore our wellington boots. It was very muddy in places, but not as bad as expected after over 24 hours continuous rain. (So much rain, that the river Mersey in Northenden rose by over 1.3 metres, covering the island and flooding part of the road that leads to Didsbury Golf Club.)

Selfie of the day

We usually stop to watch the lack of birds at the feeders but today we were quite lucky.

Coal tits

We walked up towards the folly, The Cage, and this tree caught my eye.

Lone Tree Hill

All that rain earlier in the week had thoroughly washed the air and we had a really clear view of Manchester in the distance. And it must be that time of year when fungi feel emboldened. While we saw mushrooms the other day, it was definitely toadstools we were looking at today. I don’t really know what the difference is except maybe mushrooms look edible while toadstools look poisonous. I might be doing both a disservice.

Toadstools

We might not have spotted these fungi if we hadn’t been walking on the grass. Yes, we walked on the grass rather than the stoney path at this point because the soles of our boots are very thin, compared with our trainers, and we could feel every little stone and pebble and grain of sand. On the other foot, when we come across a stream that’s taking a shortcut across our path rather than following its proper channel, we can just plod on through.

Stream on the path

It was really cold when we collected William and Martha from school. But that didn’t stop William from taking off his coat. We walked back a different way today to avoid the debris left behind following a very recent car crash. So recent, the car was still steaming and there was glass everywhere. The children brought some of their Hallowe’en treats with them and I guess we should be happy that William wasn’t keen on most of the sweets he’d received.

We played with dinosaurs and with the pin-art device that is so much fun, much moreso than you’d expect.

We looked after William for a couple of hours the next day too. The rain made us change our plans. Instead of taking him to the playground just round the corner from his house, we took him home where we played with dinosaurs and the pin-art device that is so attractive. We ate lunch while watching Moana, and he sat still for 90% of the film, which I’d forgotten was quite scary in parts.

It’s my sister Pauline’s birthday this weekend so that gave me the idea of a radio show based on the theme of Growing Old. You can listen back here. Happy birthday, dear sister.

Cookie monsters

We ventured as far as Dunham Massey for a lovely walk in the sunshine. So did a lot of other people. The queue of cars waiting at the entrance split into two, National Trust members keeping to the right. And yes, we VIPs felt very special as we overtook several ordinary people waiting to buy their tickets.

Autumn colours

Some of the stags were bellowing, it must be that time of year again. Bellowing? To be honest, some of them sounded more like pigs squealing in pain. But maybe that’s an attractive noise to some of the less discerning females.

Jackdaw
Straw flower

Liesel knows this as a straw flower, and it does indeed feel like it’s made from paper. We know it as salmon rose or Helichrysum brachteatum of course.

Selfie of the day

We had a few goes at this picture, trying to get the gorgeous burgundy red foliage in the background, but it still looks like my head is twice as big as Liesel’s.

In the evening we went out to a live concert. We hadn’t planned to, it was a spontaneous decision, something we should do more often maybe. Part of Manchester Folk Festival, we enjoyed the music of O’Hooley and Tidow supported by John Kelly and Lunatraktors. (*) We were back at Home, a venue which we quite like. O’Hooley and Tidow sing wonderful songs but the banter in between is just as much fun.

O’Hooley and Tidow, Lunatraktors, John Kelly

Still being cautious, we kept our masks on during the show and I think we will be doing so for a long time to come.

Our default walk along the river was exciting. We saw not one, but two herons, in different places. Well, it might have been the same one playing tricks on us, I suppose, but it’s nice to see they’ve (or it’s) come back.

We’ve been inundated with ladybirds during the last couple of weeks. They try to come into our living room and, sometimes, they succeed.

Ladybird

This little chap enjoyed walking around the snow-capped mountainscape that is my sock before being released and allowed to fly away home.

It was half-term this week and we were pleased to be able to look after Martha and William for a few hours. They helped decorate the halloween cookies carefully baked by Oma and they did quite a good job, despite ODing on the decorating icing and food colouring. Some of the results might not be biologically accurate.

Martha, William, Halloween cookies

Six-eyed bat, anyone?

I took William to the playground where we played and waited for Oma to bring Martha. They’re taking a long time, I thought, maybe they’ve got lost. I even wondered whether they’d gone to a different playground. But when they arrived, it turns out they’d been picking litter, as suggested by Martha. And luckily, we have the equipment.

William climbing
Sliding together
Swinging together

William had problems with the litter-picker-uppers, the grips was a little too hard to squeeze. So he handed the stick back and and lifted his hands to his face, in the manner of binoculars. “What are you doing, William?” “I’m litter-spotting.” Well, it’s a very important job.

