Benches, boats, birds and bottoms

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

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

Men in three boats

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

Two swans

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

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

Love

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

My mate, the robin

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

Crocus

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

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

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

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

Bat behind the bench

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

Heron going for it

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

Beaucoups de derrières
Fascinating menu

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

Selfie of the day
More Autumnal colours
Penguins
Himalayan monal

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

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

Liesel’s blanket

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

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

A pretty Autumnal leaf

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

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

Blue sky over Gatley

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

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

Snail

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

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

Mandelbrot Extinction

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

Formby – at its busiest

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

Not really a hidden message

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

Selfie of the day

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

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

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

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

Empty beach

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

A monkey with a very long tail

Hoof prints in the sand

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

Where’s Liesel?

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

Horses and a wind farm

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

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

Fletcher Moss

The Autumn colours are really coming out now.

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

Very tall trees

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

Bedewed web

No results!

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

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

Dan’s choir

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

Up Your Street

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

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

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

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

Queen – Radio Gaga

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

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

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

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

David Bowie – China Girl

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

Unthanks – Magpie

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

Martha Tilston – Survival Guide

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

Billy Joel – Piano Man

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

Neil Diamond – I am I said

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

Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto – Desafinado

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

Shanukh Khan and Sapna Awasthi – Chaiyya Chaiyya

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

Adele – Skyfall

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

Gordon Lightfoot – Rainy Day People

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

Bill Withers – Ain’t no Sunshine

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

Pink Floyd – Another Brick in the wall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rick Braun – Nightwalk

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

Bic Runga – When I see you Smile

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Walks on the wild side

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

Pretty little white flowers but not snowdrops, we think

 As usual, we await corrections from our botanical correspondents.

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

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

Tortoiseshell butterfly

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

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

Proper social distancing

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

Dragonfly

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

Sparring buddies

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

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

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

The lawn mower was here

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

Pretty red, Autumnal leaves

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

Silverback wasp

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

The Moon but not really the Milky Way

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

Feed the birds, tuppence a bag

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

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

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

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

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

Jessica Lee Morgan and Christian Thomas

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

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

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

Local Herons

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

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

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

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

Peggy Seeger with her sons, Neill and Calum MacColl

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

Hidey-hole tree
More Autmnal colours
Spaghetti tree

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

Bright white and blue

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

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

Dead bunny

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

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

Heron standing around

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

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

Martha modelling her new uniform

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

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

Flowers of Palatine Road

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

Artistic photo of the week
Tatton Arms

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

Mick the DJ

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

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

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

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

Heron in flight

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

Wine glass

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

Yellow rose of Texas

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

Raheem Sterling

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

An actual fox