We picked litter as we walked home and two strangers expressed their gratitude to Martha and William for doing a good job. Strangers? Well, one was our local councillor, Mary, and she was with the manager of the local retirement housing facility, Boat Lane Court.

It won’t become a habit, but for lunch, we got chips from the local chippy. Jenny came to take the children to another play venue, and I was sure the amount of sugar consumed earlier in the day would keep their energy levels up.

Northenden Arts Festival  is here. On the first afternoon, we saw Ali Davenport (*) read some of her own poems, mostly written during the lockdown. Members of the audience were invited to read their own poems and short stories too, and it was a very entertaining hour.

The second event we went to later in the evening was Plane Comedy. MC Colin Manford did a good job and he introduced two other comedians for our enjoyment, Dan Tiernan (*) and Mick Ferry. The show was sold out and the theatre felt crammed, but we kept our masks on and ourselves to ourselves. But we had a jolly good laugh at the comedy.

Dan Tiernan, Mick Ferry, Colin Manford

Yes, I managed half decent pictures of the men in the evening, but nobody needs to see my photo of the back of Ali’s head, no matter how artistic it is.

The Festival carries on all weekend and we have tickets for three more shows. So, five shows over four days.

Because we were looking after the children, we missed the weekly walk in Northenden on Wednesday. Sadly, Liesel missed the one in Wythenshawe, also led by Chantel (*),  on Friday because she was at home, working. I joined it after taking the bus most of the way. I’d like to walk there and back, of course, but that means dragging myself out of bed a bit earlier.

The weather was ideal for observing rainbows, and here’s one as seen from our luxury apartment

Rainbow

What’s at the end of this rainbow? A stunning block of flats.

The radio show this week was all about Insults and Name-Calling. You can catch up here, maybe have it on in the background to ignore while you’re doing something useful.

(*) What’s that parenthesised asterisk malarkey all about then? This week, I introduced an occasional new feature into the show: Who did we see in concert this week? I play a track by each artist. Also, on previous shows, I have spoken to Ali, Dan and Chantel, so it’s good to see them in the flesh. I spoke with Ali briefly, but we were herded out of the theatre before I had a chance to speak to Dan, a former fellow Radio Northenden presenter.

I try to keep up to date with this blog but sometimes I forget to mention odd things. This is as good an opportunity as any to bring some very late news.

For a few weeks now, we’ve been using a new gadget in the kitchen. It’s an Instant Pot, an electric pressure cooker that has taken the USA by storm, according to the blurb. We use the inefficient electric oven far less often, and the meals are, so far, always delicious. It can perform several functions when in the more-than-capable hands of a fantastic cook such as Liesel.

When we were in Borough Market a few weeks ago, I think I forgot to mention that Liesel bought some Bienstich, one of her favourite German delicacies. Custard cake. She approached the stall with a plastic tub in hand, and the guy knew straightaway what she wanted. If you’re ever looking for gift ideas for Liesel, don’t forget Bienstich.

We had tortillas for dinner a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, the first batch were over-heated and discarded. When I picked up this lump of tortillas later, it felt really solid, like a paperback dropped in the bath. If you ever need a paperweight, let me know, and I’ll send the recipe.

Another Radio Northenden presenter, Hayley, and I met up for a coffee a couple of weeks ago. That’s the first time we’d met in person. Wasn’t this exciting enough to blog about at the time? Well yes, of course it was. I made notes and everything. But what’s the point of making notes if you don’t read them again afterwards?! Anyway, Hayley is lovely and we had a good chat and we know exactly how to fix all the world’s problems.

And finally, last week, our proud granddaughter was Gymnast of the Week.

Gymnast of the Week

She’s supposed to hand the trophy back after two weeks for the next recipient. I don’t know if she gets to keep it if she wins three times.

Forever Autumn

Autumn is making its presence felt more and more. The colours brighten the place up, almost compensating for the lack of sunshine.

Red on green

When my Dad passed away in 2007, one of the things he left behind was a partially consumed bottle of Johnnie Walker Red Label whisky. This week, after a mere 14 years, I finished it off.

Johnnie Walker

Before inheriting this item, it had been in his possession for at least 16 years: we’re pretty sure it was in the drinks cabinet before Mum died in 1991. So, a truly vintage drink. Cheers, Mum and Dad.

Another major achivement this week was completing a very difficult, 9-star killer sudoku puzzle. Over several days, it took me 2 hours to complete. 20 minutes is a more typical amount of time.

Killer Sudoku

I was so delighted that I think I skipped around the room a bit. What’s that? I spelt ‘achivement’ wrong? I don’t think so…

Together Everyone

See?

Something was messing with the structure of the universe one day as we walked by the river. There’s a glitch in the spacetime continuum.

Liesel on the bentch

It’s probably a publicity stunt for the new series of Doctor Who which we’re* looking forward to seeing when it returns to our screens at the end of the month. (*We? Well, I am, not sure about Liesel.)

Red on black

Most of the fallen leaves are yellow or brown, so a bright red one really shows up on the pavement.

Some of them haven’t fallen yet, of course, making for a nice cheerful wall.

Traffic lights

We enjoyed a walk through the woods in the drizzle and our reward was the sight of a rainbow beyond the baker’s van. Not the brightest rainbow we’ve ever seen, but much easier on the eye than the garish van.

Loaf’s good but rainbow’s better

On the other hand, this was a disappointing thing to see.

Pizza of the weel

You don’t order a pizza online and expect it to be delivered in a heap like this, do you?  It looks like someone’s taken a big bite out of it. But no: I carefully put it back together to make sure nothing was missing from this unsightly but ultimately delicious mess.

Red on blue

From our place, sunsets look OK but because of the buildings, they’ll never match a tropical sunset. The red sky this night was short-lived but very welcome at the end of the day, just the same.

We picked William and Martha up from school, both of us amazed at how much energy William has at the end of the day. While waiting for Martha to come out, he just can’t stop running around and playing tag with his friend and hiding in the bushes.

Where’s William?

The children kept us entertained for a couple of hours, crafting with Oma, doing a jigsaw puzzle, helping the dinosaurs fight each other, singing, rolling a ball to each other along our long hallway which we should turn into a more formal bowling alley. Martha told us about Rosa Parks, which is astonishing. She’s 5 years old and has already learned more Black History at school than I ever did.

Again, Liesel and joined a very gentle, well-being walk through Painswick Park and as well as the usual suspects in the lake, we saw a heron.

Heron

Well that’s strange, because we haven’t seen the heron on our stretch of river for a couple of weeks now. I would love to know where they go for a few weeks each year. If that’s our heron that’s migrated just as far as a park in Wythenshawe, I will be more than disappointed.

It’s halloween soon and this house is ahead of the game. Spooky.

Spooky

The radio show this week featured songs about Telephones. I spent way too much time editing together all the David Bowie references to phones that I could think of, in an exclusive megamix. You can hear it and the rest of the show here.

Or, if you prefer, catch the repeat on Wythenshawe Radio, WFM 97.2 on Wednesday at 7pm. On 97.2 FM if you’re in or near Wythenshawe.

Or, if you prefer, catch the repeat of the repeat on Wythenshawe Radio, WFM 97.2 on the following Friday at 2pm. On 97.2 FM if you’re in or near Wythenshawe.

Yes, the mad fools are repeating my show on a Friday afternoon, just before the new one goes out on Radio Northenden. And as we walked through The Forum Centre, where Wythenshawe FM has its studio, I thought I’d check out the listings for Friday 2pm.

WFM Schedule

As my sister Pauline pointed out: they’ve spelt my name wrong.

Three nights out

If you’d said to me that I would see somebody fishing in the river, from a wheelchair, I would have said, good for them. I never expected to see such a spectacle, especially at this particular location.

Wheelchair fishing

If he rolls forward just a couple of inches, he will be on a steep slope heading for the Mersey. Who knew that angling could be such a dangerous occupation?

It’s funny the way things work out. We don’t go out much but here we are, going out three nights in a row, to vastly different shows.

First, to see The Blow Monkeys in Manchester, supported by Jessica Lee Morgan, who, yes, we only saw a couple of weeks ago.

The venue was called ‘Club Academy’. It’s very hard to find. There is ‘Manchester Academy’, which was deserted. There is ‘The Academy’, ‘Academy 1’, ‘Academy 2’ and ‘Academy 3’. As we were looking for our venue, we were approached by a couple of other equally confused concert-goers. But we got there in the end and enjoyed a great night’s music. We wore masks but most people didn’t. We’re not too enamoured of standing gigs any more, but we found a counter to lean on. Then, later on, when most people huddled in front of the stage, we went to the back of the auditorium and sat down, trying not to slide off a sofa that was built for people with much longer legs than ours. We felt positively Lilliputian.

Jessica Lee Morgan and Christian Thomas

From our original vantage point, Chris was mostly behind a pillar, but we knew he was there, top bass playing.

The Blow Monkeys

We’re not as familiar with The Blow Monkeys and their music, but we recognised some of their songs. I only wish the saxophone had been a bit louder in the mix.

Before leaving, we had a quick chat with Jess and Chris and, unless something changes, we’ll next see them in March, in York, playing with Holy Holy.

The second show we saw was at The Lowry in Salford. Danny Baker and Bob Harris Backstage Pass: a couple of old rock’n’rollers swapping rock’n’roll stories. This show was postponed from last year, and was a birthday present from a year before that, I think. Well worth waiting for, and as it turns out, this was the first night of their rescheduled tour.

We went into Salford a bit early, not having been there for a long time. It was good to walk around a different city. It’s very modern looking, with its Media City, new blocks of (no doubt luxury) apartments, nothing at all like it’s portrayed in the Ewan MacColl song Dirty Old Town.

Salford Quays
Salford Geese

Lots of people were proudly wearing their medals, having completed the Manchester Marathon. Some looked like they could do it all over again. Others really needed a lie-down, and fast.

Bee in the City: Blue Bee-ter

This blue bee was designed and decorated by Jodie Silverman and the sponsors are BBC Radio Manchester, Blue Peter and Peel Media Ltd. Blue Peter, Blue Bee-ter, what are the chances! The new Blue Peter garden is nearby, but we didn’t pay a visit.

As recommended by Jenny, we dined at Prezzo, although Wagamama was spotted nearby and we were very nearly tempted away.

The show was ‘sold out’ but there were plenty of empty seats. Whether this was because the audience was thinned out due to Covid, or because many people just forgot to turn up, we don’t know.

But it was a fabulous couple of hours of entertainment. Lots of stories from Bob and Dan, some of which we’d heard before, but that’s alright.

Danny Baker and Bob Harris

During the interval, we, the audience members, were invited to write a question down for them to answer in the second half. Bob Harris sings in the chorus of David Bowie’s Memory of a Free Festival, so I asked whether Danny Baker had appeared on any records. Well, at the start of the second half, Danny announced that his solo gig in Blackheath in January was sold out. He said that tickets sold quickly after he’d announced that every guest would be given one of his old 7-inch singles. Danny said that of course, these records might not be any good, he wouldn’t be giving away Memory of a Free Festival, would he? To which Bob replied, I’m on that record. ‘Are you?’ exclaimed Danny. So Bob told the story of how he and his then wife Sue, and some others, happened to be in the studio when David was recording the song. Producer Tony Visconti invited them up to sing along with the chorus. Bob asked if Dan had been on a record, and the only one he named was by Sham 69, and he told us some things about Jimmy Pursey, their lead singer. So, even though my question wasn’t picked out and read, it was answered.

I was hoping there’d be a meet & greet afterwards, but no. I have a photo of me with Danny Baker from a previous occasion but I do need to add Whispering Bob to my rogues gallery.

Hand-brake turn here. Key change. Nature really shouldn’t get involved in politics.

Saltire: The sky showing its support for Scottish independence

The third in our trilogy of nights out was an event in the Manchester Literature Festival. We saw Booker Prize winner Bernardine Evaristo in conversation with with old chum Jackie Kay. Liesel and I both loved Bernardine’s book Girl, Woman, Other and, having heard her talking about her new book, we’re now looking forward to reading it, Manifesto.

Bernardine Evaristo OBE FRSL FRSA

And as she Tweeted:
MANIFESTO is the @BBC’s ‘Book of the Week’ starting this Monday 18th Oct at 09.45, as narrated by the authoress herself. Listen here.

I joined the queue afterwards to have our copy of the book signed, but I felt bad for Liesel standing all alone outside in the rain, so I gave up waiting and joined her to go home. In fact, she’d been sitting down inside, in comfort and warmth. Ms Evaristo will have to wait until next time to meet me.

She is a very special lady, sharing her birthday with daughter Jenny and with Kylie Minogue.

So, a very entertaining, educational and informative few days overall. Three nights in a row: it was a daunting prospect but we don’t need to make a habit of it. Having been in the presence of so many strangers in such a short period, we both tested ourselves for the plague covid, and we both came up negative.

Which meant that we felt comfortable picking up William and Martha from school on Thursday. The other grandparents provide childminding on a Tuesday. Liesel and I had filled in for them the previous Tuesday. William was aware of this iniquity. ‘Oma and Grandad have picked us up twice and Nana and Papa only once. After today, it will be 3-1’.

At home, this basic unfairness in how the universe operates was forgotten as snacks, fruit and vegetables were on offer. Martha and Oma made spiders from pipecleaners while William completed a new jigsaw puzzle with my assistance.

Martha told us about her meeting today, the School Parliament. But having (I assume) signed the Official Secrets Act, she didn’t divulge any of the details.

And, sorry, William, I don’t mind watching CoComelon on TV with you, with their nursery rhymes, both ancient and modern, but all I can think of is that an anagram of CoComelon is ComeColon.

Jenny and Liam joined us for dinner before taking their babies home.

Pipecleaner spider

This is one of the very colourful but otherwise very scary spiders.

Autumn colours are slowly enveloping the trees as the temperature drops. Fallen leaves make the path a bit slippery too, especially when it’s been raining or there’s been a heavy dew. So to make things even more challenging, the grass verges are being cut and the trimmings liberally distributed over the pavements. But the colours are glorious.

Colourful tree

Yes, the sky is blue, the Sun feels nice on our backs as we wander around Northenden and Wythenshawe. Both well-being walks were well-attended this week, Liesel joined us in Wythenshawe, around Painswick Park and beyond.

Walking in sunshine
Matching tree and building
Gnarly old silver birch

Earlier in the week, I spoke to Andrew Foulkes from Northenden Players Theatre Club and to Dan Tiernan, comedian, about the upcoming Northenden Arts Festival. These chats formed the backbone of this week’s Radio Northenden Show. Hear all about it here. I know you’re wondering and yes, I did play David Bowie’s Memory of a Free Festival to illustrate Northenden Arts Festival. Find out more about the Festival and about Northenden Players here.

Manchester by bus

The weather is very changeable here in Manchester, I may have mentioned this before. This week, we’ve experienced at least two seasons. A couple of days of Summery heat, a nice dose of apricity (a nice word, that) and very welcome. On the other hand, one day, the cold, strong wind, seemingly fresh from Siberia, made for an unexpectedly unpleasant walk. Yes, I could have put on more and warmer clothes, but as I said, the ferocity of the gale was a big surprise. Never mind the weather: as a Brit, I could whinge about it for several hours.

It’s been a while, but after acquiring some new bags, we collected some litter from our local streets. There should be a law against driving over discarded drinks cans because the flattened items are so much harder to pick up with the bespoke litter-picker-upper. But then, I could whinge about the amount of littering for several hours too. Well, it makes a change from moaning about the weather.

We had a coffee break at Boxx2Boxx and that was nice, sitting outside in the Sun. Now if only they’d ban traffic from Palatine Road, it would be even more quiet and pleasant, but that will never happen. Yes, I could whinge about the amount of traffic until the cows come home. In fact, there are so many cars around here, they don’t all fit on the roads, they have to park on the pavements.

We paid a visit to Manchester and we chose to go in by bus. The first bus we’ve been on here, I think, since before the first lockdown. Most of the windows were open, but somebody had managed to close one of the windows that was fitted with a device to prevent it from being closed. It was a long ride into Manchester, over half an hour to travel just six miles or so. We agreed that there should be a fast, non-stopping bus service from outside our front door to the big city. But then, I guess that’s what Uber is for. Could I whinge more about the local bus services? Yep, I sure could.

Unfortunately, we chose a day right in the middle of the Conservative Party Conference, so we witnessed hundreds of police officers from several police forces keeping us all safe from the politicians in the city centre. St Peter’s Square was the venue for several protest groups, but we fought our way through into the Central Library.

Gandhi

Liesel was looking at some specific books, so I wandered around and amongst other things, came across this bust of Mahatma Gandhi. There are hidden, secret passageways in this library: it seems I find something new every time I visit. In 1980, Manchester became Britain’s first nuclear free zone.

Nuclear free Manchester

In the music department, I resisted the temptation to play the piano and to play on the drumkit. One thing that did surprise me was the number of books about David Bowie.

Where the books were found by the golden ones

My plan now is to write a book about David Bowie, and for a title, I can just pick one of his song titles. There can’t be much left to say about him, surely? It’s bad enough that some people play one of his records on each and every single radio show they cobble together. Ahem.

I mentioned the less than ideal bus service before, but very soon, Manchester’s public transport system will be improved. We look forward to the full implementation of The Bee Network, fully integrated mass transportation, and this includes facilities for cyclists and pedestrians.

The Bee Network bus

There is a shortage of lorry drivers and of slaughterhouse workers in the UK right now, so farmers are having to cull 150,000 pigs. What a waste. There was a protest outside the library against this, of course.

Don’t burn the pigs

We walked to a place called The Green Lab for lunch, but I was disappointed that there wasn’t a big green dog sitting outside. It’s a popular place, we were lucky to get seats, really. Another group of people were observed walking towards the library, carrying the Roma flag I think, blue and green with a red wheel. Amongst the delegation was a unicorn with his own security detail.

A rare Manc unicorn

Our first day out in Manchester concluded nicely when we passed these buskers, singing the songs of Bob Marley and doing a very good job.

Buskers

The exciting news this week is that we are resuming our childminding duties. We picked Martha and William up from school one day, so that Jenny could show us where to go. And on Thursday, we collected them both and brought them home to ours for a few hours.

It’ll take a while to get back into the swing of things of course, as they are both very tired at the end of an arduous schoolday.

William earning his snack
Martha fighting a biscuit packet

We’ll get the balance right between satisfying their desire for post-school snacks and not filling them up before dinnertime. We shovelled the coal out of the tub again so that they could have a soak and a play in the bath together and afterwards, we watched something on TV. William knew what he wanted, and our TV setup is different to theirs at home, but he still took charge of the remote control.

Jenny and Liam arrived and we all ate together. Liesel went out to her WI Knitting Group meeting and missed Martha and William getting ready for bed. What an absolute pleasure to spend time with these delightful little people.

Again, my plan was to walk to the well-being walk in Wythenshawe, but once again, I left home too late. Having taken the plunge a few days earlier, I cheated and caught the bus to about the halfway point.

Red and blue

This was a nice, bright day, and I did like the look of the red and the blue here.

We walked through Painswick Park again and back to the main offices of Thrive Manchester. After which I walked all the way home. I’m not one to whinge, as you know, but the weather forecast is not looking good for the next week

The theme for the Radio Northenden show this week was Days. Listen here. And yes, it includes a David Bowie track, something from my Mum and Dad’s record collection as well as Sounds of the ’20s: that is, a song from the 1920s and a brand new release by a (fairly) local artist. Listen back here (in case you missed the link the first time)!

Morecambe and whys

It’s been a long time coming, nearly two years, but we’ve been to our first gig indoors, in an actual indoor venue. And it was fab.

The original plan was to spend the day in Morecambe and then attend the concert in the evening. At one point, we even thought about spending the night, but in the end, we chose not to. To even be having discussions like this is a great step forward as we slowly get back to normal. Why? Because the pandemic and restrictions imposed have drastically affected our way of life.

The weather on Saturday morning was miserable, making a day at the seaside much less attractive. The drive was uneventful, and we parked close to the venue, More Music. Why? So that we could make a quick getaway after the show, without having to wander around a strange town in the dark. It looked a bit run down to be honest, but we knew we were at the right place when we saw this poster.

More Music Gigs

And by now, you might have worked out who we were going to see this evening.

We enjoyed a walk along the sea front, but I was surprised that there wasn’t much of the expected sandy beach. We walked along as far as the Eric Morecambe memorial statue and guess who we bumped in to? Jessica and Christian had also made the pilgrimage, and of course, we all had to pose with Eric. Why? Because he and his partner were the best of Saturday night TV entertainment in the ’70s and, as Jessica said, he’d brought us sunshine today.

Eric Morecambe and Jessica Lee Morgan
Liesel, Eric and Mick

While Jess and Chris wandered off for an ice cream, we continued our exploration of this strange little seaside town. Some of the sights weren’t very nice: the bloke sitting immobile on the pavement for instance. We later learned that he was probably under the influence of ‘spice’, a new (to us) recreational drug. Some of the shops could do with a lick of paint too. Comparing this town with the relatively well-kept splendour of London is obviously unfair, a tangible sign of the north-south divide.

We were impressed by the flood defences all along the front, though, with a nice wide promenade for pedestrians and cyclists and scooterists and skateboarders. Why? Flood defences were beached here in 1977 causing extensive damage to property. The West End Pier was lost, the remains being removed the following year.

Flood defence

There were a few people on the beach, soaking up the Sun. Yes, by now it had warmed up nicely, and the rain had moved away. The mudflats extend for miles, not somewhere we felt like exploring today.

Nice view
Cormorant

They do like their bird sculptures here, fulmars, cormorants, maybe even pelicans. But other than common or garden gulls, I don’t think we saw any living seabirds. Those sitting on the water just floating by gave an indication of how strong the current was.

We walked along the pier, where someone was flying his drone. I gurned at it, just in case it was filming us. Why? Well, why not? Another bloke at end of pier was loudly regaling us with his drone stories. He’d gone out for a bike ride with some friends in order to fly his drone over the farms. The day started off badly when he didn’t open the garage door far enough and it came down with some force on his head. While flying his drone, a farmer came running out after him, shouting and hollering. He was complaining because some people use drones to photograph what farm equipment is left out and can therefore be stolen easily. Our friend here was totally innocent of course: my drone doesn’t even have a camera. The farmer promised he’d shoot it down if he ever saw that drone again. If he had a shotgun.

Our story-teller here had a bad experience with a glider once too. On its maiden flight, it nose-dived somewhere, never to be seen again.

Well, that was plenty of entertainment for the day, you’d think. But no. A woman was on the phone:
Were you bulk buying?
Did you get rid of that toilet paper you got last time?

That was probably referring to the current petrol shortage here, and the queues of cars at the forecourts. We filled up successfully, but that was because we needed fuel if we were to be able drive all the way home from Morecambe at the end of the day. Why? Because, as I said, we thought about staying the night and decided not to, weren’t you paying attention?

The pier itself can keep you entertained. There’s a maze and a hopscotch pitch as well as some jokes.

Maze on the pier

On what side does a lapwing have most feathers?
On the outside.

We dined at Morecambe Tandoori, which seems very popular with the locals. Why? Our first choice of pizzas didn’t work out, but really, we weren’t that fussy. With some time to kill before the show, I went for another quick walk, really just an excuse to eat my daily apple. West End Gardens is a nice place to explore. Some sculptures depicting the ancient four elements certainly draw the eye.

Stainless steel trumpets

“It was decided … to connect Wind with Sound and to make a sculpture inspired by the ancient aeolian instruments, where wind creates random changing sounds. As we began to explore ways of making this happen, the design developed into the form of seven stainless steel trumpets of varying heights, shapes and angles standing like sea horns proudly calling out in all directions. The 4m high, stainless steel sculpture has wires set in the trumpet spun cavity allowing them to resonates when the wind passes over them.”

Rock seat

“It was decided that the Element Earth should take the form of Rock and relate directly to the geology of Morecambe. This evolved into a ‘rock’ seat, a unique sculptural bench using found glacial stones. Six different shaped stones were split in half and and their top face polished. These were set into a curved section of Corten steel. The effect was a very unique looking seat 3m in length with six obvious seating points.”

And to think, when I first saw this, I just thought what a clever, different, park bench.

If you think I’ve undersold Morecambe, well, this mural should convince you to go for a week or two of its bracing sea air.

A bay of big skies and shifting tides

We joined the queue at the venue, and when we took our seats, by a table, in front of the stage we noticed that I was not the oldest person there, and Liesel was not the youngest. Each table had two or three chairs, and were quite apart from each other. It was organised to be as Covid safe as possible. I made my bottle of ginger beer last all night: no need to be walking about more than necessary.

Jessica and Christian came on first for a wonderful set, all their own songs, including a couple in which we, the audience, were invited to sing along. I caught myself singing along to most songs, but not too loudly, I hope.

Robyn Hitchcock was as entertaining as always: The Cheese Alarm again reminding me that there aren’t enough pop songs about cheese. Sadly, he didn’t perform No, I Don’t Remember Guildford, but maybe he remembers the time he sang that song in a radio studio with me sitting behind, breathing down his neck.

Christian, Robyn, Jessica

Because we were so close to the stage, it was difficult to get a good photo, so this will have to do. All three performed Robyn’s Brenda’s Iron Sledge together, a song I would like to join in with but not knowing the lyrics is a bit of a handicap. Don’t call him Reg. Why? It’s not his name.

What a great experience. Covid’s always at the back of our minds of course, but we felt safe tonight and enjoyed a terrific few hours of live music.

Late to bed, late to rise, of course. West Didsbury Makers’ Market takes place once a month on a Sunday, so we walked over to see what was going on. It was a pleasant walk along the river and to the market, which was very popular, much busier than I’d expected. Lots of craft stalls, but plenty of food too. The scones were huge and very tasty.

Liesel picked something up from Lakeland, the shop that is, not the gorgeous geographical region, after which we went to Quarry Bank Mill for a quick walk. Autumn is here so we expect to see some colour, but it was fascinating to see so many different colours here today.

All the colours of the rainbow

We enjoyed more wandering around our local streets, despite the weather. After the storm, I looked for and found a rainbow, hiding between the houses.

An actual rainbow

It wasn’t really a storm on this occasion, just a bit of rain.

I haven’t been to a proper Macmillan Coffee Morning for a while, but I made up for it this year. The venue was Boxx2 Boxx and they were very busy on this occasion, good to see. Why? Well, I’ll always support Macmillan Care since they looked after my Mum all those years ago.

What a tasty treat

Liesel and I joined the well-being walk at Wythenshawe this week too. I thought about walking all the way there and back, as well as doing the walk itself. Driving all the way again to do a walk, like I did last week, felt wrong. So we compromised, drove halfway and then walked the rest.

Oof…

I have no idea how somebody can build up enough speed in the short distance from the car park to cause this much damage.

We walked to the Lifestyle Centre, joined Chantel and a few others for a walk around Painswick Park and beyond.

Painswick Park

Yes, of course I was tempted to have a go on this zipwire, but it’s probably for children, and I didn’t want to lag too far behind the group. Why? I don’t know, maybe I just didn’t want to get left behind or maybe I didn’t want to risk breaking the equipment or more likely, I was pretending to be grown up.

Zipwire

I had a couple of nasty technical issues this week that caused a few moments of panic. Acast, the app through which I listen to many podcasts, forgot all my subscriptions. It acted like I’d only just signed up. And the one podcast it claimed to know about wouldn’t play anyway. It looked like I’d have to re-subscribe to everything. And how can I possibly remember them all? In the end, I thought I had nothing to lose, maybe it’s just a stack overflow or something stupid, so I did a Force Stop on the app, and that fixed it. In other words: turn it off and turn it on again. There’s a tip for you.

The other one was when my PC forgot how to use its ethernet connection. It’s happened before, and it’s been resolved, but I’ve never found out why it’s gone wrong and why, seemingly, just as spontaneously, it’s started working again. So this week, I had to do the radio show via wifi, having turned off all the other wifi-connected devices. It seems to have worked.

The show itself was about Manchester. Why? Well, it only seems fair after the London-themed show last week. You can catch up here, if you missed it.

This is the first post in a somewhat cooler, damper, Autumnal October. When it was dreich and drizzly the other day, I wanted to go to bed and set the alarm for May. Why all the stupid questions? Purely so that the pun that comprises the title makes sense. As much as anything does in this neck of the woods. 

Knitting

After a storm, look out for a rainbow. Or, in our case, after a busy week away, let’s have a quiet week at home.

We welcomed Martha and William and their minders, not for Liesel’s birthday cake, but for home-made cream puffs. William was eaten by a donut while Martha was learning the fine art of French knitting.

William v Donut

This donut was originally made by Liesel’s Grandma, re-stuffed and refurbished by Liesel, so it’s now being enjoyed by the fifth generation.

Martha v knitting

It was lovely to witness the moment when it clicked, when Martha could see what she had to do.

Meanwhile, Liesel has very nearly finished her latest crochet project, another blanket.

A blanket

It won’t be long now until it’s sent off to its new forever home.

We were asked to look after William for a few hours while Liam was working and Jenny was entertaining a friend. I suspect there was a lot of girly talk and girly midday boozing going on. But we got William, so that’s a bonus!

He brought his scooter and scooted around Wythenshawe Park, remembering the way to the playground, even though he’s only been once before.

William v slide

Despite this photographic evidence, he did enjoy going down the slide, several times! He’s a very keen climber too and Liesel and I certainly got our exercise as we chased him around, from one piece of equipment to another.

There’s a small herd of farm animals, so we went over to smell them, I mean to look at them. Another family had a good chuckle as William gave a fairly good impression of the chickens clucking.

Back at home indoors, he wanted a bath, with a small selection of the dinosaurs. A few days ago, Sandra had given me one of her delicious fridge cakes. So chocolatey and tasty and more-ish. Yes, of course I shared it with Liesel and today, we let William try it. Well, it got the thumbs up, so thanks again, Sandra!

But probably his favourite treat was the carrot that he helped scrub clean.

William v carrot

There are some amazing things to see as you wander around Northenden. For example, I was surprised to see these dumped supermarket trolleys. Yes, surprised, because by rights, they should have been thrown into the river by now.

Trolleys

One day, I snapped a rose that was growing well beyond the bounds of its garden. I thought it was quite beautiful, and thought that someone was bound to snip it off for a loved one.

Rose

But then the following day, as we were walking by, Liesel also pointed it out and said this was a beautiful flower. So, as they say, great minds spot the same pretty flowers, sometimes.

Sunflowers

Yes, in Northenden, the sunflowers grow so tall and powerfully, they need scaffolding to hold them up.

To mark the occasion of the Autumnal equinox, nature bestowed upon us the sight of a lovely sunset, the first one for quite a while. (Yes, I know we have a sunset every day, but this is the first colourful one we’ve witnessed for quite a while.)

Sunset over Northenden

We wandered over to Didsbury early one morning. La Chouquette provided the coffees, a pastry and the best loaf of bread that we’ve had for a long time. In fact, we started nibbling it on the way home.

Light of Didsbury

And here’s the world-famous yarn-bombed pillar box.

Pillar box v knitting

No idea who the lady over the road is, holding the coffees. And I hope I’m not betraying any state secrets when I reveal the location of Batman’s residence.

Batman’s mansion

I joined Chantel again for a couple of well-being walks, one in Northenden and one in Wythenshawe, the latter being a new venue. This walk took us into and around Painswick Park but unusually, I took no pictures. You’ll just have to imagine the pond, the geese, the ducks and what looks like another fabulous playground.

As promised, the radio show this week featured London, following our exciting trip there last week. You can listen back here.

In the last couple of weeks, we found out that three of our friends have passed on to the other side. I feel sad that we didn’t find out sooner, but I feel privileged to have had them all in our lives over the years. Farewell Mark, Peter and Gill. And lots of love to your families and friends.

That’s all folks! We’re off out soon so I suppose I’d better get ready…